Why Pursue a Master’s Degree in Finance?

Deepen your financial knowledge and gain new skills to launch a rewarding and lucrative career
why get a master's in finance

A Master’s in Finance helps you build and deepen your foundation of financial knowledge, giving you the skill set you need to help organizations with financial modeling and forecasting, investment analysis, programming, and communicating complex financial information. If you already have a bachelor’s degree and strong quantitative skills, earning an MSF can jumpstart your career or allow you to break into the field of finance. 

An MSF can really pay off, too. The job outlook and salary data for financial managers is bright – the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates demand will increase 16% through 2028--much faster than average. Several core functions of financial managers, including risk management and cash management, are expected to be in high demand over the next decade. Furthermore, financial managers made an average salary of $127,990 in 2018. 

Beginning in the Summer of 2020, the MSF at the University of New Hampshire’s Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics will not only cover traditional finance topics, but it will give students the opportunity to specialize in one of three tracks that address today’s hottest finance topics: investments, financial analytics and “fintech,” as well as a design-your-own option. In the self-designed option, students can choose to focus on topics such as information technology, entrepreneurship, or personal finance.  

Earn a specialized degree that gives you a strong quantitative background 

While the MBA is a general degree that prepares you for a broad scope of business activities, the MSF hones in on finance, with core classes focused on financial theory, corporate finance, investing, and financial modeling and analytics. 

“It’s very quantitative and heavy on calculations and numbers,” said Yixin Liu, associate professor and director of the MSF Program. “Students are exposed to both theoretical and empirical training. They also get to use everything they have learned to analyze real cases.”  

The program will be offered in three formats: a full-time program in Durham that can be completed in one year; a part-time program in Durham that can be completed in two years, or a full-time program in Durham that can be completed in 18 months, with an extra spring semester devoted to completing prerequisites. No matter what format you choose, you can specialize in one of three tracks such investments, financial analytics and fintech (big data), or design your own path.  

“If their work is already related to finance, the degree can definitely strengthen their ability to deal with more complex financial issues,” Liu said. “If their work is not related to finance, it can help them change career paths or make them better investors who can increase their own returns.”  

The tracks allow students to dive deeper into areas of finance they are most interested in—particularly giving them a leg up on the latest technologies used in finance to manage big data, for example. 

“The computer programming application (Python) we teach reflects the need of the market,” Liu said. Python is mainly used for quantitative and qualitative analysis in today’s financial industry. Stock market analysis, predictions, deep learning and machine learning on stocks are mainly done using Python. 

UNH undergraduate students in non-finance majors can also take advantage of the program’s 4+1 option, in which they can complete MSF prerequisites during their senior year to satisfy requirements for their graduate degree. In January 2020, students interested in the MSF can begin fulfilling prerequisite courses.  

“Even if your undergrad is not in finance, the MSF will allow you to quickly catch up and move forward,” Liu said.   

What kinds of jobs can you get with an MSF? 

Some hot jobs MSF graduates can expect to be prepared for after graduation include roles such as financial analyst, investment banker, personal financial advisor, or wealth manager, according to the balance careers

  • Financial analysts provide guidance to businesses and individuals making investment decisions. Financial analysts earned a median annual salary of $85,660 in 2018, according to the BLS. Employers often recommend certification, which can improve the chances for advancement. An example is the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) certification from the CFA Institute, which an MSF prepares you to pass. Financial analysts can become CFA certified if they have a bachelor’s degree, four years of qualified work experience, and pass three exams. Employment of financial analysts is projected to grow 6% through 2028.  

  • Personal financial advisors provide advice to help individuals manage their finances and plan for their financial future. They typically work in the finance and insurance industry or are self-employed. A master’s degree in an area such as finance or business administration can improve a personal financial advisor’s chances of moving into a management position and attracting new clients. The median salary for personal financial advisors was $88,890 in 2018, according to the BLS. Employment of personal financial advisors is projected to grow 7% through 2028, faster than the average for all occupations. 

  • Securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents connect buyers and sellers in financial markets. Brokers sell securities and commodities directly to individuals. They advise people on appropriate investments based on the client’s needs and financial ability. Investment bankers connect businesses that need money to finance their operations or development plans with investors who are interested in providing that funding. This process is called underwriting, and it is the main function of investment banks. The median annual salary for securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents was $64,120 in 2018, according to the BLS

Paul College’s Career and Professional Success office will particularly help MSF students get ready for the job market through its financial experience course, Liu said. The course has two distinct features. First, it gives MSF students the opportunity to participate in real-dollar investing with the Atkins Investment Group, a student-managed investment fund. Second, it integrates with career service/development, allowing students to polish resumes and practice interviews. 

“By the time our students graduate, they will be ready. We want to give them as much support as we can while they are still on campus and highlight our career service placement services from day one,” Liu said.  

Why pursue an MSF at UNH? 

Paul College is the only business school in New Hampshire that is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), which means it has earned a distinction given to less than 5% of the world’s business schools.  

Whether you live abroad, in New Hampshire, or elsewhere, UNH MSF students can choose from several options when it comes to earning their degree.  

  • Full-time students can complete their MSF in as little as a year and study together as a cohort throughout their program on the Durham campus. All full-time and 18-month students are required to complete eight required courses and three track elective courses, totaling 33 credits. 

  • Students who prefer to take classes full-time can add a spring semester to complete pre-requisite courses, extending their program to 18 months. This option could be particularly appealing to international students who want more time to catch up on their English language skills. 

  • Part-time students can choose to take evening classes in Durham, some of which are hybrid classes. Geared toward working professionals or career changers, part-time students take six required courses and four track electives, totaling 30 credits. 

What does UNH’s MSF offer international students? 

The Paul College MSF program is S.T.E.M. designated, which means international students who graduate can apply for a 24-month OPT STEM Extension to their 12-month Optional Practical Training Program period, which allows them to work in the United States for up to 36 months after graduation with no additional visa requirement.  

International students can feel comfortable knowing they will receive support when they enroll at UNH, Liu said.  

“Before students start the program, we will organize orientation activities to familiarize them with university facilities, program structure, and culture,” she said. “We also plan to host monthly gatherings for faculty and students to meet casually outside the classroom.”   

In addition, the university, through its Office of International Students and Scholars, provides immigration advising and support and coordinates programs to bring UNH’s international, campus, and local communities together.  

Learn from professors who have studied real-world finance cases 

Associate Professor of Finance Yixin Liu teaches undergraduate finance students and corporate financial strategy to MBA students at the Durham, New Hampshire campus. Originally from China, Liu earned her undergraduate degree in economics from Nankai University in Tianjin. She continued to pursue economics at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, where she earned her master’s degree, before earning a Ph.D. in finance at the University of Iowa.  

One of Liu’s areas of research focuses on mergers and acquisitions and the payment methods involved in an acquisition – which could be cash, stock, or a mixed payment of both. Recent studies have shown that markets react negatively to mergers and acquisitions announcements when the acquiring firm carries large amounts of cash. The original thought was that cash induces more value-destroying acquisitions and a negative market reaction.  

“My research overturns this general perception,” said Liu, the prize-winning co-author of “Corporate Cash Holdings and Acquisitions.” Liu’s study, published in the journal Financial Management in 2018, won the 2015 Annual Conference on Global Economics, Business and Finance Best Paper award.  

She also completed a study that showed that shareholders are increasingly holding the cards when it comes to the type of payments that are used in mergers and acquisitions.  

“The unique feature is that in some of these mixed-payment deals, the target shareholders actually got to choose to receive cash or stock, allowing us to see the preferences of target shareholders rather than those of acquiring firms.” Liu said.   

Professor Liu’s main teaching areas at UNH have focused on corporate financial policy. At Paul College, ranked #51 by U.S. and World Report, students learn from research faculty like Liu, who bring both international perspective and the latest financial knowledge and new technologies to their instruction. Aside from being AACSB accredited, UNH itself last year was designated R1, a category that the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education uses to indicate universities in the United States that engage in the highest levels of research activity.