Finance Degree

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What is Finance?

Finance is the area of business that deals with investment and the value of money, assessing risk and return in order to maximize profit. Finance is broken down into three categories, corporate, personal and public, each dealing a particular area and specific set of clientele and governed by different rules and laws based on what may or may not be done. In addition, individuals may pursue the study of financial theory, which is used to govern and regulate the activities of those practicing finance.

Educational Requirements in Finance

A degree in finance equips students with the knowledge, skill and ability to manage money. Individuals who obtain a degree in finance will learn how to manage the assets of businesses, institutions, and individuals. Market analyses, the making of sound investments and tracking the flow of money is also covered by a finance degree. Degrees in finance are available at the associate's level, but a master's degree is the most beneficial in obtaining work. A doctorate in finance allows the holder to teach finance.

A curriculum in finance will include a variety of subjects for study relating to the flow of money, how it is tracked and invested, and how business profits and losses are calculated on a large scale. Students will take courses in math at various levels as related to the field, statistics, and a number of other courses to build practical skills useful for finance. Upper level courses will focus on business, economics, markets and other such areas necessary to understand and operate in the realm of finance. Students will be provided with scenarios, both real and fictional, that will ask the student to analyze and implement financial strategy in order to successfully assist the business provided. Such case studies help build experience through analyses and provide a better understanding of real world implementation of classroom theory and information.

Classes for a degree in finance may include:

  • Corporate Finance
  • Investment
  • Mergers and Acquisitions
  • Risk Management
  • Derivative Markets and Securities

Top Online Finance Degrees

Earning a degree in finance, online or on-site, will provide students with an array of programs to choose from.  The most common types of degree programs available to finance majors is the bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, and doctorate degree program.  Students may elect to add a second major (double major) to their studies or couple finance with another area of concentration like economics, business management, or logistics depending on what is available from the school.  Below you will find an overview of online finance degree programs to help you further research quality, accredited programs that are best for you.

Online Bachelor’s Degree in Finance

A bachelor’s degree in finance is designed to be a 4-year program that provide students with a mix of core finance classes and general education courses like English, psychology, and philosophy to help students think differently about the world around them.  Depending on the school’s curricular design, a finance degree can be offered as a Bachelor’s of Arts (BA) or a Bachelor’s of Science (BS) degree.  Core classes you may find in an online finance program may include: macroeconomics, financial management, investments, financial markets, capital markets, financial analysis, and theory of probability.  Many colleges allow students to select a specialization to provide a deeper set of knowledge in a specific area of finance that may include any one of the following areas: actuarial science, real estate, quantitative finance, investment management, wealth management, international finance, insurance, and/or financial management.

Online Master’s Degree in Finance

Earning a master’s degree online in finance can be listed in a college’s course catalog as an MBA (Master’s of Business Administration), MS (Master of Science in Finance), or a MA (Master of Arts in Finance).   In either case, students will focus time on understanding of financial markets, financial intermediaries, valuation of financial instruments, rates of return, market behavior, and incentives in the market.  By leveraging the theory and practice of banking, investments, and financial engineering, students will be exposed to a mix of academic knowledge and real-world case studies to prepare them for life in the marketplace.  The master’s degree programs will take students 1-2 years to complete after meeting all lower-level course requirements depending on the courses taken at a given time.

Online Doctorate Degree in Finance

Online doctorate degrees in finance are PhD programs constructed to prepare students for teaching opportunities in higher education and research careers in government agencies, businesses, or educational centers.  Doctorate degrees are known as terminal degrees as there are no additional graduate degrees beyond it.  Students in the finance track for a PhD will learn how to analyze research in finance, identify market opportunities, conduct financial research, and communication findings to stakeholders.  This program will take 3-5 years to complete after meeting all prerequisites and passing the qualifying examination.  The program will end after the successful completion of the school’s capstone course and dissertation.  The dissertation will involve picking an organic topic in finance followed by a series of research, planning, testing, and writing before defending the paper to a dissertation committee.

Why Earn a Finance Degree Online?

Colleges and universities have been quickly adding online degree programs in finance to keep up with market demand from employers and students everywhere.  With the evolution of online programs, the sheer number of degree options coalesce with quality, accredited programs year over year.  A summary of the most popular benefits of online degree programs in finance are:

Cost – Total costs associated with an online finance degree are typically less than on-site programs for a number of reasons.  First, online degree programs allow students to continue to work and take classes which saves money associated with lost wages.  Second, online college programs do not require students to live on campus negating room and board costs.  Third, enrolling in a regionally or nationally accredited online program provides students with access to state and federal financial aid.

Access & Flexibility– Students enrolled in an online course have the unique ability to jump online at any time without the traditional restrictions of being in class.  With little to no physical limitations, distance from the school and class scheduling is much easier for students and working professionals.

Accreditation – Enrolling in an online program offered by a regionally or nationally accredited program is critical to your success.  Accreditation is earned by colleges and universities by independent, third-party organizations that vet a school’s processes, procedures, and curriculum to ensure quality standards are met from program to program.

Curriculum – Quality of online degrees are on par with classroom-based degrees based on surveys from graduates across the country.  With a published instructional model and organized syllabus, online classes can have the same feel as a traditional degree program integrating a capstone course, thesis, cumulative examination and dissertation according to the program.

Pace – Many online degree programs in finance are self-paced in an asynchronous learning environment allowing students to take as many classes as time allows at a given time.  Additionally, the notion of a traditional school year is augmented with many classes starting on a rolling basis instead of just once a year.

Online Schools Other Students Requested Information From:

Employment Outlook and Finance Careers

A degree in finance is similar to other business related degrees in that there is no one career path attached to the degree. Many of these degrees cover much of the same ground in terms of business, what differentiates the degrees is on what facet the emphasis is placed. Thus it is important to note that a degree in finance does not limit one to a particular group of jobs, and recent graduates entering the workforce would do well to broaden their job search. As a cross between business and accounting, finance degree holders may pursue careers in either field, with those having pursued higher levels of education capable of pursuing managerial positions with relative ease. As mentioned earlier, certified individuals will be in much higher demand.

Those seeking a career in finance have a variety of options available to them. To increase desirability and pay, it is wise to pass the exam to become a certified public accountant (CPA), certified management accountant (CMA), or chartered financial analyst (CFA), depending on which field one is planning a career in. Individuals starting their own business as financial managers or advisors in particular should consider certification as a method for bolstering client confidence in one's abilities.

Why Get a Finance Certification?

Obtaining certification is important for obtaining and maintaining a career. Individuals who do not pursue some form of certification early in their career tend to be pigeonholed into mid-level positions with little opportunity for promotion. Certification demonstrates a certain skill set and professional dedication. Individuals with certification are in higher demand and command a premium in regards to salary. Some businesses actively support individuals in pursuing certification, paying for courses and study materials as well as the exam. This is due to the demand for qualified professionals in the field of finance, so much so that businesses cover the substantially expensive costs in order to have one in house.

Careers available to a finance graduate include:

  • Credit Analyst
  • Financial Advisor
  • Financial Analyst
  • Loan Officer
  • Investment Banker
  • Financial Planner

How Much Money Do Finance Majors Make?

The amount of money a finance major will make after earning a college degree will vary depending on a variety of factors.  Your income will be proportional to your effort, professional network, geographic location, industry, employment demand, skills, organization type, and education level.  The data below has been culled from the U.S. Department of Labor and the BLS to help you understand the possible ranges of income within the finance sector.

Financial Managers: The median annual income of a financial manager is $121,750 with an expected growth rate of 7% in the coming decade which will add some 37,700 jobs during this time.

Financial Analysts: Annual median income for financial analysts is $81,760 based on the most recent data available.  A 7% employment growth rates is expected for financial analysts which translates to 32,300 additional jobs in the coming decade.

Personal Financial Advisors: Personal financial advisors make an average of $90,530 on a national basis with the top 25% making $160,490 and the bottom 25% surveyed making $57,460.  The employment growth for personal financial advisors is expected to rocket 30% in the coming decade which is over five times the national average growth rate of jobs during this time.

Financial Examiners:  The median annual income for a financial examiner is $79,280 with a brisk 10% growth rate expected which should add nearly four-thousand addition jobs in the coming ten years.

Budget Analysts:  Annual median compensation for a budget analyst is $73,840 with a steady employment outlook in the years ahead.

Cost Estimators: Job prospects for a cost estimator look good with an expected growth rate of 9% in the coming decade with an annual median income of $61,790 on a national basis.

Real Estate Appraisers: The annual median income for real estate appraisers is $51,850 with the top 25% averaging $73,080 and the bottom 25% making just under thirty-eight thousand dollars a year.  Jobs should grow at an 8% clip in the coming decade adding around 7,000 jobs during that time.

Salary Overview and Finance Job Growth

The average wage of an individual with a degree in finance varies based on education level, experience and position. Financial managers, for example, average about $99,000 per year, with entry level positions starting around $70,000 per year. Job growth is expected to be high in this field as markets grow and more financial experts are needed. Additionally, individuals who have obtained one of the various certifications can expect to earn more than those lacking certification, often the bump in pay is quite large and obtained immediately after one passes the exam (assuming they are currently employed).

Those interested in a degree in finance may also want to consider a degree in international business, economics, and accounting.  For additional information on a career path in finance and financial planning, visit our Definitive Career Guide for a Financial Planner on our blog.  More resources can be found by researching the American Finance Association (AFA) or the Association for Financial Professionals (AFP).

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Career Summary: Finance Major




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