<< Return to Blog Homepage

MBA vs Master’s in Finance

MBA vs Master’s in Finance

“We can’t overestimate the value of computers. Yes, they are great for playing games and forwarding funny emails. But real business is done on paper, okay?”

– Michael Scott, “The Office”

If you’ve ever found yourself staring at your surroundings, thinking that your career isn’t going the way that you thought it would – or that you’re at a Dunder Mifflin that can’t adapt their business model to the way of the future – maybe it’s time to think about getting an advanced degree.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in recent years, master’s degrees in business were the most commonly earned graduate degrees (www.bls.gov). As of 2013 (the last year for which this data was available), the wage premiums for workers who hold a master’s degree were highest for those in sales, financial, and business occupations. This means that workers who earn advanced degrees are likely to earn significantly more than their counterparts who have only earned a bachelor’s degree. In the business and financial fields, the answer to your internal debate of MBA vs master’s in finance can have a significant impact on your future earning potential.

Similarities & Differences

At first glance, the MBA and master’s in finance degrees offer similar training. Since master’s in finance programs require one year to complete – rather than an MBA’s two to three years – they use their limited time to hone in very specifically on tax planning, risk management, corporate finance, and financial technology. These short-but-intense programs may be appealing to those students who would like to hit the ground running very soon after graduation.

Because MBA programs provide a more general education, graduates have additional flexibility with regard to career choices and occupational transfers. It is recommended that MBA applicants have at least three years of work experience prior to enrolling in a program. This allows students to have a better understanding of the practical application of the theories that they will be learning in class; it also allows for more peer learning experiences.

MBA vs Master’s in Finance Salary & Career Outlook


Salary & Career Outlook

According to Bloomberg, beginning salaries for those with an MBA tend to be higher than entry-level salaries for those who have earned a master’s in finance. This is partly due to the work experience requirement for MBA candidates.

It’s easy to see why so many people have chosen to continue their education by earning an MBA. Rather than being limited to working only in the financial industry, MBA programs’ broad business training allows graduates to find jobs in a wide variety of fields and roles. Coursework covers topics like law for global business, strategic financial management, business operations, managerial economics, marketing, and project management, as well as communication and research.

Possible job paths may include:

Marketing Manager

Sales Manager


Market Research Analyst

Accountant or Auditor

Management Analyst

Human Resources Manager

*Note: All salary information comes from the 2018 median annual pay, as reported by the BLS.

Master’s in Finance

While MBA programs prepare graduates to hold a variety of positions within a company, those who enroll in a master’s in finance program are typically prepared for careers specific to financial analysis or management. Those thinking about a career in the world of finance should have strong skills in communication, mathematics, and critical thinking, as well as have a detail-oriented personality.

Career options may include:


Financial Manager

Financial Analyst

Securities, Commodities, and Financial Services Sales Agents

*Note: All salary information comes from the 2018 median annual pay, as reported by the BLS.

If you are interested in pursuing a career in financial services, you may want to look into earning a credential as a Certified Financial Planner (CFP). Additionally, the CFA Institute offers a few related credentials for financial professionals (www.cfainstitute.org).

The CFP designation requires that you have earned a bachelor’s degree and have completed either a degree or certificate from a CFP-board registered finance program (or have obtained board approval of other academic credentials). Additionally, you must pass the CFP Certification Examination, complete 4,000-6,000 hours of qualifying financial planning experience, as well as pass an ethics requirement. The ethics requirement consists of a detailed application and background check (www.cfp.net).

Next Steps

In many fields, Forbes has declared that the master’s degree has replaced the bachelor’s degree as the required degree (www.forbes.com). This indicates that it is more important than ever to pick the correct training program for your future. CityU’s Master of Business Administration program offers concentrations in areas like global marketing, human resource management, supply chain management, entrepreneurship, finance, change leadership, and public accounting (no GMAT required).

CityU’s MBA with a focus on finance allows students to dive deeper into capital formation, quantitative methods, derivatives, and portfolio management. Students will also have the opportunity to complete an internship in preparation for working in a larger financial institution, such as a bank or an insurance company. This option may be a good fit for students who have the time to devote to an MBA but would like to work in the financial world after graduation.

Because MBA programs prefer candidates who have at least a few years of work experience, CityU’s flexible format allows all types of candidates to find a balance that works for them. Need to take online courses to accommodate caring for family? We’ve got you covered. Prefer to meet your professors in person and learn on campus? Not a problem. Think you’d like to strike a balance between onsite learning and taking some courses in your pajamas, while applying a mud mask? Yeah… you can do that.

When you’re ready, we’re here for you.

Published January 13, 2020