Finance Degree Guide
Discover the different types of finance degrees and learn about the many careers available to graduates of finance degree programs.
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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.
|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.
|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.
|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.
|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.
|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.
|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.
|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.
|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.
|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.
Finance Certifications and Licensures
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Popular Questions About Finance Degrees
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.
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.
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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