Learn the Difference Between a Degree in Accounting and Finance

  • Flickr user reynermedia

    Although accounting and finance degrees both focus on handling money, they prepare you for different career paths.

  • A degree in finance prepares you for a career that involves analyzing spending, fund distribution and, investing.
  • A degree in accounting prepares you for a career that focuses on monitoring and assessing a company’s finances.

Accounting and finance are two popular majors leading to careers in the financial industry. Although both degrees focus on handling money, there is a subtle but definite difference between a finance degree and an accounting degree. Understanding the difference between the two can help you decide which is the right choice for you if you’re interested in pursuing a career that involves working with money.

What is a Degree in Accounting?

The focus area of an accounting degree is assessing current and past finances.

A degree in accounting provides you with the knowledge and understanding of how to oversee and evaluate a company’s finances. This will prepare you for a career as an accountant or an auditor. In these roles, you would be responsible for handling various types of financial records. After some experience, most accountants go on to pass a CPA exam and become certified public accountants. These professionals work in a wide range of settings, from non-profits and government offices to multi-national corporations.

An accounting curriculum includes classes in a wide range of subjects including auditing, accounting theory, financial accounting, business ethics, and accounting systems among others. You will also learn skills such as financial trend analysis and cash flow management.

Top 10 Colleges For A Bachelor’s Degree In Accounting

  1. Bentley University, Waltham, MA
  2. Fairfield University, Fairfield, CT
  3. Bryant University, Smithfield, RI
  4. Villanova University, Villanova, PA
  5. Binghamton University, Vestal, NY
  6. University of Mississippi, University, MS
  7. CUNY Bernard M Baruch College, New York, NY
  8. DePaul University, Chicago, IL
  9. University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, IL
  10. Rutgers University-Newark, Newark, NJ

What is a Degree in Finance?

The focus area of a finance degree is planning financial futures.

A degree in finance provides you with the knowledge and understanding of how to use financial data and information to analyze financial trends with regards to investment opportunities. This will prepare you for a career such as a financial analyst or investment banker. These roles involve helping companies and individuals make smart decisions about how, when, and where to invest their money. Finance professionals typically work closely with executive team members or investors, creating a strategic plan on how to reach their financial goals.

As part of the finance curriculum, the coursework will include areas such as corporate finance, investments, and financial portfolio management. You will also study topics such as financial analysis and financial planning and develop analytical, planning and mathematical skills.

Top 10 Colleges For a Bachelor’s Degree In Finance

  1. Wofford College, Spartanburg, SC
  2. Illinois Wesleyan University, Bloomington, IL
  3. Bryant University, Smithfield, RI
  4. Oklahoma Christian University, Edmond, OK
  5. University of Puerto Rico-Carolina, Carolina, PR
  6. Menlo College, Atherton, CA
  7. University of Minnesota-Crookston, Crookston, MN
  8. The King’s College, New York, NY
  9. SUNY College of Technology at Canton, Canton, NY
  10. University of Puerto Rico-Bayamon, Bayamon, PR

Accounting vs. Finance Majors: Common Coursework & Specializations

Accounting and finance degrees have a few common core courses, but the specializations in each degree are different.

Common core courses in accounting and finance degrees include:

  • Principles of Finance
  • Business Law
  • Business Ethics
  • Principles of Management
  • International Business
  • Business Statistics
  • Principles of Marketing

Specialized accounting programs

A degree in accounting offers several specialized programs. The career path you choose to pursue will determine which accounting degree program you should apply for. These are some of many accounting degree programs you can choose from:

  • Accounting information systems (AIS): This specialization covers subjects in accounting, micro- and macro- economics, and computer information systems for business. A degree in AIS will qualify you for a career as a management consultant or a computer systems analyst.
  • Accounting: A Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting will set you on the path to becoming a public account, although you will need to complete a master’s degree and pass a CPA exam to become a certified public accountant. In this role your responsibilities would including managing budgets, creating sales and cash flow reports, administering payroll, and maintaining balance sheets.
  • Managerial accounting: Managerial accounting teaches you how to manage taxation, identify risks, implement financial controls, do an audit, and prepare financial reports for internal use. This will prepare you for a role This will prepare you for a role that supports decision-making processes at management levels.
  • Forensic accounting: In this accounting specialization, you will learn how to analyze a litigation-related financial situation applying auditing, accounting, and investigative skills. A forensic accounting degree will qualify you for a career that focuses on identifying financial discrepancies and fraudulent financial activities.

Specialized finance programs

Same as with accounting, a degree in financing also offers several specialized programs. Your choice of career will determine which finance degree program to apply for. These are some of many finance degree programs you can choose from:

  • Investment management: This program focuses on the theoretical principles of investment decisions and helps you get a better understanding of investment strategies. A degree in investment management will prepare you for a role that involves managing a company’s financial assets and developing personalized investment strategies.
  • Capital markets: In a capital markets program you will learn about the equity markets, debt instruments, futures, and various other financial instruments available, along with their return factors and risk characteristic. This degree will qualify you for a career in investment management or in the securities industry.
  • Financial regulation: A financial regulation program combines aspects of finance as well as law, covering topics that range from business organization to tax laws. This is an excellent choice if you’re passionate about both, finance and law and will qualify you to work as in-house legal counsel for a financial firm. With a degree in financial regulation, you can also pursue a career with inter-governmental organizations.
  • Banking: Interested in a career in banking or asset management? Consider a degree in banking that covers areas such as risk analysis and management, trading on commodity markets, and alternative investments.
  • Corporate finance: A corporate finance program teaches you how to implement financial planning and strategies to maximize shareholder value. In this role, you would help corporations with capital structuring and investment decisions.

Accounting vs. Finance Jobs: Places of Employment

5 top places of employment for accounting jobs include:

  1. Corporate business
  2. Tax agencies
  3. CPA firms
  4. Finance companies
  5. Public accounting firms

5 top places of employment for finance jobs include:

  1. Commercial banks
  2. Mortgage institutions
  3. Credit unions
  4. Regulatory agencies
  5. Finance companies

Accounting vs. Finance Graduates: Career Paths with Median Salary and Job Outlook

Pursuing a degree in either accounting or finance can open up diverse career paths in a wide range of industries.

3 jobs for accounting graduates:

  1. Budget Analyst:

Median annual salary in 2022: $82,260

Job outlook 2022-2032: 3%

Budget analysts prepare budget reports, monitor organizational spending, and play a key role in helping private and public organizations plan their finances.

  1. Accounts and Auditors

Median annual salary in 2022: $78,000

Job outlook 2022-2032: 4%

Accounts and auditors examine financial records to ensure that they are correct, identify potential areas of opportunity and risk, compute taxes, prepare tax returns, and provide businesses and individuals with personalized solutions.

  1. Economist

Median annual salary in 2022: $113,940

Job outlook 2022-2032: 6%

Economists are responsible for conducting research and surveys, collecting and analyzing data, assessing issues related to monetary and fiscal policy, and preparing reports. They also advise governments, business and individuals on issues related to economic and fiscal policy. This role requires a master’s degree.

3 jobs for finance graduates:

  1. Financial Analyst

Median annual salary in 2022: $96,220

Job outlook 2022-2032: 8%

Financial analysts specialize in assessing the performance of different types of investments including stocks and bonds, and advice businesses as well as individuals on how to expend their money to attain profit.

  1. Financial Manager

Median annual salary in 2022: $139,790

Job outlook 2022-2032: 16%

Financial managers are responsible for helping organizations meet their long-term financial goals by reviewing financial reports, identifying ways to reduce costs, and analyzing market trends to maximize profits and explore investment and expansion opportunities.

  1. Financial Examiner

Median annual salary in 2022: $82,210

Job outlook 2022-2032: 20%

Financial examiners work with institutions handling monetary transactions. They are responsible for reviewing balance sheets, expense accounts and operating income to confirm the company’s assets and liabilities and ensure compliance with the law.

Once you’ve decided which career path you wish to pursue, the first step is to enroll in either an accounting or finance degree program. We’ve put together a list of the top 10 colleges for a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting and the top 10 colleges for a Bachelor’s Degree in Finance.

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