The finance field involves the science and practice of money management, including investing, financial forecasting, borrowing, and lending. By understanding financial systems, investments, and capital markets, finance professionals can help organizations increase profit and manage financial risk.
Students usually earn their master’s in finance in about 24 months. However, learners with sufficient prerequisites often complete intensive, accelerated programs in one year. Applicants to master’s programs in finance typically need a minimum 3.0 GPA, adequate performance in prerequisite coursework, and relevant professional experience.
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Depending on their specialization area, graduates with a finance degree can work in personal financial management, corporate finance, and government finance. Many graduates pursue professional credentials such as financial analyst certification and the certified public accountant credential.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, accountants and auditors earn a median annual salary of $71,550 and financial analysts earn a median annual salary of $81,590. This guide details common program requirements and explores finance careers for graduates.
What Can I Do with a Finance Degree?
Individuals with a finance degree can pursue various careers in the for-profit, nonprofit, and government sectors. Many graduates work in the financial industry, and high-level positions in the field often require a master’s degree. Current finance professionals may pursue a master’s degree to qualify for a promotion or salary increase. Other learners pursue a master’s in finance to transition from another field.
After earning a finance degree, graduates can work as financial analysts who analyze markets to help organizations make financial decisions. Graduates can also work in budget analysis, which involves the monitoring of institutional budgets. These analysts counsel managers and supervise regulatory and legal compliance processes.
Securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents research and facilitate investment opportunities. They also buy and sell financial services, securities, and commodities. These professionals often benefit from earning a master’s degree with an investments-related specialization.
Graduates can also become personal financial advisors who research opportunities, analyze financial data, and counsel clients. These advisors may specialize in a particular financial area, such as retirement, taxation, or mortgages.
Accreditation for a Finance Degree
Finance schools and programs demonstrate their academic quality by seeking accreditation. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation oversees accrediting agencies that evaluate higher education institutions, including regional and national agencies. Regional accrediting agencies typically evaluate academically oriented schools, while national accrediting agencies often assess religious and vocational institutions.
Students at nationally or regionally accredited schools can qualify for federal financial aid. However, since regionally accredited schools meet higher academic standards, these schools typically only recognize degrees and credits awarded by other regionally accredited institutions. Regional accrediting agencies include the Higher Learning Commission, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, the New England Commission of Higher Education, and the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
Is it better to get a bachelor of arts (BA) or a bachelor of science (BS) in finance?
A BS program emphasizes technical aspects and prepares students for technical finance careers. Meanwhile, BA and bachelor of business administration curricula generally include more general business coursework and are ideal for aspiring managers.
What degree do I need for a finance career?
Most finance positions do not require graduate degrees. However, earning a master’s in finance can lead to additional job prospects, promotions, and salary advancement.
What is the highest degree in finance?
After earning a master’s in finance, graduates interested in research or teaching careers sometimes pursue a Ph.D., which is the highest finance degree available.
How long is a master’s in finance?
Full-time students typically complete master’s programs in two years. However, many accelerated online programs offer shorter timelines, particularly for enrollees with transferable business credits.
What Are the Requirements for a Finance Degree?
Applicants to online master’s in finance programs must typically meet GPA requirements, possess at least two years of professional experience, and provide official transcripts demonstrating completion of business-related prerequisites. Some schools also require applicants to submit GMAT scores and undergo admission interviews.
Finance master’s programs usually require 30-60 credits, which learners generally complete in 1-2 years. Students take core finance courses and elective or specialization-related classes. Common concentration options include investments and portfolios, asset management, risk management, and computational finance and trading systems. Many programs also require a capstone experience or project.
Courses in a Finance Program
Full-time students usually earn their master’s degree in finance in two years, while part-time learners may take longer. Accelerated programs often feature short, intensive courses and offer classes year-round. Students generally complete accelerated programs in 12-21 months. Most master’s programs require a capstone project or field experience, during which students gain advanced skills in financial research, analysis, leadership, and communication.
Curricula vary based on program and specialization. Specialized courses may include estate planning, asset allocation, event-driven finance, and risk management. However, students earning a master’s-level finance degree often complete the courses below.
Quantitative Methods in Finance
This core course explores data analysis and statistical inferences professionals often use to make investment decisions. Students learn about tools and techniques for completing key finance activities, such as portfolio management, asset valuation, and forecasting. This course may also survey academic approaches and uses for quantitative methods in finance. The skills and knowledge learners gain during this course can help them complete their master’s thesis or capstone research project.
Financial Derivatives and Risk Management
Finance programs typically offer this class as part of a concentration in derivatives or risk management. Coursework examines topics and strategies related to the derivatives valuation process, including self-financing, portfolio replication, and no-arbitrage. Degree-seekers also study derivatives instruments, such as caps, floors, equity options, and futures. Additional topics may include popular investment banking products and tools. Enrollees cultivate financial and business-analysis skills.
This common elective covers funding sources, corporate capital structure, and financial management. Essential for aspiring financial managers and corporate financial consultants, this class examines effective practices and strategies for data analysis. Learners explore resource allocation and financial valuation and reporting. Enrollees also learn about corporate finance policy and regulation, investment and budgeting decision-making, risk management, and financial valuation.
Financial Ethics and Compliance
Many master of science in finance programs include coursework in ethics, policies, laws, and regulations related to the financial industry. Degree-seekers learn about fraud, information security, auditing, and reporting. Students often examine and suggest solutions for evident tensions between financial industry culture and regulatory compliance. Additional topics may include fiduciary responsibility and agency relationships. Learners also explore the investment regulations set by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.
Capstone Project or Practicum
Most master’s in finance programs require a capstone practicum or project, during which students apply advanced finance skills and knowledge. Learners typically complete this component near the end of their program. Master’s students may need to research, write, and present a dissertation project. Learners complete their dissertation under the supervision of a faculty advisor. A faculty panel evaluates the completed project. The culminating project or experience may involve activities such as equity research and investment analysis./dd>
Certifications and Licensure for Finance Majors
A master’s degree in finance qualifies holders for most finance-related careers. However, some specialized finance positions may require professional certification or licensure. Candidates for these credentials must typically have completed prerequisites and pass an examination. Earning professional credentials can help individuals access niche roles and fields. Professionals with a finance degree often pursue the credentials below.
General Securities Representative
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority offers this credential, which requires satisfactory performance on the Series 7 exam. General securities representatives and U.S. stockbrokers must pass this exam, which covers topics including investment, equity, tax, and securities.
Certified Financial Planner
Administered by the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) Board, this certification requires 4,000 apprenticeship experience hours or 6,000 professional experience hours. Candidates need at least a bachelor’s degree and must pass the CFP examination. The exam tests candidates’ understanding of general financial principles, investment planning, tax planning, and professional conduct. This credential can benefit wealth management advisors, client services advisors, and personal financial planners.
Certified Management Accountant
The Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) offers this certification for corporate accounting professionals. Candidates must pass the two-part CMA exam, which tests financial management competencies and critical accounting expertise. Candidates need a professional accounting certification or a bachelor’s degree, two years of professional experience, and IMA membership. CMAs often work as cost accountants, management accountants, accounting managers, and executives.
Professional Organizations for Finance Majors
Finance students and professionals often benefit by participating in professional organizations. Many of these organizations publish and disseminate resources. Members often gain access to professional networking, career development, and continuing education opportunities. Some organizations also maintain local chapters and offer discounted student membership rates.
American Association of Finance & Accounting
This organization helps executive search firms locate and hire accounting and finance professionals. Members can apply for posted jobs and can access career advancement resources including market expertise, an expansive network, and professional partnerships.
The Association of Accountants and Financial Professionals in Business
Also called the Institute of Managerial Accountants, this professional association offers management accountant certification, career resources, and networking opportunities. Members can also access continuing education classes for financial and accounting professionals. Career resources include a leadership academy, salary information, and job search tool.
Association for Financial Professionals
Located in the District of Columbia and Singapore, AFP serves treasury and finance members through training, networking, and certification opportunities. The association hosts an annual conference, and AFP administers a corporate financial planning and analysis credential and a certified treasury professional credential.
Society of Financial Service Professionals
This society unites professionals from many disciplines. Members can join local chapters, access a professional online library, and attend networking events. FSP publishes the Journal of Financial Service Professionals, and members can also benefit from leadership and volunteer opportunities.
Who Can Apply: ALPFA awards this scholarship to Hispanic or DACA-status students with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Candidates must be enrolled full time in a business, accounting, finance, or STEM program at an accredited school. Applicants who demonstrate financial need or are first- or second-generation college students receive preference. Candidates submit a one-page essay describing why they deserve the scholarship. Amount: Varies
Who Can Apply: PM Business Advisors awards this scholarship to U.S. citizens and permanent residents who are enrolled full time in an accounting or finance program. Applicants must demonstrate community involvement and leadership ability. They need a minimum 3.0 GPA and must plan to take the CPA exam within three years. Application requirements include a resume, official transcripts, and two recommendation letters. Amount: $2,500
Who Can Apply: This award supports Black NABA members who are enrolled full time in a finance, accounting, or business program at an accredited four-year school. Applicants need a minimum 3.3 cumulative GPA and at least a 3.5 GPA in major coursework. Candidates must submit recommendation letters and transcripts. Amount: $1,500
Who Can Apply: The Government Finance Officers Association reserves this scholarship for ethinic minority students pursuing a degree in public administration, government accounting, finance, or business administration. Learners studying political science or economics may also qualify. Candidates must plan to work in local or state government and must submit a recommendation letter detailing their commitment to a career in the public sector. Amount: $10,000
Who Can Apply: U.S. citizens and permanent residents can apply. Candidates must plan to pursue a career in government or public finance and must attend an accredited graduate program. Candidates should demonstrate an outstanding academic record and a strong commitment to future work in the public sector. Applicants submit a recommendation letter. Amount: $20,000
Most Affordable Online Master’s in Finance Programs 2021
Learners study topics like managerial accounting, financial statement analysis, and business strategies. In addition to online coursework, students complete two immersion experiences that occur on campus in Chapel Hill and in other cities. During these summits, learners address business challenges to strengthen their skills.
UNC-Chapel Hill evaluates applicants based on their academic and professional achievements. Applicants with five or more years of professional experience do not need to submit GMAT or GRE scores during the admissions process.
A private Methodist university in Baldwin City, Kansas, BU dates back to 1858. BU's School of Professional & Graduate Studies offers an online master of business administration degree in finance. The 30-credit program prepares professionals for leadership positions in financial services and business.
Learners study organizational effectiveness, business leadership, and communication. After completing 18 credits of core classes, finance students take 12 credits in their concentration. These courses cover financial risk, business sustainability, portfolio management, and financial planning. Finance graduate students also take classes in international finance and strategic corporate finance.
Prospective students must submit official transcripts showing a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited school. Applicants need a minimum 2.75 GPA for full admission. BU admits students with a lower GPA on a conditional basis. Applicants without an undergraduate degree in business can complete pre-MBA pathway courses to join the program.
Enrollees take core classes in accounting, management, and marketing. During their concentration, learners study topics like financial management, financial planning, and risk management. The program also covers investments and international finance.
Prospective students with a bachelor's degree in a non-business major may need to complete prerequisite courses before joining the MBA program. These classes include quantitative analysis, marketing, accounting, and operations management.
Applicants need a minimum 2.5 GPA and a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited school. They must also submit official transcripts, three recommendation letters, a current resume, and GMAT or GRE scores. The university waives the standardized test requirement for candidates who meet GPA and experience requirements.
A small private university in Allegany, New York, SBU enrolls under 2,400 students annually. Founded by Franciscans in 1858, the university offers an online master of business administration in finance that emphasizes personalized and interactive coursework. The program prepares students for leadership roles in business.
After completing foundation courses in accounting, economics, and management, learners move on to concentration coursework. The finance curriculum includes courses in behavioral finance, investments, and managerial economics.
Through classroom and experiential requirements, finance students learn to manage finance teams, measure progress toward financial goals, and solve complex financial problems. The concentration also emphasizes leadership and decision-making skills to help graduates stand out when competing for finance jobs.
Prospective students work with an enrollment advisor to complete the admissions process. The advisor helps applicants walk through the process and enroll in the online program.
Online learners can choose between a flexible schedule or an accelerated 10-month program. In the flexible option, enrollees can complete the degree in 17 months. The 30-credit program covers topics like strategic planning, business ethics, and financial management.
Prospective students must submit official transcripts, two recommendation letters, a resume, and a personal statement. CSU may request GMAT scores, but the admissions committee waives the requirement for applicants with a strong academic and professional background.
Students choose between a fast-track option that takes 11 months to complete and a traditional 19-month option. All learners complete 36 credits of coursework, including core courses in accounting, economics, management, marketing, and finance. Within the finance concentration, degree-seekers study portfolio management, financial analysis, and financial management. The program also offers real-world experience, preparing graduates for financial leadership roles.
Applicants to the online finance program must submit official transcripts. Accepted students work with an enrollment specialist to transfer credits into the program and enroll in courses.
The 30-credit program includes core business classes and specialized finance courses. Online learners study topics like leadership, business decisions, and strategic analysis. These courses strengthen analytical and decision-making skills. Within the finance concentration, students learn about financial institutions, portfolio management, and financial statement analysis. They study topics like corporate finance, financial markets, investment strategies, and international finance.
Applicants need a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited university and must submit GMAT scores. MC waives the GMAT requirement for candidates with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Applicants who do not meet the GPA requirement can still gain admission with either GMAT scores or 3-5 years of professional experience.
Georgia's oldest private university, Mercer dates back to 1833. Mercer students can earn an online master of business administration with a finance specialization. The program incorporates interactive technology to educate working professionals in business, management, and leadership. By prioritizing small class sizes, Mercer encourages students to build relationships with faculty and classmates.
Enrollees complete 36 credits of core courses, including four concentration classes in finance. All students complete a capstone project to apply concepts learned during their program. Students also participate in collaborative learning exercises to build real-world experience.
Online learners can complete the degree in 12 months. The program admits new students five times per year. Prospective students must submit GMAT or GRE scores, official transcripts, and a current resume.
The 42-credit program covers topics like business analytics, managerial accounting, and leadership theory. The finance concentration includes coursework in managerial finance, global finance, and finance management. Learners also study strategic talent management and organizational diagnostics. During an integrative team capstone, enrollees apply the skills they gained during the program.
Bethel's courses start every six weeks. Prospective students work with an enrollment counselor to complete the admissions process. Once admitted, finance students receive a personalized education plan. Bethel's support resources include writing tutoring and academic advising.
A private Catholic school in Texas, the University of Dallas dates back to 1956. At UD, students can earn an online master of business administration with a finance concentration. The degree in finance emphasizes practical methods and organizational leadership. Designed with working professionals in mind, students can take classes fully online or in a hybrid format. The program takes full-time learners about two years to complete.
UD's finance concentration emphasizes professional skills and provides hands-on experience. During the 39-credit program, online learners study core topics like data analysis, business strategy, and operations management. The finance curriculum also includes training in managerial finance, financial markets, and investments.
Prospective students need a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution with a minimum 2.0 GPA. UD also requires a minimum 3.0 GPA on any graduate-level coursework. The program requires prerequisite coursework in management, marketing, economics, and finance.
The finance and investment concentration trains learners in the financial decision-making process. By studying for-profit and nonprofit organizations, the financial market, and financial institutions, degree-seekers gain career-focused training. Coursework in investment analysis, acquisitions, and international financial planning prepares graduates for positions in commercial banking, corporate planning, and investment banking.
Full-time learners complete the program in about two years. Enrollees participate in real-time courses that include live discussions. Applicants without a business background can complete an online course on business administration before entering the program. Marywood admits finance graduate students on a rolling basis and makes the GMAT optional for applicants.
The 40-credit program covers topics like organizational management, business analytics, and financial management. The curriculum also includes a practicum course during which degree-seekers complete a real-world business challenge to strengthen their skills.
NC State incorporates two required on-campus residencies. Active-duty military can replace the residency requirement with an elective course. The program admits applicants in the fall and spring. Applicants need a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution and must submit GMAT or GRE scores.
CUC incorporates ethics, critical thinking, communication, and global inclusiveness into all courses. The finance specialization builds on the core business curriculum to train learners in financial decision-making and socially responsible leadership. Degree-seekers study the banking system, financial statement analysis, international finance, and corporate finance.
Applicants must submit official transcripts, two recommendation letters, and a resume. CUC also requires a personal statement detailing the applicant's education and career goals. The program does not require GMAT or GRE scores.
The online finance concentration teaches students to use financial forecasts in business settings, analyze financial problems, and make data-driven financial decisions. Learners study topics like the financial system, financial institutions, capital markets, and international finance. Graduates can work in banking, investments, and corporate finance.
Prospective students must submit official transcripts and GMAT or GRE scores. FHSU also requires two recommendation letters, a current resume, and a personal statement explaining their career goals and work experience.
Learners study economic problems, management strategies, and decision-making in business. The finance concentration lets students specialize their degree by taking advanced coursework in finance. Online students can also design a custom concentration to meet specific career goals.
Lakeland uses a unique blended format that lets enrollees switch between online and in-person classes each week. Prospective students need a minimum 2.75 GPA or a minimum score of 450 on the GMAT. They must also submit a current resume, two recommendation letters, and a statement of purpose. Incoming students can transfer up to nine credits.
A public university, Stanislaus State offers 17 master's degrees, including an online master of business administration (MBA) with a finance concentration. Designed for working professionals, the program prioritizes flexibility. Students complete most of their coursework asynchronously, while also working closely with faculty. The program builds leadership skills through virtual teams, case studies, and collaborative projects.
During the online finance degree, MBA students take seven core business classes and three finance electives. Learners study topics like investment strategies and financial management. The program helps prepare graduates for the chartered financial analyst credential. All students complete a capstone course in integrated business strategy.
Prospective students need a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution with a minimum 2.5 GPA in their final two years of study. Applicants must also provide GMAT or GRE scores.
From its campus in Joliet, Illinois, USF grants degrees as a private Catholic school. The online master of business administration (MBA) in finance emphasizes global challenges in business, analytical thinking, and decision-making. Online learners can earn their finance degree in as little as one year.
The MBA program provides advanced training in leadership and communication. By studying industry cases and business trends, learners strengthen their business knowledge. The program also incorporates experiential learning to prepare graduates for the workforce.
Prospective students need a bachelor's degree in business, finance, economics, or a related field with a minimum 2.75 GPA. The program also recommends two years of professional experience. USF does not require the GMAT for admission. Incoming students can transfer up to nine credits toward the degree. The program admits new students in the fall, spring, and summer.
The 53-credit program trains students to solve business financing problems, maximize investments, and analyze financial portfolios. Within the concentration, learners can focus on corporate financial planning or financial analysis. Students also complete a finance internship to gain hands-on experience.
Prospective students must provide official transcripts and GMAT or GRE scores. UT Dallas waives the standardized test score requirement for applicants who meet GPA requirements. The program also requires a recommendation letter, an essay, and a resume.
Founded in 1858 as a Methodist university, Baker offers an online master of business administration in finance. The 36-credit finance program emphasizes financial management, training students for leadership roles in small businesses, corporations, nonprofits, and government agencies.
Enrollees strengthen their analytical and problem-solving abilities through discussions, case studies, and skills-building activities. Finance topics include corporate financial management, international business finance, and public finance. The program trains students to apply principles in real-world environments.
Baker's flexible scheduling options appeal to working professionals seeking career advancement. Students can choose an accelerated path to complete their degree in under two years. Prospective students must submit official transcripts showing a minimum 2.5 GPA and a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution. Baker also requires a current resume and an essay.
The degree in finance emphasizes critical thinking, ethical decision-making, and leadership skills. Online learners take core courses in organizational behavior, business analytics, and managerial action. During the finance concentration, students explore financial reporting, economic analysis, and managerial finance.
The program admits new students five times per year. Prospective students need a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA. They must also submit official transcripts, GMAT scores, two recommendation letters, a resume, and a personal statement.
During the finance degree, learners study the best practices and theories in finance. The program explores topics like exchange markets, multinational business finance, portfolio management, and strategic financial management.
Norwich offers several scholarships to support students, including an achievement scholarship for applicants with a strong academic and professional record. The university also offers an active-duty military scholarship for students enrolled in online master's programs. Prospective students need a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university.
Founded in 1820, IU is the flagship campus of Indiana's public university system. At IU, students can earn an online master's degree in finance or a master of business administration (MBA) in finance. Both degrees prepare graduates for leadership roles in finance.
During the 30-credit master's in finance, learners study financial management, value creation, risk management, and capital markets. Students learn to use financial resources, evaluate financial opportunities, and recommend financial strategies.
The 54-credit MBA program provides advanced training in multiple areas of business. After completing core courses, students can choose electives to customize their degree. Online students complete two on-campus residencies and an integrative capstone project. Both the master's in finance and the MBA program require a bachelor's degree and GMAT or GRE scores for admission.
During the online finance program, learners explore financial decision-making and risk assessment. Drawing on real-life examples, coursework trains students to gauge investments, distribute capital, and foster growth.
The program offers six start dates each year. Prospective students must submit official transcripts, a resume, and a personal statement. They also need a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited school with a minimum 2.75 GPA.
Founded in 1905, Missouri State is a public university that offers an online master of business administration with a certificate in finance. The fully online program appeals to working professionals seeking a flexible schedule. Finance students can customize the certificate around their career goals and interests by choosing from a variety of finance electives.
The 24-credit core examines topics like accounting, marketing, organizational behavior, and business strategy. The graduate certificate in finance adds 12 credits that explore investment management, international financial management, and financial statement analysis.
Missouri State charges the same tuition rate for all online learners regardless of residency. Prospective students must submit official transcripts, GMAT or GRE scores, and a resume. The program waives the GMAT requirement for candidates with a minimum 3.25 GPA and a business degree accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.
During the 36-credit MBA program, online learners complete core classes in finance, accounting, behavioral management, and data analysis. Within the finance concentration, students gain advanced training in security investment, modern portfolio theory, and international financial management. They also study valuation, financial technology, and banking management.
Students can complete the online MBA degree in as little as one year. Applicants need a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited university with a minimum 2.5 GPA. The MBA program requires prerequisite coursework in financial accounting, managerial accounting, macroeconomics, and business statistics.
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