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Is a Master of Finance Right for You?

Bethany Garner

Bethany Garner - BusinessBecause

Bethany Garner is a writer at BusinessBecause.com

Students Walk to Class

A Master of Finance degree can help you break into the exciting world of finance and set you up for long-term career success across industries.

Graduates from Masters in Finance programs land some of the highest-paying finance jobs at big-name firms like JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs. But you can also find Master of Finance grads leading fintech startups or working for top consulting firms.

Here, we break down everything you need to know about Masters of Finance—including who they’re for, what’s on the curriculum, and your Master of Finance jobs and salary prospects after graduation—to help you answer the question: Is a Master of Finance right for you?

Who is a Master of Finance for?

If you’re a finance savvy grad considering business school you may be asking yourself if an MBA or Master of Finance is the right choice.

Unlike an MBA, which covers a broad range of business functions from marketing to management, Master of Finance programs focus more specifically on finance. Students study everything finance from financial reporting and analysis to quantitative finance and fintech.

Although some schools do offer post-experience Masters of Finance programs—such as London Business School in the UK—most programs are aimed at pre-experience college graduates, providing them with the skills and network they need to break into the competitive finance sector.

According to the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), 61 percent of Master of Finance applicants are under the age of 24. Thirty percent of applicants majored in business or economics during their bachelor’s degree, 12 percent studied a humanities or social science subject, and 14 percent chose STEM.

For Giulia Bardelli, who undertook the two-year Master of Science in Finance at Bocconi University in Italy, the program was an opportunity to dive deep into finance, and work out a career path she could be passionate about. She landed a job as an analyst at JP Morgan after graduation.

“The level of knowledge I got after the master’s, I would have never got just from a bachelor’s and working. When you study at that level you really bring that with you to your work,” she says.

Types of Masters of Finance

“If you decide that a Master of Finance program is the right choice for you, you’ll have a few different program formats to choose from.

One-year Master of Finance

Most Master of Finance degrees are one year in length. These programs are typically conducted full-time and in person. A one-year program is an intense learning experience, which allows you to pick up new skills quickly and enter the workforce as soon as you graduate.

However, because of their compressed schedule, one-year programs don’t always offer the same opportunities for international study, business trips, and internships.

Schools that offer one-year Master of Finance programs include HEC Paris, London Business School, Esade Business School, and University of Texas at Austin: McCombs.

Two-year Master of Finance

Two-year Master of Finance programs are less common, but there are still plenty of good quality programs to choose from. You’ll cover the same curriculum as you would in a one-year program, usually studying full-time on campus. But two-year degrees give you more time to specialize in a particular area and carry out longer-term research projects.

Although studying a two-year program means you’ll have to take more time out of the workforce, you should be able to complete an internship.

Business schools that offer two-year Master of Finance programs include Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management, Stockholm School of Economics, and Frankfurt School of Finance and Management.

Online Master of Finance

Some business schools offer online Master of Finance programs, allowing you to work while you study, so you won’t be sacrificing earnings or work experience. Some universities include a face-to-face component in their online Master of Finance programs, while others allow you to do the whole thing remotely.

Schools that offer high quality online Master of Finance programs include EGADE Business School, Vrije University Amsterdam, and Georgetown University.

Pre-experience vs Post-experience

Pre-experience Master of Finance programs are for recent bachelor’s graduates and early career professionals. Post-experience programs are aimed at mid-career professionals who have already been working in finance or another industry for several years.

You can find well-regarded post-experience Master of Finance programs at Cambridge Judge Business School, Lee Kong Chian School of Management at Singapore Management University, and London Business School to name a few.

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Master of Finance syllabus

Here’s what you can expect to learn during a Master of Finance:

Financial sector knowledge

First off, studying a Master of Finance will give you a good overview of the finance sector. You’ll learn the ins and outs of the financial world, including economics, financial reporting, and valuation.

Technical finance skills

You’ll cover quantitative topics like financial modelling, reporting and analytics, and portfolio management during a Master of Finance. If you’re particularly tech-savvy, some programs also give you the chance to learn about fintech applications and get to grips with coding.

Leadership and management skills

Because Master of Finance degrees are designed to prepare you for long-term success in the sector, programs incorporate the teaching of soft skills that complement your technical knowledge and put you in a good position to manage and lead teams.

Management and leadership skills might be taught through a specific module, or integrated through teamwork assignments, presentations, or extra-curricular activities.

Specializations

Most Master of Finance programs give students the chance to specialize in an area that interests them. Areas of specialization might include analytics or financial markets.

At EDHEC, for example, students choose between two tracks: corporate finance or market finance, while the Master of Finance program at the Shanghai Advanced Institute of Finance gives students the chance to specialize in fintech.

CFA curriculum

If you want to launch a career in finance, you might be asking yourself whether you should study the CFA or Master of Finance. So, what’s the difference between a CFA and Master of Finance?

Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) accreditation is aimed at investment professionals. The CFA qualification is made up of three exams, and you’ll also need four years’ work experience under your belt to be fully qualified. Topics on the curriculum include valuing assets, portfolio management, and wealth planning.

On the other hand, a Master of Finance program covers a broader range of finance and management topics—not just subjects relevant to investment.

But some Master of Finance programs help their students do both, by incorporating topics that will help you pass your CFA exams further down the line—meaning you can study for your CFA while at business school.

The CFA’s University Affiliation Program recognizes universities that cover at least 70 percent of CFA topics in one or more of their business degrees. INSEAD’s Master of Finance is one example of a CFA affiliated program.

Master of Finance jobs & salary prospects

Master of Finance graduates can find satisfying careers across a range of functions, the most prominent paths being corporate finance and investment banking.

However, grads aren’t limited to financial services—they also go on to be consultants, general managers, and entrepreneurs.

Jobs for finance graduates include:

  • Financial analyst
  • Financial manager
  • Financial advisor
  • Actuary
  • Management consultant

Top companies that typically offer Master of Finance jobs include:

  • Citi
  • Bank of England
  • Boston Consulting Group
  • Deloitte
  • EY
  • Allianz Global Investors
  • Morgan Stanley
  • KPMG
  • HSBC
  • Goldman Sachs
  • IBM
  • Morningstar
  • Standard Chartered
  • UBS

During an Master of Finance program, you’ll have access to career services that can help you plan your career. Whichever route you choose, finance is a good career path for those who have the passion for it.

“It’s a career path where you get access to senior individuals, have exposure to different companies, and see deals from start to finish,” comments David Capaldi, director of career services at Cornell University’s SC Johnson College of Business.

Finance can also be a good route for future company leaders, says Catherine Karyotis, professor of finance at NEOMA Business School in France, thanks to the broad analytical and communication skills they develop.

Master of Finance graduates also boast significant salaries. According to GMAC research, the median Master of Finance salary was US$65k for new graduates in 2021. According to Glassdoor, financial analysts in the US earn an average of US$73k, while financial managers make around US$98k.

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In the highest paying jobs, like finance director, chief financial officer (CFO), and VP of finance, a Master of Finance salary can reach upwards of US$150k.

Master of Finance cost & ROI

As with any graduate degree, undertaking a Master of Finance is a considerable investment. So, is a Master of Finance worth it?

Top-ranked Masters of Finance programs in Europe cost in the region of US$35,000. In Asia, fees are similar. At Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management, tuition fees are around US$30,000.

Comparing the United States with Europe, US Master of Finance programs tend to cost slightly more, around US$60,000, although fees vary depending on the school. At London Business School, it costs around US$69,000, while Oxford University Saïd Business School’s costs around US$64,000.

Fortunately, whichever option you choose, there are resources out there that can help you pay for your Master of Finance. These scholarships are usually unique to specific schools, so be sure to check your available options once you’ve settled on your target programs.

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At HEC Paris, for instance, international students are automatically considered for an Excellence Scholarship, worth up to 50 percent of tuition.

However you fund your degree, high graduate salaries ensure that Master of Finance programs are almost always worth the investment. Graduates from the top-ranked Master of Finance program at HEC Paris earn an average salary of over US$175,000 just three years after graduation.

Besides the financial ROI, a Master of Finance offers benefits such as helping you expand your network in the financial sphere, expert career coaching, and the opportunity to take a deep dive into subject areas that fascinate you.

Master of Finance admission requirements

To be accepted into a Master of Finance program, you will typically need:

  • 0-to-2 years’ work experience (although more for post-experience programs)
  • Bachelor’s degree in a relevant field
  • GMAT exam score

Since finance is a quantitative subject, you may need to have a bachelor’s degree in finance, STEM, economics, or similar.

Some programs also lay out specific quantitative concepts that you should be familiar with in order to keep up with classes. At HEC Paris, for instance, applicants need to have pre-existing knowledge in areas like linear algebra, probability and statistics, and analysis.

Applying to a Master of Finance is a multi-step process. Once you’ve selected a program, you’ll need to answer one or more essay questions, explaining why you believe the program will benefit your career and what you’ll bring to the classroom.

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You will also have to gather together supporting documents including a resume, references, GMAT score, and bachelor’s degree transcript. If your application is shortlisted, you’ll be invited to interview.

Now you know more about Masters of Finance programs, you’re ready to take the next step and apply. If you’re considering applying straight from your bachelor’s degree, download our free Graduate Business School Application Guide for Undergrads.

FREE GUIDE

Bethany Garner

Bethany Garner - BusinessBecause

Bethany Garner is an experienced writer at BusinessBecause.com, where she’s credited with more than 200 articles covering everything from entrepreneurial stories to mental health at work.

She also oversees the BusinessBecause Applicant Question, which poses important admission questions to experts in the field, and regularly hosts webinars on various aspects of the business school experience.

Prior to joining BusinessBecause, Bethany honed her skills as a freelance writer, tackling a wide array of topics from petcare to car maintenance.

Bethany holds a Master’s degree in English Literature from the University of Glasgow, Scotland.

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