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Masters in Finance

Information about Advanced Finance Degrees

The master’s in finance degree, alternatively known as a master of finance or master of science in finance, is a graduate degree for individuals interested in working in the finance field or advancing to a higher level in their organization. This rigorous academic program will provide a deep understanding of important financial concepts, models, methods, and theories that can be applied in a corporate environment in roles like finance manager or portfolio manager. A master’s in finance will help improve quantitative analysis skills and deepen your knowledge of financial markets.

Table of Contents:
Earning a Master’s Degree in Finance
Types of Master’s Degrees in Finance
Finding Accredited Finance Programs
Educational Prerequisites, Program Requirements, and Concentrations
Best Value Schools with On-Campus Master’s in Finance Programs
Best Value Schools with Online Master’s in Finance Programs
US News Top Master’s in Finance Schools
The Financial Times Best Master’s in Finance Schools 2018
Princeton Review’s Best MBA Programs for Finance 2019
Master’s in Finance Information by State
Finance Salary and Career Outlook for Graduates
Additional Resources
Frequently Asked Questions

Earning a Master’s Degree in Finance

Master’s in finance programs focus on financial management, financial economics, financial theory, and quantitative analysis. Graduates of master’s in finance programs can be found working in public and private corporations, commercial and investment banking, private equity, insurance, government entities, non-profit organizations, and academia. There is a range of common finance careers; possible careers in this field include financial analyst, financial planner, finance manager, banker, actuary, controller, and chief financial officer. Potential professional certifications for those with this degree include Chartered Public Accountant (CPA), Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), and Certified Financial Planner (CFP), depending on the graduate coursework completed and the rules in your state. Those with a master’s in finance may also work for a registered broker-dealer and become licensed to trade securities after passing the Series 7 General Securities Representative Exam or the related securities exams administered by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). However, a master’s degree is not a requirement for the Series 7 exam.

Types of Master’s Degrees in Finance

As with a master’s in accounting, there are no hard and fast rules governing the concentration or career focus offered by the different titling you may find in master’s in finance degree programs. However, it is more common for master’s in finance programs to have areas of concentration built into the program core. Some common examples of master’s degrees in finance and their associated focus areas are:

  • Master of Science in Finance (MS Finance or MSF) or Master of Finance (MFin): These degree titles are generally treated as equivalent and are preparation for most careers in the finance field.
  • Master of Science (MS) in Financial Analysis or Analytics: This degree focuses on the theory and applications of quantitative analysis as it applies to finance; many schools consider it to be both a data science and a finance degree.
  • Master of Science in Quantitative Economics (MSQE): Another data-intensive program, an MSQE tends to be focused on global economics, market behavior, and analytics in a modern, high-frequency trading environment. Many schools consider the MSQE to be a stepping stone to a PhD in financial topics.
  • Master of Business Administration-Finance (MBA-Finance): Unlike most other finance degrees which will focus on finance courses and may include select courses in business, an MBA-Finance focuses on business courses with select courses in finance.

Since the master of finance is a professional degree, the track you choose will be influenced by your desired career. It is therefore important to consider the area(s) of finance that interest you as well as the work environment you desire as you evaluate programs to ensure that the program you choose is appropriate to your overall goals.

Finding Accredited Finance Programs

There are over 760 not-for-profit colleges and universities with finance degree programs in the US, of which over 240 schools offer a master’s or advanced degree in finance.1 One of the first steps in evaluating a finance program is ensuring that the college or university in which it is housed holds regional accreditation from one of the seven regional accreditors recognized by the US Department of Education. Regional accreditation is a marker of quality and indicates that a program follows accepted academic standards. It can also be a requirement for certain types of financial aid, as well as a prerequisite for admission to other graduate programs.

In addition to regional accreditation at the college/university level, finance programs may have national accreditation. This can include accreditation from one of the three major business school accreditors: the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP), and the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (IACBE). A school may also have accreditation or recognition from organizations specific to accounting and finance. One of the best-known and most widely-recognized such programs is the CFA Institute University Affiliation Program. Universities that embed specific coursework to prepare students for the CFA exam may be recognized as affiliated universities.

Educational Prerequisites, Program Requirements, and Concentrations

A master’s in finance requires strong quantitative analysis and mathematical skills to pass a challenging set of courses. A common requirement for admission to a master’s in finance program is an undergraduate degree in finance, math, or a related field. Other requirements could include satisfactory scores on the GRE or GMAT exams and a strong grade point average (GPA) in undergraduate courses. Another common requirement for MSF programs is experience working in finance or the business field. Required undergraduate coursework may include calculus, statistics, economics, and financial accounting. A master of finance will typically take full-time students one to two years to complete and part-time students three to four years to complete.

Some programs allow students to focus on an area of concentration or build an informal specialization through the selection of electives. Common specializations for master’s in finance programs include:

  • Banking
  • Capital Markets
  • Corporate Finance/Private Equity
  • Economics/Quantitative Economics
  • Financial Engineering
  • Financial Instruments
  • Financial Investment Management
  • International Finance
  • Managerial Finance/Economics
  • Real Estate
  • Risk Management

Best Value Schools with On-Campus Master’s in Finance Programs

To help you explore and select the best master’s in finance program for you, we have researched the most affordable schools with on-campus finance master’s degrees. To be included, schools must have an undergraduate graduation rate of 80% or above and an annual undergraduate net price of less than $20,000. High graduation rates are typically associated with student success and a low net price is important for students as they consider the overall investment of a master’s program.

SchoolGrad Rate1Student Loan Default Rate1% Tenured Faculty2US News National Rank3US News Best Finance Schools Rank4Net Price1
University of Florida90%1.5%52%#34 tie#35 tie$11,313
Florida State University83%2.4%45%#57 tie$13,318
University of California-San Diego86%1.7%54%#37 tie$13,452
The University of Texas at Austin83%2.6%49%#48 tie#11$14,156
University of Wisconsin-Madison87%1.3%48%#46 tie$14,169
University of Delaware81%2.2%55%#91 tie$15,883
Michigan State University80%3.4%50%#84 tie$16,227
University of Maryland-College Park86%2.3%44%#64 tie$16,790
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University84%1.6%56%#74 tie$18,349
Ohio State University84%4.5%44%#54 tie#25 tie$18,694
Texas A&M University-College Station82%2.1%48%#70 tie$19,118
University of Connecticut85%2.3%39%#64 tie$19,650

See Table Notes and References at bottom of page.

Best Value Schools with Online Master’s in Finance Programs

More schools are offering graduate courses online and in a hybrid format in order to meet student expectations, meaning that it is becoming easier to find accredited online master’s in finance programs. We researched schools with online and hybrid online master of finance programs to find those that represented the best value based on an annual undergraduate net price below $23,000 with a graduation rate of 64% or higher for undergraduate students. When considered with other factors, these factors are common indicators of high-quality academic programs. For reference, we also included the online tuition per graduate credit hour for in-state students; out-of-state tuition per credit hour may be higher depending on institutional policies.

SchoolGrad Rate1Student Loan Default Rate1% Tenured Faculty2US News National Rank3US News Best Finance Schools Rank4Online Cost Per Credit HourNet Price1
University of Nebraska-Lincoln69%3.5%54%#139 tie$630$9,242
University of Washington-Seattle84%2.8%49%#62 tie$882$9,765
Indiana University-Bloomington78%3.6%42%#79 tie#35 tie$776$10,681
Auburn University78%3.6%49%#104 tie$900$11,276
University of Georgia86%2.3%53%#50 tie$363$11,830
University of Arizona64%6%56%#117 tie$1,060$15,594
Harvard University98%0.8%45%#2#7$947$17,590
Colorado State University-Fort Collins71%3.1%41%#166 tie$683$17,914
University of Oklahoma-Norman67%4.8%45%#132 tie$402$21,158
University of Detroit Mercy65%3.8%56%#179 tie$851$22,016

See Table Notes and References at bottom of page.

US News Top Master’s in Finance Schools

US News & World Report annually ranks the top finance graduate programs based on several factors including recruiter rating, average starting salary, employment rates, and student selectivity.1

1. University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA)

The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School awards a master’s degree in finance as an introduction to its doctoral finance program. The master’s portion of the program can be completed in three semesters of full-time study and includes courses such as Microeconomic Theory, Econometrics, Financial Economics, Corporate Finance and Financial Institutions, and Intertemporal Macroeconomics and Finance. To be admitted, students must first pass exams in economic theory and quantitative methods. Prospective students must also prove an aptitude for research, which can be demonstrated through the preparation of a thesis or through supervised research leading to the publication of a scholarly paper. The PhD in finance at Wharton comprises 18 courses, some of which overlap with those required for the master’s degree at Penn. The doctoral program is divided into two phases, the pre-candidacy phase, comprised of coursework, exams, and research papers, and the candidacy phase, comprised of the preparation and defense of a dissertation in the fifth year of study.

2. University of Chicago (Chicago, IL)

The University of Chicago offers a full-time Master of Business Administration (MBA) with concentrations in Finance or Analytic Finance through its Booth School of Business. The MBA in Finance includes courses such as Portfolio Management, Advanced Investments, Financial Markets and Institutions, and Financial Instruments, among others. The MBA in Analytic Finance includes courses like Quantitative Investment, Advanced Models of Option Pricing and Credit Risk, Advanced Investments, and Cases in Financial Risk Management. Booth’s full-time MBA takes most students 21 months to complete, with three to four courses being taken each quarter. The MBA offers 13 concentrations in addition to the finance options, such as Accounting, Business Analytics, and Strategic Management. Joint degrees are offered in areas like public policy, law, and international relations.

3. New York University (New York, NY)

New York University’s Stern School of Business offers a Master of Science in Global Finance that can be completed in just one year of full-time study. Designed for experienced professionals, this NYU degree offers a “global classroom” with classes in New York and Shanghai. Seven modules are taken over the 12-month period, with each module being offered in a different location. Courses include Asian Markets, FinTech, Risk Management in Financial Institutions, and Topics in Financial Markets and Governance. NYU Stern also offers an MS in Quantitative Finance. To apply, students must have completed a bachelor’s degree with a good GPA and have at least five years of experience working full-time. A finance background is preferred, but exceptions do apply for applicants with strong quantitative skills.

4. Columbia University (New York, NY)

Columbia University’s Business School offers a Master of Science in Financial Economics (MSFE) degree that takes two years to complete. The rigorous curriculum is comprised of PhD and MBA courses, and significantly overlaps with the Columbia PhD in Finance program, but is more career-focused than academically-oriented. Four semesters of full-time study should be dedicated by students to complete the 16 required courses including a research seminar. Students in the MSFE program are also required to complete a six-week summer internship. Required courses in the MSFE program include Microeconomic Analysis, Introduction to Econometrics and Statistical Inference, Asset Pricing Theory, Asset Management, Empirical Asset Pricing, and Thesis Seminar and MS Thesis. Columbia Business School’s Career Management Center (CMC) assists students in securing jobs after graduation through training and networking.

5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, MA)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Sloan School of Management offers a Master of Finance (MFin) program. The curriculum can be completed across 12 or 18 months depending on whether students attend full-time or part-time and focuses on advanced financial theories, quantitative methods, and industry practices. Hands-on learning and renowned faculty are highlights of MIT’s MFin degree. A course called Proseminars allows students the opportunity to work with industry insiders to solve real business problems in teams. The MFin at MIT offers three concentration options, including Corporate Finance, Capital Markets, and Financial Engineering. The 12-month MFin program requires three consecutive terms in the Summer, Fall, Spring, while the 18-month MFin option requires four consecutive terms in the summer, Fall, Spring, and Fall, with an optional summer internship.

6. Stanford University (Stanford, CA)

At Stanford University, students can earn a PhD in Finance at the Graduate School of Business. Applicants should have strong mathematical skills with at least one year of calculus as well as coursework in linear algebra and matrix theory, the theory of probability, and statistical inference. They should also have decent programming skills and be knowledgeable in languages like Fortran, C, MATLAB, or GAUSS. Selected applicants will be strong in quantitative work, comfortable with formal models, and have an economics education. The PhD at Stanford is rigorous, competitive, and analytically focused. Required courses include three courses in Economics, chosen from courses such as Microeconomic Analysis I and II and Auctions, Bargaining, and Pricing; three courses in Statistical Methods, with the courses Econometric Methods I, II, and III; and nine courses in Field Requirements, including Financial Markets I and II, Corporate Finance Theory, Advanced Corporate Finance Theory, and Advanced Empirical Corporate Finance. All students will participate in a teaching practicum each quarter, working with a different mentoring faculty member each quarter. The PhD at Stanford concludes with a doctoral dissertation defended in front of a reading committee.

7. Harvard University (Cambridge, MA)

Harvard University offers a Master’s in Management with a concentration in Finance that provides a competitive foundation for professional careers in finance. The program can be completed substantially online, with only two on-campus courses required. Students who prefer the on-campus environment may also complete the degree in a traditional format. Students take courses in the areas of microeconomics, managerial finance, statistics, financial statement analysis, and investment theory, among others. At the completion of the program, students are awarded a Master of Liberal Arts (ALM) in Extension Studies, field: Finance. To be considered for admission, students must first take register for the Harvard CORe course plus one graduate-level microeconomic theory or economics of business course with a grade of B or higher.

8. University of California, Berkeley (Berkeley, CA)

The University of California – Berkeley Haas School of Business offers a STEM-designated Master of Financial Engineering (MFE) program that prepares students for a finance or fintech career in just one year of full-time study. Applicants should have strong quantitative skills and be highly motivated to complete the rigorous mathematical, statistical, and computer science focused coursework. Classes at Berkeley Haas’s MFE program include Investments and Derivatives, Stochastic Calculus with Asset Pricing Applications, Asset-Backed Security Markets, and The Morgan Stanley Applied Finance Project. Students must complete 30 units of coursework to graduate, with one unit equal to 15 class hours. The program begins in March and includes a mandatory internship from October to January in addition to the 30 units of coursework, and students graduate from the program the following March.

9. University of Michigan-Ann Arbor (Ann Arbor, MI)

The University of Michigan Ross School of Business offers a Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a specialization in Finance that can be completed in an accelerated format. The Fast Track in Finance (FTF) is specifically for students who already possess a strong understanding of finance fundamentals and who can commit to at least one summer term in order to begin finance courses concurrently with the management track of the MBA. Courses in the track include Corporate Strategy, Valuation, and Financial Modeling. Students will also complete hands-on learning through the Ross Experiences in Action-Based Learning (REAL) components integrated with the curriculum. The University of Michigan-Ann Arbor also offers a PhD in Finance program that is widely recognized and offers specific preparation for future university faculty who wish to teach finance.

10. University of California-Los Angeles (Los Angeles, CA)

The University of California-Los Angeles Anderson School of Management offers a Master of Financial Engineering (MFE) program that takes 15 months to complete. Applicants should be skilled in computer programming, such as C++, and familiar with computer management tools. They should also have a strong quantitative background, excellent communication skills, and experience with mathematical tools like MATLAB. Experience with econometric applications is recommended. Coursework at UCLA Anderson School of Management’s MFE program includes Stochastic Calculus, Computational Methods in Finance, Quantitative Asset Management, and Data Analytics and Machine Learning. 60 units of coursework are required, in addition to a hands-on Applied Finance Project, which offers MFE students the chance to apply the concepts they have learned to a real-world financial engineering problem faced by a partnering corporate client, including Accenture, Hyundai Capital and Research Affiliates, PwC, and Citi, among others.

The Financial Times Best Master’s in Finance Schools 2018

The Financial Times ranks master’s in finance programs with pre-experience students – that is, those who entered the master’s program prior to gaining significant experience in the workforce – based on factors including salaries, employment, and career progression.2 Below are the top 10 highest-ranked US programs. Note that as international schools are included in the ranking, US schools are not ranked independently or listed in sequential order.

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (#7)
  • University of Maryland (#30)
  • Brandeis University (#35)
  • Bentley University (#40)
  • Illinois Institute of Technology (#42 tie)
  • University of Rochester (#42 tie)
  • University of Texas at Austin (#44)
  • Washington University (#47)
  • Fordham University (#50)
  • Ohio State University (#51)

Princeton Review’s Best MBA Programs for Finance 2019

The Princeton Review ranks MBA programs based on the preparation they provide graduates for careers in finance. The rankings take into account student responses as well as school reports of career outcomes.3

  1. Columbia University
  2. Stanford University
  3. Rice University
  4. Cornell University
  5. New York University
  6. Harvard University
  7. The University of Texas at Austin
  8. University of Virginia
  9. University of California-Los Angeles
  10. University of Pennsylvania

Master’s in Finance Information by State

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Finance Salary and Career Outlook for Graduates

Finance degrees can lead to competitive starting salaries for graduates. Salaries for financial professionals vary based on the role, education, experience, geographic area, and other factors. However, looking at averages can help prospective finance students weigh the potential return on investment of a master’s in finance. Tax examiners, collectors, and revenue agents earn an average annual salary of $60,500 per year.4 Financial analysts earn an average of $100,990 per year, while financial examiners earn an average of $80,180.5,6 Personal financial advisors earn an average of $121,770 per year.7 The category of all other financial specialists, which includes financial professionals who do not fit into other categories, has a reported average annual salary of $77,580.8 Moving up the career ladder, financial managers earn an average annual salary of $146,830.9

Job growth for finance careers is expected to be positive in the coming years. There is strong competition for finance jobs and those with master’s degrees typically have the best prospects. Factors driving demand for financial professionals is the changing regulatory environment, increasing complexity of investments, and the growth of global finance. Jobs for financial analysts are expected to increase 10.8% through 2026, with 32,100 jobs added.10 For financial examiners, job growth of 9.7% is expected during the same time period, based on an estimated 5,100 jobs added.10 Stronger growth, at 14.9%, is expected for personal financial advisors, who should see 40,400 jobs added through 2026.10 Financial managers have the strongest prospects of this group, with an estimated 18.7% job growth rate based on the estimated addition of 108,600 jobs to the workforce through 2026.10

Additional Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

How much can you expect to earn after graduating from a master’s in finance degree program?

Salaries for master’s in finance degree holders vary based on factors including education, experience, and geographic area. However, salaries do tend to be competitive in the finance field. Financial analysts earn an average annual salary of $100,990.5 Financial managers can earn even more, with an average of $146,830.9 For both of these careers, a master’s in finance or a closely related subject is generally considered the minimum educational attainment required.

What should I expect in a master’s degree in finance program?

It should come as no surprise that a master’s in finance program will be math-intensive. You should expect to take high-level courses in statistics, quantitative analysis, and comparative analysis. Many finance programs are now also including computer programming courses in order to equip graduates with the knowledge needed to succeed in an environment where many financial decisions are heavily informed by computer-driven analysis.

What are typical master’s in finance admission requirements?

In order to be admitted to a graduate finance program, you should have a bachelor’s degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0 or above (many programs look for even more competitive GPAs). Minimum scores on the GRE or GMAT are another common requirement. Most graduate finance programs will also look for prerequisite courses related to finance, such as statistics, calculus, and accounting. Executive or professional programs commonly prefer to admit students who have work experience in business or accounting and will require a current resume for admission.

What can you do with a master’s in finance?

A master’s in finance is preparation for many applied finance careers, including financial analyst, financial examiner, and financial manager. This degree can also make you a competitive applicant for positions in financial advising, banking, and management. Many C-suite executives, including Chief Financial Officers (CFOs), Chief Operating Officers (COOs), and Chief Executive Officers (CEOs), have a master’s in finance.

How many years does it take to get a master’s in finance?

A master’s in finance can take as little as one year to earn with full-time study, typically over three semesters (fall, spring, and summer). Some master’s in finance programs allow part-time study, in which case the degree may take two to three years to earn.

Can I earn a master’s in finance online?

Due to the intensive subject matter, it is not as common to find online master’s in finance programs, but there are online programs available. In order to succeed in an online master’s in finance program, you should be very comfortable with applied finance and math concepts and have successfully completed previous finance-related coursework.

How do I choose a master’s in finance program?

The right master’s in finance program for you will depend on your career goals, previous education, and geographic area, among other factors. Finance can be an extremely competitive career field, and as a result, many master’s in finance programs are likewise competitive. Some career tracks in finance are dominated by candidates from top-tier schools. However, choosing a school with “brand recognition” is not the only factor that matters. The academic environment and school culture will also have an impact on your success in any program, which can set you up for career success as well as a top-ranked and nationally-known program can. Speaking with school advisors, alumni, and current professors can help you decide on the right program for your goals.

Table Notes and References:
1. National Center for Education Statistics: https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
2. College Factual: https://www.collegefactual.com/
3. US News & World Report National University Rankings: https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/rankings/national-universities
4. US News & World Report Best Finance Programs 2019: https://www.usnews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-business-schools/finance-rankings

References:
1. US News & World Report Best Finance Programs 2019: https://www.usnews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-business-schools/finance-rankings
2. The Financial Times, Master’s in Finance Pre-experience 2018: http://rankings.ft.com/businessschoolrankings/masters-in-finance-pre-experience-2018
3. The Princeton Review, Best MBA for Finance: https://www.princetonreview.com/business-school-rankings?rankings=best-mba-for-finance
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, Tax Examiners and Collectors, and Revenue Agents: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes132081.htm
5. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, Financial Analysts: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes132051.htm
6. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, Financial Examiners: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes132061.htm
7. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, Personal Financial Advisors: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes132052.htm
8. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, Financial Specialists, All Other: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes132099.htm
9. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, Financial Managers: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes113031.htm
10. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm