Finance vs. Accounting Degrees: What’s the Difference?


There are many options available if you are pursuing a career in the financial industry. While a finance degree and an accounting degree can lead to a job in the financial industry, there are some important differences to be aware of. Finance and accounting degrees are different in coursework and training, as well as in licensing requirements. In this article, we discuss the most important requirements and job opportunities for each type of degree.

A finance degree is a bachelor’s or master’s degree program that prepares you to divide and plan the assets of an organization. A finance degree develops the necessary skills that professionals will need to obtain funding, distribute funds, and analyze spending in different organizational departments. In a career in finance, you will often work closely with investors or members of the management team, determining their financial goals and then evaluating the steps necessary to achieve them.

Read more: Your guide to careers in finance

What is an accounting degree?

An accounting degree is a bachelor’s or master’s degree program that prepares you to analyze and track the assets of an organization. Compared to a finance degree, accounting majors will develop skills in cash flow management, analyzing trends, reporting assets, and handling all tax matters. While finance professionals often strive to meet goals set by their supervisor, accountants operate according to standard practices defined by generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). People who wish to work in an accounting role will often study and work to earn the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) certification.

Read more: 16 accounting jobs that pay well

Differences between a finance and accounting degree

Here we outline some of the main differences between a finance and accounting degree:

  • Area of ​​interest: A finance degree prepares you to plan for an organization’s financial future. An accounting degree prepares you to assess and analyze the current and past finances of the organization. This financial orientation schedule is one of the main differences between each type of degree.

  • Expected courses: Each type of degree will have its own set of compulsory courses. Students studying for a finance degree can expect to take courses in banking, investing, financial analysis, financial planning, underwriting, and portfolio management. Students preparing for an accounting degree can expect to take courses in financial accounting, reporting, cost management, auditing, accounting systems, accounting theory, and income tax.

  • Required Skills : Analytical and mathematical skills are useful in finance or accounting careers. However, finance professionals will also need planning and strategy development skills, as one of their biggest responsibilities is planning an organization’s financial strategy. Accounting professionals will need reporting and analytical skills, as they are often responsible for auditing and evaluating past financial records.

  • Professional responsibilities: The responsibilities expected between the two careers will probably be different. People with a finance degree can look forward to a career as an analyst or advisor, acting as a consultant or managing financial budgets. A career in accounting will likely involve frequent audits and the preparation of accounting records.

Jobs in finance

It can also be helpful to consider what degree is needed for each type of career. People who pursue studies in finance tend to work in financial advisory, analytical or management positions. Some may even choose to extend their studies and take on a CFO position. A finance degree will prepare you for the following jobs.

For the most recent salary information from Indeed, click the link for each salary below:

1. Financial advisor

National average salary: $ 66,808 per year

Main duties : Financial advisors assess a client’s current financial situation and make recommendations on investments, retirement funding, and tax options. A financial advisor can work with individual clients or with an organization, determining their short and long term financial goals.

Read more: Find out more about the profession of financial advisor

2. Financial analyst

National average salary: $ 68,510 per year

Main duties : Financial analysts often work in the banking industry or with small businesses, providing financial advice on investment decisions. Some financial analysts may also work with a large organization, identifying the future financial needs of the business. Financial analysts tend to have specialized skills in stocks and bonds.

3. Financial manager

National average salary: $ 82,388 per year

Main duties : CFOs oversee the financial viability of an organization. They will often lead a team of financial analysts, working towards the achievement of the company’s future financial goals. CFOs can work in many different industries including banking, insurance, real estate, or with a large corporation.

4. Chief Financial Officer

National average salary: $ 127,183 per year

Main duties : A CFO is in charge of the finance department of an organization. This role focuses on creating financial goals, analyzing previous financial trends, and managing financial staff. A CFO is responsible for identifying the financial strengths and weaknesses of the business, and then making recommendations to the CEO (CEO).

5. Investment banker

National average salary: $ 135,810 per year

Main duties : Investment bankers are responsible for securing funding for organizations. They can seek financial capital, make investment recommendations, and monitor financial progress. It is also possible for an investment banker to work with a state or federal employer, working to reduce debt or collect bad debts.

Accounting jobs

People who pursue an accounting degree tend to work as accountants or auditors. Accountants may choose to work with individuals or businesses, helping them prepare and file their tax documents. An accounting degree will prepare you for the following jobs. For the most recent Indeed salary information, click on the salaries link for each job title below:

1. Accountant

National average salary: $ 51,115 per year

Main duties : Salaried accountants work directly for organizations, tracking and reporting all financial data. Accounting staff will often work in teams with other accountants or under the supervision of a Chartered Accountant (CPA) to meet the financial monitoring needs of the organization. Employee accountants can also manage day-to-day accounting responsibilities.

Read more: Find out more about the profession of accountant

2. Tax accountant

National average salary: $ 61,147 per year

Main duties : Tax accountants work with individuals and businesses, helping them prepare and report their taxes. Tax accountants also help individuals prepare their taxes owed and calculate quarterly and annual tax debts. They are also responsible for organizing and maintaining their clients’ documents.

3. Auditor

National average salary: $ 63,219 per year

Main duties : The auditors are responsible for verifying tax documents and financial records. An auditor may work for an external source, evaluating the accuracy of a company’s financial records or directly for a business, ensuring that they comply with all state and federal regulations. Auditors need to keep abreast of the latest laws and regulations, as companies often hire them to maintain these rules.

4. Certified accountant

National average salary: $ 76,485 per year

Main duties : Chartered Public Accountants (CPA) are certified by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). This means that they have fulfilled all the hourly requirements and passed the CPA exam. A CPA will act as an expert consultant, guiding individuals and businesses in preparing and filing their tax returns. A CPA can work for himself or for a reporting company.

5. Evaluation analyst

National average salary: $ 76,653 per year

Main duties : Valuation analysts assess companies’ current and past financial successes, then use that data to build a business valuation. Valuation analysts use a variety of methods to help investors or business owners understand the value of a business before buying or selling it.

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