Montana State University

MSU students start classes in new financial engineering program

August 29, 2014 -- MSU News Service

A new MSU program in financial engineering will allow MSU undergraduate students to major or minor in financial engineering with a curriculum of courses spanning the Department of Agricultural Economics and Economics in the College of Agriculture and the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering in the College of Engineering. MSU photo by Kelly Gorham.

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BOZEMAN – A group of students at Montana State University are in their first semester of a new financial engineering program that will feature professors from two colleges.

The new program, approved by the Montana Board of Regents last year, will allow MSU undergraduate students to major or minor in financial engineering with a curriculum of courses spanning the Department of Agricultural Economics and Economics in the College of Agriculture and the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering in the College of Engineering.

Financial engineering is a growing field with high demand and the potential for high salaries. Financial engineers commonly work in banking, corporate finance, securities, insurance, manufacturing, agricultural businesses and other industries that require sophisticated financial management skills. They analyze risk, create strategic business opportunities, look for ways to lower costs, and access new markets by combining new and existing financial economic instruments. To remain competitive, regional industries, as well as national and international firms, employ financial engineers because of the increased complexity and sophistication of business risk management.

MSU will be one of the only universities in the West to offer students a degree in this increasingly important discipline, said Wendy Stock, professor and head of the Department of Agricultural Economics and Economics.

“By taking advantage of MSU’s strong faculty, this program will give our students the opportunity to study a discipline that will put them on track for challenging and highly rewarding careers,” Stock said. “With skills in risk assessment and an understanding of the complex financial instruments that help shape the direction of the global economy, firms the world over have recognized that financial engineers play a pivotal role in their businesses.”

The program, which will have a small enrollment and will have existing faculty teaching existing courses, will put students through a rigorous sequence of courses in financial economics, mathematics, and software engineering and modeling.

Myles Watts, MSU professor of economics and head of the program development team, said the program would be one of the most academically challenging on campus, with math requirements stretching beyond the normal engineering curriculum to include more statistics and probability theory. The financial economics component will include a solid background in classical economic theory and markets.

While the program will largely focus on the kind of computer modeling and theory used to predict market behavior and manage risk in the context of the financial sector, Watts said students would also come away with skills applicable to important Montana industries like agriculture, mining and timber. National statistics put average salary range at $74,000 to 115,000, according to the website PayScale.

“We feel really good about the launch of this program,” Watts said. “We’ve had calls from as far away as Florida and we’ve had a lot of interest from students who are already enrolled at MSU.”

The program development team, which included faculty members Bill Schell and Durward Sobek in mechanical and industrial engineering, and Greg Gilpin and Joe Atwood in agricultural economics and economics, has experience in the practice of financial engineering. The same is true for many of those who will be teaching and mentoring students within the dual-college program.

“We are very excited about adding financial engineering to the array of disciplines taught within College of Engineering,” said David Miller, professor and interim head of the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering. “It is a cutting edge discipline and, like many of the fields we teach, it is one that is seeing increasing demand for graduates with this kind of education. It’s great that MSU will be helping meet that demand and offering students such a high-paying career track.”

For more information on the program, including the curriculum, visit the program’s website

Contact: Myles Watts at (406) 994-3704 or mwatts@montana.edu.