Choosing your path to a graduate education in finance

There is much to consider when choosing a graduate program. Students are faced with many options—certificate programs, traditional master’s degrees and online or on-campus versions of both. You may wonder what makes a graduate certificate different from a master’s degree and which one is right for you as you pursue a career in finance. 

This page will help define what a Graduate Certificate in Finance and Master’s Degree in Finance are and the benefits, pros and cons of each. 

The difference between a Finance Graduate Certificate and a Master’s in Finance

In order to ascertain the differences between these two forms of graduate study, we need to understand the basics of what each entails. 

What is a Graduate Certificate in Finance? 

A Graduate Certificate in Finance is a program of study offered to students who have completed a baccalaureate degree but still want to boost their credentials in a short period of time. Finance certificate programs typically require fewer credits to complete, with anywhere from 15-21 credits needed. 

In a graduate finance certificate program, students might learn about financial statement analysis, how to manage and analyze information systems, valuation, navigating the accounting cycle and more. A Graduate Certificate in Finance enables students to learn the fundamentals of finance while also serving as an introduction to more advanced topics, preparing them for the application of their skills in the real world. 

A Graduate Certificate in Finance is a great option for students from all academic backgrounds who are interested in developing their skills in finance in preparation for a finance-related career. With a certificate in finance, students can add valuable skills to their resume and be on the leading edge of the job market. 

What is a Master’s Degree in Finance?

A finance master’s degree program is more comprehensive than a finance certificate program and may take longer to complete as they typically require more credits. For example, DU’s MS in finance program requires 36 credit hours to complete the degree, translating to roughly two years of study. There are several different kinds of Master’s Degrees in Finance including Master of Finance (MFin) degrees and Master of Science in Finance degrees (MSF). 

While both degree types share many similarities, generally speaking, a Master of Science in Finance program is slightly more rigorous in curriculum and will prepare students to execute their skills in the business world. In comparison, a Master of Finance is slightly more philosophical in nature, focusing on academic and philosophical perspectives and preparing students for roles within academia. As with graduate certificates in finance, students interested in an MS in finance may find both online and in-person options. 

Students in a Finance Master’s Program (MSF) will gain a deeper understanding of financial practices and develop their knowledge in advanced topics such as multinational corporate finance, wealth management, equity investment and sales in financial services. A Master’s Degree in Finance makes students competitive candidates for high-level and executive positions. 

Now that we’ve defined these programs and all they entail, let’s zoom in on some of the key benefits of each program, including time commitments, cost, admissions requirements and career opportunities. While anyone can choose to pursue either program track, it’s important to choose a program that is the right fit for where you are in your life. 

Benefits of a Graduate Certificate in Finance

Certificates offer a quick turnaround from enrollment to graduation. Many graduate finance certificate programs can be completed in a year or less, sometimes in as few as just three semesters, as is the case with Duquesne’s online finance certificate program. This can move you quickly from student to working professional, an excellent option for those more focused on entering the workforce with highly valued skills and experiences than delving deep into the theory and research within a particular area of study. 

There is opportunity for a diverse range of candidates in your cohort. A Graduate Certificate in Finance is a great way for students of all backgrounds to develop skills in financial analysis and application. Whether your bachelor’s degree is in English, biology or communication, adding a finance certificate to your resume can open up many employment opportunities. This also means that the cohort in your graduate certificate program may consist of a diverse group of students who bring their unique personal and educational experiences to the classroom.

Certificates typically entail a lower cost of entry. Because graduate certificates in finance are often shorter than traditional master’s degree programs, the cost of attendance is much lower, making the program more accessible to a wide group of students. In a finance graduate certificate program, you’ll receive an education in the fundamentals of finance while paying an affordable cost. This is a huge advantage of the program, however, be aware that certificate programs may have restrictions on scholarship or aid opportunities.

You can pair your certificate with other degrees. One unique feature of certificate programs is that they can often be paired with other degrees. The ability to pair up certificates with other degree programs opens up more opportunities for students to tailor their education to their specific interests. Duquesne students who pursue our Graduate Certificate in Finance often pair their certificate with a Professional MBA (PMBA). This can make students highly competitive in the job market, having both a depth of knowledge in business functions and a concentrated study in finance. 

Benefits of a Master’s Degree in Finance

A master’s degree offers a greater depth of study. Though certificates and master’s programs share many features, students should expect to see a difference in cost between finance certificate programs and finance master’s programs. A higher credit requirement often comes with a higher cost, but don’t let that discourage you. Finance master’s programs will offer a greater depth of study than finance certificates, which means your investment will be put to good use as you gain a deeper understanding of the finance industry and utilize concentration or elective options to hone specific skills.

Hands-on experience is usually woven into the master's degree curriculum. With greater depth of study comes more opportunities to partake in hands-on experiences. Whether it’s an internship or a capstone project like the one offered in Duquesne’s MS in Finance Degree Program, students on the master’s track are often presented with more opportunities to put their education into practice while in school. This is a valuable resource for students who are looking to add marketable experience to their resume while still expanding their skills in a supportive classroom environment.

You’ll have more time for making connections. A lengthier program of study means you’ll have more time to build connections and relationships with your peer and faculty network. Due to this, you’ll likely have more time to solidify research or project ideas and execute them using the additional resources that are afforded to master’s degree students. For example, the MSF program at Duquesne requires students to complete a capstone project during which they will work with their peers in partnership with a real business to provide financial services.

An MS in Finance is a competitive degree. More and more employers are looking for experienced candidates with a master’s level education. While a graduate certificate can give you the edge among bachelor’s degree holders, a master’s in finance takes your competitiveness to the next level. With an MS in Finance, you’ll be equipped with the skills and tools needed to thrive in the industry and employers will view the worth of your finance graduate degree as a sign that you’re committed to being the best you can be.

Considering your graduate school options

Both finance graduate certificates and master’s degrees in finance have their perks and advantages. As you consider the next step in your education, you may want to remember the important takeaways of our discussion.

Time - What is your ideal timeline for your graduate education?

Cost - What is your budget for your education and are there scholarships or aid available to you?

Requirements - Do you meet the admission requirements for the program (GRE, baccalaureate degree etc.)?

Career goals - Will a certificate or master’s degree align more closely with your career goals?

DU’s online graduate certificate and master’s in finance (MSF) programs

With both a graduate finance certificate and a Master of Science in Finance degree program, Duquesne University offers the best in graduate finance education. Both the certificate and master’s degree programs are offered fully online, meaning students have the flexibility to pursue their education without sacrificing their career. 

Online Master of Science in Finance

Our 36-credit hour online MSF program includes a capstone course in which students will collaborate with their peers and a real business to execute financial analysis and strategy. This experience will prepare students for their career as they hone their skills and apply their financial expertise to real-world scenarios.

Learn about the MS in Finance

Online Graduate Certificate in Finance

For students who want to deepen their understanding of finance and strengthen their analytical skills but don’t want to make commitments to a master’s program, our online Graduate Certificate in Finance (GCF) is an ideal option. Complete the program in as little as three semesters and enter the workforce with marketable skills and experience.

Learn about the Finance Certificate

Take your career to the next level with a graduate finance education at DU

Duquesne University’s online Graduate Certificate in Finance program and online Master of Science in Finance degree will add value to your skill set and empower you to reach your career goals. Whether you want to add finance expertise to your resume with a finance certificate or are seeking more in-depth training through our master’s program, Duquesne offers the best in graduate finance education. 

Learn more about our graduate finance programs by requesting information. Interested in applying? Review the admissions requirements for the online GCF and MS in Finance programs.