What Is a Master's in Finance?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Learn more about earning either a Master of Finance or a Master of Business Administration with a concentration in finance to advance your financial career.

[Featured image] Three financial spreadsheets showing an array of numbers.

When you’re interested in a financial career, earning a master’s degree can be a lucrative choice, advancing your understanding of corporate financial practices and in turn elevating your career prospects. 

At the graduate level, you have the option of earning a Master of Finance (MOF or MFin) or a Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a concentration in finance. Each degree type is structured differently, and the one you choose will depend on your experience and career goals. In this article, we’ll go over master’s in finance degrees, how they compare to one another, and what you’ll learn in each type of program. 

Master of Finance vs. Master of Business Administration 

Generally speaking, a Master of Finance is designed for financial professionals who want to further their financial knowledge and technical skills in a short period of time. An MBA in finance, on the other hand, is designed for students who want to gain broad business knowledge while focusing a significant portion of their coursework on finance. 

Learn more: MBA vs. MS: Choosing Which Is Better for You

Master of Finance degree

Master of Finance students are likely already working in finance, perhaps as staff accountants or as a member of a company’s corporate finance team. MOF programs tend to be shorter—around 18 months versus a traditional two-year master’s degree—but at some schools, you may have the option to complete your degree in a one-year accelerated program. 

There are also a growing number of online master’s in finance programs, which can be a useful option when you’re working full-time and prefer greater flexibility to complete your education. You may have the opportunity to enroll part-time or full-time in an online MOF, taking courses asynchronously or virtually, and working through the program at your own pace. 


Master of Finance courses explore the subject theoretically and practically, so you can strengthen important skills to perform tasks like modeling. You can expect to deepen your knowledge of economics, statistics, ethics, and data, among other topics. Your courses may include:

  • Foundations of finance 

  • Macroeconomics 

  • Risk management

  • Investment analysis

  • Financial modeling

  • Financial reporting

  • Quantitative methods

  • Financial regulations  


You may have the option of choosing electives based on an area of finance that interests you. In such cases, after completing the coursework outlined above, you can select an aspect of finance that you want to learn more about. Students often choose a specialization based on their career goals. Specializations can include:

  • Corporate finance

  • Market finance

  • International finance

  • Venture capital

  • Hedge funds

  • Mergers and acquisitions 

  • Financial management

  • Financial econometrics 

  • Financial engineering

  • Financial planning

  • Business law and ethics 

MBA degree

Finance is considered one of the top five MBA concentrations, and while students do not have to pursue a career at a financial institution, many graduates end up working at investment banks, asset management firms, consulting firms, and brokerages.

Unlike the MOF, you won’t have the option of choosing a niched financial specialization because your concentration will count as such. Traditional MBA degrees take around two years to complete and most programs expect students to attend full-time. However, there are a number of options, such as part-time MBAs or online MBAs, that allow students to keep working while earning their degree. 

Learn more: Your Guide to Online Business Degrees


The courses you complete as part of your MBA will combine foundational business classes with electives that focus on finance. 

Examples of general business courses: 

  • Foundations of leadership

  • Business strategy

  • Managerial accounting

  • Operations management

  • Corporate finance

  • Cultural psychology

  • Business ethics

Examples of MBA in finance courses: 

  • Financial strategy

  • Entrepreneurial finance 

  • Global economics

  • Corporate valuation

  • Investment banking

  • Mergers and acquisitions 

An infographic that reads: A university degree built for you. Fit a degree around your life—not the other way around.

MBA vs. MOF: Which is better? 

To make sure you pick the best master’s in finance for you, it helps to consider what you want to learn by enrolling in a master’s program, and what you hope to do after graduating. 

If you have no financial experience but are interested in a financial career, then an MBA may be the best option since an MOF degree will likely require previous training or experience. If you’re a financial professional who wants to accelerate your career, an MOF may be the stronger option given your ultimate goals. 

In regard to careers, you can pursue many similar senior or managerial financial roles with both degrees, but an MBA may broaden your career prospects because of its foundational business curriculum. MBA graduates often go on to make high salaries. While your earnings will depend on your company and location, MBA graduates had a projected average starting salary of $115,000 in 2021, which was higher than their peers with bachelor's degrees ($65,000) [1].

MBA programs can also be incredibly competitive—and expensive. At top schools in the US, the total cost of an MBA degree can exceed $150,000 [2]. Comparatively, master’s degrees tend to cost between $30,000 and $120,000, and if you enroll in a one-year or 18-month program, you may pay less overall for your degree [3]. 

What can you do with a master’s in finance? 

The possibilities for work following a master’s in finance are strong, with access to a number of industries, such as government, manufacturing, and tech. Highly popular industries include finance and insurance—30 percent of financial managers working in these fields [4]. 

Managerial finance jobs have a strong career outlook, with a projected 17 percent growth rate between 2021 and 2031 according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics [5]. The roles you can pursue after earning a master’s degree in finance will vary. Below, we’ll compiled popular options. 

Job titleAverage US salary*
Financial advisor$94,170
Financial analyst$95,570
Business controller$91,069
Investment manager$133,589
Financial manager$131,710
Chief financial officer$178,074

*Salary data from BLS and Glassdoor and is accurate as of September 2022.

Learn more: What Can You Do with a Finance Degree? 7 Career Paths

Getting started  

Earn your Master of Business Administration from the renowned Gies College of Business at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana on Coursera for a total cost of $23,040. The program offers several concentrations, such as financial management and managerial economics, and you can even “try before you buy” by completing a graduate certificate from the school first. 

If a shorter program better suits your needs, Gies College of Business also offers a one-year Master of Science in Management, which includes financial and accounting courses. 

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Article sources

1. Graduate Management Admissions Council. “Demand of Graduate Management Talent, https://www.gmac.com/-/media/files/gmac/research/employment-outlook/2021_crs-demand-of-gm-talent.pdf.” Accessed September 20, 2022. 

2. Poets&Quants. “What It Now Costs to Get an MBA at a Top Business School, https://poetsandquants.com/2021/11/29/what-it-now-costs-to-get-an-mba-at-a-top-business-school/.” Accessed September 20, 2022. 

3. Education Data Initiative. "Average Cost of a Master’s Degree, https://educationdata.org/average-cost-of-a-masters-degree." Accessed September 20, 2022. 

4. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Financial Managers, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/financial-managers.htm#tab-3.” Accessed September 20, 2022. 

5. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Financial Managers: Job Outlook,  https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/financial-managers.htm#tab-6.” Accessed September 20, 2022.

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