What is a Finance Degree?

In very simple terms, the finance field is about helping businesses, organizations, and individuals make money. Degree programs in finance, therefore, teach students about investing, financial and estate planning, risk management, interest rates, insurance, and taxes. Their objective is to produce graduates who are ready to help both commercial and retail clients reach their short- and long- term financial goals.

Typical coursework for finance students includes:

  • Accounting and Statistics for Financial Analysis
  • Financial Markets and Institutions
  • Investments
  • Analysis of Financial Statements
  • Financial Management
  • International Finance

Program Options

Associate Degree in Finance - Two Year Duration
While employers in the finance sector are increasingly seeking job candidates with a Bachelor’s Degree in Finance or a related field, holders of an associate degree may find junior level jobs as budget analysts, financial analysts, sales associates, or assistants to personal financial advisors.

Common coursework at this level includes:

  • Microeconomics – supply and demand in a market economy; consumer behavior; organizational decision-making;
  • Accounting Foundations – financial accounting; financial statements; managing financial transactions
  • Financial Planning – analyzing stocks, real estate, and bonds; investment issues related to tax; risk management
  • Corporate Finance – raising capital; managing risk; evaluating executive compensation; corporate governance
  • Business Law Foundations – statutes and regulations; employment law; constitutional rights; consumer protection

Bachelor’s Degree in Finance - Four Year Duration
Holders of a Bachelor’s Degree in Finance typically qualify for positions as financial analysts, financial advisors, budget analysts, and fundraisers. At this level of education, students may choose to concentrate their studies in corporate finance, financial counseling, investment management, asset management, or business analytics.

Courses in a bachelor’s degree program may include:

  • Econometrics – statistical tools used to decode economic research
  • Economics – microeconomics: consumers, markets, firms, income distributions; macroeconomics: employment, inflation, national income
  • Portfolio Management – how to manage risk to avoid financial crisis
  • Statistics – how statistics are applied to real-world situations
  • Financial Reporting – corporate financial reporting; financial statement analysis; risk evaluation and forecast processes

Master’s Degree in Finance - Two Year Duration
Graduates with a Master’s Degree in Finance qualify for a variety of senior-level roles as accountants, budget analysts, financial analysts, and market research analysts. Concentration options at this level of study include computation and programming, finance and economics, derivatives, asset management, and computational finance and trading systems.

Here is a sample of the coursework in a master’s finance program:

  • Financial Reporting and Analysis – accounting and processing; examination of assets, liabilities, earnings per share, and equity in financial reports
  • Business Taxation – the federal income tax system; tax principles required for the CPA (Certified Public Accountant) and CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) certification exams
  • Corporate Finance – valuation in terms of time value, debt, and equity securities
  • Investment Analysis – securities’ functions and markets
  • Business Communication – how to conduct presentations, lead meetings, and write concise reports, memos, and e-mails

Doctoral Degree in Finance - Four to Six Year Duration
A Doctorate in Finance is aimed at individuals who wish to teach finance at the university level or work in a financial leadership role with a large corporation. Most programs are focused on in-depth study of new developments in finance.

Degrees Similar to Finance

Business Administration
Without question, finance and business are closely related. Therefore, a business degree program typically has some finance coursework as part of its requirements. There are, however, significant differences between the two fields of study. The finance field is concerned with how individuals, businesses, and organizations raise, distribute, and use money. Business has a wider focus: how to operate a business from the perspectives of marketing, accounting, human resources, and operations.

The field of accounting, like finance, helps businesses, industries, and governments make financial decisions and set fiscal policies. But it is focused on analyzing income and expenditure records; on tracking budgets and revenue; and on producing financial records.

Economics asks wide questions about world economies, how governments should respond to financial crises, how stock prices and exchange rates are set, and how to help people living in poverty. The degree field of business and managerial economics is focused on how to use the concepts and theories of economics to study and solve problems in business.

International Business
Students of international business study business from a global perspective. They learn how to work cross-culturally, how to manage multinational businesses, and how to turn local and national companies into international corporations. Coursework often includes some foreign language studies, as well.

Management Information Systems
This degree field is focused on information systems and how they are used by businesses and organizations to improve their operations. Classes cover computer databases, networks, and computer security, and related project management.

Actuarial Science
This degree program provides students with in-depth training in mathematics, statistics, and probability. It teaches the use of models in analyzing and solving financial problems and includes coursework in economics, finance, accounting, and computer science.

Skills You’ll Learn

In addition to the finance-related skills developed throughout their education, finance students gain several soft skills that are transferable to other roles, as well:

Research / Analytical Skills
Finance is about analyzing scenarios and drawing conclusions

Problem-Solving Skills
Working in finance involves dealing with sometimes complex concepts and finding solutions for sometimes complicated business issues

Knowledge of IT Software
Modern finance requires practitioners with the IT skills to effectively use financial systems and software

Business / Marketplace Awareness
Studying and working in finance calls for an understanding of the relationship between corporate fiscal behavior and the demands of the marketplace

Interpersonal Skills
Finance is not just about crunching numbers at a desk; it is also very much about building relationships with both internal and external clients

Communication Skills
Strong oral and written communication skills and the ability to explain industry jargon in simple terms are key

What Can You Do with a Finance Degree?

In virtually every sector, financial managers are responsible for the financial health of a business or organization. They produce financial reports; assess the performance of stocks, bonds, and other types of investments; guide investment decisions; and develop strategies for the long-term financial objectives of their organization.

These sectors are largest employers of financial managers:

  • Finance and Insurance
  • Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services
  • Wide Range of Large and Small Companies and Enterprises in Every Industry
  • Government
  • Manufacturing

Depending on their specific role, financial managers are referred to as:

  • Controllers – prepare financial reports that summarize and forecast the organization’s financial position
  • Treasurers and Finance Officers – direct the organization’s budget to meet its financial goals
  • Credit Managers – set credit-rating criteria, determine credit ceilings, and monitor collections of past-due accounts
  • Cash Managers – monitor and control cash flow in and out of the company
  • Risk Managers – control financial risk by using strategies to offset probability of financial losses
  • Insurance Managers – limit a company’s losses with insurance against risks

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