McMaster University

M-Phimac Faculty
M-Phimac Frequently Asked Questions

Q. In looking for a job in mathematics, I am seeing a variety of opportunities in financial math. Is that similar to being an actuary, or how do they relate?

The word "finance" is used in describing a wide range of activities, including a large part of what business school is about (covering topics such as balance sheet management and financial reporting). The role of mathematics in finance is primarily in three areas of increasing complexity:

Basic Finance - This is the mathematics of determining the value of known cash flows using known interest rates, such as pricing mortgages, loans, and bonds. This is the mathematics associated with accounting, and can begin to be understood even with only high school mathematics.

Actuarial Mathematics - To the basic financial mathematics, one adds uncertainty and risk to the calculations, in order to deal with products such as insurance. This mathematics blends basic finance with a great deal of probability theory, and so is accessible only in later years of an undergraduate university education. Becoming a full actuary involves writing a sequence of exams offered by the professional actuarial associations (SOA and CAS), many of which will be written after beginning a career with an insurance company. McMaster University offers a sequence of courses that parallel the first four actuary exams.

Financial Mathematics - Modern financial mathematics is a rich and challenging area that addresses issues such as pricing, hedging, risk measurement and management. The elements being modelled and assessed arise from uncertainty in stock markets, interest rates, foreign exchange, commodities, and the possible default of a company or person. The mathematical tools used include stochastic calculus and partial differential equations. As such, it requires an undergraduate degree in a mathematically-oriented field in order to tackle the topics at a graduate school such as ours at McMaster University. We offer a one year Masters in Financial Mathematics at McMaster ("M-PhiMac" for short) that provides a thorough and practical grounding in the tools and techniques currently being used and developed in banking internationally.

Q. Do I have to have a math degree to enter M-PhiMac? What kind of undergraduate courses do I need?

In general, we accept students without a math degree provided they have taken enough upper level math courses to be able to follow the intense pace of the program. As general guidelines, the following courses (based on the McMaster course list) would be desirable:

Math 3A03 - Real Analysis I
Math 3FF03 - Partial Differential Equations I
Stats 3D03 - Mathematical Statistics I

Math 4K03 - Mathematics of Finance
Math 4Q03 - Numerical Methods for Partial Differential Equations
Stats 4D03 - Intermediate Probability

Note that you do NOT need to take all of these course, but have to demonstrate that you are comfortable with a substantial part of the material covered in them.

Q. What kind of grades do I need to enter the program?
A. Successful applicants will have a minimum B+ average across their level 3 and 4 undergraduate courses, or the equivalent standard from their university. Beyond academic achievement, other key indicators of potential success in the program are analytical expertise, excellent communication skills and computer programming capability.

Q. I have missed the February deadline, can I still apply?
A. We do consider applications beyond the February deadline, but please get your application in as soon as possible to ensure consideration for a seat in the fall.

Q. Can I begin the program in January?
A. No. The M-PhiMac program is an intense and structured programme that begins with a new cohort of students each September. The students work through the 8 month of coursework as a team, developing valuable interpersonal skills and relationships, before being introduced to the industry by the beginning of May.

Q. Is there financial support available? Are there TA positions available?
A. We're afraid not. In order to deliver the course requirements of a Masters degree in Financial Mathematics in only 8 months, the M-phimac program has a very intense schedule which does not provide the opportunity to do the additional work necessary to meet commitments for those avenues of funding.

Q. Is an internship a part of the program?
A. The program concludes with an industrial project during the summer. The project could be completed while a student is working full time or as an intern based on their professional work, or as a project mentored by an industry partner. Contacts and opportunities are provided to students so they can arrange for the most suitable approach for completing this requirement, based upon availability.

Q. Is there assistance in finding a job?
A. Yes. We provide students in the M-PhiMac program with a comprehensive and up-to-date list of direct contacts in banks and other financial institutions in the Toronto area. We also run interview and resume preparation sessions. Throughout the year, we receive several inquires and job announcements from our contacts in Toronto, and pass them along to the students together with specific advice regarding the positions, based on each student's individual strengths and interests. We create opportunities for students to meet potential employers, and we provide mentoring and references for their job search.

Q. Why is your program less expensive than some others?
A. The M-PhiMac program is still a young program. As such, we are keeping our fees low while the program becomes better known among the Universities from which students will come. The price is expected to increase significantly in the near future as our graduates continue to earn notable success in the industry.

Q. How many students are accepted into the program?
A. We are currently accepting between 10 and 15 students each year.

Q. What success have students had in finding jobs?
A. At this time of posting, the third cohort of students has recently finished the program. From the three cohorts, 90% have gone on to work in financial mathematics. Three quarters of graduates work in one of the 5 large Canadian banks. Those that have not taken a career with the banks are working in supporting areas such as the banking regulator, financial software firms, and academia.
M-Phimac FAQ
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