Deciding Between a Finance and Accounting Degree

Businessman works on a financial report

Finance and accounting are top choices among students who would like to enter the corporate world and have a knack for crunching numbers. But should you choose a finance degree or an accounting degree? And what exactly is the difference between these two options?

Before you make any decisions about your major, it’s a good idea to speak with your academic advisor. If you’re still in high school, talk to a guidance counselor. In addition, consider whether you have any family members or acquaintances in either field. You can speak with them about their experiences to get a sense of whether a finance degree or an accounting degree may be best for you.

In the meantime, here’s a little insight into both degree programs to help you make your decision.

Finance Degree Overview

Students who earn a Bachelor of Science in Finance may go on to pursue careers in investment banking, corporate finance, risk management and equity research. This career path involves the analysis of financial statements for the purpose of smart planning for the future distribution of a company’s assets. In other words, professionals in finance are responsible for making financial decisions that affect the growth of the company.

Accounting Degree Overview

Students who earn a Bachelor of Science in Accounting may go on to pursue careers in forensic accounting, public accounting, auditing or government accounting. Whereas finance professionals make financial decisions and manipulate assets, accounting professionals track assets and prepare financial statements and reports.

To put it another way, accounting professionals tend to focus on the evaluation of a business’ current financial situation, while finance professionals focus on making decisions for the future.

Finance Career Opportunities

A finance degree can open many doors. These professionals are needed in all types of organizations, including small businesses, mega-corporations and nonprofits.

Some examples of career possibilities with a finance degree include the following:

  • Financial Advisor: Evaluates the finances of clients and helps them make long-term planning decisions with stocks, bonds, retirement funds and other investments.
  • Investment Banker: Assists corporations with raising capital by selling equity or issuing debt and by facilitating mergers and acquisitions.
  • Financial Analyst: Evaluates the performance of stocks, bonds and other investments and provides financial guidance to companies and individuals.
  • Stockbroker: Trades securities on behalf of their clients and earns a commission on each trade.

It’s worth noting that some careers may require additional credentialing beyond a bachelor’s degree. For example, aspiring financial advisors may need to earn a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) certification.

Accounting Career Opportunities

Graduates with an accounting degree may be qualified to pursue accounting roles in virtually any industry and type of organization. Some may even start their own accounting and tax preparation business.

The career possibilities for graduates with an accounting degree may include the following:

  • Certified Public Accountant (CPA): Prepares financial statements, handles bookkeeping tasks, files tax returns and represents clients before the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
  • Auditor: Analyzes financial statements, reconciles accounts and evaluates internal reporting procedures.
  • Credit Analyst: Reviews the financial information of loan applicants, assesses the ability of the applicant to repay the loan and recommends either approving or denying the loan.
  • Tax Examiner: Reviews tax returns filed by businesses and individuals to determine if the entity has underpaid or overpaid their local, state or federal taxes.

Certain accounting careers require additional credentialing after the graduate has earned a bachelor’s degree. For example, an accountant can only claim the credential of CPA after passing the Uniform CPA Examination.

Finance or Accounting Degree: The Decision

It can be difficult to choose between finance and accounting. If you are still having trouble making up your mind after reading this guide, you should consult your academic advisor for guidance. In addition, consider getting in contact with alumni from your school who have gone into either field. They may be willing to share their experiences and advice with you.

If you enjoy both finance and accounting, there is another possibility. You could choose to major in one and minor in the other. In addition, keep your eyes open for internship opportunities. You could participate in an internship at an investment banking firm during one summer and follow it up with an internship at a CPA firm the next summer. This can help you weigh the pros and cons of both career fields and allow you to make the choice that is right for you.

Prepare to pursue a rewarding career in business management by earning your degree at Grand Canyon University. The Colangelo College of Business offers a Bachelor of Science in Accounting and a Bachelor of Science in Finance for students who aspire to work in the corporate and financial world. To further enhance your career qualifications, consider enrolling in one of our Master of Business Administration (MBA) programs after earning your undergraduate degree. Our Christian university offers MBA programs in both finance and accounting.

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