New degree program challenges MSU students

MSU recently welcomed a new major that allows students to receive their degree through two colleges. The Financial Engineering program is run through the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering in the College of Engineering and the Department of Agricultural Economics and Economics in the College of Business.

As of now, the program is the only one of its kind to be developed and housed in the Pacific Northwest. The closest undergraduate programs in financial engineering are offered in California. The program, which currently has a small enrollment at around 20 students, was approved by the Montana Board of Regents in September 2013, and is in its first semester at MSU.

MSU professor Myles Watts led the program development team that created the major. Watts, an agricultural economics professor, noted that the financial engineering program will be one of the harder academically challenging programs on campus. The program encompasses math requirements that go beyond a normal engineering curriculum and include statistics and probability theory. The financial component includes learning classical economic theory and markets.

According to Watts, financial engineering is a growing field with high demand and high pay. Financial engineers typically work in insurance, manufacturing, corporate finance, securities and banking. Within the program, students learn to analyze risks, learn strategic business opportunities and are challenged to seek new markets.

“The management of risk is essential in today’s highly leveraged domestic markets as well as the global business environment. Successful markets, credit and production risk management requires complex financial economic modeling and analysis,” Watts said.

According to the International Association of Financial Engineering, the first curriculum in financial engineering was certified at Polytechnic Institute of New York University. While the program is fairly new nationally, the demand for financial engineering graduates is expected to grow 18 to 20 percent over the next seven years, according to Polytechnic Institute. The average salary is considered to be $97,000 with less than one year of experience.

Mechanical and industrial engineering faculty members Bill Schell and Durward Sobek helped in the development of the program along with agricultural economics and economics faculty Greg Gilpin and Joe Atwood.

Professor and head of the Department of Agricultural Economics and Economics, Wendy Stock told MSU News Service, “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.”