Finance MBA Degrees & Careers Guide

Your Guide to Career, Curriculum and Education

MBA programs have become incredibly popular over the past 20-30 years. As the business world has become ever more diverse and international in scope, so have MBA programs. Now there are a myriad of program types, degree options, certificate options, and concentrations for graduate business students. The MBA in Finance is one of the more highly sought degrees since finance is the lifeblood of business. Furthermore, deregulation in the finance industry have contributed to its incredible complexity which necessitates graduate study for mere comprehension.

This page is designed to help you learn more about an MBA in Finance so that you can make the best decision for your higher education. You can gain new insights into online MBAs, program accreditation, career options for your business degree, and even scholarships to help finance your finance degree. Keep reading and learn more about the brilliant career that lies ahead.

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What is an MBA Finance?

An MBA in Finance is a graduate degree that builds on your academic and professional experience to help you develop into a top professional in the world of finance. Your degree will hone in on the lifeblood of any organization, money. During your studies, you’ll focus on areas that include, but are not limited to credit, monetary systems, investments, financial management, and financial statement analysis.

Your skills with regards to financial analysis will be vastly improved over the course of your degree program. Since you are pursuing an MBA with a finance focus, you will also learn more about business in general. Your coursework might include topics such as leadership, organizational management, human resources, and marketing. With such a broad view of the business world, your command of issues in the boardroom will make you a potent force.

The focus on finance, however, will help you focus on the money matters that most appeal to you. You could pursue a career as a credit advisor, mergers and acquisitions expert, or you might work closer to the trading side of the financial industry and help move large blocks of capital by way of stock offerings, buybacks, or even private placements.

What Can You Do With an MBA in Finance?


  • Credit Analyst
    Your MBA in Finance could result in a career in assessing credit. Many are familiar with having their credit assessed for a credit card or other debt instrument. However, a true credit analyst is involved in large-scale lending where the borrower has a very complex set of equities, assets, and debts that must be careful assessed before they are deemed worthy of a loan. You might work for a bank, credit union, or some other financial institution, but there are also those who work for credit consultancies and provide specialty services when needed.
  • Investment Analyst
    This position focuses on assessing equities and other investment opportunities. Investment analysts are most often known for their reports on a portfolio of companies, often all within the same industry classification and making recommendations for buying, selling, or holding positions in their stock. They also analyze investments such as bonds, currencies, or commodities. Often, investment analysts prepare comprehensive reports on their industry sector so that their firm’s customers gain a big-picture view. Analysts might also work for fund managers and help guide the fund’s purchases.
  • Risk Analyst
    These professionals are the dark cloud of business. They assess statistical, governmental, and other factors to determine what could go wrong for their firm. They also help provide insight into how a firm can avoid excess risk. Since every businessperson understands that the greater risk a venture represents, the greater the potential reward, the professional who assesses that risk is highly valued. Ultimately, without a risk analyst, firms have difficulty making sound long- and short-term decisions. Risk analysts must be experts at statistical analysis and generating models that simulate a variety of likely future scenarios, among many other skills.
  • Financial Manager
    In this position, professionals are responsible for all or a significant part of a firm’s financial portfolio. They help determine how money will be spent and invested by relying on a team of analysts, credit specialists, and others who prepare financial documents. Depending on what industry you work in, you will be asked to have specialized knowledge of issues that are specific to that sector. For instance, a financial manager who works for a hotel chain should be aware of trends in travel and tourism including both business and tourist customers. You should also be aware of any current or pending regulations, including taxation.
  • Investment Banking Associate
    An associate in an investment bank is at the second tier of the typical investment bank hierarchy. To become an associate, you will need to start as an analyst and complete a 2-year program in the trenches creating spreadsheets of comparable companies. After your tenure as analysts expires, you can earn an MBA with a focus on finance and become an associate. In this position, you will become somewhat of a liaison between the analysts in your industry sector and the Vice President with whom you are working. Thus, you will not only need to have the sharp analytical focus of an analyst, but you’ll need to communicate their findings with those you report to.

Online VS On-Campus for an MBA in Finance


For your MBA in Finance, you can choose between an online, on-campus, or even a hybrid MBA degree program. Hybrid programs allow a blend of in-person and online instruction. If you choose an online program, you can continue working and complete your coursework in the evenings or during whatever down time you might have. In the past several years these online MBA programs have come a long way, and many have achieved top accreditations.

For a traditional on-campus MBA, you might choose to leave the working world for two years and focus solely on full-time coursework. However, there are plenty of campus MBA programs that are conducted at night and on weekends which allow you to continue working. Traditionally, these night and weekend programs are how professionals have managed to maintain their jobs while completing an advanced degree.

In fact, these night and weekend programs are sometimes linked with online courses so that students can blend the two experiences. These hybrid MBA finance programs offer students the opportunity to meet and connect with their fellow students. Since connections and networking are such a vital part of the MBA process, students in a hybrid program can have both flexible classes and real-world engagements. Some hybrid programs only require periodic campus appearances for a select set of seminars and other work. However, there are many creative approaches to how a hybrid program can be structured and each is bound to be unique.

Types of Finance MBA Degrees


  • Postgraduate or Post-MBA Certificate in Finance
    Average Salary :$150,000
    If you already have an MBA but need additional academic training in finance, this is the way to go. These programs are usually structured to take only a year or so to complete. If you are working full-time and can't commit to full-time studies, certificate programs can be flexible and allow you to spread the courses out. Considering that a certificate in finance could boost your base salary to $150,000 or more, the investment is more than worthwhile.

  • MS in Finance
    Average Salary :N/A
    A Master of Science in Finance differs from an MBA in that it focuses solely on topics such as monetary theory, financial analysis, mathematics, and statistics, among others. Where many top MBA programs require that students have a significant tenure in the working world, a finance student with a bachelor's degree can easily enter this more strictly academic degree. The downside of an MS versus an MBA is that it can restrict your ability to earn and get ahead. That is, an MBA provides more training in management and other soft skills that help professionals reach the C-suites.

  • MBA in Finance
    Average Salary :$160,000
    This master's degree option is for those who desire a more comprehensive view of the business landscape while maintaining a focus on matters of finance. Your MBA in Finance will typically take two years to complete, assuming that you can attend classes on a full-time basis. Since programs commonly offer online options for some or all programs, you can structure your work/study life as needed. This degree can yield a base salary of up to $160,000 but professionals also frequently enjoy a substantial bonus package that can elevate your earnings substantially.

  • MBA in Management and Finance
    Average Salary :$600,000
    This MBA degree option is for those who are interested in working for a non-financial firm. You might work as a financial manager for a healthcare concern and thus need the leadership and organizational skills to be as effective as possible. This degree could also put you on the fast-track to becoming a chief financial officer. Many CFOs hold credentials as CPAs but may not necessarily need to be licensed. In some markets, CFOs are known to enjoy full compensation packages that can exceed $600,000 per year.

  • MBA in Finance and Banking
    Average Salary :$200,000
    This is the MBA option you need if your career goals are in the banking sector. This is a terrific opportunity for you to gain the skills necessary to join the upper floors of your bank. Executives in banking can earn as much as $200,000 or more, depending on their market. Alternately, some with this degree pursue a career in a consultancy. They may focus on credit or work for a mergers and acquisitions firm that specializes in banking.

Sample Curriculum & Courses for Finance Programs


  • International Financial Management
    International business professionals need to understand how currency markets operate on top of how international rules and regulations apply. This course will prepare students to manage international expansion, mergers, and other vital business transactions.
  • Derivatives
    Students in this course will come to understand these exotic yet fundamental securities. Once armed with this knowledge, students can enter into venture capital, create effective corporate strategies, and understand the various sorts of derivatives.
  • Valuation
    It is vital that finance majors understand how to value companies. Investment bankers need to determine value for comparable companies they seek to merge or acquire and equities analysts rely on valuations when making a recommendation for a sale or purchase.
  • Corporate Finance
    This is a core class for finance students and others in an MBA program. Topics include contemporary financial theories, asset pricing, cash flow techniques, and more. This course may be introductory in nature, but it is vital for all finance students.
  • Investment Management
    Every organization needs to invest, and this course helps students understand how to manage a large investment portfolio. It will cover topics such as diversification, active and passive investments, and the risk/return ratio.

Frequently Asked Questions


What certification should I get in addition to an MBA in Finance?

One chief certification for an MBA in Finance is a CPA certificate. Since you will probably not need to complete or sign tax return documents, a state CPA licensure is not necessary. However, the CPA designation will help you stand out in the job market. In fact, if you only pass one part of the CPA examination, such as the Financial Accounting & Reporting portion, your career will still benefit. Another option may be to achieve a certification as financial risk manager (FRM).

What are the differences between an MBA in Finance and a regular MBA?

A general MBA can do wonders for any career in business. This degree provides a strong foundation in business that hones your critical thinking skills, enhances business creativity, makes you a better communicator, and strengthens your leadership abilities. Furthermore, students often only need a strong GMAT score to apply. For a specialized Finance MBA, students will need to show significant work experience and also strong GMAT scores to apply. These programs can take less time since they focus squarely on finance with a diminished emphasis on general business topics, such as leadership. Many specialized MBA programs can be completed in as little as a year.

Who Should Consider Getting this Degree


  • Seasoned Professionals
    An MBA in Finance is perfect for a professional who has already established a track record in financial analysis, risk management, or accounting and who now wants to enhance their career. In fact, it's recommended that students have at least four years of experience before applying to a program. However, you might consider applying if you are completing an analyst program with an investment bank.
  • Aspiring Executives
    You might consider an MBA in Finance if you wish to elevate your status in your firm. If you are working under a finance manager, you may want to enter an MBA program so that you might reach that position, as well.
  • Consultants and Entrepreneurs
    If you desire to strike out as a finance consultant, and MBA in Finance will certainly go a long way towards helping you achieve that goal. Once you graduate you could work independently or join a larger consultancy.

How to Choose the Right Program


Do you have time to go back to School?
Time is vital when it comes to earning an MBA in Finance. If you intend to continue working, discuss this issue with your employer and ensure that you will have the necessary time to attend classes, complete assignments, etc. Since many employers help fund MBA degrees, this should be an easy discussion. If time is hard to come by, you might consider an online or hybrid MBA program that allows maximum flexibility.

is this a Long-Term Career Path for you?
An MBA is a major investment of time and energy. Thus, it’s vital that you are absolutely sure that you intend to pursue business for the rest of your career. This might be doubly important if you are looking at programs that focus solely on finance. If you are not quite certain, a general MBA can open up a lot of options while still giving you access to finance positions if you’re willing to earn certification later. Once you have a general MBA, you can always return to complete a certificate program in finance or whatever specialty you desire.

What kind of networking opportunities are available?
Networking is one of the key elements of any graduate program. In fact, networking might be even more vital for MBA students than for others. In this regard, a traditional campus MBA might be the best choice. However, even online programs provide outlets for students to meet, greet, and collaborate. You might find that your online courses include group projects or that the program offers special weekends where students converge on campus for seminars or other supplementary work.

Does Earning this MBA Provide a Significant Return on Investment (ROI)?
If you complete an MBA in Finance, you are almost certain to reap a significant reward. The graduate degree will certainly open up opportunities that were not there before, such a position as an associate in an investment bank, C-suites in most any corporation, and even a faculty position with a university. The MBA credentials will also be a tremendous help if you intend to open your own finance firm or strike out as an independent consultant.

Consider the Student Outcomes for Each Program
Graduate programs in general have very high retention and graduation rates. This may be especially true for MBA programs that specialize in finance. That’s because their applicants are typically driven finance professionals who are ready to enhance their credentials and move up the corporate ladder. These students are already on solid footing in their field so, when they matriculate into an MBA program, there’s no stopping them. Further, many students enter an MBA program with financial help from their employer, so they are nearly always assured a promotion or a raise when they graduate.

Make sure the Program in Accredited
Accreditation is of vital importance when it comes to an MBA program. When an independent agency such as AACSB, ACBSP, or IACBE has accredited your program, you will know that it has passed a rigorous audit and that your business education will stand strong against all others. This is vital when it comes to employer reimbursement as well as landing a new job. That’s because employers will be more likely to reimburse you for an education that has the very best accreditation. For a business degree, the AACSB is considered the gold standard, but you won’t go wrong with a program that has been accredited by the ACBSP.

Professional Organizations


  • Association for Finance Professionals
    This association for corporate finance professionals has its headquarters in the Washington, D.C. area but also has an outpost in Singapore. They host the largest global conference for corporate finance professionals, which is attended by over 7,000 financial pros.
  • Global Corporate Finance Society
    This society was founded by the Corporate Finance Institute and seeks to facilitate networking throughout the corporate finance industry.
  • American Finance Association
    This organization is geared toward those interested in pursuing finance as an academic endeavor. Professionals in the field may wish to join or subscribe to their journal, The Journal of Finance.
  • Healthcare Financial Management Association
    Finance professionals in the healthcare industry face very specific issues. Thus, the HFMA is there to provide educational and networking opportunities for their members.
  • AICPA
    This is the professional association for certified public accountants (CPA). Their members are able to take advantage of educational opportunities, networking events, and more.

Potential Scholarships to Consider


  • Berkley Scholars
    This scholarship fund is provided for students to NYU's Stern School of Business. The generous award covers all of a student's tuition and provides a $56,000 living allowance for full-time MBA students. Awards are available to all students regardless of their home nation. Winners include graduates from Purdue, IIIT-Dehli, and American University in Bulgaria, among many others.

  • Forte Fellowship
    This scholarship program was founded to help increase the number of women in MBA programs. Students who are admitted to one of their many partner schools are welcome to apply. Though they don't state a specific award for the fellowship, the average amount for their 10,000 Forte Fellows is over $22,000. On top of the money, fellows are privy to a generous list of resources. All awards are determined by individual partner schools.

  • The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management
    This fellowship is open a range of demographics otherwise underrepresented in MBA classrooms. So far, 13 top MBA programs participate. The fellowship covers all tuition and mandatory fees.

MBA Degrees, Career Paths & Resources