While the terms "quantitative finance," "computational finance," "mathematical finance," and "financial engineering" are often used interchangeably, there exist relevant, subtle differences in their meanings: Financial Engineering programs often emphasize finance and financial markets at the expense of more rigorous computing and quantitative skills. Some Mathematical Finance programs focus on theoretical math at the expense of real-world application. Few programs embed programming into their curricula and fewer still have been able to replicate Carnegie Mellon's well-balanced and carefully coordinated mix of math, probability, applied finance and computation.
Not all Financial Engineering degrees deliver the same value! We often advise students evaluating programs to ask the following key questions:
(1) The skills needed for the quantitative finance industry are, by definition, interdisciplinary. Is the program isolated in one department or top-heavy in math or finance?
(2) Will you benefit from a customized curriculum that is designed specifically for the jobs and careers of interest to you?
(3) Does the program offer knowledgeable career counselors who will work closely with you and with interested recruiters in helping you obtain your career goals?
(4) Will you enjoy a program with many years of experience in developing its curriculum and overall student experience?
(5) Will you be participating in a program with a large alumni network and which is committed to a strong alumni ties?