MBA vs. Master’s in Finance Programs
Would you rather be a jack of all trades or a master of one? Those debating between a graduate-level degree in either business administration or finance may want to ask themselves that question. While both degree options can lead to a boosted career and higher earnings potential, they take fundamentally different approaches and cater to different aspirations.
A master’s of business administration (MBA) is a generalist degree that provides students with a broad understanding of business fundamentals. The core curriculum includes subjects in marketing, accounting, management, and finance, but the focus is on leadership. Explorations of finance—even through specialization—will be cursory compared to those in more targeted programs. The reward for that breadth, however, is that MBA graduates can go on to practice in a wide range of industries, and generally enjoy a high earnings potential.
A master’s in finance program, on the other hand, takes a targeted approach to the subject. The core curriculum focuses on elements of finance such as quantitative analysis, applied calculus, multinational finance, wealth management, and derivatives and asset pricing. While graduates of finance programs often go on to take up leadership positions, they almost always do so within the scope of finance itself. The rigorous and technical nature of such programs means graduates leave with a thoroughly expert understanding of finance, both in its theory and practice.
Both an MBA and a master’s in finance can act as a stepping stone to the top levels of business. While there is overlap between the two in academic requirements and core classes, significant differences exist in focus and specialization. Read on to learn the details of each program in a side-by-side comparison chart.
|MBA||Master’s in Finance|
|What is it?||An MBA is a graduate-level degree that provides students with a fundamental business and management skill set that can prepare them for leadership roles across a wide range of industries.||A master’s degree in finance is a specialized, graduate-level degree that provides students with an understanding of financial theory and practice that is both deep and nuanced.|
Admissions requirements for MBA programs vary from school to school, but most include some or all of the following:
Admissions requirements for master’s in finance programs vary from school to school, but often include some or all of the following:
|Typical duration||Most MBA programs take two to three years to complete, but specialized tracks exist. An accelerated full-time program may take as little as a year, while a part-time program may allow up to six years to complete the degree.||Most master’s in finance programs two years to complete, but specialized tracks exist as well. An intensive study program can see a student graduate in as few as 16 months, while a part-time schedule may allow a longer and more flexible time frame.|
Coursework in MBA programs generally covers topics such as:
Coursework in master’s-level finance programs can cover topics such as:
|Specializations or concentrations||
While the MBA is a generalist degree, a wealth of specializations is available within it, some of which include:
Even though master’s in finance programs concentrate heavily on finance, further concentrations are possible in:
|Who can benefit from this degree?||An MBA provides students with the business acumen and managerial mindset necessary to lead a team or organization. Recent graduates, mid-career professionals, entrepreneurs, managers, lawyers, and executives from a wide variety of industries and backgrounds can all benefit from an MBA.||A master’s in finance provides an expert-level understanding of finance, both in theory and practice, and those looking to be leaders in the world of high-stakes finance can benefit from this degree. Graduates often go on to careers in corporate finance, consumer banking, financial planning, portfolio management, and risk assessment.|
|Salary prospects||Salary prospects will vary by geography, experience, concentration, and role, but those pursuing an MBA can expect strong earnings potential. As a degree with a leadership focus, MBA graduates naturally go on to higher-paying leadership positions: the average wage for MBA graduates was $142,000.00 a year in 2017. And data from The Economist suggests that graduates’ salaries can more than double immediately upon earning an MBA.||Salary prospects will vary by geography, experience, concentration, and role, but those pursuing a master’s in finance should enjoy moderate to strong earnings potential. The average pay for master’s in finance graduates, according to Payscale, is $77,000 per year. But towards the upper bound, financial directors, top portfolio managers, and senior financial analysts can all earn well over $100,000 per year.|
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|The bottom line||The MBA is an advanced generalist degree that can prepare graduates for leadership positions in a wide range of industries. While MBA students gain a working understanding of financial concepts, they focus primarily on finance as it relates to management and strategic decision-making.||A master’s degree in finance is a targeted program that dives deeply into the advanced workings of finance, with a strong focus on quantitative analytics. Those who pursue this degree may aspire to become leaders in the financial field through an expert-level understanding of the subject.|