If you enjoy applying models and strategies to find practical solutions, and have an analytical mind and a knack for personal or business finance, then a graduate certificate in finance may be right for you. Professionals who work in finance can choose from multiple career paths, including real estate market analysis and debt and portfolio management. A graduate certificate in finance can especially benefit business professionals already involved in the financial services industry or entrepreneurs interested in gaining a better understanding of how to effectively grow a company.
Professionals in the finance sector often choose to pursue a graduate certificate as a means to improve their professional skills and secure or keep a job. The finance field continues to incorporate the application of exciting new technologies, like using artificial intelligence to help clients make portfolio management decisions. Staying apprised of the latest techniques and approaches to financial management and analysis through additional certification and professional development can make you a more competitive candidate to employers.
Read on to learn more about considerations for choosing a graduate certificate in finance, how to apply, and what to expect after graduation.
How to Choose the Right Graduate Certificate in Finance Program
Many students enrolled in graduate certificate in finance programs attend classes part time as they continue to work full time, which results in a typical completion rate of 1-2 years. The length of time needed to complete certificate requirements may vary depending on how much time you can devote to school while maintaining a job, family, and other personal obligations. Determine your desired budget before choosing a program. Keep in mind that some finance certificate programs require additional costs for any materials and other academic fees on top of tuition. Costs may vary depending on whether you choose an online program or an on-campus program, as on-campus programs typically cost a bit more overall.
Graduate certificate in finance programs generally do not require any practicum or internship components. Regardless, you should consider the location of a program if you'd like to attend classes in person. A school's location may also play an important role if you're considering finding a new job or advancing in the industry. Professionals contemplating a career shift to finance often start by earning a graduate certificate in finance and then later pursue a finance master's degree. Some schools even give credit for completed courses that can be applied toward a master's degree in finance.
Employment and Salary Outlook for Graduate Certificate-Holders
The growing global economy and the need for professionals who can interpret and make decisions based on increasing amounts of data make finance a thriving field, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasting a faster-than-average 10% growth rate in finance jobs over the next decade. In 2017, finance professionals earned a median salary of $67,710, higher than the median annual income for all jobs by about $30,000.
The specific career you choose will determine your starting salary and job growth potential over time. As shown in the table below, salaries generally increase as you gain experience in the following five common occupations for finance graduate certificate holders.
|Branch Manager, Banking||$52,000||$58,000||$60,000||$61,000|
|Senior Financial Analyst||$79,000||$83,000||$86,000||$89,000|
|Senior Accounting Manager||$74,000||$97,000||$106,000||$103,000|
The variety of available finance graduate certificate programs with specialized focuses enable students to pursue many different career paths in the field. No matter which path you choose, successful finance professionals must possess a strong attention to detail and effective problem-solving abilities. Other common characteristics correlated with career success include excellent communication skills, curiosity and the initiative to inquire about a client's or an organization's goals and needs, and persistence in a sometimes routine but often challenging field. The list below provides insight into specific job responsibilities for five common finance occupations.
- Finance Manager
Finance managers typically work at larger corporations or organizations with hundreds of employees and varied operational components. Typical job tasks include developing budgets for a given department, keeping track of ongoing expenses to insure a team does not exceed its budget, and producing periodic reports with analyses of current operational processes and ideas for improving operational efficiency.
- Banking Branch Manager
The branch manager of a bank oversees the regular operations of a bank, which includes leading bank staff and building relationships with regular customers. Job tasks may include developing quality customer service standards, promoting business development through sales plans and loan quotas, and managing all bank administrative tasks.
- Senior Financial Analyst
Extreme attention to detail and the ability to solve challenging problems represent two important characteristics of a senior financial analyst. They analyze a variety of data, including accounting information, economic and statistical outcomes, and financial risks. These professionals also find solutions to potential operational risks as a critical job function.
- Financial Controller
A financial controller, sometimes called a comptroller, takes charge of a company's financial departments, which may include accounting, auditing, and any other related teams. These professionals hold many responsibilities, including overseeing paperwork for federal and state regulators, producing regular financial reports, and presenting financial prospectuses to management.
- Senior Accounting Manager
Senior accounting managers usually oversee a department or team of accountants, accounts payable processors, and accounts receivable clerks. They oversee a company's financial systems and produce periodic reports to help management make sound budgeting and other financial decisions affecting an organization's operations.
Accreditation for Graduate Certificate in Finance Programs
Accreditation acts as assurance that a program or school meets a set of high-quality standards based on peer review of systems and processes. Prospective students should look for schools that hold national or regional accreditation. Some programs may additionally hold specialized accreditation, ensuring that the program meets industry standards. A school or program's accreditation status can impact students' eligibility for certifications, internships, federal financial aid, and employment opportunities.
Prospective finance students should seek out programs with accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, the premier national accrediting agency for graduate finance and business programs. Some graduate finance certificate programs may instead hold accreditation from the international Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs, another highly respected accrediting agency.
Graduate Certificate in Finance Program Admissions
Most online and on-campus graduate certificates require applicants to undergo the same admissions process. In some cases, college extension programs even offer open registration for courses that lead to a certificate, with no formal application required. However, most graduate certificates require an application, along with evidence that the student has completed at least a bachelor's degree. Many online and hybrid finance graduate certification programs exist for professionals who work full time.
When deciding how many programs to apply to, a general best practice is to choose about five schools. You should choose several programs you feel confident about and whose requirements you meet, in addition to one or two "reach" programs. You should determine if you want to apply to only online programs, on-campus programs, or a combination of the two. You should also consider the location of each school if you plan on attending all or some classes on campus.
- Bachelor's Degree: While most programs require a bachelor's degree for any graduate finance certificate, many programs accept degrees in fields other than business. Some more exclusive programs may require potential students to hold a graduate degree or complete several years of work experience before applying.
- Application: Applicants typically fill out and submit applications online, a process that takes about 20 minutes to complete. Most schools allow you to begin and complete an application at a later time, allowing you the flexibility to gather any additional requested materials, such as a personal statement or professional recommendation.
- Exam Scores: Many graduate certificate programs in finance do not require applicants to submit GRE scores. However, some competitive programs may require GMAT or GRE scores. Most programs require international applicants to submit English language proficiency test scores.
- Transcripts: Plan to submit at least one official copy of all postsecondary transcripts for each school that requires an application for their certificate program. Applicants must request their official transcripts from their college's registrar office, and often must pay a nominal fee.
- Application Fee: Schools often charge the same application fee for all graduate programs, regardless of whether the applicant is pursuing a full master's degree or a graduate certificate. Most programs charge fees of around $30. You may qualify for a fee waiver in some instances, such as if you attended the same school for undergraduate study or if you're the immediate relative of an active military service member.
What Else Can I Expect From a Finance Graduate Certificate Program?
Core Courses in a Finance Graduate Certificate Program
Specific courses will vary based on the school and program you choose, particularly if you choose a graduate certificate in finance that includes a specialized focus, such as financial analysis and valuation. However, most graduate certificate in finance programs tend to offer the following common foundational courses. While course names vary across schools, the sampling below includes courses that you will likely take in a typical finance graduate certificate program.
- Fundamentals of International Finance
This course looks at the economic landscape and institutional influences behind international markets and trade. Topics covered include international monetary systems, financial globalization, and exchange rate behavior. This area of expertise proves especially relevant for business administration professionals and those in applied finance.
- Investment Analysis and Portfolio Management
This course covers portfolio theory and analysis of the securities industry, including advanced securities like asset backed and derivatives. Students learn how to use market models to understand the system requirements behind investment management, securities accounting, and custody and securities processing for a variety of clients.
- Corporate Finance
Students studying the finances of large corporations explore the theories, strategies, and models behind capital budgeting. Students also learn how to best invest a company's funds, address the interests of financial investors and analysts in financial statements, and hedge corporate financial risks.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Graduate Certificate in Finance?
A typical graduate certificate in finance requires 16 total credits, thought this amount varies depending on the school and the focus of a certificate program. For example, a finance certificate in quantitative methods may require fewer credits than a broader certificate program in financial management.
Most programs take about one year to complete, though the length of time needed to complete a program largely depends on whether you attend part or full time, and whether you need to take any temporary leaves of absence. As many graduate students continue to work full time, most students spend close to two years completing the program.
Other program characteristics that impact the time it takes to earn a graduate certificate include course availability, program structure, program format (online, hybrid, or on-campus), and whether a program allows students to take extra courses during the semester.
How Much Is a Graduate Certificate in Finance?
Graduate certificate programs in finance offer students a substantial savings compared to full graduate programs. Though the exact amounts vary by school and program, most graduate certificates in finance cost around $11,000 per year. Online programs tend to cost less than on-campus programs.
In addition to tuition costs, many programs charge additional fees, including common technology and student service fees. Try to avoid unnecessary costs like fees for late enrollment or dropping a course past the deadline by planning in advance and staying organized. Some costs, like course materials and required texts vary based on the specific classes you take. If considering an on-campus program, you should also budget for any commuting, childcare, and dining costs.
Many schools offer discounted tuition rates to school alums or to active-duty military members, veterans, and their family members. You should also contact your school's office of financial aid for assistance in exploring all federal financial aid options, as well as graduate scholarship and fellowship opportunities.
Professional Organizations in Finance
Joining a professional organization in the financial field offers access to invaluable resources, events, and networking opportunities for professionals of all experience levels. The finance field offers several industry organizations on the national and global levels, and many of these organizations offer local meetings and educational opportunities. Depending on the organization, member benefits may include access to professional mentors, industry-specific recruitment firms and job boards, and exclusive webinars and professional development trainings.
The AFA is an academic organization with a nearly 100-year history of publishing one of the industry's most respected and widely read publications, The Journal of Finance. Members receive access to the journal, an AFA-member job board, and the opportunity to attend or present at the AFA annual meeting.
Organized by and for women in finance careers, AFWA provides local and national opportunities to network and build lasting relationships with professionals across the country. Members can also participate in organization volunteer opportunities, access the AFWA career center, and receive discounts on continuing education and professional development courses.
In addition to administering professional credential in corporate finance, AFP's membership includes over 16,000 treasury and finance professionals worldwide. Members receive access to a global career center and open registration to the organization's annual conference for networking and professional development.