Business Administration

Which Schools Have the Best Online MBA in Finance Programs?

Which Schools Have the Best Online MBA in Finance Programs?
On-campus MBA programs have taken the biggest hit. Online programs, on the other hand, are growing. Image from Unsplash
Lucien Formichella profile
Lucien Formichella June 26, 2020

Not so long ago, finding a quality online MBA in Finance would have been challenging. Today, however, many top schools offer this degree to distance learners.

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Of the nearly 200,000 Master of Business Administration (MBA) degrees conferred in the US each year, a significant percentage represent finance specializations. According to a Poets and Quants study, finance is the top area of specialization among men and third-most popular among women.

It’s not all peachy for the MBA, though. According to numerous sources, fewer students are applying to MBA programs each year—even though graduates continue to land good jobs and make good money.

On-campus MBA programs have taken the biggest hit. Online programs, on the other hand, are growing. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, more than 27 percent of graduate students in 2016 studied entirely online. That’s up from 18 percent in 2012 and 9.5 percent in 2008. Although no more recent data are available, it’s safe to assume—given increased bandwidth capacities and schools’ increased investment in online programs—that the percentage has continued to grow.

Not long ago, only a handful of top-tier MBA programs offered online degrees. Most offered a general degree only, without areas of specialization. Today, that’s all changed; several top-ranked MBA Finance programs are offered online, with content virtually identical to the business school’s traditional on-campus program.

This article will help you identify the best online MBA in finance for you. It covers:

  • What is an MBA?
  • What do you learn in an online MBA in Finance?
  • What are the best online MBA programs in finance?
  • How much will you make with an MBA in Finance?

What is an online MBA?

A Master of Business Administration is a graduate-school management degree. The degree is typically conferred by a university’s school of business or school of management. You can earn a general MBA or focus your study on a particular area, called a concentration or a specialization.

Nearly all MBA programs include a core curriculum. Full-time MBA students typically complete the core during the first year of their two years of study. Part-time students, who typically include online students, usually take longer to complete the core. Core course subjects include:

  • Accounting
  • Business analytics
  • Business strategy
  • Economics
  • Ethics
  • Finance
  • Human resources
  • Law
  • Management
  • Operations management
  • Strategic management
  • Supply chain management

Full-time students usually focus on their area of concentration during their second year; part-time students typically take longer to get to concentration study. You’ll take numerous finance electives at this point to earn your Finance MBA. You’ll have the option to complete coursework like:

  • Business Conditions and Forecasting
  • Buyouts and Acquisitions
  • Capital Markets
  • Corporate Finance
  • Corporate Restructuring
  • Derivatives
  • Entrepreneurial Finance
  • Financial Institutions and Markets
  • Financial Management
  • Fixed Income Securities
  • International Finance
  • Investment Strategies
  • Private Equity Finance
  • Real Estate Private Equity
  • Risk Management
  • Valuation
  • Venture Capital

You may be required to complete a culminating capstone project or thesis as the program draws to a close.

Most MBA programs expect applicants to amass several years of work experience before applying. You might read this and think, “Well, I’m a good student. I have a 4.0 GPA. I’ll apply anyway.” You might squeak through, but most programs prefer students who can contribute based on real-world experience. In an online program, you’ll be able to accrue that experience at the same time that you’re studying. While you don’t technically need an undergraduate degree in business or finance to gain admission to a Finance MBA program, you will likely find it more challenging to find a post-baccalaureate job in finance without one than with one.

Online Master of Business Administration programs can have a range of structures. Some are 100 percent online and asynchronous, meaning all content is delivered 24/7. Some are 100 percent online but require live scheduled online classes, typically once a week for each course. Some are hybrid programs: mostly online, but with required weekend immersions on campus. The Carnegie Mellon University MBA is a hybrid, for example. It’s includes two days of online classes per week and six in-person networking events with classmates and faculty members throughout the program.



University and Program Name Learn More

What do you learn in an online MBA in finance?

It depends on the school you choose; different programs take different approaches to finance. For instance, Carnegie Mellon’s website says that its STEM-influenced program “emphasizes the analytical and quantitative aspects of finance and accounting, offering students an opportunity to explore various methodologies and analyses.” In layman’s terms: this is a number-crunching program.

The Northeastern University program has a broader focus. The Boston school’s website says that the goal is to “elevate your comprehension of the valuable financial strategies and practices necessary to perform a variety of services across a multitude of industries.” Unlike many other programs, the school does not require GMAT scores for entry into the finance concentration.

Some programs may allow you to specialize in topics like financial analysis or international business within the finance concentration.

What are the best online MBA programs in finance?

US News & World Report is a great place to get a trustworthy school rankings list. However, several factors can influence your decision to get an online MBA in finance—namely, affordability, specialization opportunities, and a part-time vs. full-time program. The top school on this list may not be the top school on your list.

Some of the top-ranked online MBAs in finance are:

You’ll want to attend a program that is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). This is an independent body recognized as the standard-setter for business programs—including MBAs.

Here is a brief rundown of the cost, length, and sample course titles for some of the best MBA in finance programs.

Auburn University

Auburn charges $900 per credit hour for its MBA program; at 39 credits, that comes to just over $35,000 in tuition. Online students generally take two and a half years to complete an MBA through the Harbert College of Business. Auburn does not offer concentrations; however, with an extra semester of work, you can earn a dual degree MBA/MS in Finance, which is arguably more impressive.

Sample course titles include:

  • Multinational Financial Management
  • Mergers, Acquisitions, and Restructuring
  • Financial Engineering

Arizona State University

The cost for ASU’s two-year online MBA program is $58,352 for both in-state and out of state students.

Sample course titles include:

  • Operations and supply management
  • Decisions, market structure, and games: managerial economics
  • Create and deliver customer value: marketing management

Babson College

The MBA at Babson can be pursued either full- or part-time. Full-time students can choose either a one- or two-year track. All students participate in the program’s flexible structure. Tuition estimates for the single-year program are $89,550 and $114,572 for the two-year program.

Sample course titles include:

  • Risk management
  • Financial services and institutions
  • International finance

Carnegie Mellon University

The CMU Part-Time Online MBA Program takes eight semesters to complete and costs $17,500 per semester.

Sample course titles include:

  • Investment analysis
  • Corporate finance
  • Venture capital and private equity

Indiana University – Bloomington

IU’s online MBA course structure is flexible; students generally take between two and four years to complete the program. The school charges $1,380 per credit hour for its 54-credit-hour program.

Sample course titles include:

  • International Financial Management
  • Financial Risk Management
  • Financial Strategy and Corporate Restructuring

Lehigh University

Lehigh University’s FLEX MBA program charges $1,145 per credit hour for its 36-credit-hour program. Through the school’s ClassroomLIVE delivery system, students may attend classes online or on-campus

Sample course titles include:

  • Advanced Topics in Financial Management
  • Financial Markets and Institutions
  • International Financial Management

Northeastern University

Northeastern’s two-year 50 credit online MBA program costs $1,640 per credit-hour. Financial Times ranked Northeastern eighth among US online MBA programs. The school does not require GRE/GMAT scores of applicants.

Sample course titles include:

  • Business Turnarounds
  • Valuation and Value Creation
  • Healthcare Finance

Pennsylvania State University

The 48 credit program costs $1,236 per credit hour. It generally takes students between two and two and a half years to complete their Penn State degree

Sample course titles include:

  • Analysis of Financial Markets
  • Multinational Managerial Finance
  • Portfolio Management

Rice University

Rice offers its online MBA program in both 24 and 36-month tracks. It costs $29,875 per semester, $59,750 per year, or $119,500 for the two-year program. Students meet weekly in small live virtual classes; prepare to be called on often.

Sample course titles include:

  • Financial Accounting
  • Economic Environment of Business
  • Business Law

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

UNC’s program, organized through the Kenan-Flagler School of Business, costs $125,589 for the 2020 academic year. Students must complete 62 credits, which can take anywhere from 18 to 36 months. Students meet online in small live weekly classes, each running from 60 to 90 minutes.

Sample online courses include:

  • Leading and Managing
  • Strategic Economics
  • Financial Accounting

How much will you make with an MBA in finance?

An online MBA in finance can set you up for a lucrative career at numerous financial institutions—including global businesses. Having an MBA is an excellent way to boost your earning prospects. For example, the median salary for Carnegie Mellon’s 2019 graduating MBA class was $126,250. For UNC, the average salary and bonuses for graduates after a single year was $159,557.

It’s a huge jump when taking into account the fact that the average bachelor’s in finance-holder draws a salary of $64,000 per year. Some professionals, such as financial analysts, earn more. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), analysts can earn a median pay of over $85,000 with just an undergraduate finance degree. However, you will generally make way more money with an MBA with a finance concentration than without one.

Financial managers often need a master’s degree to advance their careers. These professionals earn a median income of just under $130,000.

An MBA—any master’s degree—can be a great way to improve an existing career. For instance, personal financial advisors only need a bachelor’s degree to begin a financial planning career, according to the BLS. To enter management, however, they may be required to earn a master’s degree. This could potentially lead to a considerable economic step forward because the top 10 percent of financial advisors earned more than $200,000 annually. That generally means not only working at a top company but also being in a high-ranking position. Having an MBA can make that possible.

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About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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