MBA – Corporate Finance Specialization

Numerous schools offer MBA Corporate Finance Specialization programs. You may be wondering what the difference is between a Corporate Finance MBA and another specialized MBA.

First let’s look at a definition of corporate finance. “Corporate finance, as I define it, covers every decision a firm makes that may affect its finances,” states Professor Aswath Damodaran, (the Kerschner Family Chair in Finance Education at the Stern School of Business, New York University). Professor Damodaran describes five areas of corporate finance: the “objective function,” the “investment decision,” the “financing decision,” the “dividend decision” and “valuation.” When looking at the bigger picture of corporate finance, Professor Damodaran describes it as “maximize[ing] the value of the firm.”

A major purpose for completing a finance graduate degree is to increase your expertise, based on your talents and interests, and to ideally rise up the professional ladder. In the case of concentrating in corporate finance, it can lead you to acquiring knowledge and skills that will make you a prime candidate for senior or specialized roles at a variety of workplaces, from venture capital firms and commercial banks to Fortune 500 companies.

Why concentrate in corporate finance or another specialization while pursuing your MBA, you may be asking. “According to [Bloomberg]BusinessWeek, specialized programs ‘give students the kind of targeted, real-world experience sometimes lacking in traditional MBAs,’” states Wisconsin School of Business’ Nicholas Center for Corporate Finance and Investment Banking.

Why Pursue an MBA in Corporate Finance?

“If you’re a natural problem solver, then a career in corporate finance may be an ideal fit for you,” states The University of Iowa’s Tippie School of Management. “…In a spectrum from accounting to investments, you can find a career in corporate finance that utilizes various levels of skills within these areas.” Another qualifier that seems to come up again and again with corporate finance is the term strategic, denoting decision-making and analytical responsibilities in order to optimize a firm or corporation’s value.

If you already have a Bachelor degree in finance and/or have worked in financial positions, an MBA in corporate finance can help you move into a more fulfilling and prestigious profession. For example, a University of Michigan Ross School of Business alumnus, Iryna Shapavalava, stated she decided to pursue the specialized MBA for this reason: “After working in corporate finance for several years, I wanted to improve my management and leadership skills to take my career to a new level.” A search via LinkedIn shows Shapavalava has become a finance manager at Microsoft.

Those who choose to pursue an MBA – Corporate Finance Specialization program come from a variety of academic and professional backgrounds, from finance and accounting to chemical engineering, law, entrepreneurship and real estate. 

Alternatively, a corporate finance MBA may direct you onto a completely new career path. For example, Travis Dowden, who graduated with an MBA in Corporate Finance and Investment Banking from the Wisconsin School of Business’ Nicholas Center, had a previous academic background in electrical engineering. When working at the Brady Corporation in Milwaukee, he realized he was interested in corporate finance. After completing his specialized MBA, he became a senior financial analyst for Best Buy.

MBA – Corporate Finance Specialization Curriculum

The curriculum for a corporate finance MBA will vary from university to university. But a general overview of courses includes such topics as:

  • Corporate Finance Fundamentals
  • Analysis of Financial Statements
  • Financial Accounting
  • Modeling & Valuation
  • Corporate Investments
  • Portfolio Management
  • Corporate Financial Strategies/Decisions
  • Current Trends in Finance
  • Leadership/Management
  • Investment Banking
  • Global Markets
  • Real Estate
  • Fixed Incomes
  • Private Equity
  • Accountability/Governance
  • Taxation
  • Ethics
  • Business
  • Financial Reporting
  • Or others

Additionally, any reputable MBA in corporate finance program will most likely include an experiential component for students to complete, whether it is a study tour to meet finance and business executives or a financial consulting program where students work on a project for an actual client. It is important to complete such practical exercises. You can even take the initiative to create your own internship (try to volunteer for a professor or potential employer) to gain real-world experience and make potential employment connections.

Examples of Positions Gained by MBA Corporate Finance Grads

  • Internal Financial Analyst
  • Senior Financial Analyst
  • Finance Manager
  • Pension Manager
  • Real Estate Investor
  • Manager, Investor Relations
  • Commercial Lending Manager
  • Vice President of Commercial Lending
  • Investment Banking Associate
  • Investment Baking Partner or Managing Director
  • Senior Financial Consultant