A Tale of Two Advanced Degrees: Master’s in Finance vs. MBA

MBA vs. Master's in Finance

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” This famous quote from Charles Dickens’ classic novel A Tale of Two Cities accurately describes the difficult process of choosing which path to take as a graduate student in business.

A future in business and finance can promise a comfortable salary, stable career opportunities, and a valuable skill set in a competitive job market. Yet many struggle to decide which degree they should pursue to build that career.

This debate often comes down to a master’s in finance vs. a Master of Business Administration (MBA). Each degree provides unique training that can prepare graduates for success in their business or finance career.

Master of Business Administration

Compared to the master’s in finance, the MBA will prepare students for the entire corporate landscape, as opposed to just the finance field. As a result, MBA programs often take longer to complete than a master’s in finance programs.

Which Courses Are Covered in an MBA?

An MBA program covers a wide range of business subjects, including courses in finance, analytics, statistics, operations & supply chain management, entrepreneurship, communications, investment banking, and accounting. MBA programs are also increasing their offerings in international business training and corporate accountability within local and global communities.

Among this broad programming, students can choose one area to focus on. Examples include finance, health care management, and criminal justice.

Which Skills Are Gained from an MBA?

Common skills gained from earning an MBA include business leadership and management, market analytics, customer relations, and accounting. Since the MBA also covers the corporate business realm as a whole, it can also help develop skills in communications and problem-solving.

What Are Potential Career Outcomes for an MBA?

An MBA can prepare graduates for leadership and managerial careers in a range of different industries and types of organizations, from nonprofits to startup companies to established corporations. An MBA is often necessary for obtaining jobs with hedge funds and private equity firms. This degree also provides students with the skills they need to launch their own companies.

As technology continues to play an important role in global business, job prospects for data analysts with MBAs are particularly strong. Other jobs with positive job growth outlooks include product manager, management consultant, finance manager, and brand marketing manager.

Compared to those with a master’s in finance, graduates with an MBA have higher average salaries, with an average yearly pay of $96,000, according to PayScale. And high-level jobs such as chief financial officer and vice president of marketing, which generally require an MBA, can bring in salaries from $150,000 to $200,000, according to Monster.

Master’s in Finance

A master’s in finance covers the finance field specifically and does not include the range of business training and programming that the MBA does. As a result, master’s in finance programs can often be completed in less time, taking only one year to finish, as opposed to two or three years for an MBA.

Which Courses Are Covered in a Master’s in Finance?

Master’s in finance courses include financial theory, accounting, statistics, investment analysis, financial reporting, and mathematics. Many courses will overlap with the MBA program courses, but only the ones that pertain to the finance field.

Which Skills Are Gained from a Master’s in Finance?

A master’s in finance prepares graduates for a career in finance by developing skills that include a statistical and analytical understanding of financial markets, risk management, trading, and building financial reports. If you’re looking at a master’s in finance vs. an MBA, the master’s in finance may not focus as much on developing leadership and management skills.

What Are Potential Career Outcomes for a Master’s in Finance?

Master’s in finance graduates are prepared for career opportunities in finance-specific fields such as banks, investment firms, accounting companies, and financial consulting companies. Common roles include financial analyst, finance director, insurance specialist, budget analyst, and chief financial officer.

With a yearly average salary of $78,000, according to PayScale, those with a master’s in finance may not have as high a salary as those with an MBA. However, they are considered among the highest paid of all professionals with master’s degrees, with a median pay of $134,000 per year, according to Monster.

Your Tale to Tell: Master in Finance vs. MBA

Earning an advanced degree can prepare you to excel in the business world. When it comes down to choosing a specific degree, your decision depends on your career and salary goals, interests, time availability, and desired skill set. If you are committed to a career in finance specifically, the master’s in finance may be the right path for you. If you want to develop a broader skillset in business management and leadership, an MBA will give you all of the tools you need for jobs in a range of industries and institutions.

An Online Master of Business Administration from Ohio University, for example, will prepare you to succeed in high-level management positions across the business realm. Whether you’re looking to run your own company, step in as CFO of a global corporation, or lead a groundbreaking nonprofit organization to success, Ohio University’s online MBA program arms you with the skills you need to improve your prospects in the job market and build your career in business.


Investopedia, “Master of Business Administration—MBA”
Investopedia, “MBA vs. Master of Finance: What’s the Difference?”
Investopedia, “When Is an MBA Worth It?”
Monster, Best-Paying and Worst-Paying Master’s Degrees
Monster, Best-Paying MBA Majors
PayScale, Master of Business Administration (MBA), Finance Degree
PayScale, Master of Finance (MFin) Degree
Study.com: Master of Finance: Salary & Jobs
Study.com, Masters in Finance vs. MBA in Finance: Salary & Difference
US News & World Report, “5 Hot Jobs for MBA Graduates”
US News & World Report, “Determine If a Master’s in Finance Is the Right Move”
Ohio University, College of Business, Master Business Administration with a Concentration in Finance