For decades the MBA has been the staple degree for those aspiring to leadership roles in consultancy, technology, and business. But increasing numbers of people are taking an MBA to further their careers in finance.
Around 30 per cent of graduates from Cambridge Judge Business School and Cass Business School now go on to positions in financial services. As the economy and jobs market continue to recover, many people are thinking of a new challenge. But taking an MBA – rather than a new job – could be the best way to further your career in finance.
The traditional pillars of the MBA course are consultancy, management, strategy and marketing. But finance is covered as a core module too, says professor Mark Taylor, dean of Warwick Business School.
“Typically MBA students will learn about corporate finance, which looks at analysing investments, appraising financial decisions, capital budgeting, managing working capital, capital structure, increasing shareholder value and more,” he says.
In addition to core modules, students can select electives and top business schools are offering a wide range of finance specialisms. The level of specialisation will vary between school, and so will the degree of international outlook. This will allow students to tailor their degree to their specific aspirations, and could mean valuable experience in niche areas.
Cambridge Judge Business School, for example, offers electives in Asian capital markets, infrastructure finance and risk management in global banking.
Taylor says one typical career route is from the MBA to investment banking, with students typically taking electives in investments and risk management. “Although after the financial crisis there has been some set back in investment banking, with many jobs lost, this is still a popular route, as investment banking involves M&A, IPOs, securities, trading and raising capital for a company’s financial needs,” he says. Those looking for a route into hedge funds will usually select courses focused on asset pricing.
Cass says financial positions held by its MBA graduates include senior equity analyst at F&C Investments, corporate financial consultant at EY, and global re-engineering manager at American Express.
The major impediment to the MBA route for many seeking a high-flying career in finance is the cost. The average tuition fees are £76,000 among the top-ten full-time MBA schools globally.
Looking purely at costs, a cheaper way to further your career could be through completing the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) certificate. Historically, the CFA has been considered the essential qualification for high-level roles in investment and asset management. But since the financial crisis, employers in a range of sectors from accountancy to sales have recognised the importance of understanding how investment works, says Nicole Haroutunian, spokesperson for the CFA Institute.
Registering for the CFA costs £302, and then there are three levels of the programme to complete, CFA 1, 2 and 3. Each exam costs £553.
CFA holders work in all areas of finance, from trading, broking, portfolio management and analyst roles to risk management and chief executive levels.
However, while an MBA is usually completed in one year full-time or two years part-time, the CFA is usually studied over four years, with a minimum of 900 hours of study for all three levels.
The key differentiator of the MBA is that it prepares students for management and C-level roles.
“The skills learned on the MBA enable progression to senior positions in the industry,” says Conrad Chua, head of MBA admissions and careers at Cambridge Judge Business School.
He adds that the degree is particularly useful for those hoping to enter a new industry. Chua’s statistics show 89 per cent of MBA graduates from Cambridge go on to work in different industry sectors, job functions or location with their new degree.
Finally, the networking aspect of an MBA is perhaps one of the most important. Business schools are keen to highlight the opportunities.
“About 80 per cent of job opportunities available to MBA graduates are never advertised, so the networking opportunities of an MBA are really valuable in order to find out about these roles,” Chua says.
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