Top Master in Finance Programs & Schools
Master of finance programs are quantitative programs that teach students to manage an organization’s assets and help them grow. They cover topics like financial planning, reporting, investment, and more to prepare students to assess and execute various financial strategies. MSF degrees may have elements in common with both business and accounting programs but focus less on administration and more on future financial growth. MS in Finance programs also tend to be career-minded and focus on technical skills and knowledge. As such, many of them are either designed for students with some experience working in roles related to finance, or incorporate requirements to help students get that experience in the first place.
Types of Master of Finance Programs
Finance is a fairly large field with a wide range of applications in nearly every industry. As such, there may be a variety of masters in finance programs that serve different needs. The first step to finding a program is to determine which type of degree you’d like to earn. Generally, within finance, you’ll find yourself choosing between programs offering one of two options.
- Master of Business Administration in Finance (MBA in Finance): MBA in Finance programs tend to be a broader option, in terms of skills and content covered in the curriculum. MBA programs, even ones focused on finance, generally establish a foundation of business knowledge and examine financial concepts within that context. A few different types of MBA programs might be available. Notable among these is the Executive MBA, which is designed for students with a great deal of experience, including in leadership positions, and emphasize leadership and management skills in general or within a certain discipline (in this case, finance).
- Master of Science in Finance (MSF): Unlike MBA programs, MSF programs aim to foster discipline-specific expertise. They tend to be more narrowly focused on the technical skills and theory behind financial responsibilities. MS in finance programs may concentrate on things like financial theory, quantitative skills, financial reporting, statistical analysis and more.
While these might not be the only options available in every program, they are the most common. The primary element that distinguishes them is the type of career they look toward. So think hard about whether you want a degree with a broadly applicable curriculum in finance and other areas, or if you want to position yourself as an expert in the financial field.
You will also need to consider your experience level and goals. Some programs are designed for those entering a masters program straight out of undergrad. Others may be better suited for students with some professional experience under their belt. This could impact the prerequisites and content of a program.
For example, a program designed for students with little or no professional experience may not require applicants to demonstrate work experience on a resume. However, the content may also reflect that by covering more of the basics. On the other hand, programs for experienced professionals might need students to submit a resume or CV, and may design coursework with that background in mind. Since different programs could be tailored to different types of students, all of this could help you narrow down your options.
With these variations in mind, most MSF degree programs require students to hold a bachelors degree and may require two years of full time study. Schools vary, so follow up directly for details.
Masters of Finance Concentration Options
Some master of finance programs may additionally offer concentration options to further focus your studies. This could be worth considering if you have more specific aspirations or areas of interest, or already work in a certain area and want a program that applies more directly to your responsibilities.
Two options to consider include the following.
- Masters in Banking Programs: A masters in finance with a concentration in banking program focus on financial theory and technical skills within the context of the banking industry.
- Masters in Financial Planning Programs: While masters of finance programs tend to focus on roles in corporate settings, a Master of Financial Planning program takes a different approach. Instead, they discuss how to apply financial expertise to help individuals and families manage their finances and investments.
A variety of other options may be available. For more information about the above options or any other specialties or concentrations that may be offered, reach out to the school directly.
MS in Finance Example Curriculum
Master of finance programs may cover a broad range of material, depending on the type of program, the level of experience it expects from students, whether it includes a subject area concentration and the type of career the program looks toward. However many may share common elements to provide a core foundation of financial knowledge. Listed below are a few examples of what you might encounter.
- Financial Markets: These types of courses would survey a variety of financial markets. It would cover how prices are determined in those markets, and what factors could influence prices.
- Financial Accounting: These courses may examine the processes related to gathering, analyzing, and presenting relevant accounting data, and how that data might be used to make financial decisions and create strategies.
- Corporate Finance: These types of courses focus on the financial needs of corporations and corporate clients. Courses might discuss strategies to manage and maximize the value of shareholder assets, along with the legal and ethical considerations. This could include topics like capital structure, derivative pricing, budgeting, and more.
- Valuation & Modeling: Courses on this topic may cover approaches to equity valuation, how accounting and market data might be use to appraise and manage the value of a firm, estimation errors, and more. They might also look at how to create models, and how to analyze and utilize them to make decisions.
- Financial Leadership: Financial management isn’t just about managing finance—it’s also people! Financial leadership courses may look at how to lead a team of finance professionals, and how to use your finance expertise in a leadership capacity in both financial and non-financial companies.
- Mergers & Acquisitions: These courses look at what makes M&A successful, and what challenges a company may face in this process. They may also cover evaluating potential M&A opportunities, and how to design and coordinate that process.
Studying Finance vs Accounting: What’s The Difference?
Finance and accounting programs—and careers, for that matter—may appear to be quite similar. In fact, they do share some essential qualities. Both programs focus on the management of an organization’s assets. Both are highly quantitative, and require specific expertise. They may even share some course topics or responsibilities!
The essential difference between finance and accounting is the way they approach managing said assets. In essence, finance looks at how to use assets and focuses on the present and future. This might mean planning, investing and managing those assets, spending them, and creating exit strategies. Accounting, on the other hand, tracks that financial activity after the fact. It focuses on ensuring an accurate and up-to-date record of what assets the organization actually has, rather than working to generate more.
Master of Science in Finance Program Formats
Your level of experience, lifestyle, and learning preferences may all impact your choice of finance masters program. In addition to the type of student a program is primarily designed to support, you may also have to consider program format. Below are a few of the most common options.
- Online Master of Finance Programs: Earning a master of finance online could be an attractive option for those with education and career obligations, due to the inherent flexibility of online learning. Distance learning also offers potential students the opportunity to attend great schools from across the country, instead of being limited to a certain radius around work or home. That means that your fellow students might be finance professionals in cities across the map. That could be a unique advantage. For one, you could gain experience working alongside others from locations spanning the globe—something you might encounter in the field—using similar technology. You could also build up a geographically diverse professional network. Plus, online programs offer many of the services you might find on campus, like research services, academic and career support, and more.
- Master of Finance Schools: These programs are anchored on a physical campus, meaning students—either in the area, or relocating to attend—would attend class on a regular schedule, in physical classrooms or auditoriums. Some master of finance schools may offer flexible scheduling options to accommodate busy careers. Others, particularly those aimed at students new to finance with little or no experience, may be full time. One potential benefit of studying at a graduate school is its local nature. By being anchored in your city or town, the school may have connections to local industry. These might be use to help students get internship experience or even career opportunities. And you’ll have access to your program’s unique resources, like simulated work environments, technology, research opportunities, and more.
- Hybrid Master of Finance Programs: Hybrid, partially-online, or blended master of finance programs combine aspects of both online and campus learning. In other words, students might take online courses alongside ones in the classroom, and would be able to utilize the valuable resources available on campus. Other programs may primarily rely on online courses, with short residencies or visits. So if you’re a busy professional who needs the flexibility of an online program, or just prefer learning independently, but still want that campus experience, hybrid master of finance programs could be the compromise you’re looking for. Every program may approach this format in a different way, so be sure to follow up to learn more.
What Could You Do With A Masters In Finance?
A masters in finance could help you gain a competitive advantage in the financial job market. Typically, the minimum education required for finance-related positions is a bachelor’s degree, potentially combined with certification and professional experience. However, many employers place a greater emphasis on hiring candidates with a masters in finance or higher, especially with respect to higher level positions.i
Often MSF degree graduates go on to pursue a career as a financial manager. However, according to BLS, that term could encompass a variety of positions, at several levels. Examples include risk managers, credit managers, treasurers, controllers, and chief financial officers or CFOs. Each of these roles may be responsible for overseeing the financial aspects of an organization, forecasting and reporting. They could also help to make strategic financial decisions. However, the specifics may vary by level, industry and type of position.
Finance Licensure & Certification
While professional certification might not technically be a requirement to pursue a finance career, some people may choose to pursue a credential like this to demonstrate their expertise to current or potential employers. These credentials are issued by professional organizations, and may have a variety of prerequisites. These include:
- A bachelors degree or higher
- Two to four years of work experience
- Passing one to three exams
Some finance masters programs may support students in seeking professional credentials by preparing students for some or all of the exams. However, that may vary on an individual basis. For more information on what you might need to do to qualify for a professional credential in finance, follow up with your selected school.
Take the Next Step with our List of 2 Finance Masters – 8 Degree Programs
Now you’re equipped with the information you need to start your search for a masters program in finance. The academic path you choose may depend largely on what you plan to do after you complete your degree. To a certain extent, you want to not only prepare yourself with an education but also the ‘right’ education for the type of career you want to lead.
Don’t be shy, reaching out to more than one finance school may increase your chances of achieving your goal. Just click request info, fill out the for, and be sure you understand the ins and outs of each program.
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