Loyola Business Blog

The Difference Between an MSF and an MBA Finance Specialization

Please note: The Sellinger School is no longer accepting applications in the MSF program.  We encourage prospective students to learn more about our Professional's MBA program which offers a specialization in finance. 

Are you trying to decide between pursuing a Master of Science in finance (MSF) or an MBA with a finance specialization? “If you are interested in a career in finance, you really need both degrees, but it’s a timing issue,” says Karyl B. Leggio, Ph.D., professor of finance at the Sellinger School of Business. The Sellinger School offers both degree programs.

The finance graduate program provides extensive knowledge on all aspects of the financial field. An MS Finance degree is ideal for recent graduates and those with little work experience, as well as older students and career changers, who need a depth of finance understanding and the focused technical skills to move forward in their careers. “An MS finance degree provides functional knowledge and makes you a specialist, and that depth is most valuable earlier in your career,” says Leggio. The finance graduate program courses are more quantitative and delve into finance at a deeper level than what is offered in other business graduate programs. For example, all 10 courses in Sellinger’s MSF program focus on finance. By comparison, Sellinger’s MBA Finance specialization includes three courses in finance and covers topics from the field of finance at a more strategic level. “Even if your ultimate career goal is to become a CEO – almost every decision at that level is a financial one – having the foundation of an MSF will serve you well,” says Leggio.

According to US News, specialized master’s degrees, such as the MS Finance degree, are trending at business schools across the U.S. The advantage is that you gain advanced knowledge with less work experience and in a shorter time than it would take to earn an MBA Finance degree. This is true at the Sellinger School of Business where the MSF program only requires 30 credits to complete, while the MBA program requires 48 credits. (Up to 12 credits may be transferred to/from the each of the programs.)

However, having a singular focus in finance may not translate into the skillset you need for more senior positions or to advance to the C-suite. “As you advance in your career, you begin to manage people and take on responsibility for your organization as a whole. You rapidly need to know how to lead,” says Leggio. An MBA prepares you for management positions – both in financial institutions and in other fields. “An MBA is a more generalized degree that covers a broad range of business-related topics and focuses on leadership and strategy,” says Leggio. “The knowledge you acquire through an MBA helps you to problem-solve and objectively analyze your organization.”

US News notes that the well-rounded skill set of an MBA graduate tends to command a higher salary than that of an MSF graduate. Investopedia suggests this is because most MBA graduates have more relevant work experience. “The skills you develop in an MBA program are valuable at any stage of your career, but they are most applicable after 4-7 years of experience, as you assume higher levels of responsibility,” explains Leggio.

Both degree programs offer a quality education and the potential to further your career. The degree program you choose depends on your current skillset and the skills you need to develop to achieve your future goals. If you are interested in taking your career to the next level, the Sellinger School of Business at Loyola University Maryland offers multiple MBA degree options and specialized business master’s programs including both a Master of Science in finance and an MBA with a finance specialization.