In my last post I put forward some of the most essential benefits brought by the pursuit of an MSc in Finance. Yet, it is true that today, in particular in Europe, the many programs offered by Universities and business schools can lead to very different experiences.
So how to choose an MSc in Finance that will be right for you?
Well, the first thing you should start with when trying to answer this question is to do a deep introspection:
- Why do you want to pursue a Master’s degree in Finance? Probably as important, why do you want to work in Finance?
- What subsector within the financial industry are you targeting? Why do you think this may be a good fit for you and why do you think you may be a good fit for this sector? In order for you to meaningfully answer those questions you will need to further dig into who you are: what are your typical strengths and main personality traits? What type of support do you need, what type of learning environment tends to bring the best out of you?
- Where would you like to work? While it may seem a secondary priority, it will probably matter a lot: Living in Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Geneva, London, Luxemburg, Monaco or Paris will definitely feel very different and will lead to very different life styles and career choices.
Once you have a good sense of who you are, what you want/need and what you are ready to do to get it, then you can compare what programs are offering:
- How intensive is the program? Will it provide you with the required skillset? Of course this is essential, yet you would be surprised by the discrepancy of experiences you may face. Some programs will give you a sense of comfort, others will definitely put you out of your comfort zone. The amount of learning and the acquisition of technical competencies will be directly impacted. Many (too many?) programs favor a more accessible experience, and while it is often well intended and makes happy students during their study period, the wakeup call can be harsh during the job recruitment process where competition is high and competency is a must, not a plus.
- Will you be learning within a large group or within a reasonable class size? In the former setting you must be sure you are able to compete at the very highest level otherwise you face the risk of being invisible (to the professors, recruiters or even to your peers). In a smaller setting it is all about the quality of the interaction you can create (and the quality of the Faculty and professional lecturers) and the actual support and availability provided.
- How much professional exposure do you need? If you come straight from your undergraduate studies then this is most likely a must have. You will want to meet professionals with the highest level possible in order to be exposed to best practices and develop the right professional mindset required in your targeted segment. It’s one thing to meet with junior analysts, but can the school allow you to interact with fund managers, directors or even founders of financial institutions?
- Will you benefit from a quality network? Often, the size of a network is put forward as the essential component, but what makes the biggest difference is the actual depth of connections and accessibility of that network. It’s great to have on Paper 20000+ people in your finance network but if no one responds when you ask, it won’t be of much help to you.
As you can see, finding the right program implies knowing yourself, understanding your motivations and objectives and doing some research about the value offered by the programs and the schools you target.
Often, it will pay off to contact alumni but also to meet with current students: you will be able to assess what their student & professional lives are really like and the actual opportunity set provided by the program. Even better, try to go on campus, ask to be part of one class and see and feel for yourself what it would be like to be there. When a sense of belonging appears you’ll know you are on the right track!
Written by Dr. Gregory Moscato, Director of the MSc in Finance program