MBA vs. a Master’s in Finance: Which Is Right for You?

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Aspiring business professionals often need to enhance their expertise in a specialized business discipline in order to progress their careers. While a master of business administration is a very popular option to develop and hone a diverse range of advanced business skills, an alternative degree—such as a master’s in finance—can offer students a highly comprehensive understanding of a single aspect of business. To help them decide which route fits their personal goals, prospective postgraduate business students should compare the potential positive outcomes of completing an MBA vs. a master’s in finance.

What Is an MBA?

MBA programs are often regarded as the most popular postsecondary degree, as many working professionals recognize them as a great opportunity to gain adaptable knowledge of modern business management practices. This is accomplished through coursework that features a core curriculum based on a diverse range of disciplines, including information systems, marketing, economics, and finance. MBA students can also choose to concentrate on one of these disciplines to improve their practical knowledge in a field of their choice.

What Is a Master’s in Finance?

For students who want to pursue a career that is specific to finance, the master’s in finance is an appropriate option. These degree programs sacrifice the diversity offered in MBA programs in exchange for coursework that focuses intensively on finance-related topics, such as quantitative finance, financial theory, mathematics, investment, and financial reporting. This makes the master’s in finance highly valued by employers who seek candidates with a more targeted area of expertise.

MBA vs. Master’s in Finance: Class Load Comparison

Depending on the institution that the student chooses for continuing his or her education, an MBA program usually requires 40 to 60 credit hours to complete, and the time to complete those hours generally ranges from two to four years. In some instances, students can elect to pursue a one-year MBA program, but only some institutions offer these intensive, full-time options. A master’s in finance covers much less material than the MBA and therefore does not, on average, require nearly as much time to complete. A standard master’s in finance program will require approximately 30 credit hours, which can often be earned in a single year of full-time study.

MBA vs. Master’s in Finance: Skills and Competencies

The MBA and master’s in finance degrees may be related, but the core skills and competencies that are developed through each program are not exactly the same. In an MBA program, students explore a broad scope of management-oriented skill sets to prepare them to supervise multidisciplinary teams. Students will learn and strengthen the following skills, as well as others:

  • Leadership
  • Interpersonal Communication
  • Strategic Planning
  • Creativity and Innovation

On the other hand, master’s in finance students will likely need to refine the following professional skills:

  • Analytical Thinking
  • Technological Proficiency
  • Problem-solving
  • Reporting and Presentations

MBA vs. Master’s in Finance: Career Potential

Regardless of which educational path is chosen, completing higher education is certain to help many professionals advance in their careers. Administrative services manager and financial manager are just two examples of senior occupations that experienced MBA or master’s in finance graduates may qualify for.

Administrative Services Manager

The administrative services manager is responsible for planning, directing, and coordinating the supportive services of an organization, such as mail, recordkeeping, maintenance, and office upkeep. This position favors professionals who deeply understand the concepts that are taught in an MBA program, because it requires them to balance many different tasks.

For instance, administrative services managers supervise clerical and administrative staff; this task draws upon their management and leadership skills. They must also set goals for each department that they are responsible for, highlighting their ability to plan strategically. Finally, they should be able to tap into their creativity and devise viable ways to improve operations through changes to policies and procedures. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, candidates who have at least three years of related work experience are qualified to enter this occupation and potentially earn the median annual salary of $90,050.

Financial Manager

A financial manager is hired to create and manage an organization’s long-term financial goals. This means that the individual must supervise any other finance professionals within the firm to ensure that its financial reports are accurate. With the aid of a team, the financial manager helps the organization grow by using historical financial data to identify ways to cut costs with minimal negative consequences. While MBA graduates are certainly qualified to manage others and handle finances at the advanced levels of business, a finance graduate could be better prepared for the complex accounting tasks that a financial manager must routinely complete. As another advanced role, this position requires at least five years of experience in a related field and offers a median annual salary of $121,750.

An advanced degree can make all the difference during the hiring process, but the degree that an individual chooses to earn will outline which jobs he or she is able to consistently qualify for. While a master’s in finance could offer the benefit of taking less time to complete, the tradeoff is that it simply does not offer the versatility that an MBA does. Therefore, students who would rather not restrict their careers to a single professional discipline would be better served by pursuing a master of business administration degree.

Learn More:

Our online MBA program at New Jersey Institute of Technology is designed to prepare motivated, tech-savvy management professionals with the business expertise and technical knowledge vital for success in today’s rapidly evolving global business landscape.

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