By the SMU Digital Marketing Team
In today’s competitive job market, employers are looking for candidates who truly stand out. Earning a bachelor’s degree used to be the standard pathway to a successful career. However, for highly motivated students who wish to stay ahead of the curve and gain a competitive edge over their peers, an accelerated bachelor’s-to-master’s degree programme may just be the key.
An accelerated programme allows students to complete their undergraduate and graduate degrees at the same time. Graduates can develop a deeper understanding of their chosen field and gain expertise more quickly. Not only that, but such programmes can also save time and money in the long run, all while taking one’s career to the next level.
To provide an avenue for its high-potential undergraduate students to accelerate their studies and gain a head start in the working world, SMU Lee Kong Chian School of Business (LKCSB) is launching the Fast-Track BBM-MQF Programme. It allows students in the Bachelor of Business Management (BBM) programme with the Quantitative Finance (QF) major to enrol in the Master of Science in Quantitative Finance (MQF) programme and graduate with both the BBM and MQF degrees in four years.
Prof Tee Chyng Wen, Academic Director of MSc in Quantitative Finance (MQF), SMU
“Students generally expect a broad-based, holistic educational experience when it comes to undergraduate studies,” says Professor Tee Chyng Wen, Academic Director of the MSc in Quantitative Finance (MQF) programme.
“On the other hand, when pursuing a master’s degree, the objective is usually to study in-depth in a technical area to obtain specialised skillsets.
We combine the best of both worlds in this fast-track programme, allowing students to have exposure to both types of learning experiences and graduate within the same duration it takes to complete a bachelor’s degree.”
The fast-track programme is intended to provide students with the flexibility and ability they need in order pursue their career goals. This unique opportunity has been inspired by feedback from both Bachelor and Master’s quant graduates, garnered over the years through active dialogue.
We speak more with Prof Tee on why the new Fast-Track BBM-MQF Programme is a wise choice for outstanding students, and what makes it such an attractive combination.
Deepening a passion for quantitative finance
Quantitative finance combines theoretical concepts with practical tools and techniques. It enables professionals to analyse financial data and make informed decisions about investment strategies and risk management.
With the ever-growing complexity of the financial world, QF has become an essential tool for understanding and navigating the financial landscape. Graduates with strong quant skills are well-positioned to take advantage of exciting career opportunities in the financial sector.
“We are targeting motivated and self-driven students with a passion in quantitative finance,” explains Prof tee.
“It is an exciting time to become a quantitative analyst, also known as, a ‘quant’.”
Specifically, the discipline encompasses three key domains: financial markets, analytical modelling, and programming. In recent years, the global financial industry has been increasingly reliant on advanced analytics and automation. As a result, talented graduates with strong quant skills are highly sought after.
Roles like risk analysts, quant traders, and desk developers all require this combination of the three domain expertise, elaborates Prof Tee. Risk analysts, for example, need to first formulate a quantitative model to describe a portfolio of financial assets, and code up the model in a programming language of their choice. They will then have to run a suite of in-depth statistical analyses to fully understand their risk exposure. He adds that the same goes for quant traders, who need to devise profitable trading strategies based on their understanding of the financial market, and then implement their strategies in production for live trading.
And while, traditionally, many students return to school for an advanced degree after spending some time in the workforce, the Fast-Track BBM-MQF programme aims to provide real world exposure that reinforces the knowledge gleaned in the classroom. Students will graduate with both the BBM and MSc degrees in four years, gaining the same expertise as graduates who go through both undergraduate and postgraduate programmes separately.
“We achieve this through careful curriculum design, so that students quickly build up their foundation and quantitative aptitude in the early part of their BBM,” explains Prof Tee.
“Students subsequently proceed to take more advanced QF courses at the MSc level instead of general undergraduate electives. These MSc courses they take will also counts towards the course units (CUs) for the BBM degree.”
A hands-on approach
The MQF programme at SMU adopts a practice-based approach which is informed by research and theory, and emphasises the development of practical skills. Through this approach, students will be able to apply what they have learnt in class to real-world settings, and develop a deep understanding of the complexities involved in the finance sector.
In addition to learning the theory and mathematical model, students are also required to write computer code to implement the models, and employ it to run analyses and solve real-world financial problems.
“This approach allows students to reinforce their learning by providing them with opportunities to observe how the theory and concepts they learn in the class are actually used in a realistic scenario,” adds Prof Tee.
“These applied projects are curated through frequent consultation with leading practitioners in the finance industry, fully capturing the nuance and complexity of the problems they encounter in practice.”
As technology continues to evolve, some have predicted that domain expertise will become less important in the workforce. However, this is unlikely to be the case in this instance. In many industries, domain experts are essential for understanding complex problems and developing effective solutions. As a result, employers are likely to continue seeking out candidates with deep knowledge and experience in their field.
“Looking at recent development, we can see a very distinct trend – graduates who possess more than one domain expertise get hired and rise through the ranks faster,” notes Prof Tee.
“The MQF programme cultivates three domain expertise: financial knowledge, analytics, and programming. Our graduates are versatile and can perform well across a wide range of different roles.”
Individuals who have put in the effort to build up expertise in highly technical areas often find that they have also improved their meta skills — competencies that enable the learning and usage of other skills more effectively such as critical thinking, problem solving, decision making, learning strategies, time management, and self-management. Meta skills provide a solid foundation to quickly pick up new knowledge or identify emerging areas to build further expertise upon. Individuals with this level of expertise are often in high demand, as they are able to adapt and change quickly as new technologies and ideas emerge.
Supercharge your potential
The fast-track programme is an excellent opportunity for ambitious young professionals to accelerate their careers. However, candidates should be aware that the programme is demanding and involves a fuller workload than a typical bachelor’s degree. As such, successful candidates will need to be highly organised and can work effectively under pressure.
Students will also need to adhere to the academic progression stipulated by the curriculum, hence they will have less flexibility for oversea exchanges or extended internships, says Prof Tee, who urges prospective candidates to check out the BBM-MQF study plan to gain a better understanding on the time and effort required to complete the programme successfully.
“Ultimately, quantitative finance opens the door to many different career paths,” says Prof Tee.
“While a bachelor’s degree is more than sufficient for many of these career paths, a master’s degree is helpful for some of the roles which require more advanced knowledge and skillsets. This is a key reason for us to introduce fast-track as an option for students based on their career objective.”
Learn more about how the Fast-Track BBM QF-MQF programme can supercharge your potential and open up your career options.