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Jim Lahey, Supervisor

Non-STEM --> Business School --> MFE?MEM?

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Hello everyone,

A little background:

-          --I work in debt capital markets/corporate banking as an analyst/underwriter

-         -- I’m concurrently studying fulltime to complete my MBA at a non-top 20 but regionally reputable/strong business school (think Northeastern/BC/Nova). Set to finish the program two semesters early. ~3.9 GPA with finance concentration.

-          --Undergrad at top 10 liberal arts school in New England with non-STEM major. Marginal GPA (3.4).


Though I enjoy the work I am doing and see myself staying with my current company for at least the near future (partly because I enjoy the work, but also because they are funding my MBA), I am feeling a bit unsettled. As I close in on the business school finish line, I am not fully satisfied with the overall strength of my educational profile or with my long-term career prospects. This is problematic for me, since an MBA is generally considered a terminal degree. And since my business school is not M7/Top 10, I will not enjoy the network or prestige associated should I attempt to lateral elsewhere or to advance in a different role. And, since business school is generally a combination of qualitative and quantitative content, I feel that I am lacking some of the quant “hard skills” I desire and that will make me more competitive in the future. With FinTech and other tech innovations likely to threaten the very model of finance in the next decade, I want to make myself as well-rounded and technically savvy as possible (i.e. I don’t want to become obsolete). I’m interested in algorithmic systems and some CS “lite” material. A CS or engineering-related degree has the potential to help in this respect.

I’ve begun investigating other degree programs I could use to shore up my quant/hard science deficiencies and to bolster my long term career chances in areas of high finance (corporate finance/development, investment/portfolio management, etc). I’ve been told that a MS in Finance would not be fruitful to pursue post-MBA, since it is kind of redundant and because most quant-focused finance professionals pursue a MSF either directly out of undergrad or soon thereafter. So I’ve started to explore MFE (financial engineering) and MEM (engineering management) degrees. I think either has the potential to provide me with what I am looking for. The two MEM programs with which I am most interested are Dartmouth and Duke; the MFE at USC has a distance learning opportunity so I’ve considered that one, as well (I don’t plan to leave the east coast). (Sidenote: my GMAT/GRE is fairly good, but I understand I will probably need to retake the GRE in order to completely crush the quant section).

However, the issue is that these programs require engineering or STEM undergrad degrees, which I don’t have. Though I have taken many challenging finance classes (investment analysis, derivatives, etc), I know that these cannot take the place of pure math/science classes one would encounter as a STEM/engineering major.

So my question(s): What do I realistically need to do to be a competitive candidate for a MFE/MEM program? What things (short of earning an additional undergrad degree, which I’m not keen on doing) can I do to bolster my profile? What certifications/courses should I be taking? Does anyone have any experience with either program, or does anyone have experience moving from non-STEM -> MFE/MEM programs? Is this scenario completely hopeless at this point (and should I be researching other programs, like an MS in Econ or an MSF)?

(Note: I do plan to contact the schools directly to ask them similar questions, but I wanted to see if anyone on GradCafe could provide some color first).

Any and all information/advice is appreciated!

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I'd ask quantnet this same question.

How much math have you had at this point? I'd think for most of the top MFE programs you need at minimum the undergrad calc sequence, linear algebra, maybe a calc-based probability course, and some ability in a programming language.

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It's not clear what you're after. You say you want to " shore up my quant/hard science deficiencies and to bolster my long term career chances in areas of high finance (corporate finance/development, investment/portfolio management, etc)". You don't need quantitative skills to be involved in those areas. There is a very serious misconception that finance involves mathematics and nothing could be further from the truth. Successful corporate finance managers are managers. Successful portfolio managers are salesmen. Don't be conned into thinking that learning math will somehow make you better at managing money than the other 6 billion people on earth, it won't. Someone always has smarter people and bigger computers yet none of that allows anyone to predict the future. The performance of all portfolio managers is no better than chance. I'm surprised that in the process of teaching you all of those models of portfolio management nobody took the time to tell you that they're just models and they don't really work because the inputs require knowledge of a forward probability distribution that is time dependent.

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