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.

Finance Classes in College

A degree in finance equips students with the knowledge, skill and ability to manage money. Individuals who obtain a college degree will learn finance from various vantage points.  A finance major will learn how to manage the assets of businesses, institutions, and individuals. Additionally, market analysis of domestic and foreign markets is typically included in the curriculum of a finance major.

Degrees in finance are available at the associate's level at a number of accredited colleges.  However, a bachelor's degree and master's in finance is the most beneficial in obtaining challenging, high-level finance careers.  Lastly, 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.

Finance Courses & Curriculum

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
  • Money & Banking
  • Financial Analysis
  • Asset Management
  • Financial Accounting
  • Fixed Income Securities
  • Investments
  • Portfolio Management
  • International Financial Management & Banking
  • Managerial Finance
  • Options & Futures Markets
  • Applied Equity Investment Management
  • Mergers and Acquisitions
  • Risk Management
  • Derivative Markets and Securities

Top Online Finance Degree

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.  General education classes such as sociology, English, psychology, and philosophy are included to assist students to think differently and more holistically 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) and/or a Bachelor’s of Science (BS) degree.  The different finance degree options will be listed in the course catalogue for you to review in advance.

Core classes you may find in an online finance degree program may include introductory and advanced finance concepts.  Examples of finance classes include: macroeconomics, personal financial management, banking and investments, fixed income markets, financial markets, theory of probability, financial accounting, capital markets, game theory, and financial analysis.

Specializations in finance may be available in select universities.  Electives clustered in a specific financial domain are designed to help students better understand specific areas of financial markets.  Academic specializations can include programs such as real estate, mortgage lending, actuarial science, quantitative finance, investment management, wealth management, international finance, insurance, or financial management.

Online Master’s Degree in Finance

Earning an online master’s in finance can be found in a variety of ways.  Universities may list a master's in finance as an:

  • Master’s of Business Administration - MBA 
  • Master of Science in Finance - MS 
  • Master of Arts in Finance - MA  

Each degree track will emphasize varying aspects of finance.  In most cases, students will learn about vital aspects of high-level finance such as market behavior, internal rates of return, financial instrument valuation, financial intermediaries, financial markets, incentives in the market, economic forces, and political impacts in finance.

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.  Expect MBA programs to last one to two years after all lower level classes are completed.

Online Doctorate Degree in Finance

Online doctorate degrees in finance are PhD programs specifically built to adequately prepare students for research and teaching opportunities.  Graduate students in a PhD program will typically go on to teach in higher education or perform financial research for private businesses, government agencies, think tanks, or various educational centers.

Doctorate degrees are terminal degrees in academia given the fact that 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?

Higher education institutions of all sizes have been rapidly adding online degree programs in finance in the last decade.  The value, cost, and flexibility mesh well with the demand from employers for well-trained financial specialists.  The evolution of distance learning programs will only continue and give students myriad programs to choose.  The most popular reasons students choose to earn a finance degree online include the following factors.

Overall Cost

The net cost associated with earning an online finance degree can be less than a campus-based program for a few reasons.

  1. Online finance degrees allow student to continue working while earning a degree.  Opportunity cost is maximized as wages are not sacrificed while working towards a degree.
  2. Distance learning programs are available to students remotely and do not require on-campus housing.  Saving on room and board can be a substantial piece of the overall cost of education in college.
  3. Nationally and regionally accredited online finance programs provide students with the ability to qualify for federal and state financial aid.

Access & Flexibility

Enrolling in an online finance course allows for immediate access and ultimate flexibility.  Students can jump online with an internet connected device and complete requisite assignments at any time.  Without traditional restrictions of a physical class, students can work school into an existing schedule instead of the reverse.


A large percentage of top ranked colleges and universities are rolling out online classes that parallel existing courses.  Providing quality, accredited courses in finance online provides value and piece of mind.  Accreditation can only be earned and maintained by ensuring quality curriculum is in place that conforms with published school procedures and processes.


Online finance degrees are on par with campus-based degree programs.  Coupling the surveys performed of recent college graduates and independent third-parties, the  conclusion is clear.  Online finance classes can feel much like a traditional class with published homework, exams, tests, and class syllabus.


Online finance degree programs may be self-paced allowing students to move as fast or as slow as needed.  Asynchronous learning environments allow students to move as quick as possible without matching the pace of an instructor.  Likewise, starting school can be much more flexible online than on-campus.  In fact, you may be able to start class on a rolling basis throughout an academic year instead of a limited interval.

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.

How Much Do Finance Majors Make?

Finance degree salary and compensation results will depend on a number of factors after graduating from college.   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: The median annual for a financial analyst is currently at $81,760. The industry is set to grow by over 33,000 jobs in the next ten years which translates to a seven percent growth rate for financial analysts.

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:  The mean annual income for a trained, experienced budget analyst is  $73,840 with a stable employment forecast for the coming ten year reporting period.

Cost Estimators: The job outlook for a cost estimator is bright.  In fact, the anticipated growth rate is nine percent with an annual income average of approximately $62,000 based on the latest national survey.

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.

Finance Major Salary Overview

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 passing the exam if they are not already gainfully employed.

Additional Resources for Finance Majors

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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