Any recommendations on the best schools and overall education choices for quantitative finance?
Quantnet provided a rankings of MS in Financial Engineering programs, which can be used for reference. More generally, this really depends on what area of quantitative finance that interests you:
If you want to work in developing valuation and pricing models, than one of these programs will be very useful. If you want to work in quantitative trading, it's slightly less clear. Quants in other areas can have varied educational backgrounds, ranging from a Ph.D. in Physics to degrees in Computer Science or Engineering. High frequency trading, for instance, is very technical and will often include people with more of a computer science background. In my experience, statistics and machine learning is also a very useful specialty.
It's often hard to give a definite answer to such "what is top programs" questions. When we did the Quantnet MFE ranking in 2009, it was more or less as a guide for people new to this field since it's hard to find information on these MFE programs.
A lot of your choice will come down to personal preferences such as location, tuition, length, program strength. Many people have used our ranking to do further research on programs they may have never heard of before.
We are working on the 2011 ranking which is more comprehensive.
My personal opinion after 2 years of interest in MFE:
- NYU's Courant Institute of Mathematics
- UC Berkeley
- Columbia University
- Princeton University
I cant say about others after these top 4, IMO.