A common question is whether someone should apply for a master of finance degree or an MBA. In the US, the conventional two year MBA allows time to cover the same modules as a one year finance masters. In that case the students spend two years but get a lot more than just finance knowledge. I think this is one reason that the MFin market in the US is quite small, other than for financial engineering courses.
In Europe, London Business School has the same two year model. A former member of the LBS finance faculty once told me that some of his colleagues regarded the MiF [Masters in Finance] as “the MBA with all the **** taken out”. I take this to be a joke. The more serious point is that if one is pretty sure about a career in finance, the cost of doing a two year MBA is clearly harder to justify.
Other European business schools, including Cambridge Judge Business School offer a more clear separation between one year MBA and one year master of finance. It’s not possible in one year of a general MBA to do that much finance, even though we offer a lot of finance electives on the MBA at Cambridge.
Correspondingly we do offer a small amount of non-finance content on the Cambridge MFin, for two reasons. Firstly, I thought when setting up the course that it was desirable. Secondly, and more importantly, the financial institutions and banks I spoke to strongly agreed. On a hard and busy course like the MFin it’s sometimes hard to justify the extra time on business effectiveness, management practice, marketing, strategy and so on. But I really think it’s worth the effort. It’s interesting (to me) to note that LBS has something similar on its MiF too, despite the (perhaps old fashioned) views of former faculty there.
Ultimately, finance recruiters are looking for very smart, hardworking people. Their next consideration is “people-skills” – is the candidate going to be good with clients and able to work with colleagues? This is less critical in some jobs such as being a trader or quant analyst but the majority require some degree of human interaction.
When recruiting potential MFin students, which has now started again, we therefore look first for strong analytical intelligence (which is not the same as being good at maths) and second for the potential to work well with other people. Even if someone is looking for a less client-focused job, they need to be able to join in with the rest of the class and contribute to the social side of things.
If a person is not sure about remaining in finance, a general MBA will give them a platform for a much wider range of roles, including potentially staying in finance. But if they remain in finance their career options will probably be fairly restricted to their former field. An MBA is often used for career “switchers” but a one year MBA doesn’t really give much chance for switching within finance, unless one is aiming for a strategy/corporate planning type role for which prior finance experience plus an MBA would be an ideal combination.