MBA in Finance
A Master of Business Administration degree in Finance (MBA-Finance) is a graduate-level degree that is commonly pursued by people who are interested in starting or continuing a finance career in a business setting. In contrast to the specialized Master of Finance degree (MFin), an MBA offers a broader curriculum that includes the study of many business-related subjects, including marketing, accounting, statistics, and business management, in addition to finance coursework. MBA students who have a job interest in the area of finance may choose to add a concentration (also known as a specialization, specialty, major, or emphasis) in Finance to their MBA to prepare for finance careers.
Table of Contents
- Program Options
- Core Concepts
- Top MBA in Finance Programs
- Select Schools with an MBA in Finance
- Jobs with an MBA in Finance
- Frequently Asked Questions
MBA-Finance degrees typically include around 40 to 60 credit hours. When attending full-time, students can usually complete the degree within one and a half to two years of study. However, many students in MBA programs are working professionals; in fact, some MBA programs require students to be employed or at least have a certain amount of experience in the field before beginning. With this in mind, many MBA-Finance students attend school on a part-time basis.
An MBA focusing on finance usually has a formal concentration (also called specialization, specialty, or emphasis). Some schools may offer a general MBA-Finance and others may offer an MBA in a specific type of finance such as Quantitative Finance, Analytic Finance, or Corporate Finance.
In addition to the concentration area, the format of MBA programs may vary by school. For example, some business schools, like the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, offer an Executive MBA (EMBA) program for ambitious students who are looking for a more intensive curriculum with specialized electives and optional majors that allow them to develop an area, or multiple areas, of expertise. Other schools, such as the University of Chicago, offer several MBA options to satisfy a variety of students’ needs. Some common types of MBA-Finance program formats include:
- Evening MBA: For working students who can attend class after regular business hours. This is typically a part-time program and takes two and a half to three years to complete, but may take as many as five years.
- Executive MBA (EMBA) or Professional MBA (PMBA): An intensive program often designed for aspiring executives and leaders with five years or more of business experience. EMBAs and PMBAs may be full-time or part-time, are typically on-campus programs, and can usually be completed in around two years of full-time study.
- Full-Time MBA: For students who are not working and plan on attending school full-time, usually via on-campus classes. Full-time MBA programs typically take around two years to complete.
- Global MBA: Focuses on global enterprise and is usually offered in a full-time format. Some Global MBA programs are offered at international campuses, or often offer a study-abroad experience, to expose students to international business and finance practices.
- Online MBA: Flexible programs that may be completed on a part-time or full-time basis for a variety of different students. Many online programs still include an in-person component.
- Part-Time MBA: Typically on campus for working students and may take as few as two and a half or as many as five years to complete. Courses may be offered during the day, in the evening, on weekends, or a combination, to suit a variety of schedules.
- Weekend MBA: For working students who prefer to attend classes on-site on the weekends. Many students commute to campus each weekend, for two and a half to three years of part-time study, to complete a Weekend MBA.
Online Degree Formats
Considering that many students in MBA-Finance programs are employed, online coursework is often available to provide additional flexibility. Even programs that are not offered fully online may have online components or be offered in a hybrid format. If you are considering pursuing an MBA in Finance online, you should ensure that the online program is similar to the on-campus program, with the same professors, coursework, and degree requirements. You should also think about your personal educational needs and consider the conditions in which you learn best. For example, are you a disciplined person who can complete coursework and assignments on your own, or do you prefer more guidance that a traditional, synchronous classroom format can provide?
To be admitted to an MBA-Finance program, applicants typically must have a bachelor’s degree with a competitive GPA (typically 3.0 or above). Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) or Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores are also often required for entry into an MBA program, but many schools offer GRE and GMAT waivers based on other qualifications. As mentioned above, due to the specialized nature of the MBA in Finance degree, many schools may require work experience in the field for admission. Two years or more of experience is often recommended, though accelerated and executive MBA programs may require more experience. Many of the most selective programs also require an in-person interview, to ensure that the students in a cohort have similar goals and complementary backgrounds. You should check with the program(s) in which you are interested to find out more about the minimum requirements.
Core Concepts and Coursework
MBA-Finance programs teach a broad range of business topics as part of the core MBA program, but also focus specifically on the financial side of the business through specialized coursework in finance. As part of the MBA core program, students will learn about business strategy, business operations, how to analyze data, how to manage people, the art of negotiation, and the role of marketing. In addition, a concentration in Finance will teach students the analytic and theoretical tools necessary to solve financial problems, as well as theoretical and historical aspects of finance. Graduates of MBA-Finance programs should have a range of skills in subjects including mathematics, statistics, and economic analysis, as well as an understanding of corporate financial planning and the management of financial securities and investment portfolios. Courses will vary by school and program, but students will take courses in both business and finance. Typical courses may include:
Business Core and Electives
- Corporate Development: Mergers and Acquisitions
- Foundations of Teamwork and Leadership
- Innovation and New Product Development
- Management Communication
- Marketing Management
- Microeconomics for Managers
- Regression Analysis for Business
- Risk and Crisis Management
- Statistics for Managers
- Advanced Corporate Finance
- Corporate Finance
- Data Science for Finance
- Financial Derivatives
- Fixed Income Securities
- Global Economics
- International Financial Markets
- Investment Management
Top MBA in Finance Programs
The following are recent rankings of the best MBA in Finance programs in the nation. Schools in bold appear on two or more of the lists below.
US News & World Report’s Best Finance MBA Programs 2022
US News & World Report annually ranks the top business schools for finance based on factors like recruiter rating, average starting salary, employment rate, and student selectivity.1 The below business schools for finance top the list:
- University of Pennsylvania (#1; Wharton)
- University of Chicago (#2; Booth)
- New York University (#3; Stern)
- Columbia University (#4; Columbia)
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology (#5; Sloan)
- Stanford University (#6; Stanford)
- University of California-Berkeley (#7; Haas)
- Harvard University (#8; Harvard)
- University of California-Los Angeles (#9; Anderson)
- University of Michigan-Ann Arbor (#10; Ross)
- Duke University (#11 tie; Fuqua)
- Northwestern University (#11 tie; Kellogg)
- Boston College (#13; Carroll)
- Fordham University (#14 tie; Gabelli)
- University of Texas-Austin (#14 tie; McCombs)
US News & World Report’s Best Online Finance MBA Programs 2021
US News & World Report ranks the top MBA-Finance online programs based on engagement, expert opinion, faculty credentials, student excellence, and student services.2 The following schools top the list:
- Carnegie Mellon University (#1; Tepper)
- Arizona State University (#2; Carey)
- University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (#3; Kenan-Flagler)
- Indiana University-Bloomington (#4; Kelley)
- Babson College (#5; Babson)
- University of Texas-Dallas (#6; Jindal)
- University of Florida (#7; Warrington)
- University of Maryland-College Park (#8; Smith)
- Auburn University (#9; Harbert)
- George Washington University (#10; George Washington)
The Princeton Review’s Best MBAs for Finance 2021
The Princeton Review ranks the best MBA programs for finance based on both school-reported data on career outcomes for graduates and students’ reports of preparedness for a finance career.3
- Columbia University (#1; Columbia)
- Cornell University (#2; Johnson)
- New York University (#3; Stern)
- Stanford University (#4; Stanford)
- Rice University (#5; Jones)
- Harvard University (#6; Harvard)
- University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (#7; Kenan-Flagler)
- University of Notre Dame (#8; Mendoza)
- University of Texas-Austin (#9; McCombs)
- Duke University (#10; Fuqua)
Select MBA in Finance Programs
Cornell University’s SC Johnson College of Business offers a two-year, part-time Cornell-Tsinghua Finance Master of Business Administration (MBA) program designed for working professionals. Offered in partnership with the PBC School of Finance (PBCSF) at Tsinghua University, graduates of the dual-degree program will receive two MBAs–from Cornell and Tsinghua. This Finance MBA program is unique in that it is delivered bilingually in English and Mandarin. The program is based in Beijing and is offered with a combination of weekends and residential sessions to accommodate the lifestyles of busy and successful executives. About 75% of coursework is completed in the classroom in China every other weekend and 25% is completed at Cornell’s Ithaca and New York City campuses where students will collaborate with other Johnson MBA students in Residential Sessions. The Finance MBA curriculum consists of 60 credits that are taken in four modules: core/basic, entrepreneurship, innovation, and finance electives. A negotiation practicum and a trek to Wall Street are required for all students as well as participation in a fintech hackathon and the completion of a thesis. Applicants should have two to five years of experience in finance or related industries.
The University of Chicago offers a full-time Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a Concentration in Finance or Analytic Finance by choosing four to six finance courses of interest 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 Portfolio Management; Advanced Models of Option Pricing and Credit Risk; Fixed-Income Asset Pricing; and Portfolio 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.
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.
Babson College’s Entrepreneurial Master of Business Administration (MBA) can be taken full-time or part-time, and on-campus or 100% online, and offers two finance-related concentrations: Finance and a STEM-designated Quantitative Finance. Students in the Finance concentration study the financial tools needed to build connections in the financial services industry, while students in the Quantitative Finance concentration study programming and financial modeling that will help them analyze financial markets. The Babson MBA requires 45 credits with one-third being core courses and two-thirds being electives chosen by students to specialize their study. To support the entrepreneurial goals of students, the program offers experiential learning throughout the program, and entrepreneurial skills like balancing creativity with analysis, leadership, communication, and team building. The online option is offered on a part-time, self-paced basis, and online students have access to the same courses and faculty members as on-campus students. In addition to concentration options, the MBA at Babson offers Intensity Tracks like Business and Social Innovation; Family Business; and Women Innovating Now (WIN) Lab.
Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business offers a 54-credit Master of Business Administration (MBA) online called the MBA@Rice with a focus area in Corporate Finance, in addition to areas such as Corporate Strategy, Investment Management, Entrepreneurship, and Marketing. The coursework, organizational opportunities, and professors are the same for both the on-campus and online programs. Students in all focuses take core coursework that builds functional business acumen in subjects such as financial accounting and managerial economics as well as emphasizing interpersonal skills including leadership and negotiation strategy. One feature of the MBA@Rice is its two required field experiences. One is the MBA@Rice Residential at the Houston campus, which includes simulations, seminars, group projects, and guided exercises in leadership with peers and industry leaders. The other field experience is an international Global Field Experience (GFE) that offers online students around the world to work together with local businesses. Classes are offered Monday through Thursday and the program takes two years to complete. Students in the program average seven years of work experience.
Jobs with an MBA in Finance
MBA-Finance graduates may find careers as financial analysts, financial managers, controllers, or chief financial officers (CFOs). They may work in settings including for-profit and nonprofit corporations, government, financial institutions, or insurance carriers. Graduates may also seek professional certifications such as Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), Certified Financial Planner (CFP), and/or licensure in a particular area of finance. More information on licensure and certifications can be found on our finance careers page. Possible job titles for MBA-Finance grads include:
- Business Owner
- Chief Financial Officer
- Financial Analyst
- Financial Manager
- Financial Planner
- Investment Analyst
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between a Master of Finance degree and an MBA in Finance?
While both degrees offer a deep understanding of financial concepts that can be applied to business, government, and entrepreneurship, the MBA in Finance typically has a broader curriculum that teaches other business concepts in tandem with financial ones, including management, leadership, accounting, and marketing. A master’s in finance (MFin) focuses less on general business principles and more on financial theory, quantitative finance, investments, and mathematical skills, as well as financial reporting and valuation. While graduates of the two programs will be qualified for similar jobs, it could be argued that MBA-Finance degree holders have access to a wider range of careers and industries, due to the more general nature of the degree. In contrast, with the changing business landscape, the demand for graduates with more specialized knowledge (with MFin degrees) is increasing, so master’s in finance graduates may have an edge over MBA graduates when competing for specialized positions such as financial analyst or financial manager. Another difference between the two degrees is that MFin students tend to have less work experience than MBA-Finance students since many MBA programs are designed specifically for working students and are offered part-time or online to accommodate all schedules. As a result, MFin programs tend to take slightly less time to complete compared to MBA programs.
What is an MBA in Finance?
An MBA in Finance teaches students about financial skills such as portfolio management, capital markets, international finance, derivative securities, and financial institutions. At the same time, general business concepts such as management, economics, accounting, and leadership are taught, giving graduates a well-rounded, broad education. They are prepared for a variety of financial careers with a solid understanding of all areas of business.
Why should I get an MBA in Finance?
An MBA-Finance degree is a good choice for those who are interested in the financial side of business operations but want to keep their options open to work in other areas of the business, or for those who prefer to focus on the business as a whole rather than be siloed in finance only. Pursuing an MBA in Finance will prepare you for a wide variety of jobs and will typically allow you to keep working while in school, which is important to professionals who have already begun their careers.
How much can I expect to make with an MBA-Finance?
Salaries for MBA in Finance graduates vary by position and years of experience. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), as of 2020, financial analysts, who are included in the category of financial and investment analysts, financial risk specialists, and financial specialists, all other, earned an average salary of $96,630, while financial managers earned an average salary of $151,510. 4,5 By comparison, CFOs, included in the chief executives category by the BLS, reportedly earned an average of $197,840 per year.6
How many years does it take to get an MBA in Finance?
An MBA in Finance typically takes two or more years to complete, but full-time students can finish in one and a half or two years. As many students attend on a part-time basis, the time to completion varies by program and by the availability and needs of each student.
1. US News & World Report Best Finance MBA Programs 2022: https://www.usnews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-business-schools/finance-rankings
2. US News & World Report Best Online Finance MBA Programs 2021: https://www.usnews.com/education/online-education/mba/rankings
3. The Princeton Review Best MBAs for Finance 2021: https://www.princetonreview.com/business-school-rankings?rankings=best-mba-for-finance
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2020 Occupational Employment and Wages, Financial and Investment Analysts, Financial Risk Specialists, and Financial Specialists, All Other: https://www.bls.gov/oes/2019/may/oes132098.htm
5. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2020 Occupational Employment and Wages, Financial Managers: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes113031.htm
6. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2020 Occupational Employment and Wages, Chief Executives: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes111011.htm