If you have an interest in numbers and a penchant for finding patterns in data, you might love a job in finance. Finance remains one of the most popular MBA concentrations, and earning that coveted degree can enhance both your job prospects and your salary potential.
But school is expensive, and you need to know that the return on that investment is going to be worth it. Even besides the cost, getting an MBA is a big commitment, but it’s one you can be confident will pay off – both in terms of the skills you develop, and in terms of how it looks on your CV when it comes time to find a job.
In the following sections, we will discuss what it takes to earn an MBA in Finance, what kind of salary increase you can reasonably expect after earning it, what factors affect salary and what kind of career you might be set up for.
There are a whole lot of reasons why you might take out a loan to earn an expensive degree. But in most cases it comes down money, whether that’s because you need to get into another line of work to support your family and set yourself up for the job you want, or simply because you want to pull down a bigger salary and enjoy a better quality of life.
With an MBA in Finance, you’ll graduate with the skills to turn money into more money, and that’s something a wide variety of companies put a premium on, both in financial services and other industry sectors. And having the skills it takes to bring that kind of value to any organization means getting paid a premium yourself.
If you’re ready to hit the books hard and keep your nose to the grindstone till you secure an interview with the kind of company you want to work for, then you can’t go wrong with an MBA in Finance.
Program Type and Length
Universities across the country offer MBA programs with a concentration in Finance. These programs vary in length and intensity. Some, for instance, are part time programs that allow you to work while you attend school. These usually last longer, anywhere from 18 months to 2 years depending on whether or not you attend in summer. Shorter, more intensive programs usually last a year, though there are also full-time programs that last 2 years.
You’ll find some variations on the finance concentration offered at different business schools, from Entrepreneurial Finance to Corporate Finance, but they can all lead to better opportunities and bigger salaries.
Salary Before and After
Financial services is an industry known for taking good care of talented people in the organization. So when you do right by the brokerage or investment bank by adding assets to the balance sheet, you can expect to be rewarded.
And so the industry has a big reputation for big compensation packages, and the bigger those payouts are the more they are tied to performance. Base salaries in the industry are as respectable as you would find in many other sectors where an MBA is standard, but they don’t tell the whole story of how hedge fund managers, investment bankers, asset managers and even securities sales reps are compensated with serious bonuses and commissions. And if you have ever tried to pin down the specifics of what all those bonuses and commissions look like at the end of the year, you already know those aren’t numbers that are widely published.
So as you consider the base salaries reported in the field and wonder how that covers the high rolling lifestyle of the finance industry’s professional elite, take it with a grain of salt. There’s usually more to the story than what you see here.
You can’t get started in the field without knowing the fundamentals, and you can’t get good without mastering the technical nuances. So although talent is king in financial services, the right degree is also necessary just to get an interview for an entry-level job as a securities sales rep so you can start learning the ropes and making a name for yourself. You won’t find job ads requiring an MBA in Finance in most cases, but you will find a lot of MBAs in the field since that kind of advanced education is a great way to build the foundation of knowledge you need, and a great way to get your CV noticed when you apply for a position.
- Securities, Commodities and Financial Services Sales Agents: $86,840 – $204,130+
- Financial Analysts: $98,690 – $156,150+
- Personal Financial Advisors: $95,540 – $208,000+
- Financial Managers: $152,810 – $208,000+
All salaries are shown for professionals working in the BLS industry classification for financial investments and related activities.
May 2019 Bureau of Labor Statistics salary data for Securities, Commodities and Financial Services Sales Reps, Financial Analysts, Personal Financial Advisors, Financial Managers. Figures represent national data, not school specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed March 2021.
Factors Affecting Salary
And while you can expect to hit the upper end of those ranges if you work hard, there are quite a few factors that come into play in determining what you can earn:
- Where you go to school: Some schools are more prestigious than others and will earn you a higher starting salary.
- Where you choose to work: Typically the West Coast and the Northeast are the best-paying areas of the country, with the South and Southwest paying least. Other countries may pay more or less depending on their economies.
- Whether you’re in a city or rural area: Jobs in the city, especially big cities with financial sectors such as New York or San Francisco, will more likely pay more than jobs in rural areas.
- How much job experience you had before: If you had already worked in your field for 10 years before earning your degree, chances are good you will net quite a bit more upon graduating than if you were a career switch or had only a couple years’ experience.
- What Finance focus you choose: Some focuses, like corporate finance, will enable you to get higher-paying jobs than others.
- What role you hope to fill: Roles at big companies or in trading positions may earn you considerably more money than other jobs.
Before deciding on a focus, do your research to find out which concentration will help you do the work you’ll enjoy most and which will earn you the highest salary. Shop around for jobs before deciding on a place to settle or a company to work for, so you can at least compare how much you might make before deciding.
An MBA in Finance prepares you for many different careers. Some of the most exciting include:
- Stock market analyst
- Global economist
- Financial officer
- Market trader
- Risk manager
- Corporate financial advisor
- Investment banker
- Hedge fund manager
… and more. Keep in mind that as you learn more in the course of your program, it’s perfectly reasonable to modify your career plans along the way.
Job Hunting and Networking
It’s not always enough just to get a degree. If you want to earn the highest starting salary or have the most fulfilling job, there are a few things you can do to stack the odds in your favor.
- Update your LinkedIn profile with a professional picture and a comprehensive summary, and fill in all of the work experience and school fields to the best of your abilities. This is where prospective employers and recruiters will look to determine whether you’re a good fit for a job, so don’t skimp on keywords either.
- Talk to professors, mentors and other professionals in your field. Find out the best things you can do to prepare yourself for a job. Volunteer at organizations like the ones you wish to work for upon graduating to fill out your resume, if necessary, and ask respectfully for introductions to important people.
- Go to professional events, such as those hosted by the Association for Financial Professionals. Not only will you meet important people in your field, you may run across people looking for new hires.
Now that you’re ready to meet and greet, it’s time for the interview. Making a good impression while talking to prospective employers is the best way to get the job and salary you want.
There are several tips that can make your interview more productive. First of all, you should always show up a few minutes early, with any requested documents neatly contained in a clean file folder. Shake hands, maintain eye contact and answer all questions to the best of your ability.
When it comes time to ask your own questions, don’t shy away. This is a good opportunity to not only learn more about the company you might work for, but to show you’ve done your homework and are serious about the position. A few questions worth asking might include:
- How long do people typically stay at this job?
- What are the most common duties and difficulties?
- What are the prospects for growth in this position?
- What kinds of perks do you offer?
- Is there anything else I can do to make myself a better fit for this position?
Following the above steps doesn’t guarantee you anything, of course, but if you are intentional in how you approach schooling and the subsequent job search, chances are good your MBA in Finance will change your career – and your life – for the better.