Which Grad Degree to Pursue?

Peter writes:
I’m currently working in economics consulting in London and have done so for 2.5 years. My short-term career aspiration is to get into corporate finance and I am therefore planning to apply to a grad school. The question that I’m facing is whether to go for master’s in finance or MBA and which school to choose. There seems to be very little information about master’s courses as there is for MBA’s i.e. rankings comparison etc.
I would therefore appreciate if you could give me advice on the above and also point me
in the right direction in terms of publicly available information.

The Career Doctor responds:
From the research I’ve seen the choice between an MBA and a master’s degree (usually a master’s of science) in finance deals with the level of depth you in finance and economics you wish to receive. An MBA with an emphasis or specialty in finance will provide you with a broader business focus than a master’s in finance which appears to equip you with some very specific risk-management tools. Here’s what one program that offers a master’s degree in finance says: “Graduates are equipped for positions with financial institutions and risk management areas within corporations and government organizations.”
Another twist is whether you would want a program that has an emphasis on international finance.
I suggest you take two routes to discovering the best degree for your career goals.
First I would conduct informational interviews (read more here) with vice presidents or directors of finance at several corporations. Since the goal of an informational interview is to gain insight your focus should be on the asking about the value of the two degrees (and various programs as well) not only for gaining a position in corporate finance but also in terms of career advancement value. The benefit of doing these interviews is not only the information you receive — and possible recommendations — but the strengthening of your network of contacts. Second I would talk to the graduate directors at several of the universities and solicit their advice for the type of degree that best fits what you want to accomplish in your career. From my research I found that many of the schools that offer a master’s degree in finance also offer an MBA so bias should be minimal. Talk about internships and placement; seek information about the careers of their alumni.
USNews.com ranks
the best U.S. graduate programs with a specialty in finance.

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