The 2021 Guide to Online Master's in Finance Programs

Nearly every organization needs finance professionals. If you're considering a career in finance, pursuing a master's degree online may be a good option that allows you to continue to work while completing your studies.

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Types of Finance Graduate Programs

Since profitability is an important aspect of business, you can find a variety of finance degree programs at the graduate level. Some business degree options aside from an MS in finance include a master's in business administration or a master's in accounting.

Other alternatives to an MS in finance include taking specific courses in the field of finance that interest you or pursuing a graduate certificate in finance. You can find courses and certificates in a wide range of specialties, from the fundamentals of accounting to financial modeling to international finance.

If you think a master's program is not right for you, individual courses or a certificate program could provide new skills in a shorter period. Online certificate programs may also require fewer classes and cost less than a master's degree.

If you haven't completed an undergraduate degree and are considering where to begin, an online Bachelor of Business Administration program might be a good way to start your finance career.

MBA in Finance vs. Master of Finance

If you're debating whether an MS in finance is better than a Master of Business Administration, the answer may depend on your career goals. An MBA program is more generalized, so you may take classes in marketing, strategic management, IT systems and business analytics as well as finance.

You may be able to pursue an MBA concentration in finance. If the MBA program you choose offers a finance concentration, you'll still take courses covering core business topics to give you a well-rounded background. You'll also take more in-depth classes in the finance specialization, studying topics such as portfolio management, capital markets or international finance.

On the other hand, with an MS in finance, almost all your classes will have a finance focus. In addition to core courses in topics such as financial reporting and derivatives, you'll likely be able to take electives that align with your career goals, like wealth management or managing financial risk.

Why Obtain Your Master's in Finance Online?

There may be several advantages to earning an online master's of finance rather than attending an on-campus master's program:

  • Convenience. With an online degree program, you don't have to travel to campus, saving you time and transportation expenses. Additionally, online programs often contain asynchronous elements so you can do your coursework when it fits your schedule, rather than arranging your day around a set lecture time.
  • Work full time. The flexibility of a part-time online master of finance program allows you to continue to work while you prepare for a career change to finance. Maintaining your job while studying can ease or eliminate the financial stress of paying for an advanced education.

How Long Does It Take to Earn a Master's in Finance Online?

The amount of time it takes to earn an MS in finance online depends on whether you enroll in a full-time or part-time program. A full-time program can be completed in as little as a year.

The time required for a part-time program may vary, based on how many courses you take at a time. You may be able to finish in 18 to 24 months.

How to Get a Finance Degree Online

Getting a master’s in finance online requires meeting the program’s admission standards, applying, and getting accepted before you can begin your studies.

Is a master’s in finance difficult? An MS in finance is designed to build your quantitative and analytical skills, so some students may find the coursework challenging.

Online Master of Finance Admission Requirements

The admission requirements for an online master of finance are similar to most graduate programs. Typical requirements include:

  • Transcripts from all colleges and universities you have attended.
  • A resume of your professional experience.
  • One or more letters of recommendation. If you're in school, you might ask a professor who has taught several of your classes for a recommendation. If you're employed, ask your supervisor.
  • One or more essays addressing topics provided by the university.
  • GMAT or GRE scores. The program may require standardized test scores, such as the GMAT or GRE. Some schools waive this requirement for students who have a high undergraduate GPA, extensive work experience, an advanced degree, or specific professional designations related to finance.
  • TOEFL or IELTS scores if English isn't your native language.
  • Prerequisite courses. The master of finance program may require you to have completed courses such as financial accounting, economics and data modeling. If you didn't major in business as an undergraduate, you might have to take these courses before starting graduate work. Some universities offer a "bootcamp" program to learn about these topics.

Online Master of Finance Programs, No GMAT Required

While many online master's in finance programs require standardized test scores, it's possible to find schools with no GMAT or GRE requirement. However, if you have taken a standardized test and achieved a high score, go ahead and submit the score; it may strengthen your application. Schools that require GMAT or GRE scores may waive that requirement if you have a high undergraduate GPA, an advanced degree, or extensive experience in a related field.

Online Master's in Finance Curriculum

The curriculum for an online master's in finance may vary depending upon the program you select. Many programs may require you to take core classes and concentration classes. Some core classes may include:

  • Financial institutions and markets. This course covers how financial markets work in the United States and globally. You'll also learn about federal policy, how interest rates are set and how commercial banks work.
  • Risk analysis. This course covers identifying financial risks and ways to manage those risks.
  • Corporate finance. Students learn the financial structures of a corporation, how assets are valued, and capital budgeting. They examine corporate financial moves and the reasons underlying the decisions.
  • Portfolio management. Students learn to incorporate investment principles such as investment objectives, risk analysis, and asset allocation to maximize returns.
  • Financial statement analysis. This course covers using financial statements and financial modeling to determine corporate earning power and the firm's value.
  • Investment and securities analysis. Topics include investment principles and stocks, bonds, options and other investment vehicles.
  • Financial accounting theory. This class focuses on ways to measure assets and income. Students learn about problems an organization may encounter in reporting financial information.

Concentration classes may be called electives, and programs may offer a menu of courses you can take within the concentration, such as:

  • Financial strategies for a global environment. You’ll learn about topics such as financial strategy, emerging markets and international trade.
  • Income tax planning. In a financial planning concentration, you may study strategies to manage income taxes for an individual or family.

Online Master's in Finance Concentrations

Colleges and universities offer various options for a concentration in their online master's in finance programs. Options might include:

  • Financial Planning. You'll learn to develop financial plans for individual clients and help them make financial decisions. The program may help prepare you for certification in financial planning or wealth management.
  • Financial Analysis. You'll develop skills to analyze and manage investments.
  • Corporate Finance. You'll learn about topics such as hedging markets to manage financial risk, the merger and acquisition process, and how to diagnose a troubled business and take steps to turn it around.
  • Investment Banking. Topics include policy and strategy for investment firms, how to price a stock issue, investing in real estate, and managing risk.

Some universities have a set curriculum with no option for specialization or individual electives. If you are considering such a program, scrutinize the curriculum to ensure the topics you are most interested in are covered. In some cases, the university's finance faculty may be known for particular specialties that are reflected in the courses the curriculum includes.

What Can You Do with a Master's in Finance?

A master's degree in finance can prepare you for a variety of careers, including:

Financial Adviser or Wealth Manager. Financial planners help clients manage their money and create plans to help them achieve financial goals. Financial planners had a median annual salary of $87,850 in 2019, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Job growth through 2029 is predicted to be 4%, which is about average for all occupations.

Financial planners may seek certification, such as becoming a certified financial planner or CFP, to show clients they are well-qualified for the role. If you're interested in becoming a CFP, selecting the right online master's of finance can give you a head start. Some programs are designated CFP board-registered programs and meet the requirements for the education portion of the CFP certification process. In addition to educational requirements, you must pass an exam, gain experience in the field, and meet ethics requirements to earn the CFP designation.

Research or Financial Analyst Jobs. Financial analysts help organizations make business decisions. The median annual salary for the job was $81,590 in 2019, the BLS reports, and jobs in this field are expected to grow 5% through 2029–faster than the average for all occupations.

Financial analysts may work for financial institutions, such as insurance companies, banks, pension funds and mutual funds. They may also find employment in a research firm. To advance in the career, you may want to become a chartered financial analyst, or CFA. While earning a master's in finance is preparation for becoming a CFA, you'll also have to pass an exam, meet requirements for work experience, and provide professional references.

Master's in Finance Salary and Career Outlook

It’s possible that a master's in finance can lead to a high-paying job in a growing field. Financial managers had a median salary of $129,890 annually in 2019, according to the BLS. However, growth will vary by industry. Median wage means half of financial managers earn more and half earn less than that amount. Individuals with more experience and more relevant education, such as a master's degree in finance, may be more likely to make a higher salary than the median.

If you're considering a career change to finance, the job outlook through 2029 is good:. The BLS projects financial management jobs will increase by 15%, much faster than average.

Among finance jobs, the highest paying industry for financial managers involves securities, commodity contracts and other financial investments. The average annual salary for financial managers in those jobs was $201,790 in May 2019, the BLS says.

Firms involved in credit intermediation and related activities employed the most financial managers, 98,900, with an average annual wage of $120,620. Management of companies and enterprises had the second-highest employment level, almost 75,000, with an average annual salary of $161,360.

Other industries with a lot of finance jobs and high salaries include:

  • Accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping and payroll services, with 41,910 financial management jobs and an average salary of $176,730 in 2019.
  • Insurance carriers, with 26,910 financial managers earning an average annual salary of $163,600 in 2019.

Online Master's Degree in Finance Programs to Consider

When considering an online finance master's degree, look for a program accredited by a respected agency, such as the AACSB International, which accredits business schools. If you're concerned about standardized tests, such as the GMAT or GRE, consider a school that may not require test scores. Also, look at how many credits are needed, which will affect how long it takes you to earn your degree. Learn more below:

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School GMAT Required? Credits Required Accreditation
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No 30 AACSB
University of Colorado GMAT/GRE 30 AACSB
Webster University No 36 ACBSP
Walsh College No 30-36 ACBSP
Indiana University GMAT/GRE 30 AACSB
Johns Hopkins University GMAT 36 AACSB
Purdue University/Purdue Global No 56 ACBSP
Boston University No 40 AACSB
University of Oklahoma GMAT 32 AACSB
Penn State GMAT 33 AACSB
University of Miami GMAT 32 AACSB
University of Houston Clear Lake GMAT 30 AACSB
Auburn University GMAT/GRE 30 AACSB

Last Updated January 2021