Financial Services Degrees: Master's, PhD & Online Course Info

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Master's and PhD degrees in financial services can lead to careers in private business or academia. Get the truth about the requirements, courses and online options, and find out what you can do with your degree.
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Study Financial Services: Degrees at a Glance

A graduate degree in financial services or a related area may prepare you for several careers. It is important to remember that many careers require just a bachelor's degree, so a graduate degree may not be necessary. A master's degree may be ideal if you have experience and are seeking a management position. A PhD program will help you become a teacher and researcher at the university level.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), some professions in the financial services area have faster-than-average employment projections. The BLS indicated that employment opportunities for financial analysts were expected to increase 23% from 2010-2020. Over the same time period, the BLS predicted that personal financial advisers would see employment grow 32%. The aging U.S. population and the need for these individuals to make retirement plans will be a factor contributing to growth. The projections aren't as good for postsecondary teachers. The BLS predicted that employment for these professionals would increase 17% from 2010-2020.

Master's PhD
Who is this degree for? Individuals seeking entry-level or management opportunities Individuals who want to teach or research at the university-level
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary) - Financial analyst ($76,000)*
- Budget analyst ($69,000)*
- Personal financial advisor ($67,000)*
- Financial manager** ($107,000)*
(In addition to jobs available to individuals with a master's degree)
- Postsecondary business school teacher ($75,000)*
Time to Completion Two years full-time 3-5 years full-time beyond master's
Common Graduation Requirements - 30 credits - Qualifying exams
- Advanced coursework
- Doctoral thesis and defense
Prerequisites - Bachelor's degree
- GRE or GMAT scores
-Bachelor's or master's degree
- GRE or GMAT scores
Online Availability Yes Yes

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures). Note: **Position typically requires experience in addition to a degree.

Master's Degree Programs

Master's programs teach you concepts in different financial areas, such as investments, cash management and accounting. Some relevant degrees may be offered as financial management programs. Regardless of the degree title, you can expect to take some courses in management. You may consider programs that are accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Programs specific to financial services are offered
  • Online programs specific to financial services are available
  • May prepare you for professional certifications
  • Evening and weekend courses are available

Cons

  • May not be necessary for positions that typically require a bachelor's degree
  • May not replace experience when seeking a management position
  • Not sufficient for teaching at the university level

Coursework and Requirements

These 2-year courses typically require around 30 credits for completion. You learn about topics related to finance in the U.S. and abroad. Typically, these programs are offered as coursework-only and do not require a thesis or capstone project. Some of the courses you may take include:

  • Portfolio management
  • Financial institutions and capital markets
  • Financial management
  • Managerial economics

Online Programs

Online programs specific to financial services are available. These programs offer coursework that is similar to traditional programs and are usually offered as coursework-only. You may want to check to ensure that a program is accredited by the AACSB or another recognized organization.

How to Get Ahead with This Degree

You may consider becoming professionally certified. The exact certification you may seek depends on your career. As a personal financial advisor, you may consider earning the Certified Financial Planner credential. If you are a financial analyst, you may earn the Chartered Financial Analyst credential. The BLS indicates that both of these certifications require you to have a bachelor's degree, several years of experience and to pass one or more exams. You may want to develop your skills in software programs such as PowerPoint and Excel, as employers may prefer individuals with these skills.

PhD Programs

While PhD programs specific to financial services are rare, programs in general finance are offered. Although these programs cover broad financial areas, you may pursue advanced research specific to financial services through your research. You may be required to select a major and a minor in specific areas, such as corporate finance and econometrics. Through these programs, you may have opportunities to attend seminars or gain teaching experience.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Prepares you for university professor positions
  • Offers advanced financial research opportunities
  • Programs are flexible and allow you to pursue areas of interest

Cons

  • May not be advantageous for a career in the business world
  • More research-based than practical
  • Programs specific to financial services are rare

Coursework and Requirements

The capstone requirement for a PhD program is the completion and defense of a doctoral thesis, a significant work of original research. Some programs may require seminars or student teaching. In addition to your financial coursework, you also take courses in research and methodology. Some of the courses in a PhD program may include:

  • Introduction to probability
  • Optimization models in finance
  • Microeconomic analysis
  • Corporate finance theory
  • Econometric methods

Online Programs

Online programs related to financial services are available; some programs offer a financial concentration within a management PhD program. Some online programs offer course-based or self-directed formats. Similar to traditional programs, you will pursue original research. You should inspect a potential online program to ensure that it is properly accredited.

How to Get Ahead with This Degree

PhD programs may require that you adequately understand a computer programming language such as C, FORTRAN or MATLAB. While in school, you may consider developing your skills in these areas, because this may help when working with statistics. To increase your marketability to employers, you may want to pursue research that can be applied to many areas of finance, such as corporate governance or financial economics.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • PhD in Business Admin - Financial Management
      • Doctor of Business Admin - Financial Management
      • Doctor of Business Admin - General Business
      • Doctor of Business Admin - Advanced Accounting
      • Doctor of Business Admin - Management
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • DBA - Management
  • Online Programs Available
    3. University of the Rockies

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Ph.D. in Organizational Development & Leadership - Risk Management
  • Arlington, TX

    The University of Texas at Arlington

  • Champaign, IL

    University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

  • San Antonio, TX

    The University of Texas at San Antonio

  • Austin, TX

    The University of Texas at Austin

  • Online Programs Available
    8. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Management (DM) - General Concentration (Executive Format)

Featured Schools

Northcentral University

  • PhD in Business Admin - Financial Management
  • Doctor of Business Admin - Financial Management
  • Doctor of Business Admin - General Business

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Grand Canyon University

  • DBA - Management

What is your highest level of education?

University of the Rockies

  • Ph.D. in Organizational Development & Leadership - Risk Management

What is your highest level of education?

The University of Texas at Arlington

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

The University of Texas at San Antonio

The University of Texas at Austin

Colorado Technical University

  • Doctor of Management (DM) - General Concentration (Executive Format)

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