Best Online Master’s Degrees in Finance: 2016

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Advanced Finance Degree Careers, Programs & Salaries

The recent financial crisis has spurred a need for better financial leaders. Whether you want to advise families and individuals on how to invest and save their earnings, help companies and corporations craft ideal business strategies, or work within the government to regulate Wall Street, a master’s degree in finance can help you rise higher in the business and commercial world.

Timeline of an Online Master’s in Finance

Getting in: The Application Process

Applying to master’s-level finance programs can be incredibly competitive, especially for top-tier schools. To help improve their chances of being accepted to their desired programs, students should start the admissions planning process well ahead of the intended start date. While each finance graduate school has unique admissions requirements, the list below provides a general overview of what students should expect to provide.

  • GRE scores

    While each school places a different weight on the GRE, it is obviously best to score as high as possible to have a good chance of getting accepted. It may be beneficial for prospective finance students to spend more time studying for the quantitative reasoning and analytical writing sections.

  • Undergraduate performance

    Finance graduate schools require students to hold a bachelor’s degree before the program start date, though having it in finance is not strictly necessary. Most schools also demand at least a B+ average or 3.0 GPA upon entry. Prospective students may also need to have passed certain prerequisite courses in finance, business, accounting or economics.

  • Statement or personal essay

    Writing samples not only display communication skills, but also demonstrate a candidate’s passion for the field. For a master’s in finance, schools often require more than one essay, with the first focusing on why the applicant is applying and the second asking about finance career prospects.

  • Resume

    A strong resume will highlight an applicant’s qualities as they pertain to a graduate finance degree. Prospective students should include any finance-related extracurricular activities they took part in during undergraduate studies (such as being treasurer of a student club).

  • Letters of recommendation

    Finance graduate schools typically call for three letters of recommendation, which should come from supervisors, colleagues, or former professors (ideally those who teach business, finance or economics).

  • Interview

    Interviews give finance schools one last impression of candidates to make sure they’re a good fit for their program. While just getting to this stage is impressive, students shouldn’t take the interview lightly, as it can make or break one’s chances of being accepted.

Year 1

The first year focuses on foundational knowledge of the finance industry. Students learn how to apply statistical models and quantitative methods to solve problems at a theoretical level. In addition to core courses, some electives are offered; students should focus on electives within their desired area of concentration. Examples of elective topics include market trading and risk analysis, financial modelling, and corporate financing. Often, schools offer a transitional program before classes start as a refresher to help students remember what they learned in their undergraduate years or to help them understand what is needed for the program.

Year 2

In their second year, students take classes almost exclusively within their finance specialization. As such, an investment planning student’s course load can look very different from that of a corporate management student. Students may also need to take a career development preparation course to help them garner employment opportunities. Finally, students will begin working toward their thesis, research project or an applied project.

Testing & Graduation Requirements

To be eligible for a master’s degree from an online financial master’s program, students should expect to complete at least some of the following before graduation:

  • Research project

    This project offers students a chance to apply what they learned in terms of financial theory. For example, students may be expected to draft a report on a chosen stock or commodity, which requires them to outline their chosen valuation methodology, put forward an investment thesis, and provide final recommendations. These findings are often presented in a way that mimics an actual financial presentation for a financially oriented company.

  • Applied project

    This project has students apply their knowledge of the financial sector to the real world by taking on an assignment from a finance company or other organization which needs financial consulting.

  • Internship

    Internships give students an opportunity to translate classroom knowledge into practical experience. Academic advisors can help students find internships of interest. Possible options include interning at a bank’s financial advisement division, a real estate firm or even a non-profit organization.

  • Master’s thesis

    The thesis represents the culmination of knowledge and experience gained over the course of the master’s program. It features a report or presentation that includes original research and theories in the field of finance. Depending on the school, this may be optional or substituted with a practical internship.

  • Comprehensive exam

    This examination tests a student’s overall knowledge of finance theory and applications, including specific questions about the student’s chosen finance specialization. Written exams are most common, but some schools also require an oral examination.

Search Online Master’s Degrees in Finance

Since there are so many options on where to obtain a master’s degree in finance online, it can be overwhelming to view the full list. That’s where this handy search tool comes in. Students can narrow down the choices by location, degree level, school type, tuition rates and even student population. Use it to create a “short list” of schools.

Student Population:
School Type:
see map

Career Paths & Salary Possibilities with a Master’s in Finance

An online master’s in finance broadens the horizons of anyone working in the regulatory, business or investment subsectors of the finance world. In fact, there are numerous jobs available to professionals who have a master’s degree and the right kind of experience. Below are some of the most popular concentrations in finance for master’s degree students and the careers they may lead to.

Concentrations
Advisory – Institutional

For people who want to work for government offices in the regulatory sector, this concentration offers the knowledge required to do so. Courses cover topics such as capital management, international business finance, import-export financing and theory, financial forecasting and budgeting, business valuation, and mergers and acquisitions.

Career:
Financial Examiner
Financial Examiner

An important asset in ensuring that banks and corporations adhere to government regulations, financial examiners are charged with reviewing balance sheets, evaluating risk levels of loans and assessing bank management. They also help protect the public from predatory lending practices.

Financial Analyst
Financial Analyst

Employed by banks, companies, pension funds, insurance companies and others to help choose the best investments, financial analysts anticipate market and stock trends by keeping an eye on ever-changing government regulations and international politics.

Treasurer
Treasurer

Able to work in a variety of sectors, treasurers are appointed to administer or manage the financial assets and liabilities of companies, governments or any other groups who need to have their funds looked after.

Financial Manager
Financial Manager

Responsible for ensuring the financial health of an organization — whether it is a government, NGO, corporation or small business — financial managers draft comprehensive financial reports, lead investment activities and offer long-term financial planning strategies.

Advisory – Insurance

This is the path for students wishing to become insurance brokers. The concentration offers instruction on topics such as the theoretical basis and principles of insurance, retirement and estate planning, business valuation, risk and liability management, professional ethics, and corporate compliance and regulation.

Career:
Insurance Specialist
Insurance Specialist

Experts at interpreting insurance regulations and determining the level of financial coverage, insurance specialists can gain employment in a variety of work environments, including medical and government offices, hospitals and laboratories. They can also work in billing and coding.

Financial Manager
Financial Manager

Responsible for ensuring the financial health of an organization — whether it is a government, NGO, corporation or small business — financial managers draft comprehensive financial reports, lead investment activities and offer long-term financial planning strategies.

Treasurer
Treasurer

Able to work in a variety of sectors, treasurers are appointed to administer or manage the financial assets and liabilities of companies, governments or any other groups who need to have their funds looked after.

Personal Finance Officer
Personal Finance Officer

Personal finance officers provide individuals with financial advice in order to help them make sound investments. They also help to ensure the proper submission of taxes and insurance documents. This career is often pursued by working at a bank, but many personal finance officers are self-employed.

Corporate Management

This concentration is a great option for individuals interested in a management position within the financial industry. Students take courses that prepare them to work in a corporate environment, and the curriculum includes subjects such as investment banking, management theory, corporate financial reporting and analysis, and strategic modelling.

Career:
Commercial Banker
Commercial Banker

Commercial bankers deal with financial management in any number of specific ways, such as accounting, risk and asset management, commodities brokering, and commercial real estate transactions.

Financial Manager
Financial Manager

Responsible for ensuring the financial health of an organization — whether it is a government, NGO, corporation or small business — financial managers draft comprehensive financial reports, lead investment activities and offer long-term financial planning strategies.

Financial Analyst
Financial Analyst

Employed by banks, companies, pension funds, insurance companies and others to help choose the best investments, financial analysts anticipate market and stock trends by keeping an eye on ever-changing government regulations and international politics.

Treasurer
Treasurer

Able to work in a variety of sectors, treasurers are appointed to administer or manage the financial assets and liabilities of companies, governments or any other groups who need to have their funds looked after.

Investment Planning

This concentration teaches students skills required for working in careers such as asset management, private wealth management, sales and trading. The concentration’s courses usually focus on using analytical and qualitative methods to create models of financial trends, allowing students to forecast and predict trends in the market, as well as helping them learn how to soundly invest in stocks and other assets.

Career:
Personal Finance Officer
Personal Finance Officer

Personal finance officers provide individuals with financial advice in order to help them make sound investments. They also help to ensure the proper submission of taxes and insurance documents. This career is often pursued by working at a bank, but many personal finance officers are self-employed.

Investment Banker
Investment Banker

These bankers work in financial institutions that focus primarily on raising capital for companies, governments or other private institutions, often by acting as the agent for a client in the underwriting or issuance of securities.

Treasurer
Treasurer

Able to work in a variety of sectors, treasurers are appointed to administer or manage the financial assets and liabilities of companies, governments or any other groups who need to have their funds looked after.

Stockbroker
Stockbroker

Stockbrokers are professionals who, in return for a fee or commission, buy and sell stocks and other securities on behalf of their clients, either through a stock exchange or informally. They may be self-employed or work for a brokerage firm or broker-dealer.

Financial Analyst
Financial Analyst

Employed by banks, companies, pension funds, insurance companies and others to help choose the best investments, financial analysts anticipate market and stock trends by keeping an eye on ever-changing government regulations and international politics.

Commodities Broker
Commodities Broker

Brokers make a living buying and selling bonds and commodities such as gold, wood and oil on the international market.

Real Estate

Financial professionals who wish to focus on the real estate market would do well to choose this concentration. It offers instruction on all things real estate, such as financing, valuation strategies, and property and market investment analysis.

Career:
Financial Manager
Financial Manager

Responsible for ensuring the financial health of an organization — whether it is a government, NGO, corporation or small business — financial managers draft comprehensive financial reports, lead investment activities and offer long-term financial planning strategies.

Insurance Specialist
Insurance Specialist

Experts at interpreting insurance regulations and determining the level of financial coverage, insurance specialists can gain employment in a variety of work environments, including medical and government offices, hospitals and laboratories. They can also work in billing and coding.

Personal Finance Officer
Personal Finance Officer

Personal finance officers provide individuals with financial advice in order to help them make sound investments. They also help to ensure the proper submission of taxes and insurance documents. This career is often pursued by working at a bank, but many personal finance officers are self-employed.

Salary Potential with a Master’s Degree

Students who complete an online master’s in finance program often do so for the job advancement opportunities and potential pay increase that come along with the higher degree. Graduates are certainly entering a seller’s market — a 2015 report from the Graduate Management Admission Council indicated that over 46 percent of employers planned to hire employees who held a master’s in finance. While entry-level positions in finance are still attainable with a bachelor’s degree, the Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that advanced positions typically require master’s degrees. But just how high is their salary potential? Financial examiners, who typically stop after the baccalaureate level, make $76,310 on average per year, while financial managers on an executive track make $115,320, according to 2014 statistics. Financial analysts have good earning potential as well:

Career outlook 16%
Average Salary $78,620

Additional Resources & Links

People interested in finance and looking for like-minded individuals can find them at the following links, which are full of resources for their members, whether they are professionals or students:

  • American Finance Association

    A respected academic organization devoted to the study and promotion of knowledge about financial economics.

  • Association for Accountants and Financial Professionals in Business (IMA)

    An association that offers professional networking, mentoring, and other resources for professionals in the finance and accounting industry

  • Association of Finance Professionals

    An organization with worldwide membership, which offers career training and advisory services, produces publication and data management tools, hosts annual financial conferences, and offers various professional certifications.

  • Financial Women’s Association

    An organization that brings together high-achieving professionals from every sector of the financial world. FWA is dedicated to developing future leaders and enhancing the role of women in finance.

  • Global Association of Risk Professionals

    A globally recognized membership association for risk managers, GARP is a not-for-profit organization committed to creating a culture of risk awareness within organizations at every level.

  • National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (NAIFA)

    A professional organization and advocacy group that represents insurance and financial advisors nationwide and ensures that its members meet a high standard of business ethics.

  • Society of Finance Professionals

    An organization of over 11,000 financial planners that facilitates discussion groups, provides client education and support tools, and promotes networking skills and opportunities.

Best Online Master’s in Finance Degrees

A master’s in finance was one of the first online degrees available to students, and today the offerings have expanded to include an impressive number of the most respected colleges and universities. How does an aspiring student determine which school is the best fit? One way is to look at reputable rankings that take into account the finer points of online finance master’s degrees.

Check out our rankings of the Best Online Master’s in Finance Degrees for 2015-2016 — and learn more about our methodology here.

RANK COLLEGE SCORE TEACHER/STUDENT RATIO COST GRADUATION RATE
1 Harvard University 100.00 8:1 98%
2 Metropolitan College of New York 99.75 11:1 39%
3 Webster University 98.75 13:1 64%
3 Lehigh University 98.75 10:1 87%
3 Freed-Hardeman University 98.75 14:1 52%
6 Georgetown University 98.50 11:1 95%
6 Brenau University 98.50 11:1 47%
8 University of Saint Mary 98.25 9:1 35%
9 National Louis University 98.00 12:1 25%
9 Concordia University-Wisconsin 98.00 13:1 61%
11 Saint Joseph’s University 97.75 13:1 73%
12 National University 97.25 20:1 40%
13 Northeastern University 97.00 14:1 82%
14 Tiffin University 96.25 18:1 39%
14 California Lutheran University 96.25 16:1 66%
16 Charleston Southern University 95.75 15:1 34%
17 University of the Southwest 95.50 17:1 17%
18 University of Maryland-University College 95.00 22:1 8%
19 Southern New Hampshire University 94.50 28:1 50%
20 New England College 94.25 18:1 36%
21 Webber International University 93.50 23:1 30%