MBA in Finance
Is your career in need of a reboot? An MBA in finance just might open a whole new window of opportunity in your work life.
Why an MBA in Finance?
If you’re already working in the business trenches, an MBA in finance program is a great place to further your career through practical skills and new connections. Designed for students with several years of work experience, MBA training offers broad-based education in all facets of the business world. Classes often require intense collaboration with fellow students, sharpening your critical thinking skills and preparing you for leadership positions.
By specializing in finance, you’ll gain the sought-after technical skills that make the business world go round. Expect to gain in-depth knowledge of financial markets, investments, statistics, corporate finance and more. A finance MBA can open the door to executive positions in banking, investing, insurance, real estate and high-tech startups.
Finance MBA: Program Length & Coursework
An MBA in finance will generally require two to three years to complete. You may be able to shorten that time frame by transferring your existing college credits. School policies vary widely on this front; be sure to inquire as you research degree options.
Some schools offer an intensive one-year program designed for mid-level career professionals looking to make a change.
[Is a fast-track business degree program right for you?]
- Business analytics
- Corporate finance
- Debt instruments
- Finance theory
- Financial markets and institutions
- Financial statement analysis
- Financial strategy
- International financial management
- Investment Banking
- Market trading/volatility
- Mergers and acquisitions
- Portfolio management
- Private equity finance
- Real estate capital markets
- Risk analysis and management
Some schools also offer labs or student-managed investment funds that offer hands-on experience in working the dials and levers of the financial world.
Online MBA in Finance
Convinced you need a degree to move ahead, but can’t ditch your day job to do it? Consider the online MBA in finance, designed for busy working professionals. The MBA is the most popular online graduate degree in the country, and it’s offered by both online-only schools and their brick-and-mortar cousins.
In an online program, instructors deliver lectures and coursework through a virtual portal that allows you to log in and learn at any time. Do homework whenever suits your schedule—weekend mornings, late nights, or during lulls in the kids’ soccer games. Discussion forums keep you connected with professors and other students—many of whom will also be seasoned professionals juggling work and home obligations.
[What else should you consider when choosing an online MBA program?]
Whether you pursue a finance MBA online or in person, the degree is the same. You’ll complete the same amount of coursework and credits to earn the credential. But the online version is different in one obvious way: There’s little or no face time with professors and other students. The online path requires an extra dose of drive, determination and time management skills.
Choosing a School for Your Finance MBA
With so many schools offering the finance MBA degree, the options can be overwhelming. Do your homework to make sure the program is right for you before diving in. Consider the following factors:
Accreditation is a third-party seal of approval and your assurance that a business school meets outside standards for quality and rigor. There are plenty of accrediting agencies out there, but the U.S. Department of Education sanctions only a few of them, including:
- ACBSP: The Accreditation Council for Collegiate Business Schools and Programs
- AACSB: Association to Advance collegiate Schools of Business
Check to see that the school you’re considering has received accreditation from one of these recognized agencies. Federal financial aid is available only to students enrolled in an accredited university or college.
Tuition for the MBA in finance varies wildly. For instance:
- The online-only degree offered by Florida Technical University pencils out to around $32,000.
- Students at the prestigious Harvard Business School pay more than $100,000 for their MBAs.
- One entrepreneurial American, studying from her home base in Rwanda, earned an equivalent MBA through Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and paid almost nothing.
It pays to do your homework. Look for information about tuition and related fees on the school website, or ask an admissions officer prior to enrolling in your program.
Professional networking and recruiting opportunities are vital to MBA students. As you research potential schools, quiz them about their relationships with companies in your target industry. Does the school offer contact with recruiters? How often? What’s the job placement rate for program alumni? Is there support available for résumé-writing and interviewing skills?
Apply the same due diligence to this research that you would to any project for your job. A school’s support services will help you make the most of this career-boosting credential.
MBA in Finance: Career Paths
Here are a few popular career choices for graduates of finance MBA programs:
Chief Financial Officer
CFOs manage and monitor a company’s financial health. These well-rounded professionals oversee everything from budgeting to investments, reporting tools to real estate acquisitions. Depending on the company, the chief financial officer might also be responsible for raising capital, shepherding mergers and acquisitions and guiding international expansions.
Commercial or Investment Banker
Investment bankers connect businesses with the capital they need by raising money in the stock markets. They also advise on how to structure mergers and acquisitions, analyze potential gains and losses, and structure the financial deals that keep the doors of business open.
Financial analysts are renowned for their ability to absorb and evaluate huge volumes of data. Their ultimate aim? Forecast which stocks will be the winners and the losers of the financial markets. The job requires technical know-how, great communication skills and nerves of steel.
[What else do financial analysts do, and where do they work?]
Investment Fund or Portfolio Manager
Investment fund managers provide financial guidance and direct the allocation of investments for individuals and organizations by placing trades and calculating portfolio structures. Rather than reacting to the vagaries of the financial markets, savvy portfolio managers work to set their clients up for long-term success, whether it’s a bull or a bear market.
Meet a Finance MBA Degree Holder: John Schilling
A former software engineer, this CFO and entrepreneur harnessed the power of his MBA in finance to co-found and guide several successful companies.
Seven years into a career in software development, John Schilling had hit a plateau.
An electrical engineer by training, he had developed a keen interest in the financial and business side of the technology industry. “But I was pushing a rope uphill,” he says. His peers still thought of him as an engineer.
The situation prompted a bold cross-country move to pursue a finance MBA at the University of Chicago. “It was the most tremendous experience of my life,” says John of his two years in Hyde Park. “I was surrounded by bright, curious, motivated students and professors, all focused on the field of finance.”
After graduation, he quickly landed a job as the CFO of a small Seattle company, where he put his newly-minted MBA to work. From there, he harnessed his entrepreneurial streak to co-found the wildly successful Sharebuilder, a company that pioneered a new way of investing by allowing people to start small.
Following other successful ventures over the next decade, John went on to executive roles with the Bill Gates-backed startup Kymeta, which specializes in state-of-the-art communications antennas that are replacing the giant satellite dishes of yesteryear. He’s now the CFO of the newly-created Leosat, a venture with big plans to launch communications satellites into orbit by 2019.
Whether it’s software or satellites, John’s MBA has equipped him to guide mission-critical business decisions every day: how to raise capital, where to deploy it, how to measure the results, and how to make course adjustments along the way. “Finance is the scorekeeping system for the business world,” he says. “It’s a tool set to analyze business and business opportunities in the ways that the world measures them.”
Although he’s faced occasional setbacks in his career, John remains bullish on the finance MBA. He sees a renewed appreciation for the degree following the dotcom collapse and the 2008 economic meltdown. “Finance professionals are held in higher esteem than they were previously,” he says. “It turns out that real financial results are ultimately more important than ‘clicks’ and ‘eyeballs’ and ‘unique visitors.'”
What advice does he offer to career changers considering an MBA in finance? “If you have an interest in it, go for it!” he says. “You’ll work hard no matter what you do, so you might as well do something that interests you.”
Bottom line for this serial entrepreneur and CFO: “Finance is not a fad.”
Whether you’ve got your sights set on a Wall Street office, Silicon Valley startup, or just a promotion at your current company, the MBA in finance can usher in the next chapter of your work life. Now that you’ve got the facts about the degree, it’s time to start exploring the options for the program that suits you best.
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