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Corporate Finance and M&A: What Is The Best Online Course?

Many online course providers promise to teach what an investment banker or M&A manager needs to know. We take a close look at the leading corporate finance courses.

Corporate Finance and M&A: What Is The Best Online Course?
Pictures: C1ri/Tumisu/pixabay

Corporate finance addresses finance decisions that impact an entire company, firm, or corporation. Should the company make a significant investment, for example, and engage in a merger or acquisition (M&A)? What is the right valuation

Should the company use equity or debt financing? What is the best capital structureIs an initial public offering (IPO) beneficial, or private equityShould the company pay dividends or buy back shares? What other actions can increase shareholder value?

Within a company, the CFO and the corporate finance team typically work together to tackle these questions, with support from investment banks that have dedicated corporate finance, M&A, and capital markets teams. In fact, there are around 50,000 M&A transactions each year with a total value of nearly $4 trillion.

Numerous online courses and universities claim to teach everything you need to know about corporate finance. We've taken a closer look at 22 of the leading online courses below, which include online classes from reputable instructors with high user ratings. While many courses are free, some require payment of a fee to access tests and receive a certificate.

Corporate Finance and M&A: What Is The Best Online Course?

Introductory Online Courses (Long And Short)

  • The Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania offers a brief introductory course that covers the key concepts of corporate finance, such as risk and return, cost of capital and interest rates, valuation, and capital budgeting. While it doesn't delve into all the topics in detail, it provides the foundational knowledge needed for more advanced courses.
  • Another option is a short online course on Udemy from an MBA professor and former Goldman Sachs investment banker with experience in venture capital and hedge funds. This ex-Wall Street professional offers practical guidance to financial statement analysis and financial modeling, as well as valuation techniques based on cash flow, comparables, and multiples.
  • If you're looking for a more extensive course series, the University of Melbourne offers one that begins with financial accounting principles and then covers the role of capital markets, value creation, financial decision-making, and valuation principles in detail. The course concludes with a hands-on project in which students take on the role of financial analysts.
  • Columbia University offers an online professional certificate program that teaches practical corporate finance skills, such as valuation (using free cash flow methods), debt and equity decisions, investment decisions, capital structure, and risk and return profiles of assets. This course can take up to three months to complete, depending on how much time you dedicate to it.
  • Finally, the New York Institute of Finance (where Warren Buffett once studied) offers a comprehensive course series that starts with fundamental financial mathematics and covers many aspects of valuation, such as discounted cash flow analysis (DCF), as well as more advanced topics like option pricing models and alternative funding strategies like venture capital.

Online Courses About Specific Corporate Finance Topics 

  • Wharton Business School's online course series teaches financial modeling using quantitative models in Excel or Google Sheets (here). Udemy also offers an in-depth course on financial modeling in Excel (here).
  • Columbia University offers an online course that explains the free cash flow valuation method (DCF) in detail (here).
  • Learn about the widely used valuation method of "trading comps" in a separate Udemy course (here).
  • Columbia University also offers an online course that analyzes the cost of capital, expressed as the weighted average cost of capital (WACC) (here).
  • Erasmus University Rotterdam's course covers advanced valuation topics, including real options (here).
  • Duke University's course explains the differences in valuing startups versus traditional valuation exercises (here).
  • NYIF's extensive course series covers the field of M&A, including identifying opportunities, structuring deals, and modeling/accounting topics (here).
  • Udemy has a course that covers many of the required skills for a career in investment banking (here).
  • NYIF also offers a separate online professional certificate course on financial derivatives, such as futures, swaps, and options. Derivatives play an important role for hedging, trading, and deal structuring (here).
  • Nobel Prize winner Professor Shiller teaches an online course on the theory underlying capital markets and the entire financial industry, including efficient markets and the capital asset pricing model (CAPM) (here).
  • McMaster University's introductory course looks at the concept of financial debt (here).
  • Bocconi University's course analyzes private equity and venture capital (here), while Harvard Business School covers how to invest in alternative asset classes, such as private equity, private debt, hedge funds, or real estate (here).
  • While financial accounting is usually not seen as a part of corporate finance, it's a prerequisite for professionals in the field to understand how financial data is being reported. An online course from IESE Business School explains the details (here).
  • IESE Business School also provides a broader overview of the tasks of a CFO, including accounting, operational finance and corporate finance problems (here).
  • Modern technology can play an important role in particular in a quantitative finance environment. Udacity's course shows how artificial intelligence can be applied to trading (here). However, this requires a mathematics and Python programming background.

M&A explained (in 13 minutes):

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