Once you find out that a master’s degree in finance is one of the highest paying master’s degrees, you might be seriously considering going to graduate school. If you want to be a financial analyst, someone who is responsible for assessing financial data to predict which investments and markets are likely to result in a favorable return, you may wonder whether this advanced degree path is right for you. Analysts can see some big benefits from earning a master’s degree in finance, including gaining access to senior-level and managerial job opportunities, as well as the value of developing advanced knowledge and skills in general and specialized finance topics.
Why Analysts Should Consider Earning a Master’s in Finance Degree
At first glance, earning a master’s degree in preparation for a financial analyst role might seem like overkill. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported a bachelor’s degree as the level of education required to start working as a financial analyst. However, if you have the drive to excel in a demanding field like finance, there’s a good chance that you will want to advance beyond entry-level financial analysis roles.
To get to more senior-level analyst roles, you’re going to need to surpass expectations at work and continue to build your resumé outside of your accomplishments in the office. Often, analysts and aspiring analysts do this by going to graduate school. In fact, 65 percent of financial quantitative analysts – close to two-thirds of the occupation – report a master’s degree as their highest level of education, according to O*NET.
Many financial analysts who go for a master’s in finance degree want to advance beyond the analyst role. Often, earning a master’s degree is a step on the path toward a career as a fund manager or portfolio manager, according to the BLS. Even if you’re not eyeing management job titles specifically, you may need a master’s degree if you want to work in any senior-level financial analyst role. Without a graduate degree, you may find yourself passed over for promotions and see your career plateau.
Besides going to graduate school, you can improve your job opportunities by earning the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) credential. You can enroll in the CFA program with only a bachelor’s degree – just prepare to spend 300 hours preparing for the CFA exams.
What Financial Analysts Learn in Graduate School
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In a master’s in finance degree program, you will study corporate finance, financial analytics and financial markets at an advanced level well above what you studied as an undergraduate finance major. Master’s in finance programs cover both theoretical and practical coursework, so the classes you take in these degree programs will not only give you a deeper understanding of the theory underlying financial analysis but also equip you with the skills that apply to the real-world practice of financial analysis. All of these core courses fit neatly into the wheelhouse of a financial analyst and provide a strong foundation for the more specialized skills and knowledge a master’s in finance student can learn through concentration tracks and electives.
Some of the possible concentrations you may find in a master’s in finance program include investments, real estate finance, corporate finance, financial technology, financial management and financial engineering. You could also opt not to select a concentration and instead use your elective coursework to take an assortment of specialized classes that fit your interests.
If you work for a global firm, taking elective courses in international finance markets could be a wise decision. Analysts involved in growing companies might benefit from coursework in mergers and acquisitions. The field of finance is full of specializations ranging from healthcare finance to asset management and retirement savings, so analysts going back to school for a master’s in finance are sure to find graduate courses that are relevant to their area of expertise. If you want to put yourself on the path to management, you might benefit from taking a class in strategic finance. Often, master’s in finance programs are hands-on, including some sort of practicum or real-world finance work experience conducted in a school’s finance lab.
A master’s in finance is a great choice for financial analysts looking to do more with their careers, but you have other options. You can also consider earning a master’s in accounting degree or a Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a finance concentration.