A master’s in finance degree could be your ticket to a lucrative career. Professionals who work in the field of managing and making decisions about money stand to earn high salaries themselves, and a master’s in finance salary is particularly likely to put you on the path to wealth.

Find out what salaries correspond to which finance careers so you can plan your career path. You can also take steps to improve your salary potential now – even before you have chosen a graduate school finance program.

masters in finance salaryIMAGE SOURCE: Pixabay, public domain.

Master’s in Finance Salary Expectations

When you’re considering going back to school, you need to make informed decisions about the investment you’re making and the financial returns you’re likely to see. Although even the most well-reasoned plans and calculations can’t always predict the future, looking at the careers that will be available to you after graduate school can help you develop realistic master’s in finance salary expectations.

Financial manager is among the top graduate degree jobs paying more than $100,000 in 2021, according to U.S. News & World Report. Other careers with a master’s of finance degree include financial analyst, personal financial advisor, financial examiner and financial services sales agents.

A question that prospective students often ask is how a master’s in finance degree compares to a Master of Business Administration (MBA), which may include a concentration in finance. A Master of Finance (MFin) or Master of Science in Finance (MS in Finance or MSF) is a graduate-level degree with a curriculum that consists of specialized finance coursework.

Rather than taking a collection of courses that stretch across all areas of business, as MBA students do, Master of Finance students take classes to broaden and deepen their knowledge of finance topics and develop advanced skills in the professional practice of financial management or analysis. Generally, students can start earning their Master of Finance degree with less work experience and complete their degree requirements faster than MBA students.

Compared to the traditional MBA, specialized master’s programs in finance and other areas of business are relatively new, having really come into popularity in the past couple of decades. However, they have been around long enough to see how a finance master degree salary stacks up to the earning potential conferred by an MBA. Generally, graduates with an MBA do earn more than those with specialized business master’s degrees, but a Master of Finance degree is the second highest paying graduate degree in business, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Given the more extensive experience requirements for an MBA program, as well as the longer time to complete a typical MBA and the greater likelihood of pursuing a management role with this background, the advantage attributed to MBA degrees may not tell the whole story. Getting your master’s degree earlier, as you can when opting for a Master of Finance program over an MBA, allows you to start reaping the financial benefits of graduate education earlier.

Students with a master’s in finance degree can and often do go on to hold financial manager roles with salaries on par with their peers with an MBA, but management isn’t their only lucrative career option. Graduates of specialized finance master’s degrees also advance to specialized and high-level roles in finance where they can command high salaries without having to pivot their careers toward management and administration.

If actually working in finance is your passion, focus on how much money you want to earn rather than which type of graduate degree earns the most money. For many students, the advanced job opportunities afforded by a Master of Finance degree are plenty lucrative, even if they may not make as much as MBA holders. 

Masters in Finance Salary by Job Title

Your graduate degree certainly affects your earning potential, but employers don’t determine a salary to offer you based upon your degree. Rather, they calculate a salary to fit the job you will be doing and the different tasks and responsibilities that job entails. Aside from looking at general income ranges, the only way to really examine MS in finance salary potential is to break this data down by the job title you might hold with your graduate degree in finance. Many master’s in finance students go on to work in roles like financial analyst, personal financial advisor, financial examiner, investment banker or financial manager.

As you’re browsing the different finance jobs available with a master’s degree and the salaries that accompany them, keep in mind that earning potential shouldn’t be your only consideration when choosing a career – especially when all of your options allow you to earn a good living. Pay attention to the focus and job duties of each finance occupation and think about what you want to do with your degree.

Keep in mind that prospective Master of Finance students don’t need to know before they enroll exactly which career path they want to pursue after graduate school. As you work your way through a graduate-level finance curriculum, you may have the opportunity to delve deeper into the areas of finance study that you could apply to a variety of different positions.

Financial Analyst Salary With Master’s Degree

The first job you’re likely to get once you graduate with your master’s in finance degree is financial analysts. These professionals earned a median salary of $83,660 per year as of 2020, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported. The highest-paid financial analysts work in financial investments, including commodity contracts and securities. They earn a median wage of $94,450. The role of a financial analyst is to study and evaluate potential investments so that companies can make smart (and profitable) investment decisions. For senior financial analyst roles, for which you’re likely to qualify with a Master of Finance degree, Salary.com reported an average salary of $91,039 and a typical salary range of $82,997 to $100,414 in 2021.

The majority of financial quantitative analysts – 65 percent – reported having a master’s degree, according to O*NET. However, the BLS reported that you can become a financial analyst with only a bachelor’s degree. Bachelor’s degrees and post-baccalaureate certificates are equally common for financial quantitative analysts, each accounting for 13 percent of the occupation, O*NET reported.

MS in Finance Salary for Personal Financial Advisors

You could also find a position working as a personal financial advisor. Unlike the typical financial analyst, personal financial advisors work with individuals rather than corporations. Assessing investment options is only one part of a personal financial advisor’s role. Personal financial advisors work with clients on a number of different financial decisions, from choosing how and how much money to save for certain financial goals to planning their estates, making sound decisions about taxes and even buying insurance. The median salary for personal financial advisors was $89,330 as of 2020, the BLS reported.

Financial Examiner Salaries With a Master’s in Finance Degree

For financial examiners, whose job is to review financial statements and reports for the purpose of either assessing the financial health and risks of the organization or ensuring compliance with regulations, the BLS reported a median salary of $81,430 in 2020. The federal government employs 11 percent of the occupation and is by far the best-paying industry for financial examiners, with the industry reporting a median salary of $124,070. Just four percent of financial examiners reported having a master’s degree, according to O*NET.

Salaries for Investment Bankers and Other Financial Services Sales Agents

You have probably heard of the profitable role of investment banker, which the BLS categorizes as part of the securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents occupation. The $64,770 median annual salary reported for this occupation in 2020 doesn’t tell the whole story of investment bankers’ earning potential. While financial services sales agents working in credit intermediation earned a median salary of only $52,360, those working in financial investment activities earned $89,740 per year in 2020, according to the BLS.

Financial Manager Salary Potential

The highest-paid position in the field of finance is financial manager. Financial managers earned a median annual wage of $134,180 in 2020, the BLS reported. Financial managers working in company management or professional and scientific services earn even more – $149,300 and $154,790, respectively. Finance officers, treasurers, controllers and chief financial officers are all types of financial managers, and they all work to maintain the big-picture financial health of their company or organization. Among treasurers and controllers specifically, 32 percent of the occupation reported having a master’s degree, according to O*NET.

The BLS has reported particularly high wage premiums for having a master’s degree in two finance occupations. The 41 percent wage premium for financial managers translated to tens of thousands of dollars in additional pay annually. Financial services sales agents like investment bankers saw an astounding 89 percent income boost.  

Master’s in Finance Starting Salary

Median and average salaries may tell you what to expect from a Master of Finance salary long-term, but what about in the short term? Prospective students need to know what their starting salaries are likely to look like once they earn their graduate degree, especially because it’s during this time that they may have to begin repaying student loans or rebuilding their savings after investing money into their degree.

Class of 2020 graduates of business master’s degrees – including not only Master of Finance students but also MBA students and those in other specialized business programs – earned a $75,197 average projected salary, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers. Starting salaries for new graduates of business degree programs vary widely according to factors such as job title, geographical location and the reputation of your business school. As a general guideline, some schools have reported that their Master of Finance graduates earned starting salaries ranging from $60,000 to $85,000 per year.

U.S. News & World Report found that 2020 MBA graduates from Standford University earned an average of $176,000 between their salaries and bonuses, putting earning potential for graduates from this specific school well above the overall average starting salaries for business school graduates. 

How to Maximize Your Earning Potential With a Finance Degree

The graduate school you choose is one of the factors that can influence your salary. Not all colleges are equally well respected, and not all programs offer the same wealth of opportunities. If you’ve got your eyes on a six-figure annual salary, earning your graduate degree from one of the top master’s in finance degree programs can help. To know which program is right for you, check out authoritative rankings lists.

Although you may pay more in tuition costs to earn your Master of Finance degree from a more prestigious business school, that additional financial investment may yield a better return if it offers you more opportunities for specialized study, networking, experience and extracurricular involvement and if its reputation helps you earn a higher starting salary. Find out if a school with a prestigious reputation publishes starting salary data for Master of Finance graduates or if an advisor has that data to share with you.

You should also explore the school’s master’s of finance curriculum to make sure it matches your goals and interests, according to U.S. News & World Report. While you may be eager to earn your degree and get your career started, remember that the shortest program might not be the best program. Sometimes accelerated programs give students less time to complete internships that could serve as valuable work experience and networking opportunities, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Once you get out into the business world, how you use your master’s in finance degree also affects your income potential. An employer who is just as impressed with a general master of business administration (MBA) degree as a master of finance degree might not reward the specialized skills you have worked so hard to cultivate. For the best chance at earning the most money, you should look for employers and opportunities where your targeted education will be appreciated. Often, master’s in finance graduates find analyst roles in environments like commercial banks, investment banks and accounting firms, according to U.S. News & World Report.

With a master’s in finance degree, you can earn salaries well above the median wage for all occupations. Strategically planning your education and career moves can help you boost your salary even more.

Additional Resources 

What Is the Salary Potential for Someone with a Finance Degree?

What Are the Highest-Paying Jobs in Finance?

Will a Finance Degree Make You Rich?

Can a Master of Finance Get You a Job as a Comptroller?

Is a Finance Master’s a Good Start to Becoming a CFO?

Is a Master’s in Finance a Good Way to Go If I Want to Be an Analyst?