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Masters in Finance vs MBA: What’s the Difference?


Business Administration

Whether you wish to develop new skills, advance in your existing career, branch into a new field, or increase earning potential, a master’s degree can support many of your career aspirations. Two master’s programs often compared by potential students are a master’s in finance and Master of Business Administration (MBA). To decide between  a master’s in finance vs. MBA, business professionals should consider their career paths and select the online Master of Business Administration program that best aligns with their goals.

How Does a Master’s in Finance vs. MBA Compare?

Both a master’s in finance and an MBA program impart extensive business leadership expertise. Therefore, students enrolled in either program can further develop time management and organizational skills. MBA graduates develop a broad knowledge of core business functions, but they can also gain valuable leadership skills through courses that focus on leading change in organizations and international business management. Master’s in finance graduates also develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

MBA Overview

Students can complete most MBA programs in 18 to 36 months. Accelerated programs may condense the program into one year, while online programs enable students to customize course loads based on personal schedules. Some prerequisites for an MBA program include a résumé, a letter of recommendation, and a letter of intent or video essay that explains the candidate’s interest in the program. Some programs require GMAT or GRE scores.

When it comes to comparing a master’s in finance and an MBA, an MBA program’s core courses typically span all fundamental business areas, including topics such as managerial finance, strategic resource management, and strategic marketing. Some schools provide concentrations such as organizational leadership, technology management, and energy management that enable students to select a focus that supports their career paths.

Career Opportunities for MBA Graduates            

While a master’s in finance is aligned with finance careers, an MBA prepares graduates for careers across all business areas. The following sections discuss potential career options for MBA graduates.

Project Manager

An MBA can support advancement into project manager roles, such as information technology (IT) project manager and engineering project manager. A project manager’s general duties include overseeing a project from start to finish. This may involve delegating tasks to a project team, monitoring the budget and schedule, and solving problems that arise throughout the process.

The median annual salary for a general project manager is around $74,300, according to PayScale. The career outlook for project manager positions varies by industry. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), demand for computer and information systems managers is expected to increase by 10% between 2019 and 2029, and demand for architectural and engineering managers is expected to increase by 3% during the same period.

Marketing Director

Marketing directors oversee organizations’ marketing strategies and tactics, such as advertising campaigns, market trend analysis, and marketing strategies. According to PayScale, the median annual salary for a marketing director is around $88,200. The BLS estimates the demand for advertising, promotions, and marketing managers to increase by 6% between 2019 and 2029.

Operations Officer

Operations officers, also referred to as chief operating officers (COOs), are typically high-level executives in organizations. This role includes being responsible for company operations, corporate goals, and strategic planning. As of May 2019, the median annual wage for chief executives, which includes COOs, was $184,460, according to the BLS. The BLS expects demand for top executives to increase by 4% from 2019 to 2029.

Master’s in Finance Overview

When comparing the differences between a master’s in finance versus an MBA, a master’s in finance program generally requires less time than an MBA program. Students can complete most of the finance program with one year of full-time study. The prerequisites for a master’s in finance may include undergraduate degree transcripts, a letter of recommendation, and an essay explaining why the candidate is applying for the program.

Students enrolled in master’s in finance programs can expect practical courses like financial reporting, investments, and corporate finance, as well as theory-based courses like financial economics and quantitative finance.

Career Opportunities for Graduates with a Master’s in Finance

Master’s in finance graduates can pursue various finance careers, including financial analyst, investment banker, and controller.

Financial Analyst

Financial analysts provide investment advice based on knowledge of economic trends; historical financial data; and the current performance of stocks, bonds, and other investments. Various businesses, including banks and insurance firms, employ these professionals. The median annual wage for financial analysts was $81,590 as of May 2019, according to the BLS. The BLS estimates the demand for professionals in this field to increase by 5% between 2019 and 2029.

Investment Banker

Investment bankers guide mergers and acquisitions. They also raise capital by issuing stocks and bonds for government agencies and corporations. The median annual wage for securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents, which include investment bankers, was $62,270 as of May 2019,  according to the BLS. The BLS estimates the demand for securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents to increase by 4% from 2019 to 2029.

Controller

Controllers are responsible for their organizations’ accounting, auditing, and budgeting functions. They may also oversee financial reports, including balance sheets and income statements. The median annual wage for financial managers, which include controllers, was $129,890 as of May 2019, according to the BLS. The BLS estimates the demand for financial managers to increase by 15% from 2019 to 2029.

Differences Between a Master’s in Finance vs. MBA

The differences between a master’s in finance versus MBA can come down to a student’s career intentions after graduation. Most MBA programs have curricula and projects designed to improve critical and creative thinking, written and oral communication, as well as strategic planning skills. Upon graduation, students are prepared to solve business problems and identify implementable solutions. MBA programs provide students with a well-rounded understanding of all business aspects, with a focus on leadership and management skills. Graduates can apply the knowledge they gain from MBA programs to various fields.

In contrast, a master’s in finance program delivers specialized financial knowledge and prepares graduates to excel in careers exclusively in the finance profession. Students enrolled in master’s in finance programs develop technical skills that support a future in specific financial roles, such as trading, investment banking, and accounting. Students are taught advanced mathematics skills with courses in statistics, mathematics, and accounting, and financial theory.

Develop Leadership Skills with an MBA

While programs and coursework vary by institution, master’s in finance and MBA degrees can both help individuals cultivate valuable skill sets, increase long-term earning potential, and advance their careers in various business fields. For professionals inclined to pursue an MBA, Norwich University offers a framework for students to develop advanced leadership skills and an in-depth understanding of business and financial concepts, enabling them to seek out various lucrative career opportunities.

Norwich University’s online Master of Business Administration degree program is taught by a faculty of subject matter experts and features multiple start dates throughout the year. Students enrolled in this program can tailor their education to meet individual career goals by selecting from seven concentrations: construction management, finance, organizational leadership, project management, supply chain management, technology management, and energy management.

Explore how earning the online Master of Business Administration degree can help you advance your career in finance and a wide range of other fields.

Recommended Readings

MSM vs. MBA: Which Degree Is Right for You?
What Is an MBA? Seven Different Concentrations Support Greater Career Opportunities
5 Key Tactics of Successful Project Managers

Sources:

Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Architectural and Engineering Managers, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Computer and Information Systems Managers, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Financial Analysts, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Financial Managers, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Securities, Commodities, and Financial Services Sales Agents, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Top Executives, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
MBA vs. Master of Finance: What’s the Difference?, Investopedia
Average Marketing Director Salary, PayScale
Average Project Manager (Unspecified Type/General) Salary, PayScale