PhD and Master's of Finance Programs & Schools
Finance Graduate Programs: Overview
Finance Graduate Programs could prepare students to plan, manage and analyze the money, assets and investments of business enterprises. Students are often able to build expertise in a niche such as corporate finance, risk management or investment banking.
There are Finance Graduate Programs at the Masters and Doctoral levels, as well as certificates. A graduate degree in finance could bolster students’ knowledge of managerial economics, mathematical analysis, financial markets and more.
There are many different ways to study finance at the graduate level. In some finance graduate programs, finance is the ‘star of the show’ and covered from multiple angles. There are also business administration degrees where students could major in finance, but also study to gain overall managerial and business decision skills.
Either way, most graduate programs in finance are formatted around a set of compulsory courses which may rely on case analysis, independent and team based projects. These courses often form the backbone of the program in that they may introduce students to a wide array of financial concepts and practices.
Some programs may entail an internship and most culminate in some type of capstone project on top of courses, assignments and exams, s. This is often an opportunity to apply course material to solve a real-world company’s business problem, or implement a start-up idea.
In addition, students are often able to select from a broad range of electives in areas of emphasis, or what may be called ‘career tracks’. Career tracks are designed to narrow the field down a bit to help learners build well defined skills that may align with professional goals.
These areas do vary between schools and therefore might help each student decide where to apply. Two such areas are (1) financial planning and (2) banking.
Graduate Financial Planning Programs
A graduate degree in Financial Planning could enable students to help others meet their life goals through proper management of financial resources.
Some masters programs in financial planning may be registered with the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. This could provide the requisite education for candidates who want to be eligible to sit for the CFP® Certification Examination.
Students might be able to pursue licensure as a CPA if the program also satisfies the 150-academic-credit-hour requirement needed in some states. If these are your goals, make sure to follow up with your selected schools.
Graduate Banking Programs
The advent of technology has brought on the need to understand areas such as online money market funds and crowdfunding. Graduate banking programs could orient students areas such as internet finance and digital banking.
Coursework could stack a series of finance and accounting courses with studies in the legal and economic environments of the global marketplace. Other key courses could cover big data and statistical analysis as well as principles in financial technology.
DID YOU KNOW? Per the BLS, masters degree and certification could improve one’s chances for advancement as a personal financial advisor.
What Do You Study in Finance?
While there is no ‘one’ curriculum for all graduate programs in finance, students might explore topics as diverse as tax codes, private equity, venture capital, financial planning and beyond.
written by Rana Waxman
Popular Schools with Finance Programs – Degrees
There is often a significant focus on how the markets function and fluctuate. Also, students could learn to wisely and effectively manage and ease the risks that are inherent to the investment process.
Below are some of the general finance-related topics that may be explored in some finance graduate programs. Make sure to refer to individual schools for their syllabus.
Financial Accounting: Concepts and practices of accounting for finance professionals. For instance, students might be exposed to financial statements and could learn about assets, liabilities and cash flow.
Financial Management: A course usually intended to help students develop the financial skills and ability to think logically about things such as the cost of capital, stocks and bonds and capital markets.
Managerial Accounting: Students often learn how to produce information needed for managerial decisions related to things like cost analysis, budgets and performance metrics.
Corporate Finance: This type of course could discuss the management of the flow of funds available to an organization with an eye to capital planning and wealth preservation.
Modeling and Analytics: Often similar to statistics, students could learn to navigate and use financial instruments. This might include econometrics software and/or research methods associated with financial analysis.
Regulatory Environment: Students could learn to about the laws that regulate the markets, the nature of contracts, dispute resolution and ethical business practices.
Finance vs. Accounting
Finance and accounting are distinct disciplines. While it is often the case that students who work towards a graduate finance degree might take some accounting courses.The two fields are often grouped together because both functions could deal with the administration of a business’ assets.
However, accounting and finance often require specific skills and knowledge, and consequently, could lead to very different career paths.
- Finance: Essentially, finance is the science and strategy behind how a business’s assets are distributed which requires a plan for the future. This might include the coordination of capital investments and debt backed investments to improve the value of the business
- Accounting: Accounting deals more with the processes that record and report financial transactions such as debt, profit, cash flow and taxes
Masters in Finance Programs
Masters in Finance programs could lead to a Master of Science in Finance (MS), or a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Finance. Some schools also offer joint MS/MBA finance degrees.
Most masters degree in finance could take between one to two years to complete on a full-time basis. Masters-level finance typically programs build on the skills and knowledge developed as an undergrad.
Strong quantitative skills and an aptitude for numbers may be required, though not all students necessarily have an undergraduate degree in business.
To help these students, some finance graduate schools may offer a finance boot camp or primer courses. These classes could cover subjects like business statistics, financial accounting, corporate finance and managerial accounting.
Master of Science in Finance (MSF)
A MS in Finance could be oriented to students who aspire to pursue a career related to finance management and investment banking. To this end, some programs might help individuals prepare to pursue professional certifications, such as Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA).
While degree plans vary, some MS programs might entail from 30-43 credits. The way a curriculum is divided is largely up to each school. Commonly, there are a set of prerequisites, as well as required courses and electives. There is often a finance capstone at the end of the program.
Prerequisite courses could include areas such as math, statistics, business finance, economic theory and basic accounting. These are often planned to lay out the essential concepts of financial theory.
Required courses are often the backbone of the MS. They are usually intended to help students develop strong skills in analysis and modeling. Through these core courses, students might learn to perform regression analysis and solve complex optimization problems.
Compulsory MS in Finance courses might provide students with a solid set of quantitative and technological tools. This could include the knowhow to write computer programs, work with databases and simulate outcomes. For instance, some schools may simulate a trading floor to help familiarize students with the processes that take place.
Aside from technical skills, a MSF could delve into broader themes such as investment analysis and managerial economics. Students might take away a solid grasp of financial securities and markets, capital budgeting techniques and hedging strategies.
Curriculums vary between schools, but the general examples below could provide some insight into the nature of this type of finance degree.
- Derivative Securities
- Credit Risk Management
- Interest Rate Risk Management
- Retirement Security
- Tax Factors in Business Decisions
- Forensic Accounting
MSF students often choose electives in areas such as treasury management and international finance to tailor their program to their preferences. Electives are usually drawn from a ‘career track’. These tracks could include corporate finance, asset management and risk management.
MBA in Finance
A Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Finance could aim to foster in students a solid set of management and leadership skills. Students are often exposed to a variety of business disciplines along with their area of emphasis in areas such as banking and finance.
Curriculums in MBA programs are typically formed around a series of core business topics, which is one of the features that distinguishes it from a MS. These classes often explore global business theory and may help students develop their ability to think critically, communicate effectively, and make strategic business decisions.
Course names vary between programs, though may focus on real-world management issues that students might use to build a portfolio and draw on for their professional lives. Some examples are highlighted below.
- Organizational Behavior
- Marketing Management
- Human Resources
- Managerial Finance
- Managerial Accounting
- Operations Management
MBA Finance students also take a portion of their courses in their selected area of emphasis. Many schools offer a list of courses similar to the MS program, and may give some leeway for students to be able to tailor the concentration to suit their goals. Investment analysis and portfolio management and banking are some examples.
|State||Employment||Annual Mean Wage|
|Metro Area||Annual Mean Salary||Employment|
|New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA||$187,780||50,090|
|San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA||$159,660||14,660|
|San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA||$157,690||6,580|
Finance Graduate Certificates
Graduate certificates in Finance could provide an intense immersion in key finance topics — and might all be completed in three to five courses. Because they are so targeted, a certificate could take a full-time student one year or less to complete.
Sometimes, students may have the freedom to choose their own topics, while other programs may provide more structure. There are graduate certificates in finance that may suit students who aren’t yet ready for a masters degree, and those aimed at MS and MBA grads.
While the focus of these programs is often analytical, students could also study ethical practices in the financial industry. Certificates usually entail coursework (and assignments) but not there may not be a final project.
PhD in Finance Programs
Doctorate in Finance programs could award a PhD in Finance or a DBA degree. Both are terminal degrees. The PhD is a research-focused degree while the Doctor of Business Administration is a practitioner degree.
A PhD in finance could enable students to make an original contribution to their area of emphasis through their own research, presented in a final dissertation. Students might receive a solid foundation in the theoretical and empirical tools of modern finance, and may draw heavily from economics.
Learners typically build on this foundation and might apply these tools to study a variety of modern topics. Topics could include asset pricing, corporate finance, financial institutions, international finance, and behavioral finance.
DBA in Finance
DBA in Finance Programs often gear courses to executives who have a masters degree in a related area and want to enhance their career profile. Students often start out with a series of core business courses (like the MBA). These could provide in-depth theory about globally diverse markets, strategy and fiscal leadership.
There is also a strong component of applied research and business strategy in most DBA programs. Students might, for instance, study to gain the finance tools that managers often use to maximize their firm’s value.
These courses could discuss valuation, capital budgeting and structure, working capital management, multinational concepts, and Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM). Research courses round things out. Students are usually required to write a final dissertation that synthesizes their studies to problem-solve in a chosen area of finance or business.
Students in a finance masters program are required to have a bachelors degree and may need some prior work or academic experience in finance, accounting or a related field prior to enrollment.
Graduate certificate programs in finance are generally open to students with a bachelors or masters degree. Students sometimes enroll in these programs to further their careers as CEOs, accountants and investors.
Typical enrollment prerequisites for a doctoral program include a master’s degree. There are also programs geared towards executives though some programs may also admit students with an undergraduate degree.
Aside transcripts and a completed application form, each applicant may have to furnish the following.
- Letters of recommendation
- Statement of Purpose
- GRE or GMAT Scores
- Professional Resume
As each finance graduate school sets its own standards, it is suggested that an applicant refer to specific masters programs for more details.
Finance graduate schools may be regionally accredited and may have specific programs that are also approved by professional agencies. One such agency is the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP). Accredited programs and schools must meet standards to maintain their status.
Top 244 Graduate Schools with Masters in Finance Programs
Colorado State University Global
Southern New Hampshire University
Purdue University Global
Loyola University Chicago
Liberty University Online
Grand Canyon University
Georgia State University
West Virginia University