What Does a Career in Finance Entail?
A career in finance consists of a variety of opportunities to assist businesses and individuals in succeeding financially. Some of the career choices include financial examiner, personal financial advisor, financial analyst, financial manager, and positions in the insurance industry.
A financial specialist will stay on top of economic developments by tracking changes and predicting outcomes of the economic climates in order to raise profits. This position requires that you have substantial money skills with financial insight and critical thinking.Read More
Whether you choose to work in personal finance, corporate finance, or public finance for either a small local business or a large Wall Street firm, your job requirements will be similar and may include the following common tasks:
- Comply with legal requirements by monitoring financial details
- Increase profits by analyzing market trends
- Forecast and study economic trends
- Balance risk and profitability
- Prepare taxes and estates
- Suggest new financial efficiencies after reviewing company reports
- Recommend investments after doing extensive research
- Prepare financial statements
Business Degrees & Career Paths
Components of a Successful Career in "Finance"
In order to build a successful career in finance, you must first learn the principles and cultivate your financial skills. The following are some important components
Attention to detail:
This is necessary in the financial world since, if you should slip up and make a mistake on the tiniest detail while crunching numbers, it can affect the company’s financial data immensely, leaving profits behind.
It often takes sheer finesse to build and nurture beneficial relationships with industry professionals. Not all clients are easy to work with, in fact, many can seem impossible to deal with at times, which is why you will need to brush up on your interpersonal skills in order to get along. It will take a little stamina, some patience, and a lot of tolerance to keep the peace… and your job.
The finance industry is compelled by deadlines, so managing your time efficiently is imperative. You want to make every client feel important, rather than a waste of your time and the only way to spend an ample amount of time with each is by juggling your time wisely and keeping up with schedules.
How to Earn a Degree in Finance
What can you do with a Degree in Finance?
With a degree in finance, you are going places. Those who hold a bachelor’s degree in finance can work in a variety of areas such as financial planning, private equities, money management, real estate, commercial lending, investment banking, the insurance industry, and more.
Majoring in finance means learning all about money management fundamentals; How money works through stocks, bonds, financial instruments, and money markets, among other things. This new knowledge will help you to help others with their finances.
Although you may probably start out as an assistant or junior executive, there is only one way to go from there and that’s up and if you enter with an MBA up your sleeve, you are primed to move ahead to senior positions promptly.
According to the “Occupational Outlook Handbook” of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) through 2026 financial analysts, employment will reach 11% growth.
Typical Finance Degree Requirements
To get a bachelor’s degree in finance, 120 credits are usually required and can be obtained within a 4-year span. However, some schools will give you some credit for passing tests specifically designed to see how much you know. Usually, a 120-credit program can be reduced by as much as 30 credits.
Expect a minimum combined grade point average (GPA) of 2.000 or higher, as well as your overall grade level (which usually must be a “C” or better), and completion of specific courses, as part of the requirements. Some schools and universities will also have major requirements and will suggest you choose at least one concentration to focus on.
Typical Finance Certifications Needed
Those pursuing a position in particular finance jobs, like financial analyst and accountant, must obtain a certified license from the state in which they reside. In addition, other credentials can be earned voluntarily to put you above your competitors and make your resume look more attractive to an employer. Most individuals in finance have at least one or more certifications. The following are just a few of the many industry certifications available:
If you have at least two years of experience as an Internal Auditor, you can become a "Certified Internal Auditor” (CIA) offered by “The Institute of Internal Auditors.” This organization also has available: “Certified Control Self-Assessment” (CCSA), “Certified Financial Services Auditor” (CFSA), and “Certified Government Auditing Professional" (CGAP) Certifications.
Get certified as a “Treasury Professional” from the “Association for Financial Professionals.” This credential is offered to financial managers with two years of experience or more.
The “Institute of Management Accountants” provides the opportunity to be a "Certified Management Accountant” (CMA) if you have earned a bachelor’s degree and have at least two years’ experience in management accounting.
The “CFA Institute” offers financial Analysts with a minimum of four years’ work experience and a bachelor’s degree, the “Chartered Financial Analyst” (CFA) credentials certificate.
Academic Standards for a Finance Degree
Academic standards define the skills and knowledge that students should be learning for each specific subject in each grade. Teachers use these standards to develop assignments, assessments, and other lesson plans to help students keep up with academic standards.
In finance, academic standards for financial educators are set by the “National Financial Educators Council” (NFEC) as a basis for teachers to prepare their assessments and lesson plans. These instructor standards are a framework that describes the knowledge, traits, and skill-sets the students should possess at the end of a course. The NFEC has expanded the financial standards to make the guidelines easier to follow.
There are ten topics covered in the national standards, guidelines:
- Business Relations
- Credit & Debt
- Risk Management & Investing
- Long-term Planning
- Accounts & Budgeting
- Social Enterprise
- Skill Growth & Income
- Basic Entrepreneurial Skill Sets
- Working for the Greater Good
Exam/Experience needed for a Finance Degree
Before you can conduct fraud examinations and tax work for clients, you are required to obtain a CPA (“Certified Public Accountant”). To receive the credential, you must pass a four-part exam as well as fulfill certain course requirements that vary by state and receive a bachelor’s degree. The exam covers areas that include audits and attestation, financial accounting/reporting, regulations, and business concepts and environments. Once you have completed all the requirements, you can apply to the State Board for your CPA.
Another designation is “Enrolled Agent” (EA) for which you either will need work experience or can take an examination encompassing client representation, tax return preparation, practice and procedures, and business entity formation.
The financial planning standard designation is the “Certificate Financial Planner” (CFP) credential that requires a bachelor’s degree, having completed relevant coursework, ethics, and work experience, as well as passing a 10-hour exam that focuses on advanced interdisciplinary planning skills.
Important Questions to Ask
How long does it take to earn a Finance bachelor's degree online?
How long it will take to earn a B.A. in finance really depends on you; your dedication level and the time you are willing to put into your studies and coursework will, of course affect the amount of time it takes to complete it. It normally takes four years to earn an entry-level bachelor’s degree in finance, and one to two years to complete a master’s finance program.
How much does a Finance bachelor’s degree cost?
The amount of money it costs to get a degree in finance varies substantially among states, schools, and the degree you are pursuing. However, to earn a bachelor’s degree at a public college or university, the average annual tuition is almost $30,000 and nearly $40,000 for private schools. That does not include supplies, books, and transportation (if needed).
Finance Bachelor's Degree Coursework
A major in finance will intersect with courses in accounting and business majors. Other coursework will involve business principles and studying mathematics. In general, you will learn to utilize the tools and principles that will help you make decisions in a company’s financial department to allocate funds for a better financial outcome. You will also learn how to advise clients into making good investments as well as how to manage their finances. In addition, you will gain the skills needed to monitor financial markets and manage budgets.
Examples of Core Courses:
- Accounting I
- Introductory to Human Resource Management
- Management Fundamentals
- Introduction to Project Management
- Business Principles
- Marketing Fundamentals
- Introduction to Business Law
- Personal Finance Concepts
Examples of Upper-Level Courses:
- Accounting Management Principles
- International Business Practices
- Business Strategy
- Human Resource Management
- Data-Driven Decision Making Statistics
- Organizational Behavioral Principles
- Ethical & Legal Business Environments
- International Business Communications
- Organizational Change
- Ethics: Hallmark Leaders of All Levels
- Virtual Marketplace & Marketing
- Introduction to Corporate Finance
Does the school have the major(s) you’re considering?
It is important to find a school that has the major you are considering so that you can earn the degree of your choice. You should never settle to attend a school that can only offer some pieces of coursework, thinking you can always incorporate the remaining courses in another institution, when there are institutions and colleges that have everything you need for the major and career you are pursuing.
How many students graduate “on time,” in four years?
Performing research to find out how long it has taken others to graduate on schedule can help you a lot. Most individuals start attending a college with the intention that they will graduate and earn their degree within a specific amount of time. In actuality, it may take them longer due to missing coursework they were not aware of, poorly constructed course schedules, or any number of other issues stemming from the school’s program. You can avoid these obstacles, just by finding out how many other students attended the school you are considering who actually earned their degree on time. This information can be indicative of your future experience.
What kind of accreditation does the program hold? How is it regarded in the field?
Being accredited shows that a school not only meets high standards of an accrediting agency but will also continue to update and improve the quality of education and training to keep up with innovation and new technology. There are two types of accreditation for education: specialized (or program accreditation) and institutional. The following is just three of the many specialized accreditors for finance and business degree programs:
- “International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education” (IACBE)
The IACBE only accredits business programs that lead to earning an associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, masters, or doctorate and not those that only offer an associate’s degree program.
- “Accreditation Council for Business Schools & Programs” (ACBSP)
The ACBSP accredits accounting, business, and business-related programs that offer associate, bachelors, masters, and doctorate degrees.
- “Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business” (AACSB)
The AACSB accredits accounting and business administration programs that offer a bachelor’s degree, a master’s, and doctorate.
Institutional accreditation is offered by regional accrediting agencies approved by the US Department of Education. You can find a list of these schools on the US Department of Education website.
There is an abundance of technology and tools, software programs, and applications available for those in the finance industry to utilize. Therefore, finance specialists must be very computer savvy and proficient in using software programs and applications. Having these skills is imperative to a financial advisor. The following are some of the advanced programs being used in the financial industry worldwide:
- Finance File Manager
- Lead Activity Analyzer
- Prism Project Estimator
- Intuit Turbo Tax
- Microsoft Excel Spreadsheets
- Accurate NXG
- Intuit QuickBooks
- Finance Logix Financial Analysis & Retirement Manager
- Sage Business Works
- Oracle E-Business Suite
- ATX Total Accounting Software
- Pocket Informant, Web Information Solutions
- Delphi Analysis Software
- And much more
Associate’s in Finance
Cost range from $6,000 to $26,000
Earning an associate degree in finance usually takes two years. The associate degree will give you the fundamental skills you need for an entry-level position in the finance industry. However, it can also be used as a foundation of your education and you can move on to the next level and further enhance your knowledge, skills, experience, and education with a bachelor’s degree.
- Legal Aspects of Finance
- Investments and Banking
- Accounts Payable and Accounts Receivable
- Accounting Fundamentals
- Business Statistics, Laws, and Trends
- Tax Preparing
- Managing Financial Risks
- Financial Statistics and Research
Bachelor's in Finance
Cost range from $24,000 to $75,000
You can usually earn your bachelor’s degree in four years. When pursuing a bachelor’s degree in finance, students will learn how to manage a business’s money while making important investment decisions and will qualify for many entry-level positions in the finance industry.
Students will gain the skills and knowledge needed to pass the CFP (Certified Financial Planner) or the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) exams.
You will also be able to advance your career and move on to a Master’s degree in finance.
- Principles of Finance and Investment
- Banking, Finance, and Money Management
- Personal Finance Concepts
- Fundamentals of Marketing
- Introduction to Project Management
- Key Financial Concepts
- Computer Modeling of Finance
- Introduction to Business Law
Concentrations available in finance include Investments, International Finance, Risk Management, Financial Accounting, Corporate Finance, International Finance, and Money & Capital Markets among others.
Master's in Finance
Cost range from $30,000 to $120,000
The Master’s in Finance program usually takes one to two years to complete. It can help students pursuing a leadership role in finance to gain employment in many sectors. At this higher educational level of finance, students will learn advanced skills in money management and investing using financial methods and technology models.
- Financial Math Programming
- Business Communications
- Risk & Derivatives Management
- Managerial Economics
- Strategic Management Seminar
- Accounting for Managers
- Organizational Behavior
- Marketing Concepts and Practice
- Corporate Finance
- Qualitative Finance
- Quantitative Management Methods
Concentrations available in finance include Finance and Economic Systems, Trading Systems, Financial Computation, Derivatives, and Asset Management among others.
Earning Potential for Finance Degree Fields and Occupations
Those who pursue a career in finance generally earn lucrative salaries that are more than the national average. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that by 2026 employment for financial managers will grow by 19%. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, those who hold a master’s degree generally earn $17,776 more annually than those who hold a bachelor’s degree. Also, those who hold a bachelor’s degree earn $16,605 more than those with an associate’s degree. Another way to climb up the ladder of earnings potential is with experience. You will always start out at an entry-level position, then after gaining some experience, you will move on to a mid-career level than late-career status where each level will earn you substantially more salary.
Annual Median Salary by Field of Study
|Field of Study||Entry Level||Mid-Career|
Annual Median Salary By Occupation
|Securities & Commodities Stock Brokers||$32,170||$72,070||$187,199|
|Business Analyst Consultants||$45,360||$80,880||$148,110|
Financial Managers can be employed in many positions within the private or public sectors. They may also be known as financial analysts or business analysts in these positions and function as advisors. In order to help the company make good financial decisions, they study the market and the companies holdings in order to suggest the best path/financial plan for them to follow. It’s up to the CEO or board to take their advice.
Actuaries use statistics to make predictions. They predict the likelihood of events and any possible financial consequences, these are called ‘risk assessments”. These predictions are shared with either the financial department head or the company board or CEO to help them direct the financial department. Insurance companies use actuaries to help them maintain financial stability in what can be an unstable business.
Economists weigh in on policy decisions by analyzing large (city, state, or country) markets. These policies include minimum wage laws, the effects of labor-related or employment policies, etc. They use techniques like regression analysis, game theory, and economic modeling software.
Because careers in finance are growing and are currently one of the highest paying business majors in the global marketplace, more associations are investing in financial leaders with next-generation scholarship programs under their belt. If you always enjoyed creating monthly budgets, balancing your checkbook, or weekly allowances, then a degree in finance might be the right choice for you. There is a wealth of opportunity available in the finance industry, such as government finance, venture capital, financial planning, investment banking, commercial banking, insurance, hedge funds, corporate finance, and much more.
Here are just some of the many scholarship programs available to students majoring in finance
“ALPFA National Hispanic Scholarships”
Amount: $2,000 to $10,000
The “Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting” (ALPFA) has collaborated with the “Hispanic Scholarship Fund” (HSF), to offer an annual scholarship to students of Hispanic heritage pursuing a full-time degree in finance, business administration, or accounting.
To be eligible, candidates must be enrolled in a four-year program in an accredited university with a minimum junior status level, possess a GPA of at least 3.0, and be a U.S. citizen or permanent legal resident.
Contact: ALPFA National Hispanic Scholarships
Address: 801 South Grand Avenue, Suite 400, Los Angeles, CA 90017
Phone: (213) 243-0004
“Daniel B. Goldberg Scholarship”
Through the “Government Finance Officers Association” (GFOA), the Girard Miller Foundation funds this scholarship program.
To qualify you must be a full-time student, pursuing an advanced preparation degree for a career in local government and/or in-state finance with a bachelor’s degree already obtained. In addition, students must be a citizen of the U.S. or Canada and express a strong desire for a career in government.
Contact: Daniel B. Goldberg Scholarship
Address: 203 North LaSalle Street, Suite 2700, Chicago, IL 60601
Phone: (312) 977-9700 ext. 2273
“FWSF Scholarship Fund”
Amount: $5,000 awarded to undergraduates and $10,000 to graduates
The “Financial Women of San Francisco” (FWSF) has been providing this scholarship fund annually since 1985, to assist women who pursue a career in financial services.
To qualify, applicants must have a junior status at a minimum, maintain at least a GPA of 3.4, enroll in an independent accredited university, major in finance, and attend school or reside the San Francisco Bay Area.
Contact: FWSF Scholarship Fund
Address: P.O. Box 26143, San Francisco, CA 94126
Phone: (415) 586-8599
“J.P. Morgan Launching Leaders Scholarship”
Amount: up to $15,000 each
This scholarship is available to talented Hispanic, black, and Native American students seeking a career in finance with a world-leading financial firm.
To qualify, applicants must be enrolled in a financial services program at an accredited university, have at least a GPA of 3.2, and express interest in a career that involves financial services.
Contact: J.P. Morgan Launching Leaders Scholarship
Address: 1321 Murfreesboro Road, Suite 800, Nashville, TN 37217
Phone: (800) 345-1833
Professional Finance Organizations
Finance Professional Associations are fundamental not-for-profit Organizations with a goal to serve professional interests in finance and the finance industry. It is highly recommended that all students in pursuit of a finance degree join one of these organizations not only to build your Network of professionals in the finance industry, but to make your resume look more attractive to employers.
“American Finance Association” (AFA)
This academic association is dedicated to the promotion and study of financial economics.
“Security Traders Association” (STA)
The STA represents and serves those with a career in the financial services industry.
“National Association of Personal Financial Advisors” (NAPFA)
The NAPFA is the leading professional organization in America of fee-only financial fiduciary advisors.
“Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst” (CAIA)
This organization is a world leader of alternative investment learning programs.
“American Association of Bank Directors” (AABD)
The AABD is dedicated to serving advocacy, information, and educational needs of bank and savings director institutions.
“Financial Planning Association” (FPA)
This is a professional association for CFP (Certified Financial Planner) educators and financial services professionals.
“Association of Finance Professionals” (AFP)
The AFP is an international advocate and resource for professionals in the finance industry.
“Healthcare Financial Management Association” (HFMA)
This association is a worldwide leading membership organization for leaders and management executives in finance.
Choosing an Accredited College
The accreditation status is one of the most important facets of a college or university since being accredited means the school has been approved by a highly reputable accrediting association that verifies the integrity and quality of their programs. Furthermore, it is important for many students to be able to receive financial aid and transfer their grades, which is not available in unaccredited colleges or universities.
Online vs On-Campus vs Hybrid
The world has changed so much since previous times that you can now either attend college the traditional way; by going to classes on the campus, attend class full or part-time online, or both; spending half of the time attending classes at campus and the other half taking classes online (hybrid).
Students who work, have a family, or a disabled parent to care for, may find online classes ideal for their situation as they can set their own study schedule and also choose where they want to study (i.e. at home, in the library, at the park, from a friend’s house, or other).
Those who enjoy studying in the company of others will find attending classes at a campus, more appropriate for their studies.
Others may find it more convenient to do some of their coursework from home online while also visiting campus along with others for face-to-face learning and networking.
Note: Even though you choose to take an online course, you might still be required to take tests and exams on campus or at a learning center near you.
Does the College Have Post-Graduate Job Placement Help & Assistance?
The chances to gain hands-on experience by participating in an internship program is very beneficial to your career since, the more experienced you are the more you will earn and the better your resume will look to potential employers.
Moreover, having a number of possible employment opportunities lined up for you upon earning your degree, can make it a lot easier on your job search after graduating. Therefore, it is important that you check into the school’s postgraduate job placement program to ensure it offers the assistance you will require after earning your degree.
Why You Need to Consider that Rating/Accreditation Can Affect Your Salary
One thing a potential employer will want to know is if the school you earned your degree from was accredited and, if so, by whom. For some employer’s it’s not enough that the school you attended received accreditation since the more reputable the accreditor is, the more respected you will be. Another thing to take into account is the school’s rating, the higher their rating the better you will rank.