What Can You Do With a Finance Degree?

| TBS Staff

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A finance degree includes coursework in accounting, statistics, economics, and business law, opening doors to exciting and lucrative career paths

In finance, professionals manage money and advise their clients on investment strategies. Professionals with bachelor of finance degrees work as financial analysts, personal financial advisors, and investment analysts. Many of these careers offer above-average salaries and strong projected job growth rates.

After earning bachelor of finance degrees, finance professionals can advance their careers by pursuing master's programs or professional certification. This guide provides information on several high-paying careers available to finance majors.

What Kinds of Finance Degrees Are There?

Degree-seekers can study finance at the associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels. These degrees prepare graduates for specialized careers like financial analyst, financial manager, or finance professor.

When researching finance careers, prospective students should carefully consider their professional goals. For example, most management-level roles require a graduate degree, so candidates who want to advance to that level should consider earning at least a master's.

Associate Degree in Finance

An associate degree in finance introduces enrollees to fundamental financial concepts. Degree-seekers learn about financial accounting, investments, and financial markets. Associate programs also include general education courses in the humanities, mathematics, and the social sciences.

Earning an associate degree generally takes two years. Associate degree-holders can find employment as financial clerks or insurance sales agents. They can also use their credits to transfer into bachelor's programs, where they can complete their degrees in half the time.

Bachelor of Finance Degree

Bachelor-level finance majors study financial analysis, financial reporting, and investment strategy. They also take classes in statistics, economics, and business to strengthen their analytical and critical thinking skills. Some programs include a capstone project, which helps students gain pratical experience.

Earning a bachelor's degree generally takes four years for full-time students, though learners with prior college credit can often complete their degrees in less time.

Bachelor's degrees in finance prepare graduates for employment as budget analysts, financial analysts, and financial examiners. Many personal financial advisors also hold a bachelor's degree in finance.

Master's Degree in Finance

Management-level roles, such as financial manager, credit manager, and risk manager, typically require master's degrees. A master's degree in finance usually takes two years to complete, though some programs offer accelerated pathways, which can take just 12 months.

Graduate students study portfolio management, derivatives, and investment strategies. Depending on the program, degree-seekers may also take classes in business management, organizational behavior, or strategic management. Many programs incorporate internships or capstone projects to help enrollees build experience.

What's the Difference Between a Master's Degree in Finance and an MBA in Finance?

A master's in finance and a master of business administration (MBA) in finance both provide graduate-level training for careers as financial managers, personal financial advisors, or portfolio managers. However, an online MBA includes more general business courses, while a master's in finance focuses on practical finance skills.

In either type of master's program, finance graduate students receive specialized training and prepare for supervisory and leadership careers.

Doctoral Degree in Finance

A doctorate in finance prepares graduates for the most advanced roles in the finance field. During a doctorate, graduate students usually specialize in areas like corporate finance, financial management, or international finance. A Ph.D. in finance is a research-based degree, culminating in doctoral exams and a doctoral dissertation. Some programs offer a doctor of business administration in finance, which focuses more on practical skills.

Earning a doctorate typically takes 3-6 years. Professionals with doctorates in finance can find work as finance professors and finance researchers. They can also pursue employment as chief financial officers.

Featured Online Finance Degrees

Careers in Finance

What can you do with a finance degree? After earning a finance degree, graduates can pursue careers in banking, financial services, and business. These professionals advise clients on investment strategies, analyze budgets to identify inefficiencies, and manage financial decision-making for organizations.

In addition to the careers listed below, graduates can work as accountants, credit analysts, investment bankers, and compliance analysts.

High School Diploma Required

Financial Clerks
Median Salary: $42,420 Projected Job Growth: ↑↑↑

Financial clerks carry out financial transactions for businesses. They assist customers, maintain financial records, and check financial records for accuracy. Most employers require financial clerks to have at least a high school diploma, while bachelor's degree-holders have an advantage in the job market.

Insurance Sales Agents
Median Salary: $50,940 Projected Job Growth: ↑↑

These sales agents sell insurance policies to customers, which includes explaining policies to clients and signing up new customers. They may specialize in a particular type of insurance, like life insurance, health insurance, or accident coverage.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

↑ as fast as average

↑↑ faster than average

↑↑↑ much faster than average

Associate or Bachelor's Degree Required

Credit Counselors
Median Salary: $45,950 Projected Job Growth: ↑↑↑

Credit counselors help clients manage debt by advising them on taking out loans, repaying debt, and restructuring their debt. Credit counselors may also create custom debt management plans for their clients.

High School Teacher
Median Salary: $61,660 Projected Job Growth:

High school teachers educate learners in specific areas, like social studies or civics. They present information to students and assess their learning. A finance background prepares teachers to build curricula around business, economics, or finance topics.

Budget Analysts
Median Salary: $76,540 Projected Job Growth:

Budget analysts evaluate organizations' budget estimates and spending to recommend ways to increase efficiency. They also assess finances for accuracy and ensure that budgets follow regulations. Budget analysts typically hold bachelor's degrees.

Loan Officers
Mean Salary: $76,200 Projected Job Growth:

Loan officers analyze loans to recommend whether or not to approve borrowers. They may also advise borrowers on the requirements of the loan or repayment options. Some specialize in mortgages.

Financial Examiners
Mean Salary: $92,330 Projected Job Growth: ↑↑

Financial examiners monitor organizations to ensure that they follow government laws and regulations. For example, they verify that financial institutions comply with securities laws. They also examine financial records to uncover illegal actions.

Financial and Investment Analysts
Mean Salary: $94,160 Projected Job Growth: ↑↑

Financial and investment analysts evaluate their clients' financial positions and the performance of their investments. They can work for corporations or individual clients. Some specialize in risk management or portfolio management.

Personal Financial Advisors
Mean Salary: $119,290 Projected Job Growth:

Personal financial advisors recommend investment strategies for their clients. They educate clients on retirement savings, insurance, and tax policies to help clients save for long term goals and improve their financial health. Some also manage investment portfolios.

Mean Salary: $120,970 Projected Job Growth: ↑↑↑

Actuaries analyze data related to mortality, accidents, and other unforeseen events to determine risk. Most actuaries work for insurance companies, determining insurance rates, coverage policies, and future benefits.

Financial Managers
Mean Salary: $147,530 Projected Job Growth: ↑↑↑

Financial managers oversee financial activities in organizations, overseeing other financial professionals. They create long-term plans and short-term goals for their departments while also setting policies. Some specialize in risk management or credit management.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

↑ as fast as average

↑↑ faster than average

↑↑↑ much faster than average

Master's or Doctoral Degree Required

Postsecondary Business Teacher
Mean Salary: $105,440 Projected Job Growth: ↑↑↑

Postsecondary business teachers — more commonly called professors — teach at the college level. They teach undergraduate and graduate classes in finance, accounting, and management. Many also conduct research and publish papers in their specialty area.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

↑ as fast as average

↑↑ faster than average

↑↑↑ much faster than average

Accreditation for Finance Programs

Prospective finance students should research accreditation before applying to schools. Regionally accredited colleges and universities meet rigorous standards for educating students and granting degrees. Accreditation benefits professionals by demonstrating the value of their degrees and ensuring that degrees meet educational requirements for graduate programs, professional certifications, and licenses.

Some finance degrees also hold programmatic accreditation from specialized accrediting agencies. For example, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business grants accreditation to finance programs.

Certification and Licensure

Professional certifications and licenses can help finance graduates stand out in the job market. They also allow professionals to demonstrate specialized skills in risk management, public accounting, and financial planning. In addition to the following certifications in finance, graduates should also consider economics certifications.

The Credit Business AssociateSM

The National Association of Credit Management (NACM) grants the credit business association credential to candidates who demonstrate mastery of financial accounting, financial statement analysis, and business credit. After meeting the coursework requirements, each candidate takes a three-hour exam to earn their credential. NACM also offers certifications in credit and risk analyst, credit executive, and credit policy.

Risk Management Associations Credit Risk Certification

The Risk Management Association offers professional certifications in financial risk management, including a credit risk certification. Candidates for this certification need three years of credit risk experience and must pass a 120-question, multiple-choice exam. Professionals maintain this certification by completing 45 continuing education credits every three years.

Certified Financial PlannerTM

The CFP Board certifies financial planners who meet educational, exam, and experience requirements. Each candidate must complete coursework through an approved program for certified financial plannersTM and hold an accredited bachelor's degree to qualify. The credential also requires a passing score on the 170-question exam and 6,000 hours of professional experience.

Chartered Financial Analyst®

The CFA Institute awards the chartered financial analyst® (CFA®) credential to experienced financial investment professionals. Candidates must pass a three-part exam covering corporate finance, derivatives, portfolio management, and financial reporting. The first two parts of the exam report a pass rate of under 50%. Each credential-seeker must also demonstrate at least two years of experience in finance.

Certified Public Accountant

The American Institute of CPAs licenses certified public accountants (CPAs). Aspiring CPAs must complete 150 credits of postsecondary education and pass the CPA exam. The four-part exam covers auditing, financial accounting, financial reporting, and regulation. After meeting these requirements, a CPA can apply for licensure in their state.

Finance Professional Organizations

AFP advocates for the interests of treasury and finance professionals. The association offers professional certifications, including the certified treasury professional credential, and hosts an annual networking conference with over 7,000 corporate finance professionals. Members benefit from training opportunities, webinars, and access to publications. This multidisciplinary organization represents financial service professionals, including CPAs and CFAs®. FSP offers collective expertise and collaboration opportunities. By joining local FSP chapters, members can network with colleagues in their area. AAFA is a professional affiliation group that joins North American finance and accounting search firms. In addition to connecting clients with finance firms, finance professionals can turn to the site for job search and recruiting needs. The AAFA network helps members find research about their local markets, which they can use to advance their careers. The AFA promotes the study of financial economics and publishes The Journal of Finance, a scholarly publication that keeps members current in the field. The AFA also hosts a finance directory and an annual conference, where finance professionals, students, and scholars connect to discuss finance topics. This professional organization helps women in accounting and finance achieve their career goals and advance in the profession. The alliance offers resources, including educational tools and leadership training, to help members reach their potential. AFWA also hosts a career center and events with networking opportunities. IMA represents management accountants who specialize in financial organization and planning. The institute was founded in 1919 and has over 125,000 members today. Members can pursue professional certifications, networking opportunities, and career development resources, including continuing education courses. IMA also sets ethical standards for financial management.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a Career in Finance Stressful?

The fast-paced world of financial services can create a high-stakes environment. However, finance majors can also pursue self-directed careers as personal financial advisors.

Do Finance Majors Make a Lot of Money?

Many careers in finance offer above-average salaries. For example, financial examiners, personal financial advisors, and financial managers all earned median annual wages exceeding $80,000 as of 2019.

What Is a Finance Major Like?

Finance majors study economics, business, and management, taking classes in financial analysis, asset management, and financial management. A finance major is best suited to analytical students with a mind for mathematics.

Is Finance a Lot of Math?

Finance requires some mathematical abilities. For example, finance professionals often use statistical methods to analyze financial data. They may also need to take statistics, algebra, or calculus classes in college.

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