If you’re passionate about finance and hope to get ahead in the competitive financial services sector, a Master of Science in Finance degree may be your next step. The rigorous and comprehensive degree program can help graduates gain the skills and knowledge needed to compete for the best jobs in the finance industry.
In 2014, there were about 555,900 financial managers employed in the U.S., and their employment is forecast to grow by 7% from 2014 to 2024.  According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2015, financial analysts held 268,360 jobs, and employment is expected to grow by 12% from 2014 to 2024, with a mean salary in 2015 of $80,310. 
Those who have earned a master’s degree in finance can expect to start at a higher than average salary for most job titles, and higher than if they just had a bachelor’s degree. This increase offers potential students a high return on investment from their program.
For financial managers, the median pay is $121,750 per year. Although the typical entry level education for this role is a bachelor’s degree, a master’s in finance can help significantly in this highly competitive industry and can help you rise up the ladder faster. 
Broad employment opportunity
With the finance and analytical industries growing rapidly, and the world becoming increasingly globalized, there are a number of ways in which a master’s degree in finance may benefit you once you enter the workforce.
Many of the top-performing jobs in various sectors align with the curriculum taught in MSF degree programs.  There is a very broad range of work roles graduates can pursue, including in investment banking, consulting, asset management, fund management, insurance, commercial banking, and senior management.
Professional development and personal satisfaction
The world’s financial markets are complex and ever-changing. It is important to stay ahead and constantly invest in your knowledge and skills to keep up with the latest developments and research.
Keeping your skills fresh can be a significant factor in retaining your job, gaining new contracts, achieving a promotion, or earning a salary increase. You may be able to complete your degree in a short time span and even use the skills you are learning while still in school, having more of an impact on your career in less time.
Financial professionals are often members in an extensive array of professional organizations. This tends to involve earning a variety of certifications, depending on your specialization. As part of these networks, you may also have to devote time throughout your career to continuing your education and remain up to date on current trends and laws.
For example, members of the Construction Financial Management Association (CFMA) are required to continue their education to maintain their professional competence.  For Certified Public Accountants (CPAs), this requirement is set by the State Board of Accountancy in which their CPA license is held.
The qualifying activities, the hours required, and how often continuing education is needed can vary from state to state. Completing relevant accredited college credit courses and approved higher education courses in an appropriate field all count toward completing this requirement.
The finance sector appears more stable than many others, with many employment opportunities available to those with finance degrees. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment for business and financial operations professionals to increase 8% from 2014 to 2024, adding about 632,000 jobs. This is partially attributable to the increase in regulations driving demand for accountants and auditors.  Given the broad nature of a master’s in finance program, you can graduate with a wide variety of skills and become highly employable in a number of roles.
These can include:
The Master of Science in Finance curriculum varies depending on the institution, but is designed to give you the skill set and tools needed for a career in a variety of finance roles. These programs aim to prepare potential students for roles such as investment banking, commercial banking, accounting, or consulting.
The MSF curriculum can often be geared toward helping students pursue technical roles, exploring both the theory and practice of the finance industry. There is generally a strong emphasis on financial economics, computational methods, and financial engineering.
When studying for your finance degree, you may find that you want to specialize in a core area. This is particularly suitable if you have had prior work experience and are looking to tailor your degree to fill particular gaps, or if you have a set career goal in mind.
Adding a specialization can help you to tailor your program toward your career goals and personal interests, giving your degree a more specific focus. This can help make you more employable and also improves your marketability. You may be able to negotiate higher salaries and position yourself as an expert in your field as a result.
For example, if you were to specialize in financial economics, you may also become highly trained in areas such as corporate financial management, financial econometrics, and economics of derivatives.
There are a wide variety of specializations across a number of different curriculums and universities. These can include:
The length of the program will vary depending on the institution. When speaking with advisors, it is always worth checking what impact adding a specialization will have on your studying time, examinations, fees, and so forth.
The length of an online master’s degree program can depend on a number of variables, perhaps the most prominent of which is the pace at which you choose to study. You can finish a typical master’s degree program in about two to three years if you choose to study full-time, although some accelerated programs may be able to help you finish more quickly.
Online master’s degree programs tend to offer flexibility suitable for students who choose to study part-time. This option will likely extend your time to completion, but it can allow you to study while fulfilling your familial, social, and professional obligations.
You can find more information on this topic at our program length overview page.
While each program will set its admission requirements based on its own criteria, many requirements are universal across all programs. No matter where you apply, you can expect to provide items like transcripts from previous degrees or coursework; standardized test scores; a personal statement or essay; letters of recommendation; and an overview of relevant work experience.
In certain cases, some of these requirements may be waived.
For more information about admissions, please visit our admissions requirements page.
If you are considering an MSF degree, you may also be interested in exploring other similar degrees to see if they might provide you with skills that are more relevant to your career aspirations. Although they share similarities in topics and courses with the MFA degree, these different programs are unique in their own right. Examining each of the curriculums and comparing them will help you to assess which is most relevant to you.
Similar degrees to the MSF include:
There are many variations on the types of degrees available in the finance sector. Consider what aspect of the financial industry interests you most and then see what degrees are available in this area. They can be very specialized to a specific focus and less general than an MSF degree, so it is crucial that you understand the implications in terms of your career outlook and job opportunities.
An MBA in Finance, for example, is centered on the business aspect of finance and looks at management, statistics, communications, entrepreneurship, markets, and accounting. Graduates tend to head into management or executive positions, as well as work with financial institutions.
A Master of Science in Finance is much more finance specific and focuses more financial theory, mathematics, quantitative finance, markets, valuation, investments, and financial analysis. The skills you gain from each degree are typically important to whatever career path you take, so knowing what you want to achieve is valuable in making the right decision.
If you are interesting in finding out more about the finance industry as a whole, the following resources can be useful in providing further insight:
Regional accreditation is the most prestigious type of accreditation that an online or traditional college or university can receive. It is granted only after careful consideration by private, not-for-profit organizations tasked with evaluating educational quality.
Regional accreditation is particularly important if you anticipate that you might want to transfer credits from one online degree program to another or use those credits to pursue another degree. Most regionally accredited schools will only accept credits from other regionally accredited institutions of higher learning.
You can learn more on this topic at our regional accreditation page.
Currently, there are no accrediting agencies that are specific to Master of Science in Finance degree programs.
The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) offers accreditation for business and accounting programs at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral level. AACSB accredits more than 785 business schools worldwide. 
The Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) recognizes teaching excellence, learning outcomes, and continuous improvement. It aims to ensure business students gain the skills to help them succeed in the workplace. 
The CFA program from the CFA Institute involves becoming a Chartered Financial Analyst. It is one of the most respected designations globally and provides a strong foundation in advanced investment analysis and portfolio management.  Having this certification can help significantly in your career prospects. The program is self-paced and online, making it a flexible experience, but offers specific skills that can be useful in a real-world setting.
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), which oversees 3,816 brokerage firms, 159,641 branch offices, and 635,367 registered securities representatives, offers several exams. 
Firms and individuals must both be registered with FINRA to be able to conduct securities transactions and serve the investing public. It enables securities professionals and broker-dealers to gain valuable training, particularly in regulatory matters and compliance. It also helps to protect investors and promote transparency and integrity in the marketplace. Some of these exams include:
Your choice of career path will dictate which exam is right for you, how much the additional qualification will cost, how much time it will require, and what the examination will involve.
The CFP certification process is another consideration. It marks out individuals as having reached rigorous professional standards and being bound by principles including fairness, confidentiality, diligence, integrity, and objectivity when working with clients.
To complete the certification, you will need to have studied for a bachelor’s degree or higher at an institution accredited by the U.S. Department of Education. The certification also has a coursework requirement, which covers core areas including insurance planning, interpersonal communication, investment planning, and fiduciary responsibilities. 
There are various other certifications to consider, including if you want to become a:
There is also the Association of Corporate Treasurers (ACT), the Corporate Finance Qualification (CF), and a number of accountancy qualifications. It’s worth taking some time to delve deeper into the career you’re interested in and what further qualifications and licenses you might need on top of your master’s degree.
There are a number of factors that can greatly affect how much your education will cost. These include whether you attend a public or private institution; whether you attend as an in-state or out-of-state student; and whether you qualify for financial aid like grants or scholarships.
For a more detailed breakdown of tuition, fees, and other financial issues, please visit our tuition and fees page.
A master’s degree in finance (MSF) is a postgraduate program that prepares students for careers in finance, such as financial management, investment banking, and investment management. Curriculum is generally focused on managerial finance, corporate finance, and investment analysis. These topics are usually preceded by more fundamental coursework in economics, (managerial) accounting, and quantitative methods (usually time value of money and business statistics). In many programs, these fundamental topics are a prerequisite for admission. The program usually concludes with coursework in advanced topics such as portfolio management, financial modeling, mergers and acquisitions, and real options. Managerial economics and various quantitative finance topics may also be offered as advanced courses.
A Master of Science in Finance is for someone who is specifically interested in a career in finance and wishes to work in areas like financial management, investment banking, and investment management.
MSF programs cover finance in a comprehensive manner, with courses like financial theory, mathematics, quantitative finance, investments, markets, financial reporting and analysis, and valuation. 
Most online MSF degrees can take about two years to complete if you are taking classes consistently and not taking any terms off. Some full time, on-campus programs can be completed in less than two years.
The average cost of master’s degree for students is between $30,000 and $120,000.  The cost varies depending on the university and the master’s program itself. Cost also depends on where you will take the courses. If you are looking at a public university, especially if paying in-state tuition, the cost can be less than paying out-of-state tuition, going to a private university, or both. An online master’s degree program could be less expensive. This is true for some online master’s programs, but research into each institution and the cost of their program should be conducted. Although an MSF degree can be expensive, it can result in more opportunities and higher income.
Although there is some overlap with an MBA (Master of Business Administration), the MSF provides broader and deeper exposure to finance, but a more limited exposure to general management topics. A finance master’s will focus on finance and financial markets, while an MBA is more diverse and covers general areas of business that are not covered within a finance program, such as topics like human resource management and operations management
Specific admission requirements vary based on the school, but the admission decision is generally based on a variety of qualifications like strong academic performance (generally reflected by a GPA of 3.0 or higher) in an undergrad program, entrance exam scores (GMAT or GRE), letters of recommendation, and relevant work experience. If you do not have an undergraduate degree in business administration, you will most likely be required to demonstrate proficiency in specific business/finance foundation courses.
The requirement of GRE/GMAT score is dependent on the school/program. Some schools accept both GRE and GMAT, and some require the GMAT only. Some schools may offer a GRE/GMAT waiver if certain qualifications are met, while some have no GRE/GMAT requirement at all. Although both test scores may be accepted, a GMAT is score is generally preferred. The GMAT is considered tougher in the math areas and the GRE is more challenging in verbal areas. A strong GMAT score will demonstrate your strength in math and analytical areas, which are skills needed to be successful in an MSF program.
It depends on the school’s specific admission guidelines. If the school offers a waiver request process for entrance exams, work experience in a related field along with other requirements may allow for a waiver to be granted.
Although a background in finance is not required, your undergraduate degree should be equivalent to that from a four-year accredited U.S. institution, and you should have successfully completed the core requirements for a business degree.
Depending on the school’s admission guidelines, prior work experience may or may not be required or considered as part of the application review process.
A four-year bachelor’s degree in business or finance is typically required. If your undergraduate degree is not in business or finance or a related field, prerequisite courses will most likely be required. Specific requirements may vary by school/program.
Generally there are supplementary costs apart from tuition. The tuition does not usually include the cost of books or additional fees. These additional costs will vary from program to program.
The largest provider of student financial aid in the nation is the Federal Student Aid office in the U.S. Department of Education. It supplies college-level or career school students with loans, grants, and work-study funds. You can apply for federal financial aid through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly known as FAFSA.
There are numerous other scholarships available, but you will need to research which opportunities you’re qualified to pursue. Many states, associations, websites, and businesses award scholarships based on specific criteria. Be sure to do your research and apply for any scholarships you’re qualified to be awarded. 
Start with a cost-benefit analysis based on the price of the degree and potential ROI. Weigh the full cost against the positive outcomes you expect as a graduate, which may include a boost in earning potential, upward mobility, or job satisfaction.
The curriculum for an MSF degree is a mix of core courses and electives. Core courses are generally required before you can take elective courses. Examples of core courses include Financial Reporting, Financial Economics, Financial Econometrics, and Financial Modeling.
Yes, you can. Many institutions offer the Master of Finance degree online.
Typically your diploma will not indicate that your degree was achieved as a result of an online program.
At most universities, an online program is the same as a campus-based program. The classes offer the same content and are even taught by the same faculty in most cases. Although you are proceeding through the program via an online format, the same academic rigor can be expected.
Asynchronous coursework can be completed on your own time — a big plus for many online graduate students. Synchronous coursework has to be completed within a set timeframe. This is typically done for group projects, seminars, presentations, and other learning initiatives that require multiple attendees. The elements of asynchronous and synchronous learning in your online program depend on the professor and class itself. Once you enroll, reach out to teachers for specifics, but remember that the curriculum may be divided into these two subsets.
In addition to core courses, students can choose from elective courses. Typically these courses are in finance, but may also be in other areas like accountancy, economics, and business administration. Depending on the program, you can choose a general track or even take specific classes in areas like Asset Management, Risk Management, Corporate Finance, and others.
A specialization or concentration in a specific area can help your career options in that you will be viewed as a subject matter expert in a specific area that relates to a specific job. On the flip side, focusing on very specific areas of business or finance in your studies and your career may limit you in the future should you decide to make a career change. You specific area of interest may not have allowed for broad and diverse experiences and skill set development.
Several types of certification exist for financial workers, depending on their area of study and expertise. For example, becoming a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) is possible through the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards. You can also become recognized as a Certified Financial Analyst (CFA) through the CFA Institute. Various certifications exist for stock brokers and securities traders, through organizations including the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA).
Graduating with an MSF can lead to a variety of positions that are usually in investments or financial management or analysis. Below are some examples of areas of opportunity for MSF graduates: 
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in the United States, graduates with a master’s degree typically earn about 15% higher overall lifetime income, which works out to be about $8,000 a year more than those with bachelor’s degrees.  There is a wide range of salaries for a graduate of an MSF program. This is because graduates can hold different finance-related positions and work in a variety of industries. Examples of jobs that require an MSF degree include personal financial advisors, financial managers, financial analysts, financial services sales agents, insurance underwriters, chartered financial analysts, credit risk management analysts, and mergers and acquisitions analysts. Some examples of salaries by job title are listed below:
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that financial analysts held 277,600 jobs in the U.S. in 2016. The BLS also reported that jobs in this profession were expected to grow by 12% between 2014 and 2024. The median salary for a financial analyst in 2016 was $81,760. 
National or regional business school accreditation assures students that an institution of higher learning adheres to high quality standards based on the latest research and professional practice. An accredited institution must demonstrate, at regular review cycles, that it is developing and growing, not just maintaining existing standards.
Accreditation by a national or regional accrediting body also allows for students to participate in federally funded and state financial aid programs. To receive federal funds, an institution must be accredited by a national or regional accrediting body recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (DOE).
Accreditation shows that an institution or program meets standards of quality set forth by an accrediting agency, and that it is committed not only to meet those standards but to continuously seek ways to improve the quality of education and training provided. There are two types of educational accreditation: institutional and specialized.
The three main specialized accreditors for business and finance degree programs are:
Institutional accreditation is provided by regional and national associations of schools and colleges. There are six regional associations.
Attending an accredited school also allows you to apply for financial aid, whether the school you select is a traditional classroom or online program.
Because accreditation ensures that the program you attended adheres to the high standards set by the accrediting body, attending an accredited institution will make you more competitive in the job market. In some cases, employers will only accept degrees from a regionally accredited institution when considering candidates, promotions, or salary increases.
According to the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education (CIHE), the Standards for Accreditation are an articulation by the higher education community of what a college or university must do to deserve the public trust. They also function as a framework for institutional development and self-evaluation. 
Covering areas of institutional academic and administrative operations, the standards are largely qualitative, in keeping with their need to apply to a variety of institutions with different missions.
Generally universities will prominently list their accreditations on their website. You can also visit the website of the national or regional accrediting organization. Most organizations keep current lists of institutions granted accreditation by their agency.
SARA (State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement) applies only to distance education programs in the United States that cross state lines. This agreement is made between member states and establishes comparable postsecondary national standards for distance education courses.
Not every state is a SARA member. Through SARA, member states only have to receive authorization in their home state. Without SARA, non-member states would have to receive authorization in their home state and the state of each of their online students. 
Every school has a department or team responsible for online education. This department will be able to answer questions regarding compliance for your home state. Additionally, you can locate the school through SARA (if it is a SARA institution) to confirm compliance.