Milestone Map for the Financial Specialist
Earning an MBA can be a major achievement in the life of a finance professional – but there are many others. Below is a map that highlights key milestones a Finance MBA might accomplish along the way.
Took economics as an elective, was class treasurer
Majored in finance, minored in
Crunched numbers as an accountant for an environmental nonprofit
Completed online MBA in finance
Earned position as finance manager at a wealth management firm
Became the firm’s Chief Financial Officer
Finance MBA: The Online Experience
Online education’s flexibility allows many students to get an MBA without having to sacrifice their jobs or personal lives. Online finance MBA programs often have the same curriculum as their brick-and-mortar counterparts, so students shouldn’t worry that they are trading quality for convenience.
Students enrolled in online finance MBAs do most of their coursework through web-based learning platforms. This may make finance students who understand the importance of networking nervous, but online programs are designed to give students the full benefits of an MBA education. Live discussions, simulations and projects allow MBA finance students to interact and build relationships with their peers and educators, while asynchronous formats, like discussion forums, let students log into class at their convenience to complete assignments and discuss course materials with classmates.
Further, some online MBA finance programs require short-term, on-campus residencies. Students can network extensively while getting an introduction to the MBA program, engaging in group projects and taking a few intensive for-credit courses. Connections keep growing through strong social network communities and student organizations.
Types of Online MBA Finance Programs
Business schools often offer different types of online MBA programs to fit the various needs and lifestyles of their students. The right program may depend on an individual’s work experience, career goals or available free time, so knowing which type of program to choose can ensure prospective students are successful in earning their finance MBA. Common online program options include executive, part-time and full-time MBAs.
- Executive (2 years or less)
- Full-time (2 years)
- Part-time (4-5 years)
Aspiring business leaders who have steady careers don’t necessarily want to put their job on hold for two years and risk losing their position to go to school. However, specializing in finance could push them further up the ladder and increase their income. Prospective students in this polarizing position are ideal candidates for an executive online MBA. Executive MBAs are designed to be flexible for mid-career students, but the online factor makes getting an MBA even more convenient. Many professionals travel frequently as part of their jobs, so getting an executive MBA at a traditional, on-campus institution isn’t really an option.
Students enrolled in online EMBA programs are expected to have substantial professional experience and want to challenge themselves. Their work experience often becomes part of the curriculum, as students share their expertise with one another. EMBAs are typically intensive programs for those who want an increased, in-depth knowledge of business fundamentals, but students can specialize in finance by taking relevant electives.
People wanting to switch careers or students who have just earned their bachelor’s degree and want to jump straight into their MBA in finance are well-suited for full-time online study. While those who choose a full-time MBA program will likely have to give up a significant amount of work time, full-time programs often set students up with finance-related internships as part of their curriculum. These internships serve as great opportunities for students to gain practical finance experience and make connections with potential employers.
A part-time online MBA program is ideal for those who already have some work experience and likely want to stay with their company but are still fairly early in their careers. The flexible nature of a part-time online program allows students to continue working while taking classes when it’s convenient. Students also get the opportunity to use their new finance knowledge at work, potentially showing employers that they’re qualified for a higher position in the company. Since it is typically stretched out over four to five years, a part-time online MBA program may not be as intensive or quick-paced as an EMBA or full-time MBA program. However, those who choose to get their MBA in finance through a part-time program should keep in mind that self-motivated students with good time management skills have the most success completing their MBA program while balancing work and personal life.
Common Finance Courses in an Online MBA
Finance courses in MBA programs may be represented in the core MBA curriculum or as electives within a finance specialization track. Commonly found courses include:
Financial management courses cover the basics of finance as they pertain to management of companies. Students may learn finance theory and how to use spreadsheets to create financial plans.
Financial reporting course directed toward those interested in management positions. Focuses on topics such as costing for quality, product costing and cost justifications.
Financial Risk Management
Financial risk management courses teach students to use technologies and data to assess and manage various types of financial risks. Students should be prepared to use new software and technology for this course.
International Financial Management
International financial management courses introduce students to the study of world financial markets, including the various opportunities and risks that come with investing across national borders. Students may learn about international investment diversification, exchange rates and international capital budgeting.
Quantitative methods courses build on students’ prior mathematical and statistical modeling skills to aid in decision-making, simulation models and forecasting.
Choosing the Right Business School
With so many online MBA programs out there, picking the right business school can be daunting. Here are some things to consider when choosing an online business school:
- Make sure your school offers the type of program that suits your lifestyle and career goals at a time that works for you.
- Find out about enrollment requirements, like GPA, work experience or GMAT scores, and make sure you meet them.
- Is the school accredited? By which organizations?
- Visit target schools or speak with current students in the program and/or admissions representatives.
- Visit the schools on your list and talk to current students in the program as well as admissions representatives.
- Find out what support services are available to online students.
- Check financial aid options of the program and school.
- Ensure tuition costs are realistic.
Finance B-School Accreditation
Before deciding on an online finance school, it’s important for students to check its accreditation status. Accreditation is an optional, extensive process that evaluates an institution’s or program’s qualifications. Many employers are skeptical of unaccredited institutions and may be less likely to hire finance MBAs who graduate from them. The most prestigious online MBA finance programs are accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). For more details on MBA accreditation, see our main MBA page.
Making a Game Plan for Finance B-School
One way students can ensure they are ready for their online MBA in finance is by keeping track of the tasks they need to complete before their MBA program begins. Keeping a timeline or calendar of important dates can help prospective students make sure they feel prepared and don’t miss crucial deadlines. The chart below is an example of how that schedule might look.
||Time Before Program Start Date
Earn bachelor’s degree
|2 years, 3 months
Get entry-level finance job
Take GMAT, if necessary
Apply to desired online finance MBA program(s)
11 months for Round One admissions
8 months for Round Two admissions
Complete FAFSA®, apply for and secure financial aid like grants, loans and scholarships
That said, students can begin preparing for an online MBA in finance even before their undergraduate program and can continue preparing throughout their career. Taking classes or participating in activities relevant to finance may give applicants an extra edge when applying to business schools.
- Get comfortable with Excel. Creating spreadsheets is vital for finance students.
- Take a business psychology course. Understanding client concerns can be extremely helpful in building and maintaining client relationships as a finance professional.
- Consider joining a professional organization, like the Association for Financial Professionals or the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors. There are many financial organizations out there, so find one that’s right for you.
- Consider a job in banking to help build relevant professional experience.
Career Outcomes for Online Finance MBAs
An online MBA in finance can help professionals start or further their careers. The following are just a few career options MBA graduates may be interested in pursuing. All of them only require a bachelor’s degree, but according the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these upper-level careers can be highly competitive, and those with advanced credentials are more likely to get them.
Financial managers keep track of a company’s finances, analyze data and give advice on maximizing profits. People can choose to become specific types of finance managers, which requires more specific knowledge of certain areas, like credit, risks and insurance. Financial managers can also advance to become Chief Financial Officers. A bachelor’s degree and at least five years of experience in a related field are usually required to become a finance manager. Financial managers may opt to get additional certification as well.
Brokers help their clients make investments based on client needs and how much they are able to invest. Brokers not only advise their clients on their current investments, but on future ones as well. They perform quick financial analysis and are constantly up-to-date on the stock market. Since brokers usually have to build and maintain their client base, they must be personable and have strong communication skills.
Financial analysts assess investment opportunities for their companies. They can either be buy-side analysts or sell-side analysts. Buy-side financial analysts help companies with a high amount of money create investment strategies, whereas sell-side analysts give advice to agents who sell stocks and bonds. Many financial analysts must be licensed. Optional certification is available as well.
Personal Financial Advisor
Personal financial advisors help individuals with their finances by assessing their needs and helping them make informed decisions about investments, insurance and laws. Some personal financial advisors specialize in one area, such as retirement planning or risk management. Starting positions usually require a bachelor’s degree, but getting a master’s increases a person’s chance of attracting new clients and earning a higher position. Additionally, personal financial advisors do need certain certifications to practice.
Chief Financial Officer (CFO)
Chief financial officers provide leadership and guidance to various departments in their companies. They are in charge of overseeing financial operations and making sure accounting and finance departments are working efficiently and are in compliance with the law and IRS guidelines.
Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Note: Chief Financial Officer data represents all Chief Executives and Broker data represents all Securities, Commodities, and Financial Services Sales Agents.
Certifications and Licensure for MBA Finance Grads
Some finance jobs have optional certifications that can help professionals advance in their careers. Others require specific credentials.
Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Certification
This is an optional certification offered to financial managers and financial analysts through the CFA Institute. Those who wish to gain this credential need at least four years of relevant work experience and must pass three exams.
Certified Treasury Professional Credential
This is another optional certification available to financial advisors. It’s offered through the Association for Financial Professionals. It requires one exam and two years of relevant work experience.
Financial Analyst Licensure
Financial analysts must be licensed by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. This is usually sponsored by employers, so employees don’t need to be licensed before getting hired.
Personal Financial Advisor Licensure
Depending on the investments and services they sell, personal financial advisors need to get various combinations of licensure to cover these. Those who choose to sell insurance need to be licensed by state boards.
Certified Financial Planner Certification
This is an optional credential for personal financial advisors offered through the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards. Those who want the credential need a bachelor’s degree and three years of relevant work experience. They also need to pass an exam and adhere to a code of ethics.
Similar Online MBA Programs
After reading through this guide, prospective students may wonder in an MBA in finance is right for them. If it sounds interesting but not quite right, check out some similar MBA programs.
Students who are more drawn to the number-crunching aspect of finance should consider getting an MBA in accounting. These programs may focus on financial reporting, taxation and auditing.
Students may decide that they prefer creating, promoting and selling a company’s or product’s image. These students might consider an MBA in marketing.
in International Business
Those who are more interested in global issues and worldwide business relations could be well-suited for an MBA in international business. Often these programs allow students to study abroad.