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Is an MBA in Finance Right for You?

Bethany Garner

Bethany Garner - BusinessBecause

Bethany Garner is a writer at BusinessBecause.com

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An MBA is a generalist management degree, providing you with the fundamentals of business. But that doesn’t mean you forfeit the chance to dive a little deeper into a subject you’re passionate about—that’s where MBA specializations come in.

The MBA finance specialization is one of the most popular options. It’s designed for professionals who want to hone their management insights and overall business savvy, while preparing for success in the finance industry specifically.

Here’s what you can expect from an MBA with finance specialization; who this option is for, what career options you’ll have after graduation, and how to apply.

Who is an MBA in finance for?

The MBA finance specialization is designed for professionals with around three to five years’ experience, who want to take their career to the next level.

Some applicants already work in finance, while others work in a different industry and want to pivot.

If a finance career is in the cards, you might wonder whether an MBA or Master in Finance is the right option for you. Your choice will come down to your level of experience and how specialized you want to be.

Most Master of Finance programs are aimed at pre-experience and early experience applicants, while MBAs already have some experience to draw on.

MBA programs allow you to cover a broad range of topics even as you specialize in finance, while Master of Finance programs focus on finance alone.

Popular MBA in Finance programs

United States

Many top MBA programs offer finance specializations, and one of the best-known can be found at Wharton, which is ranked the best business school for finance in the US by US News.

Wharton MBA students can choose between a general finance major and a STEM-designated quantitative finance major. To specialize, you need to take a specific number of finance modules, which cover topics like macroeconomics, corporate finance, investment management, and risk analysis.

Cornell University’s SC Johnson College of Business is another top US MBA program that offers a finance specialization. In the MBA’s corporate finance track, you’ll study finance topics including international finance, macroeconomics, and corporate financial policy.

Europe

In the UK, via Oxford Saïd Business School’s Finance Lab, Oxford MBA students work on practical financial case-studies, designed to prepare them for careers in areas like investment banking, private equity, and asset management.

Other highly regarded MBA finance specializations in Europe include those on offer at HEC Paris and IESE Business School.

Asia

In Asia, HKUST Business School in Hong Kong has one of the best-known finance specializations. The HKUST finance track exposes students to courses like venture capital and pirate equity, hedge funds, and fintech and big data financial analytics.

It’s a good option for students who plan to stay in Asia after they graduate, thanks to its focus on the Asian economy through modules including investment and finance in China and Asia.

Online/Part-time MBA

And full-time study isn’t your only option if you want to specialize in finance. Online MBA programs including those offered by the University of Florida’s Warrington College of Business in the US and the University of New South Wales’ Australian Graduate School of Management, offer finance specializations.

Many part-time MBAs also allow you to tailor your studies toward finance through your choice of electives. Among these programs are Imperial College Business School, Chicago Booth, and Berkeley Haas.

MBA Finance syllabus

During an MBA with finance specialization, you’ll combine general business knowledge with finance-specific studies. This means studying core topics like strategy, operations, marketing, and accounting, along with a set of financial electives chosen by you.

The range of finance modules you can study varies school by school, but common topics include:

  • Corporate finance
  • Investments
  • Valuation
  • Mergers and acquisitions
  • Risk management
  • Financial data analytics
  • Fintech
  • Entrepreneurial finance

Most MBA programs also give you hands-on experience in finance through study trips, internship opportunities, or the chance to work on real-world projects.

At John Molson School of Business in Canada, for instance, MBA in Investment Management students take part in the Sustainable Investing Practicum. This involves a select group of students managing a virtual fund of US$2 million, with a mandate of choosing sustainable investments.

“The program really opened our eyes to the practicalities of sustainable investing,” reflects Mohammed Hadir, a grad from the John Molson program. “We got our hands dirty studying real cases.”

MBA finance jobs & salary prospects

Graduating from an MBA with finance specialization gives you plenty of career options. The most common areas for grads are:

  • Investment banking
  • Corporate finance
  • Equity or debt research

In banking and equity or debt research, an MBA will typically enter as an associate.

That’s exactly the role Ruisha Yuan took on when he graduated from an MBA at PKU Guanghua School of Management in China. As a senior associate at CreditEase, a venture capital fund in China, the wide-ranging skills he built during the MBA are coming in useful.

“For someone who works in venture capital, you need a broad perspective,” he reflects. “Knowledge of finance alone will not make you a good investor.”

In corporate finance, job titles vary. “You might be hired as a manager, or directly into a treasury group to a role such as assistant treasurer,” says David Capaldi, director of career services at Cornell University’s SC Johnson College of Business and a former investment banker.

Whichever route you choose, finance is a lucrative career path. In the US, financial managers earn an average of US$96k, while a finance associate can earn US$80k.

Interactive Tool: Estimate Your Post-MBA Salary

How much could an MBA increase your salary? Use our MBA salary calculator to estimate your post-MBA salary based on real data from alumni and top employers.

 

Further down the line, an MBA specialization in finance can set you on the road to c-suite jobs. These are among the highest-paying finance jobs, and require the same balance of management prowess and deep financial knowledge this type of program will help you develop.

According to Glassdoor, a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) can expect to earn around US$154k in the US.

MBA in Finance cost & ROI

An MBA is a significant investment regardless of how you specialize.

The Wharton MBA costs almost US$230k in tuition fees over two years. According to the BusinessBecause Cost of MBA Report 2021, This sits above the average of US$217k that highly-ranked programs in the US charge in fees. In Europe, average fees are lower, at around US$130k for a highly-ranked program.

However, don’t let high costs put you off. Whichever MBA program is the best fit for you, be sure to check out MBA scholarship opportunities. Most schools offer a wide range, and you may be eligible for more than one.

With the high salaries that come with a finance career, you can expect a good financial return on your investment fairly quickly when you graduate, as well as other long-term benefits like a strong and varied network, personal leadership insights, and better awareness of the broader business world.

MBA Finance admission requirements

To be admitted into an MBA with a finance specialization, you will typically need:

  • 3-to-5 years’ work experience
  • Bachelor’s degree with a strong quantitative focus
  • GMAT exam score

The application process will vary by program, but typically you’ll be expected to submit a personal statement, resume, and undergraduate transcripts, along with your answers to one or more essay questions set by the school.

If the school thinks you’re a good fit for the program based on your application, you will be invited for an interview.

Ready to apply for an MBA in Finance? If you’re looking for more guidance on starting your MBA application, download our Full-Time MBA Application Guide.

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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