The MIT Sloan School of Management will today reveal a new masters in finance degree programme in response to student and industry demand for a more specialised approach to business education.
The 12-month programme, targeted at aspiring traders, investment bankers and money managers, is slated to start in September next year with a modest class of 25 students, eventually rising to 60 participants.
The degree is representative of a trend in US business education, away from a broad-based general management model towards a more practically oriented curriculum. It also represents a way for Sloan, with its relatively small MBA programme of approximately 350 students, to differentiate itself in the ever more crowded business education industry.
“The fundamental way this programme changes [management education] is that it suggests one-size-fits-all is no longer good enough,” says David Schmittlein, dean.
“We have been slow to appreciate that different people want different things and we need to get serious about customising education to the individual’s experience, background and where they want their career to go.”
The new programme responds to the demand – from students, as well as from Wall Street – for advanced training in finance, underscored by the recent credit crunch and ensuing stock market downturn.
School officials say the programme’s deeper exposure to finance will give graduates a competitive advantage in the job market – an edge that could become even more meaningful in a declining economy.
This year, the on-campus recruiting scene in the financial services industry, typically the biggest consumer of newly-minted MBAs, is in a slump at most business schools as investment banks on Wall Street have been battered by mortgage and credit losses, with many resorting to layoffs.
Jackie Rosner, a Sloan alumnus who is now a director at BNP Paribas and regularly recruits MBAs, says graduates with specific financial skills will continue to be more attractive to potential employers.
“Doctors have to get a medical degree, lawyers need a law degree. Why shouldn’t finance practitioners be required to have a degree in finance?” he says. “The generic MBA will still have a function, but I could see a future where the Masters of Science degree in finance becomes the preferred path.”
MIT has a deep tradition in finance. Its faculty and researchers have famously developed ground-breaking methods that span finance, economics, mathematics and engineering, from the invention of derivatives pricing 35 years ago to the modelling of systematic risks in hedge funds today.
The class will expand the school’s course offerings in finance for all degrees, according to Jiang Wang, the faculty adviser for the degree programme.
Prof Wang says the programme will have a “focused hands-on” approach, where students complete research projects for financial firms and learn, for example, how to design a risk management system for a structured product. “This gets students more involved and also gives them the experience, access and mentoring.” he says.