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Is Getting a Master's Degree in Finance Worthwhile?

Is a Master's in Finance Worth It in 2023?
Rebecca Safier
Rebecca SafierUpdated March 8, 2023
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Earning your Master’s in Finance could open the doors to new professional opportunities, but it may also come with a high price tag. According to the Education Data Initiative, the average cost of a Master’s degree is $66,340. What’s more, the average graduate student owes up to $189,162 in cumulative student debt. Given the hefty investment of time, money, and energy required, is a Master’s in Finance worth it? Read on to find out.  

Cost of a Master's in Finance

The cost of a Master’s degree in Finance can vary widely, but expect tuition to be lower at public universities for in-state residents than for out-of-state residents. The difference might not be as much as you think, though. At the University of Texas at Austin, for instance, the cost of attendance for out-of-state residents is $53,000, while the cost for in-state residents is only slightly lower at $48,000. The Master’s in Finance costs may be highest at private universities. At MIT Sloan, for instance, the Master’s in Finance program that spans 18 months adds up to $118,450. Master’s degree in Finance programs are typically one to two years. Along with tuition and fees, you’ll also need to cover such costs as books, supplies, rent, and food. According to GetEducated’s analysis of 88 programs for Master’s in Finance, the average cost of this degree for in-state residents is $30,700. Getting your Master’s in Finance degree online may have a significantly lower price tag. For instance, schools like Columbia Southern University and West Texas A & M University offer programs with tuition costs of about $5,000 to $6,000 per year. Plus, an online program may offer a flexible schedule and the option to learn from anywhere, such as one of the best cities for graduates where the cost of living is typically more affordable.At the same time, you probably won’t get the same opportunities to grow your network or collaborate with students and professors as you would with an on-campus program. 

Master's Degree in Finance Salary

Earning your Master’s degree in finance could lead to a high salary after you graduate. According to the Corporate Recruiters Survey by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), the median starting salary for Master’s in Finance graduates is $110,000. And if you take on a financial management role after your program, expect to earn a median Master’s degree in Finance salary of $131,710, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

MBA vs Master’s in Finance

When it comes to a Master of Business Administration (MBA) vs. a Master’s of Finance (MF), there are some key differences. Generally speaking, an MBA is more focused on business, while a finance degree focuses on finance. An MBA program might involve some classes in finance, but you’ll also study entrepreneurship, management, and related topics. In a Master’s of Finance program, your coursework will primarily center on financial concepts. You might take courses on financial theory, investing, markets, financial reporting, and math. A Master’s in Finance prepares you for a career in financial management, investing, or fintech, whereas an MBA could lead to a wider variety of career paths. Recommended: Should You Go to Graduate School? Pros and Cons

Is an Online Finance Master's Degree Worth It?

An online finance Master’s degree could be more affordable than an on-campus program. If you’re wondering whether it’s worth the investment, try to track some data on post-graduation employment outcomes for students of the school and program you’re considering.Find out how many graduates of the program end up employed and what their median salary is. It’s also worth looking at attrition data, as a high dropout rate could point to a low-quality curriculum or lacking support resources. You might also speak with other graduates about their experiences to determine the quality of the program. Find out if it enables students to make connections with one another, too, since a major benefit of graduate school is growing your network. 

Opportunity Cost of Getting a Master's in Finance

Earning your Master’s in Finance could take one or two years and an investment of more than $100,000, depending on the program you choose. When deciding if a Master’s in Finance is worth it, it’s important to also factor in the opportunity cost of this graduate school programIf you’re studying full-time, chances are you can only work a part-time job or no job at all. As a result, that’s two years of lost wages and real-world experience. Considering the income you’re not earning by going to school might be enough to tilt your decision away from going back to school.However, at the same time, a Master’s in Finance could lead to lots of new opportunities, including specialized knowledge, improved skills, a valuable network, and qualification for management roles and other leadership positions. If the degree boosts your earning potential and helps you advance in your career, it may justify the costs it takes to earn it. If you end up in a role with a higher income and increased job satisfaction, the benefits might far outweigh the opportunity costs of pursuing your degree.  

Paying off the Student Loans for Your Finance Degree

If you borrowed student loans to pay for your Master’s in Finance program, you might be looking for ways to manage your debt. Here are some strategies for repaying student loans so they don’t become a burden on your finances. 

Student Loan Refinancing

One strategy worth exploring is refinancing your student loans with a private lender for better rates. If you have good credit, or you have a creditworthy cosigner for refinancing, you might qualify for better rates on your loans than you have now. When you explore student loan refinancing options, you’ll see that you also have the chance to choose new repayment terms. A longer term could lower your monthly payments, while a shorter term could get you out of debt faster and save you money on interest. There are both risks and benefits of refinancing student loans, though. If you refinance federal loans, you make them ineligible for federal repayment plans, forgiveness programs, and other protections. Make sure you’re comfortable with losing access to these programs and protections before refinancing federal loans with a private lender. 

Student Loan Forgiveness

There are a number of student loan forgiveness programs that could help you pay off your debt. The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, for instance, forgives your remaining federal student loan balance after 120 qualifying payments and 10 years working in public service. Some states also offer state student loan forgiveness plans to qualifying professionals. 

Income-Based Repayment Plans 

Income-driven repayment plans might also be helpful if your monthly payments are burdensome. These plans adjust your payments to a percentage of your discretionary income while extending your loan terms to 20 or 25 years. If you still have a balance at the end, it could be forgiven. However, only federal student loans are eligible for income-driven repayment — private student loans don’t qualify. 

The Takeaway

Pursuing your Master’s in Finance is a big undertaking, so it makes sense to carefully consider whether the degree is worth it before you enroll. Given the high median earnings for Master’s in Finance graduates, you might decide that this program could pay off for you. At the same time, you want to make sure it’s a good fit for your personal interests and professional goals. If you end up borrowing graduate student loans to pay for your program, make sure to check out your options for paying them back to find the best fit for you. For example, refinancing your student loans may help you manage your student loan debt while balancing your other financial goals. As long as you don’t need access to federal programs or protections, and if you could save money by qualifying for a lower interest rate, it may be worth exploring this option.Lantern by SoFi can help by showing you offers from multiple lenders at once so you can easily compare loan rates and terms to help decide whether student loan refinancing makes sense for you. Check your student loan refinancing rates with Lantern.

Frequently Asked Questions

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About the Author

Rebecca Safier

Rebecca Safier

Rebecca Safier has nearly a decade of experience writing about personal finance. Formerly a senior writer with LendingTree and Student Loan Hero, she specializes in student loans, financial aid, and personal loans. She is certified as a student loan counselor with the National Association of Certified Credit Counselors (NACCC).
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