Winning international data science competitions, developing automated trading systems, and diversifying the venture capital ecosystem are just a few of the incredible feats made by recent finance master’s graduates across the globe.
While many ambitious professionals choose the MBA route, a master’s program in finance may provide other opportunities to make an impact — both on the business landscape and in the context of social change. Heidi Pickett, Assistant Dean at MIT Sloan School of Management’s Master of Finance program, describes the immense opportunity to impact the world through finance.
“Finance touches every person everywhere in the world and there are many opportunities to employ good by using these skills,” she says.
USING FINANCE FOR GOOD
Many master’s in finance alumni are using their finance skills to create social change. For University of Cambridge Judge Business School’s 2020 graduate Bob Hoogendoorn, his work in educating primary school kids about money helped him realize the power of giving back as a finance professional.
“For me, social involvement is an important part of achieving a successful career. It’s an opportunity to share lessons learnt and to help those who need it,” says Hoogendoorn.
Another grad who’s using her finance skills to create social impact is Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management’s Jasmin Johnson. Now an investment banking analyst at UBS, she was recognized for her work at Hustle Fund in helping to diversify the venture capital ecosystem.
“It was amazing to be seen and heard in reference to doing work that I’m passionate about,” says Johnson.
Justine Buries of Georgetown University McDonough School of Business also hopes to be an agent of change using his finance skills.
“My community has faced many financial disparities, motivating me to advocate for financial education,” he says. “I’ve dedicated my volunteer time as a servant leader to impact and inspire my community using tools to teach financial literacy.”
While the traditional MBA route offers a plethora of opportunities for graduates, many students chose a Master’s in Finance for its specialized content. Rankings of these programs are fairly limited. The Financial Times publishes an annual list of the best, but it is largely European centric. Last year, HEC Paris and London Business School topped the ranking.
Hoogendoorn pursued a finance master’s program opposed to an MBA due to how the MBA content overlapped with his undergraduate degree in business administration. He wanted a specialized program where he could be part of a cohort of professionals, join a global network, and learn technical finance skills that he could teach others. Excelling in his academics led him to graduate as the class representative within the university faculty board.
In contrast, Frédérick Sluzaly, a HEC Paris graduate, chose a master’s program in finance over an MBA to gain more experience in the field.
“When I chose to pursue my studies and start my career in Finance, I had little work experience. Hence, this program was more suited to my needs,” says Sluzaly.
Similarly, Ana-Maria Simionescu pursued a master’s in finance as she didn’t have enough experience to be a viable MBA candidate. Still wanting a graduate degree to set her apart in the job market, the finance program at Imperial College Business School helped her to further develop her skills and secure her job following graduation as an investment analyst at Willis Towers Watson. For NYU Shanghai – NYU Stern Quantitative Finance graduate Zijie Sheng, he chose this degree over an MBA to hone in on a specific skill set, helping him to determine his direction within the finance industry.
With many finance master’s programs offering practical, real-world application, many students are seeing the value of this niche degree — especially in regards to helping others recover from the financial impacts of covid-19.
BUILDING RESPONSIBLE FINANCE PROFESSIONALS
Some business professionals were drawn to a finance master’s program to learn to make responsible economic decisions. Justine Buries, a graduate of Georgetown University McDonough School of Business’ Master of Finance, chose a finance program over an MBA after seeing the impacts of the 2008 financial crisis. ”I wanted more than a general business education; I needed the rigorous financial tools to analyze, evaluate, and solve critical economic challenges that globally impacted corporations.”
Schools like MIT’s Sloan School of Management are arming professionals with tools to do just that. Launched in 2008 as a direct result of the 2008 financial crisis, MIT Sloan’s Master of Finance program was built to create ethically and socially aware finance professionals. “We felt that we needed better trained finance professionals working in the industry,” says Assistant Dean Pickett. “We want our students to be equipped with the right skills for their lifetime in finance.”
Recruited from the financial services industry where Pickett worked for 20 years, she used her experience to build the program to where it is today, making sure that Sloan was creating the right curriculum to train their students — not just for that first role after they graduate, but for their long term career.
“Finance is a powerful tool, and it’s important to understand how these models work,” she says.