Online Master’s in Finance Degree Program Guide

A master’s degree in finance can lead to a strong return on your investment in a fast-growing field.
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Updated on June 26, 2024
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The finance field is changing, and an online master’s degree in finance can you thrive in the evolving sector.

Financial technology (fintech) is set for explosive growth over the next decade, and other emerging technologies like artificial intelligence are set to reshape financial services. An online master’s degree in finance can help you prepare for those changes and set you up for lasting success in the industry.

You can earn an online master’s in finance in two years or less by enrolling in an accelerated program or take more time in a part-time course of study. An online format can allow you to work toward your degree on your schedule without stepping back from your career.

Read on to learn what it takes to get an online master’s degree in finance and why that path might be right for you.

Why Should I Get a Master’s Degree in Finance?

A master’s degree in finance program covers the fundamentals of finance and leadership to help position you for top-level finance roles.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects much faster-than-average growth for financial managers over the next decade — 16%. As of May 2023, those professionals earned a median salary of over $156,000. Finance is the language of business, and roles for financial experts are growing across industries.

Many master’s in finance programs require applicants to have undergraduate experience in accounting or a related field, but some also offer courses in basic finance for students without a background in the subject.

Featured Online Master's in Finance Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

What Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Finance Program?

When enrolling in an online master's in finance program, prospective students should ensure they understand what it entails and how to prepare for graduate school. In these versatile programs, degree-seekers can learn about the intricacies of the financial world and gain the skills needed to work in many different professional settings.

Most finance programs consist of 30-36 credits and require two years of full-time study or three years of part-time study. Some departments may even provide accelerated online master's in finance options that take as few as 18 months to complete.

In addition to general course requirements, some programs may also include in-person residencies or internship components. If you are planning to study online, you should ask if any campus-based components exist and, if so, how frequently you will need to visit campus.

Some schools also offer concentrations in areas such as real estate finance, computational finance and trading systems, derivatives and risk management, and finance and economics.

What Courses Will I Take in an Online Master's in Finance Program?

  • Minus

    Business Communications

    Typically taken in the first semester, this class provides a strong foundation for understanding how businesses and finance professionals communicate with their peers and clients.
  • Minus

    Corporate Finance

    A corporate finance course examines the structure of finance as it relates to big businesses and corporations. This class also covers regulatory rules and requirements for managing a major organization’s finances.
  • Minus

    Derivatives and Risk Management

    Whether working in-house or in a consulting role, understanding the various facets of risk management in financial positions is critical to success. This course looks at factors such as speculation, fixed income, and securitization.
  • Minus

    Financial Accounting

    This course examines the management and presentation of financial accounting reports, with an emphasis on preparing them for the needs of shareholders, supervisors, and analysts.
  • Minus

    Financial Modeling and Firm Valuation

    Students consider questions around key value drivers, projected financial valuations, discounted cash flow projections, and forecasting to learn what it takes to properly understand firm valuation methods.
  • Minus

    International Financial Management

    Taking this course can help learners understand interest and exchange rates, global economic growth, investment strategies in open economics, and the nature of economic expansion.
  • Minus

    Portfolio Management

    Portfolio management can help you learn how to create and manage an investment portfolio. The course covers strategy for portfolio management, how to meet goals, risk management, and more.

What Are Admission Requirements for an Online Master's in Finance Program?

While admission requirements for online and campus-based master's in finance programs typically remain the same, these requirements can vary from school to school. Some colleges require only an accredited bachelor's degree to qualify for admission, while others look for candidates with previous academic experience in finance or related subjects.

In addition to the graduate admission requirements highlighted below, some particularly competitive programs may also request that prospective students take part in an interview.

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    Application

    The vast majority of colleges now use online application systems to streamline the process for both students and university staff. That said, applicants may be able to request a paper application if they lack consistent access to the internet. These documents usually ask for basic demographic information such as name, address, date of birth, and citizenship status.
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    Test Scores

    Test score requirements vary by the school and program. Some programs require applicants to submit scores from either the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) or the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Both of those tests recently received overhauls, with the new GMAT Focus Edition allowing more flexibility and the GRE revamped to take less time.
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    Letters of Recommendation

    Letters of recommendation provide the opportunity for mentors, supervisors, professors, faith leaders, and others who know you well to share what makes you a promising and unique candidate. Ask recommenders far enough in advance so that they can craft thoughtful letters.
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    Resume and Work Experience

    Some master's in finance programs may require applicants to possess some relevant work experience prior to applying. Others may look for candidates with general work experience. Students should provide an up-to-date resume alongside their application.
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    Essays

    Many online master's in finance programs request that applicants write a set of essays. Students are frequently asked to write about why they want to study finance, how they plan to use the degree after graduating, and why they want to attend that particular program.
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    Official Transcripts

    Colleges use official transcripts to verify GPAs and ensure prospective students meet prerequisite requirements. In the case of transfer students, transcripts help admission professionals ascertain which classes count toward the degree and how many credits the transfer student must earn to graduate.

What Can I Do With an Online Master's in Finance Degree?

Career Outlook

Earning a master's degree in finance can help students develop the competencies and qualifications they need to secure a variety of in-demand, high-paying positions. Positions for financial analysts, financial managers, and personal finance advisors are projected to grow in the coming decade.

While salaries can vary based on factors like education level, amount of experience, and type of employer, professionals who graduate with a master's in finance routinely earn six-figure salaries.

Because so many industries rely on financial professionals to help with decision-making, investing, cost projections, and other financial components, they can find work in many fields.

See where a master's in finance degree can take you. Learn more about finance careers.

Career Paths

Financial Analyst

These professionals help companies and individuals decide how to invest their money to maximize their profits. They keep up with investment and economic trends, analyze existing portfolios, develop projections about future investments, and provide quarterly reports on portfolio growth.

  • Median Annual Salary (May 2023): $99,890

Financial Examiner

Sometimes known as auditors, these financial professionals ensure banks and other financial organizations conduct their business according to all laws and regulations. They examine balance sheets and operating accounts, interview management personnel, and provide reports on their findings.

  • Median Annual Salary (May 2023): $84,300

Budget Analyst

Whether working for a governmental agency, corporation, or nonprofit, budget analysts help their clients maintain financial soundness. They work with senior staff to develop operating budgets, review spending proposals and expense requests, and look for ways to cut costs and save money when possible.

  • Median Annual Salary (May 2023): $84,940

Financial Manager

Often working directly under chief financial officers, financial managers are tasked with maintaining an organization's financial health. They may manage investment activities, set organizational goals around finance, and ensure all legal requirements are met. They typically supervise other staff members carrying out similar job responsibilities at a lower level.

  • Median Annual Salary (May 2023): $156,100

Personal Financial Advisor

Personal financial managers work with individuals on all matters related to their finances. They provide guidance on investment activities and large purchases, such as property These professionals also often provide support for people creating estate plans and participating in direct retirement investment activities. They may also help clients understand their tax burdens.

  • Median Annual Salary (May 2023): $99,580

Finance Not For You? Check Out These Related Careers.

How Do I Choose an Online Master's in Finance Program?

Cost

The cost of a master's degree in finance can vary based on the type of school a student attends. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, public four-year institutions charged graduate students an average of $11,554 in tuition during the 2022-2023 academic year. Meanwhile, private institutions charged an average of $20,015 during the same period. Learners should ensure they understand the true cost of a program and consider whether studying online or in person makes more financial sense.

Program Format

When looking at prospective programs, students must decide whether they prefer synchronous or asynchronous learning. Those seeking flexibility typically go with the second option. Additionally, students must decide whether part-time or full-time learning works best with their schedule. College students who also maintain jobs often decide part-time formats suit their needs.

Location

Students choosing an online master's in finance can theoretically study at any program in the nation. That said, some programs include in-person requirements. Learners who choose a program with a campus-based component may want to limit their search to programs within driving distance.

Accreditation

Attending an accredited institution is necessary to avoid issues transferring credits, qualifying for federal financial aid, and even finding work. In addition to considering properly accredited schools, students should also look for finance courses with programmatic accreditation. Within the world of finance, look for degrees accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business or the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs.

Student Support

Student support services can take the master's in finance program experience from good to great. The best programs provide mentors who can help students meet their educational and professional goals. They also provide students with internship opportunities to help them gain real-world experience. Remote learners should check to see if schools offer digital support services.

Frequently Asked Questions About an Online Master’s in Finance

Are online finance degrees respected?

Online finance degree programs are usually just as rigorous and cover the same coursework as in-person courses of study. Virtual degree programs have become increasingly respected since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

An MS in finance includes in-depth instruction on investment strategy, corporate finance, leadership, and other key business skills. The degree can be challenging, but it also has a high potential for return on investment.

Many MBA programs offer finance specializations but also include broad instruction on business practices. An MS in finance is more concentrated on the financial sector and investment strategies, whereas an MBA is more geared toward leadership roles. Both degrees can open doors to upper management positions across sectors.

An online master of finance degree can help you stand out from the competition and score high-paying finance jobs. According to the BLS, financial managers earned a median annual salary of more than $156,000 as of May 2023.

Undergraduate GPA requirements vary by school, but a minimum GPA of 3.0 is usually required.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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