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MIT Sloan Master of Finance program enters its sixth year

New students arrive on Cambridge campus to begin intense study

August 20, 2014

New students arrive on Cambridge campus to begin intense study

Master of Finance students Nicholai Hill, Jialin “Forest” Chen, and Yuan “A.J.” Chen prepare for a climbing activity at orientation

With matriculation in July and commencement the following June, the MIT Sloan Master of Finance program can resemble a fast-moving treadmill. This summer, as a new group of students settles in on campus and adapts to the challenging coursework, the MFin program is marking some notable achievements.

Although just starting its sixth year, the program recently earned recognition from the Financial Times, which ranked it in the top tier of finance programs internationally, based on such criteria as post-graduation salaries, geographic mobility, and the course experience itself, said Master of Finance program director Heidi V. Pickett.

“We are pioneers,” said Pickett. “Modern finance was created at MIT Sloan, and our faculty created [many of] the theories and formulas used today.”

Many of those notable faculty members, including Robert C. Merton, Stewart Myers, and John Cox, teach in the Master of Finance program, contributing to a unique curriculum that is also distinguished by its emphasis on hands-on learning. Through the Finance Research Practicum and Proseminars, students learn how to apply theory in the real world, working with companies on real-life finance problems, Pickett said. Both the practicum and the proseminars offer teams of students the opportunity to work with leading firms to solve complex finance issues. The program also enables students to customize their studies to meet their professional objectives, added Pickett.

Diverse student body

The program draws applicants from around the world. This year’s pool of 1,569 candidates yielded the most internationally diverse class ever: 115 students hailing from such nations as Nigeria, Kuwait, and the Czech Republic. More than 80 percent are non-U.S. citizens, and women represent 40 percent of the class.

The program strives to establish bonds within the diverse class, said Pickett, with team-building exercises during early summer orientation as well as group outings to local tourist sites and Boston Red Sox games.

Students use thumbs up/thumbs down to show how confident they are about a bridge constructed with cardboard and packaging tape at orientationStudents use thumbs up/thumbs down to show how confident they are about a bridge constructed with cardboard and packaging tape at orientation

While members of the Master of Finance 2015 class arrived with strong quantitative abilities and a passion for finance, the intensity of the program still startled some of them. In a blog post, Elise Mordos rallied her fellow students with this advice: “As the school work begins to pile up and some of us may question our knowledge and abilities, we must remember that we are all qualified students and that our best resource is the MFin community.”

Another blogger, Julius Danek, a graduate of the Utrecht University School of Economics in the Netherlands, acknowledged that “ summer classes are quite intense so far.” Danek wrote that he lets off steam playing intramural soccer, doing yoga, and swimming. He also wrote about the pleasures of life in Cambridge: “Restaurants, bars, cafes, bookshops, and more places liven up the neighborhood. People here all seem to be in their twenties, and everyone is biking.”

Pickett said this year’s students will benefit from new curriculum enhancements, as the school identifies ways to strengthen the Master of Finance experience. One new element, Pickett said, is a leadership development program, designed specifically for students to learn and practice leadership skills. Forty students applied to be part of the class’s pilot group of 15. The program is also refining its ethics and compliance requirements in response to the shifting and more complex regulatory environment.

Career advice

The dedicated MFin career advisors work closely with students to discuss their career paths. Given that some students arrive right after obtaining undergraduate degrees and others come with only limited work experience, Pickett said, “We do a lot of eye opening in terms of careers in finance.”

Many come to MIT Sloan, said Pickett, with certain assumptions: “I think they read Wall Street books, or watch movies like The Wolf of Wall Street, and imagine there is nothing they would rather be than a trader at Goldman Sachs, for instance.” But those views can change during the course of the year, Pickett said. “They come to understand what a finance career actually means, and, talking with classmates, tend to see that much broader opportunities are available. We find that a lot of them switch from their initial ideas of what they want to do.”

With five years of job placement history to draw on, the Master of Finance program has learned not just where the openings are for its graduates, but how to position them for a career. Almost 90 percent of the class of 2013 received job offers, with employers investment management, investment banking, consulting, and non-finance industries. Recently, more opportunities have emerged in the public sector. But wherever MFin graduates go, “The job market is robust for the skillset we equip them with,” said Pickett.