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College of Business offers new, intensive master’s program in finance

The first cohort of eight students in the new Master's of Science in Finance program graduated in August. The program is for students who want to specialize in investment management and financial analysis. (Courtesy photo)

Sacramento State’s College of Business now offers a master’s degree for students who want to specialize in investment management and financial analysis.

The accelerated, 12-month Master of Science in Finance program is a blend of in-person and distance learning that follows much of the curriculum to become a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), giving graduates a leg up should they pursue that rigorous and highly regarded certification.

“We are in Sacramento and we have the two largest public pension funds in the country - CalPERS and CalSTRS,” Professor of Finance Lan Liu said. “A good number of our graduate and undergraduate students end up working for them and we hear about the need for junior investment officers.

“We also have a lot of talent here. Sac State students are very dedicated and many want to start careers in investment.”

The intensive program is cohort-based, meaning each new group of students moves through the same series of four-week courses together. The first cohort of eight students graduated in August.

Classes take place on Fridays and Saturdays to accommodate most work schedules.

Students also have the opportunity to network with peers from programs such as Sac State’s Executive MBA and engage with industry leaders who serve as guest speakers.

Unlike an MBA program which includes classes in marketing and management, all of the new program’s classes are related to finance, Liu said.

“We have students who say that it’s perfect for them. They like numbers and finance classes are what they were looking for,” she said.

Roughly half of the students enrolled in the program are working professionals who already have jobs in finance and are either looking to learn more about investments or want to advance their careers.

 The other half are recent graduates.

“They’re fast learners and want an edge to help them stand out among their peers,” Liu said.

The program also follows the CFA curriculum. Many College of Business faculty are CFAs, and about half of the first MS Finance graduating class has pursued the certification, according to Liu. Becoming a CFA can make job applicants more attractive to employers, due to the certification’s high standards.

Sac State is one of just three CSU campuses offering a MS in Finance program, joining CSU San Bernardino and CSU Long Beach.

The new program was ideal for Kelly Joy, a manager at the California Debt and Investment Advisory Commission (CDIAC), who was among its first graduates. She already had a master’s degree in economics from San Diego State University and was looking for a graduate program that focused on finance.

As a working mother of a six-year-old boy, Joy needed a program that was local and in-person while also being affordable and accommodating of her job schedule.

“It wasn’t until I found my job at CDIAC that I really found how much I loved finance,” Joy said. “But I also realized that the parts of my job that related to economics came more naturally to me, and the finance part I had a lot more research and a lot more reading to do.

“I really wanted to build a foundation that I could continue to layer on top of all the learning I’m doing at my work.”

Sac State’s MS Finance program was everything she’d hoped for – and more. In addition to the quality of instructors and faculty, Joy said the cohort system fostered a close-knit learning environment.

“We became like a little family or a close team, helping each other out,” Joy said. “Every professor was phenomenal and so supportive.”

The program also emphasized connecting students with employers and industry experts.

“This has helped build a bridge for me to really transition into being an emerging leader in the public finance field,” Joy said. “It was challenging, but the way the program is set up made it possible for me to achieve my goals while keeping the rest of my life and having some balance.”

“It was a really special moment to have my son watch me graduate, and sharing the importance of going to college.”

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About Jennifer K. Morita

Jennifer K. Morita joined Sacramento State in 2022. A former newspaper reporter for the Sacramento Bee, she spent several years juggling freelance writing with being a mom. When she isn’t chauffeuring her two daughters, she enjoys reading mysteries, experimenting with recipes, and Zumba.

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