As the old saying goes, the only things certain in life are death and taxes. For that reason, we’ll always need undertakers and finance experts. With national markets quickly consolidating into global markets and commerce moving across the world at an ever-expanding pace, there’s never been a bigger need for finance experts than there is today.
As an added bonus, those who enter the financial field can expect to make quite a good salary. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), financial analysts make on average $85,660 per year or $41.18 per hour. Their job prospects are good, with jobs growing at a rate of 11 percent between 2016 and 2026. Keep in mind that these stats pertain to those who only have a bachelor’s degree, which means the prospects for people who hold a master’s degree are even better.
First, though, you have to get the degree. Since there are so many choices of online master’s degree that can lead to a financial analyst job, it’s helpful to read about some of the most common before you make your choice. Before we get to that, though, you might be wondering what exactly a financial analyst does.
What Does a Financial Analyst Do?
“Financial analysts provide guidance to businesses and individuals making investment decisions,” says the BLS. “They assess the performance of stocks, bonds, and other types of investments.”
As you grow in your career, your tasks will become more interesting and challenging. “While younger analysts tend to do a lot of data gathering, financial modeling and spreadsheet maintenance,” explains Investopedia, “more senior analysts tend to spend more of their time developing investment theses, speaking with company management teams and other investors, and marketing ideas.”
“Additionally,” says the expert finance publication, “a senior analyst spends quite a bit of time developing relationships with industry and company contacts, and marketing the team’s work. Mentorship is also an important component of a senior analyst’s day-to-day responsibilities.”
If that sounds like the kind of work you’d like to do, it’s time to get a master’s in a finance-related field. The good news is, you have a range of options, which will help you match your desired career to your interests most closely. Let’s take a look at those now.
Master of Finance
The first and most obvious finance master’s degree is right there in the name: Master of Finance. This degree targets finance specifically, seeking to give you a comprehensive overview of the subject as well as all the niches that make up the umbrella industry. For people who want to go into pure finance, this is an excellent approach. Benefits include:
- Your program will immerse you in a broad overview of finance subjects. This will include quantitative finance, investments, markets, financial theory, mathematics, financial reporting, analysis, valuation and more.
- The program is usually just a year. As opposed to MBA programs or other master’s degree tracks that may take 2 years, the Master of Finance is typically only a year long. That makes it easier for you to get in and out, and move on to the good part – making money.
- A Master of Finance looks excellent on a resume. If you want to work in finance, this is the best way to signal to potential employers that you have the necessary expertise.
Master of Mathematics
Finance is essentially a mathematical field. In order to succeed, you need an excellent grasp of numbers. Assessing how markets change, understanding how investments will appreciate or depreciate, and recommending the best financial course of action to investors or corporations all takes a deep understanding of the field of mathematics. You can set yourself up for a very lucrative finance career if you take the math approach, with benefits such as:
- You can reach the highest levels of financial analysis. With a master’s in math, there’s nothing stopping you from rising through the ranks at your corporation. You’ll already have a handle on the field that most people consider the most difficult.
- A master’s sets you up for a PhD. If you’re considering getting a terminal degree, you’ll need a master’s degree first. Getting that PhD can then set you up for roles as a CFO, political advisor or extremely high-ranking position.
Master of Economics
Economics is an old field, but it has never been more relevant. The world is evolving to become more and more tight-knit, which is changing its economic state by the day. From cryptocurrencies to financial security to global markets, there is so much to learn, explore, leverage and protect against. A master of economics can help you do just that, and additionally:
- You can take the Chartered Financial Analyst exam: This test signals to potential employers that you have extreme economics chops. It prepares you for almost any position in economics or finance.
- You can advise on a huge range of financial and economic decisions. Whether you work on a local, state, national or global level, you’ll have the necessary understanding to make the right decisions in response to varying market conditions.
- Economics provides a solid foundation for future schooling: If you think you might go on to another degree, such as a PhD or law degree, economics is an excellent background that will make you more appealing to schools.
Master of Accounting
Again, this degree has obvious applications to the field of finance. Accountants keep books, look for trends in a corporation’s finances, and help advise on future financial decisions. People in this field are known for having an excellent head for numbers, a high degree of organization and cool heads even in the face of difficult decisions. If that sounds like you, you’ll benefit in the following ways as well:
- You have a solid chance at an executive role. Many people who get master’s in accounting degrees end up in the C suite. If you’re interested in becoming a VP or executive, this is a great degree to start you off.
- You can take the CPA exam. Becoming a Certified Public Accountant is a smart move for anyone who wants to a) increase their salary and b) increase their chances at landing in the C suite.
- The skills you have are invaluable. Even if you later go on to another role outside of finance, your accounting background will still make you attractive to a range of potential employers. Money management, trend analysis, number crunching and auditing are all excellent abilities for a huge range of positions.
Master of Business Administration
The Master of Business Administration is commonly recommended to people who want to enter the field of commerce as a whole or finance in general. Due to its focus on business as a whole, you have a broad appeal to many different employers. However, the degree also focuses on a range of finance-specific subjects, including quantitative analysis, economics, statistics and accounting. It’s the perfect degree for someone who is interested in finance but doesn’t want to pigeonhole themselves. Also:
- You can choose between part- and full-time programs. If you have other duties and responsibilities and a full-time program isn’t manageable, you can take a several year part-time program. If, on the other hand, you just want to get it done, many schools offer 18-month programs that can get you out the door and on your way to work more quickly.
- Many companies will pay for your program. If you work for someone else while going to school, they will often pick up the tab on your education, provided you work for them for an additional 2 years following graduation.
Master of Business Analytics
If you do like business but want a more focused degree, the Master of Business Analytics is a perfect fit. The program teaches important modern skills such as data science, optimization and machine learning. With this degree in hand, you can help to manage the finances at a range of business organizations, leveraging cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence and data analysis.
People in this field have the best of both challenging and rewarding duties. Plus:
- Many programs are only a year long. Many students at the master’s level don’t have years to devote to a new degree, but the Master of Business Analytics can often get you a new degree in a year or 18 months.
- It’s appropriate for students of any age. Whether you’re 22 or 52, this degree is welcoming to all. Because it prizes prior experience, it’s a good route for those who have been in the field for a long time already.
- You can use it to leverage a promotion. Many people want new degrees later in life because they’re looking for a salary hike or a promotion. The Master of Business Analytics can help you do just that – and like the MBA, you may be able to get your company to pay for it as well.
Master of Management
The Master of Management is one of those degrees that can complement any business career, adding on to an undergraduate degree seamlessly or helping to promote career advancement later in life. It is a good way to deepen management expertise, and therefore a good addendum for people who got the bulk of their finance education through a bachelor’s in finance, accounting or business. With this degree, you can expect:
- It is research-based. This program focuses on real-world data and scenarios, which prepares you for the rigorous field of finance, which also deals in real-time absolutes. If you want to prepare for the fast-paced financial world, this is a good way to do it.
- The Master of Management sets you up perfectly to become a boss. Do you desire a management role? This degree tells potential employers that you have what it takes to manage others gracefully and well.
Master of Computer Science
Today, finance is inextricably intertwined with computer science. Data science, artificial intelligence and machine learning all play critical roles on Wall Street, in the C suite and in companies around the world. People who have the necessary skills to program and monitor software, manage information technology, and develop new algorithms and approaches to financial management will do well indeed. This degree will benefit you in the following ways:
- Many programs encourage specialization. When you choose a specialty, you can choose finance, which will knit your interest in computers to your interest in finance.
- Most programs are short. You can usually get your degree in 12-24 months, which makes it easier for you to take on this degree even if you’re already working and have family responsibilities.
- You will write a thesis. If you write your thesis on a topic for which you want to get hired, you will substantially improve your resume.
If you want to work on the financial side of law (or the legal side of finance), you could consider getting a Juris Doctorate, also known as a Doctor of Jurisprudence or a JD. These are all different ways for saying “law degree.” While a law degree is not exactly the same as a master’s degree, it is a graduate degree, which means you must have a bachelor’s degree before you can apply to law programs. There are a number of benefits of getting your degree in law:
- Law school requires that you pick a track, which makes it easy to specialize. If you want to go into corporate or finance law, law school can give you most of the skills you need to enter the corporate finance workforce.
- You become more marketable because of your legal background. A legal underpinning makes it easier to stay within rules and regulations, which is a valuable skill on Wall Street and in other investment-heavy environments.
- You can apply to law school directly following getting a bachelor’s degree. Many of the above degrees require (or at least strongly advise) that you get some work experience under your belt before applying for programs. Law students, however, frequently move on to law school the year following graduation from undergrad.