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Which Master of Finance Program is Right for Me?

Nov 16, 2021
Vanderbilt MS Finance Admissions Director Maura Clark breaks down different formats of programs

By Mackenzie Burckbuchler

If you have a passion for finance and want to accelerate your career, you might be considering a Master of Finance, or Master of Science in Finance (MSF), degree. MS Finance programs come in all shapes and sizes, which can make it challenging to compare programs and narrow down your search. What types of programs are available, and how can you find the one that matches your needs? We spoke with Maura Clark, Director of Admissions for the Vanderbilt MS Finance program, to find out about the various finance master’s program offerings and the advantages they provide.

Instruction Formats

Master of Finance programs can be offered fully online, fully in-person, or in some type of hybrid format. Online programs may offer greater schedule flexibility, allowing students to consider working full-time as they earn their degree. As students learn the material, they are often able to apply it directly to their current job. If you already have a career in finance that you enjoy and are seeking to gain more technical knowledge, an online degree could be right for you.

Maura Clark, Director of Admissions of MSF Program

Maura Clark, Director of Admissions of MSF Program

An in-person format offers the advantage of collaboration in the classroom. Students often become fully immersed in campus life and services associated with on-campus programs. For example, Vanderbilt offers a fully in-person program, which gives students access to career services, recruiting events, and student organizations. “If you are pursuing an MSF to launch or accelerate your career in finance, the career management support at an in-person program may really benefit you,” says Clark.

Hybrid programs offer a mix of in-person and online benefits. When considering what format is best for you, ask yourself what you are looking for in a program. Talk to admissions staff about your goals – this will help you determine what format and institution is the right place for you.

Lockstep vs. Flexible Curriculum

Some programs have a lockstep curriculum, meaning all students take the same required classes without much variability. Lockstep curriculums can expose Master of Finance students to a variety of  core finance courses. Other programs are designed to be more flexible – candidates will take the same required courses but can also sample from MBA finance and business electives as they progress. With the Vanderbilt MS Finance program, “you have opportunities to personalize the degree and really tailor it to what you want to do,” says Clark. “For example, if you are pursuing investment banking, consulting, or corporate finance, there are certain electives that will best prepare you for your career. Our faculty director will help you identify the courses that are best for you.” Ultimately, it is important to look at the school’s curriculum and course offerings so you can identify which programs align best with your needs and interests.

Pre-Experience vs. Post-Experience 

Some Master of Finance programs require students to have experience before entry, while “pre-experience” programs do not. As Clark explains, “The Vanderbilt MSF program is designed for students who want to launch their career in a competitive area of finance.” This type of program allows students to explore career opportunities in the field and exposes them to financial concepts in a graduate-level setting. A pre-experience degree can benefit students who did not major in finance in their undergraduate program. Students that excel in Master of Finance programs have an interest and familiarity with the finance field and have strong quantitative abilities. An MS Finance is a technical degree that gives students the skills needed to be competitive in the industry and stand out to employers.

As you look for the right program for you, researching different program types and making a list of pros and cons can aid your decision process. To learn more about the Vanderbilt MS Finance program and the admissions process, click here.

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