What Can I Expect from an Online Master’s in Finance Program?

Individuals who love working with numbers and want to fast-track their careers might consider earning a master’s degree in finance. Graduates from master’s in finance programs have a variety of career opportunities available to them — everything from an actuary or accountant to a personal financial advisor.

Online programs for earning a master’s in finance offer the same quality as on-campus programs but in a more convenient format — working professionals can participate in distance learning programs that let them take classes online while completing certain milestones along the way. Online classes also allow students to balance work and family commitments with their education. When you research online master’s programs in finance, it’s important to find one that aligns with your short and long-term career goals.

Concentrations Offered for an Online Master’s in Finance

Corporate Finance Explores issues such as analyses of financial statements, capital markets, financial modeling, credit analysis and advanced valuation. Financial manager, financial analyst, money manager, consultant
Economics Students dive into topics such as economic theories and how economics guide and influence professions within finance. Topics covered usually include econometrics, economic forecasting, macroeconomics, statistics and monetary economics. Financial planner, financial analyst, financial services sales agent
Financial Markets Students take classes in subject areas such as financial market dynamics, financial engineering and strategic finance. Other topics students are likely to explore include securities, derivatives and asset management. The overall goal of this concentration is to discover the role that markets play within the finance industry. Financial manager, financial services sales agent
International Finance Students who want their career to focus on global finance and international investments may want to consider this concentration. Some programs may require you to demonstrate a proficiency with a foreign language, but it’s not always necessary. Students who choose this area of focus take classes in international finance, corporate finance and management of financial institutions. International financial manager, money manager
Risk Management Gain skills to help companies minimize their financial losses by reducing their exposure to risk. Issues covered in this concentration typically include insurance regulation, risk-related public policy initiatives and global risk management. Financial analyst, actuary, personal financial advisor
Investments and Portfolio Management Students study the investment process and how to create and manage investment portfolios with varying levels of risk. Issues explored include valuation of financial assets, risk management, the pricing model for capital assets and derivatives securities. Investment advisor, financial manager, financial planner, personal financial advisor

Curriculum for an Online Master’s in Finance

While the individual classes you take are going to depend on the program you enroll in and your chosen area of concentration, there are some common courses among many online master’s in finance programs that you can expect to take.

Financial Economics Provides an introduction to financial economics, including fundamental theories and practices. Students learn how finance and economics both influence public and private-sector organizations. Topics covered typically include microeconomics, macroeconomics, financial market analysis and quantitative methods.
Financial Reporting and Analysis Students learn how to analyze an organization’s previous financial performance to help them make sound financial decisions in the future. Students learn how to use concepts from economics, finance, accounting and business strategy to make informed financial decisions.
Corporate Valuation Explores concepts related to corporate valuation, including mergers and acquisitions, security analysis, forecasting performance and divestitures. Students discover how to determine the value of a business.
Financial Modeling Introduces the concept of financial management, including theory and practice. In this course, students typically learn how to use spreadsheets to analyze financial decisions and their potential impacts. This course is necessary for students interested in becoming financial analysts.
Mergers, Acquisitions and Restructuring Provides an overview of how corporate control transactions (buying and selling of businesses) occur. Topics explored typically include buyout transactions, takeovers, corporate spin-offs, hostile bids, inside trading in takeovers, corporate downsizing and the relationship between takeovers and capital structure changes.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Master’s Degree in Finance?

The length of time required to complete an online master’s in finance degree is dependent upon several factors, including the program type, school and chosen area of concentration. Most students taking classes full-time can complete an online master’s in finance in two years or less. Schools that offer a fast-track program, which typically offers courses at an accelerated pace, could put the degree in your hand in as little as 14 months. Most online master’s in finance programs require about 30-36 credits to graduate.

Accreditation for Online Master’s in Finance

As you research programs, make sure to focus your search on master’s programs that are accredited, which ensures they provide you with a quality education. Schools that are accredited undergo a quality-assurance process that ensures they meet minimum standards put forth by the larger higher education community. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation provides a database where you can search for online master’s programs by program type or institution name.

In the world of finance, students may seek out program-specific accreditation for their master’s in finance degrees from organizations such as the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. Some programs may also hold accreditation from the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education.

Employment Outlook for Master’s in Finance Graduates

Job Placement: Master’s v. Bachelor’s

In general, those pursuing a master’s degree in finance have a favorable job outlook. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, many financial professions, including statisticians, accountants and actuaries, are predicted to experience fast rates of growth between 2016-2026.

Expected Salary

Those who pursue a master’s degree in finance open themselves up to a potential boost in salary along with additional job prospects. Below are some common careers individuals pursue with a master’s degree in finance and their median annual salaries.

While the type of degree you hold, type of workplace and years of experience can affect salary, geographical location also has an influence. Below is a map of the country for financial managers with their annual mean wages listed by state.

Career Opportunities

Based on their chosen specialty area, finance master’s degree holders can pursue a variety of career opportunities.

Financial Managers Financial Managers take responsibility for managing the financial health of several types of organizations. Financial Managers create financial reports, perform long-term financial planning and help direct investment activities for the companies they work for. Most Financial Managers begin their careers as accountants, financial analysts or auditors before taking on this role. $125,080 per year 19%
Financial Analysts Financial Analysts are tasked with giving advice to individuals and businesses about their investment decisions. They analyze how bonds, stocks and other investment types perform in the market. Usually, Financial Analysts need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, but a master’s degree in finance can help boost pay and open up more career opportunities. $84,300 per year 11%
Personal Financial Advisors Personal Financial Advisors provide financial advice to individuals about a variety of issues, including investments, estate planning, taxes, insurance, mortgages and retirement. In general, they help people manage their finances more effectively. $90,640 per year 15%
Actuaries Actuaries typically work for companies and help them analyze the financial costs of risk and uncertainty. They use a combination of mathematics, statistics and financial theory to assess the risk of potential events and, in turn, help companies and clients develop insurance policies or protocols that minimize the cost of that risk. $101,560 per year 22%

Professional Organizations

Professional organizations in the world of finance are excellent for networking opportunities and obtaining resources and support in the field. For students, they offer a great entry point for learning about their chosen career path. Below are some professional organizations in the finance world that host conferences and networking events, provide online training and have active job boards.

American Finance Association: The AFA is considered to be the leading academic organization in the field of financial economics. It has a regular flagship publication, the Journal of Finance, which has been in circulation since 1946. It hosts an annual conference for financial professionals and offers an affordable low-cost membership.

International Financial Management Association: The IFMA is a global organization and offers professional financial certification in five niche areas: management accounting, investment and law, investment banking, internet finance, and credit analysis and management. It also has an online career center with links to professional development opportunities and a job board.

National Association of Personal Financial Advisors: This organization was founded in 1983 and is the largest professional organization for personal financial advisors. The website provides resources such as video tutorials, links to networks for established financial advisor professionals and a “Find an Advisor” tool.

Financing Your Online Master’s in Finance

While it’s true that pursuing an online master’s degree is usually less expensive than taking on-campus classes, many students still need financial aid to help them pay for the cost of tuition.

Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a good first step — this form provides you with information about grants, scholarships, loans and other forms of financial aid available to you from the federal government. In addition, you may be qualified for scholarships through the programs you’re applying to. Many nonprofit organizations and private companies also offer scholarship programs.





Accounting and Financial Women’s Alliance

Award: Varies

Deadline: April

Eligibility: Women enrolled in a master’s degree program in finance or accounting. Cumulative GPA must be at least 3.0. Candidates are evaluated based on leadership, character, communication skills, scholastic performance and financial need.

Goldberg-Miller Public Finance Scholarship

Award: $15,000

Deadline: Spring 2019

Eligibility: Provided by the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA), eligibility requirements include students enrolled full-time in a graduate level finance program and pursuing a career in state/local government finance.

Minorities In Government Finance Scholarship

Award: $10,000

Deadline: Spring 2019

Eligibility: Provided by GFOA, eligible students should be enrolled in full or part-time graduate programs in governmental accounting, finance, public administration, political science, economics or related field and identify as African-American, Hispanic-American, Native American, Native Hawaiian or Asian-American.

Government Finance Professional Development Scholarship

Award: Four $10,000 awards

Deadline: Spring 2019

Eligibility: Students enrolled in part-time graduate programs in public administration, governmental accounting, finance, economics or business administration. A letter of recommendation is also needed from your current employer. Applicants must also have been employed at least one or two years by one or more state or local governments.

AWSCPA Scholarship Award

Award: $5,000

Deadline: March 1

Eligibility: For outstanding female students pursuing an undergraduate or graduate-level degree in accounting or an accounting-related major, and enrolled full-time in a business or accounting program that’s accredited by the AACSB and/or ACBSP. Minimum 3.0 GPA. Given to up to 4 students.