Let us look in more detail into the career paths, the degree programmes and certifications that will make your profile stand out and about what it takes to join Masters in Finance degree programmes.
Jobs with a Master's in Finance Degree
Investments, financial management and financial analysis are the most attractive areas for aspiring professionals. Some of the most popular Master's of Finance career paths are:
- Investment Banking
Professionals working in this field assist corporations or governments to issue securities. They also prepare corporate investment portfolios, so that companies can build passive income that sustains their operations.
- Commercial Banking
Commercial banking professionals work in financial and credit analysis, accountancy, financial management, commodities and sales of financial services.
- Financial Planning
Financial planners advise individuals or corporations. However, CFA or CFP certifications may be required in addition to a Master’s in Finance if these professionals want to sell securities and bonds.
- Financial Analysis
These professionals monitor market trends, changing government regulations and political situations in order to advise individuals on choosing investments. They work with banks and pension funds, mutual funds, insurance companies and other businesses.
- Insurance Specialists
Insurance specialists work in risk management, as sales representatives, asset managers or actuaries.
- Financial Managers
Financial managers are corporate CFOs and treasurers.
Brokers are finance professionals who buy and sell bonds and commodities (corn, oil and gold).
Masters in Finance and professional certifications
Although Masters in Finance are highly reputable degrees, the competition and the call for a further specialisation in a certain financial area motivates many professionals to acquire additional certifications. The most popular are the CFA and ACCA. Some of the leading Master's in Finance programmes partner with the Professional Charters which provide these certifications.
Masters in Finance and MBA
These programmes are quite different and the choice between them depends on your long-term career goals. If you aspire to building deep expertise in the field of finance, then a Master’s degree programme will help you better build your skill-set and gain the specialised knowledge.
If you are driven to business leadership, senior management positions or entrepreneurship an MBA will provide you with a fully fledged training package, skill-set, knowledge of theory and most importantly – a network of potential partners and clients.
It is also possible to join an MBA if you already have a Masters in Finance and want a career shift from finance to general management and business leadership, or if you want to start your own business ventures.
The number of MBA programmes with specialisations is growing. So you can look for an MBA with elective courses or a specialisation in finance. This can give you the best of both worlds, but keep in mind that the focus of an MBA is on general management.
Some leading business schools offer dual degree programmes which combine a Masters in Finance and an MBA. Such a portfolio can certainly be a springboard to senior corporate management roles.
When to consider Masters in Finance
Master’s degree programmes require that you have a first university degree to be eligible for admission. However, some Masters in Finance additionally require that you also have relevant work experience. This makes the Masters in Finance somewhat similar to MBA programmes, because normally the latter will be open only to professionals with at least two or three years of professional experience after their first degree. The reason is that MBA programmes are very practical and the teaching methodology relies on the hands-on experience of students and their ability to share different perspectives during team projects and work on business cases.
There are, however, Masters in Finance programmes which are open to fresh Bachelor’s degree graduates and professionals with less than two years of experience. The choice of a programme will depend on your preference of programme curriculum, as well as the profile of your peers in graduate school. In some programmes you will be in the company of more mature and experienced professionals, while in others you will all be just starting your specialisation in finance.
Some internship experience during your Bachelor’s degree studies can be very helpful, especially if you rotate in various financial positions, departments and types of businesses. This will put you in the shoes of different financial specialists and give you a feel of what really inspires you. In this way you can make a well-informed decision about your Master’s degree programme. Look deeply into all aspects of a programme – curriculum, teaching method, faculty, class profile and alumni network. If you have already gained some hands-on experience your assessment will be much more precise, and the investment of time and money much more worthwhile.
In addition to a first university degree and relevant work experience or prior studies, you should be ready to sit aptitude tests, such as the GMAT or the GRE. These tests assess your critical thinking, and analytical and quantitative skills.
Preparation for these tests helps you improve those skills that will help you be successful during a Master’s in Finance programme. Both tests can be taken well in advance before you apply for admission to a Master’s degree programme as the scores are valid for five years.
If you plan to gain professional experience first and then study for your Master’s degree, it is recommended to sit GMAT or GRE at the end of your Bachelor’s degree studies or very soon after. This is the right moment because your study habits will still be at their best and you will not yet have challenging professional commitments.
Check out: How to Start GMAT Preparation
You have to check the requirements and preferences of the business schools you are interested in to decide which test to take. However, have in mind that the GMAT is also required for MBA programmes. So if your long-term goal is to reach senior management positions or if you plan to go back to school for an MBA at a later stage, you should opt for the GMAT. But, since the number of business schools that accept the GRE as an alternative to the GMAT for MBA admission is growing, you have to do careful research before you start your test preparation.
A successful career in finance brings into play not only Master's in Finance degrees, but also professional certifications such as the CFA and ACCA, and even the MBA programmes – the gold standard in management education. Even admission tests, such as the GMAT, go beyond business school and are taken into consideraration by employers, as the skills they assess are transferable to professional life. Make the most of every opportunity to craft a professional profile that stands out. Build a life-long learning professional development strategy that will equip you with an ever-competitive skill-set.