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What Career Options are Available for Finance Majors?

Finance degree programs are relatively popular among students in the United States. They are often considered a good option for those interested in money management, banking, and/or economics. Often considered closely related to business, these programs provide a general introduction to many technical skills that are useful in almost any industry. This makes graduates well-prepared to join the workforce and may qualify them for employment in a wide variety of professions.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for business and financial occupations is expected to increase by 7% from 2021 to 2031. This is about as fast as the average for all occupations in the nation and will result in approximately 980,200 job openings each year. Prospects vary by profession, however. Projected growth for accountants and auditors is 6%, with an estimated 136,400 job openings each year for the next decade. Market research analysts, on the other hand, are expected to see a 19% increase in employment, which is much faster.

Finance and insurance is the seventh largest industry in Arkansas, accounting for $6.3 billion in revenue each year. Professionals in this field are likely to find employment opportunities in many of the state’s top sectors, however, as finance is an integral part of most businesses. Knowledge and skills in this subject may also lead to jobs in manufacturing, professional and business services, real estate, healthcare, and retail.

Based on data provided by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 57,500+ business and financial operations professionals were employed in Arkansas as of May 2021. The annual mean wage in the state for these occupations was $67,190. Notably, this is well above Arkansas’ annual mean wage of $47,040 for all occupations.

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Online Finance Education in Alabama

Most colleges and universities offer finance degrees. While programs are available throughout the nation, those who intend to find work in Arkansas might want to give preference to local institutions. These schools have the best understanding of employer standards and expectations in the area. Enrolling with one of them ensures you obtain the knowledge and skills necessary to be successful in finding and maintaining employment in the state. These colleges and universities will also be familiar with various credentialing requirements in Arkansas, which can make the certification process smoother. Additionally, many academic institutions have established relationships with local companies and organizations, often facilitating internships opportunities and professional job fairs.

Degrees in finance can actually lead to a wide variety of professional prospects. The field is expansive, with numerous occupations available to graduates at every level. This is beneficial, as there are usually many opportunities for career progression, as well as the ability to specialize in particular areas of interest.

Generally, finance professionals work with personal and/or corporate finances, helping clients develop financial plans, strategies, and/or forecasts. Ultimately, however, daily tasks and responsibilities will depend largely upon the occupation sought.

A couple common career choices among finance graduates are accountants and auditors. These professionals prepare and examine financial records, identify potential areas of opportunity/risk, and provide solutions for the individuals and businesses they work for. They are also often responsible for ensuring taxes are paid properly, as well as helping financial operations run efficiently. Additional duties may include examining financial statements, computing taxes owed, inspecting account books for efficiency, making best-practice recommendations to management, and suggesting ways to reduce costs while improving profits.

Most finance professionals in Arkansas have completed some amount of higher education. While some entry-level positions may be attainable with self-taught knowledge, on-the-job training, and professional experience, the mass majority of employers in this field expect candidates to have degrees in finance, business, or a related field.

Many colleges and universities in Arkansas offer finance degrees. As a result, prospective students can choose from programs at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels. Some academic institutions also have undergraduate and/or graduate certificate programs available, which are often helpful when transitioning to finance from other fields.

It’s important to realize that those with more education often have the best job prospects. Graduates with advanced degrees generally have access to the best and most lucrative finance occupations. The standard for many professions is a bachelor’s degree, although individuals seeking supervisory roles will likely require master’s degrees or higher.

Online Associate Degree in Finance (AS)

Associate degrees in finance generally consist of 60 credit hours of coursework that take full-time students approximately two years to complete. As undergraduate programs, most incorporate both general liberal arts education and major-specific classes. In addition to the required core curriculum, students can expect to learn basic concepts in finance, accounting, and bookkeeping. It’s also common to take introductory courses in business, payroll, software, and banking. Instruction often helps build skills in financial spreadsheet management, budgeting, tax preparation, and financial data analysis.

This type of degree is ideal for those who plan to seek entry-level employment in finance but do not want to spend the time or money pursuing more advanced degrees. Associate programs are generally offered by community colleges, which can also cost less than attending traditional four-year institutions. Graduates typically qualify for jobs that focus on the clerical aspects of finance, often providing assistance to more established financial professionals. Common professions for graduates at this level include accounting clerk, billing specialist, and bookkeeper.

These programs also help to prepare students to pursue bachelor’s degrees. Many graduates choose to pursue further education. This process is made easier because undergraduate course credits can be transferred between properly accredited academic institutions. Most colleges and universities accept up to 60 or 90 semester hours in transfer credit. As a result, those with associate degrees may only need two additional years of classes to graduate with bachelor’s degrees.

Online Bachelor's Degree in Finance (BS or BFin)

Bachelor’s degrees in finance often consist of 120 credit hours of coursework that take full-time students approximately four years to complete. As undergraduate programs, these programs incorporate both general liberal arts education and major-specific classes. In addition to the required core curriculum, students can expect to learn about financial planning, forecasting, and investing, as well as how to evaluate financial statements, cash flows, and security markets. Other topics commonly covered include accounting principles, financial institutions and markets, investments, and risk management.

Many colleges and universities also allow students to select concentrations at this level. This can help direct learning toward specific finance career goals.

Some examples of possible concentrations are:

  • Investment Management
  • Banking and Financial Services
  • Corporate Finance
  • Risk Management and Insurance
  • Real Estate

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, many finance and business professions require candidates to possess bachelor’s degrees. This is also the minimum requirement to qualify for many related professional credentials in Arkansas, such as Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Graduates often qualify for careers in financial planning, accounting, and financial analysis. Alternatively, they can choose to pursue further education by enrolling in master’s degree programs.

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Online Master's Degree in Finance (MS or MFin)

Master’s degrees in finance generally range from 30 to 36 credit hours of coursework that takes full-time students approximately two years to complete. Some accelerated programs may require as little as 18 months, however. Notably, graduate school no longer incorporates general liberal arts education into the curriculum. Instead, students can expect to focus solely on major-related subjects. Common classes include business communications, financial accounting, derivatives and risk management, financial modeling and firm valuation, and international financial management.

As with bachelor’s degrees in finance, some graduate programs allow students to select concentrations to prepare for specialized employment in the field.

Some examples of possible concentrations are:

  • Real Estate Finance
  • Computational Finance and Trading Systems
  • Derivatives and Risk Management
  • Finance and Economics

This type of degree may not be necessary to start a career in finance, but it can lead to some of the most in-demand and high-paying positions available. Graduates are often qualified to work as financial analysts, financial examiners, financial managers, and personal finance advisors. They may also perform better on required certification exams when seeking various professional credentials in Arkansas.

Online PhD Degree in Finance (PhD)

A PhD or doctorate in finance generally consists of between 60 and 120 credit hours that take full-time students four to seven years to complete. These programs are intensive but often adjustable to meet specific career goals. Those enrolled can expect to receive instruction in subjects such as accounting research, advanced statistics, microeconomic theory, and corporate governance.

It's often possible to tailor coursework by strategically selecting elective classes and/or concentrations.

Some common tracks include:

  • Forensic Accounting
  • Accounting Information Systems
  • Audit Accounting
  • Public Accounting
  • Managerial Accounting

Additionally, students will likely conduct independent study and research. In most cases, doctoral degrees culminate with prospective graduates defending dissertations before a board of finance professors or completing a doctoral study.

It’s important to realize that doctoral degrees in finance rarely required for employment in the business or finance fields. Rather, these programs are best suited for individuals who plan to work in academia and/or research. Some lucrative careers may also be available in corporate management.

Become a Financial Analyst in Alabama

As previously mentioned, there are many different types of financial professionals. Those with degrees in this field will be able to pursue a wide variety of employment opportunities. With so many options, the first step is generally identifying your ultimately career goals. Knowing which finance-related profession you are seeking will make your career path much easier to establish. It also becomes much simpler to determine the amount of education necessary and ensures you obtain any additional needed training and experience.

Once you complete the education requirements, it may be beneficial to seek one or more finance certifications. While not always required, many employers and clients give preference to those who possess them. Additional credentials in this field generally demonstrate the highest ethical and professional standards.

Some of the most popular options include the following.

  • Certified Financial Planner (CFP)
  • Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)
  • Certified Management Accountant (CMA)
  • Certified Fund Specialist (CFS)
  • Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC)
  • Chartered Investment Counselor (CIC)
  • Certified Investment Management Analyst (CIMA)
  • Chartered Market Technician (CMT)
  • Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
  • Personal Finance Specialist (PFS)
  • Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU)
  • Certified Government Financial Manager (CGFM)
  • Certified Healthcare Financial Professional (CHFP)
  • Certified International Investment Analyst (CIIA)
  • Certified Merger and Acquisition Advisor (CM&AA)
  • Chartered Economic Analyst (ChEA)
  • Financial Risk Manager (FRM)

Many finance professionals choose to pursue the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) credential. The Arkansas State Board of Public Accountancy oversees this credentialing process. All CPAs in the state must pass the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination, which is prepared and graded by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. To be eligible for this exam, applicants must be United States citizens who are 19 years of age or older. They must also have completed a total of 120 semester hours of postsecondary education at a college or university accredited by a regional accreditation board. Acceptable degrees include accounting or substantial equivalents approved by the board. At least 24 of the completed credit hours must be in accounting at the upper division undergraduate and/or graduate levels.

Another 24 semester hours are also required in the following subject areas:

  • Economics
  • Legal and Social Environment of Business
  • Business Law
  • Marketing
  • Finance
  • Organization, Group, and Individual Behavior
  • Quantitative Applications in Business
  • Communication Skills
  • Business Ethics

The Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination tests candidate knowledge and skills required for standard performance as a licensed Certified Public Accountant in Arkansas. Subject areas covered include business law and taxation, as well as related items the board deems necessary. Those who successfully pass the exam are then eligible to take the American Institute of Certified Public Accountant’s continuing professional education course: Professional Ethics. State certification requirements are not considered met until takers earn a passing grade.

It's important to realize that Certified Public Accountant credential applications are not considered filed until application and examination fees have been received. Additional required documents include proof of identity and official transcripts.

Top College Programs in Arkansas for Finance

Many of Arkansas’ leading online schools offer students the opportunity to specialize in finance through their business degree programs. Some of the leading programs in the state can be seen below.

  • John Brown University:
    John Brown University is a small, private university in Siloam Springs, Arkansas that is known for providing business programs with many options, including majors in finance and accounting. This program awarded 8 bachelor’s degrees in finance in 2021.
  • Lyon College:
    This very small, private, not-for-profit institution located in Batesville, Arkansas offers a business department that includes a major finance program. The school only offers bachelor’s degrees, so those who are looking for associate’s or master’s should consider attending elsewhere.
  • Ouachita Baptist University:
    Ouachita Baptist University is a small, private, not-for-profit school in Arkadelphia, Arkansas with a small finance program, though it is the largest of the available business degree offerings. In 2021, only 23 students graduated with a bachelor’s degree in finance, though another 10 graduates with a degree in accounting.
  • University of Arkansas:
    The University of Arkansas is a large, public university located in Fayetteville, Arkansas that awarded over 350 finance bachelor’s degrees and another 10 master’s degrees in 2021. Another 200+ graduated with degrees in accounting. Of its many business degree options, finance is the most popular offering in the business department, though marketing management degrees are close behind.

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Additional Careers for Finance Graduates

  • Accountant
    Accountants provide financial calculations used by companies and organizations. These professionals can work in a wide variety of fields and may be responsible for many tasks. They often create cash flow reports, administer payroll, maintain balance sheets, carry out billing activities, manage budget, and keep inventory records. Accountants may also file taxes and perform internal audits. According to PayScale, accountants make an average base salary of $52,800 per year.
  • Budget Analyst
    Budget analysts assist companies and organizations develop appropriate budgets. These professionals generally consider past performance in order to ensure financial plans are effective and efficient. They are also responsible for presenting their findings and recommendations to management, executives, and other team members. According to PayScale, budget analysts make an average base salary of $63,050 per year.
  • Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
    Certified public accountants (CPAs) are responsible for handling general accounting, tax, reporting, and audits for individuals, companies, and organizations. These professionals often review financial information, prepare documentation, and ensure familiarity with changing government regulations. Certified public accountants may also make suggestions to improve bookkeeping and recordkeeping processes. According to PayScale, certified public accountants make an average base salary of $71,000 per year.
  • Credit Analyst
    Credit analysts determine the credit worthiness of individuals, companies, and organizations. These professionals look at past credit purchases to determine whether or not financing loans is a wise decision. They are often employed by major banks, credit unions, and investment management groups, as well as the US Department of State. It’s also relatively common for credit analysts to recommend steps to improve credit ratings. According to PayScale, credit analysts make an average base salary of $54,350 per year.
  • Financial Advisor
    Financial advisors work with individuals and/or institutional clients, assessing financial needs and helping achieve set goals. These professionals often assist in choosing the most appropriate investments, explaining relevant tax laws along the way. They can help clients plan for both short-term and long-term financial needs. According to PayScale, financial advisors make an average base salary of $61,650 per year.
  • Insurance Agent
    Insurance agents sell prepaid policies that provide financial benefit in case of calamity. These professionals generally work for agencies, brokerage firms, or individual insurance companies and may be responsible for generating sales for multiple products. They often explain various policies available and help clients pick the most appropriate options available. According to PayScale, insurance agents make an average base salary of $40,850 per year.
  • Investment Banker
    Investment bankers examine financial health, capital needs, and goals before recommending strategies to improve gains. These professionals often coordinate with companies, organizations, and government entities, linking them with potential financial investors. They frequently have access to even the most sensitive financial information and may also make recommendations regarding selling bonds, buying/selling stocks, and taking out loans. According to PayScale, investment bankers make an average base salary of $101,850 per year.
  • Loan Officer
    Loan officers generally work for lending or finance institutions, providing customer service to new applicants and current clients. These professionals often work to understand individual needs in order to determine which products are most suitable. In some cases, they may also be responsible for meeting sales goals. Additionally, loan officers are the ones to determine if customers are eligible for loans and coordinate with the underwriting department throughout the loan application process. According to PayScale, loan officers make an average base salary of $48,900 per year.

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