The recent pandemic has given us all the appreciation of working flexibly whilst still maintaining productivity and a good work life balance.
This trend is prevalent in the professional education sector too. The College for Financial Planning (CFFP) – a Kaplan company – offers two online Master’s degree programs to address this demand.
In particular, CFFP’s Master of Science in Financial Analysis (MSFA) is especially relevant for those keen on sought-after financial analyst roles, who would value the flexibility and ability to study for it whilst working.
Relatively cost effective for its international accessibilty and recognition, MSFA is worth a consideration for those considering a serious, achievable upgrade to their resume whilst working. In fact, some of the learning outcomes of MSFA coursework are aligned with the CFA Program and CAIA, which is another stepping stone for any of those professional designation if you chose to pursue them.
In this article, we go in-depth of what CFFP’s Masters in Financial Analysis program is about and how it compares to CFA. Let’s check it out!
- What is CFFP's Masters in Financial Analysis (MSFA) about?
- Who is MSFA suited for?
- MSFA exam format
- MS Financial Analysis topic areas and credits
- MSFA fees
- Exam schedule & key deadlines
- What are the entry requirements for MSFA?
- Benefits of MSFA
- CFA vs MS in Financial Analysis: An In-Depth Comparison
- Masters in Financial Analysis FAQ
What is CFFP’s Masters in Financial Analysis (MSFA) about?
Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, the Masters of Science in Financial Analysis is an online, global graduate degree program launched in 2021 by the College for Financial Planning (CFFP, a Kaplan company).
The online, flexible format of this degree means that MSFA can be completed under 2 years on a part-time basis. That said, learning is supported with access to a highly qualified instructors with live weekly sessions for office hours, problem solving and support.
This comprehensive graduate degree aims to equip students with advanced financial analysis skills, covering topics such as:
- economic and financial statement analysis
- quantitative methods used in investment decision making
- corporate finance
- security analysis and valuation
- alternative investments, derivatives and risk management
- portfolio management
The topics above may sound familiar, that’s because the MSFA coursework is designed to align to the CFA Program learning outcomes as well, so that the curriculum supports students also looking to pursue the CFA charter.
In fact, once an MFSA student completes 15 credit hours in the online MSFA program, they will have complimentary access to Kaplan Schweser’s CFA Essential Study Package to prepare for the CFA exam. This support continues even after graduation for all 3 levels of the CFA exam, which is worth nearly $2,100 in study materials in itself if they choose to pursue the CFA designation.
There are certain course exemptions for those who hold professional designations such as CFP, CPA, CAIA, CFA, FRM, Certified Management Accountant (CMA) and Certified Private Wealth Advisor (CPWA) too.
Therefore, this MS Financial Analysis degree is also flexible in the sense that it caters for those:
- with certain professional designation through course exemptions; and
- without an existing professional designation, the option to pursue the CFA charter concurrently or after graduation with complimentary Kaplan Schweser CFA study materials for all 3 levels.
Who is MSFA suited for?
With its international accessibility, the College for Financial Planning’s MS in Financial Analysis is particularly suited for:
- those with a minimum of Bachelor’s degree who are keen to work as a financial analyst;
- finance working professionals who would like to complete a graduate degree whilst working at a comfortable pace;
- those who would prefer more certainty of obtaining a graduate degree first, as a potential stepping stone to further finance designations.
For those interested in jobs involving financial analysis – such as investment banking, portfolio management, risk management and securities research – the MSFA may offer a practical pathway to reach your career objectives sustainably whilst still working.
MSFA exam format
CFFP’s MS in Financial Analysis degree consists of 10 courses, with each course lasting 8 weeks long.
In terms of study hours, there is a recommended minimum of 135 hours of study per course, which is roughly 17 hours per week.
The expected time for a part-time student to complete MSFA is about 2 years. So it is reasonable to expect that it could be faster for someone who studies it full time and/or awarded some course credits via alternative education.
Unlike the CFA Program, there is no one exam per se to pass for MSFA. Instead, MSFA students are graded on a broader variety of coursework, such as scheduled reading assignments, group discussions, case studies and exams.
To earn the MS in Financial Analysis degree, students are required to:
- complete all 10 courses with at least a grade C (70-75%) in each course, and
- have a minimum cumulative Grade Point Average (GPA) of 3.0.
MS Financial Analysis topic areas and credits
MSFA course topics
There are 10 courses with a total of 30 credits (3 credits per course).
Although you are expected to complete one course at a time, you can apply to the College to increase your course load to complete multiple courses simultaneously if you’ve sufficient evidence to show that it is something you can manage.
The first 9 topics are in-depth readings and the last topic applies all these knowledge in a project-based, case study format. There will be economic, industry and company analyses, valuation work and making an investment recommendation.
|Course Title (Code)
|Financial Statement Analysis (ACCT545)
|– Covers the origin of financial data and uses of financial reporting.
– Revenue recognition and income determination with in depth analysis of the income statement.
– Applied financial statement investigation including cause-of-change, common-size, and trend analyses.
|Advanced Financial Statement Analysis (ACCT550)
|– Prerequisite: ACCT545
– Looks at advanced analysis of the asset side of the balance sheet, including receivables, inventory and long-lived assets.
– Using financial information in making decisions associated with credit analysis, contracting and valuation.
– Study of sources and uses of cash identified in the various cashflow statements
|Economics for Financial Analysis (ECON535)
|– Topics include supply and demand, industry structure, central banking and monetary policy, fiscal policy and taxation, economic growth, interest rate determination, inflation, international trade, currency exchange, and economic decision-making.
|The Financial System, Markets, and Instruments (FINA515)
|– Overview of the financial system including financial institutions, instruments and markets.
– Time-value-of-money, diversification, risk and return characteristics of securities, bonds, bond features, bond pricing, stocks, market efficiency, interest rate determination, and the term structure of interest rates.
|Quantitative Methods (FINA525)
|– Fundamental quantitative concepts and techniques including descriptive statistics, probability distributions, sampling, hypothesis testing, correlation analysis, linear regression, and time-series models.
|Security Analysis and Valuation (FINA565)
|– Prerequisites: ACCT550, ECON535, FINA515, and FINA525
– Advanced analysis of equity and debt securities including the valuation of common stock, preferred stock, and various types of fixed-income instruments.
– Valuation techniques including discounted cash flow (DCF) analysis, price multiples, and the residual income model.
– Bond features and characteristics including time-to-maturity, types of coupons, callability, and conversions are covered.
– Investing strategies, duration, convexity and risks relevant to securities, including default, credit, interest rate and reinvestment risk.
– Behavioral finance, technical analysis, and the efficient market hypothesis.
|Corporate Finance (FINA575)
|– Prerequisites: ACCT550, FINA515, FINA525, FINA 565, and ECON535
– Studies the financial structure of corporations with an emphasis on understanding financial statements, time-value-of-money, cash flows, working capital management, capital structure, financing decisions, cost of capital, and capital budgeting techniques.
|Derivatives and Alternative Investments (FINA585)
|– Prerequisites: FINA565 and FINA575
– Explores the mechanics and markets for options, forward and futures contracts with an emphasis on risk management, forward and futures pricing, equity options, and interest rate derivatives.
|Portfolio Management (FINA595)
|– Prerequisites: FINA565, FINA575 & FINA585
– Review of portfolio construction with a focus on asset allocation and diversification.
– Assessing risk-adjusted performance of portfolios, security selection, performance measurement, and evaluation.
– Development of the investor policy statement and understanding objectives and constraints of different types of investors (individual, institutional, etc).
|Financial Analysis Capstone (FINA650)
|– Prerequisite: FINA595
– Brings together the previous 9 topics and is split into 2 parts.
– Part 1: a series of applied problem sets focused on economic analysis, quantitative methods, financial statement analysis, corporate finance, and fixed income analysis.
– Part 2: a case-study focused on advanced economic analysis, equity analysis, portfolio management, and professional ethics/standards in the investments industry.
MSFA credits exemptions
Students who are accepted into the MSFA course can apply for a maximum of 9 course credits earned via alternative education towards the MSFA graduation requirements:
|Certified Financial Planner (CFP)
|Certified Management Accountant (CMA)
|ACCT545, FINA515, FINA575
|Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
|Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst (CAIA)
|Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)
|FINA515, FINA525, FINA575
|Financial Risk Manager (FRM)
That said, if you happen to have both CFA and CAIA qualification, you can obtain 12 course credits.
There are also course credits for prior learning available if you have previously studied a qualifying course at CFFP (such as CFP and MS in Personal Financial Planning), and/or completed a comparable graduate level coursework. The latter requires a separate application that would be evaluated on a case by case basis.
The fees for this online Master’s degree is relatively straightforward:
- $35 non-refundable application fee
- $1,725 per course, or $17,250 for the entire degree’s tuition fees, assuming no course exemptions obtained from prior learning (see previous section)
- Books and materials are estimated at $150 per course (or $1,500 for 10 courses)
Thus, the total cost for an MFSA student that has no prior learning course exemption is $18,785.
So a realistic range of total costs for most students is $13,125 (9 course credits) -$18,785 (no course credits).
It’s worth a reminder that if you intend to study for the CFA Program either concurrently or after graduating from MSFA, CFFP would also offer complimentary access to Kaplan Schweser’s CFA Essentials study packages for all 3 levels worth circa $2,100.
Exam schedule & key deadlines
There are 5 MSFA course sessions held each year. Classes begin roughly every 10 weeks. The classes last for 8 weeks each, and there is a 2 week break between classes.
What are the entry requirements for MSFA?
Those interested in the MSFA course need to apply directly at College for Financial Planning and pay a $35 non-refundable application fee.
Admissions applications are accepted on a rolling basis and can be completed online. Applications are reviewed once all documents are received and potential students should hear back within 2-3 weeks.
To be accepted for MS in Financial Analysis at the College for Financial Planning, applicants need to meet one of the following requirements:
- Have a bachelor’s degree in any major from an institution accredited by one of six accrediting agencies such as the Higher Learning Commission with a minimum Grade Point Average (GPA) of 3.0.
- Have a bachelor’s degree in accounting, economics, engineering, finance, mathematics, or statistics from an accredited institution with a minimum GPA of 2.5.
- Have a graduate degree in major from an accredited institution.
- Have a bachelor’s degree in any major from an accredited institution and a GRE or GMAT score at or above the 50th percentile
Additionally, if your native language is not English, English language proficiency must be demonstrated with either:
- a minimum score of 85 on the TOEFL exam (Test of English as a Foreign Language); or
- a minimum score of 7.0 on the IELTS exam (International English Language Testing System)
Benefits of MSFA
Upon graduating from CFFP’s MS in Financial Analysis, a student can reasonably expect to:
- gain specialized, practical knowledge about financial analysis and investment management.
- enhance career progression and broaden employability, particularly in the finance sector.
- potentially secure an increase in salary, benefits or total compensation with increased responsibilities.
- secure a high quality, well recognized and accredited Master’s degree cost effectively, especially whilst working (no loss of income with part time study). Unlike professional designations, Master’s degrees don’t require any annual fees going forward, it stays with you forever.
CFA vs MS in Financial Analysis: An In-Depth Comparison
Costs are often a big consideration when deciding between pursuing CFA vs Masters in Finance degrees.
Generally, top Masters in Finance courses are full time and costs between $60,000-$118,000. And that excludes living costs and opportunity costs of lost income to attend it full time.
These top-ranking, full time Master’s in Finance degrees are usually more suitable for experienced working professionals who can better leverage the networking opportunities of an in-person Master’s degree, and can also afford to do this full time, or are sponsored by their firm to do so.
In response to demand for more practical options, a popular alternative here is to consider an online Master’s in Finance, such as MS in Financial Analysis (MSFA) from the College for Financial Planning.
When comparing CFA vs Masters in Financial Analysis’ costs, CFA Program looks cheaper on paper:
- The total cost for MSFA is between $13,125 (7 courses) – $18,785 (10 courses). This is because some applicants may qualify for up to 3 course exemptions from prior learning or alternative education.
- Assuming 3 consecutive passes (which isn’t easy to achieve given the low pass rates), the estimated costs for passing 3 levels of CFA exams are $3,100-$7,900. Each retake costs on average $2,000 extra in exam fees and study materials. Ongoing annual membership fees of $275 are due thereafter as CFA charterholders.
However, there are other aspects to consider as well which may make them more comparable overall.
Both CFA and MSFA are online-based study programs that can be fit around a full-time job. MSFA has more university faculty support whereas CFA is more self-led, although the latter can achieve the same level of support with premium study packages from third party prep providers.
With commitment, MSFA can be completed in under 2 years on a part-time basis. However, it is less certain with CFA as it depends heavily on passing all 3 exams. The fastest one can complete all 3 levels of CFA Program is in 15 months with consecutive passes, but the average time to complete the CFA Program is now estimated to be around 3 years with the new, more frequent exam windows.
Pass rates and certainty
CFA exams are well-known for being tough with relatively low average pass rates of 39-50%.
On the other hand, with similar hard work and focus, most MSFA students are likely to graduate and secure a Master’s degree given the broader coursework assessments that don’t rely exclusively on one exam.
Both CFA and MSFA do cover similar topics and enable students to learn in-depth financial concepts, quantitative analysis and valuation techniques that are relevant in sectors such as investment management.
However, the CFA Program is often incorrectly construed as a Master’s degree. Although it is benchmarked to be equivalent – in terms of difficulty – to a Master’s degree, the CFA Program is still technically a credential.
So, what’s the difference between a degree and credential?
- Degrees are given after taking a required number of classes, whereas credentials are attestations about your ability made by a third party who is qualified to do so.
- Credentials can come in various forms, including degrees, certificates, licenses and endorsements.
- Therefore degrees are always credentials, but credentials are not always degrees.
The reason for this distinction is that for those not currently working in finance, acquiring a Master’s in Finance such as MSFA first tends to stand you a better chance in securing a finance job vs passing CFA Level 1.
On the other hand, the CFA Program is great at signalling commitment and expertise for those already in the finance industry with a few years of relevant work experience, especially in investment research and portfolio management.
The skills, knowledge and qualification that come with CFA charterholders and MSFA graduates are well sought after in the finance sector.
CFA charterholders work in a broad range of sectors, such as portfolio management, research, consulting, investment management, trading, financial planning, wealth management and risk management.
Therefore, salaries can vary by region, job function and work experience. CFA Institute reported that an experienced CFA charterholder in portfolio management earns an average base salary of $126k with total compensation of $177k. Removing the work experience effect, our research also shows that having a CFA charter increases average salary by 47% vs a CFA Level 1 candidate.
According to Graduate Management Admissions Council’s (GMAC) 2022 report:
- 84% of corporate recruiters are planning to hire Masters in Finance graduates.
- 60% of recruiters are now also increasingly accepting of online degrees, particularly in Asia and Europe.
- Median starting salaries of Master’s in Finance graduate is $110k.
All in all, the career prospects for both CFA and MSFA graduates are comparable and demonstrating good growth prospects.
Overall summary of CFA vs MSFA
Here’s a quick summary table of CFA vs MSFA features:
|MS Financial Analysis
|Bachelor’s degree (with a target minimum GPA/GRE/GMAT scores) or graduate degree.
See MSFA entry requirements above for more details.
|Bachelor’s degree, 2 years remaining in Bachelor’s program or a certain amount of professional work experience (can be standalone or combined with education).
See CFA entry requirements for more details.
|10 Topics (mapped to CFA learning outcomes): Financial Statement Analysis, Advanced Financial Statement Analysis, Economics for Financial Analysis, The Financial System, Markets and Instruments, Quantitative Methods, Security Analysis and Valuation, Corporate Finance, Derivatives and Alternative Investments, Portfolio Management, Financial Analysis Capstone.
|10 Topics: Ethics, Quantitative Methods, Economics, Financial Reporting & Analysis, Corporate Finance, Equities, Fixed Income, Derivatives, Alternative, Portfolio Management.
|Number of exams
|Grades are based on a broad variety of coursework, e.g. scheduled reading assignments, group discussions and exams.
|– Level 1: Multiple choice questions
– Level 2: Item set questions
– Level 3: Item set and constructed response questions
|As it is a degree course, this is expected to be higher than CFA Program.
|The range of CFA pass rates since 2010:
Level 1: 22%-49%
Level 2: 29%-55%
Level 3: 39%-56%
|Fees and Costs
|$35 non-refundable application fee.
There are 10 courses (each 3 credits), with $1,875 per course ($1,725 tuition fee plus $150 books & materials).
So a realistic range of total costs for most students is $13,125 (with the max 9 course credits) – $18,785 (no course credits).
No annual membership fees post graduation.
|One-off Enrollment Fee: $350
Registration fee (per level): $900-$1,200
Retakes: same as registration fee
The total cost for all 3 levels of CFA exams are $3,100-$7,900, assuming consecutive passes.
Annual membership fee as a CFA charterholder
|Study Hours Needed
|A minimum of 135 hours of study per course, i.e. 945 hours (7 courses) – 1,350 hours (10 courses).
|At least 300 hours per level
|Post exam requirements
|To become a CFA charterholder:
– Pass all the 3 levels of CFA exams;
– 4 years of qualified investment work experience;
– Submit reference letters for 2-3 professional references;
– Become a regular member of CFA Institute;
Adhere to CFA ethics and professional conduct.
All in all, both MSFA and CFA are comparable in terms of:
- curriculum coverage and finance career relevance (especially investment management);
- ability to combine the studies with work;
- study hours required.
What they differ in is the fact that fundamentally CFA Program is a credential – although it is benchmarked to be as difficult as a Master’s degree – whereas MSFA is a Master’s degree.
Although at first sight MSFA is more costly than CFA, the final “costs” (both monetary and stress levels) might be similar for both qualifications due to CFA Program’s lower pass rates, high retake costs and higher level of uncertainty in general. There’s also no membership fees required for MSFA post graduation, and moreover, CFFP’s MSFA graduates are offered complimentary Kaplan Schweser CFA Essential study packages for those interested in taking on the CFA exams.
Generally, if you’re a university student, starting a graduate career or looking to switch into finance, a Master’s in Finance such as MSFA would be more impactful to secure a move into finance.
CFA Program is particularly helpful and recognized when you’re already within finance with a few years of work experience, which could help further secure more responsibilities or promotion, especially in sectors such as investment research, portfolio management, investment strategy.
Masters in Financial Analysis FAQ
Does a Masters in Financial Analysis help with the CFA Program?
Yes, it depends on the exact curriculum.
For example, the College for Financial Planning’s (CFFP) Master’s in Financial Analysis (MSFA) can definitely help with earning the CFA charter on two fronts:
1) First, its curriculum is specifically designed to map the learning outcomes of the CFA Program.
2) CFFP also offers complimentary Kaplan Schweser CFA Essential study packages for all 3 levels for its MSFA students who want to study for the CFA Program.
Should I do both CFA and MSFA?
This may be worthwhile depending on your current situation.
Doing a Master’s in Finance such as MSFA can be helpful to differentiate yourself when trying to secure an internship, first job after university, or switching careers into finance.
Thereafter, many finance professionals with a few years of work experience especially in the field of portfolio management, investment research, wealth management and investment strategy may find having the CFA charter helpful to further signal commitment and expertise to their clients.
Therefore, if you’re in this particular stage of your career, considering both MSFA and CFA may be a good path forward for career progression.
Is it better to get an MBA or MS in Financial Analysis?
It depends on your career goals, financial situation and work experience. MBAs from top schools are generally more expensive and require full time commitment, whereas some Masters degrees can be done part time, and/or are online-based.
For experienced individuals looking to progress to leadership roles, an MBA is generally more suitable. For those with relatively less work experience and prefer a focus in finance sector, an MS in Financial Analysis most likely is more suitable.