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Graduate Programs in Finance: Degree and Certificate Overviews

Finance professionals can achieve career advancement by completing a graduate finance degree program. Students in a graduate finance program learn about financial instruments, investments, long term financial planning, economics and accounting.

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Essential Information

Students in a finance master's program learn about corporate organization, financial instruments, accounting or financial planning. They are required to have a bachelor's degree and work experience in accounting, finance or a related field prior to enrollment in these programs. Graduate certificate programs in finance are open to students with a master's degree, and students usually enroll in these programs to further their careers as CEOs, accountants and investors.

Typical enrollment prerequisites for a doctoral program include a master's degree; however, some programs admit students with an undergraduate degree. Doctoral concentrations are available in human resource management, accounting, management and long-term financial planning. Before graduating from a doctoral program, students must complete a dissertation.


Master of Science in Finance

Once accepted into a finance master's program, students learn about financial statements, investing, mathematical analysis and valuation techniques. Some graduate programs only accept students with work experience in accounting, finance or a related field.

Programs focused on investment may also introduce students to software used to trade stocks. In these programs, students participate in group assignments to track the performance of major companies in real time. Many programs are broken down into components that deal with economics and investment activities. Economics courses cover qualitative analysis, calculus, monetary theory and financial policy. Graduate students also take investment courses in:

  • Portfolio analysis
  • Asset pricing
  • Capital investment strategy
  • Equity markets

Graduate Certificate in Finance

Coursework in a certificate program provides advanced training in financial accounting, asset valuation and market forecasting. While the focus of these programs is analytical, students also taught ethical practices in the financial industry. Before earning a certificate, students learn how to allocate capital and assess the risks or returns on investment for a wide variety of investment positions. In support of this knowledge, certificate courses include corporate finance, capital management and statistical modeling. Other courses:

  • Financial analysis
  • Financial reporting
  • Long-term investment
  • Corporate governance
  • Finance and investment vehicles
  • Derivatives and securities

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Banking Related Services
  • Credit Management
  • Financial Mgmt Services
  • Financial Planning Services
  • International Finance
  • Investments and Securities
  • Public Finance Mgmt

Doctor of Philosophy in Finance

Students who complete doctoral study enter the workforce with advanced financial planning, teaching and research skills. Graduates are instructed on how to anticipate future market conditions based on consumer behavior, macroeconomic conditions and microeconomic trends. Doctorate programs in finance offer advanced courses in microeconomics, econometrics and statistical modeling. Information from these courses is usually applied when students work on a thesis, which may attempt to explore a specific type of market condition and explain how it occurred. Courses include:

  • Dynamic asset valuation
  • Accounting
  • Risk evaluation and modeling
  • Financial theory

Popular Career Options

Students who earn a graduate degree in finance seek employment as college instructors, financial advisors, business managers, chief executive officers or managerial accountants. Students usually earn a graduate certificate to enhance their employment prospects within their current field; however, students can also earn a certificate to pursue positions focused on management or financial analysis. Some business managers enroll in a certificate program so they can gain a better understanding of market trends and conditions. The following are potential career titles:

  • Financial analysts
  • College professors
  • Securities traders
  • Economists
  • Accountants
  • Chief financial officers

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) noted that demand for financial analysts would grow by 12% between 2014 and 2024 due to investment portfolios becoming more complicated. Financial analysts made a median annual income of $80,310 in May 2015. According to the BLS, demand for economists is expected to increase by 6% between 2014 and 2024, and economists earned a median annual salary of $99,180 in May 2015. In addition, the BLS predicted that demand for all college instructors should increase by 13% between 2014 and 2024. Postsecondary economics teachers earned a median annual wage of $94,000, as reported by the BLS in May 2015.

Finance or business professionals looking to advance their career can pursue a Master of Science in Finance, a Graduate Certificate in Finance or a Doctor of Philosophy in Finance. All of these programs focus on advanced finance topics and may include group projects or research requirements. Doctoral programs are typically designed for students interested in college teaching careers or high-level research roles.

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