Skip to Main Content Skip to bottom Skip to Chat, Email, Text

Master's in finance vs. MBA: Which should I get?

A finance professional exits a conference room carrying a binder full of documents.

At a glance

  • While both degrees cover the essentials of modern business, a master’s degree in finance and an MBA have differences that may make one more or less suitable for your career goals.
  • A master’s degree in finance generally takes about 12 months to complete and covers topics like corporate finance, accounting, financial reporting, econometrics, and asset pricing.
  • An MBA generally takes longer than a master’s degree in finance. The curriculum often covers many of the skills necessary to successfully manage a company.
  • If you’re ready to pursue one of these degree programs, University of Phoenix offers a MBA and competency-based MBA as well as a Graduate Finance Certificate

If you’re considering a career in business, finance, or management, you’re likely considering either a master’s in finance or an MBA. Both degrees allow you to further your knowledge of financial management, accounting, and basic business practices.

Although a master’s in finance and an MBA are similar, each degree is different from the other in several important ways. It’s important to understand the key differences so that you can pursue the best degree for your future career.


What's a master's in finance?

A master’s degree in finance is an important step for many students looking to further their education in financial management. If you’re looking to pursue fiscal studies, budget creation, financial theory or other related fields, a master’s in finance can help you grow as a professional.

Pursuing this degree, you’ll likely expand your skill set in fields like corporate finance, financial reporting, econometrics, and asset pricing when you earn a master’s in finance. A number of finance-specific fields may require a master’s in finance. For example, you might need a master’s in finance if you want to begin a career in risk management. Similarly, a master’s program can prepare a person for careers in stock brokerage, investment, budget analysis and accounting.

Obtaining a master’s in finance can also help prepare graduates for a variety of international career options, including global finance and international capital management. These career choices require an in-depth knowledge of global financial compliance, which you can learn when you obtain a master’s in finance.

Obtaining a master's degree in finance

Completing a master’s degree in finance is the first step on your journey toward a fulfilling career in finance.

The right finance classes can help you make short work of your master’s degree in finance. The curriculum includes investment, financial management, financial planning basics and other valuable fundamentals. Many financial courses last only five to six weeks, allowing you to quickly progress through education tiers and complete a master’s degree.

In about eight months, you can also obtain a Graduate Finance Certificate, one that further qualifies you for financial work. Many certificates teach financial problem-solving skills, helping you mitigate many of the financial risks you’re likely to face in a professional finance setting.

Wondering what business degrees are offered at University of Phoenix? Find more info here!


What is an MBA?

Many students pursue an MBA — a Master of Business Administration — as an important step toward earning a business role. This type of graduate degree helps students further their knowledge of business administration, including many of the skills necessary to successfully manage a company.

MBA coursework teaches advanced business concepts, including several financial concepts also taught for a master’s degree in finance. An MBA helps students adopt several useful business skills, including business management, marketing, team leadership, networking and finance.

Your MBA is useful in a variety of occupations. For example, advertising managers depend on practical marketing skills to reach and persuade new customers. Similarly, accounting managers and chief financial officers depend on financial and entrepreneurship knowledge obtained in MBA classes.

Students interested in any business or financial leadership role will benefit from the expertise that an MBA offers.

Obtaining a Master of Business Administration

If you’re looking to take your place in the competitive world of business, you’ll likely want an MBA degree. You can obtain your MBA degree by completing all required MBA coursework, in as little as 16 months.

Each MBA class helps you further your practical business knowledge, preparing you for a professional business role. In addition to the practical business skills an MBA teaches, you’ll hone your abilities in leadership, business operations and decision-making.

Before beginning your MBA, you’ll want to find one that is accredited. Most schools offering MBA programs look for candidates with a strong mix of academic and non-academic qualifications. You can typically improve your chance for acceptance into an MBA program if you have a high undergraduate GPA, a good work experience portfolio and a positive entrance interview.

What's the difference between an MBA and a master's in finance?

Both a master’s degree in finance and an MBA can help you enhance your career. However, each degree is different from the other in several important ways. Depending on your interests, either an MBA or a master’s degree in finance might be better in helping you become a productive business professional.

Obtaining an MBA sometimes takes longer than a master’s degree in finance. You can typically complete a master’s degree in finance in a year, compared with the 16 months it takes to fulfill an MBA program.

A master’s in finance also might be preferable over an MBA for professionals with less business experience or who aren’t seeking to manage business operations or specialize in other areas, such as human resources or marketing. Often, MBA programs are desirable for students with a demonstrated history of business experience.

Your preferred industry is likely the most important factor in determining the better degree for you. For example, an MBA is likely better for you if you want to create and run your own business. By contrast, you might opt for a master’s degree in finance if you want to pursue a specialized financial position like that of an accountant or a financial advisor.

Benefits of earning a graduate degree

Completing an MBA program or master’s degree in finance can take time, effort and money. However, a master’s degree may also provide you with a variety of advantages.

No matter the degree type you prefer, there are benefits to earning a master’s degree of any kind (outcomes are not specific to graduates of University of Phoenix). These benefits may include:

  • Fast track for a future doctorate
  • Frequent networking
  • International study or work opportunities
  • Personal development
  • Potential to change or deepen your career

These and other benefits make a master’s degree well worth the investment.

Choosing the right degree for you

Depending on your career needs and preferences, there’s likely one master’s degree that’s best for you. If you’re looking for a faster degree, a master’s in finance, as we’ve noted, can be completed in as little as one year. Comparatively, an MBA often takes 16 months.

If you’re primarily concerned with flexibility, an MBA is likely your preferred option. While a master’s of finance suits positions like financial analysis and auditing, you can apply an MBA to a much wider career field — including finance, business, medical management, research and entrepreneurship.

Whether you’re interested in enhancing your career or improving your knowledge in specific fields, there are many reasons to consider a graduate degree. The right degree can help you enhance your professional career in serious ways. Even if you’re an established leader in your field or at your company, a graduate degree may help you pursue future job opportunities.

Want to learn more about pursuing your MBA, and preparing yourself for a modern business landscape? Read more here!


The Job Search: Understanding Reactive vs. Proactive Approaches

Career Support

April 01, 2024 • 6 minutes

5 Tough Interview Questions and How to Handle Them

Career Support

March 11, 2024 • 11 minutes

What Can You Do With a Healthcare Management Degree?

Online Degrees

November 28, 2023 • 9 minutes