MIT Sloan MF Offers a Key to the Future

MIT Sloan MF Offers a Key to the Future main image

There are few campuses as fitting for a masters of finance (MF) program as Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Business. Heidi Pickett, assistant dean of the MIT Sloan MF program says MIT created the model for the modern finance industry.

“There’s no better place to study”, she adds.

Hands-on learning

Certainly, the QS Global Rankings 2019 ties in with this idea because the Sloan MF is at the top of the list of similar programs. With a focus on practical application, the Sloan MF stands out by employing action-learning methods in many of its classes.

Pickett says, “It’s great for students to learn theories, but it’s more important to be able to put theory into practice.”

Truly, the history of the Sloan MF speaks to the program’s strength. The school launched the MF in 2008 at the height of the global financial crisis, which is now known as the Great Recession. Kicking off a finance program at a time, when the financial industry was under water and people were getting laid off, was by choice, says Pickett.

“Our faculty thought it was the best time”, she adds. “The idea was the financial industry doesn’t need fewer people; it needs better trained people. We wanted people to see finance could be good and not evil.”

MF gaining traction in the United States

However, specialized, pre-experience business degrees were the stuff of Europe. The US didn’t have much of a market for these degrees, especially back then. But the industry is growing and it’s a good fit with the current hiring reality, says Pickett.

“Those with a STEM-related undergraduate degree who earn an MF are in a strong position going into industry,” she adds.

Today, technology is a big part of how the finance industry functions and will become more important still. Big data, machine learning, and artificial intelligence are already having an impact. However, it will only take you so far. In the Sloan program, students learn how to maximize the potential of the technology, while balancing the human skills still necessary to thrive.

That’s why courses that allow people to apply theory to practice are vital to the program, says Pickett. Many of the students come from STEM undergraduate programs, but you don’t necessarily have to be a “hardcore quant” to find a place in the class. While 80 percent of the student body comes to this masters program directly from undergraduate, the others might have two to three years’ work experience.

How the Sloan MF stands out

Sloan’s MF is classified as having a STEM curriculum. About 115 students – with each given class representing 30 countries – are in the program and are offered a unique flexibility to study for either 12 months or 18 months. Those who sign up for the longer program get extra coursework and have time for an internship.

Many students sign up to the Finance Research Practicum, one of the program’s highlights. The course takes place in January, when the rest of the school isn’t in session. Students work in teams on a project for a real company, building models while undertaking deep relevant research. Although many students end up working with private sector organizations, public sector groups sometimes sponsor the project. But the Federal Reserve has taken advantage of the student help.

Another area of growth in the MF program is fintech, a trendy subject area  MIT has been leading the way in. For now, however, the majority of graduates – about 35 percent - enter asset management or hedge funds, while another 25 percent or so go into investment banking, which is a growing interest. The rest tend to pursue fields, such as consulting, venture capital, private equity, and corporate finance.

Hand in hand with industry

Markets are evolving, and graduates of the program have to be able to adapt, says Pickett. To ensure students gain the kind of experience that will allow them to roll with the times, the program’s administrators work closely with industry.

The program has an advisory board composed of 25 industry experts, who offer suggestions on the skillsets students will need now and long-term.

“Our program is an investment in the future,” says Pickett. “Our goal is to train students with academics but also professional development. It’s not just about getting that first job out but also establishing a long career.”

Francesca Di Meglio

Francesca Di Meglio has written about higher education for two decades. She covered business schools and all aspects of management education for what became Bloomberg Businessweek from May 2004 to December 2013. Di Meglio was the consultant editor for the book Admitted: An Interactive Workbook for Getting into a Top MBA Program (85 Broads Publishing, 2011), which was written by admissions consultant Betsy Massar. In addition, she is a family travel and parenting blogger at the Italian Mamma website

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