Overview of a Bachelor’s in Finance
A bachelor’s is the most common entry degree for most careers, and it’s the same for finance degrees. While an associate can earn you some lower-level positions, the majority of work in finance requires at least a Bachelor of Science in Finance (or of Arts). The broader the finance program and deeper level of knowledge gained with this gives finance students everything they need to earn a position as accountants, personal financial advisors, financial managers, financial analysts, actuary, budget analysts, or a number of other options. It will also give you access to certifications and higher education; which employers may prefer or even require you to have. Finance professionals may choose to earn certifications, such as those of a Chartered Financial Analyst or a Certified Financial Planner (CFP), or others. This degree will give you the best chance at advancing quickly into a profession where, at the higher levels, you can be making close to $100,000 annually.
Finance students may choose to focus in on whatever type of learning suites them best, but their courses may already include:
- Corporate Finance
- Risk Management
- Understanding Financial Markets and Institutions such as Banking
- Financial Management
- Business Administration and Business Managament
- International Finance
- Financial Analysis
- Personal Financial Planning
- Portfolio Management
- Business Law
- And More
The benefits and advantages of earning a bachelor's degree will greatly impact a finance professional's quality of life in the long term. You will be able to earn significantly more money than someone with a high school diploma or an associate degree. You may also be able to secure jobs over individuals who only have an associate's, even if they have more experience. As your career progresses and you wish to advance your career, you will be required to continue your training and education. With a bachelor’s, you can complete a variety of professional certificates at colleges and universities and through professional organizations. It is also possible to take online courses as you work to complete a master’s to increase your pay and advance your career even further.
Just as someone with a bachelor’s has an advantage over those who do not, someone with a master’s will be paid more and be hired over those who do not have an advanced degree. Today, most top companies require their managers and executives to have at least a master’s. Any other degree will also limit the type of professional and industry certifications you will be able to complete. The most respected certifications require a master’s as a basic requirement for entrance into a program or to sit for an exam. Also, if you do not complete a master’s, your salary will cap at a much lower income level.
Certificate Vs. Bachelor’s
Certificates can be highly confusing, as the significance of the certificate depends greatly on the education level required to complete the degree. A basic finance certificate does not require the completion of any degree. These certificates are typically offered by online colleges and universities rather than traditional four-year higher learning institutions. They offer a basic understanding of finance that is roughly equivalent to one semester of a finance program in a bachelor’s finance program. Such a certificate may qualify you for entry-level positions, although it would be easier to get a job with a Bachelor of Science in Finance.
A graduate certificate from a traditional college or university requires at least an undergraduate degree and most require a master’s. Many people use these types of certificates to specialize or to continue their education throughout their career. Other finance professional certificates are offered by reputable industry organizations may require a master’s or a Master's of Business Administration (MBA) with a finance emphasis.
What Finance Bachelor’s Degrees are Available?
There are typically only two different types of bachelor’s degrees in the finance area. However, it is important to note that you can major in nearly unlimited specializations of the finance sector including financial managament or business administration, risk management, banking, portfolio management, international finance, and more.
- Bachelor of Arts in Finance: A Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Finance degree from an accredited college or university will focus on areas that are somewhat different from a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Finance. With a BA in Finance, most programs will focus on a more general and broad educational experience that includes subjects outside of the finance sector such as history, religion, psychology, English, and writing.
- Bachelor of Science in Finance: A Bachelor of Science in Finance will focus on more technical areas of finance, as opposed to a BA in Finance. You will have far more courses in science, math, statistics, and IT-related curriculum. As part of a business degree, you will also have courses in economics, accounting, and entrepreneurship. When you graduate with a BS in Finance, you will be prepared for finance careers that rely on analytical and technical skills, such as those of financial analysts and personal financial advisors.
As you determine which type of bachelor’s is right for you, it is important to consider whether you prefer a more general education or a more technical education. This should help guide you with your decision. If you are strong in, or enjoy, math and science, a BS is likely a good fit. If you are better at communication and writing, a BA might better serve your long-term finance career interests.
In general, an undergraduate degree in any business field has the same as entry requirements as any reputable college or state university with a finance degree. This means you will require a high school diploma or its equivalent, with a minimum GPA, dependent on the specific college or university you are applying to. The GPA could be anything from a 2.0, to a 3.5, or higher depending on the school. It will also help to have been active in extracurricular activities, giving back to the community, being involved in volunteering through your religious, spiritual, or another organization, and work experience is also considered a positive by admissions offices. If you transfer schools, a degree in finance requires that you have strong mathematical skills, computer skills, and communication skills, so be sure that you study hard in these areas before you transfer.
How long does it take to earn a Finance Bachelor's?
A Bachelor’s in Finance will traditionally take four years to complete. It's important to note that you will have to maintain a certain GPA in core finance classes to complete most reputable programs. If you change majors several times or transfer schools during the process, it may take you longer, as some credits may not transfer, and you may have to take additional prerequisite courses before you can complete certain courses or graduate.
It is also a good idea to keep in mind that many of the top finance programs now offer a combined bachelor’s and master’s degrees program, as a way to reduce the amount of time it takes to complete both. The idea is that you complete your undergraduate degree from the same university as the master’s, often with some classes counting for both simultaneously. It will reduce the number of credit hours you have to complete, and you can often eliminate the need for a graduate school entrance exam to be completed before admission into the business school.
Potential Careers in Finance with a Bachelor’s
- Budget Analyst:
A budget analyst will work with project managers and various departments to determine the budget of an individual project. You might also be responsible for establishing the budget of the entire organization. In some instances, you will be asked to review the budget proposals of various departments or individual managers. During these reviews, you will ensure everything is compliant, accurate, and complete. You will also have to monitor budgets regularly to ensure everyone stays within the financial parameters of the project and proposals. The average annual income for budget analysts is $59,200.
- Director of Corporate Finance:
As the Director of Corporate Finance you will likely report to the Chief Finance Officer. Your day-to-day responsibilities will include providing financial management guidance to your department, meeting departmental and organizational goals, maximizing profits, and improving the transparency of finances throughout the business. You will require superior financial, communication, and leadership skills. The average annual income for Directors of Corporate Finance is $118,500.
- Financial Planner:
Financial planning is a steadily growing profession in the finance industry. You might work for a business or for individuals looking to save for retirement. It will be your job to help clients accomplish their goals and offer financial advice in nearly every area of one’s business or life, including reducing interest rates, eliminating debt, saving more, and spending less. The average annual income for financial planners is $62,600.
- Portfolio Manager:
Portfolio managers will create and manage the investment allocations for their clients. You will assess and determine the appropriate risk level for each client based on various elements, such as market conditions, expected returns, risk preferences, and timeframes in which to work. The average annual income for a portfolio manager is $82,000.
- Underwriting Technician:
Underwriting technician is more of an entry-level position. As a technician, you will determine whether or not a person or a business will be provided insurance by your employer and the terms under which they might become insured. This might include anything from premiums to coverage amounts. The average annual income for an underwriting technician is $46,500.
Options to Advance
The vast majority of management and executive jobs in the finance industry will require a minimum of a master’s degree or an MBA with an emphasis on finance. You can expect your pay to increase by roughly $20,000 a year with such advanced degrees for the same job of someone with a bachelor’s degree. Once you advance your career with the help of a higher degree, you can earn up to an additional $100,000 or more than with a bachelor’s degree. You can also increase your pay at a more modest increment from a bachelor’s degree by completing graduate certificates and professional certificates. In reality, if you want even an entry-level position at the top companies in the US, you might also require these additional education requirements.
Best Bachelor of Science in Finance (BFin) Programs
Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania
The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania is the business school of the University of Pennsylvania that provides finance and other business degrees. It is considered one of the best business schools in the country, if not the world. You can study degrees in finance at each level, from your bachelor’s degree to a Ph.D.
- Bachelor’s of Science in Economics - Finance Concentration
- MBA - Finance Concentration
- Ph.D. in Finance
University of Iowa, Tippie College of Business
Iowa City, Iowa
The Tippie College of Business at the University of Iowa was ranked as the fourth best business school in the world for finance in 2017 according to the Financial Times, and it has been in the top five on numerous occasions. They offer a variety of finance concentrations and degrees at every level, including certificates, that are unavailable at most other prestigious business schools.
- Bachelor’s Degree in Finance
- Finance Graduate Certificate
- Master’s Degree in Finance
- Ph.D. in Finance
University of California at Berkeley - Haas School of Business
The Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley offers many business degrees at the bachelor’s degree level that allows you to study finance. They also offered specialized degrees in finance at the master’s degree and Ph.D. levels.
- Bachelor’s Degree in Business Finance
- Master’s Degree in Financial Engineering
- Ph.D. in Finance
Xavier University, Williams College of Business
The Williams College of Business at Xavier University prides itself on providing an exceptional finance education alongside producing socially-conscious graduates, of which 99% of finance majors become employed, attend graduate programs, or accept volunteer positions within six months of completing their degree program.
- Bachelor’s Degree in Finance
Fairfield University, Dolan School of Business
The Dolan School of Business at Fairfield University offers finance as a major or a minor for those in pursuits of a bachelor’s degree in business. You can, however, complete a master’s degree in finance and become a Certified Financial Planner through professional certification at the university.
- Bachelor’s Degree in Business - Finance Major or Minor
- MS in Finance
- Certified Financial Planner - Professional Certificate Program
Traditional Schools Offering a BS in Finance
University of Phoenix
The University of Phoenix is dedicated to making higher education more accessible to all through online courses and physical classrooms alike. It is estimated that they have the largest online student population in the country. You can complete all degree levels and many professional certificates here.
- Bachelor of Science in Business with Financial Planning Certificate
San Diego, California
Ashford University has been growing in popularity in recent years. You can complete both bachelor’s degrees and master's degrees here. The school is dedicated to degrees that are offered 100% online and it is ranked as one of the Military Friendly Schools by G.I. Jobs Magazine. Roughly 25% of students are in the military and over 70% of the entire enrollment population is female.
- BA in Finance
- MS in Finance
Walden University is yet another top online higher learning institution that offers every level of degree. They also offer free tutoring to undergraduates in areas that are often found in finance degrees, such as math, accounting, and statistics and free writing consultations for course papers. In some cases, students can complete their entire bachelor’s degree in 18 months.
- Bachelor’s in Accounting
- MS in Finance
Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU)
Manchester, New Hampshire
SNHU has one of the most extensive bachelor’s degree offerings with over 150 available. They continue to adapt their programs and education model to fit the needs and wants of the modern, busy student. They work to make their classes affordable and offer tuition assistance to members of the military.
- BS in Finance - Financial Planning
- MS in Finance - Corporate Finance
Capella University has become one of the more reputable online higher learning institution over the years. They offer degrees at every level and more than 130 undergraduate and graduate specializations. You can also complete certificate programs online to advance your career and they offer a choice of learning styles to best fit your needs.
- Bachelor’s Degree in Business - Finance Specialization
- MBA - Finance Specialization
Business Degrees & Career Paths