FAQ: Academics

What role does the CFA play in the MSF program?
What areas of finance can I concentrate in?
One of the advantages at Illinois is you can earn a general finance degree OR you can take a series of courses that allow you to learn more in-depth knowledge about a specific area. These specializations include banking, corporate finance, insurance and risk management, investments, asset management, quantitative finance, and real estate. An academic advisor will work closely with you to select the appropriate sequence of courses that meet your individual goals.

Please also see Specializations for more detailed descriptions on each option.

How many classes can I take in other departments on campus?
As an MSF student you are required to take four core classes in Finance (16 hours) and 12 hours of additional Finance electives. You can select the remaining 12 hours from a related discipline of your choice, including Accounting, Economics, Math, etc., or you can take more Finance electives.

Please view Electives for more details.

Will I have an advisor to plan my studies?
Yes! We have a full-time faculty member with extensive experience to guide you as you develop your study plan. You will work closely with Professor Martin Widdicks, Director of the MSF program, to define your study plan. Professor Widdicks provides individualized attention for MSF students so that their study plans accurately reflect their academic goals.
When are classes held for the MSF Program?
Classes in the College of Business are typically held Monday through Thursday.

During the Fall and Spring terms classes are again offered Monday through Thursday, typically during the day, but in some cases a class is offered in the evening. A class is typically held two days a week for an hour and forty minutes each day.

Throughout the entire year, Friday afternoons are typically reserved for Professional Development activities such as guest lecturers, field trips, and other career development activities.

Are the same finance courses offered every semester?
The University of Illinois has a vast number of finance course offerings. However, all courses are not offered each semester. When developing a study plan, students should note the terms that courses are offered in order to sequence their courses to meet their goals. Professor Widdicks, MSF Director, is available to guide students with their plans.
Can I study a PhD in Finance after the MSF?
In some cases graduates of our MSF program decide to pursue an academic career and continue on to a doctoral program in finance. However, this is not the route we would recommend, as both programs have different goals. The MSF is a professional program focused on practictioners of finance. Therefore, the curriculum emphasizes applications and practical approaches. Doctoral programs in finance focus on research.

The PhD program at Illinois is extremely competitive, admitting only 4 or 5 new students a year from several hundred applicants. For more information visit Illinois PhD.

How will the MSF prepare me for the CFA examinations?
The MSF curriculum provides very good preparation for CFA Level I and II examinations. Students also have the opportunity to attend a CFA Level I preparatory course offered every spring semester.
Should I pursue an MSF after an MBA?
The MSF program is for individuals with a strong desire to pursue a professional career in finance. MBA graduates with a strong interest in a finance career who feel they lack solid training in finance will find the MSF program very beneficial to their careers.
Are there any waivers of required coursework?
In some cases, dependent upon a student’s background, the academic adviser can approve a course substitution.
Are there opportunities to practice my finance skills outside the classroom?

How many courses can I take during my MSF studies?
A student can take a maximum of 16 semester courses. The number of courses could be higher if a student elects to take any of the several half-semester modules in specialized topics.
Does the program require a thesis?
No. The program is solely based on coursework. Students interested in working on a research project can make arrangements with individual faculty.