Home Master of Science in Finance Program

An Innovative, Cross-Disciplinary Degree Uniquely Prepares Graduates to Excel in Financial Careers


Although PLU’s Master of Science in Finance Program (MSF) is only two years in the making, it quickly has established itself as a program geared toward excellence and rigor, especially after its recognition by the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Institute in April 2014.

A quantitatively rigorous degree program, PLU’s MSF condenses a degree that usually would require two to three years of schooling into 10 months, allowing students to get back into the industry quickly, equipped with a powerful set of skills and tools to distinguish them from their peers.

Among the many qualities that set it apart, PLU’s MSF is the only program in the state of Washington welcomed into the CFA Institute University Recognition Program. The program is closely aligned with CFA material and incorporates 70 percent of the CFA Candidate Body of Knowledge – an assortment of knowledge, skills and abilities that investment experts around the world have determined as best practices. The program sets students up to obtain the CFA designation, the most widely respected investment credential in the world. Business Week Magazine calls a CFA designation, “the gold standard of the investment management field” because it embodies the highest standards of financial ethics, professional practice and education.

Students in PLU’s program also are given the opportunity to participate in the CFA Institute Research Challenge, an annual national competition sometimes called the “Investment Olympics,” which provides students the opportunity to practice practical skills like valuing stocks, drafting initiation-of-coverage reports and giving investment recommendations based on their analysis.

Last year’s five-person CFA challenge team consisted of three MSF students and two undergraduates who were challenged to produce and present a report to a panel of industry veterans after researching and analyzing a local publicly traded company. The talented team was the first group from PLU to win the local challenge and advance to regionals after out-competing an array of impressive teams including the University of Washington-Seattle MBA program and the University of Puget Sound.

“We are so proud of this remarkable team of PLU students,” said Nancy Albers-Miller, Dean of the School of Business. “The CFA challenge represents an opportunity to compare our students to those studying at many well-respected and long-established programs in our region. It is rewarding for our students to confirm they are among the elite and the very best-educated students in the Northwest.”

Rob Bickford (’11) and Larisa Zimoglyad (’11) talk about why they chose to continue their education through the Master of Science in Finance Program at PLU.

In addition to the CFA challenge team, MSF students have the opportunity to work with the new Gary Baughn student investment fund. The $115,000 fund is modeled after the Mary Lund Davis investment fund for undergraduates and is meant to give graduate students the opportunity to gain experience in investment through real-life investing.

Graduate students will use the earnings from the Baughn Fund to present an investment portfolio to power brokers at the Global Asset Management Education (GAME) forum in New York.

The value of the forum comes from real world experience with stock analysis. It presents students with an unparalleled opportunity to take concepts they learned in the classroom and apply them to a situation where there is risk and the possibility of reward.

“You cannot simulate this exposure in the classroom,” former Mary Lund Davis Fund advisor Dr. Kevin Boeh said. “This experience allows students to see in action what they learn in [the] classroom.”

The combination of great instruction by highly qualified instructors and opportunities such as the GAME forum and the CFA challenge provide a solid foundation for MSF students to hit the ground running in the world of business after earning their degree.

This year the MSF program will be led by a new director, Cynthia Riley-Smith, who has previous experience working for PLU in the advising office. Eager to be back again, Smith casts a vision of excellence for the MSF program, looking to increase its visibility, foster communications with alumni, strengthen international connections, improve scholarship opportunities, and develop a sense of community in each cohort.

“I am most looking forward to meeting MSF students and doing all I can to help advance their respective careers in finance,” Riley-Smith said.