width=280While economists and central bankers suggest strategies to steer the global economic environment away from recession, much of the mechanics of the financial markets is firmly in the hands of those with specialized skills in finance and its many related areas. The current uncertainty illustrates to many the need to train and educate more graduates fluent in international finance. Increasing sophistication and interdependence in the markets has sparked a demand for candidates with the necessary skills to meet the needs of corporate, public and institutional employers.  Whether you seek a career as a trader or an analyst, developing quantitative models to help manage risk, or another specialization in the sector, choosing a Masters program in finance is likely to result in excellent career prospects.

Masters programs in finance come in all shapes and sizes, depending on the country in which you choose to study and the nature of the program. Investment finance, risk analysis and management, financial regulation, corporate finance and international banking and securities are some of the more commonly found programs available to international students, with many more titles available depending on your own area of interest. Renowned programs exist in universities and business schools in Australia, Canada, France, Singapore, the UK and the US, many of which have developed enviable links with national and international employers to support their graduates into the labour market.

The programs offered by the University of Melbourne in Australia are recognized for their quality and relevance to the workplace. Sean Pinder, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Finance and coordinator of the Postgraduate Diploma in Finance, the Masters of Financial Management and the Masters of Applied Finance judges the benefits of Melbourne's programs clearly: Our standards are set high and in turn our graduates are highly sought after by major employers. We also pride ourselves on the credentials and experience of our academic and industry presenters and believe that our programs offer the appropriate mix of theory and practice which is essential to prepare our graduates for the challenges they will face in an ever changing and increasingly globalized financial world.

Melbourne, like a number of the other top universities around the world, offers specific programs in finance depending on the professional experience of their applicants.  For example, the Masters of Applied Finance is designed for those candidates with two or more years of work experience in a related area and is intended to develop their practical and career-orientated skills and expand their area of finance-related knowledge. The added advantage of such programs is that they often include a professional qualification or certification, essential in the increasingly regulated financial world in which many businesses and individuals operate. The Melbourne program meets a number of the requirements of the Australian Finance and Treasury Association, the Australian Securities and Investment Commission, CPA Australia and the Australian Securities and Investment Commission's training course.

Other Masters degrees in finance aim to develop very specific areas of subject interest directly relevant to the most dynamic of financial careers. Intended to meet the demands of the current complex international financial environment, the University of Reading's ICMA Centre, based just west of Central London, has recently launched a new Masters degree in Financial Engineering.  The program, due to begin in October 2008, will provide students with the opportunity to develop the skills necessary to operate in the international derivatives sector particularly in the areas of equities, foreign exchange, interest rates and credit risk. With recruitment now open, applications are already being received from international students with strong backgrounds in the areas of finance, mathematics, business and accounting.

The specialized nature of finance programs often dictates that graduates of Masters degrees obtain similarly highly specialized positions. Oxford University's Masters in Financial Economics was designed to provide training in the tools of financial economics required by financial institutions, companies and public organizations.  The program, taught jointly by Oxford Sad Business School's Department of Economics, combines a rigorous academic approach to financial economics with a distinct practical application, designed in consultation with key financial recruiters.  Martin L'hrmann, a German alumnus of the Oxford program, is working at Goldman Sachs in London: I am currently working at the Equity/Hybrid Derivatives Structuring desk.  The Masters in Financial Economics was helpful in two ways. First, it provided me with a thorough understanding of all different aspects of finance.  In addition to that it helped me get a deeper insight into the area I am most interested in. I am directly applying ideas that I developed during my thesis and in the electives in practice.

Alumni from the Oxford program serve as a good illustration as to the range of careers available for those graduating with a Masters in Finance or related academic area. In 2007, the majority of graduates were offered jobs in investment banking, corporate finance and mergers and acquisitions (22% of job offers), investment management (29%) and sales, trading and research (19%) being the leading areas.  The rewards for such graduates are high: salaries related to all finance sector areas were competitive, the average salary from the Masters in Financial Economics reported was just under $90,000 a year, analyst salaries in the region of $80,000, and associate entry salaries in the region of $110,000.

Attention is firmly on the state of the world's economy and our national financial institutions so there has never been a more opportune time to focus on developing a graduate career in finance.  With degrees catering for almost every area of interest and the prospects of excellent career advancement after graduation, a Masters of Finance is something you could invest in now - and reap the rewards later.