If you’re interested in pursuing a master’s degree in finance, one of the highest paying master’s degrees, then you might be wondering how long you have to wait. Having at least some real-world work experience is helpful, both for getting accepted into a program and for succeeding in the coursework. However, extensive experience isn’t as expected for master’s in finance programs as it is for graduate studies in other areas of business, such as Master of Business Administration programs. Many master’s in finance degree programs, even those at prestigious universities, welcome students who are fresh out of college or in the early stages of their careers.
The Benefits of Having Finance Work Experience
Having full-time work experience in the field of finance certainly won’t hurt your application or your performance in a finance master’s degree program. Many graduate students in finance have one or two years of work experience in the field, according to U.S. News & World Report. If you do have experience, it’s an advantage you will enjoy from the time you begin applying to programs through the time you start putting your master’s degree to use.
Applicants with at least a year or so of finance work experience may have an easier time getting into a master’s in finance program. For one thing, students with experience demonstrate more commitment to the field than recent graduates without work experience. They have more real-world knowledge of the challenges and complexities that arise in working in finance, which may help students better grasp the advanced coursework covered in a master’s in finance program.
Prospective students can also craft a more compelling personal statement or essay when they have actually worked in finance than when they only want to work in finance. It’s a lot easier talking about what you like about finance, what your strengths are, what skills you want to develop and what you will do with your master’s degree if you already have some pertinent work experience.
Graduate-level coursework isn’t easy, especially in a highly quantitative field like finance. Students who have some work experience may be better equipped to manage the curriculum of advanced and specialized studies in finance, according to U.S. News & World Report.
Once you graduate with your master’s degree, it’s also easier to find a job that corresponds with your high level of education if employers don’t see you as having only theoretical knowledge – even if that perception isn’t accurate due to hands-on coursework.
Starting a Master’s in Finance Program Without Work Experience
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If you want to start your graduate studies sooner rather than later, you might opt to begin applying to master’s in finance programs without work experience. In that case, you may want to narrow down your college search to schools that specifically invite recent college graduates to apply. When applying to these programs, you won’t necessarily feel like you’re at a disadvantage by not having experience or feel that you’re being pitted against more experienced applicants.
Some schools offer a track that puts undergraduate students directly on the path to a master’s in finance degree with an accelerated “4+1” degree program. This option is ideal for ambitious undergraduates because it not only allows you to get into a graduate program in finance that welcomes students without experience but also helps you finish school faster. Most combined bachelor’s and master’s degree programs work by allowing students to start taking graduate coursework early, often in their senior or even junior year of undergraduate studies, and counting those courses toward both degrees.
Another factor to consider is your educational background in finance. Although master’s in finance degree programs aren’t necessarily limited to students who majored in finance as undergraduates, keeping up with the coursework will be much harder for students without a basic level of finance knowledge and quantitative skills. If you majored in a subject that doesn’t involve working with numbers, it may be worth taking an undergraduate course or two in finance just to brush up on the foundations of the subject.
Some students use a master’s in finance degree to switch careers, so it’s understandable that not all applicants have finance experience. Often, career changers have an education or experience in areas like accounting, math, engineering or computer programming.