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Francis de la Cruz
Francis de la Cruz
Francis de la Cruz is the founder of The Write Resume and has written over 1,000 resumes for candidates applying to the Investment Banking, Private Equity, and Hedge Fund industries.

Non-Target School? Here are the Top 10 Master of Finance Degree Programs to Win a Job in Investment Banking

The path into an entry level front office position at a large bulge bracket Investment Bank for a candidate without access to on-campus recruiting is a monumental challenge, there is no doubt about it. However, contrary to popular, media-driven myth, Wall Street’s ranks do not just consist of the trust fund crowd. There are many thousands employees who come from blue collar backgrounds from less prestigious schools who earned their way into a front office Investment Banking career, rising to the same Managing Director levels that their colleagues from Harvard and Princeton achieve.

Indeed, it is absolutely possible to win a job in Investment Banking coming from a school outside the Top 10 or even the Top 25. The right candidate can carve out a successful career on Wall Street with bachelor’s degrees from “non-target” schools like Baruch, Santa Barbara, Florida, and SUNY Binghamton. I’ve seen it and experienced it firsthand through several highly talented managers and colleagues I worked for and with, respectively, and clients who’ve come to me for help.

 

So you graduated from a non-target school, how can you get into Investment Banking?

First, you must have impeccable grades. Before you can even consider recruiting for an Investment Banking job, anything less than a 3.7 GPA (overall, and definitely in your major) will lead to a near-automatic rejection. If you have this, you can go for a job in Investment Banking if you have luck on your side, a strong network, and patience. You will most likely have to apply as a lateral hire, as recruiting classes for incoming analysts and associates are filled to near capacity through a bank’s returning summer interns.

A recent trend that we have noticed among successful students from non-target schools is to complete a 1-year Master’s degree in finance after graduating from college. With an exceptional transcript, applying to and earning acceptance to these specialized finance programs at Columbia, Stanford, MIT, and several others is highly possible. With such a degree in hand, the chances of getting into an Investment Banking job is essentially doubled–perhaps even more–the delayed start to one’s career (and another year of tuition) a fair price to pay for someone chasing their dream.

 

Top 10 Master of Finance Programs

To help you explore the best options to obtain a master’s degree in finance in the market today, we present you with our list of top programs that we’ve identified, reviewed, and recommend:

 

1. Columbia University: 3 Options…Columbia University

Columbia has three very unique and focused master’s programs in finance:

a) MA in Mathematics with specialization in the Mathematics of Finance (MAFN)

Program Length: 1 or 2 years, depending on student preference

Class Size: Contact School

Typical Score Requirement: 165 Quant GRE, 152 Verbal GRE. 51.6 GMAT Quant Score.

Typical Applicant: Immediate Post-Undergrad or Experienced

Prestige Ranking: 5/5

Commentary: Columbia’s Master of Arts program in Mathematics with specialization in the Mathematics of Finance (MAFN) has heavy ties with the Columbia Statistics department, and understandably has strong undertones in probability, stochastic processes, and numerical methods. This program targets students with quantitative and mathematical backgrounds who have experience or interest in finance. It is very flexible, allowing students to enroll either full- or part-time depending on their schedule. Full-time students generally finish in one year, whereas part-time students can take between two or three years. 93% of accepted students accepted to MAFN scored above a 165 (out of 170) on their Quantitative GRE, while 89% scored above a 152 on their verbal GRE. The average quantitative GMAT score for accepted students was a 51.6 in 2014. The program has a small class size and is clearly very selective. It has a very strong alumni base; many graduates go on to work at firms like Goldman Sachs, Ernst & Young, AQR Capital, Barclays Capital, BNP Paribas, and Morgan Stanley, obtaining roles in Financial Engineering, Derivative Sales, and Investment Banking.

 

b) MS in Financial Engineering

Program Length: 1 year

Class Size: <100

Typical Score Requirement: Contact School

Typical Applicant: Immediate Post-Undergrad or Experienced

Prestige Ranking: 5/5

Commentary: This program has a strong focus on financial theory, the methods of engineering, the tools of mathematics, and computer programming. This track has a particular application to engineering methods in finance, including securities, banking, and financial management. As a student, one would be taking courses, in the first half of the program, in stochastic processes, optimization, numerical techniques, Monte Carlo simulation, and data analysis. Courses will also include applications to portfolio theory, derivatives valuation, and financial risk analysis. In the second part of the program, one has more freedom and can take a more specialized and advanced course load involving topics like mortgage-backed securities and credit-risk modeling. The current class size is below 100 students. 45% of students involved in summer internships through the MSFE program received full-time offers from firms like Barclays, Citigroup, BlackRock, and Goldman Sachs. Many alumni have won jobs in quantitative risk management, portfolio management, and trading.

 

c) MS in Financial Economics (MSFE)

Program Length: 2 years

Class Size: Contact School

Typical Score Requirement: Contact School

Typical Applicant: Experience Recommended

Prestige Ranking: 5/5

Commentary:The MSFE program is very similar to the finance PhD program at Columbia, but is significantly shorter (no thesis required). Students will be prepared with the quantitative and theoretical skills they need for a career in finance at large Investment Banks, pension funds, hedge funds, mutual funds, and consulting firms. It is geared towards individuals who are looking for a strong quantitative and analytical finance track similar to Columbia’s MBA program, but with greater focus.

 

2. MIT Sloan: Masters of Finance (MFin)MIT Sloan

Program Length: 1 year

Class Size: 115

Typical Score Requirement: 3.7 GPA, 700-770 GMAT/161-170 GRE

Typical Applicant: Experience Strongly Recommended

Prestige Ranking: 5/5

Commentary: MIT Sloan offers a very well structured and in-depth one-year Masters of Finance (MFin) program, combining quantitative methods with hands on business problem solving. This one-year program combines study of quantitative techniques with real world business finance and mathematics with a touch of statistics. The most recently accepted class had an average GPA of 3.7, and the middle 80% of accepted students had a GMAT between 700 and 770, with a quantitative score between 48 and 51, and a verbal score between 38 and 44; for those who took the GRE, the quantitative score was between 161 and 170, while their verbal scores were between 152 and 165. The students had various backgrounds in business (43%), science and math (25%), and humanities or social sciences (19%). The class of 2015 has 114 students. Of the class of 2014, 96% received offers from firms like Merrill Lynch, Bain, UBS, and JP Morgan. The majority received and accepted jobs in consulting or finance, and the mean base salary was $75,255.

 

3. Stanford University: Management Science & Engineering (MS&E)Stanford

Program Length: 3-5 years

Class Size: Contact School

Typical Score Requirement: 3.82 GPA, GRE: 160 Verbal, 166 Quantitative

Typical Applicant: Experience Strongly Recommended

Prestige Ranking: 5/5

Commentary: This program has three main strengths revolving around conceptual and analytical foundations, with a heavy concentration on application, and interaction with nearby technology companies and start-ups in Silicon Valley. The program has a heavy concentration on decision and risk analysis, dynamic systems, economics, optimization, organizational science, and stochastic systems. A common area of application is finance, as many graduates from MS&E go on to work for top consulting and Investment Banking firms. This program accepted 19% of applicants in 2014. The average GPA accepted was a 3.82, while the average GRE scores of admitted applicants was 160/170 for Verbal, 166/170 for the Quantitative portion, and 4/6 on analytical writing.

 

4. Princeton University: Master of FinancePrinceton

Program Length: 1 or 2 years

Class Size: 25-30

Typical Score Requirement: 167 GRE, 49.5 GMAT

Typical Applicant: Experience Strongly Recommended

Prestige Ranking: 5/5

Commentary: Princeton offers a Master in Finance degree through the Bendheim Center. This program focuses on financial economics and engineering, with a focus on computational methods as well. Students acquire valuable quantitative skills that firms look for, like statistics, optimization, programming, and economic analysis. The program can either be finished in two or four semesters, depending on the student’s preference. The end goal of the program is to give students a strong background in risk management, financial engineering and forecasting, quantitative asset management and trading, and other applied fields. This program is very prestigious and as a result quite competitive. Out of the 600 applicants each year, only around 25-30 gain admittance. This extremely small class size is quite unique, and allows students and professors to gain more intimate relationships, and allows the program to give more individual focus towards students in regards to recruiting and job placement.  There are no testing score requirements, but the median quantitative GRE score was 167, while the average quantitative GMAT score was a 49.5. The program takes into account mathematics background, which is required to take full advantage of many of the quantitative parts of the program. Graduates go on to work for prestigious firms in the field of finance such as D.E. Shaw Group, State Street, Goldman Sachs, McKinsey, BCG, and Two Sigma.

 

5. University of Michigan: Master of Science in Financial EngineeringMichigan

Program Length: 1.5 years

Class Size: Contact School

Typical Score Requirement: GPA: 3.6-4.0, GRE: 155+ Quantitative, 153+ Verbal

Typical Applicant: Immediate Post-Undergrad

Prestige Ranking: 4/5

Commentary: This program is generally 3 semesters long, and focuses on finance, math and statistics courses to improve students’ analytical and quantitative skills. The curriculum has heavy emphasis on data and statistical analysis with strong focus on financial theory. This program requires a math heavy background, and as a result the accepted student population is comprised of many mathematicians, engineers, and computer scientists. The program is geared for those interested in careers in energy or commodity trading, finance, banking, asset and risk management, and consulting. Graduates earn an average starting salary between 80k and 90k. The minimum GPA required for consideration for admission is a 3.0, but the average average applicant GPA is in the range of 3.6 and 4.0. Only the GRE is accepted, and the Quantitative score should be at least 155 while the Verbal Reasoning score should be at least 153, and the Analytical Writing score should be close to 46. Graduates from this program have the required skill set for jobs at reputable financial firms on Wall Street.

 

6. Cornell University: Master of Financial EngineeringCornell

Program Length: Contact School

Class Size: 71

Typical Score Requirement: GPA: 3.68, GRE: 169 Quantitative, 156 Verbal

Typical Applicant: Immediate Post-Undergrad

Prestige Ranking: 4/5

Commentary: Cornell’s program applies the field of engineering to finance. It helps increase the students’ knowledge of the financial markets along with helping build their professional careers through networking opportunities. The program is generally completed in a year, but can be spread out over three semesters if desired. It helps incorporate math, statistics, and industry-specific technological knowledge to fields such as Applied Operations Research, Financial Engineering, Strategic Operations, and Data Analytics. The most recent class had 71 students, with 23 different undergraduate majors, stressing the diversity and flexibility of the program. The median undergraduate GPA was a 3.68, while the median GRE scores were 169 for quantitative, 156 for verbal, and 3.5 for analytical writing. Interestingly enough, 75% of the students were international. Graduates from this program have the skills necessary to survive and thrive on Wall Street, as alumni from the program have gone on to gain employment at brand name quantitative trading and investment banking firms.

 

7. NYU Stern: Master of Science in Global FinanceNYU Stern

Program Length: 1 year

Class Size: 40

Typical Score Requirement: Contact School

Typical Applicant: Work Experience Required

Prestige Ranking: 4

Commentary: NYU Stern offers a very unique and renowned program called the Master of Science in Global Finance, with an emphasis on emerging international markets. Applicants must have a high GPA while in college, and need at least five years of work experience in a related industry. The average accepted student is 33 years of age and has nearly 10 years of work experience, while a third already have a master’s degree. The program is taught over the course of one year in combination by faculty from NYU Stern and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST). Events and interactions in emerging Asian markets and Wall Street are put into a global context in this program, and classes are held both in New York and in Asia. As a graduate of this program, a student will be considered an alumni from both HKUST and NYU. The most recently accepted class have three fourths of students be international, many hailing from Asia. This program really prepares students for the analytical skills necessary for jobs both on Wall Street and in emerging global markets through interactive case studies, portfolio management classes, and intense foreign currency exchange and derivative markets studies. The class of 2014 was quite small, having only 40 students. Even with this, the class was quite diverse, as it incorporated individuals from nearly all aspects of industry. This program is certainly a good choice if you are looking to go and work in an international market.

 

8. Brown University: Master of Science in Finance (with CUHK)Brown

Program Length: 1 year

Class Size: Contact School

Typical Score Requirement: Contact School

Typical Applicant: Contact School

Prestige Ranking: 4/5

Commentary: Brown University, partnered with the The Chinese University of Hong Kong, offers a very flexible one year CUHK’s Master of Science in Finance program. This is a new program, which was founded in 2012, which was intended to enhance and cultivate students’ knowledge in corporate and quantitative finance. It builds this knowledge through classes on topics like economics, statistics, financial management, computer science, accounting, and capital markets. There is a two month preparatory period starting in July to start students on the proper path. The principles of this program are central around a strong core in mathematics, statistics, and accounting. Students can then choose elective courses to concentrate on, which include Fixed-income Securities Analysis, Mergers and Acquisitions, Management of Financial Institutions, Stochastic Calculus for Finance, and Econometrics. Graduates of this program are able to find work in various industries like banking, risk management, education, and consulting.

 

9. University of Texas at Austin: Master of Science in Finance (MSF)UT Austin

Program Length: 1 year

Class Size: 42

Typical Score Requirement: GPA: 3.42, GMAT/GRE: top 77th percentile

Typical Applicant: Immediate Post-Undergrad

Prestige Ranking: 3

Commentary: The University of Texas at Austin, through their renowned McCombs School of Business, offers a unique Master of Science in Finance (MSF) Program perfect for a career in finance. Unlike some programs, no work experience is required, and the program can be completed in under one calendar year. The Class of 2015 had a total of 42 students, 83% of which were male. The mean GPA of accepted applicants was a 3.42, and the average quantitative score on the GMAT and GRE was in the 77th percentile. This program has a variety of students from many backgrounds, and by completion, graduates will be equipped with the necessary quantitative and analytical skills necessary to work in finance.

 

10. UCLA Anderson School of Management: Master of Financial Engineering (MFE)UCLAAnderson

Program Length: 1 year

Class Size: 66

Typical Score Requirement: GPA: 3.67, 50 Quant GMAT, 166 Quant GRE

Typical Applicant: Immediate Post-Undergrad

Prestige Ranking: 3

Commentary: UCLA Anderson offers a Master of Financial Engineering (MFE) thirteen-month program, geared towards building one’s mathematical modeling and quantitative skills needed for a job in finance. This program prepares graduates for careers in areas like insurance, money management and investing, and derivative pricing. The faculty, which boasts a staggering 3:1 student to faculty ratio, combines theory and real world applications of financial modeling and general investment strategy. Within six months of completion of the program, there is a 94% job placement rate among graduates, and an average of $100,000 salary increase. The class of 2015 had 66 students, the majority of which were international. The average undergraduate GPA of accepted students was a 3.67, while the average quantitative GMAT was a 50 and the average quantitative GRE was 166. Graduates were able to find jobs at many reputable firms; among them were Morgan Stanley, Google, Deloitte, and the Federal Reserve.

 

Hong Kong Victoria Peak

Your program not on this list? This is not an exhaustive list by any means. If you think we should include another program, tell us why we should rank it. Drop us a line today; we’d love to hear from you.

Francis de la Cruz
Francis de la Cruz
Francis de la Cruz is the founder of The Write Resume and has written over 1,000 resumes for candidates applying to the Investment Banking, Private Equity, and Hedge Fund industries.

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Francis de la Cruz is the founder of The Write Resume and has written over 1,000 resumes for candidates applying to the Investment Banking, Private Equity, and Hedge Fund industries.

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