Do you like working with numbers? Or perhaps you are intrigued by the idea of stocks, bonds, and the financial markets? Maybe you like the idea of helping companies and financial institutions grow their revenues through creative planning. If these hold your interest, perhaps you may want to consider a degree in finance.
An undergraduate degree finance program is designed to teach students crucial aspects of business, including financial planning, analyzing expenses and limiting them, and making investment decisions. Classes in a finance major will cover topics in math, economics, accounting, and psychology.
Rewarding jobs are available for finance majors in several companies and financial institutions. A candidate can work as a financial advisor, financial analyst, budget analyst, financial service sales agents, and more.
It takes four years of full-time study to complete a bachelor of finance program, whether it is a traditional on-campus format or an online bachelor’s degree. The program allows you to courses that improve critical thinking, problem-solving, and analytical skills.
A bachelor in finance degree prepares you to take on finance-related jobs at entry-level positions, and you can opt to further your education in a master’s of finance program.
How to Apply for a Finance Degree
If you have decided to pursue an undergraduate finance degree, the next logical step is to determine the admission requirements for your preferred school. While the application process varies slightly between schools, the general documents you will need include a copy of your high school transcripts, entrance essay, honors awards, and more.
Starting the application process and fulfilling the requirements in advance is the best way to ensure your application is completed and submitted on time.
What Educational Requirements Do You Need to Apply for a Finance Degree?
An average GPA score of 3.0 is the prerequisite for getting into a reputable business school for a finance major. Other requirements include:
- Transcripts from high school or previous college showing that students have the necessary prerequisites
- SAT/ACT scores (actual scores vary between schools)
- Letters of recommendation from three professionals or teachers who know you well enough to speak on your work ethic and skills
- Application and application fee (some schools do not charge an application fee)
What Can Strengthen a Finance Degree Application?
A strong background in finance-related courses can strengthen your application to study for a finance degree in a four-year college. An aptitude in subjects such as accounting, mathematics, communications, and English can improve your chances of getting into an undergraduate finance degree program.
Most schools are also looking for students with a passion and motivation for the field of study. Your passion will often show up in the extra-curricular experience and other information (such as letters of recommendation) you submit to the school you are applying to.
What’s Included in the Curriculum for a Finance Degree?
Students who choose to major in finance can expect to study courses that prepare them for entry-level positions such as a financial manager or other positions in finance-related fields. However, the content of the curriculum is a solid foundation for a graduate degree in finance.
How Heavy is the Coursework for a Finance Degree?
The coursework takes four years to complete in a traditional program. This involves between 120 and 128 credit hours to successfully graduate with a finance degree. Graduation dates can be impacted by factors such as distance learning and self-paced learning. Students can graduate faster by taking classes in the summer, and busy professionals can opt for accelerated online programs that offer lots of flexibility.
Some of the core courses students are expected to offer include:
- Accounting I
- Personal Finance Concepts
- Principles of Business
- Fundamentals of Marketing
- Management Fundamentals
- Introduction to Business Law
- Introduction to Project Management
- Introductory Human Resource Management
What Classes Must You Take for Finance Degree?
The common courses found in a bachelor’s degree in finance program in most schools include:
This course deals with macroeconomic and microeconomics aspects, including inflation, employment, national income, income distribution, markets, firms, and consumers. It also covers the communication skills required for applied businesses.
Students who have a strong passion for learning how the economy works but who do not want to major in finance can opt to study for a business economics degree.
This course exposes students to research projects where they acquire the skills required to execute action plans. Topics covered include simultaneous equation models, statistical inference, regression, instrumental variables.
This subject introduces students to basic statistical concepts and methods and how they apply in real-world situations. The course gives students the knowledge of graphical and numerical summaries and also teaches the language of probability.
One major focus of this course is financial statement analysis. Students study how financial reporting is done in a corporate setting and learn the practical application of how to improve risk evaluations.
Students learn how to avoid a financial crisis by managing risks. Topics include the mathematical theory of liquidity of risk, interest rate securities, violations, extreme value theory, and more.
What Areas of Specialization Can You Study for With a Finance Degree?
Students can opt to specialize in some of these finance topics, depending on what is covered in their school of choice:
This field concentrates on financial management within corporations, with topics such as mergers and acquisitions, risk mitigation strategies, and assessing corporations’ market value. Potential careers in this specialization include treasurers, financial analysts, and controllers.
Students who specialize in this area will learn why bad decisions leading to crashes and inefficiencies are made within the financial industry. Typically, topics combine social, psychological, and economic models to understand both group and individual behaviors. A student who takes this route can become an investment manager, financial analyst, behavioral economics researcher, or personal financial advisor.
This concentration allows students to learn the intricacies of buying and selling of investments. Students can choose this specialization to help grow an organization’s portfolio. Positions for finance professionals in this area usually find employment in large financial institutions, such as insurance companies and banks.
The focus of this area is learning how to make decisions based on quantitative methods. Students are prepared to gather and manage datasets, predict business outcomes, and apply statistical analysis. The career path for this specialization includes marketing, operations, and accounting.
In this concentration, students learn how to effectively manage, upgrade, and dispose of assets. Assets include money, human capital, and intellectual property. Most financial professionals end up working in private institutions and banks.
Benefits of a Finance Degree
Graduates of finance programs are well-prepared to dissect and appraise the financial standing of business entities. This gives them a unique advantage, as they can pursue careers in vast areas and earn good salaries.
What Types of Jobs Can You Get With a Finance Degree?
Having a finance background enables you to choose from a wide range of careers cutting across nearly all industries. Although all finance majors are expected to develop excellent analytical skills, it is best to carefully consider your unique set of skills, interests, and values before choosing a career direction.
Here are some of the popular and good-paying entry-level jobs related to a finance degree.
1. Financial Analyst
Financial analysts are experts who assist investors, corporate finance managers, and bankers with the process of mergers, acquisitions, and restructuring or expansion. They do this by continuously researching industries, companies, stocks, and bonds.
Their finance training helps them correctly scrutinize and breakdown financial statements and other financial data, conduct complex quantitative analyses, and create financial models. They present detailed reports of findings to finance teams or financial institutions. The average salary for a financial analyst is about $81,590.
2. Financial Planner or Financial Advisor
Financial planners use their knowledge of investment vehicles to counsel clients on how best to manage their finances. One of their critical functions involves looking out for trends in the securities market and correctly interpreting the data to help investors make informed decisions.
The profession is most suitable for finance majors with excellent persuasive abilities and strong interpersonal skills. The average salary for a financial adviser is $87,850.
3. Investor Relations Associate
Investor relations professionals are expected to assimilate, correctly interpret, and present information about their corporate clients or company to investors and analysts. The role is best for finance majors with excellent communication and organizational skills. The entry-level salary for an investor relations associate is $61076 on average.
4. Business Teacher
Finance majors with a strong passion for teaching can use their superior presentation and communication skills to teach high school students several business-related topics, including the fundamentals of management, investment, accounting, and marketing.
Finance majors who are enthusiastic about teaching business can study further to earn a master’s degree in business and take up teaching jobs at four-year colleges or high school. A business teacher can earn an average salary of $41,654.
5. Commercial Real Estate Agent
A commercial real estate agent career is a great fit for finance majors with good sales orientation and superb verbal skills. This financial professional plays an advisory role to clients looking to launch new businesses and financing property acquisitions.
They analyze their clients’ financial status and business plans to enable them to recommend the right spaces for their ventures or projects. The average salary for commercial real estate agents is approximate $42,500.
6. Loan officer
Loan officers are the agent of any financial institution, such as a bank or credit union, who helps borrowers applying for a loan. A loan officer’s duties are to advise, assess, and authorize loans to corporate bodies and individuals. He or she is the direct contact for businesses and persons applying for a loan from financial institutions.
Most people need assistance with complex loans such as mortgages. Financial institutions need finance bachelors with excellent communication skills to simplify the process for non-experts, whether it is financing a college education or buying a new home or purchasing a new car. The median salary for a loan officer is $63,040.
7. Investment Banking Analyst
One of the most prestigious areas in the financial sector is investment banking. A financial professional in this field assists venture capital firms, corporations, and even individuals with the necessary requirements regarding capital.
Entry-level positions are available at hedge funds, venture capital funds, and investment banks for candidates with a bachelor’s in finance. Their functions typically center on collecting materials for due diligence, producing deal-related materials, and researching financial analyses.
The starting average salary for an investment banking analyst is $67,817. A master’s degree in finance, management, or economics can improve employability and increase a candidate’s earning potential.
What is the Benefit of a Finance Degree versus an Accounting Degree?
Business-inclined students who do not want to settle for a more versatile program such as a business administration degree can choose to go with a more streamlined option like finance or accounting degrees. But what are the specific advantages of these two?
First, it is important to learn the difference between finance and accounting degrees since many students find them too similar. Indeed, both majors share a lot in common, including higher salaries and lower rates of underemployment and unemployment.
Like a business administration degree, both finance and accounting programs include courses covering the general business core. This introduces students to the foundation of business topics. However, the coursework for accounting major centers mainly on imparting financial reporting skills, while a finance major focuses mostly on teaching the skills required for financial analysis.
Your studies will concentrate more on statutory accounting principles (SAP), financial planning, economics, financial modeling, forecasting, and variance analysis as a finance student. A finance professional deals with the unknown and must learn how to manage risks.
For this reason, bachelor programs in finance include courses such as Risk Management, Investment, and Portfolio Analysis, Corporation Finance, International Finance, and Intermediate Financial Management. All these are geared toward managing and minimizing risks, as well as maximizing returns on investment.
Accounting students spend more time studying financial statements (such as balance sheets), account reconciliation, and maintaining a general ledger, among other topics. Accounting professionals, including accountants and auditors, work with known values and are more involved in reporting financial data to help organizations improve profitability and business operations.
In a nutshell, you will be studying the management and manipulation of money with a finance degree. On the other hand, an accounting degree deals with obtaining, organizing, and handling financial information.
Some of the key skills gained from a finance degree are analytical skills, communication skills, strong theoretical knowledge, research skills, knowledge of trade, investment, and the stock market, and an understanding of industry principles and practices. An undergraduate finance degree is either a Bachelor of Arts in Finance (BA/F) or Bachelor of Science in Finance (B.Sc./F). Candidates can go further to get professional accreditation as Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), Certified Professional Risk Manager (CPRM), Certified Valuation Analyst (CVA), and Certified Treasury Professional (CTP), among others.
The skills and knowledge acquired in an accounting degree include quantitative skills, knowledge of accounting regulation issues, generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), and an in-depth understanding of the business industry.
Upon graduation, undergraduates are awarded a Bachelor of Arts in Accounting (BA/ACC), Bachelor of Accountancy (BAcc or BAccty), or Bachelor of Science in Accounting (B.Sc./ACC). The professional accreditation for an accounting major is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA).
Note that CFA and CPA are the most prestigious certifications for finance majors and accounting majors, respectively. Keep in mind that the CFA takes longer to obtain and also costs more.
The career potential for finance majors include:
- Financial consultant
- Hedge fund manager
- Commercial banker
- Financial manager
- Quant specialist
- Insurance officer
- Financial trader
- Investment banker
The average entry-level salary for finance majors is $58,464 (with a master’s degree holder having an average salary of $74,201). Keep in mind that wages may vary depending on location (country) and organization type.
Accounting majors can lead to the following careers:
- Forensic accountant
- Payroll administrator
- Tax advisor
- Financial examiner
The average entry-level salary for an undergraduate accounting degree holder is slightly lower than a finance major undergraduate at $57,511 (with a master’s degree holder earning an average salary of $69,605).
Choosing a Finance Degree Program
A finance degree or finance major opens you to plenty of career opportunities such as risk management, investment banking, corporate finance, management consulting, and more. It is a major that helps you develop many skills simultaneously, including impressive creativity and analytical skills. This makes you well-prepared to successfully take on the challenges of different industries at the completion of the degree program.
How Do You Determine If a Finance Degree Program is Right for You?
If you are on the fence about pursuing a finance degree, perhaps answering these questions will help you decide if it is the right choice for you.
- Would you say you have a high interest in math and statistics? Are you fascinated by these subjects?
- Do you enjoy solving problems creatively and figuring out innovative solutions?
- Do you see yourself helping companies increase their revenues?
- Would you describe yourself as a good communicator who can clearly and effectively express ideas?
Choosing a finance major might be the right path for you if your answer to all the questions above is yes.
How Do Online Finance Degrees Compare to Traditional Degrees?
No one wants to spend their hard-earned money and dedicate their valuable time to earning a degree if prospective employers won’t take their qualifications seriously. Therefore, it is important to be sure that enrolling in an online degree-awarding program is the right thing to do to avoid being stuck with credentials that are unacceptable or looked down upon.
Earning a finance degree online does not make your qualification any less valuable than a bachelor in finance degree earned at a traditional brick-and-mortar institution. That is because employers are interested in whether you possess the necessary skills to perform the functions of a job effectively and correctly. Where your degree comes from is of some importance, but it is not as important as whether you can fulfill a job description.
One concern many students have is having the term “online” printed on their degrees. Your credential will not reflect that word, and prospective employers won’t know unless you offer the information. In any case, even if your employer is aware that you earned your finance degree through an online program, it doesn’t spoil your chances of employment. Instead, most recruiters are impressed with candidates who can apply themselves to take on the challenges of online degree programs such as an international business degree.
Although online courses are flexible and very convenient, it takes a self-motivated individual with a high level of dedication and excellent time management skills to complete the program. You will earn more respect if you honestly explain your obligations and circumstances during an interview. Any recruiting professional understands the rigorous coursework involved in online studies, and that is a plus for you.
In general, employers and recruiting professionals usually look for three criteria when considering an online degree:
A school without proper regional accreditation is not worth your time, whether it is online or not. All executives and recruiting experts who view online degrees as equal to on-campus degrees agree that accreditation is the most vital factor in making online degrees credible. The quality of a university’s curriculum needs to pass certain standards of approval, and employers won’t take any online degree seriously if it doesn’t come from a regionally accredited school.
2. Traditional Campus
Employers prefer online degree programs run by universities that have traditional campuses. The reason is simple: such schools tend to have the same standards for on-campus and distant learning platforms. Recruiting professionals tend to be wary of an online finance degree earned from an internet-only university.
3. Reputable Academic Brand
A school’s reputation will determine how seriously employers will view their online degree programs. Most CEOs and HR directors are biased toward online degrees from well-known colleges and universities. School recognition is a huge factor when hiring managers consider qualifications, so consider choosing online degree programs from non-profit universities.
You want to avoid for-profit schools, especially if you are considering an online degree, because many of these options are seen as “diploma mills” that take money from students and churn out half-baked bachelor degree holders without in-depth knowledge on topics.
When your online degree meets these three crucial criteria, employers and recruiting professionals will view them as equal to traditional brick-and-mortar degrees.
What Scholarships and Student Aid Are Available for Finance Degree Programs?
Employers want to hire only the best and brightest candidates, which means students need to apply to the best business schools available. However, high-quality education is expensive, making it difficult for many students to support themselves financially through bachelor programs.
Thankfully, there are a handful of avenues that students can explore when looking for educational funding. These include:
Scholarship from Colleges and Universities
Students with a finance major can apply for scholarship opportunities from colleges, universities, and business schools. These excellent sources, especially as many learning institutions, work hard to attract the best students by offering financial aid as an incentive.
Undergraduate and graduate-level finance majors can apply for campus-based scholarships. Students are advised to visit their schools’ financial aid office or speak with their department heads to learn more about scholarship opportunities and find out if they are eligible.
Students need to meet certain minimum requirements for scholarships from colleges and universities. Depending on the school, you might need to have a 3.0 GPA at the very least. Some institutions may also require the applicant to be active in student affairs. The amount awarded varies depending on the school, with some offering between $1,500 and $2,500.
Another prime sponsor of scholarships is the business community, consisting of professional associations, corporations, and businesses. Their goal is to encourage and support the next generation of financial professionals, and they do this by awarding scholarships to certain students with finance majors.
Scholarships from the business community do not necessarily have to be aligned with a particular college or university. In many cases, sponsored scholarships by corporations and professional bodies target finance student groups known to be underrepresented. Typically examples include minorities and women.
Eligibility varies depending on several factors, including financial need, academic achievement, and student’s year of study, among others. The scholarship amounts are awarded based on the number of annual applicants and the availability of funds.
Students from all over the world can apply for scholarships from international organizations. Keep in mind that many of these organizations will require you to apply for funding from your home country, so be sure to do so if your preferred college is in another country.
Some of these International organizations include:
- The United Nations
- Soros Foundation
- World Health Organization
- World Council of Churches