Best Master's in Finance 2021

A master's in finance prepares students for diverse finance careers. Students typically pursue a finance master's degree to advance their career or pursue new opportunities. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects business and finance jobs to grow by 5% between 2019 and 2029. The need for finance professionals continues to grow as businesses navigate an increasingly globalized economy, complex regulatory environments, and Big Data demands.

This guide ranks the best finance master's programs available in 2021. It also covers what to expect when earning a finance master's degree and common careers for graduates.

Top 5 Best Finance Grad Schools
Rank School Location
1 Arizona State University Tempe, AZ
2 University of California – Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA
3 Columbia University New York, NY
4 University of Texas at Dallas Dallas, TX
5 Indiana University Indianapolis, IN

Why Get a Finance Master's?

Offering jobs with high salaries and stable growth, the finance field attracts hardworking, analytical professionals. Graduates from the best finance master's programs can pursue careers in areas like financial planning, banking, money management, and insurance. Finance professionals typically work in office environments, though many currently work from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Organizations of all sizes hire finance graduates.

The BLS projects two popular finance jobs — accountant and financial analyst — to grow by 4% and 5%, respectively, between 2019 and 2029. These growth projections are faster than the national average for all occupations.

Although a bachelor's satisfies the minimum education requirements for many finance careers, earning a master's in finance can increase candidates' employment opportunities and income potential. Master's graduates hold advanced knowledge and skills that enable them to pursue leadership roles in the field.

Finance professionals can obtain specialized certifications to increase their hireability. With the right accounting courses, a master's in finance can also qualify graduates to pursue credentialing as a certified public accountant.

Three key benefits of earning a master's degree in finance include:

  • Specialized Skill Development

    Finance master's students gain specialized knowledge and skills in areas like banking, investment, and financial analysis and management. These skills can lead to leadership roles in the field.

  • High-Demand Job Market

    The retiring baby boomer population increases the need for personal financial advisors, while global investment opportunities create increased demand for financial managers. Competition for these jobs remains high, but a master's in finance can help professionals secure these positions.

  • Top Salary Potential

    Wages vary by location, employer, and experience, but in general, the finance industry offers excellent compensation rates. For instance, according to the BLS, personal financial advisors make a median annual salary of $87,850, while financial managers earn a median salary of $129,890.


The Best Finance Master's Programs

Arizona State University opened to the public in 1886 as The Territorial Normal School. The state’s first higher education institute has more than 20,000 students graduate each year. Times Higher Education ranks ASU in the top one percent of the world’s most prestigious universities. ASU also offers innovative education and research, ranking #1 for Most Innovative School by U.S. News & World Report.

The W.P. Carey School of Business has over 15,000 students and ranks #21 for Top Business Schools by Financial Times. Students earn the Master of Science in Finance through the school’s nine-month program, providing finance and portfolio management expertise. The MS-FIN is a full-time and consists of 12 courses, including Managerial Finance, Investment Strategies, Advanced Corporate Finance, and Entrepreneurial Finance. All students complete a Finance Capstone where they can employ financial principles to capital allocation, investment, and risk management in the real world.

Score: 100

Average Tuition: $13,007

The University of California-Los Angeles receives more applicants than any other university in the country. The UCLA Anderson School of Management, established in 1935, is a technologically advanced business school. UCLA Anderson offers a 15-month Master of Financial Engineering with a 3:1 student-to-faculty ratio, while merging quantitative finance theories and analytical skills with current business practices.

UCLA’s MS program helps students develop mathematical modeling skills and computational expertise since Financial Engineers mostly deal with mathematical modeling, quantitative research, and analysis for pricing, selling, and trading financial instruments. During the stringent program, students take courses in Investments, Stochastic Calculus, Derivative Markets, Empirical Methods in Finance, and Quantitative Asset Management.

To receive the MFE, students must complete a summer internship before students final fall term. During the last term, students undertake a hands-on Applied Finance Project. The project pairs student teams with real clients. Besides completing real-world financial projects, students also gain exposure to high-profile employers.

Score: 99.55

Average Tuition: $14,236

Columbia University, founded in 1754, is an Ivy League research facility in New York City. The School of Engineering and Applied Science offers a Master of Science in Financial Engineering through the Industrial Engineering and Operations Research department. The university’s MSFE provides training in the application of engineering methodologies and quantitative methods to the financial world. There are currently 60 to 80 students from around the world enrolled in the program each year.

The MSFE is a 12-month, 36-point multidisciplinary program examining financial theory, engineering methods, mathematical tools, and programming. Columbia divides the MSFE into two distinct parts. The first half provides students with a core in Financial Engineering techniques, where students are given tools for modeling financial marketings and instruments. Courses include stochastic processes, data analysis, and Monte Carlo simulation. The second part of the program offers advanced courses and specialized topics. During the second part, students can select from five concentrations: Computation & Programming, Finance & Economics, Derivatives, Asset Management, or Computational Finance & Trading Systems.

All MSFE students at Columbia begin in August and complete the program in either June, August, or December of the next year. Before the first term, incoming students complete the Career Summer assignment. Students must also attend a Financial Engineering Seminar. This series brings industry and academia together with research and practice in financial engineering.

Score: 97.94

Average Tuition: $22,973

The University of Texas at Dallas is 20 miles north of downtown Dallas. UTD was founded in the 1960s and now enrolls more than 28,750 students in 140 different degree programs. The university consists of eight schools, including the Naveen Jindal School of Management. The Master of Science in Finance program through the School of Management ranked #11 in 2018 by TFE Times. There are many concentrations available, including Financial Analyst, Corporate Finance/Investment Banking, and Real Estate Finance.

UTD offers two graduate degree opportunities, which are both STEM-designated. The MS Finance degree is a flexible degree program with both full- and part-time options. Students can start the program during any semester and complete it at students own pace. The MS Finance Cohort program is a one-year program. Prerequisites for the program include knowledge of calculus and statistics. Courses include Financial Management, Derivatives Markets, and Financial Modeling. All students can use The Finance Trading Lab at UTD, where they can develop financial trading skills and compete in trading competitions.

Score: 97.78

Average Tuition: $10,254

Indiana University, founded in 1820, now has more than 94,000 students with nine campuses and over 124 online programs. IU's Kelley School of Business is the number one producer of CFOs among public universities and offers online students a Master of Science in Finance. IU designed its MS for today's busy professionals and encourages interaction amongst students. Course delivery includes web-based meetings, discussion forums, simulations, and interactive classes.

With IU's MS in Finance, students develop sound financial reasoning for working in finance. The program covers such topics as Financial Management, Quantitative Analysis, Risk Management, and Capital Markets. Students develop careers as financial analysts, insurance underwriters, and budget analysts.

The MS in Finance degree is a 30-credit program where students can complete complete their single or dual MBA within 15 to 36 months. First-year courses include Quantitative Analysis and Information Technology for Managers, while second-year coursework includes Asset Pricing and International Financial Management.

Score: 95.83

Average Tuition: $12,621

What To Expect From Finance Master's Programs

Master's in finance programs give students the knowledge and skills needed to navigate domestic and global financial markets. Finance master's programs typically require 30-36 credits and take 1-2 years of full-time study to complete. Students explore topics like financial management and analysis, investment, economics, and managerial accounting.

Some finance degrees offer concentrations that allow students to further specialize their expertise. Popular finance concentrations include corporate finance, international finance, and investment management.

The cost of a finance master's program varies by factors like school, enrollment status, and delivery format. For instance, in-state students at public schools typically pay lower tuition rates than out-of-state students at public schools and private school students.

Read the Difference Between Finance and Accounting

Admission Requirements

Most finance master's programs require a bachelor's degree from an accredited school. These programs may accept undergraduate degrees in any discipline, but a bachelor's in finance or a related field may increase applicants' chances of admission.

Prospective students typically need to submit transcripts, essays, letters of recommendation, and GRE or GMAT scores. However, some institutions offer test score waivers for candidates with relevant backgrounds. Some programs may also require an admission interview.

Degree Options

Prospective graduate finance students can choose from several degree types. The most common type is a master of science in finance (MSF). MSF programs may offer concentrations in areas like corporate finance, investments, or accounting.

Students can also pursue a master of financial engineering (MFE). MFE programs train students to apply engineering methodologies and quantitative methods to the financial industry. These programs focus more on STEM topics than MSF programs.

MSF programs are ideal for students with or without an undergraduate finance background. MFE programs, however, typically expect students to possess a strong quantitative background.

Comparing Finance and General Accounting Degrees

In general, accounting master's programs prepare students for careers in public, government, or managerial accounting. Students seeking careers outside of the accounting industry may prefer a finance master's, which covers finance topics with broad applications, like investments, financial management, and financial analysis.

The following table outlines the differences between master's in finance and master's in accounting programs.

Master's in Finance Master's in Accounting
Curriculum Courses in financial and investment management, managerial economics, corporate finance Courses in tax law, financial and managerial accounting, and financial statement analysis
Goals Prepare graduates for diverse careers in the finance industry Prepare graduates for advanced accounting careers and related certification
Program Length 1-2 years full time 1-2 years full time
Admission Requirements A bachelor's degree in any discipline, though financial engineering programs may require a substantial quantitative background A bachelor's degree in any discipline, though aspiring CPAs typically need a bachelor's in accounting
Available Formats On campus, online, hybrid On campus, online, hybrid
Explore General Accounting Programs

Popular Finance Courses

Typically comprising 30-36 credits, finance master's programs usually require core, elective, and capstone courses. Core courses build foundational knowledge and skills, while electives allow students to pursue more specialized topics. Students may demonstrate their knowledge and skills with a culminating capstone experience

Courses vary by program, but the following list outlines several courses commonly found in master's in finance programs.

Risk Management

This course teaches students how to measure and mitigate risk in various financial markets. Course topics may include duration, portfolio distribution analysis, factor sensitivities, and value at risk.

Derivatives

This class introduces students to derivatives of stocks and bonds, including futures, forwards, swaps, and options. Coursework builds skills in quantitative methods and theoretical reasoning.

FinTech

This course examines how IT innovation affects financial markets and investing methods. Common topics include blockchain, cryptocurrencies, alternative lending, machine learning, and robo-advising.

Capstone

Capstone projects allow students to demonstrate the knowledge and skills they gained during their program. Students may build and manage a multi-asset portfolio or work to solve real-life finance problems with local companies. Capstones typically require a final presentation or defense.

How Much Will a Master's in Finance Cost?

According to the U.S. News and World Report, tuition for master's in finance programs typically ranges from $450-$1,140/credit. Therefore, students can expect to pay anywhere between $14,000-$41,000 in total tuition costs.

Public universities typically charge less per credit than private universities. However, private universities charge the same rates for all students, regardless of where they live. Out-of-state students at public universities pay an average of $11,000 more per year than in-state learners.

Students can take advantage of financial aid opportunities to help offset the cost of their degree. Unlike loans, scholarships and grants don't require repayment, making them ideal forms of financial aid.

Jobs for Master's in Finance Graduates

A bachelor's degree satisfies the minimum education requirements for many entry-level finance careers, but the best finance master's programs prepare graduates for leadership roles in the field.

Investment banking is one popular career for professionals with a master's in finance. This career offers a median annual salary of $62,270, according to BLS data. Finance master's graduates can also work as financial managers who earn a median salary of $129,890.

Professional certifications, like chartered financial analyst, certified treasury professional, and certified financial planner, can further increase one's job opportunities.

Financial Manager

Financial managers oversee the financial health of an organization. Common duties include preparing financial reports, ensuring compliance with legal requirements, analyzing market trends to maximize profits, and directing investment activities. Financial managers may hold different job titles depending on their responsibilities, such as controller, treasurer, or cash manager.

Required Education: At least a bachelor's degree and five or more years of experience. Many employers prefer candidates with a master's degree.
Job Outlook (2019-29): +15%
Median Annual Salary: $129,890

Financial Analyst

Financial analysts assess the performance of stocks, bonds, and other investments. Analysts may work for a business or individual clients. Common duties include evaluating current and historical data, examining financial statements, and recommending portfolio adjustments based on market activity.

Required Education: At least a bachelor's degree
Job Outlook (2019-29): +5%
Median Annual Salary: $81,590

Investment Banker

Investment bankers connect businesses with investors. They provide important services related to mergers, acquisitions, and initial public offerings. These professionals also estimate a company's value to ensure its stock meets legal requirements for public trading.

Required Education: At least a bachelor's degree, though many investment bankers hold a master's.
Job Outlook (2019-29): +4%
Median Annual Salary: $62,270

Personal Financial Advisor

Personal financial advisors meet with clients, assess their financial needs, and advise them on investment decisions. They help clients plan short-term and long-term goals and invest money to meet those goals. These professionals may specialize in a specific area, like retirement or risk management.

Required Education: At least a bachelor's degree
Job Outlook (2019-29): +4%
Median Annual Salary: $87,850

Accountant

Accountants prepare and examine financial records, identify financial opportunities and risks, and consult with businesses and individuals on ways to reduce costs and enhance revenue. These professionals may work as government accountants, management accountants, or public accountants. Each position carries its own unique responsibilities and tasks.

Required Education: At least a bachelor's degree, though some employers prefer to hire candidates with a master's.
Job Outlook (2019-29): +4%
Median Annual Salary: $71,550


Frequently Asked Questions

What can I do with a master's degree in finance?

Popular jobs for graduates with a master's in finance include financial manager, financial analyst, investment banker, and personal financial advisor.

Is a master's in finance better than an MBA?

The right degree depends on students' interests and career goals. Finance master's programs focus more on finance concepts and require fewer business courses than MBA programs.

How much do people with a finance master's make?

Salaries vary by location, employer, position, and experience, but finance master's graduates typically earn strong salaries. For instance, according to the BLS, financial managers make a median pay of $129,890 per year.

Can I get a master's in finance online?

Many top schools offer online master's in finance programs. The flexibility of online learning often allows students to balance their studies with personal and professional obligations.

Additional Reading