So you want to advance your career, great! But what’s the best way to do that? There’s certainly no shortage of graduate degrees available for financial professionals, making it difficult to choose the best option.
Add in an alphabet soup of financial designations and the process gets even more confusing. Here’s one credential that’s increasingly sought after by employers-the Masters of Finance, or MSF degree.
This graduate-level program emphasizes real world finance, covering topics such as financial statement analysis, capital structure risk management, investment banking, manager evaluation and interest rate risk. The MSF degree may also open the door for professionals with a non-business background to land a career in finance.
Keep in mind, the demand for MSF degree graduates is not confined to the financial services industry. The analytical skills obtained can benefit any organization. In fact, we found a number of technology and health care companies actively hiring financial professionals.
And if you’re looking for attractive compensation, an MSF degree is the way to go.
With a median annual pay of $120,000, the MSF is the second-highest paying Master’s degree, according to recruitment site Monster.1 With that background, here are six jobs that are attainable with an MSF degree.
1. Investment Consultant
This is not a fancy term for a stock broker. Investment consultants assist large, buy-side institutions with their asset management duties. Their client list includes pension funds, insurance companies, endowments, retirement plan sponsors, hospitals, family offices and foundations. In addition to offering the latest investment strategies, consultants evaluate current fund managers and can provide access to external funds that may be closed to outside investors.
These clients often have a required rate of return for their beneficiaries and there is a lot riding on meeting these marks. As such, many institutions have begun to outsource the investment responsibility all-together. ‘Investment outsourcing’ has grown out of the realization that running a large asset portfolio is extremely difficult and costly, especially if it’s not your core business. 77% of private foundations with over $500 million in assets outsource investment responsibilities.2
Further, portfolio managers are under constant pressure to perform. Trailing a benchmark can place these professionals on performance review. In fact, 74% of plan sponsors have put a manager under review for trailing on a 1 or 3 year basis.3 With annual compensation typically in the hundreds of thousands, portfolio managers are welcoming all the help they can get running their funds.
These trends have proven to be a major boom for investment consultants. Today, there are nearly 7,000 investment consulting firms globally, with Mercer, Aon Hewitt, Russell and Cambridge Associates being the largest.
These professionals often possess the toughest academic credentials in finance. A CFA designation, MSF degree or MBA with a concentration in Finance is often required to land employment in this industry. But the payoff can be worth it. For example, a consultant at Cambridge Associates earns just over $133,000 according to reported salaries at Glassdoor.4
2. Financial Analyst
Financial analyst is a bit of a catch-all phrase but it’s basically a front office position in corporate finance.
These professionals will model different business scenarios, review cap ex requests and calculate performance metrics for a variety of departments. As such, financial analysts obtain a broader understanding of the firm’s operations.
The insight gleaned gets passed along to more senior employers such as finance manager or controller, aiding them in making strategic decisions. Financial analysts should be quantitative in nature but possess the ability to clearly communicate their findings up the chain of command.
Technology companies are increasingly active in hiring for finance positions. As visionaries create and steer these companies at hyper speed growth, there is a need for some oversight to make sure the firm doesn’t run out of essential resources.
These finance professionals are well-paid for their efforts.
While financial analysts nationwide average roughly $67,000 per year, those working at technology companies such as Google, Apple and Cisco earn $108,482, $83,327 and $77,829 respectively.5
YouTube, a subsidiary of Google, is currently looking for a senior financial analyst to present insights to Google Finance executives.6
3. Finance Manager
If you are already working in corporate finance, attaining an MSF degree can vault you up to finance manager, typically a financial analyst’s supervisor. This managerial role is coveted by many but is not an easy one to attain without experience or the right credentials. Many companies value the leadership and financial acumen that the MSF degree provides.
According to compensation reports, finance managers average about $110,000 annually but can earn substantially more with the right employer.7 At Google, financial managers reportedly earn over $157,000.8
Depending on performance and corporate structure, many finance managers go onto become Finance Directors, VP of Finance and potentially higher up into the C-Suite.
Supervisory finance roles are well-paid yet very competitive. A Master’s degree can only improve your chances of landing one of these positions. At wireless carrier American Tower, an MSF degree is a preferred method to enter their Leadership Training Program.9
4. Career Consultant
Not normally a position that comes to mind when contemplating a MSF degree, it’s nonetheless a great fit for someone who wants to work on the academic side of finance. The proliferation of online degrees has provided the flexibility many aspiring finance professionals require, especially when pursuing them while working. But with so many offerings, it’s hard for prospects to determine which program is right for them. Enter the career consultant.
Their intimate knowledge of the curriculum, since they completed it themselves, provides a wealth of first-hand information for prospects. This role operates in conjunction with a school admissions team and the marketing efforts.
Keep in mind, this position won’t pay as well as the aforementioned positions (career consultants average around $40,000 per year) but many enjoy the mentoring aspect and interpersonal relationships that form.10 As such, these professionals enjoy some of the highest job satisfaction marks.
5. Capital Markets Analyst
With both equity and fixed income markets near all-time highs, it’s no surprise demand is soaring for capital markets analysts. These professionals raise capital for their institutional clients (often a company they have already taken public through an IPO or reverse merger).
These analysts evaluate various sources of funding including equity, debt and convertible security issuance and determine the lowest cost of capital. They may also feel it appropriate to find a more effective use of excess capital, including share repurchases or debt repayments.
Capital markets analysts will also become adept at creating marketing presentations (pitch books) for new business.
On the client side, these professionals are tasked with making sure the Finance Manager and Treasury Department has adequate capital to run the company’s operations. They act as liaison with investment banks, making sure all aspects of the transactions go smoothly.
Since this position interacts with so many different departments and executives within the firm, it can be great for networking and may be a stepping stone to higher positions within the company.
USAA is actively recruiting qualified candidates for capital market analyst positions. These professionals will perform scenario analyses on an ongoing basis to make sure the company is meeting its capital requirements, including regulatory. They must have a background knowledge of the banking or insurance industry and prefer a MSF degree or MBA.11
The San Antonio branch of USAA is recruiting for a senior capital markets analyst.12 According to compensation site Paysa, the median salary for senior capital markets analysts at USAA is $123,000.13
6. Management Consultant
Management consulting firms hire extremely smart people to advise senior management on how to best run their business. This discipline focuses on maximizing operational performance. Services often include improving sustainability, sharpening brand strategy, M&A advice, data analytics or supply chain innovations.
Consulting clients include small businesses, municipalities, sovereign wealth funds and Fortune 500 companies.
Not surprisingly, the industry is loaded with academic credentials, typically MBAs. But there is certainly room for different Master’s degrees depending on the firm. For example, we found a recent graduate from Vanderbilt’s Owen School of Management earn an MSF degree and land a position with Bain & Company, one of the top management consulting firms (along with McKinsey & Company, PwC and Deloitte).14 Since Bain is a major consulting partner to the private equity industry, it’s no surprise they are looking for candidates with MSF degrees.
Realize that getting into Bain is a challenge. Bain consultants report an average salary of just over $138,000 per year.15 These professionals will likely begin as associate (junior) consultants who still garner salaries of over $77,000.16
While management consulting pays well, be ready to work some pretty long hours-at least early on. Also, the schedule can be unpredictable since traveling is typically required. If you are looking to relocate or have a sense of adventure, this field may be a great fit for you.