Masters in Finance vs MBA Degree Differences

Created by Henry Steele

By Henry Steele - December 3, 2018
Reading Time: 4 minutes
Reading Time: 4 minutes

The finance field is a wise choice for many business students and professionals today. Employment in financial operations occupations is slated to rise by 10% through 2026, which is faster than average compared to other occupations. Approximately 773,800 new finance career jobs will be added in this area of the economy. Some of the best finance-related positions to consider, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, are:

  • Financial examiner: 10% growth through 2026
  • Financial analyst: 11% growth through 2026
  • Financial manager: 19% growth through 2026

The robust growth pattern of financial occupations is why many students are considering earning their Master’s in Finance (MF), or an Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a concentration in finance. Which should you consider? What are the similarities and the differences between them?

Below is detailed information about each degree so you can determine which is best for your career.

Master’s in Finance

A master’s degree in finance is usually a one year program that is completely focused on finance and closely-related subjects. This is a program ideally suited for a professional who wants to work solely in a specialty of finance and not in other areas of business such as accounting, marketing and supply chain management, which are typically covered in most MBA programs.

MF programs focus on finance comprehensively, with coursework in financial theory, mathematics, quantitative finance, markets, investments, financial reporting and analysis, and valuation. Most MF programs do not require previous work experience, so students often enter them immediately after their undergraduate program.

Most MF programs are one year in length, full time. Master’s in finance programs are becoming more popular because of the strong career possibilities with such a finance-focused degree. Students with this degree tend to be highly qualified for high-paying positions in trading, investments and risk management.

A typical Master’s in Finance program requires you to complete 10-18 classes over 12 months on a full-time basis. Many of these programs feature professional development seminars and offer students elective coursework in specialized areas of finance, such as blockchain, crypto, venture capital, private equity, entrepreneurial finance and real estate investing.

Another advantage of the MF degree is that it is less expensive than the MBA, given that it is only a single year in length. This is particularly a factor when you consider many students in the MF program are younger on average.

MF Curriculum Examples

An example of a MF program curriculum can be seen at the University of Tulane, which offers both a 12-month and 18-month program:

  • Financial Reporting
  • Corporate Finance
  • Investments and Asset Pricing
  • Valuation
  • Fixed Income Analytics and Models
  • Financial Reporting II
  • Financial Communications
  • Equity Analysis
  • Risk Management and Applications to Financial Firms

The University of Southern California requires these classes for its MF program:

  • Accounting Concepts and Financial Reporting
  • Microeconomics for Management
  • Corporate Finance
  • Quantitative Methods in Finance
  • Financial Analysis and Valuation
  • Corporate Financial Policy
  • Investment Analysis and Portfolio Management
  • Money and Capital Market
  • Forecasting and Risk Analysis

According to US News and World Report, students choosing an MF should be relatively sure that you desire to focus your career exclusively on finance. It is possible after working in finance for several years that could make it harder to transition to another role in marketing, strategy or operations.

Salary Potential

Another factor to consider with the Master’s in Finance is is that the salary prospects for the degree tend to be lower than that of an MBA in finance. reports an average salary with a master’s in finance of $77,000. Some of the positions and their corresponding salaries with this degree are:

  • Financial analyst: $61,400
  • Senior financial analyst: $80,600
  • Financial controller: $85,100
  • Financial manager: $91,400
  • CFO: $154,700
  • Finance director: $126,300
  • Corporate controller: $97,000

MBA With Concentration in Finance

The MBA in finance is a more rounded degree than the MF degree. The program is typically two years full time, whereas the MF is one year. The MBA will provide the student with an essential education in business management education in statistics, leadership, economics, strategy, and marketing. Some schools also will offer electives in management methods and accounting. The MBA is a broad degree designed to prepare the student with a broad business education.

Many MBA students tend to have more work experience than students earning their MF. It is common for MBA programs to require three, five or even seven years of related, full-time management experience.

MBA With Concentration in Finance Curriculum Examples

An example of an MBA in finance curriculum can be seen at Rutgers University. Clearly, there is a core class set that covers various aspects of business beyond finance:

  • Accounting for Managers
  • Managerial Economic Analysis
  • Financial Management
  • Organizational Behavior
  • Marketing Management
  • Operations Analysis
  • Business, Ethics, and Society
  • International Business
  • Business Communications

Finance required courses are Advanced Financial Management; Financial Institutions and Markets; and Investment Analysis and Management.

At the University of Texas, the following courses are required for the MBA in finance:

  • Financial Accounting
  • Marketing Management
  • Operations Management
  • Statistics
  • Microeconomics
  • Strategic Management

Required finance classes are Valuation; Advanced Topics in Corporate Finance and Investment Theory and Practice.

Salary Potential

As noted above, the rate of pay for the MBA with a finance concentration is higher than the MF degree. reports the average salary for an MBA in finance is $96,000. Some of the position salaries with this degree according to are:

  • Senior financial analyst: $82,400
  • Financial analyst: $62,500
  • CFO: $152,600
  • Finance manager: $100,400
  • Finance director: $132.000
  • Financial controller: $93,000


The choice between a Master’s in Finance and an MBA in Finance will boil down to what you want to do with your career. An MF degree exclusively focuses on the key aspects of finance. A professional with this degree will generally have a career exclusively in finance.

Meanwhile, the professional with the MBA in finance with being more broadly exposed to other key disciplines in business, including, accounting, marketing, strategy, and operations management. The broader focus is part of why the MBA tends to bring a higher salary over time than the MF. But if a career exclusively in finance in your goal, then that should be your choice.


Henry Steele
Managing Editor
Henry is Managing Editor of He is a seasoned business professional who regularly consults with local business's throughout Southern California. Henry pursued his undergrad in Business and Economics at the University of San Diego and gained valuable life changing experience through a unique internship upon graduation.

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