The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 10% increase in business and finance occupations by 2026. The BLS attributes this growth to a new globalized economy, increased use of market research, and tax regulations. This data indicates that the financial industry is in need of knowledgeable finance professionals, and a master's degree in finance prepares students to meet that need.
For professionals looking to change careers or advance in their current career, a master's in finance equips students with tools and knowledge to excel in the finance industry. This guide discusses the costs and advantages of a master's in finance degree as well as how to choose the best program for your goals, interests, and budget.
Should I Get a Master's in Finance?
A master's in finance program requires significant time and dedication, but schools offer on-campus and online courses to accommodate students with different needs. The on-campus format attracts students that desire face-to-face interaction. Online courses appeal to students with busy schedules or those who prefer to work independently. Master's in finance programs cover science, mathematics, economics, and communications concepts. Graduates know how to interpret and create complex financial systems, write reports, understand the market, and pitch their ideas.
Schools help students land internships and job placements through the career services department. Advisers provide career advice, resume critiques, and interview tips, while career centers organize job fairs for students to meet potential employers. After graduation, students benefit from an alumni network. Alumni often mentor students, make connections, and offer recommendations. Graduates command high salaries and become vital members of organizations.
What Can I Do With a Master's in Finance?
The financial services industry encompasses different occupations that help individuals and companies with monitoring, managing, and spending their money. Finance professionals develop a keen understanding of the market to serve clients. Professionals must also know how to connect with clients to sell products and services. Finance professionals need strong analytical skills and advanced mathematical knowledge to handle transactions. This list provides an overview of common industry occupations.
Accountants review financial records for accuracy. They also monitor the financial health of a company by preparing its taxes and recommending changes to increase revenue and reduce costs. Accountants can work exclusively for a company or as part of a firm.
Median Annual Salary: $69,350
Projected Growth Rate: 10%
- Budget Analyst
Budget analysts collaborate with management to create budgets. They review budget proposals to ensure proposals meet state and federal regulations. They also combine departmental budgets to create a singular organizational budget. Analysts counsel top-level executives on budget plans and help them create alternate plans if the current budget is ineffective.
Median Annual Salary: $75,240
Projected Growth Rate: 7%
- Financial Analyst
Financial analysts study the market and suggest bond and stock options to investors based on analysis. Analysts determine a company's financial value by evaluating its financial statements, such as reports and tax returns. With the data collected, analysts draft reports and review them with officials to provide insight into a company's financial standing.
Median Annual Salary: $84,300
Projected Growth Rate:11 %
- Market Research Analyst
Market research analysts forecast sales and marketing trends by examining buyer behavior. They conduct surveys and polls to gauge consumer interest and spending. Analysts use this information to craft reports to present their findings. Analysts also monitor competing companies and marketing practices.
Median Annual Salary: $63,230
Projected Growth Rate: 23%
How to Choose a Master's in Finance Program
While researching master's in finance degree programs, there are many factors to consider, such as the program's length and format. Schools may offer traditional or accelerated programs. An accelerated program may take as little as two semesters to complete, while traditional programs take about two years to complete. Accelerated programs are more of a time commitment, and most enrollees are full-time students. Working students may prefer the flexibility of an online or part-time program.
Schools that offer online courses deliver them in hybrid or fully-online formats. In fully-online courses, students complete all work online. Hybrid courses require in-class meetings. An adviser can explain course offerings and help students create an appropriate schedule.
Students should also review the variable curricula of prospective schools. Some curricula are theory-based, while others focus more on mathematical systems. The concentrations a program offers is another important consideration. If students are interested in a particular area, like trading, they should ensure their chosen school offers courses in it.
Programmatic Accreditation for Master's in Finance Programs
Students should ensure their prospective schools are accredited. Accreditation indicates a school meets quality academic standards and is often necessary to receive financial aid, transfer credits, and secure employment. Accreditation comes in three forms: regional, national, and programmatic. There are six regional accrediting bodies in the United States. These bodies work with the U.S. Department of Education to evaluate collegiate programs and faculty members, setting rigorous standards that programs must meet to receive federal funding and recognition.
With regional accreditation, students can easily transfer credits from other accredited institutions and receive financial aid. National accrediting bodies assess trade and vocational schools. These agencies don't follow a uniform set of standards and may visit schools every three to five years for evaluation. Programmatic accrediting bodies evaluate specific programs within a school, assessing learning objectives and course outcomes. The Association to Accredit Collegiate Schools of Business accredits some master's in finance programs.
Master's in Finance Program Admissions
The admissions process for master's in finance programs is rigorous. Schools accept limited applicants, with some of the most prestigious schools only accepting 8-70 applicants per semester. With such a competitive process, students should prepare for the application process at least one year in advance.
Schools require transcripts, test scores, application fees, and letters of recommendation. Many institutions allow students to create an online profile to track the status of their application and send documents electronically. Students should request transcripts and test scores at least six months in advance. Some programs also request resumes. When selecting a program, students should research its admissions requirements and application deadlines.
- Bachelor's Degree: Most master's in finance programs require a bachelor's degree. A bachelor's in finance or a business-related discipline isn't necessary, but it is viewed favorably by admissions.
- Professional Experience: Some programs require students to have at least two years of professional experience.
- Minimum GPA: Most graduate programs require applicants to have a minimum undergraduate 3.0 GPA. However, a low GPA may be offset by exceptional achievement in other areas.
- Application: Students must submit an application detailing their professional and educational background. Applications are typically submitted online.
- Transcripts: Schools request college transcripts to evaluate academic performance. Most colleges charge a fee to release official transcripts.
- Letters of Recommendation: Applicants typically need at least two letters of recommendation from someone who can speak to their professional and educational abilities, such as professors and supervisors. Students should give recommenders at least two months to write the letters.
- Test Scores: Many schools require students to submit scores from the GRE or GMAT. Not all schools require these scores, but the ones that do look for high scores in the reading and math sections.
- Application Fee: Average application fees range from $50 to $85, but applications may cost as much as $100 for highly selective schools. Some schools offer fee waivers for students with demonstrable financial need.
What Else Can I Expect From a Master's in Finance Program?
Finance master's programs promote financial literacy through specialty courses that teach the basics of economics, data systems, and terminology. Students interested in certain aspects of the financial industry can enroll in a program concentration. Concentrations vary by school, but the following list gives insight into common concentrations and learning outcomes.
|Computation and Programming||Students study the technical functions finance professionals use to assess data. Courses center on building complex systems for data and risk management. This concentration helps students gain the necessary skills to create financial products||Budget analyst|
|Finance and Economics||In this concentration, students study economics and how it affects finance. Students learn about corporate finance and how the economy affects a company's financial health and influences stakeholders' decisions. Students also explore foreign markets.||Financial analyst|
|Derivatives||This concentration focuses on derivatives; a financial security determined by evaluating assets. Courses cover key areas of finance, such as risk management, credit risk, and fixed income term and structure. The courses theorize the structures and models professionals use to examine these assets and their impact on the market.||Cost estimators, financial examiners|
|Asset Management||The asset management concentration prepares students to work with individuals and companies interested in investing large sums of money. Courses like asset allocation emphasize the importance of closely monitoring a client's financial portfolio. Students also discover the science behind trading through algorithms.||Appraisers|
|Computational Finance and Trading Systems||This concentration takes a scientific approach to finance, teaching students about trading systems and the methods to analyze them. Courses like event-driven finance use practical examples of events that affect the market.||Accountants|
Courses in a Master's in Finance Program
Master's in finance curricula differ by school. However, each program teaches students basic concepts to interpret financial systems and work with different institutions, such as investing, tax law, and financial reporting. This sample curriculum features examples of core courses found in most finance programs.
- Financial Reporting and Analysis
The course teaches accounting and processing. Students dissect assets, liabilities, earnings per share, and shareholders' equity in financial statements and reports. Students learn the time value of money and present value measurements. Students also learn how to identify and fix accounting errors.
- Business Taxation
Students study the federal income tax system. Students learn about income tax reporting, including how to perform credits and deductions for business expenses. The course covers basic tax principles students need to know for CPA and CFA certification exams.
- Corporate Finance
Students study valuation in terms of time value, debt, and equity securities. Students may play the role of a financial manager providing risk management services to a firm. Students gain insight into different businesses and their financial statements.
- Investment Analysis
This course teaches about securities' functions and the markets they occupy. Students conduct analyses of portfolios' securities, solving problems with valuation models.
- Business Communication
This course strengthens students' written and verbal communication skills. Students learn to develop clear and concise copy for reports, white papers, memos, and emails. Students also work on verbal skills to effectively lead meetings and conduct presentations.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Master's in Finance?
It typically takes full-time students two years to finish a master's in finance program. However, some schools offer accelerated programs that take 12-16 months to complete. These programs include a summer or winter session and abbreviated courses that last four to six weeks. Accelerated programs may be shorter, but they cost the same as traditional programs. Part-time options are also available to accommodate busy schedules, but they can add years to a degree.
Students should also explore potential credit transfers to reduce the time to completion, including credits awarded for experience outside of school. Some schools issue prior learning credits to students with relevant work experience, and many offer credits for military service.
How Much Is a Master's in Finance?
The cost of a master's in finance degree varies by school. The National Center for Education Statistics estimates that graduate degrees cost $10,000-25,000 per year. Public institutions typically cost less than private schools. Public schools receive funding from the government, allowing them to offer lower tuition for in-state students. Out-of-state students pay much higher rates. Private institutions charge the same tuition for in-state and out-of-state students.
Whether a student is enrolled in an online or on-campus program also affects cost. For instance, students enrolled in online courses often save money on housing and transportation, but they may need to pay an additional technology fee per class. Students should explore all available financial aid options, including grants and scholarships, to lower the cost of their degree.
Certifications and Licenses a Master's in Finance Prepares For
- Certified Financial Planner
A nonprofit organization, the Certified Financial Planner Board administers the CFP exam. Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree or higher from an accredited university and complete coursework from a program recognized by the CFPB. Applicants also need at least 6,000 hours of financial planning experience.
- Certified Public Accountant
The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants confers this credential, which is considered the highest standard for accountants. Applicants need to pass the CPA exam to receive certification and qualify for state licensure. The exam has four sections that each take four hours to complete. Examiners need to score at least a 75 to pass.
- Chartered Financial Analyst
The CFA Institute administers this exam testing an applicant's ability to manage portfolios and analyze investments. The three-level exam can take up to 18 months to complete. Applicants must pass each level before moving to the next. Test centers proctor the exam in June.
- Certified Internal Auditor
Granted by the Institute of Internal Auditors, this credential prepares applicants to work with government agencies. Applicants need to submit a character reference form and a copy of a government issued ID.
- Certified Fraud Examiner
The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) awards this credential to members of the finance community working to develop anti-fraud initiatives. To take the exam, applicants must join the ACFE and submit fees and required documents. Examiners increase their earnings with the credential.
Resources for Finance Graduate Students
The CFA Institute is a career and educational resource for investment management professionals. It runs the Chartered Financial Analyst program to help applicants prepare for the exam.
This website is designed to be an educational resource for consumers, but it's also a valuable resource for students and advisers. Data scientists and financial experts curate content on the site.
Established in 1843, this publication boasts over one million subscribers. The publication champions “free trade, internationalism, and minimal interference by the government.”
This scholarly journal publishes the latest advancements in financial research. It is published six times per year, and students access it through their university library.
Established in 1998, this online peer-reviewed journal was created by members of the Graziadio School of Business and Management at Pepperdine University. The journal discusses developments in business.
Professional Organizations in Finance
Professional organizations cultivate fellowship in the financial industry. Members benefit from networking events, conferences, learning resources, and industry advocacy. Members also receive access to career services, like job boards and continuing education courses to advance financial knowledge and skill sets.
This organization teaches the public about financial economics and encourages schools to create and improve financial education programs. It also publishes the Journal of Finance.
The Association promotes the work of its members and their organizations. It also awards the Certified Corporate FP&A Professional and the Certified Treasury Professional credentials.
The ABA prides itself on being a voice for banks countrywide. It also offers service membership to nonbanks and people with a general interest in the banking industry.
Established in 1938 to support and educate women in the financial services industry, AFWA empowers members through leadership development programs, and conferences.
The AICPA provides its members with networking opportunities, technical and career resources, and discounts on travel and other services. The institute boasts over 400,000 members.