The field of finance is incredibly competitive, and candidates need exceptional qualifications to stand out. Many professionals discover that a graduate degree is a viable way to refine their skill set and get the attention of employers.

There are three degrees that are common among professionals in the finance sector: a Master of Business Administration (MBA), an MBA with a Finance concentration (also known as an MBA in finance), and a master’s in finance. Each degree covers real-world financial issues, problem solving, and analysis techniques. However, while both an MBA and an MBA in finance offer broad training in a number of other important business functions, a master’s in finance focuses primarily on advanced financial theory and practice.

Whether you’re looking to advance your career in finance or switch to the finance sector from another career path, there is a relevant master’s degree that can help you gain the skills and qualifications to pursue your goals. Each of these degrees can be great options, but one may offer you training, experience, and connections that are more relevant to where you want to go.

Master’s in Finance vs. MBA vs. MBA in Finance

MS in Finance MBA MBA in Finance
Focus Provides specialized education in advanced finance theory and practice. Provides generalized education in business administration. Provides generalized education in business administration with elective courses in general finance.
Program Requirements
  • Bachelor’s degree (business or finance preferred) from an accredited institution
  • 3.0+ GPA
  • GMAT/GRE scores (waivers may be available for some applicants)
  • Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution
  • GMAT/GRE scores may be optional

  • Work experience often preferred
  • Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution
  • GMAT/GRE scores may be optional
  • Work experience often preferred
Curriculum Elements
  • Financial analysis and modeling
  • Financial planning
  • Portfolio management
  • Corporate Finance
  • International finance
  • Financial markets
  • Corporate finance strategy
  • Investment management
  • Financial risk management
  • Decision-making and leadership
  • General finance and accounting
  • Ethics
  • Operations
  • Marketing strategy
  • International business
  • Decision-making and leadership
  • Corporate budgeting and restructuring
  • Financial markets
  • Marketing
  • Operations
  • Portfolio management
  • Project management
Salary Potential* Average earning potential ranges from $80,000 to $141,000+ Average earning potential ranges from $63,000 to $160,000+ Average earning potential ranges from $71,000 to $120,000+

*(Data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics and Payscale)

MS in Finance

A Master of Science in Finance provides training in financial management and analysis, investments, managerial accounting, economics, and other related topics. The goal of this program is to educate students on the tools, techniques, and industry best practices that organizations use to make sound financial decisions. You’ll get hands-on experience finding, investigating, and testing solutions to various real-world problems by conducting research and applying financial theories.

MS in Finance Curriculum

The curriculum of an MS in Finance program is typically made up of 30 to 36 credits, which is 10 to 12 classes. It takes approximately one to two years to complete as a full-time student and between two to three years as a part-time student. However, many MS in Finance programs are built for full-time professionals to complete coursework on a part-time basis.

Here are some common class topics offered in an MS in Finance program:

  • Business decision-making
  • Corporate finance
  • Capital markets
  • Entrepreneurial finance
  • Financial and managerial accounting
  • Financial planning and decision-making
  • Financial statement analysis
  • International finance
  • Investment strategy
  • Market analysis
  • Portfolio management
  • Risk modeling and management

Some master’s in finance programs offer only a few options to explore specialized topics through electives. These programs might be best if you want to follow a clear path of courses that provides you experience with multiple facets of finance. Other programs require a small number of core courses and offer more options to take electives in specific topics. You may choose a program that allows you to mix-and-match courses for a tailored education if you have a very particular role or industry in mind.

Career Potential After Getting an MS in Finance

There are several careers you can pursue in the finance sector when you earn a master’s in finance. Many of these roles pay high salaries, and this credential can give you the leverage you need to secure a raise or promotion. On average, a master’s in finance salary is approximately $80,000 per year, according to Payscale.

Here are some of the most common MS in Finance jobs along with their earning potential and job growth between 2020 and 2030:

What Can You Do With an MS in Finance?
Job Title Average Salary Job Growth (BLS)
Financial analyst $81,410 per year 6%
Senior financial analyst $83,095 per year 6%
Financial controller $86,842 per year 17%
Portfolio manager $90,037 per year 17%
Personal financial advisor $94,170 per year 5%
Financial manager $131,710 per year


Pursuing a master’s degree in finance also helps you gain the knowledge and skills to pass the exams for important finance certifications, like chartered financial analyst (CFA), certified financial planner (CFP), and financial risk manager (FRM), which may be required to qualify for certain positions.

Program Requirements for an MS in Finance

While specific admission requirements can vary from school to school, most MS in Finance programs require:

  • A bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university
  • Entrance exam scores for the GMAT or GRE
  • Language proficiency test scores for students with a degree from an international university

Many master’s in finance programs, like the online MS in Finance program from Pace University, are meant for students who have at least one of the following:

  • An educational background in finance/business
  • Three or more years of professional work experience

Applicants with educational and work experience outside of finance or business may need to take prerequisite courses to prepare for the vigor of an MS program.

In addition to a relevant degree, programs look for students with previous track records of academic success. A GPA of at least 3.0 is commonly required, though work experience, professional certification, and high graduate admissions test scores may be considered. If you have previous work experience in finance, you may qualify to waive the graduate entrance exams when applying to certain MS in finance programs.


A Master of Business Administration program provides education and training in multiple aspects of business, including finance, accounting, management, and human resources. The goal of such programs is to prepare professionals with a variety of skills to work in multiple business settings—typically in managerial or other leadership roles. Some MBA programs allow students to specialize in a particular field, like finance.
MBA Curriculum
The length of an MBA program varies. You will find programs that require between 30 and 60 credit hours, and you may spend one to three years completing a program based on how many credit hours you take per term. These programs can be completed full-time or part-time, which also impacts how long it takes to finish.

In general, an MBA program will offer courses in business topics and skills such as:

  • Business decision-making
  • Business leadership
  • Financial accounting
  • Financial management
  • Marketing strategy and research
  • Project management
  • International business
  • Ethics
  • Human resources management

However, some schools offer specializations or concentrations with which you can tailor your educational path and gain the knowledge you need to pursue specific roles. Common MBA concentrations include:

  • Finance
  • Marketing
  • Business Administration
  • Information Technology

Career Potential After Getting an MBA

Since an MBA is relevant to a variety of business functions, you can pursue a career in practically any business-related field. This graduate degree can also help you level up into a leadership position or another role that offers more challenging responsibilities and higher pay.

According to a 2021 survey conducted by the Graduate Management Admissions Council, the median base salary for MBA graduates was $115,000. Here are some common roles you can pursue with an MBA, their earning potential, and job growth between 2020 and 2030:

What Can You Do With an MBA?
Job Title Average Salary Job Growth (BLS)
Market research analyst $63,920 per year 22%
Operations research analyst $82,360 per year 25%
Human resources manager $126,230 per year 9%
Marketing manager $133,380 per year 10%
IT manager $159,010 per year 11%

Program Requirements for an MBA

Applicants to an MBA program are generally required to have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. Unlike master’s in finance programs, MBA programs don’t typically require applicants to have any form of business degree or previous coursework.

Many MBA programs prefer applicants to have a few years of professional experience, although there are options built for recent bachelor’s program graduates and those with little to no work experience.

Many schools also require GRE or GMAT scores, though some programs do not require them or may waive them in special circumstances. International students for whom English is a second language may also need to prove English fluency.

MBA in Finance

An MBA in Finance program offers an overarching view of business with some emphasis on financial matters. As such, you’ll develop a number of business-related skills in addition to improving your financial analysis and management abilities.

The best use of the skills developed in an MBA in Finance is in a role with job duties inclusive of other areas of business in addition to finance. This could be a position whose responsibilities include project management, drafting and sharing reports, or developing business plans, for example. If your dream job is one where your main focus is finance, a master’s in finance may be the better degree choice.

MBA in Finance Curriculum

An MBA in Finance combines the core subjects of an MBA program with additional (two to four on average) required financial courses. You may have the option of choosing your electives, or they may be mandated as part of the curriculum. Regardless, these programs generally do not give you the option to take non-financial electives.

Colleges that offer MBAs in Finance often provide other options for an MBA concentration as well, such as an executive MBA or an MBA in Entrepreneurship.

Most MBA in Finance programs take one to three years to complete, though this timeframe may be longer if you choose to attend school part time.

Common topics of MBA in Finance programs include:

  • Business leadership
  • Corporate budgeting and restructuring
  • Entrepreneurship\entrepreneurial finance
  • International markets
  • Human resources
  • Operations
  • Marketing
  • Project management
  • Risk management

Career Potential After Getting an MBA in Finance

The average salary for professionals with an MBA in Finance is $102,000, per Payscale. Job possibilities overlap with those of a master’s in finance, though the general business expertise may come in handy for roles that involve a lot of reporting, managerial oversight, or cross-department collaboration. Such jobs include the following:

What Can You Do With an MBA in Finance?
Job Title Average Salary Job Growth (BLS)
Senior accountant $70,500 per year 7%
Pricing manager $87,007 per year 1%
Management analyst $93,000 per year 14%
Business development director $108,883 per year


Program Requirements for an MBA in Finance

Because finance is a concentration option in this case, admission requirements will likely be the same as those of a general MBA program. Applicants should have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. GPA requirements vary among programs, although a 3.0 or greater should be sufficient for most schools. Having at least three to five years of work experience can also be beneficial for admission and prepare you for the concepts you’ll study in class. For certain colleges, you’ll also need satisfactory GMAT or GRE scores.

Master’s in Finance vs. MBA vs. MBA in Finance: Which Is Best for Professionals?

An MBA in Finance, a master of finance, or an MBA can each help you get a job in the finance sector. But while MBAs are popular and trusted choices, the specificity and advanced concepts taught in an MS in Finance program can help you stand out.

About the Online MS in Finance from Pace University

The online Master of Science in Finance from the Lubin School of Business at Pace University combines advanced finance theory with experience in real-world applications, preparing you to make the informed decisions on which clients and businesses rely. Based in New York City, one of the largest hiring areas for finance professionals, our program places students on the front lines of the finance industry, keeping them abreast of the latest trends and challenges. Asynchronous and fully online, the Pace MS in Finance can be completed in as little as two years, part time, and is suitable for newcomers and experienced financial professionals alike.

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Consider the online MBA with a Corporate Finance concentration.