Financial experts are the unsung heroes of the business world. While entrepreneurs and product innovators grab headlines for dreaming the future, it’s the financial experts who raise and manage the money that turns those dreams into reality.
Corporate funding is just one of many applications of finance. Corporate and personal portfolio management, real estate investment, mergers and acquisitions, insurance, and hedge fund management all require finance experts. In fact, any enterprise that can benefit from an understanding of how markets work needs great financial professionals.
Students seeking an edge in the financial industry have a number of options. Some pursue an MBA with a finance concentration. Those hoping to dig a little deeper may choose to pursue a master’s in finance; where an MBA ensures a general business education that covers not only finance but also economics, supply chain management, marketing, and operations, a finance master’s focuses more deeply and exclusively on the quantitative principles and theories underlying market behavior. Some students, unable to choose, opt for a dual degree MBA/master’s in finance.
The Master of Finance (MF, MFin) or Master of Science in Finance (MSF) degree is typically offered through a university’s business program and is designed to prepare students for careers in the corporate world. These degrees cover both the challenging quantitative skills required to succeed in finance and the soft skills necessary to advance one’s career. Core courses typically include quantitative methods, financial economics, financial modeling, financial reporting, risk analytics, and big data.
Other finance masters are available; in fact, a surprising number universities offer a second finance master’s, either through their engineering school or mathematics department. These degrees, most often designated Master of Financial Engineering (MFE), Master of Financial Economics (MFE), Master of Science in Computational Finance (MSCF), or Master of Science in Financial Mathematics (MSFN), delve deeper into quantitative analysis and theoretical finance; they are as focused on applied mathematics as they are on business. Students in these programs are more likely to pursue academic and research careers.
More and more top schools take their master’s in finance programs online every year. The programs listed below (in alphabetical order) rate high across a variety of ranking systems. Masters offered through engineering and mathematics schools are not included; they will be discussed in separate articles.
Auburn’s Master of Science in Finance – Online program has “the same academic features” as its campus program: “the same lectures… the same professor, exams, and projects.” The curriculum stresses “quantitative finance and risk modeling.. If you know that you’re going into corporate finance where you would have to go into the treasurer’s office and analyze financial statements—that’s the type of skills you would get here.” Students may choose to include a thesis project as part of the program or they may pursue a non-thesis option: the former requires 26 course credits to graduate, the latter 30 (non-thesis students must also pass a comprehensive final exam).
BU’s Online Master of Science in Financial Management offers “a specialized education in global finance, including investment analysis and international finance.” A member of the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Institute University Affiliation Program, BU incorporates the CFA Program Candidate Body of Knowledge (CBOK) throughout its curriculum, thereby preparing students for the CFA Program exams. This AACSB-accredited program, which offers concentrations in international finance and investment analysis, is designed for working professionals, who typically complete the ten-course program in 18 to 24 months.
Creighton’s Master of Finance and Master of Investment Management and Financial Analysis are both offered online, on-campus, or in a hybrid format through the Heider College of Business. The 33-credit MF curriculum, which “can be completed in as little as two years,” focuses on “corporate finance and investments while also providing for the study of managerial topics essential to the working finance professional.” Some shared coursework with the school’s MBA program means students can start one program and switch to the other if their educational objectives change. The 30-credit MIMFA is accredited by AACSB and is a member of the CFA Institute University Affiliation Program.
Georgetown’s Master of Science in Finance, offered through the McDonough School of Business, employs a blended format that requires students to occasionally visit campus for projects, competitions, and a capstone consulting project. Students engage asynchronous material online and attend weekly live sessions either online or on campus (their choice). Both asynchronous and synchronous instruction are highly interactive; a case method-driven curriculum means live sessions center on discussion rather than lecture. The fast-paced program (modules run four- to seven-weeks) can be completed part-time or full-time.
Harvard Extension School, Harvard University
Harvard Extension School’s Master of Liberal Arts, Finance is a blended 12-course program, eight of which can be completed entirely online. The other four courses require in-person attendance on the Cambridge campus, a requirement that can be fulfilled in one of three ways: through traditional 15-week on-campus courses; hybrid courses that meet mostly online but require one intensive weekend on campus; or short-term courses that meet on-campus only during January or over the summer. The big selling point here, of course, is access to Harvard’s stellar faculty and the cachet of a Harvard diploma.
IU’s Master of Science in Finance is a 30-credit, ten-course program that can be completed in 15 months to three years. The program commences with a weeklong on-campus orientation/valuation intensive, after which courses can be completed entirely online. Offered through the Kelley School of Business, a major presence in online business education, the MSF produces impressive results: the school reports that no other public university has produced more CFOs.
Johns Hopkins University
Johns Hopkins University’s Master of Science in Finance, offered by the Carey Business School, is delivered in eight-week terms. Content is primarily asynchronous, although “some courses recommend or require synchronous learning activities that occur in real time.” Three courses include an in-person residency requirement. These sessions, held at Carey’s Harbor East Campus in Baltimore, “bring together online students from across the globe for two to three days of intensive face-to-face educational and social activities.”
Northeastern’s Online Master of Science in Finance, offered through the D’Amore-McKim School of Business, follows a ten-course curriculum (six core courses, four electives) with separate tracks in corporate finance and investment finance. Content is delivered 100 percent online, much of it asynchronously for students’ convenience. Class sections are limited to fewer than 20 students, with section instructors who “will engage and challenge you” and “provide support and coaching on a personal level that can be difficult to find in other MSF programs.” Northeastern’s business school is accredited by AACSB and NEASC. The program can be completed in as few as 16 months.
University of Miami
University of Miami’s Master of Science in Finance is a 32-credit, 16-month program that offers students the opportunity to earn a certificate in corporate finance or financial decision making in addition to the master’s degree. Entirely asynchronous content affords students maximum flexibility in fulfilling the program’s requirements; faculty support is available in the form of online office hours. Students take courses one at a time in a prescribed sequence. Each course runs for seven weeks.
Pennsylvania State University
Penn State’s online Master of FInance is built on the cohort model, under which students enter together and take all classes with the same group of peers. The cohort system is designed to encourage collaborative teamwork and networking, skills that transfer well to the workplace. Course content is entirely asynchronous, with collaborative work facilitated through bulletin boards and online meeting apps. The program is AACSB-accredited.
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