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Master of Finance degree program gains STEM classification

International graduates can remain in the United States longer

By Amy MacMillan Bankson  |  June 22, 2016

2016-Mfin

Members of the Master of Finance class last fall

The MIT Sloan Master of Finance program announced June 2 that it has achieved classification as a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) program. This new designation, determined by the Department of Homeland Security, allows international students to extend their training in the United States by working in their field of study.

The rigorous Master of Finance degree program, founded in 2008 at the height of the financial crisis, can be completed in either 12 or 18 months. This year’s class of 115 students will begin July 1. Eighty-eight percent of the class hails from outside the United States. Students come from 31 different countries, including Ukraine, Portugal, and Belarus.

“International students make a vital contribution not only to our educational community here at MIT Sloan, but also to the nation,” said Heidi Pickett, director of the Master of Finance program. “Allowing them to stay here after they graduate and gain experience at American companies and startups is a wonderful complement to their formal education.”

David Schmittlein, dean of MIT Sloan, noted that the new classification opens up opportunities for all Master of Finance students.

“The designation ensures that MIT Sloan will continue to attract the best and brightest students from the United States and around the world, and will help us empower the next generation of global financial leaders,” Schmittlein said.

Pickett discussed the impact of the STEM designation, as well as the addition of the program’s new concentration in financial engineering.

What is the significance of the STEM classification?

International Master of Finance graduates on F-1 visas will be able to remain in the United States for an additional 24 months via the optional practical training STEM extension. Instead of 12 months of optional practical training, they have a total of 36 months under STEM, which amounts to an extra two years of working in the United States.

What were the recent changes to the Master of Finance curriculum that made the classification possible?

MIT Sloan bolstered the curriculum requirements to include financial mathematics, financial markets, and advanced corporate finance. It also added concentrations in capital markets, corporate finance, and financial engineering for students who want to further specialize their degree. These are the changes that helped students meet the standard for the STEM designation.

Why was now the right time to offer a new concentration in financial engineering?

Last year we introduced both the 18-month pilot and two concentrations, one in capital markets and one in corporate finance. Our program provides students the opportunity to customize their curriculum. In the past, students have had the opportunity to choose courses that are more quantitative-focused in preparation for opportunities that may be more technical. With the increasing use of new technologies and access to big data, quantitative roles can be quite attractive to Master of Finance students. It was both market and student demand combined with MIT’s strong position in finance that made perfect sense to offer a concentration in financial engineering.

Who might be interested in the financial engineering concentration?

It is ideally suited for students joining the Master of Finance program with a solid preparation in mathematics and programming skills and an objective to pursue more technical finance roles after graduation.