MS in Finance (MSF)


Program Description

Advance Your Future In Finance

#6 Ranked graduate finance program in the US

At Gies, we deliver a Master of Science in Finance (MSF) degree that thoroughly prepares students for the dynamic world of finance. Our comprehensive, flexible, and cutting-edge curriculum is taught by faculty experts and industry leaders.

Students arrive with different backgrounds and different levels of expertise in finance, so our 15-month program has built-in flexibility to deliver education and experience that fits your needs. When you arrive in August, we’ll work with you to assess your skills and interests and place you in the classes that will prepare you for success. At Gies, we deliver a Master of Science in Finance (MSF) degree that thoroughly prepares students for the dynamic world of finance. Our comprehensive, flexible, and cutting-edge curriculum is taught by faculty experts and industry leaders.

Classes start in August (fall) each year. Applications for 2020 are now open. Applications deadlines are as follows:

  • Round 1 Deadline: Friday, 24 January 2020
  • Round 2 Deadline: Sunday, 15 March 2020*
  • Round 3 Deadline: Wednesday, 15 April 2020

*Final deadline for international applicants requiring a visa.

Set Up For Career Success

If you're looking for a career as an investment analyst, business valuation associate, or data analyst, our MSF program will prepare you for these careers as well as the CFA Level 1 exam. Over the past two years, graduates have gone on to work for major corporations such as PwC, Enfusion, Nanhua USA, Bloomberg, Deloitte, and KPMG China. Salaries for MSF alumni three years after graduation average $82,281 (based on 2018 Financial Times data).

Join the ranks of students who have seen their careers take off with their MSF degree.


Placement rate within six months of graduation


Average salary three years after graduation

Financial Times


Average signing bonus for 2018 graduates

A Flexible, Customizable, And Cutting-Edge Curriculum

The MSF program has an innovative three-semester curriculum that provides you with a strong foundation in the principles and practices of finance. The program also introduces you to the emerging concepts, practices, and technologies necessary to be successful in today's finance industry.

In addition to the core curriculum, you will select courses to customize your degree. For instance, you may choose to follow a specialization track in one of the following areas:

  • Asset Management
  • Corporate Finance
  • Data Analytics and Fintech
  • Quantitative Finance
  • Real Estate
  • Finance Research (Ph.D. Specialization)

You can also choose from a broad range of electives in other areas of finance, such as commercial banking, real estate, financial engineering or wealth management.

An optional full-semester practicum project allows you the opportunity to work on real-world projects for national and international companies to gain hands-on experience. These projects, paired with cutting-edge courses in big data analytics, high-frequency trading, financial engineering, and valuation will prepare you to excel in the finance industry.

Admitted students with extensive finance experience may elect to complete their studies in two semesters with approval from the program director.

The Department of Finance boasts an elite faculty with eight chairs or named professorships. Numerous studies continue to rank the Department as among the most productive of all finance research units in the world. Finance Department faculty are outstanding teachers who deliver high-quality, challenging courses. In the classroom, practice and learning converge to create an active and engaging educational experience which will prepare students for the challenge of modern financial markets.

Student testimonials

"The program has great professors who are very knowledgeable and come with rich experiences. The learning is phenomenal, and the breadth of courses offered is the key highlight of the program."

Tanvi Rotkar, MSF '16

"My time at Illinois has been an outstanding experience. I am highly thankful for the depth of knowledge the MSF program has armed me with. The support system created by the professors and the faculty is phenomenal."

Sashikanth Yenika, MSF '16

STEM-Designated By Design

The MSF degree is STEM-designated, which may allow international students to remain in the US for up to 36 months on the Optional Practical Training STEM extension. Our commitment to a leading-edge curriculum in data analytics, financial modeling, and financial technology secured this important designation.

Solve Complex Real-World Problems

Round out your finance experience with innovative resources and options that will make your educational experience even more valuable. The Margolis Market Information Lab is a state-of-the-art lab designed to give you exposure to industry-leading tools like Bloomberg, Capital IQ, Tableau, and more. Business case competitions and Illinois Business Consulting (IBC) are two additional ways for students to apply what they learn in the classroom to real-world, client-focused projects.

Gies College of Business MS Finance


Apply to the MSF Program

The next class starts in August (fall) 2020. Applications are now.

Students in the MSF program come from a variety of backgrounds. While many students in the program have a business-related undergraduate degree, the program also attracts students with undergraduate degrees in such areas as engineering, math, physics, and computer science.

Admission to the MSF program is highly competitive. Decisions are based on the individual's previous academic accomplishments, test scores, work experience, personal statement, resume, demonstrated potential for graduate and professional success, and references.

Application Deadlines

  • Round 1 Deadline: Friday, 24 January 2020
  • Round 2 Deadline: Sunday, 15 March 2020*
  • Round 3 Deadline: Wednesday, 15 April 2020

*Final deadline for international applicants requiring a visa.

Application Materials

It’s simple to apply online for the MSF program. To speed up the process, here are the items you’ll need and what you’ll need to do:

  1. Begin the Graduate College application: All of the steps below must be completed online through our Graduate College application. Be sure to select your program as Finance, then Finance - MS as degree.
  2. Upload your unofficial transcripts: The unofficial transcripts must include the applicant's name, institution name, and a transcript legend, grade scale or grade criteria. If an offer of admission is made, the Official Transcript(s) are required to be submitted upon arrival to campus. If you've not yet completed your undergraduate degree at the time of application, we will review your application based on the in-progress unofficial transcripts you have uploaded.
  3. Submit your GMAT or GRE score: All applicants, domestic or international, are required to take the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) or the Graduate Record Exam (GRE). Unofficial scores can be loaded into your application, but your official GMAT or GRE scores must be sent directly to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: Institution Code – 1836.
  4. Send us your English proficiency scores (international students only): If you are a non-native English speaker, you’ll need to upload your unofficial TOEFL or IELTS scores directly to your application. For IELTS scores, you should upload a copy of your official scorecard. TOEFL scores of 103 or greater or IELTS scores of 7.5 or greater are required for full-status admission. Request your official TOEFL scores to be sent electronically to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (Institution Code – 1836).
  5. Upload your resume: Your professional resume should include personal information (name, address, telephone number, and email address), educational background, work experience (start and end dates for each position and a brief description of responsibilities), internship experience, educational training, professional associations, and leadership experiences. Please limit your resume to one page only.
  6. Upload your personal statement: Your personal statement should specifically answer the following questions. Please limit your personal statement to 300 words or less.
    • What is your area of interest in finance?
    • What are your goals upon completion of the MSF program?
    • What choices have led you to your current career path and position?
  7. Choose your references: Please choose three references from academic and/or professional sources. Academic references should be from professors whose course(s) you’ve taken, and professional references should come from your supervisors and/or mentors. Once you enter their information into the online application, they will be notified to submit a letter of reference on your behalf.
  8. Provide proof of funding and Declaration and Certification of Finances Form (international students only): In order for your visa eligibility document to be issued, we will need appropriate funding documents uploaded directly into your online application. This is not required for application review but will be needed if you are offered admission. International students are required to show proof of funding for living expenses in addition to all tuition and fees.
  9. Upload a copy of your passport (international students only): In order for your visa eligibility documents to be issued, we will need a copy of your passport information and photo, including dependents, if applicable. You can upload these directly into your online application. This is not required for application review but will be needed if you are offered admission.
  10. Pay your application fee: For domestic students, there is a $70 non-refundable fee to apply and for international students, the non-refundable fee is $90. Applications received without payment of this fee cannot be processed. The application fee cannot be refunded.

Tuition & Scholarships

Tuition and Fees

Tuition and fees are subject to change without notice.

Cost Fall 2019 Spring 2020 Fall 2020 Total
Tuition $20,507 $20,507 $20,507 $61,521
Campus Fees $2,239 $2,239 $2,239 $6,717
Total $22,746 $22,746 $22,746 $68,238

There is also an additional International Student Fee of $35 that will be assessed.


Applicants offered admission to the program must submit a non-refundable deposit of $1,750 to reserve a spot in the program. This deposit is a pre-payment of tuition and will be credited to your tuition bill during the second semester of classes.

International applicants: For financial verification purposes, international applicants who are admitted are required to verify funding for the first 12 months, including tuition and other estimated living expenses, with the Declaration & Certification of Finances Form.

Scholarships and Financial Aid

This MSF program offers a limited number of scholarships to program participants. Funding and scholarship options are available as follows:

Merit Scholarships

  • Scholarship allocations are made with particular emphasis on recruiting high caliber students from diverse backgrounds. All students are considered for Merit Scholarships. Decisions regarding scholarship awards will be made on or before May 1 of the enrollment year. Recipients will be notified via email.

Golden Scholarships

  • As a result of a generous donation by Dr. Mark and Mrs. Lee Golden in 2015, the MSF program is pleased to offer the MSF Golden Scholarship to two qualified MSF students per year to help cover a portion of their tuition expenses. The selection of recipients occurs after the first semester of the program is complete. Strong academic performance is the primary criterion for the selection of recipients. The Golden Scholarship is open to both domestic and international students.

Curriculum and Requirements

The Master of Science in Finance is a generalist graduate program in finance. The MSF program begins in August each year and is completed in three semesters (fall, spring, fall). Most core and required courses would be completed in the first fall semester; however, dependent upon a student’s background and career goals, some core courses may be substituted or taken in the spring semester.

Core Courses

We admit students from a range of backgrounds, so in their first semester, students may need to work on their fundamental knowledge in important areas. We offer three core classes in the fall semester:

  • FIN 580 Corporate Finance (4 credit hours)
    • This course will cover a broad range of corporate finance topics providing a comprehensive overview of the material. At the conclusion of the course, students will understand the broad fundamental concepts of corporate finance in a unifying model. The text we will be using provides an excellent introduction to the concepts. Topics can be explored in more detail based on class interest and experience.
  • FIN 580 Financial Statements (2 credit hours)
    • Introduces the fundamentals of reading and understanding financial statements. The basics of financial statements will be introduced and there will be in-depth examples and cases demonstrating how the statements are constructed and how to carry out a basic analysis. At the end of the class, students should feel comfortable understanding a typical annual report.
  • FIN 580 Quantitative Methods (2 credit hours)
    • This course provides an introduction to quantitative methods that are applicable in several areas of finance; presents concepts and methodologies from probability theory, statistical inference, and regression analysis; emphasis is placed on software applications of real data on stock returns, CAPM and Fama-French models, and cross-section firm data.

Students with an appropriate undergraduate background may waive some or all of these classes, with the approval of the academic director. For example, students with a Finance undergraduate degree do not need to take the Corporate Finance and Valuation class

Required Courses

The program is very much focused on providing a flexible set of classes for students to tailor to their own specific career aims. There are only two required classes in the program:

  • FIN 501 Economics of Stock Market Fundamentals (4 credit hours)
    • Firms’ long-run value ultimately depends on their business fundamentals. This course covers micro- and macro-economic drivers of such fundamentals, such as consumer demand, market competitiveness, government regulation, interest rates, business cycles, and monetary policy. It also includes topics in risk and inter-temporal decision-making.
  • FIN 511 Investments (4 credit hours)
    • Introduction to investment analysis, including the theory and implementation of portfolio theory, empirical evidence on the performance of financial assets, evaluation of portfolio investment strategies, and the extension of diversification to international markets.


We have a wide array of electives on the program from topics in entrepreneurship all the way through to financial engineering and machine learning. To help guide students through the extensive list of electives available on the program, students have the flexibility to select classes that suit their interests and allow them to specialize in a particular area. We currently offer six different specializations on the MSF program:

  • Asset Management Specialization
  • Corporate Finance Specialization
  • Data Analytics and Fintech Specialization
  • Quantitative Finance Specialization
  • Real Estate Specialization
  • Finance Research (Ph.D. Specialization)

Students choose an appropriate group of electives, including a prerequisite and capstone elective. Specializations will be awarded to students who:

  • Complete both the pre-requisite class and the capstone class in the specialization.
  • Complete at least 16 credit hours in the chosen area. This includes the pre-requisite and capstone classes, so most students will need to take an additional 8 credit hours of electives from the specialization.
  • Achieve a B or better in all courses and an A in at least one of them.

Students satisfying these requirements receive an official letter from the program as evidence of their specialization.


A concentration is “an elaboration or an extension of a graduate major: either content specialization within a particular discipline (for example, a taxation concentration in accountancy, or an interdisciplinary program A concentration is a coherent set of courses some or all of which count toward the major.”

The MSF offers three concentrations. Unlike the specialization, the concentration will appear on your final transcript:

  • Accountancy
  • Business and Public Policy
  • Data Analytics in Finance

Electives available for students

All of our extensive elective offerings are included in at least one of the MSF Specializations listed above. Here is a full list of the electives that have been offered on the MSF program in previous semesters:

  • ACCY 501: Accounting Analysis I
  • ACCY 517: Financial Statement Analysis
  • FIN 447: Real Estate Development
  • FIN 510: Big Data Analytics in Finance for Predictive and Causal Analysis
  • FIN 512: Financial Derivatives
  • FIN 513: Financial Engineering I
  • FIN 514 Financial Engineering II
  • FIN 515: Fixed Income Portfolios
  • FIN 516 Term Structure Models
  • FIN 518: Financial Modeling
  • FIN 521: Advanced Corporate
  • FIN 522: Cases in Financial Strategy
  • FIN 526: Enterprise Risk Management
  • FIN 527: Mergers and Acquisitions
  • FIN 541: Real Estate Fundamentals
  • FIN 544: Urban Real Estate Valuation
  • FIN 545: Real Estate Investments
  • FIN 546: Real Estate Financial Markets
  • FIN 550: Financial Data Management & Analysis
  • FIN 551: International Finance
  • FIN 552: Applied Financial Econometrics
  • FIN 553: Machine Learning in Finance
  • FIN 561: Financial Intermediation
  • FIN 563: Investment Banking
  • FIN 566: Algorithmic Market Microstructures
  • FIN 567: Financial Risk Management
  • FIN 568: Behavioral Finance
  • FIN 570: Business and Public Policy
  • FIN 571: Retirement Policy
  • FIN 572: Health Care Policy
  • FIN 579: Applied Portfolio Management
  • FIN 580: Fintech
  • FIN 580: Legal Issues in Real Estate
  • FIN 580: Options Trading Market Making
  • FIN 580: Practical Asset Allocation
  • FIN 580: Advanced Futures
  • FIN 580: Cases in Wealth Management
  • FIN 580: Growth Corporate Capital Funding
  • FIN 580: General Microeconomic Theory
  • FIN 580: Quantitative Methods II
  • FIN 580: Real Estate Cases
  • FIN 580: Wealth Management
  • FIN 580: Quantamental Investments
  • FIN 591: Theory of Finance
  • FIN 592: Empirical Analysis in Finance
  • FIN 594: Seminar in Corporate Finance
Gies College of Business MS Finance in BIF

Finance Practicum

Need some more experience on your resume? The MSF Practicum is your opportunity to work as a member of a 4-5 person team on a short-term finance consulting project at a sponsoring corporation for a semester-long project during the Fall semester (for students in their third and final semester). The projects are structured so that a finished product is delivered to the sponsor at the end of the Practicum. Each student team is assigned a faculty mentor on campus as a resource and backup support.

The practicum is a win-win program. You gain valuable experience and have an opportunity to significantly impact a company. Corporate partners see the practicum project as an opportunity to use talented, external manpower to tackle a project that requires specialized insight or tools. They also use the practicum as a chance to see your work on the job as a potential future employee.

Previous Participants

We’ve worked with a number of companies to provide valuable insight to corporate projects:

  • Alvarez & Marsal
  • Andes Capital
  • AON Corporation
  • Axis Reinsurance
  • Brown, Gibbons, Lang & Co.
  • Busey Bank
  • CNA Surety
  • Cozad Asset Management
  • DHC Capital Management
  • Duff & Phelps, LLC
  • Eco Craps
  • Edward Jones
  • Equity International
  • Geral Auto Group
  • GLE L.L.C.
  • Guy Carpenter
  • Illinois Holocaust Museum
  • John Deere & Company
  • Lake Capital
  • Latin School of Chicago
  • Lockton Companies
  • Marsh
  • Mobile Mni
  • Motorola
  • Renewable Energy
  • Sam’s Club
  • Servant Financial
  • Sterling Wealth Management
  • Stifel Nicolaus
  • Strategic Wealth Partners
  • The Surety and Fidelity Association of America (SFAA)
  • Traeger Grills
  • University of Illinois Capital Financing
  • University of Illinois Foundation
  • Walgreen
  • Wayne Hummer
Last updated Feb 2020

About the School

For more than 100 years, Gies College of Business has intentionally designed its innovative programs, leading-edge curriculum, and experiential learning opportunities to empower and prepare students t ... Read More

For more than 100 years, Gies College of Business has intentionally designed its innovative programs, leading-edge curriculum, and experiential learning opportunities to empower and prepare students to turn big ideas into meaningful actions. This occurs when students have access to innovative curricular initiatives, top faculty talent, state-of-the-art resources, a strong reputation with employers, and exceptional networking opportunities. Today, Gies faculty prepare more than 6,000 future business leaders from around the world to put their purpose into practice and provide transformative leadership in a global economy. Read less