Written by OnlineMBA.com Staff

Professionals working in business and financial occupations enjoy some of the healthiest salaries in the nation, and earning an advanced degree in finance can boost your income even further. An MBA in finance meets or exceeds the educational requirement for most upper-level positions including financial manager, an MBA finance career boasting an impressive median annual salary of $127,990, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Online MBA programs in finance can help working professionals change career directions or to gain a promotion within their current companies and industries. Even professionals remaining in the same position typically receive salary advancement upon earning an advanced degree.

What Is an MBA in Finance?

As an advanced degree in business administration, an MBA in finance cultivates strong leadership skills in business communication, strategic planning, and personnel management. The interdisciplinary nature of MBA degrees ensures that students receive exposure to principles and best practices in management, accounting, and marketing.

MBAs also develop expertise in finance areas such as compliance, accounting, and budgeting. Coursework covers modern financial theory, capital markets, investment banking.

Studying finance at the graduate level qualifies students to perform advanced financial statement analysis and make corresponding recommendations to company executives. MBA graduates are prepared to work in diverse, high-paying fields such as financial analysis, consulting, management or fundraising. For instance, BLS data indicates an $85,660 median annual salary for financial analysts.

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What Can You Do With an MBA in Finance?

Financial Manager

These managers oversee an organization's finances by generating and supervising execution of company financial goals and plans. Financial managers employ strong financial reporting and analysis skills as they examine internal, market, and competitor financial data. Financial managers also require excellent presentation skills as they offer their findings and recommendations to executives.

As supervisors of financial staff, finance managers must demonstrate excellent communication, leadership, and interpersonal abilities. Financial managers may hold positions such as treasurer, risk manager, or financial controller.

Financial managers made substantial average salaries of $127,990 annually in 2018, according to BLS. These professionals face a promising projected job growth rate of 16% between 2018 and 2028.

Chief Financial Officer

CFOs supervise financial departments and operations by hiring and managing personnel, creating and implementing strategies, and monitoring and improving operational efficiency. To help guide executive business decisions, CFOs need advanced skills in financial analysis, projection, and reporting. CFOs also require expertise in budgeting and accounting, plus skills in financial research and auditing to ensure compliance with IRS guidelines. PayScale suggests that CFOs make an average of $132,597 annually.

Financial Controller

Typically in charge of one or more financial departments, financial controllers conduct crucial financial projection, analysis, and planning duties. As they direct budgeting, auditing, or accounting, financial controllers monitor compliance, create financial reports, and use both quantitative and interpersonal skill sets as they address financial and personnel problems. Financial controllers often boast an MS, MA, or MBA in finance or a related field. They also commonly hold professional certifications such as financial accountant, financial manager, and professional CPA. Financial controllers make a median salary of $82,486 annually, according to PayScale.

Budget Analyst

These analysts help create, monitor, and report on budgets and other financial information for their companies. Analytical and quantitative skills prove crucial for managing this important financial data. These professionals also require collaborative skills when working with managers to plan institutional spending, saving, and fundraising.

Additionally, budget analysts need excellent communication, public speaking, and reporting skills as they present budget information to executives, managers, clients, and the public. According to BLS, budget analysts made a median annual salary of $76,220 in 2018. BLS projects 4% job growth for budget managers between 2018 and 2028.

Financial Analyst

Often tasked with advising clients' investment decisions, financial analysts possess sophisticated quantitative and analytical skills. These professionals examine current investments and markets, analyze risks, and then make recommendations regarding new investments.

Financial analysts may also provide consultation services to companies, and advise changes based on analysis of management teams, operations, and financial statements. Financial analysts brought home a $85,660 median annual salary in 2018, according to BLS, which projects 6% job growth for financial analyst positions between 2018 and 2028.

Why Should You Get an Online MBA in Finance?

Earning an MBA in finance online prepares working professionals to advance their careers without giving up their current positions. Online programs boast similar content and quality to that of on-campus programs, but with the added convenience of home study during and after work hours.

MBA in finance programs also create ample opportunities to build lasting networks that can open professional doors for graduates. Most schools provide student services such as academic and career advising, recruitment events, and internship and employment opportunities.Through connections with peers, professors, and internship employers, MBA students also learn to apply business and finance knowledge and skills.

Providing a thorough grounding in business administration, the MBA in finance gives graduates a comprehensive business knowledge and acumen needed to make data-driven business decisions. An MA or MS in finance typically offers training tailored primarily to specific finance roles, while the MBA in finance can qualify graduates for many kinds of lucrative business and financial occupations. These occupations typically range in salary from $50,000 to $90,000 with a median salary of $68,350, while upper-level positions often pay well over $100,000.

Online MBA in Finance Salary

Unlike the more general finance knowledge provided by bachelor's programs, the graduate-level curriculum of the finance MBA develops learners' specialized financial skills and an advanced understanding of financial and business decision-making.

This unique combination often qualifies graduates for executive roles that require excellent leadership and comprehension of the financial and economic big-picture. As a more interdisciplinary program, the MBA also opens up a more diverse array of business career possibilities in fields like marketing, accounting, management, and fundraising.

PayScale indicates that professionals with finance MBAs make an annual median salary of $97,000 -- almost $30,000 more than those holding only bachelor's degrees in finance. Salary rates also depend heavily on one's position, location, and experience level. For example, entry-level financial controller positions average $63,000 annually, while more experienced professionals in these roles can make about $88,000. Senior management positions such as financial director and chief financial officer also boast generous salaries ranging from $82,921 to $132,597, according to PayScale.

Comparison of Average Annual Salary by Occupation and Degree Type
Source: PayScale

FAQs About MBA in Finance Careers

What certification should I get in addition to an MBA in finance?

An MBA in finance prepares graduates for the three examinations needed to earn certification as a chartered financial analyst (CFA), the highest credential in the field. Alternatively, finance MBA graduates interested in financial planning typically pursue the certified financial planner (CFP) certification. Graduates seeking employment as public accountants usually undergo a four-session examination to earn their certification as a certified public accountant (CPA).

What jobs can I get with an MBA in finance?

Given the versatility of the degree, MBA in finance graduates qualify for an array of financial and business occupations. Finance positions include financial examiner, financial analyst, financial director, and financial controller. Finance MBAs may also work as accountants, auditors, and budget analysts.

What are the differences between an MBA in business finance and an MBA in marketing?

Marketing master's degrees usually suit students with creative and critical skill sets relevant to design. Master's degrees in marketing tend to be more tailored to marketing-specific roles, whereas MBA degrees cultivate more general business skills and acumen useful in diverse business and financial occupations. As a business administration degree, the MBA also typically garners a higher starting salary.

What are the differences between an MBA in business entrepreneurship and an MBA in marketing?

Both degrees can qualify graduates for work in many industries, and both cultivate analytical skills useful in business planning and decision-making. However, the MBA in finance devotes more attention to big-picture economic analysis and incorporates this analysis into their risk assessments and financial planning.

Interview With an Expert

Brandon Renfro

Financial Advisor, Assistant Professor of Finance at East Texas Baptist University


Brandon Renfro is an assistant professor of finance and a practicing financial planner. He has worked in the financial services industry since 2010 and holds the Retirement Income Certified Professional designation from The American College of Financial Services. He lives in Hallsville, Texas, with his wife and daughter and is a member of the Arkansas Army National Guard.

Why did you decide to pursue a career in finance? Is it something that has always interested you?
I remember the first finance lecture I ever heard in college. It was about the time value of money in a retirement planning context. That single lecture had me hooked. Only with hindsight have I realized that if something excites you that normally bores others, you have found your thing. I had no idea at the time that I would become a finance professor myself, but looking back it seems obvious. Retirement planning is still an interest of mine too, and I maintain a professional practice in addition to teaching.
What was the job search like after graduating with your MBA?
After my MBA I immediately started working part time for an investment management company. I then continued with my master's in finance and went on to my Ph.D. Fortunately, the finance field in higher ed does not suffer from the same labor surplus that other fields are known for, and I was able to quickly find a full-time academic position.
How can students set themselves apart from fellow MBA and finance graduates?
Professional credentialing beyond the MBA can be a big differentiator. Depending on the field you want to go into, CMA, CFA, or CFP could be viable options. Because MBAs are typically mid-level managers, some leadership or management experience would be useful too; this can include managing teams for civic groups or nonprofits. The edge here is to show that you can get results when given responsibility for groups or resources.
How has earning your MBA advanced your finance career path?
I was exposed to a lot of topics I likely would not have been exposed to outside the MBA. This helps even when teaching finance courses to undergraduates or in the MBA program because I am able to relate the material better to non-finance courses. There's also the universal understanding that an MBA is a practitioner's degree, which I think makes me more relatable to non-academics. Everyone knows an MBA represents a practical, application-oriented education.
What are some of the most rewarding aspects about working in finance? Some of the most challenging aspects?
The most rewarding is when you see a genuine feeling of satisfaction or accomplishment from someone you have helped. This applies to students when they finally understand a concept they have been struggling with, and also to people who feel better about their own retirement. The most challenging thing about working in finance is that people tend to have an aversion to finance much the same way they do to math. They can convince themselves that something is too difficult for them to understand. That can make it hard to help some people because you have to get past that artificial barrier.
What advice would you give to students considering pursuing an MBA and a career in finance?
Differentiate. Everyone you will be competing against in the job market will also have an MBA. That goes back to those credentials and work experience. Think about what will make you stand out and strengthen that.

Professional Organizations for Finance

Professional organizations help finance professionals earn certifications, continue their education, and stay current on developments in the field. These organizations also host forums and conferences that advance the field and encourage professional networking. Many organizations also maintain job boards or career resources to assist in professional development.

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