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Program – General Information

The Department of Mathematics at Columbia University offers a Master of Arts program in Mathematics with specialization in the Mathematics of Finance (MAFN). It is co-sponsored by the Department of Statistics, and it draws on the diverse strengths of the university in mathematics, statistics, stochastic processes, numerical methods, and financial applications.


The MAFN program is ranked as number five worldwide in’s Quant Finance Master’s Guide 2019. The guide covers 46 programs in the US, Europe, and Asia Pacific.


The program attracts students whose academic background is in quantitative areas such as mathematics, statistics, physics, economics, computer science, or engineering. Most have previous work experience or internship experience in finance.

Application Procedures
Admissions Statistics

Full Time and Part Time

The program may be followed either full-time or part-time. International students on F-1 or J-1 visas must register full-time. Full-time students complete the program in two or three semesters, while part-time students typically take 2-3 years. In the past, most full-time students graduated after two semesters, but now most of them take advantage of the three semester option.

Mathematics Hall

In the past, we have made a commitment to make sure that all required courses have at least one evening section in either the Fall or the Spring semester, in order to accommodate part-time students with day jobs. Because the number of part-time students has fallen, this commitment may no longer be in effect for students who enter the program in September 2020 or later. It will continue to be honored for all part-time students who have registered in the program in September 2019 or earlier.


The program is overseen by a Steering Committee consisting of faculty from the departments of mathematics and statistics, including the two department chairs.

The director of the program is Lars Tyge Nielsen.


We strive for a balance between rigorous theoretical courses and cutting-edge applied courses, the latter in many cases taught by professionals from the financial industry. In addition to the finance, mathematics and statistics course offered by the program, the students can take courses from all over the university.

Mandatory MAFN Courses
Elective Course Examples

Structural Changes

Several structural changes have been made to the MAFN program in recent years.

The three semester option: Full time students, including all international students, now have the option to stay in the program for three semesters. Most of the students choose this option. It allows them to

(1) take four courses instead of five in each of the two first semesters,
(2) do internships during the summer and the third semester,
(3) take additional elective courses beyond the degree requirements, and
(4) conduct a thorough and well informed job search during the third semester.

In connection with the three semester option, we have introduced an MAFN Fieldwork course (CPT), which allows both domestic and international students to do paid internships in the financial industry and earn credit towards the degree.

The number of finance semester-courses offered directly by the program as electives has grown from 3 per year to around 12 per year currently. The latest course added is “Math GR 5420 Modeling and Trading Derivatives”, which is offered in the fall semester.

Test scores used to be optional for applicants but are now mandatory. The test scores of the students in the program are very high.


Firms such as Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, J.P. Morgan, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, UBS, Credit Suisse, Barclays Capital, Deloitte Consulting, Ernst & Young, Societe Generale, Credit Agricole CIB, various hedge funds and asset management firms, and many others have recruited graduates of the program.

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