An alternative to pursuing a higher education program that focuses exclusively on finance is looking into a Master of Business Administration that has electives or an area of emphasis in finance to customize the degree.
Online MBA programs are more common to find across the country, as is the prestigious AACSB accreditation. However, some admission requirements can be a bit stricter depending on the school, and it is important to review all the courses they offer to determine if the curriculum is right for career advancement.
What is a Master of Business Administration in Finance?
The curriculum within an MBA program provides a pathway for students to gain knowledge, skills, and hands-on experience with business management. Common topics and core courses typically includes accounting, business law, communication, finance, marketing, statistics, and supply chain. In many cases, there will be a broad curriculum with numerous electives that can be taken to customize the program to meet the student's needs. Schools tend to gather a group of electives and create a specialization to further emphasize their knowledge in a particular area.
When pursuing a specialization in finance, students learn analytic skills and theory on money management for an organization. They can determine what the financial risk is for a potential acquisition based on assets and liabilities or the current economic conditions. Allocation of capital for a company's goods or services are dictated by financial workers. There are also different skills needed among the various levels of finance, such as corporations and the private sector.
Benefits of Online Coursework
Students that are obtaining a Master of Business Administration are typically professionals that have many years of experience. There is an abundance of online educational opportunities for this reason. Whether online, on-campus, or a combination of the two, nearly all colleges provide courses away from business hours to accommodate for busy schedules. For even further flexibility, an online education eliminates the commute to a university and expands the opportunities to enroll in a program. 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.
One of the most important accreditation organizations are 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.
There are also regional accreditation throughout the United States, such as the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). This also provides assurance that the curriculum meets high standards for employment within business administration.
Typical Admission Requirements
A four-year undergraduate degree with a 3.0 GPA and a few years of professional experience is usually a minimum requirement when pursuing a Master of Business Administration with a specialization 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. Other submissions that are typically needed to be considered are official transcripts, a few letters of recommendation, current resume, personal statement, and an application with a fee.
Universities with Online Programs
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
The College of Business provides an MBA program with a specialization in finance. The program can be completed fully online and all courses are divided up into eight-week sessions to provide plenty of flexibility for working professionals. 16 total courses, comprised of 48 total credit hours, are needed to complete the curriculum. Elective options in the finance specialization include Case Studies in Financial Management, Multinational Financial Analysis, and Portfolio Management.
While courses may not be completely self-paced with assignment deadlines, students have the freedom to select when they study within a timeframe. The same services on-campus students benefit from, such as talking with an academic advisor or using library resources, are available for online students. The program is accredited by the AACSB
University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
The Kenan-Flagler Business School provides a primarily online Master of Business Administration with a number of concentrations to choose from, including Finance. This emphasis will focus on the impact of company acquisitions and long-term strategies and theories. Based on the number of courses each term, the 62-credit hour curriculum can be completed between 18 months and 3 years. There is a mixture of online and hybrid courses to add to the flexibility in coursework as some students may prefer some face-to-face sessions.
Lectures are typically synchronous and in smaller class settings for maximum engagement. Coursework can be completed on numerous computer and mobile devices, along with the ability to work on some activities without an internet connection by downloading the resources. There are a few residency requirements, but these can be satisfied on-campus or at other summits held by the university around the world. 39 percent of graduates have seen an increase in their salary within one year of completing their program.
University of Wisconsin-Whitewater
The College of Business and Economics provides a Master of Business Administration with a number of emphasis opportunities, including finance. Students will use modeling techniques and quantitative analysis to develop business solutions in real-world scenarios. Three courses, or nine electives, are needed to satisfy the emphasis requirement in the curriculum.
Specific admission requirements for this college include an AACSB-accredited undergraduate degree with a 3.0 GPA or better, and those that do not meet a 3.0 GPA can supplement at least four years of work experience. Graduates completing the program with a finance specialization see a 92.9 percent placement rate in employment, with opportunities secured at organizations such as American Family Insurance and UnitedHealth Group.
Financial Management and Policies
A common course within the core curriculum of an MBA program that provides the foundation needed for financial decision-making in a managerial role. Provides an overview of the tools and skills needed to succeed at any level (personal, public, or corporate), though some courses will focus on specifics – a Public Financial Management course will have an emphasis on public sector budgeting.
Keys in on the skills needed to create proper balance sheets and cash flow statements, and analyze how well an organization is running through their financial activity. Students often learn the skills needed to predict how an acquisition or merger will impact the organization financially over a certain period of time, and all of the outside factors that can also impact cash flow, such as policy and the economy.
Alternative Investment Assets
This more specialized course in financing provides an overview to potential investment beyond traditional assets. Specifically at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, they will provide a look at hedge funds, private equities, commodities, and real estate investment trusts. The purpose of investing into these non-traditional assets are to limit overall volatility of the stock market, but the rate of return can vary dramatically.
A type of financial analyst that will specifically look at the impact of a potential investment opportunity. They will collect as much information as possible and analyze whether or not the opportunity is viable. Skills will be needed in developing reports and communicating with other members in management. Important factors to look at are estimations on how the company’s stock will perform after a potential acquisition and the current economic climate.
Another financial analyst position that oversees and maintains the entire investment portfolio of an organization. This profession requires a complete understanding in the business decisions made by the company they represent and they will discuss potential opportunities with stakeholders directly. These managers see an average salary of just over $114,000 in the United States according to Glassdoor.