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Master of Science in Finance | Context - Context
Online Master of Science in Finance
Master of Science in Finance In Context

If you’re passionate about finance and hope to get ahead in the competitive financial services sector, a Master of Science in Finance degree may be your next step. The rigorous and comprehensive degree program can help graduates gain the skills and knowledge needed to compete for the best jobs in the finance industry.

What does a master's in finance degree involve?

When studying for a master’s in finance, you can expect to gain all the skills and knowledge needed for a career in the financial sector.

Although the exact courses offered will vary depending on the program, an MSF degree will typically provide you with an introduction to finance theory, Excel modeling, quantitative skills, global markets, analytical finance, and decision-making.

Typically, you can expect to study full-time for around 10 to 16 months or part-time for 2 years. It can help you gain the skills and financial knowledge needed to make an impact in your career.

Who is this degree for?

If you have a bachelor’s degree in a finance or a related field such as business, mathematics, accounting, or economics and wish to pursue a career in finance, a Master of Science in Finance could be an ideal path to follow. If you don’t have a related degree, some universities will accept students with a bachelor’s degree in any field, although those with a background in a non-quantitative subject or who lack related work experience may struggle more with the material.

For recent graduates, a master’s degree can help to significantly advance your earning potential, employability prospects, and career progression quickly. It is also required if you’re considering pursuing doctoral study.

Among all occupations in 2013, business, financial, and sales specialties had some of the biggest salary boosts with a master’s degree. [5] In the securities, commodities, and financial services sales field, a master’s degree leads to a median wage 90% higher than with a bachelor’s.

If you already have experience working in finance or business and are looking to develop your skills and insights to improve your career prospects, an MSF can provide the boost you need.

In 2015, the most common occupations held by those graduating with a finance degree were accountants and auditors, financial managers, and other types of managers. Some of the top employers of finance graduates include insurance companies, banks, and schools. According to the Census Bureau, in 2015, 20% of the financial workforce had a master’s degree in finance. [6]

Why earn a master’s in finance degree?
There are many advantages to holding a master's degree, especially in finance, which is a lucrative and competitive industry. Those who have a graduate degree can expect to command better positions, higher salaries, and improved employment opportunities.

High demand

In 2014, there were about 555,900 financial managers employed in the U.S., and their employment is forecast to grow by 7% from 2014 to 2024. [7] According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2015, financial analysts held 268,360 jobs, and employment is expected to grow by 12% from 2014 to 2024, with a mean salary in 2015 of $80,310. [8]

Salary increase

Those who have earned a master’s degree in finance can expect to start at a higher than average salary for most job titles, and higher than if they just had a bachelor’s degree. This increase offers potential students a high return on investment from their program.

For financial managers, the median pay is $121,750 per year. Although the typical entry level education for this role is a bachelor’s degree, a master’s in finance can help significantly in this highly competitive industry and can help you rise up the ladder faster. [7]

Broad employment opportunity

With the finance and analytical industries growing rapidly, and the world becoming increasingly globalized, there are a number of ways in which a master’s degree in finance may benefit you once you enter the workforce.

Many of the top-performing jobs in various sectors align with the curriculum taught in MSF degree programs. [10] There is a very broad range of work roles graduates can pursue, including in investment banking, consulting, asset management, fund management, insurance, commercial banking, and senior management.

Professional development and personal satisfaction

The world’s financial markets are complex and ever-changing. It is important to stay ahead and constantly invest in your knowledge and skills to keep up with the latest developments and research.

Keeping your skills fresh can be a significant factor in retaining your job, gaining new contracts, achieving a promotion, or earning a salary increase. You may be able to complete your degree in a short time span and even use the skills you are learning while still in school, having more of an impact on your career in less time.

Continuing education

Financial professionals are often members in an extensive array of professional organizations. This tends to involve earning a variety of certifications, depending on your specialization. As part of these networks, you may also have to devote time throughout your career to continuing your education and remain up to date on current trends and laws.

For example, members of the Construction Financial Management Association (CFMA) are required to continue their education to maintain their professional competence. [11] For Certified Public Accountants (CPAs), this requirement is set by the State Board of Accountancy in which their CPA license is held.

The qualifying activities, the hours required, and how often continuing education is needed can vary from state to state. Completing relevant accredited college credit courses and approved higher education courses in an appropriate field all count toward completing this requirement.

How do I earn a finance master’s?

You will need a bachelor’s degree to enroll in an MSF program. Common undergraduate fields to consider include finance, economics, statistics, life sciences, mathematics, or engineering. Work experience is not always required but is helpful. You can study for this degree both online and on campus.

How long does the program take?

A fast-paced program can take as little as 10 months. More typically, many programs take one to two years to complete.

Working in finance

Finance is essentially the science of money management and carries global credibility as a sector. It is, in many respects, an offshoot of economics and generally focuses on the study of prices, money flows, interest rates, and the financial markets. [1]

It is largely concerned with concepts such as cost of capital, the time value of money, rates of return, the quantification of risk, and financial structures.

You can break the financial sector down into three sub-categories:

  • Public finance
  • Corporate finance
  • Personal finance

Public finance

Public finance encompasses budgeting, expenditure, revenue and debt issuance for sovereign states, public entities, agencies, and public works projects. The U.S. Federal Reserve System is a central bank that factors into many aspects of public finance.

Corporate finance

Corporate finance deals with the structure and sources of funding within corporations, helping to increase the value of businesses to shareholders, and allocating financial resources effectively.

Personal finance

Those who work in personal finance offer advice to private clients about investing, college savings, estate planning, retirement, taxes, and similar financial topics. They meet with clients, educate them, and help them choose investments and make money decisions. [2] [3]

Issues finance professionals deal with include:

  • Prices
  • Interest rates
  • Money flows
  • Financial markets
  • Money management
  • Investment
  • Accounting
  • Banking
  • Asset management
  • Debt management
  • Capital growth
  • Stocks and shares
Master of Science in Finance Career Outlook

The finance sector appears more stable than many others, with many employment opportunities available to those with finance degrees. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment for business and financial operations professionals to increase 8% from 2014 to 2024, adding about 632,000 jobs. This is partially attributable to the increase in regulations driving demand for accountants and auditors. [12] Given the broad nature of a master’s in finance program, you can graduate with a wide variety of skills and become highly employable in a number of roles.

These can include:

  • Financial Planner
  • Financial Analyst
  • Investor Relations Professional
  • Budget Analyst
  • Actuary
  • Accountant
  • Credit Analyst
  • Commercial Real Estate Agent
  • Financial Manager
  • Auditor
  • Claims Adjuster
  • Personal Finance Advisor
  • Financial Services Sales Agent
  • Loan Officer [12]
Salary expectations

Although there is an initial investment required to study for a master’s degree in finance, it can soon pay off by opening up many high-paying positions. For example, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for someone with a Master of Science in Finance degree who has gone into a career as a senior financial analyst is $88,310. [14] For a financial analyst, this is $80,310, [14] and for a finance manager, it is $117,990. [16]

Where can you work with an MSF?

The sector you work in will depend on your desired career and your specialization, but holding a master’s degree can open more doors for you and help to make you a more employable candidate.

Employers for those with a master’s in finance can include companies in the following industries:

  • Top 100 companies
  • Wall Street
  • Government
  • Hedge funds
  • Nonprofits
  • Banks
  • Financial firms
  • Private practice
  • Law firms
  • Hospitals
Master of Science in Finance Curriculum

The Master of Science in Finance curriculum varies depending on the institution, but is designed to give you the skill set and tools needed for a career in a variety of finance roles. These programs aim to prepare potential students for roles such as investment banking, commercial banking, accounting, or consulting.

The MSF curriculum can often be geared toward helping students pursue technical roles, exploring both the theory and practice of the finance industry. There is generally a strong emphasis on financial economics, computational methods, and financial engineering.

Core courses

The Master of Science in Finance curriculum can be completed in as little as one year at many schools and can include topics such as statistics, financial economics, corporate finance, accounting and other concrete financial skills that are directly applicable to the workplace.

Often, there will be a final project, thesis, or coursework in an advanced topic where areas you are expected to apply what you’ve learned.

Based on a survey of online master’s in finance programs, common core courses you may encounter include:

  • Corporate finance
  • Financial accounting
  • Financial leadership
  • Quantitative methods
  • Risk management
  • Cost accounting
Elective courses

While core courses are required for every Master of Science in Finance program, your curriculum may also offer elective courses. Elective courses allow you to tailor your education to your professional and personal goals without the need to choose a specialization. Based on a survey of several MSF programs, common elective courses include:

  • Financial analysis
  • Financial engineering
  • Multinational finance
  • Real estate finance
  • Investment and portfolio management
  • Financial reporting
Pursuing a specialty

When studying for your finance degree, you may find that you want to specialize in a core area. This is particularly suitable if you have had prior work experience and are looking to tailor your degree to fill particular gaps, or if you have a set career goal in mind.

Adding a specialization can help you to tailor your program toward your career goals and personal interests, giving your degree a more specific focus. This can help make you more employable and also improves your marketability. You may be able to negotiate higher salaries and position yourself as an expert in your field as a result.

For example, if you were to specialize in financial economics, you may also become highly trained in areas such as corporate financial management, financial econometrics, and economics of derivatives.

There are a wide variety of specializations across a number of different curriculums and universities. These can include:

  • Corporate finance
  • Investments
  • Information Systems
  • Accounting
  • Statistics
  • Global economy
  • Market trading
  • Risk management
  • Wealth and asset management
  • Quantitative finance
  • Capital management
  • Venture capital
  • Applied finance
  • Financial management

The length of the program will vary depending on the institution. When speaking with advisors, it is always worth checking what impact adding a specialization will have on your studying time, examinations, fees, and so forth.

Interning during your master's in finance

A few master’s in finance degrees require students to take on an internship to gain program credit. However, it is usually not necessary. Instead, it is offered as an additional opportunity to earn credit.

The requirements for these programs will vary depending on the university. Often, it will be mentioned in the prospectus. If you want to participate in experiential learning and the institution doesn’t offer this, you may choose to study elsewhere.

An internship can be a great way to get practical experience and see how finance works in the real world. It can often help you to apply the knowledge you have learned and see how theory extends into reality. Not only can it help you with your studies, but it can also help you stand out when applying for jobs.

When speaking with each program administrator, there are a few key questions to consider asking:

  • What types of positions are allowed?
  • What will the time commitment be, and over how long a period?
  • What level of support will I receive from the university in securing the internship?
  • Does the program have any existing relationships with businesses that take on students for placements?
  • Will I be allowed to take payment for the placement and still receive credits?
  • Will I have a supervisor during the internship?
  • Will the internship count toward my course credits?
  • Will I need to do any kind of project regarding the internship?
  • Will the internship affect the length of the master’s degree?
  • Does the graduate program allow students to leverage their current position or a different position within the same company for their internship?
  • What happens if I can’t get an internship?

Most universities that offer a work placement will have staff dedicated to ensuring the internship meets the standards expected by the program, and to help students gain their placement.

Capstone experiences

Many online MS in finance degrees require you to complete either a capstone experience, internship, or on-campus residency as part of your degree program. In essence, a capstone project is a multi-faceted assignment intended to serve as a culmination of academic and intellectual experiences.

It most commonly takes place toward the end of the program. Generally, these experiences will require you to complete a thesis or project that enables you to practically apply your knowledge gained throughout the program in a single piece of work. They can also include portfolios, internships, and research/design work. Knowing whether you are required to do this may affect where you choose to study.

Studying online

If you are unable to travel to a university, have a career you want to hold on to, or family obligations, you might find that studying for a finance degree online provides the ideal solution. This flexible distance learning opportunity means you can complete classes and coursework at times that suit you from the comfort of your own home.

Online finance degrees provide you with the same level of support as students studying on-campus and enable you access to a wide range of accomplished professors and faculty members with significant experience.

It can help you to deepen your business and financial skills from anywhere in the world, often using an asynchronous learning management system. Studies may include virtual lessons, case study discussions, live debates, and opportunities to practice your skills. Often, you may find classes are held in the evenings to provide flexibility around work.

Depending on the program, you may be required to do an orientation residency, on-site residency, or capstone project for your online MS in finance degree. This is common, so it is important you are able to meet this requirement in terms of time and travel commitments.

Master of Science in Finance Program Length

The length of an online master’s degree program can depend on a number of variables, perhaps the most prominent of which is the pace at which you choose to study. You can finish a typical master’s degree program in about two to three years if you choose to study full-time, although some accelerated programs may be able to help you finish more quickly.

Online master’s degree programs tend to offer flexibility suitable for students who choose to study part-time. This option will likely extend your time to completion, but it can allow you to study while fulfilling your familial, social, and professional obligations.

You can find more information on this topic at our program length overview page.

Master of Science in Finance Admissions Requirements

While each program will set its admission requirements based on its own criteria, many requirements are universal across all programs. No matter where you apply, you can expect to provide items like transcripts from previous degrees or coursework; standardized test scores; a personal statement or essay; letters of recommendation; and an overview of relevant work experience.

In certain cases, some of these requirements may be waived.

For more information about admissions, please visit our admissions requirements page.

Master of Science in Finance Alternative Degrees or Field of Study Options

If you are considering an MSF degree, you may also be interested in exploring other similar degrees to see if they might provide you with skills that are more relevant to your career aspirations. Although they share similarities in topics and courses with the MFA degree, these different programs are unique in their own right. Examining each of the curriculums and comparing them will help you to assess which is most relevant to you.

Similar degrees to the MSF include:

  • MBA in Finance
  • Master of Economics
  • Master of Accounting
  • Master of Investment Management
  • Master of Risk Management
  • Master of Global Management
  • Master of Risk Management & Financial Engineering
  • Master of Trading and Financial Markets
  • Master of International Financial Markets
  • Master of Trading and Risk

There are many variations on the types of degrees available in the finance sector. Consider what aspect of the financial industry interests you most and then see what degrees are available in this area. They can be very specialized to a specific focus and less general than an MSF degree, so it is crucial that you understand the implications in terms of your career outlook and job opportunities.

An MBA in Finance, for example, is centered on the business aspect of finance and looks at management, statistics, communications, entrepreneurship, markets, and accounting. Graduates tend to head into management or executive positions, as well as work with financial institutions.

A Master of Science in Finance is much more finance specific and focuses more financial theory, mathematics, quantitative finance, markets, valuation, investments, and financial analysis. The skills you gain from each degree are typically important to whatever career path you take, so knowing what you want to achieve is valuable in making the right decision.

Master of Science in Finance Relevant Industry Associations and Organizations

If you are interesting in finding out more about the finance industry as a whole, the following resources can be useful in providing further insight:

  • American Finance Association [28]
  • Finance Association [29]
  • Association for Financial Professionals [30]
  • CFP Board [31]
  • Financial Women’s Association [32]
  • Association of Women in Finance [33]
Master of Science in Finance Accreditation

Regional accreditation is the most prestigious type of accreditation that an online or traditional college or university can receive. It is granted only after careful consideration by private, not-for-profit organizations tasked with evaluating educational quality.

Regional accreditation is particularly important if you anticipate that you might want to transfer credits from one online degree program to another or use those credits to pursue another degree. Most regionally accredited schools will only accept credits from other regionally accredited institutions of higher learning.

You can learn more on this topic at our regional accreditation page.

Specialized accreditation

Currently, there are no accrediting agencies that are specific to Master of Science in Finance degree programs.

The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) offers accreditation for business and accounting programs at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral level. AACSB accredits more than 785 business schools worldwide. [26]

The Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) recognizes teaching excellence, learning outcomes, and continuous improvement. It aims to ensure business students gain the skills to help them succeed in the workplace. [27]

Master of Science in Finance Licensure and Certifications
Depending on your chosen specialty or career path, there may be possible exams/licenses you will have to pursue to practice finance once you have obtained your degree. They help to demonstrate that you have met certain criteria and are considered qualified for doing your job. They may also offer you more specific training in the area you're working in. Often, they require passing an examination and will need to be renewed periodically. In the case of licensure, it may be a prerequisite for your job to hold the required licenses and prove you are legally allowed to work in that occupation.

CFA program

The CFA program from the CFA Institute involves becoming a Chartered Financial Analyst. It is one of the most respected designations globally and provides a strong foundation in advanced investment analysis and portfolio management. [19] Having this certification can help significantly in your career prospects. The program is self-paced and online, making it a flexible experience, but offers specific skills that can be useful in a real-world setting.


The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), which oversees 3,816 brokerage firms, 159,641 branch offices, and 635,367 registered securities representatives, offers several exams. [20]

Firms and individuals must both be registered with FINRA to be able to conduct securities transactions and serve the investing public. It enables securities professionals and broker-dealers to gain valuable training, particularly in regulatory matters and compliance. It also helps to protect investors and promote transparency and integrity in the marketplace. Some of these exams include:

  • Series 6: Investment Company and Variable Contracts Products Representative Qualification Examination (IR) [21]
  • Series 7: General Securities Representative Examination (GS) [22]
  • Series 63: Uniform Securities Agent State Law Examination [23]
  • Series 65: Uniform Investment Adviser Law Examination [24]

Your choice of career path will dictate which exam is right for you, how much the additional qualification will cost, how much time it will require, and what the examination will involve.

CFP Board

The CFP certification process is another consideration. It marks out individuals as having reached rigorous professional standards and being bound by principles including fairness, confidentiality, diligence, integrity, and objectivity when working with clients.

To complete the certification, you will need to have studied for a bachelor’s degree or higher at an institution accredited by the U.S. Department of Education. The certification also has a coursework requirement, which covers core areas including insurance planning, interpersonal communication, investment planning, and fiduciary responsibilities. [25]

Other certifications

There are various other certifications to consider, including if you want to become a:

  • Certified Valuation Analyst (CVA)
  • Certified Treasury Professional (CTP)
  • Chartered Business Valuator (CBV)
  • Professional Risk Manager (PRM)
  • Certified Market Analyst (CMA/FAD) Dual Designation
  • Chartered Investment Manager (CIM)
  • Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst (CAIA)
  • Certified International Investment Analyst (CIIA)

There is also the Association of Corporate Treasurers (ACT), the Corporate Finance Qualification (CF), and a number of accountancy qualifications. It’s worth taking some time to delve deeper into the career you’re interested in and what further qualifications and licenses you might need on top of your master’s degree.

History of the Master of Science in Finance Degree

Money and the exchange of goods has been a part of societies for more than 3,000 years. [9] In 600 B.C., the first official currency was minted in what is now western Turkey. [9] While the types of currency have changed since then, the same basic principles of finance remain the same today.

The first bank, the Medici Bank of Florence, was established in Italy’s financial capital in 1397. [13] Banking wouldn’t arrive in the U.S. until 1791, 15 years after the founding of our nation. [15] By this time, the financial profession had taken shape in the form of bookkeepers, accountants, debt collectors, and bankers. In later years, corporations and the creation of U.S. railroads during the Industrial Revolution would give rise to the corporate finance field. [18]

By the 1800s, investment banking had also become a popular financial field, creating a demand for expert financial professionals. [18] In fact, accountants became an officially recognized profession in 1896 with a law regarding certified public accountants (CPA), a title that is still in use today. [18]

Some years later, financial organizations like the CFA institute of 1947, would establish knowledge sharing in financial fields. Today, the CFA Institute partners with nearly 50 financial programs in North America though the number of finance programs is much higher. [4]

Master of Science in Finance Tuition and Fees

There are a number of factors that can greatly affect how much your education will cost. These include whether you attend a public or private institution; whether you attend as an in-state or out-of-state student; and whether you qualify for financial aid like grants or scholarships.

For a more detailed breakdown of tuition, fees, and other financial issues, please visit our tuition and fees page.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

A master’s degree in finance (MSF) is a postgraduate program that prepares students for careers in finance, such as financial management, investment banking, and investment management. Curriculum is generally focused on managerial finance, corporate finance, and investment analysis. These topics are usually preceded by more fundamental coursework in economics, (managerial) accounting, and quantitative methods (usually time value of money and business statistics). In many programs, these fundamental topics are a prerequisite for admission. The program usually concludes with coursework in advanced topics such as portfolio management, financial modeling, mergers and acquisitions, and real options. Managerial economics and various quantitative finance topics may also be offered as advanced courses.

A Master of Science in Finance is for someone who is specifically interested in a career in finance and wishes to work in areas like financial management, investment banking, and investment management.

MSF programs cover finance in a comprehensive manner, with courses like financial theory, mathematics, quantitative finance, investments, markets, financial reporting and analysis, and valuation. [34]

Most online MSF degrees can take about two years to complete if you are taking classes consistently and not taking any terms off. Some full time, on-campus programs can be completed in less than two years.

The average cost of master’s degree for students is between $30,000 and $120,000. [35] The cost varies depending on the university and the master’s program itself. Cost also depends on where you will take the courses. If you are looking at a public university, especially if paying in-state tuition, the cost can be less than paying out-of-state tuition, going to a private university, or both. An online master’s degree program could be less expensive. This is true for some online master’s programs, but research into each institution and the cost of their program should be conducted. Although an MSF degree can be expensive, it can result in more opportunities and higher income.

Although there is some overlap with an MBA (Master of Business Administration), the MSF provides broader and deeper exposure to finance, but a more limited exposure to general management topics. A finance master’s will focus on finance and financial markets, while an MBA is more diverse and covers general areas of business that are not covered within a finance program, such as topics like human resource management and operations management

Specific admission requirements vary based on the school, but the admission decision is generally based on a variety of qualifications like strong academic performance (generally reflected by a GPA of 3.0 or higher) in an undergrad program, entrance exam scores (GMAT or GRE), letters of recommendation, and relevant work experience. If you do not have an undergraduate degree in business administration, you will most likely be required to demonstrate proficiency in specific business/finance foundation courses.

The requirement of GRE/GMAT score is dependent on the school/program. Some schools accept both GRE and GMAT, and some require the GMAT only. Some schools may offer a GRE/GMAT waiver if certain qualifications are met, while some have no GRE/GMAT requirement at all. Although both test scores may be accepted, a GMAT is score is generally preferred. The GMAT is considered tougher in the math areas and the GRE is more challenging in verbal areas. A strong GMAT score will demonstrate your strength in math and analytical areas, which are skills needed to be successful in an MSF program.

It depends on the school’s specific admission guidelines. If the school offers a waiver request process for entrance exams, work experience in a related field along with other requirements may allow for a waiver to be granted.

Although a background in finance is not required, your undergraduate degree should be equivalent to that from a four-year accredited U.S. institution, and you should have successfully completed the core requirements for a business degree.

Depending on the school’s admission guidelines, prior work experience may or may not be required or considered as part of the application review process.

A four-year bachelor’s degree in business or finance is typically required. If your undergraduate degree is not in business or finance or a related field, prerequisite courses will most likely be required. Specific requirements may vary by school/program.

Generally there are supplementary costs apart from tuition. The tuition does not usually include the cost of books or additional fees. These additional costs will vary from program to program.

The largest provider of student financial aid in the nation is the Federal Student Aid office in the U.S. Department of Education. It supplies college-level or career school students with loans, grants, and work-study funds. You can apply for federal financial aid through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly known as FAFSA.

There are numerous other scholarships available, but you will need to research which opportunities you’re qualified to pursue. Many states, associations, websites, and businesses award scholarships based on specific criteria. Be sure to do your research and apply for any scholarships you’re qualified to be awarded. [42]

Start with a cost-benefit analysis based on the price of the degree and potential ROI. Weigh the full cost against the positive outcomes you expect as a graduate, which may include a boost in earning potential, upward mobility, or job satisfaction.

The curriculum for an MSF degree is a mix of core courses and electives. Core courses are generally required before you can take elective courses. Examples of core courses include Financial Reporting, Financial Economics, Financial Econometrics, and Financial Modeling.

Yes, you can. Many institutions offer the Master of Finance degree online.

Typically your diploma will not indicate that your degree was achieved as a result of an online program.

At most universities, an online program is the same as a campus-based program. The classes offer the same content and are even taught by the same faculty in most cases. Although you are proceeding through the program via an online format, the same academic rigor can be expected.

Asynchronous coursework can be completed on your own time — a big plus for many online graduate students. Synchronous coursework has to be completed within a set timeframe. This is typically done for group projects, seminars, presentations, and other learning initiatives that require multiple attendees. The elements of asynchronous and synchronous learning in your online program depend on the professor and class itself. Once you enroll, reach out to teachers for specifics, but remember that the curriculum may be divided into these two subsets.

In addition to core courses, students can choose from elective courses. Typically these courses are in finance, but may also be in other areas like accountancy, economics, and business administration. Depending on the program, you can choose a general track or even take specific classes in areas like Asset Management, Risk Management, Corporate Finance, and others.

A specialization or concentration in a specific area can help your career options in that you will be viewed as a subject matter expert in a specific area that relates to a specific job. On the flip side, focusing on very specific areas of business or finance in your studies and your career may limit you in the future should you decide to make a career change. You specific area of interest may not have allowed for broad and diverse experiences and skill set development.

Several types of certification exist for financial workers, depending on their area of study and expertise. For example, becoming a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) is possible through the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards. You can also become recognized as a Certified Financial Analyst (CFA) through the CFA Institute. Various certifications exist for stock brokers and securities traders, through organizations including the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA).

Graduating with an MSF can lead to a variety of positions that are usually in investments or financial management or analysis. Below are some examples of areas of opportunity for MSF graduates: [34]

  • Financial Planning: A financial planner is a qualified investment professional who helps individuals and corporations meet their long-term financial objectives by analyzing the client/corporation’s status and creating a plan to achieve the client’s goals. Financial planners specialize in tax planning, asset allocation, risk management, retirement, and/or estate planning. In some cases financial planners do not need to be certified to advise clients. Still, CFA and CFP certifications add to the individual’s credibility. In other instances licensure may be required. [38]
  • Investment Banking: An investment banker is an individual who works in a financial institution that is in the business primarily of raising capital for companies, governments, and other entities, or who works in a large bank’s division that is involved with these activities, often called an investment bank. Investment bankers may also provide other services to their clients such as mergers and acquisition advice, or advice on specific transactions, such as a spin-off or reorganization. Working in the investment banking industry can lead to high income, but it is a very competitive environment, and there are many skills needed to be successful. [17]
  • Financial Analysis: Financial analysts produce financial plans, projections, and analytical reports for use in investment decisions by companies, public and private organizations, and individuals. Depending on the type of analyst job, the duties can vary quite a bit. Some financial analysts work in the securities industry analyzing stocks, bonds, and other securities for banks, brokerages, money management firms, and other organizations. These financial analysts typically develop expertise in a narrow category of stocks or bonds, such as Canadian corporate bonds or technology stocks, for example. Other financial analysts work for large corporations, analyzing internal financial data and producing financial plans, revenue and expense projections, and recommendations to inform budget and investment decisions by company executives. Nonprofit organizations and government bodies also employ financial analysts in this type of work. [39]
  • Financial Managers: Financial managers are responsible for an organization’s financial health. They perform such tasks as producing financial reports and developing investment strategies and plans for their organization’s long-term financial goals. [43]
  • Insurance Specialists: Many people who graduate with an MSF degree do not even consider working in the insurance industry, but job growth in this area is expanding. Positions like risk managers, actuaries, and even chief financial officers all require strong mathematical and financial analysis skills. [44]

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in the United States, graduates with a master’s degree typically earn about 15% higher overall lifetime income, which works out to be about $8,000 a year more than those with bachelor’s degrees. [36] There is a wide range of salaries for a graduate of an MSF program. This is because graduates can hold different finance-related positions and work in a variety of industries. Examples of jobs that require an MSF degree include personal financial advisors, financial managers, financial analysts, financial services sales agents, insurance underwriters, chartered financial analysts, credit risk management analysts, and mergers and acquisitions analysts. Some examples of salaries by job title are listed below:

  • Vice president of finance positions have a median salary of $170,000. [37]
  • Finance directors can earn as much as $154,000. [37]
  • Financial analysts can earn $81,760 in median pay. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that jobs for financial analysts are expected to grow by 12% from 2014 until 2024. [39]
  • Financial managers earn a median salary of $121,750. [43]
  • Personal financial advisors earn a median salary of $90,530, with 30% projected growth from 2014 to 2024. These professionals offer advice to help people with their financial and estate planning. [38]
  • Insurance underwriters can earn a median salary of $67,680. [44]

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that financial analysts held 277,600 jobs in the U.S. in 2016. The BLS also reported that jobs in this profession were expected to grow by 12% between 2014 and 2024. The median salary for a financial analyst in 2016 was $81,760. [39]

National or regional business school accreditation assures students that an institution of higher learning adheres to high quality standards based on the latest research and professional practice. An accredited institution must demonstrate, at regular review cycles, that it is developing and growing, not just maintaining existing standards.

Accreditation by a national or regional accrediting body also allows for students to participate in federally funded and state financial aid programs. To receive federal funds, an institution must be accredited by a national or regional accrediting body recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (DOE).

Accreditation shows that an institution or program meets standards of quality set forth by an accrediting agency, and that it is committed not only to meet those standards but to continuously seek ways to improve the quality of education and training provided. There are two types of educational accreditation: institutional and specialized.

The three main specialized accreditors for business and finance degree programs are:

  • The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB): AACSB International accredits degree programs in business administration and accounting at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate levels.
  • The Accreditation Council for Business Schools & Programs (ACBSP): ACBSP accredits business, accounting, and business-related programs at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degree levels worldwide.
  • International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (IACBE): The IACBE accredits business programs that lead to associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees. It does not accredit institutions that only offer associate degrees in business.

Institutional accreditation is provided by regional and national associations of schools and colleges. There are six regional associations.

Attending an accredited school also allows you to apply for financial aid, whether the school you select is a traditional classroom or online program.

Because accreditation ensures that the program you attended adheres to the high standards set by the accrediting body, attending an accredited institution will make you more competitive in the job market. In some cases, employers will only accept degrees from a regionally accredited institution when considering candidates, promotions, or salary increases.

According to the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education (CIHE), the Standards for Accreditation are an articulation by the higher education community of what a college or university must do to deserve the public trust. They also function as a framework for institutional development and self-evaluation. [40]

Covering areas of institutional academic and administrative operations, the standards are largely qualitative, in keeping with their need to apply to a variety of institutions with different missions.

Generally universities will prominently list their accreditations on their website. You can also visit the website of the national or regional accrediting organization. Most organizations keep current lists of institutions granted accreditation by their agency.

SARA (State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement) applies only to distance education programs in the United States that cross state lines. This agreement is made between member states and establishes comparable postsecondary national standards for distance education courses.

Not every state is a SARA member. Through SARA, member states only have to receive authorization in their home state. Without SARA, non-member states would have to receive authorization in their home state and the state of each of their online students. [41]

Every school has a department or team responsible for online education. This department will be able to answer questions regarding compliance for your home state. Additionally, you can locate the school through SARA (if it is a SARA institution) to confirm compliance. [41]