MBA or Master of Finance?
There was a time when an MBA was the clear choice for those aspiring to successful careers in business and the finance sector.
However, with the sheer number of MBAs on the market today, employers are looking for that extra difference in prospective candidates. That difference, at least for the moment, has manifested itself in the Master of Finance qualification.
While both degrees certainly afford holders the prospect of lucrative careers in business, maximising the benefits of each qualification depends very much on when you take it and what area of business you want to be involved in.
For every step in your academic or professional development, there is a right and wrong time to undertake an MBA qualification or choose from an increasingly popular range of Master in Finance degrees.
In this post we’ll break down the main characteristics of each degree, so you can better compare which one might be right for you at the current stage of your career.
What will I study?
Your Master in Finance will train you in financial theory, mathematics, quantitative finance, investments, markets, financial reporting and analysis, and valuation. This is not a general study programme: it focuses on the detailed application of financial conventions in business.
MBAs offer training in a broad spectrum of business subjects, including accounting, statistics, economics, communications, management, and entrepreneurship. Most providers will offer you the opportunity to tailor your MBA with specialist modules that are relevant to your industry and goals.
What will I earn?
Fresh graduates of a Master in Finance with little or no work experience can potentially earn around £45,000 - £65,000 a year, depending on final grades. Earnings as a result of attaining this qualification later in your career will undoubtedly increase, but a lot depends on your particular status at the time.
MBA graduates often earn more on completion of their studies, and in some cases can potentially get a salary of up to £100,000. However, this depends significantly on the quality of the MBA, previous work experience, and your current job title. For example, some MBA programmes only admit ‘C-level’ managers whose salaries and bonuses combined can exceed 7 figures once they qualify.
Which jobs can I do?
Due to the specialised nature and narrow focus of a Master of Finance qualification, graduates will be best suited for roles as stock traders, investment consultants, or financial risk managers. Graduates of an MFin will enjoy an advantage over MBA counterparts when applying for jobs in equity research firms, asset management, advisory services, investment research, security analysis, and brokerage firms.
Because of the all-round skills learned on MBA programmes, MBA graduates are ready for management and executive roles in almost any capacity, from banks to start-ups. Within financial institutions, an MBA graduate will find themselves with an advantage when applying for jobs in mergers and acquisitions departments or roles in corporate finance.
When is the right time?
If you’ve recently graduated from a bachelor’s programme and you want to follow it quickly with a master’s that will qualify you for a career in business, banking, and finance, a Master of Finance degree is a good choice.
Factors to consider if you are in the middle of your career are the time and cost you can dedicate to getting your degree. Because MFin degrees are typically full-time, they require significant attention, possibly the interruption of your career, and at least some campus attendance. However, taking an online Master of Finance circumvents this problem nicely.
If you are in the more advanced stages of your career and have significant work experience, an MFin will be useful to supplement general leadership skills with specialist financial capabilities. It could also help you move into a different professional area within business and finance.
As mentioned above, a full-time MBA programme typically takes 18 months and requires campus attendance. For that reason these programmes are usually taken by a younger demographic – for those later in their careers, interrupting work to attend full-time education is simply not possible.
Part-time MBAs, however, come in many forms. Executive MBAs (EMBAs) are designed for professionals who have been in executive or leadership positions for some time. Typically, these programmes are undertaken by people 32 to 42 years of age.
Regular part-time MBAs are usually taken by professionals who are 24 to 35 years of age and who have not reached a significant leadership role in their careers.
Like most master’s qualifications, a Master of Finance degree will typically take between 12 and 18 months.
MBA qualifications take 18 months if you become a full-time student, or up to three years if you opt for part-time.
The range of fees you can expect to pay for a Master of Finance degree begins significantly lower than most, if not all, MBA qualifications. This is why this qualification is very popular with 24-35 year-old students.
An online MA in Finance and Investment from London School of Business & Finance starts at £7500, and rises to £9500 for a powerful dual MSc & MA qualification that can be obtained over the duration of one study programme.
The price range for a specialised MBA in the UK, Europe, or US begins significantly higher than an MFin. This is because most MBA students are older, and appropriate professional experience is required for admission onto many programmes. Taking an MBA online is one of the most cost-effective solutions available. A specialised online Global MBA course from the London School of Business & Finance starts at £8500.
Master of Finance degrees typically only require you to have completed a bachelor’s degree. Some may require a modicum of work experience; however, most do not. As such, these degrees are more accessible to those students who have just finished their undergraduate studies.
Owing to the variety of MBA qualifications on the market, entry requirements are changeable. Typically, you will need a sound undergraduate or postgraduate academic foundation. You will also need anywhere between 3 and 5 years’ work experience in a management role.
The bottom line
A Master of Finance is perfect for cost-conscious students who want to begin a career in, or switch careers to, specialised areas of finance.
You will not benefit from a general approach to business leadership as you would with an MBA programme, but it’s a great place to start your career in business - especially if you’ve not had a significant amount of work experience.
It’s also important to have the freedom to attend a full-time study programme. If you are later in your career and you already have an MBA, an online Master of Finance is a great option to add detailed financial capabilities to your professional skillset.
An MBA is the best option for students who want to learn a broad range of applicable business skills.
A full-time MBA is best for those who have the freedom to take time out of their careers and who can afford higher fees. Part-time MBAs are best for students who want to increase their professional ‘stock’ while continuing to work.
If you are an elite-level manager already, Executive MBA programmes are your best bet. Because professional work experience is typically required to begin an MBA programme, you may benefit most by doing an MBA in the middle of, or later in, your career.