Pursuing advanced education is one of the best ways to further your career, especially at the highest levels.

Many of the finance skills needed to take on greater responsibility in a major firm can be learned through a Masters of Science in Finance (MSF) degree.

Top level programs provide you with new skills and lots of opportunities to network with other high flyers.

Learn more about the benefits of taking an MSF program using this easy to follow guide.

What is an MSF?

A Masters of Science in Finance is an academic degree that many financial professionals pursue instead of an MBA. It teaches important subjects such as financial management and investment.

If your career will be focused entirely on corporate or public finance this can be an excellent degree choice for you. It has a laser focus on subjects relating to these sectors.

Most MSF programs will focus heavily on financial reporting, econometrics, valuations, markets, analytics, and quantitative finance. You will also have several classes designed to improve your overall professionalism and manner.

Many universities include extensive networking opportunities in their curriculum.

One of the most important things taught outside of hard finance are the skills and ethics needed to run a large organization. There are very specific laws relating to financial firms all over the world. Failure to follow them has steep consequences.

Business ethics, governance, and management strategy are all important skills developed through an MSF program.

MSF or MBA?

Many financial professionals wonder whether an MBA or MSF is more valuable. This really comes down to what career field you’re in and where you see yourself in the next stage of your career.

If you’re working in a large corporation in a non-finance related position an MBA makes more sense. It provides you with extensive education in running a large scale business and making major leadership decisions.

For many professionals in consulting or other high responsibility fields, an MBA is a must to reach the highest levels. It’s very difficult to make principal at a Big Four consulting firm without one.

For those who work in finance, such as investment bankers or fund managers, an MSF will often make more sense. It combines many of the same ethical and managerial training you receive from an MBA with quantitative skills related to high finance.

An MSF will provide you with more advanced analytical, research, and computational abilities. It also focuses networking on those most likely to be useful to someone looking to move up in finance.

Many universities understand the dilemma this question poses to applicants. They have created dual degree programs that allow you to get both an MBA and an MSF at once.

In most cases, you do this by taking the core classes for their other degree as your electives.

Finance Skills From an MSF

The big question is, what does an MSF actually teach you? There are two broad categories that include most of the important skills included in an MSF. These are quantitative and qualitative skills.

Quantitative Skills

Quantitative skills are objective and measurable by a set metric. These are things like systems knowledge, market terminology understanding, and the ability to perform complex financial analyses.

An MSF helps expand your pool of quantitative skills and can allow you to grow the ‘hard skills’ portion of your resume. This is useful if you’ve been considering changing positions or want to ask for an internal promotion.

Important quantitative skills taught during an MSF include:

  • Complex analyses
  • Updated financial software
  • Financial modeling

Qualitative Skills

Qualitative skills are harder to pin down than quantitative ones. These can’t be measured by metrics or other hard numbers methods. This is more about mindset, ability to deal with changing situations, and even your manner.

Many of these skills carry over into any high responsibility position but are especially applicable in finance. Having the ability to remain cool under pressure and deal with unforeseen situations is always valuable.

Common qualitative skills enhanced by an MSF include:

  • Discipline
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Problem-solving
  • Self-management
  • Stress management

Is an MSF Worth It?

There’s no denying it, graduate programs are expensive. This is especially true at top universities. In the academic year 2017-2018, the average cost for a year of graduate tuition at the Ivy League was just over $44,000.

Most degree programs take between two and three years to complete. At the rates mentioned above, that comes to between $90,000 and $120,000. This high cost has many potential applicants questioning the value their degree really provides.

The best answer to this is it depends. If you’re able to gain admission to a top-level school your career goals are likely much higher than the average person’s.

For high flyers, an advanced degree from an exclusive school is almost a necessity. C-suite doors generally do not open without them.

For the average broker or investment banker without equity aspirations, the picture becomes less clear. If you successfully complete your degree program then the majority of companies will give you an immediate raise.

If you’re able to get scholarships or if your company will pay for it this is a no-brainer.

Another consideration is how to budget your time to study for your MSF. Many top-level programs don’t permit you to study part-time. If you have to stop working for two to three years an MSF may not be possible.

Thankfully, advancements in modern technology have made online MSF programs widely available.

This permits you to study from wherever you are in the world without any constraints. If you’re able to gain admission to an advanced degree program online in most cases it will be worth it to your career to pursue it.

Think For the Long Term

Getting an MSF is an excellent way to develop the finance skills needed for advancement in your career. Without both these quantitative and qualitative skills you’ll find it more difficult to advance past the middle management level.

Does an online MSF program sound like a good investment in your future? Check out our useful tool to learn more about programs available to you.