Biz Degree Faceoff: MBA vs Master’s of Finance

Forking Road

When it comes to graduate business school, you can either go back for your MBA or a specialized business Master’s degree. Both have their positives and negatives, and for many people, it might seem like the differences are of no great importance. However, it’s all a matter of perspective.

According to a survey by the Graduate Management Admission Council, students perusing a specialized Master’s degree have risen by two percent while MBA students have only risen by one percent.

For individuals looking to break into a career in finance, choosing between an MBA and a Master’s of Finance can be tricky. An MBA offers a broad overview of the business world, including a comprehensive curriculum in everything from finance to marketing, accounting, entrepreneurship, and more. While a Master’s in Finance (MF) is a far more focused alternative that offers intensive study directly related to the finance field.

What’s the difference between these two programs?

They’ll both prepare you for a high-paying career in finance while giving you the education required to get a position at the administrative level, but they won’t prepare you the same way.

The MBA Program

Earning an MBA gives you a broad range of experience. It’s meant for professionals who want to develop functional business skills in a variety of areas including accounting, finance, statistics, and management. There’s no doubt that an MBA will prepare you to work in financial institutions such as banks, but it will also prepare you to hold other management positions or to run a startup company.

However, to get an MBA you have to be willing to put in the time. Applicants are expected to have good undergraduate GPAs, years of professional experience, a high GMAT score, and impressive letters of recommendation. MBA students also have to be willing to trade in at least two years of their life for school.

MBA students in a full-time program will give up a salary for at least 18 to 36 months while in school. Part-time MBAs typically work while in school but abandon their weekends and evenings for the same amount of time. Full-time students are younger and have only been out of their bachelor’s degree for a few years, while part-time and Executive MBAs are typically older, between 32-42 years old.

The benefit to an MBA is that graduates have more flexibility in their post-school career. The broad knowledge and experience gained in an MBA program allows graduates to seek a variety of different positions within the finance field, and to change their career choice down the road. MBAs also, typically, receive a higher salary directly after graduation, but that can depend on the company and the position.

The Master’s of Finance Degree

Students interested solely in a career in finance should look into the Master’s of Finance degree. It’s a much more specialized program where all of the coursework is focused on finance and closely related fields. The degree dives into finance on a deeper level giving students a look at financial theory, mathematics, quantitative finance, investments, marketing, financial reporting and analysis, and more. For the most part, students are prepared to hold positions in trading, principal investments, or risk management.

The good news for Master’s of Finance students is that it’s a relatively short commitment. Getting into the program typically requires less experience and fewer qualifications, so students tend to be younger. Plus, the degree only requires one year of full-time study. That means MF students don’t have to wait or give up their life to get an advanced degree.

Unfortunately, Master’s of Finance graduates earn lower salaries than their MBA counterparts, but that’s usually because they have less work experience under their belts. The good thing about an MF degree is that it’s a less crowded degree than an MBA, so, at this point, it’s less competitive and easier to attend a distinguished university.

MBA vs Master’s of Finance

The bottom line is that if you want a career in finance, both programs offer quality education and experiences that will be valuable to you. Both the MBA and the MF will help further your career path, but the MBA will provide you with more flexibility regarding curriculum and future job opportunities. However, a Master’s in Finance is a good alternative for students who don’t want to commit extensive time and experience and who only want a finance-specific career.

However, P. Christopher Earley, Dean of the Krannert School of Management at Purdue University, does offer a warning. “If you get a master’s of finance, and you work in that capacity for, say, four or five years, it may be more difficult for you to put on the conceptual hat of somebody in marketing or somebody in strategy or somebody in operations. So you have to be careful, I think, to remain flexible in your thinking and how you approach problems,” he says.

Ultimately, when it comes down to deciding which program is best for you, it should be about more than money and choosing the right skill set. Instead, you should choose the program that best suits your career goals and plans.

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About the Author

Kelly Vo    

Kelly Vo is a writer who specializes in covering MBA programs, digital marketing, and personal development.

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