What to Consider When Choosing an MBA in Finance
March 23, 2021
Finance MBAs often work in portfolio management, investment banking, personal money management, underwriting, securities advising, accounting, sales, and real estate. The job requires precision, and a knack for distilling vast amounts of financial data into cohesive, manageable bits. As such, careers in finance carry a high degree of responsibility. Here's what to consider when choosing to pursue an MBA in finance.
An _MBA in finance_ ranks among of the most popular concentrations, offering a well-established career track that is highly valued in the marketplace. Post-MBA, you’ll likely find recruiters eager to hire you and access your financial acumen. If you have a strong aptitude for math and quantitative analysis, a specialization in finance may be right for you.
Mathematical and analytical problem solving
In business school, finance MBAs are often referred to as “quant jocks." Out in the professional world, they’re well-respected experts known for doing the heavy lifting when it comes to numbers. Mathematical problem-solvers and translators, finance MBAs play a critical role in any organization. Because most companies live and die by the numbers, finance MBAs are integral to the success of the companies they serve.
But finance in business administration isn’t easy. The job requires precision and the knack for distilling vast amounts of financial data into cohesive, manageable bits. As such, careers in finance carry a high degree of responsibility. Financial experts are accountable for the bottom line—often, someone’s life savings. If you aren’t comfortably carrying that kind of weight, or you don’t perform well under pressure, this will not be the right career choice for you.
What kind of jobs do finance MBAs get?
The career path for finance MBAs is varied.
Often, they work in:
- Financial services
- Investment banking
- Personal money management
- Portfolio management
- Private equity
- Real estate
- Risk management
- Securities advising
Day-to-day tasks of finance MBAs include:
- Oversight of corporate investment portfolios
- Managing loans, inventory, profit and loss sheets, budget analysis, and tracking financial trends
- General monitoring of the health of the companies for whom they work Because the ability to understand and manage finances is essential to all levels of organizational success, finance MBAs are generally well-positioned to pursue leadership positions with upper management. Often, finance MBAs become the CFO or CEO of a company.
What do finance MBAs study in school?
Like all MBA students, finance MBAs begin with foundational coursework spanning all areas of business—rotating through courses like leadership, marketing, operations management, risk management, and strategy. But to build their unique expertise, finance MBA degree programs focus much of their studies on:
- Corporate finance
- Financial reporting
- Governmental finance
- Individual investment
What to consider when choosing where to get your MBA with a specialization in finance
A Reputation for Finance
Making the best choice about where to get your master's degree requires the prioritization of goals. To start, you may need to ask “What do I want this degree to do for my career?" From there, you should decide how you want to study: Are you planning on attending a part-time, full-time, online, or on-campus program? How you answer these questions will impact where you go.
Many business schools have a unique reputation for a particular discipline—with finance being one of the more common areas of study. If you want your investment of time and money as a finance MBA to pay off, select a school with a strong reputation in finance. Be sure that the school's faculty has ties to the industry.
Another consideration should be employment. Who does the lion’s share of hiring at this school? Are there a fair number of recruiters hiring for jobs in the financial industry? What are average starting salaries? What kinds of jobs do graduates get? How strong is the alumni network in the financial world? Alum can be helpful in opening doors and providing key support.
Proximity to financial markets and industry leaders
Finally, you should consider location. MBA programs located in New York City, Chicago, and London offer a decided advantage, as all are in close proximity to the world’s largest financial markets. Choosing a school in New York, Chicago, or London will likely give you a leg up in securing internships, and that first job out of business school. Faculty may be local, with close ties to the financial markets in these areas.
But you need not be limited to schools to these geographic areas. Top MBA programs can be found in the Boston area, northern and southern California (Los Angeles), Philadelphia, and throughout the Midwest.
Here are some of the top business schools and finance programs in the United States:
- Columbia Business School
- Cornell University, SC Johnson College of Business
- Harvard Business School
- MIT Sloan
- Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management
- NYU Stern
- Stanford Graduate School of Business
- UCLA, Anderson School of Management
- University of Chicago, Booth School of Business
- University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School
- University of Virginia, Darden School of Business (finance concentration)
Finally, because finance skills are so highly valued in business, succeeding in finance does not require your sheepskin be stamped by a top-10 (or even top-20) program. Plenty of full-time MBA programs boast strong finance departments with ties to local industry. One caveat: when reviewing the reputation of an online MBA program, it may be preferable to choose those schools that have a traditional, campus-based MBA course of study as well. These online MBA programs may be more respected—and, as a bonus, MBA graduates can mine the alumni network of the full-time school.
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