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Master’s Degree in Finance

The master’s in finance degree, formally known as a Master of Finance or Master of Science (MS) 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 or government 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. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), there are 319 nonprofit colleges and universities in the US offering advanced finance programs, a figure that includes master’s and doctoral programs as well as graduate certificates.1

Table of Contents
Program Options
Core Concepts
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 2020
Jobs with a Master’s in Finance
Frequently Asked Questions

Program Options

Master’s in finance degrees typically require 30 to 40 credit hours to complete, which most full-time students can complete in one to two years. As with many other degree types, the official title of a master’s in finance varies widely by school; that is, even though a degree at two schools may have similar coursework and requirements, the official degree title might be different at each school. It is also common for master’s in finance programs to have areas of concentration built into the program core, which sometimes impacts the title. 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 provide 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 Doctor of Philosophy (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 should be influenced by your desired career. It is, therefore, important to consider the area(s) of finance that interest you and the work environment you desire as you evaluate programs to ensure that the program you choose is a good match for your overall goals.

Online Degree Formats

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

Admission Requirements

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 commonly include satisfactory scores on the GRE or GMAT exams and a strong grade point average (GPA) in undergraduate courses. Required undergraduate coursework may include calculus, statistics, economics, and financial accounting. Another common requirement for MSF programs is prior experience working in finance or the business field. 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.

Core Concepts and Coursework

Graduate-level finance coursework varies based on the type of program and the specialization or focus chosen by the student or built into the program. In general, master’s in finance programs teach mathematical techniques and financial engineering skills as well as practical business skills that prepare graduates to thrive in applied finance careers, including financial analyst, financial examiner, and financial manager. The curriculum may include a combination of core finance courses like Foundations of Finance, advanced courses like Financial Markets, and electives in specialized financial topics including entrepreneurial finance, venture capital, fixed income securities, healthcare finance, financial data science, crypto finance, and asset management. Actual courses will vary by school but may include:

  • Advanced Corporate Finance
  • Analysis and Probability
  • Analytics of Finance
  • Applied Cases in Finance
  • Capital Markets and Investments
  • Corporate Finance
  • Corporate Valuation
  • Financial Modeling and Analysis
  • Fixed Income Securities and Derivatives
  • Introduction to the Mathematics of Finance
  • International Capital Markets
  • Investment Management
  • Mergers, Acquisitions, and Private Equity
  • Numerical Methods in Finance
  • Statistical Inference

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.

SchoolMaster’s in Finance DegreeGrad Rate1Student Loan Default Rate1% Tenured Faculty2US News National Rank3US News Best Finance Schools Rank4Net Price1
University of FloridaMS-Finance (MSF)90%1.5%52%#34 tie#35 tie$11,313
Florida State UniversityMS-Finance (MSF)83%2.4%45%#57 tie$13,318
University of California-San DiegoMaster of Finance (MFin)86%1.7%54%#37 tie$13,452
University of Texas at AustinMS-Finance (MSF)83%2.6%49%#48 tie#11$14,156
University of Wisconsin-MadisonMS-Finance (MSF)87%1.3%48%#46 tie$14,169
University of DelawareMS-Finance (MSF);
BS+MSF Accelerated Program;
Dual MBA/MSF
81%2.2%55%#91 tie$15,883
Michigan State UniversityMS-Finance (MSF)80%3.4%50%#84 tie$16,227
University of Maryland-College ParkMaster of Finance (MFin);
Master of Quantitative Finance (MQF)
86%2.3%44%#64 tie$16,790
Ohio State UniversitySpecialized Master of Finance (SMF)84%4.5%44%#54 tie#25 tie$18,694
Texas A&M University-College StationMS-Finance (MSF)82%2.1%48%#70 tie$19,118
University of ConnecticutMS-Financial Risk Management (MSFRM);
Dual MBA/MSFRM
85%2.3%39%#64 tie$19,650

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 are common indicators of high-quality academic programs. For reference, we also included the online tuition per graduate credit hour for in-state students; the out-of-state tuition per credit hour may be higher depending on institutional policies.

SchoolMaster’s in Finance DegreeGrad Rate1Student Loan Default Rate1% Tenured Faculty2US News National Rank3US News Best Finance Schools Rank4Online Cost Per Credit HourNet Price1
University of Nebraska-LincolnMS-Finance (MSF)69%3.5%54%#139 tie$630$9,242
University of Washington-SeattleMS-Computational Finance & Risk Management (CFRM)84%2.8%49%#62 tie$882$9,765
Indiana University-BloomingtonMS-Finance (MSF)78%3.6%42%#79 tie#35 tie$776$10,681
Auburn UniversityMS-Finance (MSF)78%3.6%49%#104 tie$900$11,276
University of GeorgiaMS-Financial Planning86%2.3%53%#50 tie$363$11,830
University of ArizonaMS-Finance (MSF)64%6%56%#117 tie$1,060$15,594
Harvard UniversityMaster of Liberal Arts (ALM)-Extension Studies: Finance98%0.8%45%#2#7$947$17,590
Colorado State University-Fort CollinsMS-Finance (MFin)71%3.1%41%#166 tie$683$17,914
University of Oklahoma-NormanMS-Finance (MSF)67%4.8%45%#132 tie$402$21,158
University of Detroit MercyMA-Financial Economics65%3.8%56%#179 tie$851$22,016

US News & World Report’s Top Master’s in Finance Schools 2021

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.4 The below schools have master’s in finance programs that top the list.

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. While the master’s degree is not a stand-alone degree program (only PhD students can be awarded it), 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.

3. New York University (New York, NY)

New York University’s (NYU) Stern School of Business offers a Master of Science (MS) 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 may 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 are typically required to complete the 16 required courses, which include 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: Corporate Finance, Capital Markets, and Financial Engineering. The 12-month MFin program requires three consecutive terms in the Summer, Fall, and Spring, while the 18-month MFin option requires four consecutive terms in the Summer, Fall, Spring, and Fall, with an optional summer internship.

7. 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.

8. 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 enroll in three specific graduate courses before formally applying to the program. Alternatively, applicants can be admitted via the Harvard Business School (HBS) Online CORe Admissions Pathway or via the MITx MicroMasters Program Pathway.

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

The University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) 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. Sixty 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 2020

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.5 Below are the top 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. Schools shown in bold are also ranked in the US News list above.

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (#8; Sloan)
  • Bentley University (#42; Bentley)
  • University of Rochester (#44; Simon)
  • University of Maryland (#45; Smith)
  • Brandeis International Business School (#46; Brandeis)
  • University of Texas at Austin (#48; McCombs)
  • University of Utah (#53; David Eccles)
  • Ohio State University (#54; Fisher)

Jobs with a Master of 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 are 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. Some common job titles for graduates of master’s in finance programs include:

Frequently Asked Questions

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

A master’s in finance degree can 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.

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.

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. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), financial analysts (included in the category of financial and investment analysts, financial risk specialists, and financial specialists, all other) earned an average annual salary of $96,630 as of 2020.6 Financial managers can earn even more, with an average of $151,510 reported for 2020.7 For both of these careers, a master’s in finance or a closely related subject is generally considered the minimum educational attainment required. Chief financial officers, included in the chief executives category by the BLS, earned an average annual salary of $197,840 as of 2020.8

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.

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.

What is the job outlook for finance careers?

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 are the changing regulatory environment, increasing complexity of investments, and the growth of global finance. Jobs for financial analysts are expected to increase 6.2% through 2028, with 20,300 jobs added.9 For financial examiners, job growth of 7.1% is expected during the same time period, based on an estimated 4,300 jobs added.9 Stronger growth, at 7%, is expected for personal financial advisors, who should see 19,100 jobs added through 2028.9 Financial managers have the strongest prospects of this group, with an estimated 16% job growth rate based on the estimated addition of 104,700 jobs to the workforce through 2028.9

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 also have an impact on your success in a program; that is, if you are successful in your program, even if it is not at a top-tier school, this can translate to later success in the hiring process and your career. Speaking with school advisors, alumni, and current professors can help you decide on the right program for your goals.

References:
1. National Center for Education Statistics College Navigator: 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 2022: https://www.usnews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-business-schools/finance-rankings
5. The Financial Times, Master’s in Finance Pre-experience 2020: https://rankings.ft.com/rankings/2842
6. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2020 Financial and Investment Analysts, Financial Risk Specialists, and Financial Specialists, All Other: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes132098.htm
7. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2020 Financial Managers: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes113031.htm
8. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2020 Chief Executives: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes111011.htm
9. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: https://projectionscentral.org/Projections/LongTerm