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What's The Difference Between A Master's In Finance And An MBA?

As clear-cut as the lines between accounting and other fields like creative arts or literature may be, there are many career options to choose from within the field of accounting and finances in itself.

You may find yourself at that critical point in your life where you are deciding on a career path, and you may be considering what the best field of study is for you in the field of finance. Maybe you're at the point where you have completed your graduate degree program and you are faced with yet another choice, choosing a field of specialty.

This could leave you wondering what the difference is between a master's degree in finances (MF) as opposed to a master's degree in business administration, which is also known as an MBA. An MBA is probably a program you've heard a lot about and for many people, it is seen as a prestigious qualification to have on hand.

In basic and simple terms, the major difference between a master's in finance and an MBA is the coursework you will find yourself completing in each program. A master's in finance is greatly focused on finances and related coursework, whereas an MBA focuses greatly on business processes.

But let us take a closer look at these two career programs, what are the differences and similarities of each, and what are the pros and cons of each course.

Overview Of MF And MBA

When you think of a business, you can be certain of all the components that go into keeping the business running as a success. It takes inventory and stock control, it means having control of finances, knowing where and when to invest as a business entity, which other businesses to develop partnerships with, understanding accounting concepts, and even having an intricate understanding of what it is like to be a business manager and an entrepreneur.

This large overview of what it takes to run a business is generally what would be covered when you pursue an MBA. An MBA covers a broad and wide knowledge base that will help you in running a business or in consulting with business owners, providing them with advice, and offering business-related services to them.

MBAs, therefore, focus on the overarching elements pertaining to businesses, which also encompass finances, but not entirely, and not as in-depth as a degree dedicated to financial operations would.

However, MF programs are far more focused, meaning that your sole point of focus in this program would be on the financials within a business. You will learn and be exposed to concepts relating to accounting (which is a necessity as you would enter an MF program from a bachelor's degree program either in accounting or finances), and overall financial management.

Ultimately, your choice to pursue either program will depend on what your career goals are. Both programs provide you with a plethora of valuable information that will not only enhance your skill base but will allow you to help other businesses.

Both programs also give you access to senior-level roles within organizations that may not be easily accessible with just a graduate degree. Acquiring these skills is guaranteed to fast-track your career into a place where you probably may not have seen yourself when you started your graduate program four years earlier.

With the wide exposure to different courses within an MBA, you may find that this program offers a wider range of opportunities than an MF degree offers. This is because, with an MBA, you could seek c-suite level roles provided you have sufficient experience, you could start your own organization, you could provide advisory services, and much more for businesses as a whole, whereas in finances, your options are limited to just that, finances.

The Pros And The Cons

It would seem like business school has become the place to be, and if you choose between an MBA and an MF, you are going to be on the scene either way as almost all business schools offer both programs.

In recent years, the prestige that comes with holding an MBA has been well noted, and this field of study has gained immense popularity. This means the demand has gotten greater, the markets have become more saturated, and business schools have had to become a lot more choosey when selecting candidates for MBA programs.

Pursuing an MBA may not be as easy as just walking into the program.

On the other hand, MF programs are fairly new, and given the focus that this program has on finances, you would need to have a clear-cut understanding that a career in finance is what you are hoping to pursue. With that certainty on your side, getting into an MF program becomes a lot easier for you given the expected background in finances or accounting that you would have, and maybe even the experience that you may have gained if you already worked in finances after graduating.

Skills You Will Learn

Any new skills that you acquire in a program are guaranteed to be beneficial to your future. This means you are learning something you never knew before, and you are able to apply these new skills to whatever role you take on. Pursuing an MBA will teach you not only how to run a business or organization, but how to lead those within your organization.

To provide investment advice, you will need to have an understanding of market performance. In your MBA, you will also learn the skills of market analytics, customer and end-user relations, and accounting practices. Additionally, you will also learn effective communication, problem-solving, and business strategies that are directly related to applications within businesses.

For the most part, an MBA teaches you how to keep your finger on the pulse within every area of a business. This may mean that you are not an expert in every aspect of the business, but you are able to successfully monitor every aspect of the business.

An MF degree provides you with finance-specific skills that help you reach an expert level within your role as a financial manager, chief financial officer, or whatever role you find yourself working in within the finance division of an organization.

The skills you will acquire in am MF are analytical skills and statistics in skills that you will use when approaching financial markets, risk management strategies, trading, and developing financial reports.

While the focus may not be on imparting leadership skills for this particular program, you will need to have an understanding of how to work with others as this program qualifies you to assume leadership roles within an organization.

Entering the workforce

Although both of these are advanced courses, entering the workforce may look slightly different, especially when it comes to the role you find yourself in once you have qualified.

The role you assume will depend on whether you have experience in a related field before you began pursuing the advanced degree program and it will determine your career starting point. It is often seen that those who hold an MF start in an entry-level role and are required to work their way up (this happens faster with greater opportunities for growth because of the MF degree), whereas MBA holders may enter the workforce at mid-level roles, making it easier and faster to grow.

Course Options: Full-Time vs Part-Time

When you are considering the cost of your advanced program, something that becomes of major consideration is whether or not you are going to pursue a full-time or part-time program. A full-time program may allow you to complete your degree faster, and you will only incur costs for one year of study for an MF or two years of study for an MBA. However, during full-time studies, you may not be able to work while completing your course.

Yes, part-time studies may take longer to complete, and the cost is sometimes greater than full-time programs, but you may be able to subsidize your studies by working and earning a salary. You will also already be in the workforce by the time you earn your MBA or your MF, making growth prospects all the more attainable.

Additionally, you may be able to find and pursue an online MBA or MF program, and if you are currently working full-time, this may be a suitable alternative, provided the institute is accredited.


How Long Does It Take To Earn An MBA And An MF?

While an MBA usually takes around two years to complete, an MF takes one year to complete allowing you to enter the workforce a lot sooner.

This also means that the MF may be more intense as it is only completed in one year.


Deciding which degree to pursue comes down to your future plans, your current experience, and your own personal goals. Despite the field of focus you choose to pursue; you will find that working your way toward achieving an advanced degree opens a plethora of career opportunities and provides you with opportunities to flourish in your desired field.

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