College graduates with quantitative analysis degrees are still a hot ticket for Wall Street firms, which aggressively seek out their mathematical analysis skills to help reduce and avoid financial risk.

Starting salaries can range from $90,000 to $157,000 for quantitative analysts who graduate from top schools, says Web site

Quantitative analysts typically collect data from a client company, analyze the information and advise company decision makers on financial risk management and investments. Most quantitative analysts typically hold a master's degree. 
"Wall Street needs that type of talent," says Mitch Ackles, president of the Hedge Fund Association, a New York-based nonprofit trade association. "There are plenty of big funds; you probably recognize the brand name. This is their strategy. In the long term, quantitative analysts perform pretty well."

The 2012 top 10 quant schools selected by Advanced Trading magazine include Carnegie Mellon University, Columbia University, Cornell University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, New York University, Princeton University, Rutgers University, Stanford University, the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Chicago.

"As financial markets continue to evolve and become more complex, financial firms are seeking this advanced skill set in their early stage finance professionals," says Heidi Pickett, director of the master of finance program at MIT's Sloan School of Management.    

Graduating quantitative analyst students typically don't wait very long to land a well-paying job. For instance, 85% of the 2011 graduates with master of science degrees in computational finance from Carnegie Mellon's Tepper School of Business had secured jobs within three months of graduation.      

At Rutgers Business School in Newark, N.J., 80% of the 51 students who graduated in 2012 with a master's in quantitative finance secured jobs either prior to or right after graduation, says Larry Keating, director of career management at Rutgers' master of quantitative finance program.

The top starting salary for Rutgers 2012 MQF graduates was between $110,000 and $120,000 per year plus bonus, Keating says. "There's a lot going on with financial companies to predict, avoid and minimize financial risk. It's a quantitative, mathematical, statistical function that helps them avoid risk." 

At MIT, 85% of the 57 graduates in its 2011 master of finance program had already secured a job by graduation, and that percentage rose to 91.5% three months later. The median starting salary of 2011 program graduates was $105,000, Pickett said.

Rutgers' Keating says the demand for quantitative analyst graduates is particularly sharp within the risk and consulting segments of financial firms, "such as the likes of Ernst & Young, Morgan Stanley and PSEG [Public Service Enterprise Group] here in New Jersey."