• Sharebar

Whenever I read about the MSF on WSO I often see people commenting on it that have no idea what they are talking about. So I wanted to write this blog post to clear up some myths. My MSF experience is at the Villanova/Washington University/Vanderbilt/UT-Austin level.

The MSF is an excellent degree. The career focused degree will help you learn a great deal about the different types of financial careers available. You will learn a great deal about Finance, and you will take high level classes (many above MBA level) which will prepare you for your career. The biggest problem with the MSF is that not enough people in America know about it.

Myth #1: Most MSF students use the MSF to make up for a poor undergraduate background.

This is false. You won't get accepted to a good MSF program with a terrible background. Most students in my program graduated with all sorts of honors and 3.5+ GPA's. Most students in my MSF program had degrees in the following: BSBA, Finance, Accounting, Economics, Engineering, and Mathematics. There were a handful of students with Science and Liberal Arts backgrounds. Every one of the MSF students in my program got a high GMAT score, most above 700. The students were all intelligent and driven. They were the cream of the crop from non-target schools who wanted to further their learning, take advantage of OCR at the MSF school, or get a solid financial background.

Myth #2: MSF=MFE, MiM, etc.

Duke does not have an MSF program, it has a Masters in Management program. Princeton's MSF is not really an MSF. It is more of a Financial Engineering/Quantitative Finance program that requires 3+ years work experience. An MSF usually has students with 0 to 1-2 years work experience, occasionally older students. A few programs are different. There is no standardized MSF so be sure to research the makeup of the student body and the curriculum before you attend.

Myth #3: The MSF is easy.

The MSF is not easy. The MSF is not a "fifth year" of college. If you have prior finance experience you will be prepared for some classes but it will still be very tough. The quantitative level is higher than what you will have experienced in your undergrad especially if you attend certain programs. Professors expect more of you than they would an undergraduate or even an MBA in finance classes.

Myth #4: You can't get a banking or consulting job out of an MSF.

This is not true. Multiple MSF students have been able to get the jobs they desired. However, just like with undergraduates if you don't have the proper experience or background you wont have a shot. Just having the MSF on your resume won't be enough. You need to prepare and get an internship the summer before the MSF in the field you want or have an extremely strong network going into fall recruiting season.

Myth #5: The MSF will get me a job

No. You need to get yourself a job. The MSF programs are highly regional, although alumni from your program may be located across the 50 states. You need to build your network if you want to work in a certain area.

Next time a resume hits your desk and the applicant has an MSF, give them a shot. They are smart, hardworking, and full of financial knowledge.

4

Comments (53)

  • TNA's picture

    LOL.

    Decent post, but a few points of contention.

    1) Plenty of students get into those programs you listed with lower GPA's or lower GMAT's. If you have internships or work experience you can stand out. If your GPA shows progression, you have a reason for a low GPA, you had a hard science GPA and switched to finance, etc. Since there are no real US based rankings programs tend to be more lenient. A higher GPA and GMAT will help with fellowships and scholarships, but doesn't mean you are excluded.

    2) I largely agree with your second point, but from a strict career perspective, the MSF is a specialized business degree to leverage into a FT offer. In that regard the MSF=MMS. Students compare Duke with Nova, WUSTL, CMC, etc all the time. Same thing with the UVA MS in Commerce.

    3) Spot on. MSF is not easy. Some use it as a 5th year, not necessarily for the ease of the program, but to be in school again. If you are reasonably smart and a finance UG you should have no problem keeping up with effort.

    4) Spot on.

    5) So true.

    Good post. Glad to see more people pushing for recognition and promoting the degree.

  • yeahright's picture

    I've always wondered this. Lets say an individual cannot afford to do an MSF but it would be a significant boost to said person's background. Also, lets say in this scenario they have a good job now in NYC, not great but very good. They could afford the MSF if they continued working, thus part time degree.

    How do part time MSF type degrees look in the long run? I would assume not much difference?

    Also, what options would be available to someone working in NYC for a MSF or related degree? I understand MSF =/= MFE or MiM but lets say they would still be a boost to someones background. Obviously Columbia and NYU but what else is feasible?

    Thanks for anyone's answers. And also, good post! +1 when I can

    Frank Sinatra - "Alcohol may be man's worst enemy, but the bible says love your enemy."

  • In reply to yeahright
    TNA's picture

    yeahright wrote:
    I've always wondered this. Lets say an individual cannot afford to do an MSF but it would be a significant boost to said person's background. Also, lets say in this scenario they have a good job now in NYC, not great but very good. They could afford the MSF if they continued working, thus part time degree.

    How do part time MSF type degrees look in the long run? I would assume not much difference?

    Also, what options would be available to someone working in NYC for a MSF or related degree? I understand MSF =/= MFE or MiM but lets say they would still be a boost to someones background. Obviously Columbia and NYU but what else is feasible?

    Thanks for anyone's answers. And also, good post! +1 when I can

    U Rochester has a nice MSF program in NYC. I would consider that the "premier" degree right now. Pace has a degree, Hofstra, Baruch has an exec program.

    As for benefit long term, depends. If you are in Corporate Finance the MSF is often considered an MBA substitute. You can also usually pair up some MBA classes to augment the degree if you want. A lot of MSF programs are offering a 1+1 set up so you can get your MSF and then do an MBA later in one year. Not a bad deal.

    IMO, if you are determined to work in banking and have a job which you don't like, under pays you and your UG profile won't get your into a T15 MBA program, an MSF might be worth it. Programs range in cost so you can pick which fits you the best.

    If you are working in F500, like it and have a decent UG, you might not want to pursue an MSF right now. The degree is growing with more programs coming on line and in the next 5-10 years you will see a big growth. The GMAC just reported continued increases in specialized masters applications and I know of a couple programs in the planning stages for rolling out a degree.

  • In reply to TNA
    JohnBaker's picture

    TNA wrote:
    LOL.

    Decent post, but a few points of contention.

    1. I definitely agree. It just seems like many people on this website think MSF students are a bunch of two point something scrubs who are only doing the MSF because they snoozed through undergrad. The majority have good GPAs and good GMAT's.

    2. I just want to separate the degree by what you are learning. The MSF is hardcore finance. The MMS is basically an MBA lite. MS Commerce is very unique. MACC degrees are also specialized business degrees but MACC=/= MSF.

    3. MSF is definitely not easy, especially if you are coming from a non-financial undergraduate background.

    MSF needs to be more respected. I am tired of explaining the MSF. This is my effort to educate WSO!

  • In reply to TNA
    JohnBaker's picture

    TNA wrote:
    The degree is growing with more programs coming on line and in the next 5-10 years you will see a big growth. The GMAC just reported continued increases in specialized masters applications and I know of a couple programs in the planning stages for rolling out a degree.

    Are you able to reveal those?

  • TNA's picture

    I'd prefer not since I was given the heads up from a couple friends. They are very good schools and will be highly competitive with current programs. Should roll out in the next couple of years.

  • In reply to TNA
    DrPeterVenkman's picture

    TNA wrote:
    I'd prefer not since I was given the heads up from a couple friends. They are very good schools and will be highly competitive with current programs. Should roll out in the next couple of years.

    Wow this is very interesting.

    OP, good post!

  • to_IBornot_toB's picture

    The toughest part of the getting a job from an MSF, is that you have to sell it. Yes, there are a few "target" firms that come on campus, but more importantly you need to reach out to other people, and find what story fits for you.

    Make a logical story (much harder done than said) and I think the MSF is worthwhile. Also, if you can get the MSF at a discount (fellowships, grants, scholarships), do so. This makes for bragging points during on-campus interviews when going up against other students from your MSF.

    Just as with any frat, club, organization, employer, etc. don't make the MSF your life. It is a part of your studies. It is not all of it. So don't rely on it for a job. You need to build around the MSF. This means internships, leadership, and whatever else. I feel like having an internship before your MSF will set you leagues ahead of others.

    Lastly, your story needs to be perfect. This takes practice. And msf alum are the people with that practice. Even before you start the program you need have spoke with your msf alum base. Ask them the question you would expect to get asked: Why did you do the MSF? Did you have an offer your senior year? Did you always want to do banking/advisory/corp fin? Why did you choose this school? Hearing their answers should give you direction on how you should put your story together. Make sure to network with them before you start networking with the school's undergrad alum. Use msf alum as training.

    Also, the msf degree is still relatively new in the states. This means there are only a few good schools. So when you are considering options Villavnoa/ W U/ Vandy/ UT, just know that the alum from other msf programs thought the same thing. They might have chose a different school, but that doesnt mean they didnt think about your program. Use them, they are an useful asset.

  • iRX's picture

    DEADLY FUCKING CORRECT. Having gone through the MSF and now in banking, I fully support the accuracy of this post. The one tough thing that I would have to highlight here is the fact that most employers don't understand the degree and often think it is similar to an MBA. In no way is this degree similar to an MBA. I spent a good (on average) 20% of every interview explaining the program and the value-add it offers. Although I do see it catching on, there is still a huge gap in the knowledge prospective employers have of the program.

  • KKS's picture

    For schools with MSF or other "fifth-year programs" (like Duke), are you competing against UG students (assuming you have little or no work experience)? If you have had UG IB-related internships, but no internship the summer before the MSF, how does that position you?

  • ssc122's picture

    So whats the difference between a first year analyst with a BS from a target and one with a MSF?

  • TNA's picture

    No work experience = competing with UG's.

    An MSF will not get you more money in the investment banking area. Other career paths, possibly.

  • In reply to ssc122
    TNA's picture

    ssc122 wrote:
    So whats the difference between a first year analyst with a BS from a target and one with a MSF?

    An extra piece of paper. A deeper understanding of the subject of finance. Depends. Does this Ivy UG has a business degree, or just a BS?

    End of the day you both have the job. The MSF might not have had the job without the degree.

  • to_IBornot_toB's picture

    As OP mentioned, the MSF is not an easy degree by any means. It is not like finance classes from undergrad. I had an accounting and finance background, internships in banking, and still was left clueless all too often. I think the best benefit of the MSF or any Masters in general, is the specialized education you receive. That is something that will most likely provide benefits much later than you first year on the job.

    For example; a student in a MSF might want to be in IB. So they pay attention in Valuation or corp fin classes. However, he still has to learn the materials for Derivatives or Fixed Income. This specialized knowledge of the finance field will come in handy later on. And any good student would start connecting their classes together, thinking macro economically, and finding out impacts to their particular sector.

  • In reply to TNA
    to_IBornot_toB's picture

    TNA wrote:
    ssc122 wrote:
    So whats the difference between a first year analyst with a BS from a target and one with a MSF?

    An extra piece of paper. A deeper understanding of the subject of finance. Depends. Does this Ivy UG has a business degree, or just a BS?

    End of the day you both have the job. The MSF might not have had the job without the degree.

    Strongly disagree on the extra piece of paper part. If you pay for a program I think you should get more than a sheet of paper out of it. By all means, kids getting into the MSF usually just care about finding a job, but many other skills are unique to MSF programs that help you later on.

    A) It's a masters, and I reiterate, material is difficult
    B) Usually a cohort, means learning team skills that aren't too prevalent in large state schools/undergrads
    C) Get to see the Academic side, could even pique your interest

  • mperit01's picture

    I have learned a few things in my short life thus far, and two of them are

    A) if you have to go out of your way to defend something, there is probably a reason
    B) If you can get to point A w/ X amount of years for Y amount of cost, or get to point A with X+1 amount of years and Y + 1 for the cost, you go with the first path every time.

    Bottom line is, MSF kids and undergrad kids get recruited for the same jobs, with the same pay, 90% of the time. Now, is an MSF difficult? Absolutely, and does an MSF kid have an intellectual edge to a 1st year analyst straight out of undergrad? maybe. But that kid is 22, and in way less debt that you are, who are at least 23 (usually older) and have just paid for a fifth year of college education, with no MBA to show for it. Not trying to be controversial, just trying to state the facts as I have heard them from people involved in wall street recruitment. IM NOT SAYING DON'T DO ONE EVER, but if you get a job out of undergrad, in today's environment I would recommend work over an MSF all day every day. It's easier to network and learn when you are in the trenches, not in the classroom.

  • In reply to mperit01
    iRX's picture

    mperit01 wrote:
    I have learned a few things in my short life thus far, and two of them are

    A) if you have to go out of your way to defend something, there is probably a reason
    B) If you can get to point A w/ X amount of years for Y amount of cost, or get to point A with X+1 amount of years and Y + 1 for the cost, you go with the first path every time.

    Bottom line is, MSF kids and undergrad kids get recruited for the same jobs, with the same pay, 90% of the time. Now, is an MSF difficult? Absolutely, and does an MSF kid have an intellectual edge to a 1st year analyst straight out of undergrad? maybe. But that kid is 22, and in way less debt that you are, who are at least 23 (usually older) and have just paid for a fifth year of college education, with no MBA to show for it. Not trying to be controversial, just trying to state the facts as I have heard them from people involved in wall street recruitment. IM NOT SAYING DON'T DO ONE EVER, but if you get a job out of undergrad, in today's environment I would recommend work over an MSF all day every day. It's easier to network and learn when you are in the trenches, not in the classroom.

    Says the guy in ER...

  • ssc122's picture

    What mperit01 said makes a lot of sense. And there's nothing wrong with ER. I just look at MSF as a way for non-targets to rebrand themselves really. The additional knowledge is kind of negligible at the analyst level.

  • UFOinsider's picture

    @ ANT - why do you say Rochester msf is a premier program? Is the recruiting that good?

    Get busy living

  • shorttheworld's picture

    MIT's MSF is still for fresh kids though right? so LBS MiF and the Princeton MSF are the only two with the work experience requirements?

  • sayandarula's picture

    "Myth #1: Most MSF students use the MSF to make up for a poor undergraduate background."

    i always thought MSF's were more for those who couldn't get a good job in finance out of undergrad, for whatever reason. kind of like a "do-over OCR opportunity" for students who didn't make it the first time around. i'm not bashing MSF students... it's certainly a great option for some.

    Money Never Sleeps? More like Money Never SUCKS amirite?!?!?!?

  • In reply to sayandarula
    ssc122's picture

    Yup. It makes sense for STEM students that went to a non-target. A lot of the top STEM schools are not recruited by banks at all. I personally know someone who did the MIT MSF from a STEM undergrad and ended up with a BB in NY. I would say it worked out pretty well for him.

  • naeko31's picture

    Does admittance into an MSF provide any advantage/assistance with landing interships before the start of the program?

  • In reply to shorttheworld
    Macro Arbitrage's picture

    shorttheworld wrote:
    MIT's MSF is still for fresh kids though right? so LBS MiF and the Princeton MSF are the only two with the work experience requirements?

    And Rotman.

  • Ichan's picture

    It is great article, no doubt about it.
    If someone can break into IB with UG, why would someone want to pursue MSF?

    I understand MSF and MFE are two different thing. Having compared with Baruch employment stats, it sounds like MSF is subset of MFE. what I mean by this is if you have Baruch MFE, you can pretty much do whatever MSG graduates do.

    http://mfe.baruch.cuny.edu/employment-stats/

    It's not about the money. It's about the game between people.

  • In reply to naeko31
    Mr.CoolGuy's picture

    naeko31 wrote:
    Does admittance into an MSF provide any advantage/assistance with landing interships before the start of the program?

    I can't speak for the other schools, but I believe that CMC does help with summer internship placement in May or June before the start of the program in August.

  • In reply to iRX
    tek1234567's picture

    iRX wrote:
    DEADLY FUCKING CORRECT. Having gone through the MSF and now in banking, I fully support the accuracy of this post. The one tough thing that I would have to highlight here is the fact that most employers don't understand the degree and often think it is similar to an MBA. In no way is this degree similar to an MBA. I spent a good (on average) 20% of every interview explaining the program and the value-add it offers. Although I do see it catching on, there is still a huge gap in the knowledge prospective employers have of the program.

  • In reply to iRX
    tek1234567's picture

    iRX wrote:
    DEADLY FUCKING CORRECT. Having gone through the MSF and now in banking, I fully support the accuracy of this post. The one tough thing that I would have to highlight here is the fact that most employers don't understand the degree and often think it is similar to an MBA. In no way is this degree similar to an MBA. I spent a good (on average) 20% of every interview explaining the program and the value-add it offers. Although I do see it catching on, there is still a huge gap in the knowledge prospective employers have of the program.

    Which MSF program did you do? What was your background/was your undergrad from a target or non-target?

  • TNA's picture

    Sorry guy, I was out of pocket for a couple days. I'll read through the posts and try and answer anything I missed. Feel free to post any more questions.

  • In reply to TNA
    UFOinsider's picture

    TNA wrote:
    Sorry guy, I was out of pocket for a couple days. I'll read through the posts and try and answer anything I missed. Feel free to post any more questions.

    Very specific question: what is the overall network strength of the Rochester program, and how does the networking/recruiting look for their part time program? These are all quality educational resources, but I'm specifically looking at the employment options, I can learn extra on my own time. I've talked to quite a few alums and they all have good things to say, but literally no one outside of that program has had any input on this specific question: what is the networking/employment strength of the full and part time programs? Where are they placing? What are those positions paying? Pretty much anything you have to add is useful...

    Get busy living

  • TNA's picture

    Let me reach out to a guy I know who is currently doing the program. He had similar questions/concerns that you had and we talked quite extensively about it. I'll email him and post what I find.

  • Amphipathic's picture

    My understanding (correct me if I'm wrong) is that it is like law school: get in a top 10 program, and you can seriously boost your career. Any lower that that, though, and you will really struggle to sell yourself.

  • In reply to Amphipathic
    TNA's picture

    Amphipathic wrote:
    My understanding (correct me if I'm wrong) is that it is like law school: get in a top 10 program, and you can seriously boost your career. Any lower that that, though, and you will really struggle to sell yourself.

    Couple factors make the MSF a little different.

    1) Not many top 10 programs. You have MIT and then Princeton if you want to include it. Outside of that you have all these programs that don't classify as T10, but all place into banking positions. I just think Law is a little over saturated and probably more ridged.

    The biggest advice I can give anyone looking at the MSF degree is to have a crystal clear focus on what you want to achieve. That and start networking/prepping as soon as you get accepted. Because of the truncated nature of the program you need to be at full speed right out of the gate.

  • adapt or die's picture

    I did an MSF at one of the schools listed in the OP's post and I can say that out of all the comments #5 is the most important one. You really get out what you put in effort wise when it comes to placement. I was able to land an IB job at a regional MM which was ideal for me but it took a TON of hard work outside the classroom. My graduation was during terrible hiring climate also.

  • In reply to TNA
    Amphipathic's picture

    TNA wrote:
    Amphipathic wrote:
    My understanding (correct me if I'm wrong) is that it is like law school: get in a top 10 program, and you can seriously boost your career. Any lower that that, though, and you will really struggle to sell yourself.

    Couple factors make the MSF a little different.

    1) Not many top 10 programs. You have MIT and then Princeton if you want to include it. Outside of that you have all these programs that don't classify as T10, but all place into banking positions. I just think Law is a little over saturated and probably more ridged.

    The biggest advice I can give anyone looking at the MSF degree is to have a crystal clear focus on what you want to achieve. That and start networking/prepping as soon as you get accepted. Because of the truncated nature of the program you need to be at full speed right out of the gate.

    Gotcha thanks

  • Bankn's picture

    What does anyone need a masters in finance for? Some cleaver way that I don't know of to calculate a discount rate? smh

    I never think it's a good idea to chase business jobs with degrees. UG is a given, then it's all about work experience. The MBA is more about bragging rights (I went to XYZ Ivy, blah blah) than any tangible benefit to the employer, it's like an expensive certification.

    Thinking that having MSF (or even MBA) directly after UG is going to land you some great job is not smart. You're much better off taking a job for a year that will help create a path to the correct industry/job (i.e. accounting -> FP&A or risk mgmt. -> trading).

  • In reply to Bankn
    Ichan's picture

    Bankn wrote:
    What does anyone need a masters in finance for? Some cleaver way that I don't know of to calculate a discount rate? smh

    I never think it's a good idea to chase business jobs with degrees. UG is a given, then it's all about work experience. The MBA is more about bragging rights (I went to XYZ Ivy, blah blah) than any tangible benefit to the employer, it's like an expensive certification.

    Thinking that having MSF (or even MBA) directly after UG is going to land you some great job is not smart. You're much better off taking a job for a year that will help create a path to the correct industry/job (i.e. accounting -> FP&A or risk mgmt. -> trading).

    I recently graduated with Aerospace engineering degree and trying to break into IB. Any help(advise) would be appreciated

    It's not about the money. It's about the game between people.

  • In reply to Ichan
    Bankn's picture

    Ichan wrote:
    Bankn wrote:
    What does anyone need a masters in finance for? Some cleaver way that I don't know of to calculate a discount rate? smh

    I never think it's a good idea to chase business jobs with degrees. UG is a given, then it's all about work experience. The MBA is more about bragging rights (I went to XYZ Ivy, blah blah) than any tangible benefit to the employer, it's like an expensive certification.

    Thinking that having MSF (or even MBA) directly after UG is going to land you some great job is not smart. You're much better off taking a job for a year that will help create a path to the correct industry/job (i.e. accounting -> FP&A or risk mgmt. -> trading).

    I recently graduated with Aerospace engineering degree and trying to break into IB. Any help(advise) would be appreciated

    Network, prove you're smart and have a passion for finance to someone on the inside. If you are willing to go the asset management route, you should definitely take the CFA. That will help you break out into AM. You already have the quant skills with that degree, the CFA will help you bridge into AM (IBs don't care too much about it outside research, PWM, and AM), mainly because M&A, trading, and product services mainly rely on different skills like corporate finance and risk management.

    I'd even think about product/fund sales if you at all are willing. Many leaders in finance have broke into the industry (with no background in it) through sales.

    It's all about who you know though, so keep smart and network. And keep applying over and over and over, get out of engineering ASAP if you know you want to be in finance. A year out of the industry isn't going to hurt too much, but 2-3 years as an engineer and well, you're an engineer to the market.

  • WreckEmFinance's picture

    i am a senior UG at Texas Tech, a so-called non-target, and am currently saving up to enter the CFA program. can JohnBaker or anyone else lend some perspective on MSF v CFA? or maybe in which order? i have already decided to commence CFA so not the order necessarily for myself, but moreso just gauging in which order other people have gone.

    "Everything comes to those who hustle while they wait."
    -Thomas Edison

  • In reply to WreckEmFinance
    Bankn's picture

    WreckEmFinance wrote:
    i am a senior UG at Texas Tech, a so-called non-target, and am currently saving up to enter the CFA program. can JohnBaker or anyone else lend some perspective on MSF v CFA? or maybe in which order? i have already decided to commence CFA so not the order necessarily for myself, but moreso just gauging in which order other people have gone.

    In my opinion, I would get a job in at least a related field. Even accounting can be good experience if you can find a fin services job. Then take the CFA immediately while working, keep applying for AM (fin services) jobs while you are working towards the CFA charter. That way you will have work experience (valuable in company's eyes) and on your way to a CFA.

  • Ichan's picture

    I am sure you all have heard about New York School of Finance

    http://www.nyschooloffinance.com/?gclid=CMONsvTuhb...

    guaranteed internship right after the program. I would really appreciate all your thoughts.

    Thanx inadvance

    It's not about the money. It's about the game between people.

  • TNA's picture

    To unlock this content for free, please login / register below.

    Sign In with Facebook Sign In with Google

    Connecting helps us build a vibrant community. We'll never share your info without your permission. Sign up with email or if you are already a member, login here Bonus: Also get 6 free financial modeling lessons for free ($200+ value) when you register!
  • In reply to TNA
    Ichan's picture

    It's not about the money. It's about the game between people.

  • In reply to TNA
    Ichan's picture

    It's not about the money. It's about the game between people.

  • In reply to Bankn
    WreckEmFinance's picture

    "Everything comes to those who hustle while they wait."
    -Thomas Edison

  • Pocket_Hercules's picture

Pages