What is an Online MSF degree?
The Masters of Science in Finance degree, MSF, is a graduate level program with online curriculum focused on meeting the needs and challenges in today’s financial environment. First, it provides the student with a solid foundation of statistical and quantitative techniques often found in the world of finance.
These include concepts including time value of money, internal rate of return and discounting present value. The students use these tools to value securities and assess corporate projects.
Present value is the underpinning of fundamental analysis-using available financial data to determine an investment’s intrinsic value. Calculating the internal rate of return is an important factor when deciding whether to accept or reject a capital budgeting project based on estimated cash flows.
There is also an emphasis on understanding the way markets work. Various theories may be reviewed including the efficient market hypothesis, Modern Portfolio Theory or other behavioral models. By the end of the program, the deeper level of understanding of the financial concepts, put graduates on the track for leadership positions within an organization.
Most MSF programs have around six core finance courses, typically, Financial Markets and Corporate Finance. There is some flexibility with electives, but they are typically still finance based. Real Estate Investment or Derivatives might be examples of typical offerings. Sometimes there are different tracks within the MSF program, similar to concentrations, depending on the school.
Some online MSF programs allow for synchronous learning where the student is ‘live’ (through Skype or a similar program) with a professor and other classmates. This makes the learning experience more traditional and allows for the benefit of clarifications or Q&A.
Some schools offer the best of both worlds, requiring an on-campus residency as part of the curriculum. These are typically short (maybe a week or so) but you get to experience the campus environment and make real connections with other classmates.
For example, Georgetown University offers an MSF degree, requiring around 32 credit hours consisting of approximately nine finance courses, an on-campus residency and a capstone project. If on-campus residency is not viable, you have other options. Schools like Johns Hopkins University, requiring about 36 credit hours that include 8 core finance courses, do not require on-campus residency as a part of the curriculum.
What Kinds of Jobs Can I Get with an MSF?
The MSF degree will resonate with employers in finance-related fields. They know the candidate is specifically interested in, and prepared for, a career in finance.
Financial planning, banking, asset management and corporate finance departments would be the most likely employers.
Specific positions a professional with a Master’s of Science in Finance could pursue include financial advisor, investment banking or private equity associate, loan officer, portfolio manager, public accountant or finance manager.
These may be attainable soon after graduation or with additional work experience. Regardless, the leadership component of an MSF will put you on the management track and an upward career trajectory.
How do I Choose the Right Online MSF program?
Choosing the right school makes all the difference in helping you land the career in finance you desire. The ideal school has real-world curriculum, a strong brand name, engaged alumni and extensive career services.
Research schools with strong Capstone projects, the final course in many MSF programs. Using all the tools taught in the program to date, students are tasked with solving a real-world business problem. This may be a detailed, fundamental analysis of a company or a global consulting project.
For the capstone, some programs require students to travel and work onsite, conducting interviews with employees and learning about the specific business in-depth. Often, students present their findings to the company as if they would in a business setting. This gives students the ability to polish presentation skills they’ll likely be tasked with using upon graduation.
The capstone is very important part of any Master’s in Finance program and should be seriously researched when deciding on a school.
All Master’s degrees are not equal, a strong brand and reputation make a huge difference with employers in finance. A school with a strong, respected brand probably has a solid alumni network. Many research universities, like Johns Hopkins and the Carey Business School, have programs that provide an alumni network that gives you access to more than 20,000 graduates.
The majority of jobs are secured through networking, so a strong alumni network puts you in the best position to land your position. This should be a serious consideration when choosing your school.
Finally, the resources of your career service department will be invaluable to your job search post-graduation. A strong career service department should be actively engaged with recruiters and offer career planning. Career Planning is a more customized approach to finding a position upon graduation.
You’ll want to research schools that offer interviewing workshops, resume development and has strong ties with area businesses for internship possibilities while in school. All of these will help you land your ultimate goal-a career in finance.