MBA vs. Masters in Finance

Wmgwebb12's picture
Wmgwebb12 - Certified Professional
Rank: Monkey | banana points 37

Earlier today I posted a discussion on if a business/finance certificate held any kind of weight. This lead me to look deeper into other options, such as a Masters in Finance route vs. the MBA route.

How much weight does a Masters in Finance have in the PE/Hedge Fund world as opposed to an MBA? I think it is safe to say that MBA is better, but how does a Masters in Finance compare? Do employers pass over Masters in Finance resumes compared to MBA resumes (I know, loaded statement considering past work experience, undergrad etc. but just in general)?

Thanks in advance!

MBA vs MSF?

Deciding which graduate degree to pursue largely depends on your career goals. In general, WSO community members advise getting an MBA from a top tier school given that it may open up more doors after graduation. Here are other community posts to check out on the debate between MBA vs Masters degree in Finance.

Why Get an MBA?

Why Get an MSF?

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Comments (26)

Apr 24, 2014

Better is relative and subjective. Most people who get an MSF are junior individuals with little to no experience. The schools that offer the degree tend to not be at the same "prestige" level as MBA programs. This is all rapidly changing.

If you have 3 years or more experience do an MBA. If you are a career changer, do an MBA. If you have little to no experience and want to work in the finance industry, the MSF degree might be for you.

In my experience, the MSF is valued by employers. It is a graduate degree and no joke. What you get from it largely depends on what you put into it.

Apr 24, 2014

It's honestly almost two different directions. Master in Finance has a lot of different meanings too. I'm going to generalize a lot here, but MSF typically means a more advanced extension of an undergraduate finance degree. MFE often means a very quantitative degree with little corporate finance. MFin means something in between. And MSc. Fin means a UK degree.

Chances are, you are thinking about one of these kinds of programs, but the comparison for each of them vs an MBA looks different. For an MFE, it's whether or not you want to be a quant. For an MFin like MIT or Princeton, it's whether or not you want to bet your career on finance. For an MSF like Vanderbilt, it's how much finance industry experience you have.

Can you cite some specific programs you're looking at, tell us a little about your background, and maybe give us a very rough sense of what you're looking for in terms of jobs? (It doesn't have to be exact- just whether you'd prefer a lot of number crunching or a lot of excel spreadsheets and presentations) I think that would give ANT and I a better idea of what you're going for.

Apr 23, 2014

@"TNA" and @"IlliniProgrammer", truly appreciate your feedback.

I am currently weighing between getting an MSF from a school like Georgetown vs. applying to a wide range of schools (Long shots: a few Ivys, Upper Range: Georgetown, Texas, Mid-Range: SMU, UNC, Rice, "Lower": Texas A&M) to pursue an MBA.

I do not have a finance undergrad degree, but interned every summer with a PE group throughout college, was offered the full-time analyst position, was there full-time from 2011-2013. Then I moved to another PE firm early 2013 as the Senior Analyst and am now going on my 4th year. I am thankful for the experience and knowledge I've gained over the past several years and want to progress my career in PE and ideally remain buy-side. As I put my feelers out for opportunities at other funds (in case current firm does not successfully raise it's next fund), I have felt the need to add a booster to the resume to help lift me to another class of candidates for Associate positions. I would like to continue working and go the working professional degree route, whichever route I take, if any. I am trying to nail down what would give me that lift - is it more the brand equity of the school I attend regardless of if it is a MSF or MBA (i.e. Georgetown MSF vs. A&M MBA), or is it more important to get the MBA as long as it isn't from El Centro Tech A&M of Cincinnati. I realize how loaded and subjective this is, but am determined to be efficient and do it right. Just reaching out to look for some perspectives.

Again, really appreciate the insight!

Apr 24, 2014

What is your math background? What was your undergrad major? What score can you get on the GMAT?

I think Princeton might find your PE background really intriguing if you also have the required math courses and can pull a 750-760 on the GMAT. If you're coming from a boutique it's a bit of a tossup on admissions, but you would stand at least a better than average chance. Make sure you also come in with some really interesting hobbies.

PE is a prestige business. I did my undergrad at a state school; I think UIUC is a great school if you want to do trading or work at a hedge fund. I'm not sure it's the best choice for those doing PE.

Apr 23, 2014

@"IlliniProgrammer", I just sent you a PM. Really appreciate your input!

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Apr 24, 2014

I am so confused. You worked in PE for 3-4 years and are looking at way low tier MBA programs? What are your stats?

Something is off. Regardless, an MSF is not what you want right now. Focus on MBA programs.

Apr 23, 2014

@"TNA" just sent you a PM as well.

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Apr 24, 2014

I completely agree with what ANT said on the MBA programs.

I'm struggling to understand "Why MSF" here as well. Even with our PMs.

OP would be one of the oldest people in his program. It's possible he may also be the most accomplished. Princeton is an older program that would fit OP's age, but with his PE background, he might still be one of the most accomplished people in the program from a buyside perspective, assuming he got in. (I am not going to share the other academic issues we discussed in private).

I think OP's choices are MBA or stay in PE.

I think Tuck and Columbia are clearly targets if OP can swing a 700-720 on the GMAT.

I am less sure about the higher ranked schools. In the worst case, I suspect that Booth and Kellogg will take a serious look at anyone who has a GMAT that raises their average, outstanding recs, an upward career trajectory, and a pulse. Booth would probably even take a waiter from an Applebee's in Tampa, FL who met those requirements. It's simply how Chicago and the Midwest operate in general, and it's part of what I love about the city.

I think an MBA is the best route forward here and what OP should be focusing on. OP doesn't have to apply in Fall 2014, but maybe 2015.

What OP needs to be doing today is:

(1) Find (or build on) an interesting hobby. Honestly, I think few things beat Volunteer Firefighting if that's available to OP. It's a classic Rockwellian role that you don't see a lot of PE managers doing. Most people don't do it, it involves some risk, and it helps the community. Unlike Hang Gliding, OP can go home at the end of the day and say that he helped save lives. He may also be one of the very few privileged people who gets to legally drive a 10 ton truck (or any vehicle for that matter) down the road at 80 mph.
(2) Begin studying for the GMAT. Take a Kaplan course. Veritas Prep, a WSO sponsor, also gets really good reviews here. Your goal is a 760. If you can make it into PE, you can aim for 760.
(3) Begin thinking about how to gingerly line up references without rocking the boat. Managers are always best, but you then have to disclose your intentions and worry about the manager knowing you want to leave during the next layoff if B-school doesn't pan out. Mentors and advocates are the next best option.

This won't be easy, but for a 2015 application, OP has a ~15 month lead over a lot of candidates to make himself a more interesting person and kill it on the GMATs.

Apr 24, 2014

I agree with IP. Booth is very mericratic. You have the scores and you can get in.

IMO, with all the PE experience the OP has I would just start networking at ACG events and take the best ranked and best financed MBA offer you can get. You already have experience and industry contacts. Should be fine.

Apr 23, 2014

@"IlliniProgrammer" and @"TNA", again, truly appreciate your input.

It is clear that MBA is the route for me. Columbia is my #1 target for which I will be striving, it's my 'dream' grad school. I completely agree on making my story more interesting. Part of what I have been working on the side is aimed at doing just that. I have a few tech start-ups (one that builds custom online live streaming media channels for clients and another in the online gaming space that I took to StartUp Weekend and one) + VentureOn.org that I have as my hobbies. Not sure if those are unique enough, but I love working on them and will continue to do so.

Whether I take the GMAT or the GRE, I will be studying over the next few months and take it mid to late summer if I feel the time is right. I have also already started laying the ground work in terms of rec letters. Excited to work hard, love challenges.

Thank you for your advice and insight guys - really mean it.

Apr 24, 2014
Wmgwebb12:

@IlliniProgrammer and @TNA, again, truly appreciate your input.

It is clear that MBA is the route for me. Columbia is my #1 target for which I will be striving, it's my 'dream' grad school. I completely agree on making my story more interesting. Part of what I have been working on the side is aimed at doing just that. I have a few tech start-ups (one that builds custom online live streaming media channels for clients and another in the online gaming space that I took to StartUp Weekend and one) + VentureOn.org that I have as my hobbies. Not sure if those are unique enough, but I love working on them and will continue to do so.

Whether I take the GMAT or the GRE, I will be studying over the next few months and take it mid to late summer if I feel the time is right. I have also already started laying the ground work in terms of rec letters. Excited to work hard, love challenges.

Thank you for your advice and insight guys - really mean it.

Glad to help.

On the startups front, these startups might become business successes, but I'm not sure they're extracurriculars and I'm not sure they're going to help with bschool. If you talk with professors and adcom members at some of these elite schools, they think everyone has a startup- many of them have start-ups- the question is whether the startup is successful or not.

I would apply your effort to something that these adcom members would never consider doing. Something that involves a (modest) risk of injury and results in enumerable accomplishments. Whatever makes you more attractive to girls with your ECs will make you more attractive to MBA adcoms. You probably can't be an F-16 pilot, an NFL quarterback, a Navy SEAL, or a US Congressman. (most of these would get you most of the way into HBS... or into a hot girl's bedroom.) Will a startup help you? Maybe if it's the next snapchat, but starting as a PE guy, the bar is pretty darned high.

Now, a PE guy who also carries people out of burning buildings is pretty darned badass. A PE guy who flies paragliders or does cave diving is also interesting. I think you have everything you need on the career front, but you need something orthogonal to that that is equally interesting. These are all things that you can list on your resume and specifically enumerate results on. EG: "USHPA P3 rated paraglider pilot", "Knollwood Volunteer Firefighter. Responded to 25 calls, rescued 10 individuals. Trained to drive firetruck."

I can see the MIT Sloan adcom now:

"PE guy AND a total badass."
"He's probably the only applicant this year who works in finance and drives an emergency vehicle."
"Guys we get way too many nerds at MIT. This guy may help balance things out."
"Let's give this guy an interview. At the very least, it should be interesting."

Apr 23, 2014

Love it - I played football at UVA for Al Groh then transferred and played at SMU when June Jones became the head coach, but A) it's in the past and B) doesn't quite have that edge, they've seen plenty of college athletes.

Very interesting thoughts! I am going to look into what skill set(s) I can apply to an interesting front that is more out of the ordinary. Heck, maybe a volunteer fire fighter is the answer!

Apr 24, 2014

Minor details like D1 college football are really important things to mention in these threads. :D The sports may be what helped get you into PE out of undergrad.

I think we have the career aspects covered. We either need coverage on the athletics (this is something that quants like me obsess over and was the first thing I instinctively reached for) or we need coverage on the academics/intellectual aspects.

For someone with your background rather than a STEM undergrad who spent his life in the basement of the CS building, I'm out of my territory. UVA/SMU football might be enough on the athletic risk-taker front and you may want to go for Art Museum docent or other intellectual role instead to build that out. Or there may be stuff you can do to show more recent exciting activities.

Remember that for these Northeast schools, they're looking for arete (excellence in everything.) You need an excellent career. You need to have a few other completely separate excellent qualities to you that are completely different from your career. You need to be plausibly capable of excellence in your MBA studies. (UChicago will accept a mere gmat score as evidence of this.) Iwe're thinking about some multidimensional situation like running a mass advertising campaign or building a large antenna, you want to be as big in all of the available dimensions as possible.

I honestly would point you to @monty09 for help on this one. He has a somewhat similar background to yours'. @shorttheworld also has a lot of MBA admission experience and has at least a couple similarities, or would know where to point you.

My personal take is that you are *probably* a compelling admit at this point for the lower tier M7s, assuming you can get a GMAT to match the career and the schools.

Apr 23, 2014

@"IlliniProgrammer", I really can't thank you enough for your feedback. This means so much to me, so every bit of insight I can gather helps.

That makes complete sense. I know that they are looking for all around excellence which is why I have tried to excel in as many domains as possible for the past several years. But before I apply, I don't want to be thinking "I hope that I have enough on my application" - I want to "know" that I did just about everything I could on my end. I know I can immediately make progress by studying for the GMAT/GRE (have changed my focus from GMAT to GRE - will take a practice test at the end of the week to see if the GRE comes more natural) as that is truly acting as the rudder that will ultimately determine my direction. On the other fronts (extracuriculars, athletics, unique qualities, risk-taker, etc.), I view those as wind in the sails and the more wind I can amass, the better. I will most definitely reach out to @"monty09" and @"shorttheworld" and will let you know what they have to say.

I'd also like to send you any updates as I go through the process - I know you have more important things on which to focus but you have been kind enough to put up with my questions that I'd like to keep you informed on my progress.

Apr 28, 2014

Nearly nobody do MBA accounting

Apr 28, 2014
antivirus:

Nearly nobody do MBA accounting

so its better to do the MS in accounting? will it be difficult since my undergrad was not in accounting? will i need to take prerequisite undergrad accounting courses?

Best Response
Apr 28, 2014

Study the accounting topics that are needed in your career either yourself using books or videos online, or take a few classes from a community college. MS in Accounting and CPA route will take you a few years to complete and the effort will be quite grueling at this stage in your career and life (assuming you are in mid 30s). If you would like to add another degree to your resume, however, I would advise you look into part-time prestigious MBAs. You would be able to get a valuable degree and have a choice of classes across different business subjects (including accounting).

    • 2
Apr 28, 2014

Dude, stop selling yourself short. Spin that labwork into something great (even if it isn't). Get involved and take leadership roles and you'll be able to get into a top MBA program. I don't know too much about the MSF but know a little bit about the MBA process and can say that people with super shitty backgrounds get accepted into the top 20 schools all the time. You went to UT, which is an awesome school, had a shitty gpa. What to do next? I'd start by taking 2-3 classes online (UCLA Extension is great) and getting straight A's. This will somewhat solve the gpa problem.....there is a TON of info out there on how to get into a top program, just be willing to spend some time researching. You may have to spend some $$$ on an admissions consultant but in the end you'll get to where you need to be if you have the right attitude.

Try to polish your strengths (UT undergrad, big pharma) and improve your weaknesses (gpa, dead end job).....also you still got a card up your sleeve with the GMAT, ace that shit and you should be solid.

IMO, if you take those extra classes and nail them and then ace the GMAT, these two by themselves make your app look so much better.

Realistically I would wait another year or so before applying, get about 4-5 years under your belt (this will distance you from your undergrad gpa) and then shoot for B-School, aiming for those Healthcare IB Associate roles out on the east coast...

"Don't quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a Champion" - Muhammad Ali

Apr 28, 2014

pacman- Thanks for the advice! I think the UCLA extension courses would be a great idea since I'd only need to make A's in 3 or 4 to get myself above the "3.0 cumulative" mark. As far as apps go, I still think I'd like to apply to at least a few places this year. Worst case scenario is I don't get in anywhere and I'm in the same position a year from now.

Apr 24, 2014

You have basically a 3.0 from a top US university in a hard major and worked as a scientist for a well known drug company on a well known drug.

IMO, I think your W/E might be too little for a top MBA right now. If you want to do the MBA route I would work a little more and beef up the EC's. You'll be perfectly find for an MSF though.

I'd suggest you take the GMAT. If you crush it then work another year and apply to MBA programs. I could see you getting into MSF programs with a low to mid 600 on your GMAT.

Apr 28, 2014

TNA- I was hoping you would chime in. Thanks!

In your opinion then, do you think I would be better served by jumping on the MSF this year? or holding out another year for the MBA? (GMAT score aside since I would have a year to study for it if I waited for the MBA)

Since I'm really just looking to break into the industry, I definitely like that the MSF seems to facilitate that in a short period of time with much less investment. My biggest hesitations were whether I would get raised eyebrows during recruiting for having more extensive W/E in an unrelated sector, and regarding the number of people that seem to have gone back for the MBA (although I realize once you're in there are other options- CFA, etc.).

Also, full time analyst recruiting would be in the fall before any MSF grades have hit- so unless I could take some summer classes or grab a summer finance internship, wouldn't I just be reporting my UG grades and same negligible finance experience (which puts me back in square one)?

Apr 28, 2014

happy to give advice; no asking for referrals please

Apr 28, 2014