Online courses about finance are abundant. We've put together a small curriculum made up of MOOCs that help you grasp finance as a university student might.
Who should take these courses
Most fields in finance require an accredited degree. You'll be hard-pressed to find work without one.
Given that, here's who we recommend these courses to:
- Students pursuing a Bachelor's or MBA program who want to get a leg up in their coursework
- Professionals in the field looking to brush up
- Non-finance professionals transitioning into a more finance-oriented role
- Anyone else who wants to better understand finance
We've also provided some reading suggestions at the bottom of this post to supplement these courses.
Understanding our recommendations
These courses are loosely based on finance core programs you'll find at leading schools and universities. You're free to take these in the sequence they're presented, combine them with other courses you find on OpenCourser, or enroll in just the ones that catch your interest.
Finance is a multidisciplinary subject that draws on other fields. If you're brand new to finance and are serious about achieving mastery, consider taking courses economics and accounting first.
Economics dictates much of the why behind finance. The courses below answer questions that will come up frequently for professionals. E.g. Why are interest rates moving in a certain direction? How will next month's production numbers affect how I invest today?
University of California, Irvine, has created an excellent two-part introduction to economics that drills down on both firm-level and macro-level economics:
For the mathematically minded, Caltech offers a quantitative introduction to economics that takes a model-based approach:
Finance professionals use financial statements to render an opinion about a company's health. Accounting is the common language of business that describes how transactions are recorded, posted, and ultimately rolled up into a financial statement. Learning finance without it is like trying to navigate the open seas without a map and compass.
We recommend two courses from the University of Illinois' seven-part Financial Management Specialization:
For a more concise introduction, consider the University of Virginia's course:
The most common branch of finance, Corporate Finance is the field that studies how firms balance risk and profitability, make investment decisions (e.g. in new equipment or R&D initiatives), fund those investments, and measure their performance post-investment. You'll also understand how firms return value to shareholders.
The most comprehensive introduction comes from the University of Illinois, which deals with everything from time value of money (TVM) to the basics of valuing acquisitions:
- Corporate Finance I: Measuring and Promoting Value Creation
- Corporate Finance II: Financing Investments and Managing Risk
Note: these are part of University of Illinois' seven-part Specialization, the same Specialization that contains the Foundations and Advanced Topics accounting courses. If you choose to complete the remainder of thespecialization, you may be able to earn credit as part of the University of Illinois' iMBA program.
The University of Pennsylvania offers a shorter introduction as part of its Wharton Business Foundations Specialization tailored to those who don't intend on making finance a profession or focus:
The University of Michigan offers two courses to introduce Corporate Finance, targeted at current professionals or those planning to pursue an MBA in the future:
Finally, regardless of which path you've decided to choose above, we recommend to anyone a course from Yale University taught by Nobel Prize winner Robert Shiller that explores common topics and discussions that take place in the financial markets:
Beyond the basics
There are many ways to further deepen and/or specialize your knowledge in finance. You may wish to consider these:
- An Introduction to Credit Risk Management from Delft University of Technology
- Advanced Credit Risk Management from Delft University of Technology
- Private Equity and Venture Capital from Università Bocconi
- Corporate Financial Policy from The University of Michigan
- Fundamentals of Quantitative Modeling from University of Pennsylvania
- M&A: Concepts and Theories from NYIF
- M&A Concepts and Theories: Advanced Topics from NYIF
Notably absent from this list are investments-related topics. We'll cover these in a later post. Other sub-fields such as government, nonprofit, and sector-specific finance (e.g. real estate, energy, infrastructure, etc.) do not currently have online courses dedicated to them.
We'll update this post over time as new courses arrive.
All of the courses we've discussed offer exercises, homework assignments, and exams that reinforce learning. However, from our experience, continued practice is what ultimately drives the learning that's effective.
One way to get on-demand practice is through textbooks—we personally recommend these:
- Financial Accounting by Spiceland & Thomas
- Fundamentals of Corporate Finance by Ross, Westerfield, Jaffe, Jordan
- Investment Banking: Valuation, Leveraged Buyouts, and Mergers and Acquisitions by Rosenbaum & Pearl
- Valuation: Measuring and Managing the Value of Companies by Koller, Goedhardt, Wessels
- Risk Management and Financial Institutions by Hull
Note: We marked a couple of titles "Editor's Pick" because they offer useful guidance and/or solutions to questions that are especially useful to self-learners.
We understand how expensive textbooks are. If you're on a budget, consider buying used or in paperback (where available). You may also wish to rent, which amazon.com (one of our affiliate partners) make very easy to do. Finally, don't forget about your local library, which may offer these books or close alternatives to borrow, for free!