Finance

What Can I Do with a Master of Financial Management? And Why Is This Degree So Rare?

What Can I Do with a Master of Financial Management? And Why Is This Degree So Rare?
Financial management now involves so much more technical financial analysis, financial risk assessment, and strategic business planning than it did in the past. A bachelor of finance program alone can't deliver the skills and knowledge you'll need to advance into higher-level positions Image from Unsplash
Christa Terry profile
Christa Terry May 21, 2020

This specialized finance degree is offered by only a handful of colleges and universities, but that's just because most programs have been renamed.

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A master’s in financial management is one of those rare degrees that’s almost guaranteed to lead to high wages and job security. It’s not that finance isn’t a fiercely competitive field; it absolutely is. But having a master’s degree is one of the best ways to level that playing field, and not just because an advanced degree can make your CV stand out.

Financial management now involves so much more technical financial analysis, financial risk assessment, and strategic business planning than it did in the past. A bachelor of finance program alone can’t deliver the skills and knowledge you’ll need to advance into higher-level positions. A graduate degree is practically a necessity.

Will a master’s in finance, a master’s degree in accounting, or an MBA in finance suffice? Any of these degrees can help you land a financial management position. Only master’s in financial management programs, however, dive deep into both managerial accounting and applied corporate finance. With this specialized finance degree, you’ll be qualified to oversee the financial well-being and direct the financial activities of large corporate entities and government agencies in fields like banking, insurance, investments, real estate, or healthcare.

Don’t assume, however, that earning a master’s in financial management will be a walk in the park, nor that this degree will set you up for life. It’s true that jobs for financial managers are expected to grow much faster than average and that managerial finance professionals earn big paychecks. However, it’s also true that financial managers put in long hours and face tremendous pressure to deliver consistent results, day in and day out. Being responsible for the financial health of an entire organization isn’t for the faint of heart. Still, if it sounds better to you than toiling away in applied finance, then this is a degree pathway you should definitely explore.

In this article, we answer the question “what can I do with a master’s in financial management?” We’ll cover the following:

  • What is a master of financial management?
  • What kinds of professionals typically pursue this degree?
  • Which schools offer a master of financial management?
  • What topics do master’s in financial management programs cover?
  • Where do people who graduate with this degree work?
  • How much do professionals with this master’s degree usually earn?
  • Is a master of financial management as valuable as an MBA in financial management?
  • Do I really need a master’s degree to work in finance?

What is a master of financial management?

This isn’t one degree, but rather a degree pathway. A master’s in financial management might be a Master of Science in Financial Management, a Master of Financial Management (MFM), or even a Master of Finance with a financial management concentration. Confusingly, there are even more options (we’ll discuss them below).

No matter what the degree is called, however, master’s in financial management programs focus on management in corporate finance. Students in these programs gain a deeper understanding of:

  • International finance and trade
  • Investments and derivatives
  • The global financial regulatory environment
  • The risk-reward characteristics of financial markets and securities

Master’s in financial management programs also prepare students to tackle the data analysis and quantitative forecasting that is increasingly important in corporate finance.

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What kinds of professionals typically pursue this degree?

MFM and MS in Financial Management programs are typically designed for finance majors and financial professionals who want to work in roles related to managerial finance. It’s particularly directed to those who hope to advance to higher-level positions like financial controller or chief financial officer.

This is a versatile degree that can lead to many different opportunities in finance. Financial manager is just one of them. After graduating with an MFM, you might work as a corporate financial advisor, risk manager, financial analyst, personal financial advisor, portfolio manager, or accounting manager before moving into more senior roles.

If you do become a financial manager, you’ll spend much of your time analyzing data and advising senior managers on ways to maximize profits. This degree will prepare you to:

  • Build financial models
  • Coordinate finances among departments
  • Create an effective internal control of funds
  • Create checks and balances in internal controls
  • Determine capital structures
  • Direct investment activities
  • Distribute profit and surplus funds
  • Making financial decisions for companies
  • Maintain proper cash flow
  • Manage payables and receivables
  • Monitor financial transactions to ensure legal compliance
  • Oversee the company’s financial planning strategy
  • Oversee the preparation of financial reports
  • Perform quantitative financial reviews

Which schools offer a master of financial management?

Here’s where things get confusing. If you search for an MFM or MSFM program, you’ll quickly discover that there aren’t many of them at colleges and universities in the United States. The list of high-profile schools offering financial management master’s degrees seems strangely short: Boston University offers an on-campus and online master’s degree in financial management that’s focused on global finance and investment analysis and takes 18 to 24 months to complete. Texas A & M University – College Station‘s Mays School of Business has an MFM program with three distinct tracks. One is designed for students who want to pursue careers in commercial or investment banking, and the other is focused on trading, investments, and risk management. There are a handful of others at less notable schools.

The reason there aren’t more financial management degree programs, however, is simply because a lot of schools have renamed them. Many financial management programs have become corporate finance programs. You can get the same education by searching for other kinds of master’s degrees in finance, like the Master of Corporate Finance, Master of Science in Corporate Finance, and MBA in Corporate Finance. You should also look into other types of graduate-level finance programs because many emphasize managerial finance or corporate finance without using the ‘financial management’ label. According to US News & World Report, the top colleges and universities for finance are:

What topics do master’s in financial management programs cover?

Most financial management master’s degree programs cover topics like investment principles, financial reporting, financial risk management, strategic financial management, and other areas of corporate finance. Students take courses like:

  • Applied Investment Analysis
  • Commercial Credit Analysis
  • Data Analysis and Visualization
  • Derivative Securities and Markets
  • Enterprise Risk Management
  • Financial and Managerial Accounting
  • Financial Markets and Institutions
  • Financial Regulation and Ethics
  • Fixed Income Analysis
  • Investment Analysis and Portfolio Management
  • Mergers and Acquisitions
  • Multinational Finance and Trade
  • Quantitative Methods for Finance

Where do people who graduate with this degree work?

The simplest answer is just about everywhere. Every large corporation and government agency has multiple financial managers on the payroll, and smaller companies and nonprofits may have a dedicated financial manager on staff. In both cases, these professionals direct investment activities, implement cash management strategies, and report on both.

Financial managers held about 653,600 jobs in 2018. The sectors that employ the most financial managers are:

  • Banking
  • Government
  • Insurance
  • Management
  • Manufacturing
  • Professional services
  • Scientific services
  • Technical services

Not every company has financial managers on staff, however, because these professionals go by many titles. With a master’s in financial management, you might become a:

  • Branch manager, overseeing financial operations, setting short- and long-term financial goals, and handling credit management in one bank branch or independent financial institution.
  • Cash manager, monitoring the flow of liquid funds for a company or a division. In this role, you’ll oversee cash receipts and disbursements and forecast whether your company or division will have a shortfall or surfeit of funds.
  • Controller, directing the preparation of financial statements like income reports, balance sheets, and expense reports and managing activities in the accounting and auditing departments.
  • __ Credit manager __, handling everything related to credit standards for your company. In this role, you’ll develop credit rating criteria and determine credit ceilings.
  • Insurance manager, finding ways to limit a company’s future financial losses by predicting and preparing for those losses.
  • __ Risk manager, identifying and working to mitigate all kinds of risks (both man-made and natural) that can lead to financial losses.
  • Treasury and finance officer, managing your company’s budget while helping that company meet specific financial goals.

How much do professionals with this master’s degree usually earn?

US News & World Report put financial manager in the number-five slot on its list of the best business jobs. This is a relatively stressful discipline and financial managers are paid accordingly. In fact, financial managers are some of the highest-paid professionals in corporate finance. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for financial managers is about $130,000. The lowest-paid 10 percent earn $68,000, but the highest-paid 10 percent can earn more than $208,000.

That said, there’s no way to predict how much you’ll earn after earning a master’s in financial management. Your training, certifications, and experience will play a role in your earning potential, as will your location, the size of the company you work for, the industry you work in, and your responsibilities. Additionally, some roles in financial management pay more than others. You’ll probably earn a lot more, for instance, in a cash manager position than you will if you’re working as an insurance manager. The takeaway is that you should be open to exploring different titles in finance after earning this degree.

Is a master of financial management as valuable as an MBA in financial management?

Whether the MBA or the master’s in financial management is the better degree depends on what your career aspirations look like. An MFM is a finance-focused degree designed for students who know they want to spend their careers in financial management. Master’s in financial management programs typically dive directly and deeply into coursework related to managerial finance.

MBA programs that offer managerial finance as a concentration, on the other hand, are first and foremost business programs. They may be the better option if you’re unsure about whether you want to become a financial manager. The core courses in MBA programs will touch on marketing, economics, management, and other topics unrelated to financial management, while concentration courses cover corporate finance fundamentals.

Do I really need a master’s degree to work in finance?

You don’t technically need a master’s degree to work, or even to advance, in finance and investment management. However, you’ll probably be competing for jobs against candidates with graduate degrees after a certain point. Financial graduates face a competitive job market, which means there’s a good chance that you’ll hit a career plateau with nothing more than a bachelor’s degree in finance. Some people get lucky and make it into upper-level financial management positions thanks to strong personal and professional networks. You can’t always rely on who you know, though—especially as more employers require candidates for financial management positions to have master’s degrees.

Of course, the longer you’re in the financial industry, the more weight employers will give your career experience. It’s possible to work in positions like controller or risk manager by climbing the ladder. But even if you’ve been working in corporate finance for a long time, a master’s in financial management can be a real asset when your goal is to join the ranks of high-level executives. When you look at your earning potential in financial management positions, the cost of this degree becomes a non-issue, even if you have to take out loans. And you might not even have to. Some companies—especially those known for promoting from within—will pay for some or even all of a finance degree for promising young financiers with big dreams.

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.

To learn more about our editorial standards, you can click here.


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