The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects business and financial occupations to grow at a rate of 10% from 2016 to 2026. This growth rate translates to about 773,800 new jobs. At $67,710 a year, business and financial professionals pocket a median annual salary that is 44% higher than the national average. According to the BLS, those with the financial skills and knowledge to navigate a growing, global economy will see an increase in job demand over the next decade.
An MBA in finance, which combines business administration and finance, prepares students for the job market. For example, financial analysts, who provide investment guidance to both businesses and individuals, typically need a bachelor's degree. With years of experience, they can advance to the role of fund or portfolio manager. As the BLS notes, having an advanced degree in business administration or finance helps an analyst's prospects in securing a higher position. The median salary for financial analysts is $84,300, which is approximately 55% higher than all occupations.
Should I Get an MBA in Finance?
Students pursue MBAs at various stages of their academic and professional careers. According to U.S. News & World Report, "incoming full-time MBA students had an average of 4.3 years of experience," suggesting that many finance students apply for an MBA after accruing some professional experience.
The flexibility of an online MBA program is ideal for working professionals and those looking to transition or grow in their career. An on-campus program may prove a better fit for recent bachelor's graduates and those just starting out in business.
Finance is a popular concentration for MBA students. Specialty subsets of finance include real estate finance, corporate finance, investment banking, and accounting and economics at micro and macro levels. MBA students take courses in investments, financial markets, statistical analysis, and computer literacy. They gain essential MBA skills like teamwork, adaptability, problem-solving, and communication.
The benefits of an MBA degree extend beyond the classroom. In the program, you can network, build relationships, and improve leadership skills vital to professional success. As an MBA student you can learn from your peers, ask questions, and absorb insights from your professors. You can also seek out student services like advising or job assistance, inquire about internships, and attend recruitment events. A finance MBA should help open doors, increase earning potential, and broaden your business world perspective.
What Can I Do With an MBA in Finance?
While finance is the most common field for MBA graduates, there are also careers available in healthcare, technology, and nonprofits. As analytical problem-solvers, they are valuable employees of private and public institutions, enterprises, and individual and corporate clients. Career paths for financial experts include financial advisers, budget analysts, portfolio managers, underwriters, and securities agents. MBA in finance graduates understand financial law, including financial regulation, market practice, and case law. In general, MBA students who specialize in finance enjoy math, working with data, and the financial aspect of business.
- Financial Analyst
Financial analysts provide guidance on investments, such as stocks and bonds. Their typical work environment is banks, firms, insurance companies, or enterprises. Most enter the field with a BA in finance or accounting, but an MBA helps them earn job advancement. Financial analysts are also known as investment analysts.
Median Annual Salary: $84,300
Projected Growth Rate: 11%
- Personal Financial Adviser
A personal financial adviser provides expert financial advice on investments, like insurance, savings, taxes, and retirement. Clients are typically individuals, not businesses. Personal financial advisers help clients with both modest savings and fortunes; for the latter they are called a private banker or wealth manager.
Median Annual Salary: $90,640
Projected Growth Rate: 15%
- Budget Analyst
Budget analysts review budget proposals, prepare reports, and provide finance guidance to institutions. Usually they work for large clients, like governments or schools, but they also work for smaller enterprises, like startups. Many of their responsibilities involve developing recommendations based on quantitative analysis.
Median Annual Salary: $75,240
Projected Growth Rate: 7%
- Financial Controller
Also known as comptrollers, financial controllers are in charge of finance departments. Areas of focus include accounting, auditing, and budgeting. Comptrollers possess comprehensive knowledge of regulatory matters, particularly at a state level. They prepare prospectuses, forecast trends, and produce financial statements.
Median Annual Salary: $125,080
- Investment Banker
Investment bankers help clients secure funding, such as assisting a startup in raising capital for a new product launch. They review a client's financial health and devise an investment strategy. They also help facilitate investment from outside sources and assist with mergers and acquisitions.
Median Annual Salary: $63,780
How to Choose an MBA in Finance Program
Prospective MBA students should weigh several factors when choosing a program. Considerations include program length, curriculum, and cost. An MBA in finance is a major investment of both time and money. Students should know their career goals, desired school location, and the benefits and drawbacks of an online or on-campus program.
Online MBA programs offer students greater flexibility and convenience. They are a good option for working professionals as they generally only take two years to complete. While online students can study at any time, on-campus students follow a much more structured schedule. As the prevalence of online MBA programs continues to grow, there are still benefits unique to the on-campus experience, such as professional networking, recruitment opportunities, and in-person residencies. While tuition cost is comparable, attending on campus may mean additional expenses for room, board, or transportation. These costs will change depending on the school's location.
The choice between studying full time and part time depends largely on the student's situation, such as work schedule and budget. Full-time MBA in finance students can earn a degree in one or two years. Part-time students generally need three or more years to complete requirements. Note that executive MBA (EMBA) programs are only open to students with eight or more years of experience.
Programmatic Accreditation for MBA in Finance Programs
There are two types of accreditation in higher education: institutional and programmatic. Also known as specialized accreditation, programmatic accreditation reviews a program, department, or school within a postsecondary institution. For business programs, the most-recognized accreditor is the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. This accreditation assures employers that a students education meets or exceeds standards based on professional practice. Another programmatic accreditation to look for is the Accreditation Council for Collegiate Business Schools and Programs.
Accreditation is a continual process. Accredited institutions must show that they continually develop and improve their programs. Institutional accreditation is important because it directly impacts a student's eligibility for federal financial aid and transfer credits. To qualify for federal funding, a school must hold accreditation status from an accreditor recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (ED). ED recognizes all regional accreditors, but not all national accreditors.
MBA in Finance Program Admissions
The admission process for business school begins with narrowing down possible school choices. First-time applicants and previous applicants address the process from different perspectives. Similar to applying for an associate or bachelor's, it is important to know which college is best for you.
For every MBA applicant, there are "safety" schools and "reach" schools. A good approach is to apply to several different programs, especially if you are a nontraditional student and need to find the proper match for your current schedule. The admissions process for online programs tends to be more involved because a student might not be available for an interview or campus visit.
- Bachelor's Degree: Most MBA programs require that applicants hold a four-year degree, regardless of the field. For example, MBA in finance students come from a number of majors, including accounting, economics, and statistics.
- Professional Experience: Most schools will expect an MBA applicant to have some professional experience, although the amount varies by school. For example, some universities require MBA applicants to have at least two years of full-time, post-baccalaureate work experience.
- Minimum GPA: There is not a universal minimum GPA requirement for MBA applicants, but prospective students should research the school's admissions requirements. A GPA of 3.5 or above is acceptable for most schools.
- Application: Business school applications can take several weeks to complete. All supporting documentation must be requested on time in order to ensure the application deadline is met.
- Transcripts: Transcripts are a crucial part of your application. MBA programs review your entire transcript; however, your GPA must fall within a certain range. Most schools charge a standard processing fee for transcript orders.
- Letters of Recommendation: In general, you should secure two letters of recommendation. The letters should be written by someone familiar with your academic work ethic, such as former professors. After the letters are submitted, you should send a thank you letter to your recommender.
- Test Scores: The Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) is required by most programs. Many schools require a score within a certain range, so check if there is a required GMAT score for your college.
- Application Fee: Application fees vary by school, but can cost up to $300. Some schools offer fee waivers.
What Else Can I Expect From an MBA in Finance Program?
MBA in finance programs vary by the school, but all provide students with the theoretical and analytical knowledge to succeed in a modern, growing, and globalized economy. When you compare schools and programs, you may notice that specializations tend to include topics that focus on popular nearby industries.
Courses in an MBA in Finance Program
The curriculum of an MBA generally focuses on leadership, strategic thinking, statistics, and quantitative analysis. You will also study theory, financial management, and the fundamentals of economics. Below is a sample curriculum for a finance MBA:
- Corporate Finance
Students receive an introduction to the topic of business finance, where you gain a comprehensive understanding of the framework in which financial professionals work. The class covers concepts, tools, and best practices used for analyzing financial data and decisions, such as cash flow, valuation, capital asset pricing, market efficiency, and modern financial theory.
- Financial Derivatives
Students in this course learn about derivative securities, including basics and resultant complexities for traders. Financial derivatives is a specialized topic, one which will benefit future traders. Financial professional's who handle investments will find this course helpful.
- Capital Markets
This course introduces the world's financial markets and examines the risk and reward of capital markets from an institutional and functional perspective. Topics include trading, existing assets, and the global operation of markets. Students will explore case studies to understand what drives issuers and investors.
- Investment Banking
Any course in investment banking will focus on four main areas: capital markets, trading, asset management, and advisory. In addition, students in investment banking courses will further explore topics, such as business valuation, strategy, design, and mergers and acquisitions.
- Financial Statement Analysis
This course explores how to analyze the profitability and potential problems of financial statement data. Financial statement analysis combines the theories and principles behind economics, empirical research, ROI, and equity. This course is also a comprehensive preparation for the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) exam.
How Long Does It Take to Get an MBA in Finance?
Finance MBA programs vary in length; full-time students can usually complete a degree in one to two years, while part-time students can take over three years. There are also EMBA programs that are designed for working professionals and taught during evening and weekend classes. To qualify for an EMBA, students must have a minimum of eight years of industry experience. Most EMBA and online MBA programs are designed as two year programs.
Full-time students admitted to one-year MBA programs can use courses from an undergraduate degree to fulfill MBA requirements. Undergraduate credits can help students to finish faster or skip ahead to electives. In the case of finance MBA students, electives may include venture capital, financial technology, and corporate finance.
Most finance MBA students need 60 credits to graduate. A full course load of 12 credits in the spring and fall, and six in the summer, allows students to complete courses in two years. MBA programs typically give students five years to finish.
How Much Is an MBA in Finance?
One of the major considerations of any MBA program is the cost of the degree. U.S. News & World Report estimates tuition for a full-time MBA student to be about $50,000 or more a year, these fees can add up to $100,000 by graduation. Beyond tuition there are other expenses, such as housing. Students enrolled in an on-campus program should also factor in the monthly cost of transportation.
Any finance MBA degree will be a major investment. Different factors can affect the cost of attending business school. One is the cost of tuition since some schools are more expensive to attend. Graduate-level scholarships are available, but are usually reserved for full-time students. For part-time students, employers often have educational assistance programs that can help offset the cost of school.
Location is another factor to consider. Online MBA programs can help with some expenses, but tuition will be about the same as on-campus courses. In regards to full time and part time, the total cost is comparable. Full-time students may want to earn their degree more quickly in order to start a career sooner. Part-time students will delay this earning potential, but may save through employer programs.
MBA in Finance Certifications and Licenses
- Chartered Financial Analyst
For financial analysts, the CFA is the highest and most recognized credential. The certification is held by over 150,000 financial professionals and is the result of successfully passing three examination levels.
- Certified Public Accountant
To earn CPA certification, you must pass the Uniform CPA Examination, which consists of four individual four-hour sections. Applicants are tested in the areas of auditing and attestation, business environment and concepts, financial accounting and reporting, and regulation. A test taker must pass each section within 18 months with a score of 75 or higher.
- Certified Financial Planner
In order to list CFP certification on your resume, you must pass the CFP Certification Examination as well as the CFB Board's Fitness Standards for Candidates and Professionals Eligible for Reinstatement. You must also abide by the organization's code of ethics.
Resources for Finance Graduate Students
Visit this community of like-minded business students and obtain first-hand guidance on how to apply to an MBA programs.
HBR is a go-to source for business news as well as current research in business, finance, and technology.
The Economist is a leader in business world and economy news. For MBA students, this source is great for learning about the latest industry issues.
This online newspaper provides a range of news and service information to the global business community.
This website has free online peer-reviewed journals that are available to anyone. There is a business and economics section that contains financial articles.
Professional Organizations in Finance
Joining a professional organization helps foster collaboration and networking. In addition to annual conferences, most professional organizations offer similar member benefits, such as subscriptions and workshops. For student members of a professional organization, there are opportunities for scholarships, internships, and mentorships.
NAWMBA supports women in business and encourages them to pursue advanced degrees and an equal work environment.
Founded in 1970, NBMBAA brings together African-Americans in business. The organization emphasizes community and has partnered with over 400 businesses across the nation.
Formerly known as the National Society of Hispanic MBAs, NSHMBA focuses on supporting the Hispanic business and finance community.
This professional organization was the first of its kind in the U.S., bringing together financial planners, educators, and students. FPA offers members' workshops and networking events. The annual conference is the largest in the U.S. for financial professionals.
Established in 1967, AMBA provides an accreditation service to MBA, DBA, and master's degree holders. The global organization also helps members to research, explore trends, and network with professionals around the world.