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What Career Options are Available for Finance Majors?
Finance degree programs are prevalent in Missouri and throughout the nation, with most colleges and universities offering the subject as a major area of study. While accessible by anyone, those with an interest in and aptitude for numbers will find these programs most appealing. The knowledge and skills obtained are often highly coveted as companies and organizations in every industry often rely on financial experts. In most cases, however, graduates pursue jobs related to money management, banking, and/or economics.
It’s important to realize that there are a wide variety of different finance professionals. The field is expansive, with positions available in both personal and corporate capacities. Additionally, companies and organizations in almost every industry are likely to hire these experts. This is because money management and investment are integral to most businesses. As a result, expectations can vary drastically even when position titles are similar. Duties also depend largely on employer size.
While occupational standards vary, finance professionals typically provide some sort of monetary assistance to individuals, companies, and/or organizations. This often entails developing financial plans, strategies, and/or forecasts.
While finance graduates may pursue a wide variety of careers, many seek employment as accountants and auditors. These professionals work to prepare and examine financial records to identify possible areas of opportunity/risk. They may also be tasked with providing solutions to various fiscal problems that arise. Additionally, these experts frequently take steps to ensure financial operations run smoothly. This typically requires examining financial statements, computing taxes owed, making best-practice recommendations to management, suggesting ways to reduce costs while improving profits, and inspecting account books for efficiency.
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Online Finance Education in Missouri
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. Notably, some finance professions are projected to grow more than others. Market research analysts, for example, can expect to see employment increase by 19% during the same time period.
Finance and insurance is the fifth largest industry in Missouri, accounting for $26.1 billion in revenue each year. Those with knowledge and skills in this field could also find employment in many of the state’s other top sectors.
Based on data provided by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 175,770 business and financial operations professionals were employed in Missouri as of May 2022. The annual mean wage for these occupations was $78,130, which is significantly higher than the state’s annual mean wage of $54,520 for all occupations.
While academic institutions throughout the United States offer finance degree programs, and online learning makes it easier to study from almost anywhere, those planning to pursue employment in Missouri may want to give preference to local colleges and universities. These schools will offer the most geographically relevant education, which ensures graduates are prepared to meet employer expectations and standards in the region.
Students interested in completing finance programs will have many options throughout the state of Missouri, both in public and private institutions. Some of these options include Missouri University, Saint Louis University, the University of Missouri, Washington University, Missouri Valley College, Park University, the University of Central Missouri, Missouri Western State University, Northwest Missouri State University, Lindenwood University, Southeast Missouri State University, etc.
Finance is a common major offered by many colleges and universities in Missouri and beyond. This means that prospective students should have little trouble finding appropriate programs at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels. Professional certificate programs may also be available to undergraduate and graduate students. While these often take less time to complete, they do not carry the same academic weight as a degree.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, a bachelor’s degree is the education standard for most business and finance occupations in the nation. In some cases, it may be possible to secure entry-level employment in the field without meeting this expectation, but opportunities of this kind tend to be limited. Additionally, those with more advanced degrees have the best job prospects. Supervisory roles, in particular, will require candidates to possess either a master’s or doctoral degree.
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. The majority of undergraduate programs like these are comprised of both general liberal arts and major-specific classes. Students typically study basic communication, mathematics, and science subjects in conjunction with content specific to their major. This provides those enrolled with a strong academic foundation for future learning, as well as a basic introduction to the field. While curriculums vary by institution, finance programs at this level often cover topics related to finance, accounting, and bookkeeping. Instruction in business, payroll, software, and banking is also common.
Notably, enrolling in associate degree programs tends to be less expensive than pursuing traditional four-year degrees. Community colleges, which predominantly offer this level of higher education, often charge less in tuition and fees than other colleges and universities. As a result, those who choose this route can save money while enrolled, possibly graduate with fewer or no student loans, and enter the workforce faster.
Graduates with associate degrees in finance can generally pursue employment as accounting clerks, billing specialists, and bookkeepers. Other entry-level positions may also be available, however, especially in industries that covet skills with financial spreadsheet management, budgeting, tax preparation, and financial data analysis.
The pursuit of further education is a common alternative to seeking employment immediately after graduation, however. Many choose to enroll in bachelor’s degree programs to increase their job prospects in the future. This is also a natural next step as most colleges and universities accept and apply prior undergraduate coursework toward new graduation requirements. In most cases, those with associate degrees generally only require two additional years of education before they can graduate with more advanced degrees.
Online Bachelor's Degree in Finance (BS)
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, most are still comprised of both general liberal arts and major-specific classes. In addition to basic communication, mathematics, and science subjects, programs of this kind often cover topics in financial planning, forecasting, and investing. Additional topics commonly covered include accounting principles, financial institutions and markets, investments, and risk management. Those enrolled should also expect instruction in evaluating financial statements, cash flows, and security markets.
Finance majors pursuing bachelor’s degrees may also be given opportunities to select concentrations. Many colleges and universities offer this as an option as it allows students to tailor their learning experience. This is particularly relevant to individuals planning to pursue careers that require specialized knowledge and skills.
Some concentrations commonly available at this level include:
- Investment Management
- Banking and Financial Services
- Corporate Finance
- Risk Management and Insurance
- Real Estate
This type of degree is regularly considered the education standard for the field. Graduates often qualify for entry-level employment opportunities as financial planners, accountants, and financial analysts. Not all seek employment right away, however. Those interested in pursuing advanced employment opportunities and higher pay potential often continue their education by enrolling in master-level programs. Prospective graduate school students should be prepared to meet established minimum grade point average (GPA) and Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) score requirements set by gaining institutions.
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Online Master's Degree in Finance (MS)
Master’s degrees in finance generally range from 30 to 36 credit hours of coursework that take full-time students approximately two years to complete. Some accelerated programs do exist, however, which may take as little as 18 months to finish.
Notably, graduate programs no longer incorporate general liberal arts classes. Some colleges and universities do, however, expect incoming students to have taken certain undergraduate prerequisite courses. This ensures those enrolled have the basic knowledge needed for advanced study of specific topics.
Academic programs vary, but most curriculums are designed to help students prepare for advanced positions in the field. As a result, students can expect to focus solely on finance-related subjects. Coursework requirements commonly include business communications, financial accounting, derivatives and risk management, financial modeling and firm valuation, and international financial management.
As with bachelor’s degree programs, students are often provided opportunities to select a concentration.
Some of the most common specializations offered include:
- Real Estate Finance
- Computational Finance and Trading Systems
- Derivatives and Risk Management
- Finance and Economics
Graduates are typically considered to have superior knowledge and skills in finance. As a result, they usually qualify for high-level professions as financial analysts, financial examiners, financial managers, and personal finance advisors. These are some of the most in-demand and highest-paying jobs available positions available in the field.
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. While programs at this level are academically intensive, the coursework tends to be somewhat customizable. It’s common for students to work alongside their professors to develop curriculums that suit their unique career goals. In addition to selecting the most applicable elective classes, those enrolled are often encouraged to choose a concentration.
Some of the most common academic tracks include:
- Forensic Accounting
- Accounting Information Systems
- Audit Accounting
- Public Accounting
- Managerial Accounting
While most of the coursework is likely to depend on the track selected, students frequently receive instruction in accounting research, advanced statistics, microeconomic theory, and corporate governance. Those enrolled should also anticipate conducting a significant amount of independent study and research. This is especially true as programs progress and students begin work on dissertations, which are typically required for graduation.
Notably, few finance professions require candidates to possess doctoral degrees. They are almost exclusively intended for individuals seeking jobs in academia and/or research. Graduates may also qualify for lucrative career opportunities in corporate management.
Become a Finance Professional in Missouri
There are many different types of finance professional in Missouri, with numerous employment opportunities available in the field. As a result, the first step to pursuing this kind of work is identifying your ultimate career goals. Once you determine your preferred occupation, other aspects of the process will become more evident.
Every profession is unique, with varying education, training, and experience requirements. Familiarity with these standards and expectations will help you select the most appropriate degree level and major area of study. While obtaining the right education is essential for career success, other factors may prove helpful, as well. Knowing which elective courses, academic minors, departmental concentrations, extra-curricular activities, and/or internship opportunities to pursue is also important. Making the right choices while working toward your degree helps ensure you acquire the necessary knowledge and skills to qualify for employment after graduation.
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In addition to meeting the education requirements for your preferred occupation, you may want or need to pursue professional certification and/or licensure. This is not necessary for all finance jobs but can be beneficial. There are many relevant credentials available that can help demonstrate your expertise in the field, making you a more competitive candidate during the hiring process. Even when not required, most employers tend to prefer workers with certifications.
Some of the most popular credentialing options available to financial professionals include:
- 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)
While there are many options to choose from, seeking licensure as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is particularly popular among finance professionals. This is the premier credential for individuals pursuing public accounting careers. The CPA licensing process is overseen by the Missouri State Board of Accountancy. To obtain the credential, candidates must meet a series of state-established requirements. In Missouri, this includes completing 150 credit hours of college education consisting of a baccalaureate but not necessarily a graduate degree. Candidates must also sit for the CPA exam, which is a computer-based test administered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA).
Passing scores are needed in all four parts of the examinations:
- Finance and Reporting
- Auditing and Attestation
- Business Environment and Concepts
Potential Careers for Finance Graduates
Accountants are employed by companies and organizations to provide accurate financial calculations and complete various monetary tasks. Position specifics vary, but most of these professionals spend a lot of time creating cash flow reports, administering payroll, maintaining balance sheets, carrying out billing activities, managing budgets, and keeping inventory records. Depending on the situation, they may also be expected to perform internal audits and file taxes. According to PayScale, accountants make an average base salary of $52,822 per year.
- Budget Analyst
Budget analysts work to develop functional budgets for companies and organizations. Using past performance data, these professionals create effective and efficient plans. They are also often expected to present this information to management, executives, and other team members. According to PayScale, budget analysts make an average base salary of $63,064 per year.
- (CPA) Certified Public Accountant
CPAs work for individuals, companies, and organizations providing a wide variety of general accounting, tax reporting, and audit services. Responsibilities vary significantly depending on client type and their unique needs. Common duties include reviewing financial information, preparing documentation, and ensuring familiarity with changing government regulations, as well as suggesting improvements to bookkeeping and recordkeeping processes. According to PayScale, certified public accountants make an average base salary of $70,989 per year.
- Credit Analyst
Credit analysts work for major banks, credit unions, and investment management groups. While duties can vary, they are typically responsible for determining the creditworthiness of potential clients. These professionals spend a lot of time assessing the past credit purchases of individuals, companies, and organizations before making a final recommendation to their employer. Additionally, they are sometimes expected to recommend ways to improve current credit ratings. According to PayScale, credit analysts make an average base salary of $54,328 per year.
- Financial Advisor
Financial advisors help their clients set and achieve various fiscal goals. This typically entails assessing both short- and long-term financial needs before recommending the most appropriate investment options. They also ensure that all applicable tax laws are properly followed. Notably, these professionals can be hired by individuals, as well as institutional clients. According to PayScale, financial advisors make an average base salary of $61,063 per year.
- Fundraising Manager
Fundraising managers are employed by non-profit organizations to secure money and resources. They are often responsible for overseeing various financial initiatives intended to draw in funding. This generally entails planning and coordinating special events, generating comprehensive marketing campaigns, and securing volunteer involvement. They may also interact with and solicit assistance from numerous individuals and corporate entities. According to PayScale, fundraising managers make an average base salary of $56,680 per year.
- Insurance Agent
Insurance agents sell prepaid policies designed to provide financial benefit to clients in the case of calamity. They often work for brokerage firms, agencies, and individual insurance companies, generating sales for multiple products. They must be familiar with the various options offered, as they are expected to provide coverage details and make relevant recommendations to clients. According to PayScale, insurance agents make an average base salary of $40,843 per year.
- Investment Banker
Investment bankers work for companies, organizations, and government entities. In addition to assessing the overall financial health, goals, and capital needs of their employers, they facilitate promising investment opportunities. They often review sensitive financial information before suggesting various strategies to improve monetary gains. This may include providing advice regarding when to sell bonds, buy/sell stocks, and take out loans. According to PayScale, investment bankers make an average base salary of $101,848 per year.
- Business Consultant
- Accountants and Auditors. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
- Business and Financial Occupations. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
- May 2021 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates: Missouri. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
- Finance Certifications. Financial Management Association (FMA)
- Missouri Division of Professional Registration