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Career Guide to JMU Majors

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Career Guide to JMU Majors: Quantitative Finance

Career Guide to JMU Majors

The Major

Who Succeeds

Careers

Internships

Learn More


The Major

The Quantitative Finance major is a department within the College of Business. Unlike most of the other majors within the College of Business, the Quantitative Finance student does not take most of the B.B.A. core curriculum, but rather follows a path to a B.S. degree that blends mathematics, finance, and economics.

Learn more about this major by watching the JMU Quantitative Finance promotional video.

Admission and Progression Standards:
Visit the Major Snapshots site to learn more about the admission and progression standards of this major.

Description of Major

Quantitative Finance is offered as a major at JMU through the Department of Finance and Business Law. The Bachelor of Science degree with a major in Quantitative Finance offers a strong foundation in mathematics, statistics, finance, and economics. The quantitative finance major is designed to prepare students for careers in financial risk management and analysis, structured finance, financial modeling, financial strategy, financial engineering, and graduate study. The required major courses provide quantitative finance majors with the foundation and tools for a variety of financial situations and problem solving. Electives permit the student to emphasize economics, mathematics, statistics, or finance.

The quantitative finance major is an interdisciplinary major. Students are strongly encouraged to meet with an adviser in their freshman year to plan the course of study. Students must begin their mathematics courses in their freshman year in order to progress through the major in a timely manner.

Because of the uniqueness of the quantitative finance interdisciplinary curriculum, students will be exposed to many other colleges on campus. This major is a highly structured program requiring minors in both mathematics and economics. Frequently, the quantitative finance faculty participates in joint courses with the applied mathematics and applied science departments. This allows students to share ideas with students from other quantitative disciplines at JMU. Additionally the Mathematical Modeling Center allows students to use the Silicon Graphics Work Stations in the UNIX environment. The UNIX environment is quickly becoming the system of choice for many financial institutions.

Additionally the Mathematical Modeling Center allows students to use the Silicon Graphics Work Stations in the UNIX environment. The UNIX environment is quickly becoming the system of choice for many financial institutions.

Tell me more about this field of study

The recent explosive growth in quantitative finance has led mathematics, physics, computer science and engineering students of all levels to wonder whether a career or an advanced degree in quantitative finance is right for them. With the rapid increase in sophisticated quantitative and computational techniques employed in financial firms there has been increasing demand for students with highly quantitative backgrounds to work in the financial field and an increase in advanced degree programs covering these topics. The following quote by John Finnerty best captures the essence of quantitative finance and financial engineering: "Financial Engineering (quantitative finance) involves the design, the development, and the implementation of innovative financial instruments and processes, and the formulation of creative solutions to problems in finance." The core of this definition is captured by the words innovative and creative. Sometimes this innovation and creativity represents a quantum leap in our thinking. For example, innovation and creativity were involved when revolutionary new products such as the first swap, mortgage-backed product, zero coupon bonds, or high-yield bonds to finance leveraged buy-outs were introduced. At others times, it involves a novel twist to an old idea. This is the kind of innovation and creativity involved in the extension of futures trading to a commodity or a financial instrument not previously traded in a futures pit, the introduction of a swap variant, or the creation of a mutual fund with a new focus. At still other times, it involves the piecing together of existing products and processes to fit a particular set of circumstances. This latter dimension is often overlooked in discussions of financial engineering, but it is of at least equal importance. Examples include the use of existing products to reduce a firm's financial risks, to reduce the cost of a firm's financing, to gain some accounting or tax benefit, or to exploit a market inefficiency.

Common majors or minors that complement this major

Mathematics and economics are common combinations. Some other possibilities could include Business Analytics, Computer Information Systems, Computer Science or Physics.


Characteristics of Successful Students

Knowledge of and familiarity with computers is becoming increasingly essential. Students who are able to think independently and creatively are not afraid of hard work. Internships and/or other experiential learning are helpful in gaining permanent employment in quantitative finance. An aptitude for solving problems, working with figures, analyzing, comparing and interpreting facts and data, and strong communications skills are also important.


Careers

Many graduates choose typical career paths associated with this major. However, some graduates choose unrelated careers that utilize skills and experiences developed during their years in college.  For example, many students major in finance as preparation for law school. Keep in mind, that some fields will require graduate study, further training, or some form of certification. The listing below offers examples of possible career paths and is not meant to be comprehensive.

  • Actuary
  • Business Analyst
  • Commodities Analyst
  • Emerging Markets Derivatives Trader
  • Financial Analyst
  • Financial Engineer
  • Financial Product Designer
  • Financial Risk Manager
  • Information Scientist
  • Investment Analyst
  • Liquidity Risk Manager
  • Mutual Fund Manager
  • Pension Fund Manager
  • Portfolio Analyst
  • Portfolio Manager
  • Pricing and Cost Analyst
  • Program Analyst
  • Quantitative Management Associate
  • Research Analyst
  • Risk Consultant
  • Securities Analyst
  • Securities Pricing Analyst
  • Securities Trader
  • Statistician
  • Underwriter

Who employs graduates?

Employers of finance professionals encompass many sectors of the economy, including manufacturers, financial service firms, and government employers.  Examples include:

  • Accounting firms
  • Brokerage firms
  • Commercial banks
  • Consulting firms
  • Corporations
  • Engineering firms
  • Financial service firms
  • Foundations
  • Government agencies
  • Hedge funds
  • Insurance companies
  • Investment banks
  • Mutual funds
  • Pension funds
  • Pension management companies
  • Private equity firms
  • Ratings companies
  • Research firms
  • Securities and commodities
  • Transportation companies
  • Trust companies
 

Internships and Practicum Experiences

Internship and practicum experiences can be investigated by consulting with the faculty coordinator. Students might also consider involvement in one of the 23 student organizations in the College of Business, such as the Financial Management Association and particularly the Madison Investment Fund. Involvement in these organizations offers professional activities such as speakers, visits to companies, and workshops, all of which assist students in enhancing their leadership, communication and personal relationship skills.

Learn More

What are JMU graduates doing with this major?
Actuaries(OOH)
Financial Clerks(OOH)
Budget Analysts (OOH)
Careers in Finance
Careers in Quantitative Finance Add Up
Careers in Quantitative Finance

Financial Managers (OOH)
Insurance Underwriters(OOH)
Mathematical Finance
Quantitative Analysis
Securities, Commodities and Financial Sales Agents(OOH)

A broad range of resources on career fields, internships, and job search information is also available in the Career & Academic Planning Resource Center.

Make an appointment with a CAP career counselor to learn more about this major and your career options.

A few titles from our Resource Center related to this field include:


© Career & Academic Planning, James Madison University, 2013

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without permission from JMU Career & Academic Planning. Content for each major has been written/reviewed by faculty in the respective department and is revised each year. Requests to update content can be submitted to the Career Guide editor, Nina Stensby-Hurst.