Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Finance – Everything You Need to Know 2024


An MBA in Finance is a specialized Master of Business Administration program that focuses on finance, investments, banking, corporate finance, and financial planning. It is designed for individuals who are interested in deepening their understanding of financial management and its role in the business environment, aiming to prepare graduates for senior roles in the finance sector.

An MBA program is an intellectually stimulating, challenging, and transformative experience. It’s about pushing yourself outside your comfort zone, learning from a diverse group of classmates, and developing the critical thinking and leadership skills you need to succeed in business. While it’s demanding, it’s also incredibly rewarding. You’ll build lifelong friendships, gain a broader perspective on the business world, and open doors to exciting new career opportunities.
Stacey Blackman, Founder & CEO of Stacy Blackman Consulting

Find Your Degree

Online MBAs offer incredible flexibility for working professionals seeking career advancement. You can learn at your own pace, around your work schedule, and from anywhere with an internet connection. This format also opens doors to a wider range of programs, as you’re not restricted by geographical location. The cost can also be a relative advantage for some programs. The perception of online MBAs by employers has steadily improved. Many employers recognize the value proposition of a qualified candidate with an MBA, regardless of whether it was obtained online or in-person. The curriculum and accreditation of the program hold more weight than the delivery format.
Jeff Chambers, Dean, UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

Why Get an MBA?

Increased Earning Potential

MBA graduates typically experience a substantial increase in salary compared to their pre-MBA earnings. According to the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) Corporate Recruiters Survey, the median starting salary for MBA graduates in the US. was $115,000. This figure significantly exceeds the median for bachelor’s degree holders in business fields, underscoring the financial benefits of the advanced degree.

The increased earnings potential is more pronounced in mid-career professionals who study for an MBA. According to the GMAC Alumni Perspectives Survey, mid-career professionals who earn an MBA typically receive a median salary uplift of around 75% compared to their pre-MBA earnings.

Career Advancement and Opportunities

An MBA opens doors to senior management and executive positions, offering significant career advancement opportunities. A survey by the Alumni Perspectives Survey Report from GMAC found that 77% of MBA alumni from the class of 2000 to 2018 were in senior-level positions or higher, including executive level and C-suite roles. This suggests that an MBA is a crucial stepping stone for climbing the corporate ladder.

Networking and Professional Connections

MBA programs provide access to a vast network of professionals, including alumni, faculty, and business leaders, which can be pivotal for career growth and opportunities. The same GMAC survey noted that 9 out of 10 alumni felt that attending business school allowed them to develop a strong professional network. Networking opportunities facilitated by MBA programs are often cited as one of the most valuable aspects of the MBA experience, providing lifelong career resources and potential business partnerships.

What is Covered?

An MBA in Finance is a specialized track within the Master of Business Administration program that equips students with in-depth knowledge of financial management, investment strategies, and economic analysis. The curriculum is designed to blend core business management skills with specialized finance knowledge, providing a solid foundation for leadership roles in the financial sector.

Here’s what is typically covered in an MBA program specializing in finance:

Core MBA Courses

These courses form the foundation of the MBA experience, focusing on broad management skills applicable across industries:

  • Management and Leadership – Studies in organizational behavior, leadership techniques, and strategic management.
  • Marketing – Insights into market analysis, consumer behavior, and strategic marketing planning.
  • Operations Management – Techniques for improving operational efficiencies and understanding production processes.
  • Business Strategy – Development and implementation of business strategies to drive company growth and competitiveness.
  • Economics – Macro and microeconomic theories to understand business cycles, market structures, and economic policies.
  • Business Ethics and Law – Understanding the ethical and legal implications of business decisions.

Specialized Finance Courses

These courses delve into specific areas of finance, providing the skills necessary for financial analysis and decision-making:

  • Corporate Finance – Key concepts include risk management, capital structure, budgeting, financial modeling, and valuation techniques.
  • Investment Analysis and Portfolio Management – Techniques for assessing investment opportunities, portfolio diversification, and risk assessment.
  • Financial Markets and Institutions – Overview of global financial markets, including stock, bond, derivatives markets, and the role of financial institutions like banks and investment firms.
  • Quantitative Methods for Finance – Application of statistics and mathematical models in financial decision-making, focusing on techniques like regression, forecasting, and risk analysis.
  • International Finance – Management of financial operations in an international context; includes foreign exchange risk management, international financial markets, and cross-border investment considerations.
  • Financial Reporting and Analysis – In-depth look at accounting principles, standards, and the interpretation of financial statements.


Students may choose electives or concentrate in areas that complement their main studies or match their career goals, such as:

  • Real Estate Finance
  • Private Equity
  • Hedge Fund Management
  • Financial Regulation and Compliance

MBA Program Types

  • Full-time MBA – Typically a two-year program aimed at those who can commit to a rigorous schedule of full-time study. This option often includes internship opportunities that provide practical experience.
  • Part-time MBA – Designed for working professionals, this program allows students to work full-time while completing their MBA on evenings or weekends over a period of three years or more.
  • Executive MBA (EMBA) – Tailored for mid-career professionals who have extensive work experience and wish to enhance their managerial and leadership skills. Classes usually meet on weekends over a two-year period.
  • Online MBA – Offers flexibility to complete the degree remotely, suitable for those who need a flexible schedule due to professional or personal commitments.
A full-time MBA is an immersive experience designed to completely transform you professionally and personally. You’ll dedicate two years to intensive coursework, build a close-knit network with classmates, and participate in extracurricular activities and leadership opportunities. This full-time immersion is a major advantage for career changers or those seeking a significant shift in their career path. However, it requires a significant financial investment and stepping away from full-time employment. A part-time MBA, on the other hand, allows you to balance your work and studies. This is a great option for experienced professionals who want to enhance their skillset without disrupting their careers. The program is typically spread over evenings or weekends, offering more flexibility. However, the trade-off is a less intensive learning experience and a potentially weaker network compared to a full-time program. The slower pace may also make it challenging to develop the same level of camaraderie with classmates.

Entry Requirements

Entry requirements for MBA programs in the U.S. can vary depending on the competitiveness and focus of the program, but there are several common criteria that most business schools require from applicants:

1. Undergraduate Degree

  • Requirement: Applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree in finance or a related subject from an accredited institution. The degree does not necessarily have to be in business; MBA programs accept candidates from a wide range of academic backgrounds.

2. Work Experience

  • Requirement: Many MBA programs require applicants to have professional work experience, typically ranging from two to five years. Some executive MBA programs may require more, given their focus on mid-career professionals.
  • Purpose: This experience is valuable as it ensures that students can contribute meaningful insights from the workplace and fully engage with the practical aspects of the MBA curriculum.

3. Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) or Graduate Record Examinations (GRE)

  • Requirement: Most programs require scores from the GMAT or GRE as part of the application process. These standardized tests assess analytical writing, quantitative, verbal, and reading skills.
  • Purpose: The scores are used to evaluate the academic potential of applicants and to ensure they can handle the rigor of the program.

4. English Language Proficiency

  • Requirement: Non-native English speakers typically need to demonstrate proficiency in English through tests such as TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or IELTS (International English Language Testing System).
  • Purpose: To ensure that all students can actively participate in coursework, discussions, presentations, and written assignments.

5. Letters of Recommendation

  • Requirement: Applicants are usually required to submit two or three letters of recommendation from current or former employers, or from individuals who can vouch for the applicant’s professional experience and potential for leadership.
  • Purpose: Recommendations help provide insight into an applicant’s work ethic, leadership abilities, and how they interact within a team.

6. Personal Statement or Essays

  • Requirement: Most programs ask for one or more essays or a personal statement as part of the application.
  • Purpose: These essays allow candidates to express their career aspirations, reasons for pursuing an MBA, and how they will contribute to the program.

7. Interview

  • Requirement: Many business schools conduct interviews with prospective students as the final step in the application process. This can be done in person, over the phone, or via video conference.
  • Purpose: Interviews help the admissions committee assess a candidate’s interpersonal skills, motivation, and fit with the program’s culture and objectives.

8. Resume/CV

  • Requirement: A detailed resume or CV is required to outline educational background, professional experience, accomplishments, and leadership roles.
  • Purpose: This document provides a comprehensive view of the candidate’s career trajectory, skills, and experiences that are relevant to the MBA program.

Common Questions About MBAs

Our career coaches frequently work with graduates and professionals considering an MBA. Here are some of the common questions?

The cost of an MBA is significant. Can I justify the investment based solely on potential salary increases?

An MBA can lead to higher earning potential, but it’s not a guaranteed outcome. Consider the overall ROI (Return on Investment) beyond salary. An MBA can open doors to new career paths, expand your professional network, and enhance your long-term career prospects. Evaluate the program’s alumni network, career placement resources, and potential salary increases to assess the overall value proposition.

I have a strong work ethic, but I worry about the time commitment of an MBA program. Can I balance work and studies?

Many MBA programs cater to working professionals. There are flexible options like part-time, evening, or online programs that allow you to balance your studies with your current job responsibilities. Effective time management and strong support networks can make it possible to successfully navigate an MBA program while maintaining your career momentum.

I’m not sure which industry I want to work in after my MBA. Can an MBA program help me explore different options?

Many MBA programs offer a general management curriculum that exposes you to various business functions. You can also leverage electives, internships, and career exploration resources to gain experience and solidify your career interests. Talk to professors, alumni, and career advisors to navigate potential career paths.

I’ve heard horror stories about the workload and competitiveness in MBA programs. Should I be worried?

MBA programs can be demanding, but the workload is manageable with strong organization and time management skills. The cohort environment promotes collaboration and learning from peers. Many programs offer academic support resources to ensure your success. While competitive, the focus is on fostering a collaborative and supportive learning environment.

I’ve heard people say is a school M7 or T15, what do these terms mean?

The terms “M7” and “T15” are commonly used within the context of MBA programs to categorize and distinguish between different tiers of business schools based on their prestige, academic quality, and historical reputation.

M7 Business Schools

The “M7” refers to the “Magnificent Seven,” a group of elite business schools in the United States that are often considered the most prestigious. These schools are known for their rigorous admissions standards, influential alumni networks, and strong placement records in competitive job markets. The M7 schools include:

  1. Harvard Business School
  2. Stanford Graduate School of Business
  3. University of Pennsylvania (Wharton)
  4. University of Chicago (Booth)
  5. Columbia Business School
  6. Northwestern University (Kellogg)
  7. MIT Sloan School of Management

These institutions frequently top the rankings in various MBA ranking lists.

T15 Business Schools

“T15” stands for “Top 15,” which refers to the top 15 business schools in the United States as commonly ranked by major publications. This group includes the M7 schools along with additional prestigious institutions. The specific schools that round out the T15 can vary slightly depending on the ranking system and the year, but typically, they include schools such as:

  1. Dartmouth College (Tuck)
  2. Yale School of Management
  3. Duke University (Fuqua)
  4. University of Michigan (Ross)
  5. University of Virginia (Darden)
  6. Cornell University (Johnson)
  7. UCLA (Anderson)
  8. New York University (Stern)

What is the Cost?

  • The average cost for a full-time MBA program in the US can range from $60,000 to $100,000 per year in tuition and fees alone. Top-tier schools can reach costs exceeding $200,000 for the entire program. These costs don’t include living expenses, books, and other program-related fees.
  • The total cost of a part-time MBA program can range from $20,000 to $80,000, depending on the school and program duration.
  • The cost of online MBAs can vary widely, ranging from $10,000 to $80,000 for the entire program. However, it’s important to consider that some online programs from prestigious universities may approach the cost of a full-time program.

How Much Can You Earn?

Your industry, pre-MBA experience and location will have an impact on your post-MBA earnings but here are some ranges:

Years of Experience Low Range Mid Range High Range
Right after Graduation (0-2 years) $75,000 – $100,000 $100,000 – $130,000 $120,000 – $150,000+
Mid-Career (3-5 years) $110,000 – $140,000 $140,000 – $170,000 $160,000 – $200,000+
Senior Level (6-10 years) $130,000 – $160,000 $160,000 – $190,000 $180,000 – $250,000+
Executive Level (10+ years) $150,000 – $180,000 $180,000 – $220,000 $200,000 – $300,000+
Right after Graduation (0-2 years)
Low Range $75,000 – $100,000
Mid Range $100,000 – $130,000
High Range $120,000 – $150,000+
Mid-Career (3-5 years)
Low Range $110,000 – $140,000
Mid Range $140,000 – $170,000
High Range $160,000 – $200,000+
Senior Level (6-10 years)
Low Range $130,000 – $160,000
Mid Range $160,000 – $190,000
High Range $180,000 – $250,000+
Executive Level (10+ years)
Low Range $150,000 – $180,000
Mid Range $180,000 – $220,000
High Range $200,000 – $300,000+

What Jobs Can You Do With an MBA?

MBA graduates are well-positioned for a variety of senior and executive-level jobs within finance and in general management positions:

Estimates suggest that ~30% of CEOs and ~20% of COOs of Fortune 500 companies have an MBA.