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Master in Finance (MS / MFin / MSc) versus MBA: Requirements, fees, salary, careers

Masters in Finance (MSc, MFin) vs MBAWhen it comes to specialising in Finance, an MBA used to be the popular option among students. However, with students interested in specialised Masters degree in Finance and with more universities offering it, this option too seems to be gaining popularity among Finance aspirants from India and other countries.

If you’re stuck with a dilemma and you’re trying to probe whether a Masters in Finance (MS or MSc or MFin) from an international university or an international MBA Finance degree would be the right choice for you, here are some insights into what each of the degrees has to offer.

Program duration

A Masters in Finance may also be referred to as Master of Science in Finance (MS in Finance or MSF) or Master of Finance or there may be slight variations.

The Masters program can be completed within 12 to 18 months, so it can serve as a good post-graduate degree for those looking for a cost-effective and quicker option to enter the workforce as a Finance professional.  An MBA from the US would take longer and need two years to complete.

Work experience requirement

You can enroll in some of the MSF program immediately after graduation, which makes it a great option for freshers without experience) though few may have a minimum work experience requirement, however an MBA program applicant would be expected to have at least three to five years of work experience while applying.

Program cost

Doing an MBA from a reputed US university would cost in the range of $100,000 –  $150,000 in program fees for two years. To this, you’ll need to add the cost of living and other miscellaneous costs as well.

An MSc in Finance would cost much lower as programs may take only a calendar year to complete. So, the cost of tuition for a year would be much lower and may range approximately from $50,000 – $75,000 depending upon the university you plan to attend.

The cost of living (rent, health insurance, food) would also be reduced to half of what you’d have to spend if you were pursuing a two year MBA program.

Career options

The MFin degree would be highly focused, specialising in the technical aspect of finance and quantitative methods.  The program would enable students to understand complex finance strategies through tools, mathematical models and frameworks that will aid them in applying finance principles to businesses.

An MBA would give you the option to specialise in the Finance area, however there would be a limitation to the level of detail covered and the scope of topics dealt with.

An MBA would cover a broad spectrum of core business topics and also the electives as per your choice. It provides you with multiple options to choose your career across a wide range of industries and roles, some of which include marketing, HR, operations, strategy, Information Technology, entrepreneurship or finance. It also helps manage a career transition into a new area.

An MBA graduate may be the recruiter’s first choice for jobs on Wall Street or for a role in an investment bank’s mergers and acquisitions department or a role in corporate finance. However, in certain specialised areas of Finance such as risk management, equity research firms, asset management, advisory services, investment research, security analysis, brokerage which need quantitative finance experts with a deep analytical knowledge, an MS in Finance graduate would get an upper hand.

Class (peer) profile

An MBA education would give you the opportunity to study with experienced professionals from diverse academic qualification and from a wide variety of industries and different cultural backgrounds. The study methods like group projects, discussions, case studies involve a lot of peer interaction and the opportunity to learn from what others have to share. Thus, you’d be in a position to examine a business situation from various perspectives and choose for yourself which approach would be the best.

In case of MS in Finance, students come in with very little work experience, so the exposure in terms of learning from peer group may be limited. Though now, MS programs too have case studies involved, there may be an inclination to go by the book instead of examining various practical methods of handling a business problem.

Average salary

The average salary of an MBA graduate would be higher than someone with an MS in Finance. This component would be very much dependent on an individual’s prior work experience in that area. MBA graduates typically draw a higher salary due to their greater experience.

The average salary of someone graduating with an MS in Finance would be approximately in the range of $62,000 – $86,000 whereas that of an MBA grad would be upto $1,50,000 or higher depending upon the job position and experience level.


OPT period

The Master of Finance degree has also received a STEM degree designation which is an advantage for international students who would be eligible for a 24 month OPT (Optional Practical Training) extension beyond the initial 12 month OPT. This means that they’d be able to work for upto 36 months under the OPT.

An MBA degree does not get included in the STEM category. So, MBA grads would be eligible for only one year of OPT period after completion of the program.
There are several professionals who wish to have the best of both worlds. So, they may complete their Masters in Finance, work for a few years in a Finance role and then complete their MBA and then aim for more senior management positions within the industry.

Finally, there’s no ‘one size fits all’ solution to this dilemma. You’d need to weigh the pros and cons of each side and decide whether an MS in Finance or an MBA would be the best option to meet your career goals and suit your budget.

Read these related articles:
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Master of Finance in Germany (FSFM) vs Switzerland (St. Gallen)
Masters in Financial Engineering (MFE) in Singapore for a Career in Finance
Best MBA programs in Finance
Best Masters in Finance Programs
MBA vs MIB (Master of International Business) – Which is better?
MCom vs MBA vs Master in Finance

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About Swati
After working for over a decade in technical and managerial roles in the corporate world, Swati now works as a freelancer and writes on a variety of topics including education, career guidance and self-improvement.

10 thoughts on “Master in Finance (MS / MFin / MSc) versus MBA: Requirements, fees, salary, careers”

  1. I want to make my career plan to pursue my dreams i.e entrepreneur or ceo type job but I little confused which option i opt .
    See i m bcom 2nd year student , n i always admire me as a businessman , thats y i think MBA is the key. for my dreams but becoz of financial crises I attract to SSC cgl but i always regret . There is one more reason for not to pursue my cat preparation i.e my poor academic scores .
    So my queries are
    Is after cgl or bank , cat is better to pursue my dreams because they give me financial support.
    After bank po there is any prof. Course which is better to take me in a corporate world .
    Avoiding all crap i opt cgl becoz I really want financial aid and it give me LDC as a option n then after I purse for IAS.

  2. @Udit: We are not the right team to answer those questions. Try checking with folks who are more familiar with those options.

    @Ayush: As is the trend with MBA programs, many Masters in Finance programs accept a competitive GMAT or GRE score. Some may insist on a specific one, so it’s best to always double-check on the university site of the program you are applying to.

    Here’s a sample page (from MIT MFin) for reference:

  3. Nice to know about the difference in the two. It definitely helps as students interested in higher degree in finance can find it confusing.

  4. Hii, I am an MBA Finance graduate from good institute affiliated to Mumbai university. I have currently started working with an NBFC. I wish to work for 2 3 years here and then plan to work in US. Would doing MS in Finance a good option for me? Other options would be welcomed. Thanks in advance.


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