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Business School adds new Masters program focusing on finance and economics

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Looking for a place to wait out the recession? Students having trouble with job searching will have another option this fall as Saint Louis University opens a new Master’s program. The Master of Science in Applied Financial Economics, or MS-AFE, is a joint offering from the Finance and Economics departments in the John Cook School of Business. Chair of the Economics Department, Heather Bednarek, is excited about the program because it will hopefully help students find jobs. She emphasized that there will not be any work experience required, in contrast to many MBA programs.

The MS in Financial Economics program, the John Cook School of Business’s newest Masters degree, will increase student’s skills and employment options. Homoud Al-Jalahma/ Staff Photographer

“This was a kind of program that can be completed almost as a fifth year, so the focus would tend to be more on skills: technical, quantitative, analytical,” Bednarek said. “They could then use that and parlay it into a position and hit the ground running.”

Some of the kinds of firms graduates could work for, according to Bednarek, include biotech or financial companies like, local outfits Monsanto, Wachovia Securities or Edward Jones, as well as the Federal Reserve.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics website, “Candidates who hold a master’s or Ph.D. degree in economics will have the best employment prospects and advancement opportunities.”

Other students who may be interested in this program include people well-versed in the quantitative skills required for jobs in this field but who need to further their written and oral communication of quantitative work or students considering a doctorate in econ.

The program will cater to different groups of students: full-time, which will finish within a calendar year, and part-time, which have the option of taking up to five years to finish the degree. The program will consist of 30 hours, 21 of which will make up the core.

Within the core requirements are two courses in econometrics, which are important to many employers.  The classes will teach students how to estimate time series models using E-Views, Gauss, MATLAB, STATA and SPSS, programs that are vital to graduates looking for work in the field of economic or financial analysis.

Many of the electives will be continuations of undergraduate coursework, including classes focused on fixed income securities, derivative securities, equity securities or international economics.

“Both departments have had master’s programs in our past, but over time, for various reasons, they’ve been put to rest,” Bednarek said. “I think this is a place where we can really bring our strong suits to bear and join forces to help [create a strong program].”

There are schools similar to SLU with this kind of program. Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville has a Master’s degree in Economics and Finance. Two Jesuits schools offer Master’s degrees in financial economics: University of Detroit Mercy and Fordham University.

Bednarek says that the new program at SLU is different from others in that it focuses on the applied technical skills that employers are seeking. The fact sheet about the program says that the skills employers are looking for that the program will impart include portfolio management, risk analysis, investment performance measurement and forecasting.

This program could also produce more research from both departments.

“One of the critical pieces of the program is the last semester here [when students undertake] a capstone. That capstone is not really a thesis but an application,” Bednarek said. “So it’s a place where they can bring all of what they’ve spent the last year working on, in terms of bringing the theory, the empirical, the quantitative, as well as a writing component…to become a collaborative effort with the faculty.”

There has been some interest from current undergraduates already.

Finance major and senior Christopher Graflage will likely be applying to the program this spring.

“I’m interested because it increases my knowledge of financial markets and will be great preparation for any type of analyst position especially the position I’d like, financial analyst,” Graflage said. “Also since analyst positions are very competitive I’m hoping that having a specialized masters degree such as this will help distinguish me from other candidates.”

Students who would like to inquire further will have the opportunity at an open house today, Thurs. March 22, from 4-5 p.m. in Cook Hall 232.

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