MBAnalysis Blog: What’s the right degree for you? The Vanderbilt MBA or MSF?

I had the opportunity to catch up with Maura Clark, Director of Admissions for the Master of Science in Finance Program at the Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management. As many of you may know from reading my blogs, Vanderbilt is one of my favorite emerging business schools. With its strong health care presence in the great, entrepreneurial city of Nashville, Vanderbilt is quickly moving up the ranks among top-tier schools.

One area where Vanderbilt stands outs is in finance; the school offers an MS program in the field. While I know the MBA program very well, I “sat down” with Maura to gain a better understanding of how the MSF program compares. The key take-aways from our conversation are that the MSF and MBA programs are tailored to students with different career aspirations, work experience, and curriculum requirements.

The Vanderbilt MBA, a two-year program, is tailored for students with 3-5 years of work experience that are seeking to broaden their skill sets and prepare themselves for any number of careers upon graduation.

Conversely, the MSF program is only nine months long and geared toward students with zero or limited work experience; the average age of an MSF student is just 23. It’s also designed specifically for students looking to enter into a competitive finance area like investment banking, research, consulting, and investment management, among others.

One of the most compelling features of the Vanderbilt MSF program is the great success its graduates have had in landing their dream jobs; over the last three years, the employment rate has averaged an impressive 98% within 90 days of graduation. Top employment areas include banking, private wealth management, consulting, corporate finance, advisory services, and real estate finance. Over the past few years, top hiring companies have included Deloitte, Goldman Sachs, Alvarez & Marshal, and Raymond James, with positions typically located in New York, Atlanta, Charlotte and Nashville.

For Maura, the school’s hiring success stems from the fact that “MSF graduates present employers with a unique value proposition – they are entry-level employees with a strong finance skill set and maturity to succeed in the competitive finance landscape.” When it comes to job opportunities, Vanderbilt is committed to helping their students find success by working “earlier, smarter, and harder.” Incoming students start working with the career services office as soon as they deposit. Some work with Vanderbilt’s career services team for 6-9 months before arriving on campus (not to mention paying tuition!). This helps incoming MSFs land an internship prior to starting the program and prepare for full-time recruiting, which can begin as early as August.

So, what do MSF students look like, and how do they interact with the broader Vanderbilt community?

According to Maura, “we attract students who are seeking a strong academic community and rigorous curriculum. MSF students come from all over the U.S. and beyond, and they bond quickly as they jump right into a busy academic and recruiting schedule. Our MSF students take part in the clubs and organizations that Owen has to offer, many intern at Nashville firms, and they savor their time in our vibrant city. Students reflect on this year fondly, and they forge relationships, both professional and personal, that they maintain for years to come.” MSFs interact with MBAs in and outside of the classroom – they have the opportunity to take MBA-level electives in their third and fourth mods (quarters).

So, should you consider an MBA or MSF? I guess the answer depends. If you have limited to no work experience, are around 23, and committed to a future in finance, it seems like an MSF would be a good fit. Conversely, if you want a broad business and management education (that takes two years to earn) and are thinking about a career outside of finance, an MBA is likely the way to go. No matter which program you choose, you will be at a great university in a great city, on track for a great career.