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Finance and Quantitative Finance Frequently Asked Questions


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Finance

 What is Finance?

Finance is the management and analysis of the financial resources within a business, an organization, or a government entity.

 What do you learn as a Finance major?

As a finance major, you will learn the fundamentals of investment decision-making, financial planning, and analyzing funds in different types of entities.

 Can I specialize within the Finance major?

Yes. There are four required Finance courses, yet your other four required courses for the major are electives within our program. We offer a wide range of electives to choose from, including commercial banking, financial modeling, derivatives, risk management, financial data science, international finance, financial analysis, fixed income, and financial planning and wealth management.

We also offer opportunities to develop a concentration in the major, including Financial Analysis, Risk Management, and Financial Technology and Analytics. The Financial Analysis concentration covers a large portion of the material on the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Level I and II exams, and the Risk Management concentration covers a large portion of the material on the Financial Risk Manager (FRM) exam.

 What courses or background are important to success in the Finance major?

The foundation courses that are essential to success in the Finance major are macro- and micro-economics, accounting, statistics, and calculus. These courses are the foundation that you will build upon once you reach your junior year.

 Are there opportunities to engage with the business community outside of classes?

The Department of Finance and Business Law offers panel sessions of finance professionals each semester, which provide learning and networking opportunities. In addition, Finance majors can participate in team competitions, such as participating on the JMU Banking Team and the CFA Investment Challenge Team.

 Are there student organizations available for Finance majors?

In addition to the many student organizations available across the University, the Department sponsors the Financial Management Association and the Madison Investment Fund (MIF). MIF is a student-managed investment fund, managing a portion of JMU’s endowment. There are also a Women-in-Business Club, the Society of Real Estate and Madison Venture Group, etc.

 Are there study abroad opportunities?

In addition to the College of Business’s Antwerp program, there are short-term study abroad opportunities. These vary each summer, but provide the opportunity to earn credit toward the Finance major and to enrich their learning experience in a different cultural and economic environment.

 What can you do with a Finance degree?

Finance skills can be applied to a wide range of careers. Many of our graduates enter careers in financial analysis, investment banking, consulting, risk management, commercial banking, and investment management, though there are many other possible career paths.

 Is Finance right for me?

Finance is quantitative, so an interest and ability of applying mathematics to analyze and solve problems is needed. Are you doing well in math and statistics? Are you a problem solver? Are you interested in helping businesses and other entities do well? Are you a good communicator? If so, Finance is right for you.

Quantitative Finance

 What is the difference between Finance and Quantitative Finance?

  • Finance and Quantitative Finance (QFIN) are two different degrees. Finance is a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration (B.B.A), and QFin is a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree.
  • QFIN major, by design, comes with minors in Math and Economics given the number of Math and Econ courses required in the major.
  • Rather than taking B.B.A. core courses that aren't financial in nature (such as interpersonal skills, managerial accounting, computer information systems, COB 300, etc…), Quantitative Finance majors take math courses like calculus, linear algebra, and an introductory coding class.
  • Finance & Quantitative Finance majors take a lot of the same initial Finance classes around their junior year, but they deviate significantly at the 400 level, where Quantitative Finance majors take more classes focused on risk management, volatility, options pricing, etc.
  • Finance has a more substantial focus on corporate finance, while Quantitative Finance has a great focus on investments and risk management (which you need the greater math exposure to understand properly).
  • It is very common for Quantitative Finance majors to graduate with a second major in Math and/or Economics due to high levels of overlap.  Only a few extra classes taken in either can result in a double major.
  • Because the Quantitative Finance major is small, the class sizes are much smaller than general Finance major classes, there are many more opportunities to get to know your professors and your classmates. 

 I have heard Quantitative Finance is a very difficult major. How do I know if it's too much for me?

Many students and alumni, including those among our most accomplished graduates, once felt this way.  For whatever reason, many people have an insecurity about mathematics – even people who have an interest in the subject and find it interesting.  If you enjoy solving problems and think the world of investments, computational finance, and risk management is an interesting one, quantitative finance can be a wonderful fit.  Further, the small class sizes and collegial feel to the major offer real academic home to students seeking it.

Accomplishment comes from deciding you are going to take a risk and meet the moment.  Taking the first year of courses recommended for the major (most notably the math courses) allows students the opportunity in a low-risk setting to see for themselves that what they are capable of accomplishing.  Changing majors after the first year is very easy, and many classes are easily applied to another major.

 What if I start this major and later decide I want to be a different business major? How hard is it to change my degree/major?

  • It’s very easy to switch in your first year! There are many overlapping business/Qfin required courses, such as macro/microeconomics, financial accounting, and calculus, so if you decide you want to switch from another business major to Quantitative Finance or from Quantitative Finance to business, you will not be behind. Just make sure that you take the prerequisite courses that overlap first, so that you do not accidentally take something you will not need. Not to worry if you do though, many Quantitative Finance students have taken a few BBA core courses and still graduate on time.
  • In your second year, it is much more difficult to switch because the major is sequential, which is all the more reason to dive in on the required courses early, to learn whether the major is for you.

 What are the kinds of careers that Quantitative Finance majors typically pursue?

Naturally, with their applied quantitative background, students are attractive to employers that develop a lot of analytics.  This pretty much describes all of Wall Street, as well as firms that operate in a similar space (such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac), and most consulting firms.  Because their applied mathematics and computational skills are in demand across a range of fields, there are a wide variety of professional routes that alumni choose. >

There are many former Quantitative Finance majors on Wall Street.  We further have alumni among traders in major investment houses in Chicago and Charlotte, many boutique firms throughout the country, and at the Federal Reserve.  However, alumni have also gone to work for companies as varied as Lockheed Martin, Google, Mozilla, Square, and IBM in roles as varied as Data Scientist, Software Engineer and Chief Strategy Officer.

The major is also an excellent route to graduate school.  Alumni have gone on to earn graduate degrees from Duke, UVA, Columbia, Carnegie Mellon and The University of Chicago.  We further have alumni among the faculty at several universities…not bad for a major that graduates 15 or so graduates every year!

 Are there opportunities to engage with the business community outside of classes?

The Department of Finance and Business Law offers panel sessions of finance professionals each semester, which provide learning and networking opportunities. College of Business organized Career Treks each year for students to explore Wall Street Firms in NYC, meet alumni and firm representatives in DC, Richmond and the West Coast. In addition, QFIN majors can participate in team competitions, such as participating on the JMU Banking Team and the CFA Investment Challenge Team.

 Are there student organizations available for Quantitative Finance majors?

In addition to the many student organizations available across the University, the Department sponsors the Financial Management Association and the Madison Investment Fund (MIF). MIF is a student-managed investment fund, managing a portion of JMU’s endowment. There are also a Women-in-Business Club, the Society of Real Estate and Madison Venture Group, etc.

 Are there study abroad opportunities?

There are many short-term study abroad opportunities offered through University Center of Global Engagement. These vary each summer, but provide the opportunity to earn credit toward the major and to enrich their learning experience in a different cultural and economic environment.

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