Master of Science in Finance

Master of Science in Finance (MSF) is a Master's degree designed to prepare graduates for careers in financial analysis, investment management and corporate finance. The MSF is generally a one-year, non-thesis degree, and is often positioned as a professional degree.

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In the typical MSF, the core curriculum is focused on investment analysis, corporate finance and financial management / managerial accounting. These core topics are preceded by more fundamental coursework in economics, accounting, and quantitative methods (time value of money and introductory statistics) - if these are not a prerequisite for admission, or assumed as known; students with appropriate background may be exempt from (several of) these. The MSF usually concludes with advanced topics - where several areas are integrated or applied - such as portfolio management, financial modeling, mergers and acquisitions and real options. In general, MSF programs emphasize quantitative topics, although may also offer some non-quantitative elective coursework, such as corporate governance, business ethics and business strategy.

The MSF curriculum may also include financial economics and financial risk management as advanced topics (and sometimes managerial economics and quantitative finance / computational finance). Here, the exposure will likely be limited to the generalist level; these areas are usually studied as disciplines in their own right, via specialized degrees in economics and applied mathematics. These branches of economics are usually taught to strengthen the theoretical underpin of the degree - however, since the emphasis on MSF programs is application, they are not developed. The computational topics, although practical, are too technical for a generalist MSF - see comparison below.

Programs usually require a bachelor's degree prior to admission, but many do not require that the undergraduate major be in finance, economics, or even general business; the usual requirement is a sufficient level of numeracy - often including some exposure to calculus and / or probability. Some programes may require work experience (sometimes at the managerial level), particularly if the candidate lacks a relevant undergraduate degree.

Comparison with other qualifications

Although there is much overlap with an MBA, the MSF provides a broader and deeper exposure to finance, but more limited exposure to general management topics. Thus, an MSF focuses on finance and financial markets, while an MBA, by contrast, is more diverse, covering general aspects of business not dealt with in the MSF - such as human resource management and operations management. Note that an MBA without a specialization in finance will not have covered many of the topics dealt with in the MSF (breadth), and - often even where there is specialization - those areas that are covered may be in less depth. (Some MBA candidates will "dual major" with an MBA/MSF, or later pursue an MSF degree, to gain specialized finance knowledge; some universities also offer this combination as a joint degree.)

Some MSF programs overlap with degrees in financial engineering, computational finance and mathematical finance (see Master of Quantitative Finance). Note, however, that the treatment of any common topics - usually financial modeling and risk management - will differ as to level of detail and approach. The MSF aims to produce finance generalists, whereas these programs aim to train "quants" (i.e specialists in derivatives, fixed income, alternative financial instruments and risk analysis). Their curricula are therefore weighted toward stochastic calculus, numerical methods and simulation techniques, while at the same time, their coverage of corporate finance, accounting, equity valuation and portfolio management is only at a high level (if at all). Entrance requirements to these degrees are similarly more mathematical than those for the MSF.

The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) certification is sometimes compared to a Master's in Finance, and in fact, several universities have embedded a significant percentage of the CFA Program "Candidate Body of Knowledge" into their degree programs. In general though, the CFA program is focused on portfolio management and financial analysis, and provides more depth in these areas than the standard MSF, whereas for other areas of finance the CFA coverage is in less depth. A further distinction is that many MSF topics entail "training" in advanced such as financial modeling - while training, "per se", cannot be included in the CFA program. Similar comments apply to other certifications such as the Certified International Investment Analyst (CIIA); the so-called "Indian CFA" is, in fact, a Master's degree.

External links

* [http://www.bus.lsu.edu/academics/finance/faculty/dchance/MiscProf/MSPrograms.htm Finance Programs at U.S. Universities]
* [http://www.ualberta.ca/~ozsoy/msclist.htm Finance Programs outside U.S.] , [http://www.cob.ohio-state.edu/fin/journal/jofsites.htm#ois alternate list]
*Programs with a focus on Quantitative Finance / Financial Engineering: [http://www.global-derivatives.com/schools/quantfinanceprograms.php by region] ; [http://www.iafe.org/resources_acad.html Alphabetic]
* [http://www.cfainstitute.org/cfaprog/university/partners.html Degree programs based on the CFA Candidate "Body of Knowledge"]
* [http://www.cob.ohio-state.edu/fin/resources_education/edcourse.htm Finance Courses on the Web]


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