Are you preparing for the wrong career? Sometimes, one field of study is so similar to another that students confuse the two. This applies to mathematics, especially. Being good with numbers can get you far in life, but it’s important to take the right approach. For example, if you’re interested in finance but pursuing a degree in accounting, you could be in for a colossal disappointment when it’s time to interview for that dream job. These two fields are closely related but are not interchangeable, and each has a singular focus. Accounting involves looking at numbers in past performance, whereas finance involves looking at numbers to predict and make decisions for the future.
Learn the difference between finance and accounting before choosing your college major.
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What Is Finance?
Finance encompasses a broader view, while accounting is more directed and hands-on. With a degree in finance, you may work as a financial analyst, a financial planner, or the chief financial officer of a company. There are many other careers you can pursue as well, but these are good jumping-off points to gain a better understanding of what a finance major can expect in the real world.
Those who study finance learn more about the big picture. They do more long-range planning than bookkeeping. For instance, as a financial specialist, you might help an organization make decisions that will best benefit them five years out. You might help them distribute their assets in the most valuable ways or examine the risks involved with a new merger. It’s your job to ensure that all financial decisions are made in the best interests of the company, to help them become as financially solvent as possible. If you’re able to do this well, and you generate a proven track record of success, your future will be bright indeed.
What Is Accounting?
Accounting, alternately, focuses on tasks such as balancing the financial books of a business. As an accountant, you may prepare taxes, advise business owners on how to use tax shelters to their best advantage or prepare weekly payroll reports. Accounting is more practical, in-the-trenches kind of work that helps companies keep track of expenditures, losses, and profit. Instead of analyzing and predicting the outcome of long-range strategies, as an accountant, you’ll keep track of where the money is spent or how much money was lost. This is the clerical end of the financial business, and it’s every bit as important as the financial planning.
The Difference Between Finance and Accounting Degrees
From a college standpoint, the major differences between accounting and finance degrees lie in the coursework. While some classes are required to both degrees, others are specialized. Therefore, it’s important to have a keen understanding of your long-term goals before choosing your major. An accounting degree won’t prepare you to work as a financial planner. Neither will a finance bachelor’s degree teach you the ins and outs of tax laws.
- Financial Accounting
- Insurance and Risk Management
- Investment Management
- Finite Analysis
- Business Valuations for Mergers and Acquisitions
- Financial Accounting
- Cost Accounting
- Federal Income Taxes
- Data Analytics for Accountants
Accounting or Finance Degree: Differences in Jobs and Salaries
The available jobs and their respective salaries vary among the fields of finance and accounting, as well. Both provide graduates with a comfortable living, and both are expected to increase in demand over the next eight years.
Common Careers as a Finance Professional
- Corporate Planner
- Investment Analyst
- Wealth Manager
- Portfolio Manager
These careers all require the specialized skills of a finance degree. And as a field, they’re expected to enjoy faster than average growth through 2029, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). It’s also good to note the median salary of a financial analyst in 2020 was $83,660. Therefore, if you enjoy numbers and have a sound understanding of math, finance may be a solid career choice. But this is true only if you’re interested in deciphering long-range, overall results. If you’re more interested in the day-to-day expenses of running a business, then a bachelor’s degree in accounting may be the better choice.
Common Careers Associated with an Accounting Degree
- Certified Public Accountant
- Accounts Payable Specialist
- Accounts Receivable Specialist
- Tax Preparer
Careers in accounting are expected to experience average growth throughout 2029, according to the BLS, and the median salary of accountants and auditors was $73,560 in 2020. Nearly every business needs the services provided by accounting graduates, including those run by entrepreneurs and small business owners. This means you can work pretty much anywhere you want with the skills that an accounting degree provides.
Finance Vs. Accounting Degree: Which Major to Choose?
If you’re still torn on which major to pursue, consider your local market. Are you willing to relocate to an area that offers an abundance of Fortune 500 companies? Or do you plan to stay in your hometown, building a life around your new career? Do you thrive on the stress and excitement of guiding a large entity? Or would you be happier managing the books for the local grocery store chain? Do you enjoy the challenge of evaluating overseas markets and making recommendations based on your findings? Or would you rather keep a small business owner on the good side of the Internal Revenue Service? These are all personal preferences and questions that only you can answer. Once you’ve solved them, however, the question of earning a finance vs accounting degree should become clearer.
Why Study Accounting or Finance at the Graduate Level?
A bachelor’s degree in either finance or accounting is enough to get you in the door of your chosen career field. But it may not be enough to score you a dream job. Many companies require a graduate-level degree for applicants who wish to hold positions such as analysts or financial managers. Continuing your career to the graduate level is a smart choice if you’d like to enter your new company at more than an entry-level position. Graduates who hold master’s degrees or higher have less competition and earn higher salaries than graduates with only bachelor’s degrees.
Of course, it’s never too late to earn a new accounting or finance degree. Even if you’re already working as a financial or accounting specialist, you can still obtain your master’s in accounting or finance. You’ll not only improve your knowledge and job skills, but you’ll become more promotable as well.
Post University in Connecticut can help you advance your career in both finance and accounting. Offering online and on-campus classes, as well as hybrid learning that combines both, we’re an excellent choice for students who need flexibility as they earn their degree. Visit us online today or call for more information.
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Please note jobs, career outcomes, and/or salaries highlighted in this blog do not reflect jobs, career outcomes, and/or salaries expected from any Post program. To learn more about Post’s programs and their outcomes, please fill out a form to speak with an admissions representative.