Organizations in nearly all industries, ranging from government agencies to nonprofit organizations, need financial professionals with advanced skills who can diversify their financial portfolios, help them to grow and maximize the return on their investments. An excellent way to advance your skills and move up in your career is to earn an online master’s degree in finance. On this page, we provide a look at what a master’s degree program in finance entails. We also highlight the top-ranking online finance master’s degree programs. Take a look to see if earning a graduate degree in this field is the right step for you.
Considering that financial management is becoming increasingly complex, master’s degree programs in finance expose students to valuable skills with which they can fast-track their careers without having to sacrifice their current jobs. Check out our rankings list below to determine which of the top finance master’s degree programs would best help you to advance in your field. For these rankings, we obtained our data from the United States Department of Education, the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and the universities’ own published materials. All of the schools in our list are accredited.
An online master’s degree program in finance teaches students how to diversify a company’s financial portfolio globally and maximize shareholder value. Students should also learn how to manage an organization’s risk exposure to commodity fluctuations, interest rates and exchange rates.
These programs cover various finance areas, including government finance, corporate finance or investment banking. Students can expect the same content covered in a traditional finance program to be covered in an online finance program.
A master’s degree in finance and an MBA in finance have some major differences. Both offer the necessary education for pursuing various finance careers. However, the master’s degree in finance offers students more specialization than they would get in an MBA program.
A master’s degree in finance provides the niche skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in finance careers. An MBA offers a more general education in business administration, managerial practices and organizational management, which includes some finance coursework. Both types of programs usually take one to two years to complete.
Here are five sample courses commonly offered as part of an online master’s degree in finance program:
This course covers strategic financial decision-making topics, including capital costs, capital structure, corporate control, financial forecasting and valuation.
This course delves into the institutional and environmental factors that influence capital allocation and acquisition internationally.
Through this course, students learn how to make financial decisions when faced with uncertainty. Specific topics covered include normative and positive models as well as current issues facing financial managers.
In this course, students learn about the quantitative methods utilized in financial analysis and how these methods are applied in investment modeling.
This course allows students to examine the behavior of asset holders under uncertain conditions. Rigorous risk analysis is a major component of this course.
In an online master’s in finance program, students may be required to complete an interactive residency involving a few days of coursework. During this on-campus residency, students work with faculty in the program to gain hands-on experience with building models by using a sophisticated simulation tool. The purpose of such residencies is to teach students how to analyze various financial risk probabilities and outcomes.
Many master’s programs in finance also require a capstone research course in which students complete a project involving the valuation and analysis of a company’s equity securities using fundamental financial market analysis. The goal of this type of capstone project is to encourage students to sharpen their analytical skills when it comes to identifying strategies for enhancing value creation.
Some online master’s degree programs in finance allow students to choose specializations. For instance, some students may choose to focus on managerial accounting or financial markets, whereas others may concentrate on investment analysis or mergers and acquisitions (M&As).
Other programs offer specializations designed to prepare students for various financial certification examinations. Students in these programs may choose to become a certified fraud examiner, certified public accountant or certified financial analyst, for example.
Take a look at a few common master’s degree in finance specializations below.
Through this specialization, students learn how to measure and report financial data for various external purposes. Students focus especially on current problems related to income and asset measurement.Financial Markets
Students analyze the factors that affect how prices are determined in today’s financial markets. This specialization also covers derivative securities, focusing on hedging, trading, valuation, futures and forwards.Mergers & Acquisitions
This specialization teaches students about what drives the success of M&As. Students also develop skills and knowledge regarding designing and evaluating M&A transactions.
An online master’s degree in finance will provide you with the skills and knowledge you need to excel in a number of jobs. Here are a few of them.
These professionals are responsible for monitoring and developing departmental or company budgets and making financial forecasts. A specialization in managerial accounting can prepare a student for this type of position.Financial Analyst
Financial analysts carefully study marketplace trends, microeconomic factors and demographics to help their firms to make wise investments. They might also advise companies regarding the issuing of bonds or splitting stock. A master’s degree specialization in financial markets can help to prepare students for financial analyst roles.Financial Advisor
Financial advisors assist individuals seeking to maximize their money. They help their clients develop realistic frameworks for their investment goals and suggest prudent implementation strategies for achieving these goals. A master’s degree specialization in investment analysis can prepare students for this type of position.Investment Banking Analyst
Investment banking analysts work with their companies’ senior members on a variety of deals and perform industry research and financial analyses. A master’s degree specialization in investment analysis can help students to confidently land this type of role.
In addition to completing an online master’s degree in finance, students may benefit from joining professional organizations for networking purposes. Here are a few from which to choose.
This association, established in 1983, is the biggest professional organization for personal advisors in the finance field. This association is 2,400 members strong.
This global association provides certification in five finance areas: management accounting, investment and law, investment banking, internet finance, and credit analysis/management. The association’s website offers a job board plus professional development course links.
Established in 1939, this association is deemed the leading academic organization in financial economics. The organization has a flagship publication called The Journal of Finance that has been published since 1946.
Here is a glimpse at salaries for those with a career in finance. Students should keep in mind, however, that while a master’s degree in finance can lead to these careers, some may require additional certification or experience on top of a master’s degree.
|Career||Lowest 10% Earned Annually||Median Annual Salary||Highest 10% Earned Annually||Job Growth 2016-2026|
|Financial Manager||Less than $66,480||$125,080||More than $208,000||+19%|
|Financial Analyst||Less than $51,780||$84,300||More than $165,580||+11%|
|Personal Financial Advisor||Less than $40,800||$90,640||More than $208,000||+15%|
|Accountant||Less than $43,020||69,350||More than $122,220||+10%|
|Securities, Commodities, Financial Services Sales Agent||Less than $33,060||$63,780||More than $208,000||+6%|
|Top Executive||Less than $68,110||$183,270||More than $208,000||+8%|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018
As indicated in the above chart, the finance field is expected to remain on an upswing for the next 10 years. With increasing globalization, companies need professionals who can help them to manage their money and their risk.
Finance professionals are also needed to assess investment opportunities for businesses and individuals in the world’s emerging markets. Technological improvements and the growth of big data should also drive increased demand, as finance professionals can access more financial data and thus perform higher-quality analyses.
Note that there is a difference in salary depending on your degree. The median salary for a professional with a master’s degree in finance is $101,000, whereas the median salary for someone with bachelor’s degree in finance is $73,000. So those who decide to earn a graduate degree in finance can expect to earn nearly $30,000 more a year.
Students who wish to increase their job opportunities in finance should choose an accredited master’s degree in finance program. In addition to searching for a school that is regionally accredited, look for a finance program that has garnered accreditation from one of three industry accrediting organizations: the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International (AACSB), International Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE) or Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP).
AACSB accreditation is considered to be the most prestigious of the three types of accreditation in the finance field. Just five percent of schools globally have received this accreditation based on their productive faculty research as well as their high academic rigor and admission standards. A school accredited by the AACSB can help students prepare for a variety of professional certifications, including the Chartered Financial Analyst certification.ACBSP & IACBE Accreditation
Accreditation from the other two organizations still indicates a top-notch finance program as well. The ACBSP remains the second-biggest accrediting body in the business and financial education field, whereas the IACBE accredits smaller regional schools throughout the United States.
In many cases, graduate students could use a little financial boost to cover the cost of an online master’s degree in finance. Financial aid is certainly available through the federal government in the form of loans, but here are several scholarship options for these students as well.
This scholarship is available through the Girard Miller Foundation via the Government Finance Officers Association, or GFOA. Valued at $12,000, it is presented each year to graduate students who are studying full-time to earn an advanced local and/or state government finance degree.
This scholarship is available through the Michigan Bankers Association. First-year grad students studying finance are eligible for this $1,000 scholarship. Students have to be residents of Michigan, be full-time students and have a 3.0 grade point average to be eligible.
The scholarship, also sponsored by the GFOA, is available to finance graduate students who are of Hispanic, Pacific Islander, Native Hawaiian, Asian, Alaska Native, American Indian or African American descent. Students who are eligible for this scholarship must be planning to begin their careers in local and state government finance.