While higher education in finance can normally be found when pursuing business administration programs, a growing number of universities are offering Master's degrees with a full finance curriculum. While limited in overall education, there are plenty of benefits to obtain this specific degree, such as a shorter time commitment and smaller overall cost. However, opportunities and flexible scheduling are not as abundant as MBA programs, but there are still online options. Generally, these programs are labeled as a Master of Finance or a Master of Science in Finance.
What is a Master of Finance?
The curriculum for a Master's degree in financing will provide proper skills and education needed to manage corporate accounts or to analyze investment opportunities. Like other higher-level education, this degree is best suited for those that are looking to advance in their financing career or change opportunities at a mid-level stage. It is recommended that those coming from a different career path have some fundamental knowledge in economics, mathematics, and business.
Benefits of Online Coursework
Whether online, on-campus, or a combination of the two, nearly all colleges provide courses away from business hours to accommodate for professional workers. For even further flexibility, an online education eliminates the commute to a university and expands the opportunities to enroll in a Master of Finance. Unique features to look for at a university is the potential for a hybrid format, where students can complete both versions of a course, or local education centers stretched out across the state they are located in. Some online programs do require on-campus residencies for up to a week, generally for orientation purposes.
Courses will be offered in synchronous or asynchronous format, with coursework commonly done on the students' own time. In many situations, these are not fully self-paced courses and there will be assignment deadlines in order to prove progression in the program. Online courses will typically have discussion boards to interact with faculty and other students, or there will be interactive features during lectures. Newer computer or laptop devices running Windows or Mac operating systems are generally required, but some lectures and coursework can be viewed and completed on mobile devices.
When comparing degrees, it is important to determine if the curriculum that is being taught will properly prepare for a career in finance. Prospective students should look at the accreditation the school has received for their higher education program, and a summary or logo is typically found at the beginning of the program page, highlighting its significance. Holding a degree from a highly-touted curriculum can provide an advantage when seeking more experienced or senior roles in finance.
There are a number of accreditations to look for, the most important being from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). Just five percent of all business schools around the world have received this accreditation. Each program has strict admission standards and the curriculum and faculty are reviewed frequently to ensure that proper education and training is met.
Another large accreditation organization is the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP), with the vast majority of school members located in the United States. When it comes to smaller universities, the International Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE) is one of the more common organizations. All three of these accreditors are similar with high standards and requirements, but the latter two are significantly newer and therefore may not be as known as the AACSB.
Typical Admission Requirements
A four-year undergraduate degree with a 3.0 GPA is usually a minimum requirement when entering a Master’s degree program in finance. Recent graduates with a Bachelor’s degree directly in finance or a similar category, such as business or economics, would be considered for admission. Students that have under a 3.0 GPA may still be administered under conditional settings, needing to meet specific academic achievement in order to continue with the program.
GRE or GMAT scores will need to be submitted in most cases, unless the GPA score is high enough or a certain level of work experience is achieved. A general requirement is that test scores are up to date within the last five years. At least two years of prior work experience can eliminate the need for test scores. Other submissions that are typically needed to be considered are official transcripts, at least one letter of recommendation, current resume, personal statement, and an application with a fee.
Universities with Online Programs
Penn State University
The Penn State World Campus provides a primarily online Master of Finance that requires 30 credit hours to complete and is accredited by the AACSB. Divided up into two courses within four semesters and one summer course, the program can be completed within two years. Students will learn important fundamental knowledge in forecasting an organization’s finances, distribution and cost of capital, and financial derivative securities.
There is a one-week on-campus residency that is required at the Great Valley location in Pennsylvania. The residency should take place after the student completes their fourth course in the curriculum. Students will receive important hands-on experience with modeling tools and it provides an opportunity to meet and network with other students and faculty members.
Texas A&M University-Commerce
The School of Economics and Finance offers a Master of Science in Finance that is accredited by the AACSB. It provides a variety of ways for students to complete the program, such as completing it completely online, taking physical classes, or having a combination of both options. There is a comprehensive exam that is taken in the last semester of the program with ProctorU. A requirement of 70 percent or higher is needed to pass the exam, and students are generally allowed to retake it once.
University of Miami
A Master of Science in Finance can be completed 100 percent online through the University of Miami. 32 credit hours are required among eight courses, and there is an option to complete just half of the program to receive a graduate certificate. Specific certifications include Financial Decision Making and Corporate Finance. Each course takes seven weeks to complete, and if taken once at a time, the full program can take 16 months to complete.
Courses can be viewed through the UOnline platform on desktop and mobile devices. The class schedule is fully customizable with many starting opportunities and there is around-the-clock support. Faculty members will have set office hours for assignment aid along with course materials that are available at any time. There are optional opportunities to visit the Coral Gables campus, such as an introductory orientation and utilizing career services.
Quantitative Methods of Finance
Provides the skills needed to work with statistics within finance, both using theoretical models and real-world scenarios. These methods are useful when determining investment decisions for an organization. Course content can widely vary based on the college, but typical subjects are time-series forecasting, regression analysis, and portfolio management. Some colleges provide a graduate certification through quantitative methods.
Financial Markets Analysis
An overview of financial institutions, both the foundation and evolution, along with their impact on the economy and various organizations. Students can learn to build financial models and identify potential risks and/or trends in these courses. The latest news that impacts these institutions will typically be discussed.
Portfolio Management Theory
An extended look into assessing risk and return, and how to properly develop a portfolio that details an organization’s investments. Students will be able to identify important aspects of an investment opportunity and what specific issues to consider, such as problems that arise in contract language or the difficulties when working with international markets.
Auditors review financial statements and determine that they are both balanced accurately and the organization is complying with various rules and restrictions. Based on the type of auditor, public accountants that are specialized will report on any illegal activity that is revealed in the auditing process. More managerial auditors can offer optimization input to improve cash flow and the supply chain within the organization.
Personal Finance Consultant
These financial advisors work directly with clients to help them with significant investments, such as house mortgages, various insurance, retirement, or personal investments. They will determine where the client is in terms of financial health and what the best options are for them. Skills required for this position are personal communication skills and networking opportunities through social media, and the ability to interpret these financial goals clearly to the client. The average wage for personal finance advisors is nearly $89,000 according to BLS.gov.
Chief Financial Officer
One of the top positions in any organization is becoming a financing executive. They oversee the entire financial status and work with other managers and the chief executive officer directly to optimize the company, create strategies for growth, and solve any problems presently reported or a potential impact in the future. Other duties include supervising the financial department and further analyzing cash flow and investment opportunities.