Looking to take your financial career to the next level? If you already have a bachelor's degree under your belt, then it may be time to pursue a more advanced degree. Specifically, a master's degree in finance is a practical next step for many professionals already working in the world of corporate finance or business.
So, what exactly does a master's degree in finance entail and what are the benefits of pursuing one? With a better understanding of this and how to get a master’s degree in finance, you can make better-informed decisions as you pursue your goals.
The Value of a Master's Degree in Finance
Whether your undergraduate degree is in business, accounting or another related field, there's no overstating the potential value of an advanced degree in finance. A master's degree in finance could give you a competitive edge over others in the field while preparing you for any number of rewarding career paths.
What Is an MSF?
What is an MSF degree, anyway? A Master of Science in Finance is a specialized graduate degree designed for professionals who want to:
- Perform complex financial analyses using proper financial tools, techniques and technologies.
- Apply the standards of ethical reasoning skills and behavior to ethical issues in the financial profession.
- Work in a team environment while effectively communicating with and leading others.
- Gain an advanced knowledge of present-day financial theories and best practices.
- Apply research-based strategies integrating theory and practical applications across business functions.
Benefits of Pursuing a Master's Degree in Finance
Having a master's degree in finance can qualify you for any number of advanced positions within the business, finance and accounting fields that are typically unattainable for with undergraduate degrees alone. These higher-level positions also tend to come with larger salaries and a greater degree of independence or autonomy.
Earning an MSF can also prepare you for common certifications in finance that can help you take your career to new heights, such as becoming a certified financial planner (CFP) or chartered financial analyst (CFA).
Key Aspects of a Master's in Finance Program
Now that you have a better idea of what an MSF can do for your career, you may be wondering what you can expect from a master's in finance program. Ultimately, the curriculum will vary depending on the school and program you have chosen. Still, some basic foundational skills and topics are covered in most MSF degree programs.
Typical Coursework in a Master's in Finance Program
A master's in finance degree program is focused on teaching students the skills they need to build on their past undergraduate studies while sharpening their business and financial acumen.
Although exact courses will vary from one program to the next, some common course topics you can expect to see in an MSF program include:
- Financial Accounting and Analysis
- Financial Modeling and Valuation
- Financial Services, Regulation and Ethics
- Economics Analysis for Decision-Making
- Corporate Finance
- Financial Planning and Wealth Management
Many MSF programs also require students to complete a capstone project or similar consisting of 3-4 credit hours.
How Long Does the Program Typically Last?
Most MSF programs are designed to be completed within two years (or less), but this will depend on the number of credit hours your program requires and how many classes you take each semester.
Typically, an MSF program consists of 30-33 credit hours. With full-time enrollment, students can complete an MSF program in less than two years. However, such a program may take slightly longer for students enrolled part-time or who take breaks between semesters.
The Possibility of Online Master's in Finance Programs
These days, more schools are beginning to offer master's in finance degree programs that are entirely online. This can be a great opportunity for working students who may have a hard time fitting in-person classes into their demanding schedules.
With online programs, it's important to understand whether your classes will be synchronous or asynchronous. With a synchronous class, you'll still need to attend lectures virtually during set times and days each week. With asynchronous classes, there are no set log-in times, and you can work on your coursework around your busy schedule.
For many students pursuing a master's degree in finance, online programs with mostly asynchronous classes are the most flexible and convenient option—so this is something to consider as you explore schools and program options.
Exploring Career Opportunities With a Master's Degree in Finance
When you have an advanced degree in any field, you automatically open more doors for opportunity. You might be eligible for higher-paying positions, jobs with a greater sense of autonomy and freedom, or other advancements that are more difficult to attain with a bachelor's degree alone.
Potential Careers in Finance
There are many potential jobs you can explore with a master's degree in finance, with some of the most common including:
- Financial analyst
- Financial manager
- Budget analyst
- Personal financial advisor
- Cost estimator
- Financial planner
It is worth noting that some positions may require you to pursue additional certification beyond your degree. For example, becoming a certified financial planner (CFP) will require you to pass a certification examination to begin practicing in this field. While an MSF program will not directly grant you a CFP, it can help prepare you for the exam.
Expected Salary Boost With a Master's Degree in Finance
Many people pursue a master's degree in finance as a means of maximizing their earning potential. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, financial managers make a median salary of more than $139,000 per year as of 2022.
Meanwhile, other studies have found that a master's degree can boost your earnings potential by about 20 percent when compared to average earnings for bachelor's degree holders. Of course, earnings can vary greatly based on where you work and the cost of living, as well as your job title and work experience, among many other factors. If you work in a major city with a higher cost of living and have a lot of work experience, you can probably expect to earn more than someone working the same job in a more rural area with a lower cost of living and less experience.
Choosing the Right Master's in Finance Program
Earning your master's degree in finance is a great way to advance your career while learning foundational skills needed to perform financial analyses, apply research-based strategies, and conduct confident risk management.
At the same time, not all master's in finance programs are created equal. Taking the time to thoroughly research your options and select the finance degree program that's right for you will pay off many times over. This means choosing an accredited program that will work around your demanding schedule.
Likewise, be sure to consider what format is right for you. Do you prefer to attend classes in-person, online or in some kind of hybrid of the two? Not all schools offer all formats, so take your time researching options and choose a program that will suit your schedule and lifestyle.
Finally, don't overlook the cost of your master's degree program. The easiest way to calculate this is to multiply the cost per credit hour by the number of credit hours required to complete the program. However, some schools may also charge additional fees, such as registration fees and technology fees. Explore your financial aid options to help offset the cost of college. Many schools offer payment plans to help make paying for tuition easier, offer scholarships and grants, and accept federal student aid.
At University of the Cumberlands, we are proud to offer a Master of Science in Finance through our Hutton School of Business, which has received specialized accreditation for its business programs through the International Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE). This 31-credit-hour program can be completed in less than two years and is an excellent stepping stone to prepare you for popular financial certifications, including Certified Financial Planner (CFP) and Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA). Learn more about our master's in finance program or start your application today!