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The Online MBA in Finance Explained

MBA Finance Coursework

Finance is the stalwart of MBA programs. While it lost a bit of its shine when Lehman Bros. collapsed and the Great Recession set in, it is still among the most popular majors for aspiring MBAs.

In the last decade, finance has seen some major changes. For one, the security legislation known as the Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) Act was enacted after the tech bubble burst and fraud scandals (think Enron and WorldCom) motivated the U.S. government to take action. And now there's post-recession reform to prevent lenders from making the same mistakes with home mortgages that popped the housing bubble. All these changes require employees who understand the current state of finance and know how to abide by the law.

Table of Contents:

  1. What is an online MBA in finance?
  2. What are the admissions requirements?
  3. Who is the right fit for this degree?
  4. What about online MBA finance courses?
  5. What is the best business school for earning a finance MBA?

Some professionals in the industry are turning to online MBA programs with concentrations in finance to enhance their skills and get acquainted with the new realities they face. One such professional, Kevin Krushenski, looked for a finance program that would allow him to progress in his work in municipal lending. A student in the Indiana University Kelley School of Business' online master of science in finance program, which offers similar coursework to an MBA, Krushenski says he is already applying knowledge about time value of money and procedures for bond accounting to his full-time, real-world job.

Ultimately, finance is mostly about number crunching and analysis of data. But solid MBA programs provide students with an education in the soft skills - leadership, ethics, and team-building. And online options allow those who are already in the field to acquire new skills in a more convenient way, without even having to leave their office.

What is an online MBA in finance?

An online MBA in finance is pretty much the same as a general management MBA but includes electives that are specific to the industry. For example, Capella University has students pick four courses, such as financial markets and institutions, international financial management, and corporate finance and analysis decisions. "We want to provide opportunities to focus on finance in a way that works for each student," says Cheryl Bann, chair of MBA Programs at Capella. "We want them to be able to customize the education to their area of interest."

Capella students participate in a two-course capstone that is the highlight of the program, says Bann. During this time, they participate in a business simulation and work on a final project that could have them doing a variety of things like working with a business to solve a problem or writing a comprehensive case study. The point is to bring together what they have learned throughout the program, adds Bann.

Much like traditional MBA programs, the online MS that IU's Kelley School offers aims to teach students how to "use the lens of finance to propel an organization forward," says Sreenivas Kamma, chairperson of the finance department at the Kelley School. The same professors who teach the on-campus Kelley courses teach the online ones. And online students have to meet up face-to-face, on-campus for a one-week orientation at the start of the program. The purpose of this intensive in-residence week is to help the co-horts bond and to show finance in the context of strategy and critical thinking, which helps students develop a finance decision-making mindset from the start, says Kamma.

"We want online students to be intimately connected to the faculty and school and to enjoy the heritage of the Kelley School," he says. "They will be, after all, alums, and we want them to contribute to the community after they finish."

Both Capella and Kelley, like most online programs, employ learning management systems to deliver coursework. In general, you'll find videos, interactive discussions, readings and case studies, conferencing for group projects, and more.

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Online MBA Student

What are the admissions requirements?

Admissions requirements vary from program to program, but there are some basic prerequisites. Pretty much all online MBA programs require you to have already earned a bachelor's degree from an undergraduate institution, and you will need to send a transcript. Some have minimum GPA requirements. For example, Capella wants to see a GPA of at least 2.3 on a 4.0 scale. You'll probably have to pay an application fee as well.

Some programs ask applicants to answer questions in the form of brief essays. Often, these cover your reasons for wanting to enroll in such a program now. Many want proof of your work experience - in this case in the finance field. The Kelley program, for instance, has applicants share letters of recommendation from supervisors. While Capella and most online MBA programs do not require any standardized tests, the Kelley School has applicants provide GMAT scores.

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Who is the right fit for this degree?

Usually, online MBA students already have work experience in the field they are studying. In fact, Kamma says the Kelley program is not for career changers. "This is for people who are already established in positions of responsibility but need more skills for a career path that they've already chalked out," he says. "It's aimed at decision makers who are intimately connected to a firm's finances."

Anyone who is looking to help a firm utilize its financial data as a way of creating strategy and vision for the future of the organization could be a good fit. Prime candidates are number crunchers and analysts with the potential for great leadership. Simply put, they are people who want more, says Bann. "They are interested in changing orientation," she adds, "from having a job to having a career."

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What about online MBA finance courses?

Looking for targeted financial studies with the flexibility and accessibility of web-based MBA programs? Based on published reviews from sources such as U.S. News & World Report and The Princeton Review, we found several great MBA online courses with a focus on finance. These online MBA courses leverage students' experience to bridge the gap between the business world and the classroom.

Of course, the availability of specific courses and the ranking of academic programs may change with time. Speaking with school admissions counselors can help applicants learn more about mixing specialty training for fields such as finance into their own business degree program.



Corporate Finance

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill - Kenan-Flagler Business School

Corporate finance studies allow prospective business leaders to build skills that bridge markets. In this course, MBA candidates review valuation techniques and apply them to decisions such as capital structure and acquisitions, helping them prepare for scenarios that often involve risk and uncertainty. The virtual classes include both asynchronous, self-paced work and synchronous, group studies. Students also participate in immersion weekend sessions in various cities where they interact with business leaders. UNC's digital platform is designed to enable exploration and growth even beyond graduation with an alumni network of over 30,000 individuals.



Introduction to Financial Fraud

University of Wisconsin

Students in this elective can discover how perpetrators commit fraud and how to spot signs of criminal activity within organizations. For example, students may delve into misappropriation of assets and fraudulent financial reporting. The UW online business school is dedicated to helping students form a strong foundation in ethics and social responsibility. UW-Eau Claire is the managing partner of the University of Wisconsin MBA Consortium, which includes four different business schools. The consortium also offers an accelerated Foundation Program for students who need to complete prerequisites before entering the MBA program.



Corporate Governance and Ethics

West Texas A&M University

The usual lead instructor for this course brings more than three decades of teaching experience to students, who discuss how to make strong, ethical decisions in today's business and legal environment. Earning top honors for student technology and services from U.S. News & World Report, this online business school brings its campus MBA program, based in Canyon, Texas, to students who require diverse learning options. With this flexible program, you can choose to complete all requirements online or take some classes on campus.


Financial Strategy and Corporate Restructuring

Indiana University - Kelley School of Business

Students explore how to communicate the value of a business, especially when market conditions require an organization to pursue a merger, acquisition or initial public offering. Among the topics covered is how to align shareholder and managerial incentives. Kelley offers the same degree and has the same professors teach for online MBA candidates and students on campus. The distance-learning MBA program begins with a stay on the Bloomington campus for an introduction to the program, faculty and other students.



International Financial Management

Arizona State University - W.P. Carey School of Business

Through this course, Carey students can gain an overview of global financial management and the impact of global financial circumstances on managerial decisions. Specific concepts covered include cross-border trade, inflation, currency crises and fiscal policies. In addition to offering a variety of finance courses, this online business school organizes students into cohorts so that they can learn together, as do individuals in traditional MBA programs. By requiring that students focus on one course at a time, the school offers the chance to learn at one's own pace. U.S. News & World Report ranked ASU's online graduate business program as second in the nation for 2013.



Private Wealth Management

University of Massachusetts Amherst Isenberg School of Management

UMass Amherst's elective course examines issues such as asset allocation and risk strategies in an area of finance that the course description describes as having "received increased scrutiny from investors since the financial crisis began in 2007." Isenberg's online program emphasizes both entrepreneurship and collaboration. Students receive support from advisors who have served students of online education programs for over a decade. Those living near satellite campuses in Massachusetts may also pursue a hybrid program with in-person and online classes.



Portfolio Management

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

This elective course offers an introduction to securities markets with a close look at the risk-return tradeoff and the importance of awareness in the financial market. UNL's online MBA program emphasizes problem solving and ethics, two traits financial managers can use to balance risk and reward on behalf of clients. This program's finance specialization can also expose students to detailed studies of securities, capital markets and global investing. UNL recommends that candidates for this program have five or more years of leadership experience.



Treasury Management

The University of Scranton Kania School of Management

This elective is a component of the enterprise resource-planning MBA program, focusing on short-term financial management. Students track cash, inventory, receivables and payables using business software. According to the course description, students create models "to maintain the firm's current assets and liabilities at the optimal level." This long-established Pennsylvania institution, founded in 1888, offers a modern, web-based education with small class sizes and a focus on real-world issues for its online MBA students.



Interest Rates and Financial Markets

Washington State University

This course description lists a wide range of topics: "real and nominal interest rates, bond pricing, term and risk structure of interest rates, investment and commercial banking, as well as financial futures." From its home in Pullman, WSU casts its sights worldwide. The online MBA concentration in finance allows students to take a deep dive into global market mechanics, with the option of studying abroad. U.S. News & World Report gave WSU high marks for student engagement and ranked the school first among the nation's online business schools in 2013.



Financial Analysis and Decision Making

Quinnipiac University

This core MBA class scrutinizes numerous subjects: "risk and return, asset pricing, capital budgeting and corporate investment decisions, capital structure decisions, dividend policy, corporate merger, divestiture and take-over decisions." The online business school emphasizes innovation and real-world skills, such as interpersonal and negotiation skills. The Princeton Review named the university's business school among the nation's strongest programs for 2013. Additionally, the online school earned the number 24 spot on U.S. News & World Report's "Best Online Graduate Business Programs" list.


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What is the best business school for earning a finance MBA?

Applicants can explore rankings of finance MBA programs to help determine which schools would be a good fit for them. Different publications have different methodologies for evaluating schools. U.S. News & World Report, for example, selected schools for its list of the best specialty programs based on ratings by business school deans and program directors. These school administrators nominated up to 10 leading programs for specialty areas such as finance. Schools that came out on top are listed below.

Top Finance MBA Rankings (U.S. News & World Report, 2014):

1.   University of Pennsylvania (Wharton)
2.   University of Chicago (Booth)
3.   New York University (Stern)
4.   Columbia University
5.   MIT (Sloan)
6.   Stanford University
7.   Harvard University
8.   University of California (Haas)
9.   Northwestern University (Kellogg)
10. UCLA (Anderson)
11. University of Michigan-Ann Arbor (Ross)

Finance MBA rankings may differ with each new survey. Rankings are subject to change year by year, as are the details of the programs offered at top business schools.

To learn more about some of the best business schools the world has to offer, research is vital. You can explore listings and informative articles on MBAPrograms to help you decide whether a traditional or online program is the right choice for your career. Applicants can also learn more about admission requirements and program details at the schools they are considering by speaking with admissions counselors.

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Sources:
Finance, U.S. News & World Report, Best Business Schools, 2013, http://grad-schools.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-graduate-schoolsbest-graduate-schools/top-business-schools/finance-rankings
"Methodology: Best Business Schools Rankings," U.S. News & World Report, Sam Flanigan and Robert Morse, March 11, 2013, http://www.usnews.com/education/best-graduate-schools/top-business-schools/articles/2013/03/11/methodology-best-business-schools-rankings
"Best Online Graduate Business Programs," usnews.com. http://www.usnews.com/education/online-education/mba/rankings
"'The Princeton Review' ranks School of Business and its MBA among the best," quinnipiac.edu, 11 October 2012. http://www.quinnipiac.edu/news-and-events/%E2%80%98the-princeton-review%E2%80%99-ranks-school-of-business-and-its-mba-among-the-best/
"West Texas A&M University," usnews.com. http://www.usnews.com/education/online-education/west-texas-a-m-university-OBUS0953/mba

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