If you enjoy working with numbers and want to emerge as a business leader, consider pursuing a finance MBA. This versatile degree covers advanced business topics with a financial emphasis. Graduates can work in roles such as financial analyst. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the need for financial analysts is projected to grow 6% between 2018 and 2028.
Earning this degree can increase your earning potential and lead to work in fulfilling supervisory roles. By gaining expertise in finance, you demonstrate to employers that you possess the skills and knowledge needed to help a company thrive.
Careers in Finance
Graduates with a finance MBA can pursue a variety of job opportunities in diverse industries. Having an idea of which career you want to pursue upon graduation can help guide your studies. For example, an aspiring financial analyst can center the program’s capstone project around analyzing finances for a local small business. Below, we outline five common careers for graduates with an MBA in finance.
Budget analysts review finances for nonprofits, corporations, and public institutions. They help clients reduce costs and improve profit margins by reviewing quarterly budgets and making adjustments as needed. Budget analysts also work with department directors and notify them about available funds. The BLS projects this career to grow by 4% between 2018 and 2028. The median pay for these professionals was $76,220 per year in 2018.
Professionals working in this role help businesses and individuals make wise investment decisions. They closely watch the stock market, using both historical and current financial data to advise their clients on when and where to invest. The BLS projects this career to grow by 6% between 2018 and 2028, and the median pay for these professionals in 2018 was $85,660 per year.
Financial managers oversee an organization's long-term financial plans. These professionals use financial reports to improve profitability, oversee investment decisions, and monitor market trends to identify expansion opportunities. Financial managers typically find employment at banks and investment firms. The BLS projects the need for this career to grow by 16% between 2018 and 2028, and the median pay for these professionals in 2018 was $127,990 per year.
Loan officers review loan applications for individuals and businesses. They evaluate the risk of lending money on behalf of a financial institution. These professionals sometimes reach out to businesses to see if they need a loan. The BLS projects the need for this career to grow by 8% between 2018 and 2028, and the median pay for these professionals in 2018 was $63,040 per year.
Personal Financial Advisor
Personal financial advisors work one-on-one to help individuals meet their financial goals. For example, they often help clients save for retirement by creating an investment portfolio. Many personal financial advisors work as self-employed agents. The BLS projects the need for this career to grow by 7% between 2018 and 2028, and the median pay for these professionals in 2018 was $88,890 per year.
How to Choose a Program in Finance
With so many options to choose from, finding the best finance MBA for your needs takes time and research. Below, we outline some important factors to consider when researching schools, such as cost, class format, and accreditation. Many programs list this information on their websites, but contacting the school's admissions office with questions is always recommended.
Ask for information on how lessons are delivered in the program
Colleges and universities offer programs in different formats. Some schools only allow students to take classes in person. Other programs take place entirely online or through a mixture of in-person and online classes. Pursuing an online MBA in finance is typically a good fit for busy working professionals, as the online flexibility makes it easier to manage a full-time job while earning a degree. Some online programs deliver courses in an asynchronous format, meaning they don't require set meeting times for classes.
Get details on what support is available to students
A program’s support level can impact student success. Tutoring services, database libraries, and 24-hour tech support can contribute to a positive educational experience. The professor-to-student ratio can also impact the level of support students receive, as professors with smaller class sizes can often provide more individualized attention to students. Some schools offer financial support through academic scholarships or paid graduate positions.
Estimate your expected program costs
Individuals with budget constraints should consider schools in their home state, as colleges and universities often offer reduced tuition rates for in-state students. However, some programs allow all online students to pay in-state tuition rates regardless of residency. Keep in mind that programs with more credit requirements may cost more, as many schools charge tuition on a per-credit basis.
Ensure the school's admission requirements align with your expectations
Admission requirements vary by school. However, most schools require applicants to submit transcripts, an admission essay, and recommendation letters. Some schools also feature minimum GPA and/or GMAT score requirements, which students should ensure they can meet. Setting realistic expectations can prevent students from applying to programs out of their reach. Individuals can also retake undergraduate courses and entrance exams to improve their credentials.
Compare student outcomes data
Looking at student outcome data is a helpful way to evaluate a program's quality. Figures like how many graduates find employment in their field within three years of completing their studies offer insight into the effectiveness of a program’s curriculum. Some institutions do not post this data on their website, but most admissions offices will provide it upon request.
Look for partnerships with local businesses and communities
Many programs form partnerships with local businesses and other community institutions. These partnerships can provide students with real-world experience through internships and capstone projects. Pursuing a degree through a program with local partnerships can help students secure a full-time job before finishing their studies.
Make sure the program is accredited
Prospective students should always consider accreditation status when researching schools. The U.S. Department of Education grants third-party agencies permission to oversee the accreditation process. Colleges and universities can either earn regional or national accreditation. Regional accreditation is more prestigious than national accreditation. Some doctorate programs only accept degrees from regionally accredited schools. Programs can also receive programmatic accreditation. The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business is one of the top accrediting agencies for business programs.
Speak with current students and alumni
Applicants can learn more about a program by speaking with current students and alumni. These individuals can provide a firsthand account on the pros and cons of the program. Graduates can also offer perspective on the job search process and how coursework prepares students for career requirements. Admissions counselors can typically connect applicants with current students and alumni.
Every finance program is different, and curriculum varies from school to school. Reading class descriptions can help individuals prioritize which programs to apply for and save time on lengthy application essays. Although the following courses may appear with a different title, you can expect to learn about similar topics in most finance programs.
- Corporate Finance
In a corporate finance course, students learn to work with corporate boards to identify investment opportunities and enhance profitability. Learners discover the basics of the time value of money, interest rates, and risk-return tradeoff. They learn how to make budgets for corporations and communicate with program directors on budget requirements. Much of the course focuses on cash flow analysis and how to enhance a business's profitability.
- Financial Markets
A financial markets course teaches students risk management and behavioral finance basics. Learners refine their financial leadership skills so they can help insurance and banking industries provide optimal support for clients. Students also discover how to monitor the stock market and use current and historical data to make recommendations for investors. They also learn about the symbiotic relationship between financial markets and government regulations.
- Investment Management
This course teaches students how to use financial data to advise investors and borrowers. Students learn about monitoring financial markets and analyzing pension and sovereign wealth funds. This class also covers active and passive investments, benchmarks, and features of equity. Learners leave this class with knowledge and skills in client investment objectives and portfolio theory.
Comparison of Finance Degrees and Specializations
Colleges and universities may offer a variety of graduate finance degrees. For example, students can earn an MBA in finance, a master of science in finance, or a master's in accounting or taxation. The best program depends on an individual's career goals. For instance, students who wish to work as a chief finance officer should earn an MBA in finance, while those who wish to work as an accountant can earn a master's in accounting or taxation.
|Degree Type||Description||Potential Career Paths|
|MBA in Finance||An MBA with a concentration in finance blends knowledge and skills in business and finance. Students explore concepts like operations management and business regulations. Students also learn about financial institutions and capital markets and how they relate to corporations and other businesses.||Chief Finance Officer|
|Master of Science in Finance||Unlike an MBA in finance, which blends business and finance courses, this program focuses solely on the finance industry and financial analysis skills. Students who pursue a master's degree in finance often pursue roles like financial planner, helping individuals with investments.||Financial Planner, Financial Analyst, Budget Analyst|
|Master's in Accounting or Taxation||As the name suggests, this master's degree focuses more on accounting and tax skills than trading and investments. The degree prepares learners to advise individuals and organizations on taxation and accounting matters. Graduates can apply for accountant certification.||Accountant, Tax Accountant, Tax Preparer|
Cost and Length of a Finance Degree
Earning a finance degree requires a significant investment of time and money. Choosing an affordable program can lower student loan bills. Many schools offer affordable in-state tuition rates, and some extend this rate to all online students. Additionally, public institutions typically cost less than private universities. When budgeting for college, students should also factor in living expenses and the cost of books and other learning materials.
Length can also impact program cost. Since schools often charge tuition on a per-credit basis, programs with fewer credits tend to cost less. Typically, an MBA in finance takes learners anywhere from two to four years to complete. The exact length depends on credit requirements and personal commitments. Some programs feature accelerated formats that allow students to expedite graduation.
Busy working professionals benefit from the flexibility of an online MBA in finance, which makes it easier to complete coursework around a work schedule, particularly if the program offers asynchronous courses.
- What jobs can I get with an MBA in finance?
- Graduates with an MBA in finance can pursue leadership positions in a variety of industries. They can oversee finances for an entire organization as a chief finance officer, work as a lead accountant, or open their own consulting firm.
- Does an MBA in finance require math?
- Finance MBA courses require a significant amount of math. If succeeding at math doesn't come naturally to you, it doesn't mean you can't pursue this degree. With practice, you can refine your math skills and succeed in a finance role.
- Is an MBA in finance difficult?
- An MBA in finance requires dedication and time. The level of difficulty can vary from program to program, but you can expect to spend several hours per week studying outside of class. You can learn more about the program's difficulty level by speaking with alumni or admissions counselors.
American Institute of Certified Public Accountants Scholarship for Minority Accounting Students
This scholarship provides minority graduate students up to $5,000 each year for their studies. Applicants must declare an accounting major and possess a minimum 3.0 GPA with 30 completed credits. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants accepts applicants from December through March.
Financial Women of San Francisco Scholarship
Each year, Financial Women of San Francisco sets aside funds for undergraduate and graduate women pursuing careers in finance in the San Francisco Bay Area. Graduate students can receive up to a $15,000 grant. The application requires a current resume, a 750-word essay on career goals, unofficial transcripts, a current photo, and two recommendation letters.
Goldberg-Miller Public Finance Scholarship
The Government Finance Officers Association awards this $15,000 scholarship to a full-time graduate student who plans to work in a finance-related role for the state or national government. Applicants must declare an accounting-related major and submit official transcripts along with their application.
Greater Washington Society of Certified Public Accountants Educational Fund Scholarships
The Greater Society of Certified Public Accountants annually awards a $4,000 scholarship to students pursuing an accounting career. Individuals who attend certain Washington, DC-area schools may apply. Applicants must carry a minimum 3.2 GPA, submit a recommendation letter, and write an essay on the value of earning a CPA license.
Minorities in Government Finance Scholarship
The Government Finance Officers Association awards this scholarship to individuals who identify as African American, Hispanic American, Native American, Native Hawaiian, or Asian American. Applicants for the $10,000 scholarship must be studying finance with plans to work for a government branch. Applicants can attend school on a part- or full-time basis.