Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the difference between Computational Finance and Financial Engineering?

    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?
  • Do I need to schedule an admissions interview?

    Applicants may be contacted by email to arrange an on-campus or virtual face-to-face interview via webcam using video calling software before a final decision is made on your candidacy. Interviews are granted at the discretion of the MSCF Admissions Committee after an initial review of your application. Requests for interviews will not be granted. Interviews can take place at any time in the application process.      

  • How successful are MSCF students in the career search?

    The MSCF program was begin in 1994. With over 1,100 alums, almost all working in the quantitative finance industry, the MSCF program is well-known and highly respected, drawing much interest from sell-side and buy-side recruiters. In large part, it is the success of former students, now prospering alums, that is our most persuasive marketing strategy!  

    In addition to our strong reputation on the Street, our students enjoy all the advantages of the Tepper School of Business’ Career Opportunities Center on all aspects of career planning, internship and full-time employment planning and interviewing.

    We maintain a robust database of career-related statistics and encourage applicants to consider our success in helping students secure excellent opportunities in the quantitative finance industry. You are unlikely to find such in-depth employment statistics at our peer schools!


  • What is the average starting salary?

    We provide for our students and recruiters an MSCF Analysis of Offers, which has comprehensive statistics for internship and full-time employment results including job offers, acceptances, salaries, geographies and industries/functions. Specific firms, titles and locations can be found here.
  • Is there a different application process for a reapplicant?

    Yes. If you have submitted an application for the MSCF program within the last year, please email mscf-admissions@andrew.cmu.edu with "MSCF Reapplication” in the subject line to notify us of  your intention to reapply to the MSCF program. Once your request has been processed, you will receive instructions to log into the MSCF application system to begin your application. Please note you will need to submit a new application and one new letter of recommendation; however, you will not need to submit an application fee when reactivating an application submitted within the past year.
  • What makes the mini-semester system unique?

    The “mini-semester system” splits the typical semester in half, creating four mini-semesters per academic year. Each mini-semester is seven weeks long. This system allows students the opportunity to gain exposure to a wider range of topics and helps to insure that every lecture counts; the professors must carefully lay out the syllabus to be sure all necessary material is covered!
  • Are transfer credits accepted?

    No, the MSCF program does not accept transfer credits.

  • Do all candidates have to submit test scores?

    You are required to submit an official copy of either your GMAT directly from Pearson VUE or GRE scores directly from ETS. You must have taken the test within five years of submitting your application.

    For GRE scores, use institution code 4883 (Carnegie Mellon Tepper School of Business) to have your GRE sent to us. For GMAT, select Carnegie Mellon University and the Tepper School of Business to have your GMAT sent to us. If you do not use these codes, there may be delays in getting your tests scores to us.

    If you hold a Ph.D. from a U.S. institution in a related discipline at the time of application AND are able to submit a photocopy of the GMAT/GRE that was part of your original Ph.D. application, you may not be required to submit a new, valid copy of the GMAT/GRE test results. Additionally, we will extend this for candidates who are expected to complete their Ph.D. studies at a U.S. institution by July 31st, 2015 for students applying to the program for the Fall 2015 entering class. Such requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis by the MSCF Admissions Committee. If you meet BOTH of these criteria, you can request an exemption of the new test score policy by submitting a completed application including a statement requesting a waiver in the optional essay D and mail a photocopy of your previous test score to the MSCF Admissions Office. We will notify you only if you have not been granted the waiver. 

  • Do I need to submit the TOEFL or IELTS?

    International students who have previously obtained a degree in the United States need not submit TOEFL or IELTS scores. Additionally, we will waive the TOEFL/IELTS requirement for international applicants who have earned a degree at a university where the language of instruction was English, but do require that you submit document directly from the institution of such. If you are required to submit a TOEFL score, use institution code 2074 and department code 02. For IELTS, select Carnegie Mellon University and the Tepper School of Business. 

  • Do you accept the GMAT or GRE?

    While the MSCF program accepts either the GMAT or the GRE, if you have yet to take either, we recommend taking the GRE. Original copies of the test scores are required. 
  • How much work experience do I need?

    Relevant professional experience is preferred but is not required. Our Fall 2014 entering students had an average of .83 years of experience ranging from those whose experience was limited to relevant internships to those with 10+ years of experience. Interest in finance, quantitative aptitude, educational background, character, language skills and work experience are all important determinants in the admissions decision. 
  • How much math and statistics will I need?

    The MSCF Program is highly quantitative. While the background of our students varies, most have taken engineering-level math courses beyond Calculus such as Differential Equations and Linear Algebra. A calculus-based probability course is also required.

    The MSCF Program includes a detailed treatment of the mathematical models of quantitative finance, and this involves stochastic calculus and its applications. Undergraduate courses that cover both probability and statistics rather than just probability often devote insufficient time to the probability content needed to sufficiently prepare students for the level of probability encountered in MSCF. If you have not previously taken a calculus-based probability course, you should look for a course covering advanced topics in probability including the law of large numbers, the central limit theorem, moment-generating functions, multivariate probability distributions, conditional distributions, and independence, covariance and correlation of random variable.

    Students lacking one or more advanced mathematics courses may still be considered provided they are able to take steps to acquire the necessary skills before entering the program and satisfy the admissions committee requirements. 
  • How much programming experience will I need?

    Proficiency in a programming language is required. Applicants lacking this knowledge may be requested to take a C++ course prior to enrolling in the program.               
  • If admitted, am I able to defer enrollment?

    We do not defer enrollments but we will keep your admissions materials on file for one year. Should you choose to seek admission the following year, your candidacy will be evaluated on the basis of the applicant pool at that time. We do offer a streamlined reapplication process for candidates reapplying within one year.

  • Are there restrictions for applying to the Online MSCF Program?

    Residents of Certain States are Ineligible to Apply for Enrollment in Courses and Programs Delivered via Distance Education: For Carnegie Mellon courses and programs delivered via distance education only: Carnegie Mellon is not able to accept students who are residents of Alabama, Arkansas and Minnesota for enrollment in courses and programs delivered via distance education because it has not applied for or received authorization from these states to deliver courses and programs via distance education to residents of these states. Carnegie Mellon has not currently applied for or received authorization from these states because Carnegie Mellon has determined that the administrative and other requirements to obtain and maintain authorization for its distance education courses and programs that would otherwise be delivered to residents of these states, including the fees charged by these states and the additional administrative costs associated with doing so, are disproportionately burdensome, excessive and/or prohibitive, at least at the present time.

    ATTN Residents of AL, AR and MN: If you are a resident of Alabama, Arkansas or Minnesota, you are not eligible to apply for enrollment in Carnegie Mellon courses and programs delivered via distance education. Note, however that residents of Alabama, Arkansas and Minnesota are eligible to apply for enrollment in all other Carnegie Mellon courses and programs, including those offered at any of its various campus locations.

    Inquiries regarding the above may be directed to: Director of Enrollment Services, Carnegie Mellon University, Warner Hall A19, 5000 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, Telephone: 412.268.5399, Email: krieg@andrew.cmu.edu
  • Is financial aid available?

    Yes, financial aid is available in the form of scholarships, loans and a tuition payment plan. For additional questions on financing your MSCF education, please contact the Financial Aid Office by email at tepper-aid@andrew.cmu.edu or by phone at 412-268-1242.

    All full-time students admitted to the program are considered for an MSCF Merit Scholarship. No additional application to qualify for this award is required. Criteria is based on the strength of the student’s candidacy relative to the overall applicant pool for the year. Scholarship decisions are made at the time of the admissions decision. All merit scholarships are partial.

    Qualified U.S. citizens and permanent residents may be eligible for subsidized and/or unsubsidized Stafford loans. Perkins loans may also be available. Private educational loans are available to credit-worthy U.S. citizens or non-U.S. citizens able to obtain a credit-worthy U.S. co-signor.

    All Carnegie Mellon students are eligible for a tuition payment plan which allows monthly payments with no accrued interest charge. 

  • What is the background of admitted students?

    Our MSCF Class Profile is an excellent resource to review the background of our most recently admitted classes (gender, test scores, undergraduate/graduate degree, etc.).
  • What is the difference between the NYC and Pittsburgh campuses?

    Other than location, there are no differences between the New York and Pittsburgh programs. That said, location does matter: the significant advantage of the New York program is its proximity to global financial institutions and the networking possibilities of having so many MSCF alumni and fellow students employed at these institutions. The significant advantage of the Pittsburgh program is the vibrant campus community at Carnegie Mellon University and the ability to work closely with faculty and other masters students at the Tepper School of Business as well as engage in academic and student life across the Carnegie Mellon campus and its seven colleges.

    The admission and requirements are the same for each location as is the coursework and faculty. Courses are broadcast from Pittsburgh to New York via live, interactive video, giving students and professor full ability to see and hear one another and to engage in an effective classroom format. Faculty teach live/in-person from New York twice during each seven-week mini-semester.

    While a number of the New York students have full-time jobs and study part-time and most Pittsburgh students study full-time, one can study part-time, full-time or for a certificate at either location. Tuition costs are the same in Pittsburgh and New York.
  • What other schools are considered by those seeking MSCF admission?

    Increased competition has not only kept us striving to continually improve the program but has also significantly increased the awareness of the “quantitative finance” category within the financial services industry. While we believe our program to be the best of its kind, other schools considered by applicants exploring Carnegie Mellon's MSCF program include Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, MIT, NYU, Princeton, Stanford, and UC Berkeley.

    You can find a more complete program listing at Quantnet.

  • May I visit the Pittsburgh or New York campus?

    Visitors are always welcome! As a prospective student, you are encouraged to explore our program, classroom, campus environment, classroom and student experience. Schedule a Pittsburgh campus visit or a New York campus visit.  We promise to provide a memorable, worthwhile experience when you visit, including attending a class and spending time with our current students. Keep in mind, no classes take place on Fridays and during the summer!
  • Are there any preparatory courses?

    Each year, the MSCF program will offer optional mathematics and programming preparation courses. While these courses are designed for those whose skills may have become a bit rusty, the courses are proven to be beneficial to nearly all MSCF students who take it.

    • To encourage attendance, these courses are open to all MSCF students matriculating this August.  
    • There is no additional charge for the course for entering MSCF students.
    • Students will be responsible for purchasing any reference texts.
    • Incoming MSCF students can register for this course via the MSCF Admitted Student Website.

    Course Materials

    The mathematics course is in part a refresher course in calculus, covering some of the calculations that arise in subsequent MSCF courses, but it also covers related mathematics topics and helps students practice mathematical thinking and problem-solving skills. The course is setup as a problem-working seminar. Problems will be assigned and these and similar problems will be worked in class. The following is an example of the material you may see:

    • Learn to accurately compute the limits, derivatives and integrals that arise in subsequent courses in the Master's program in Computational Finance. Problems will be chosen to emphasize the calculations that have caused students difficulties in these courses in the past.
    • Practice formulating problems mathematically and solving brain teasers similar to those commonly asked in job interviews.
    • The course will not present theory except as it is needed to do the assigned problems.

    The programming course is a refresher course in basic C++ syntax and rudimentary program development. The course may involve hands-on program development in the following areas:

    • Create projects in MS Visual Studio
    • Write functions
    • Use C++ libraries
    • How to think about variable types and basic algebraic manipulations.

    Individuals not enrolled in the MSCF program can participate in the courses at a tuition of $3000. To qualify, submit your resume along with a list of previous calculus and probability courses taken to Jessica Bittel at jessicabittel@cmu.edu.

  • When does the MSCF program begin?

    The MSCF program begins in late August. Since the courses are sequential, August is the only time a student can enter the program. 
  • Is there any flexibility in the part-time schedule?

    While all students are expected to follow the course schedule, there is some flexibility. Students have completed the 33-month part-time course of study in as little as two years; others have taken three-and-a-half years.
  • When is the application deadline?

    We keep an updated calendar of key dates for application, dates and deadlines available online.
  • Why was I not admitted to the MSCF program?

    If you are not granted admission into the program it simply means your candidacy was not as strong as others for a very limited number of openings. We will hold all application materials for one year at which time you can reapply using our streamlined reapplication process.

  • Will units transfer from the certificate program?

    Yes, units from the certificate program can be transferred for units in the degree program.  You will need to reapply for the degree program in order to be considered for admission.  Certificate candidates who reapply for the degree program will need to provide three letters of recommendation and complete the essays as is required of degree candidates.