Master’s in finance
The financial field offers high earning potential and plenty of opportunity for career progression. Finance professionals can move horizontally or upwards to find the role that suits them. The future of the sector looks positive, with the Bureau of Labor statistics predicting 750,800 new business and finance jobs between 2020 and 2030.
A postgraduate degree can further increase your career opportunities in the field of finance. Students can choose between a Master’s in Finance or a Finance MBA, depending on interests and career aspirations.
The best graduate degrees in finance are those that prepare you to compete for jobs in tomorrow’s workplace.
What is an MS in finance?
An MS in finance gives students a deep understanding of important financial concepts such as financial theory, investing, markets, and valuation.
Most MS in finance programs take 1 year to complete. They can help current finance professionals access better opportunities. Some complete this qualification directly after their bachelor’s to give them a competitive edge.
Master’s in finance admission requirements vary between programs. Many schools expect students to meet the following requirements (more competitive programs may demand higher test scores):
- a 4-year undergraduate degree from an accredited university; this degree needn’t be in finance, but completing financial courses can be beneficial if you plan to pursue an MS in finance
- a minimum GPA of 3.0 in your last 2 years of college
- a minimum score in the Graduate Record Examination (GRE)
- a minimum score in the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) – the exam which tests the skills needed for business and management programs
Can you get accepted into a master’s in finance with no GMAT?
Yes, some programs waive this requirement. There may be additional eligibility conditions though. For example, some colleges only waive the GMAT if 1 of the following applies:
- you have an undergraduate degree in finance with a minimum 3.0 GPA score
- you have worked in a financial role for at least 4 years and achieved a minimum GPA of 3.0 at undergraduate level
- you already have another master’s degree and can demonstrate a minimum 3.0 GPA on both this and your undergraduate degree
What to expect from a master’s in finance program
Master’s in finance programs aim to provide a broad understanding of the financial field, while remaining flexible enough to allow students to follow their own interests.
Most programs consist of 33 credits, which are made up of 12 credits from core classes and 21 from electives. Core courses vary between schools, but often include accounting, finance, economics, and quantitative analysis.
Many students of master’s in finance programs plan to move into financial management roles. Therefore, there is an emphasis on the development of management skills, with modules such as communication for management, or microeconomics for management.
Electives allow students to focus on a specific area of interest. The range of options can be vast. Examples of electives on offer include:
- real estate
- mergers and acquisitions
- hedge funds
- entrepreneurial finance
- business law and ethics
Some programs include a mandatory internship, which typically takes place during the summer. Even if you are already working in finance, it is worth considering an internship program because this can open your eyes to the intricacies of different financial roles.
Is a master’s in finance worth it?
A master’s in finance can be an excellent investment, both in terms of the skills acquired and potential earnings. Salaries for master’s in finance graduates tend to be relatively high, even in comparison to other high-earning business sectors. This is because the master’s in finance is a steppingstone to more advanced positions in the financial field.
The table below provides some key economic indicators of master’s in finance programs.
Debt and earnings
Graduate degree premium
Earning over bachelors
Annual debt repayment
The figures above give an indication of the debt incurred by graduates, and their salaries 3 years after graduation. The table on the left compares median debt and median earnings. The right-hand table compares how much a master graduate earns over a bachelor graduate 3 years after graduation, after deducting median debt repayments.
The high earnings of master’s in finance graduates ensure that the debt-to-earnings ratio is relatively low compared to other postgraduate subjects. Note that master’s in finance degree holders earn significantly more than candidates with only a bachelor’s in the field. This may be the determining factor when deciding whether to pursue an MS in finance.
MBA vs master’s in finance
MBA programs are generally for candidates who already have a decent amount of real-world business experience. These programs tend to be catered to executives who operate across various business departments. The curriculum covers a broad range of subjects, including accounting, entrepreneurship, and leadership. Even students who choose a concentration in finance spend less time on this subject than candidates studying for a master’s in finance.
Master’s in finance programs prepare students for careers in finance, such as banking, financial analysis, financial planning. There is less focus on other business areas, with more time devoted to developing the skills needed for financial roles.
An MBA usually takes at least 2 years to complete. Timewise, it is more of a commitment than a master’s in finance, which typically takes just 1 year.
It can be tempting to choose the master’s option due to its shorter duration, but remember this means you are unlikely to get the opportunity to participate in an internship, and career options are narrower compared to the MBA.
Master’s in finance v MBA salary
A few interesting points when comparing master’s in finance and MBA salary information:
- The average salary with a master’s in finance is $80,000 annually and $89,987 3 years after graduation.
- The average salary for an MBA degree holder is $92,000 per year in the long term, and $68,748 3 years after graduation.
According to salary aggregators like PayScale, the MBA outperforms the MS finance over the long term. This may partially be because there are many more MBA programs – and for-profits represent a larger share of MBAs.
Our research shows that, on average, master’s in finance degree holders earn more than MBA holders 3 years after graduation. Note however that these figures are for students who receive federal financial aid. This may slightly distort the picture because the tuition of MBA students is often covered by their employer. These graduates tend to earn high salaries but are not included in the table.
Online master’s in finance
Finance is suited to online learning because classes primarily focus on numbers, data, and calculations, rather than the broader in-person business skills of an MBA program. For this reason, fully online options are more widely available than the average across all subjects.
» Read: Online vs on-campus courses
Master’s in finance
The above table shows the percentage of programs available either completely in person or fully online. Figures that do not add up to 100% indicate the existence of hybrid programs.
An online master’s in finance is created towards working professionals. It gives you the flexibility to create your own study and coursework schedule. Online programs are both accepted and respected within the financial world. There are some very prestigious online master’s courses, such as those offered by Georgetown university and John Hopkins university.
Above we have shown the top three finance schools. They have been ranked the best master’s in finance programs based on the debt to earnings ratio, and comparative earnings by school.
Paying for your finance degree – cost, financial aid and scholarships
To learn more about the cost of a master’s in finance degree, check out the table below.
Debt to earnings
Debt to earnings
Debt to earnings
Median earnings and median debt of graduates of this degree program. The debt-to-earnings ratio compares student debt to annual earnings. The lower the debt-to-earnings ratio the better, and total debt should never exceed annual earnings (a debt-to-earnings ratio of 1.0).
Master’s of finance students can apply for federal aid by completing the FAFSA form. As well as federal and private loans, there are a range of scholarships and grants available, some of which are specifically for finance majors.
» Read: What is the Federal Pell Grant?
There are 26 scholarships totaling $72,500 in value available specifically for finance students.Explore more scholarships
The American Finance Association
The American Finance Association promotes knowledge and understanding of financial economics. It publishes the Journal of Finance, one of the most popular journals in finance today.
Association for Finance Professionals
The AFP aims to educate the financial leaders of tomorrow. It provides training to financial professionals and is the certifying body in treasury and finance.
American Association of Finance and Accounting
The AAFA specializes in the recruitment of finance and accounting professionals, offering a range of training and employment opportunities to its members.