International Finance Degrees: Master's, PhD & Online Course Info

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What will you learn in an international finance degree program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of a master's degree and PhD and potential careers.
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International Finance Master's and PhDs: Degrees at a Glance

A graduate degree in international finance can prepare you for an upper-level career in the finance sector. Career opportunities are available as a financial analyst or manager with a private company or government agency. In the increasingly global economy, organizations need people who are trained in this specialty and who have a firm grasp of trade policy, banking and capital markets on a worldwide scale.

Employment prospects in the finance industry vary greatly by career path; financial management jobs were projected to grow by only nine percent from 2010-2020, while financial analyst jobs were estimated to grow at a faster than average rate of 23%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Fortunately, global economic expansion is a major factor of job growth in both of these fields, spurring demand for managers and analysts in the United States, which is a hub for international finance.

Master's PhD
Who is This Degree For? Individuals interested in entering financial management or analyst careers Experienced finance professionals seeking career advancement or careers on postsecondary teaching/research
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - Financial manager ($120,000)*
- Financial Analyst ($88,000)*
Career paths for the PhD are similar to those of the master's degree
- Postsecondary business teacher ($87,000)*
Time to Completion 1-2 years full-time 3-5 years full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Proven proficiency in a foreign language
- Global experience requirement
- Research paper
- Teaching practicum
- Dissertation proposal and defense
- Passage of a comprehensive or field examination
Prerequisites Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree
Online Availability No No

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures)

Master's Degree in International Finance

When searching for a master's degree program in international finance, you'll find that many schools combine this major with economics. These two subjects go hand-in-hand in the study of the worldwide financial system. This master's degree program will teach you how to analyze public policy, manage investment portfolios and oversee the financial status of an organization. You'll also learn about the socio-political aspects of the global economy and the role of culture in financial agreements. In addition to a master's degree, employers may also want candidates who have experience in the field.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Can lead to a high-paying career in finance
  • Typically does not require completion of a thesis or research project
  • Can be completed in as little as a year
  • Opportunity to study abroad

Cons

  • Financial management and analyst careers require several years of experience in finance in addition to education
  • Some employers prefer to hire Master of Business Administration (MBA) graduates
  • Master's degree program requires you to learn or prove fluency in a second language

Courses and Requirements

In an international finance program, you'll take courses in global portfolio management, equities, exchanges, ethics, international marketing and derivatives. Some programs allow you to further specialize your studies in a concentration of your choosing, such as economic policy development or the Chinese economy. While a master's degree in this major often does not require completion of a thesis project, you will be required to fulfill an international experience requirement, in which you gain first-hand industry experience in a foreign country, as well as a foreign-language proficiency requirement.

Online Degree Options

Due to the intensive study required, master's degree programs with a major in international finance are not available in the distance-learning format. However, some online schools offer MBA programs in finance that cover topics involving international finance. These programs tend to exclude the international experience opportunities and foreign language requirements found in on-campus programs.

How to Stand Out

Technology plays a major role in finance, so it's important to be familiar with industry-standard technologies. You may benefit from taking courses in accounting technology to gain proficiency in financial software.

Certification is another way to stand out in this field. The CFA Institute offers the Chartered Financial Analyst credential to finance professionals who already hold bachelor's degrees and have four years of experience in finance. If you already have sufficient experience, you can obtain this credential while enrolled in a master's degree program by passing three certification exams.

PhD in International Finance

PhD programs in international finance are offered through university business schools. You may find them in the form of a PhD in Finance or Business Administration with the option to specialize in international finance. Your curriculum in one of these programs will be research intensive. While earning a doctorate in international finance can lead to upper-level positions, these programs are generally not focused on preparing you for practical application in the industry. Rather, these programs are geared toward careers in education, research and analysis.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Can qualify you for teaching and research positions in postsecondary institutions
  • Offers opportunity to gain hands-on teaching experience as a teaching assistant
  • Allows for close collaboration with teachers and researchers in the field

Cons

  • Requires intensive research and completion of research and dissertation projects
  • Admissions can be selective and competitive (schools often accept as few as 20 students per year)
  • Curriculum often does not focus on practical applications in international finance

Courses and Requirements

In this PhD program, you'll study advanced topics relevant to global business and economics. Courses often include financial markets, corporate finance, macroeconomics and empirical finance. You'll also attend seminars in topics like economic theory application and investments. In addition to working closely alongside faculty in research endeavors, you'll likely be required to complete a teaching practicum. To graduate from the program, you will need to demonstrate your research and analysis skills by completing and defending a dissertation involving international finance.

Online Degree Options

Like master's degree programs in this major, PhD programs in international finance are generally not available online. An alternative option is to select an online program in general finance, which may allow you to gear your studies toward global perspectives by taking electives in international finance. Be sure to limit your search for an online program to schools that are nationally accredited in order to avoid diploma mills.

How to Stand Out

If you're considering a career in teaching, it's important to recognize the prevalence of technology in the profession. The modern learning process involves the usage of word processors, spreadsheets and databases, and you may even be responsible for teaching students how to use such programs. As such, you may benefit from becoming familiar with teaching technology before entering the profession. You may also need to know how to use academic programs like Blackboard and WebCT.

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