Business Intelligence & Analytics

Is an MBA in in Financial Analysis Worth It?

Is an MBA in in Financial Analysis Worth It?
When you become a financial manager, you can expect to make about $128,000 per year. Image from Death to Stock Photos
Christa Terry profile
Christa Terry October 24, 2019

Financial analysis is a relatively rare specialization for MBAs, but several schools do offer it. If you love working at the intersection of business and technology, earning this degree can demonstrate your dedication and open new doors in your career.

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Many financial analysts pursuing graduate degrees opt for the Master of Science in Financial Analytics. However, if your goal is to join the ranks of management, an MBA in financial analysis may be the better choice. The only problem is that very few schools offer financial analysis as an official MBA concentration.

You do have some options. You could look at finance MBAs and MBA programs focused on business analytics, but there’s a good reason you might want to look more closely at programs with a financial analysis concentration.

An MBA in financial analysis is most likely to dig deep into the systems, models, and processes specific to the financial industry. It will also explore more deeply how financial theories can be applied to specific types of business problems. And, you’ll learn all this in the context of a generalized business education, which will add versatility to your business arsenal. That’s where the MBA has the MS beat.

Is an MBA in financial analysis worth it? In this guide to a master of business administration in financial analysis, we’ll try to figure out whether it will. We’ll look at:

  • Career paths available to MBA in financial analysis holders
  • Prerequisites for an MBA in financial analysis
  • The commitment required to earn an MBA in financial analysis
  • Exams and certifications for financial analyst MBAs
  • Is an MBA in financial analysis worth it?

Career paths available to MBA in financial analysis holders

Financial analysts are in demand across industries because financial products, investments, and regulations are more complex than ever. Every company, from biotech to banking, has to make decisions about how, when, and where to spend money, which means that financial analysts can work in a diverse range of industries in a variety of roles.

As a result, the career outlook for financial analysts is solid. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that jobs for financial analysts will grow by at least 6 percent by 2028 across industries.

Those jobs will open up in the fields of:

  • Banking
  • Corporate finance
  • Education
  • Energy
  • Engineering
  • Manufacturing
  • Insurance
  • Investment brokerages
  • Real estate
  • Software development

Education level is a significant factor in determining financial analysts’ responsibilities and compensation. Things change quickly in the world of finance, and the most successful financial analysts are often the ones who keep up with the latest theories and have a broad base of business knowledge to draw from when analyzing trends. That could be why most advanced financial analyst positions—all the way up to fund manager, treasury manager, and chief financial officer—require job candidates to have at least an MBA.

Here are some roles that will be open to you when you earn an MBA in financial analysis:

Senior financial analyst

Senior financial analysts examine financial data and make recommendations as to how a company should spend and invest money. They do this by looking closely at the economy to formulate data-driven predictions about:

  • Industries
  • Companies
  • Investment products

Some senior financial analysts are experts in a particular sector or geographical region, but many are generalists. Senior financial analysts oversee junior analysts and usually report to a fund manager or financial manager. They earn a median income of $85,660 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Financial manager

When you become a financial manager, you can expect to make about $128,000 per year, according to the BLS. In this role, you’ll be responsible for:

  • Directing investment activities at your company (acting on recommendations from your financial analysts)
  • Assessing the current financial state of your organization
  • Creating strategies to meet long-term financial goals

Director or vice president of finance

You’ll probably get a chance to use your financial modeling chops in this role, which typically pays an annual salary of $137,000 (plus another $26,000 in additional compensation), according to Indeed.com. You’ll also work on:

  • Formulating budgets
  • Overseeing the operations of the entire finance department
  • Regular and unplanned audits
  • Making sure that organizational goals are met

Chief financial officer

The CFO is the senior executive responsible for managing the financial activities of an entire company, which involves managing the finance department and working closely with managers from other departments to:

  • Track cash flow
  • Plan budgets
  • Assess a company’s financial strengths and weaknesses
  • Monitor legal concerns
  • Ensure compliance
  • Manage risk

It’s a high-pressure job, but if you step into this role you’ll be handsomely compensated. Many CFOs make over $175,000 per year, according to PayScale.

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Prerequisites for an MBA in financial analysis

For most applicants, a four-year undergraduate degree is a prerequisite to the MBA. Common majors of MBA applicants include:

  • Financial planning
  • Investment banking
  • Finance
  • Financial analysis

If you haven’t yet chosen an undergraduate major, you should consider choosing financial analysis. The University at Buffalo offers a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in financial analysis that will prepare you to work as a financial analyst and later, to pursue a financial analysis MBA. On the other hand, much of finance is interconnected, so if you’re not entirely sure yet that you want to stay in financial analysis for your entire career, you can major in finance instead. That way, you’ll get a broad understanding of the discipline before you specialize.

Universities that offer MBAs in financial analysis include:

An MBA application usually includes:

  • Undergraduate transcripts
  • Your résumé (most programs require applicants to show proof of work experience)
  • Letters of recommendation from professors or colleagues
  • Recent GMAT or GRE scores

Some applicants take both the GMAT and the GRE, but if you are planning to take only one, be aware that most MBA programs prefer (or require) the GMAT. There are some test-optional MBA programs, but you may have to apply for a waiver, which may or may not be granted based on your work experience or your undergraduate GPA.

Some schools require an in-person interview as well. Arrive armed with tales of how you have added value to the enterprises at which you have worked.

The commitment required to earn an MBA in financial analysis

Most on campus, full-time MBA programs take about two years to complete, but many universities also offer part-time MBAs, online MBA options, and executive MBA programs.

An MBA in financial analysis is, first and foremost, an applied business degree. Students complete core courses in topics related to:

  • Accounting
  • Economics
  • Ethics
  • Finance
  • Leadership
  • Marketing
  • Statistics
  • Operations

When you choose to specialize in financial analysis, you may also study:

  • Corporate and/or global financial strategy
  • Investment analysis
  • Securities risk management
  • Fiscal modeling
  • Asset management
  • Financial information systems
  • Data analysis

Some master’s degree programs offer students more flexible elective options. For instance, you might have the option of choosing among courses in global financial management, corporate financial management, or private equity and venture capital.

While there are relatively few financial analysis MBA programs, there are still sometimes opportunities to specialize within them. At the University of Connecticut School of Business program, for instance, students can specialize in portfolio management (for those who aspire to become asset managers), real estate, and healthcare finance and insurance (in partnership with UConn’s Healthcare Management and Insurance Studies program). Students who want to specialize may have to apply and be accepted to a second program and complete additional credits to graduate.

Exams and certifications for financial analyst MBAs

Earning a financial analytics MBA isn’t the only way to improve your career prospects. Many financial analysts take exams to earn professional finance certifications to demonstrate competence and dedication. You may have the opportunity to earn some of the following financial analyst certifications while pursuing your master’s degree. Some require certification applicants to have a certain number of years of work experience.

The Financial Analyst Specialist (FAS) certification

This self-paced education and certification program can be completed entirely online in as little as five months. The educational commitment involves:

  • Watching videos
  • Reading required books and a study guide
  • Completing a strategic project
  • Passing an online examination that covers everything from basic finance concepts to complex analytical methods

If it will be some time before you enter an MBA program, earning this certification is one way to augment your resume.

The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) certification

This is considered the gold standard of financial analysis designations. To earn the Chartered Financial Analyst certification, you’ll need to pass three exams that cover concepts from:

  • Accounting
  • Economics
  • Securities
  • Money management
  • Ethics

Once you have this certification under your belt, you’ll be well-versed in advanced investment analysis and have solid portfolio management skills.

The Licensed International Financial Analyst (LIFA) designation

We live and work in a global economy, so if you aspire to rise in the ranks of a company that operates internationally or pan-nationally, this relatively new financial analyst designation may be a good résumé booster. The educational portion of the LIFA licensure program provides a global perspective to topics like:

  • Economics
  • Portfolio management
  • Asset valuation
  • Financial analytics
  • Quantitative analysis

Unlike similar certifications, LIFA charges you only if you pass the exam.

There are also many specialty designations and certifications for financial analysts in niche areas. Look for programs in:

  • Financial modeling
  • Private wealth management
  • Hedge fund management
  • Alternative investment analysis
  • Market analysis

You may be a much more attractive candidate if you can show that you have completed industry-specific or role-specific professional training in addition to earning an MBA.

Is an MBA in financial analysis worth it?

Businesses know how critical financial analysts are to success, and they’re increasingly looking for candidates with MBAs and other master’s degrees. You may discover that many of your colleagues either have a graduate degree or are working toward one, which means you’ll need some kind of master’s degree just to stay competitive. Whether an MBA is the right choice will depend on your career goals. If you want to continue working as an analyst, then an MS might be the better choice, but if you hope to move into a management position, you should probably choose the MBA.

According to US News & World Report, financial analyst is the 15th best business job and the 79th best job overall. That means that no matter which master’s degree path you ultimately decide to take, you’ll have the tools you need to build a professional life you love.

Questions or feedback? Email editor@noodle.com

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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