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Guide to the Master's Degree in Finance

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A Master's in Finance is an advanced degree for financial professionals looking for career growth or for aspiring financial professionals looking to start their finance industry careers in a high-level role.

In this Article

What Is a Master's in Finance?

The degree is designed to give students an in-depth knowledge of financial topics and to prepare students for roles in financial management. If your goals include positions such as financial manager, financial controller, auditor, chief financial officer, or other management-level finance roles, this degree might be your best bet.

Typical Coursework

Your courses will focus on topics such as economics, financial management, and investment management. You'll study both theory and real-world scenarios and leave your program ready to confidently oversee the finances of a company.

Your specific courses will vary depending on the school you attend. However, there are some core topics that all Master's in Finance programs cover. These include:

  • Economics—a foundational understanding of money on a local and global scale
  • Statistics and data analysis—the collection and interpretation of financial data to make accurate predictions and advise clients
  • Advanced accounting—focus on the money a business or client has each day and how to use that information to help clients or employers build strong financial futures
  • Financial management—how to monitor, maintain, and increase the cash flow and profits at business
  • Investment management—focus on the stock market and the investment of funds
  • Risk management—analysis of financial transactions and the effect they have on companies' and clients' finances
  • International finance the understanding of international business and how to handle money in international markets
  • Small business finance—understanding the specific challenges and issues involved in the success of a small business
  • Financial laws and regulations—deep dive into the laws and regulations that govern how businesses and individuals can financially operate

Degree Prerequisites

You'll need a bachelor's degree before you can begin a Master's in Finance program, and a strong GPA from any previous college-level coursework. Some universities will ask that you take the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE); a test often given to those entering graduate school, but this isn't always a requirement. Other admission requirements will vary by school but often include an interview, essay or personal statement, and letters of recommendation from employers or professors.

Some universities will ask that you take the GRE, but this isn't always a requirement.

Your undergraduate degree doesn't always have been in finance, business, accounting, economics, or another finance-related field. It's generally okay to have a degree in any field if you have experience working in finance. However, if you don't have any experience and your degree is in a very different area, you might need to take some college-level financial courses before you can start a Master's in Finance program.

How Long is the Program?

Generally, a Master's in Finance program will take two years in addition to your bachelor's degree. However, some universities offer accelerated programs. These programs allow you to earn both a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in finance in five years. You'll complete the entire program at the same school and hold both degrees when you graduate.

Are Online Master's in Finance Programs Available?

Some universities offer online Master's in Finance degree programs. You can typically complete these programs 100% online without ever visiting campus. Some programs will ask that you complete an internship. In this case, you will generally be required to go to an in-person location during the internship, but you'll still complete all coursework online.

Do I Need to Be Certified?

Most financial professionals don't have any state or national licensing and certification requirements. However, there are several optional certifications available for financial professionals. Some of these certifications are highly recommended and can help you advance your career, and may be required by top employers. Even when they're not, they can help you stand out and show your dedication to your profession.

Certifications generally aren't required, but they can often help you advance in your career.

A Master's in Finance degree can put you on the path toward two highly respected financial certifications. If you're planning to work as a treasurer, your master's can help you earn the Certified Treasury Professional (CTP) certification from the Association for Financial Professionals. This certification requires either two years of professional experience or a graduate degree before you're eligible. As a graduate of a Master's in Finance program, you'll be able to apply to take the exam.

If you're an accountant, one of the most important certifications you can earn is the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) certification from the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants. This certification requires 150 semester hours of education in accounting before you can apply to take the exam. Your Master in Finance Degree can help you meet this requirement, especially if your undergraduate degree is also in finance or accounting.

Other Finance-Related Degree Programs 

A Master's in Finance degree isn't your only degree option as an aspiring financial professional. There are multiple other degree paths you can take if a Master's in Finance degree isn't the best fit for you or for your career goals. Other finance-related degree program choices  include:

What Can I Do with a Master in Finance?

Finance is a broad field that includes multiple job titles, and there are financial roles available in almost every industry. A Master in Finance degree can help you advance no matter what job title or industry you pursue; from financial manager to CPA or even CFO. It's a great way to open the door to leadership and other high-level roles. You might be able to apply for positions that allow you to manage teams of other financial professionals or that allow you to oversee very large budgets and investment portfolios.

Is a Master's in Finance Worth It?

A Master in Finance Degree is a great fit for anyone looking to advance their financial career. It's a highly specialized degree that will prepare you to take on leadership and other top positions in the financial world. You can use this degree to sharpen your skills, increase your knowledge, and open new doors in your career.

Plus, since some schools do offer an accelerated option, you can earn this degree quickly. So if you know your goal is to hold an administrative or management level financial position, it can be a smart move to start your career by earning a Master in Finance degree. By choosing this route, you'll be able to jump into advanced roles as soon as you graduate.

However, you'll need to be dedicated to your profession and study hard to earn a Master in Finance degree. This might be a good move If you enjoy math, statistics, numbers, critical thinking, and data analysis, but it's not for everyone. Additionally, keep in mind that financial careers require more than just being good at math. You won't be staring at numbers all day. You'll also need strong people skills such as communication, conflict resolution, and teamwork.

In addition to an interest in numbers and data, you will also need strong people skills such as communication, conflict resolution, and teamwork.

Can a Master in Finance Boost My Salary?

Finance is a broad career field and your salary as a financial professional is influenced by a number of factors. For instance, your exact job title, industry, experience level, and location all make a big impact on your paycheck. Your education is another factor that can affect your salary. Earning a Master in Finance degree can open the door to career advancement and  to higher-paying roles. Plus, it can help you earn certification, and certification can increase your salary. For instance, the 2022 Association for Financial Professionals (AFP) Compensation Survey found that financial professionals with a CPT certification earned an average salary that was 6-10% higher than professionals without certification.

stephanie behring

Written and reported by:

Stephanie Srakocic

Contributing Writer