It’s no surprise that at many of the top MBA programs, over a third of grads go into the sector:
If you’re serious about going into the financial industry, you might want to consider an MBA in finance. A step up from a master’s in finance, an MBA in finance balances hands-on career training with in-depth finance learning.
We’ll take you through what you can expect from an MBA finance degree, including MBA finance jobs and the average MBA finance salary.
What is an MBA in Finance?
There are two types of MBA finance courses:
1) MBA programs that focus wholly on finance
2) MBA programs that offer a specialized track or concentration in finance
The latter are a lot more common and are the programs that most candidates choose. This is because they’re more flexible than finance-only focused programs, and they’ll often be offered alongside similar MBA specializations.
Other MBA specializations include areas such as entrepreneurship and marketing.
With an MBA concentration in finance, you’ll get the benefit of a generalised set of core modules, plus the electives available through your specialisation.
Meanwhile, an MBA finance degree that focuses solely on finance topics will be more specific and have less wiggle room to explore other options.
What are the subjects in an MBA in Finance?
By taking an MBA program with a concentration in finance, you can expect to study the same standard core modules as your non-finance-focused peers.
The core MBA syllabus is designed to give you the general skills needed to succeed within any industry or function, with electives and internships supplementing this learning.
Non-finance topics you’ll study will probably include:
- Human resources
- Operations management
The finance modules usually included on core curricula include:
- Asset valuation
- Investment risk dynamics
- Capital budgeting
The goal of these core courses is to ensure that all students—no matter the function or industry they are aiming for—will understand how business finances work, their role in making them work, and can make informed financial decisions.
Financial specialization modules, on the other hand, are specifically about preparing students for financial roles across industries, or for jobs within the finance industry itself.
MBA concentration in finance modules
These will expand on what you’ve learned in your core modules to give you an in-depth understanding of financial topics.
What exactly this looks like may be different at different schools. For example, at UCLA Anderson, students study a curriculum rich in insights into investing. They look at how investors make decisions about what to add to their portfolio, and how risk and return is determined for different types of assets.
The practical learning you do will also differ if you opt for an MBA concentration in finance. At Michigan Ross, students take part in a consultancy project before starting their summer internships.
Past projects that Ross students have taken part in include creating a strategy framework to decrease cost inefficiencies for a company in California, and studying the impact of the Digital Villages initiative adopted by a bank in Mumbai, in order to suggest improvements.
In terms of the business methods you’ll learn, you may have the option to seek a more technical education. At the Wharton School—the best in the USA for finance, according to US News—students can choose between a general finance major and a STEM-designated Quantitative Finance major, which prepares students for more technical roles.
These might include functions such as quantitative asset management and trading, financial engineering, risk management, and applied research.
To make your decision about where to complete your MBA finance degree, you should think carefully about the roles you’re most interested in pursuing post-MBA, and the skills you will need to get there.
What is the best MBA for Finance?
While most MBA programs will offer some form of finance training, going to one of the top MBA programs for finance will likely give you an extra boost when it comes to landing a great finance job.
Here is a list of the best business schools for finance.
Can I get a Finance MBA online?
Perhaps, like many busy professionals, you want to complete a top MBA program, but have competing priorities that make studying on a full-time program unrealistic.
Fortunately, there are online MBA finance programs available that could fit the bill. Here is our list of the top online MBA finance programs, chosen for appearing on the Financial Times’ online MBA ranking and offering a MBA concentration in finance.
1. UNC Kenan-Flagler
UNC Kenan-Flagler’s online MBA is number one in the US according to US News’ 2022 ranking. It’s a well-established program, having been around for over a decade, and it is STEM-designated, with graduates achieving a 24% increase in salary on average after completing the program.
The teaching on the UNC Kenan-Flagler online MBA in finance is primarily virtual, with two in-person summits per cohort. These can be on the school’s campus in Chapel Hill, or around the world.
The elective courses that students can study in order to specialize in finance include topics such as corporate financial strategy, financial statement analysis, mergers and acquisitions, and taxes and business strategy.
2. Australian Graduate School of Management at the University of New South Wales (AGSM @ UNSW)
The online MBA in finance at AGSM @ UNSW takes 2-6 years to complete when studying part-time. Teaching takes place entirely online with optional residential components, and is open to students studying from abroad.
To qualify for the MBA concentration in finance you must take courses in accounting and financial management, and in corporate finance. In addition to these and the core courses, you must then choose six finance specialisation courses and two electives.
3. The University of Nebraska
Another fully-online program, the University of Nebraska’s online MBA in finance is taught in a series of eight-week courses. There are 10 core courses and six electives over the course of the program, and these can be completed in as little as 18 months (though the average is around 3 years).
On this program, students study MBA finance courses such as managerial economics and financial accounting.
Studying an MBA finance online is a great option if you have family commitments that prevent you from taking a residential course, however it’s worth considering what outcome you’re hoping for.
If you want a drastic career change, studying online may not be the best course of action, as according to a Graduate Management Admission Council™ (GMAC) survey, 38% of finance recruiters don’t value online MBA finance programs as highly as full-time programs. So an online MBA may make it harder to achieve a big career change.
What can you do with an MBA in Finance?
As discussed above, the main purpose of an MBA finance degree is to prepare you for either a finance-specific role in another industry, or to work within the finance industry itself, for instance in banking.
To help you decide if finance is a good career path for you, here are three examples of MBA finance careers you might consider.
Accounting and auditing
Accounting is an essential part of any business, and refers to the examination and preparation of financial records.
MBA finance jobs in this area would involve ensuring that businesses are compliant with tax laws and accounting procedures. You might do this in-house for a company, or for an accounting firm.
As well as delivering analyses of business accounts, it’s also often up to accounting executives to recommend ways that businesses can improve their operations.
In addition to an MBA finance degree, you might also need a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) qualification. Some MBA finance degrees offer the opportunity to work on these during the program.
MBA finance jobs in corporate finance focus on managing sources of business funding and the capital structure of organizations.
You might be advising your clients on how to restructure their debt and raise capital or talking to investors about their portfolio options.
Indeed, this is what a corporate finance job looks like for Matthew Choi, an MBA grad from Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST).
For students looking to start a corporate finance career in Hong Kong specifically, Matthew believes an MBA in finance is an asset.
“If you really want to get a job in hedge funds or equity research fields, having a CFA would be helpful,” Matthew advises. “But in Hong Kong, it’s also helpful if you get an MBA alongside one of the other licenses.”
One exciting route for graduates with an MBA finance degree is to work in fintech, which is where technology is making new ways of financial management possible. For HKUST grad Akshay Shetty, an MBA helped him land a job at a startup, reporting directly to the Chief Financial Officer (CFO).
He works on a broad range of tasks, from cost optimization, to fundraising, to overseeing accounting processes.
“I think the biggest skill I learned at business school that I practice almost daily is managing a network,” he says.
MBA in Finance salary | what can you earn?
As we’ve already mentioned, one of the key draws to the finance sector is the promise of high salaries.
The highest-paying MBA finance jobs include titles such as financial manager, CFO, and VP of finance. But to get a sense of what the average salary is like for MBA finance grads at top schools, see the table below.
* Figures marked with an asterisk indicate where an employment report gives multiple median figures (for instance for different sub-sections of finance), and so an average of these figures has been calculated.