Finance vs. Accounting Degree: Which Is Right for You?

Woman sitting on gray couch in professional wear working on finances at home

For students who are good with numbers and who are interested in working in the corporate world, finance and accounting are top degree choices to pursue. But how do you know whether to seek a finance degree or an accounting degree? And what exactly is the difference between these two degrees? Which degree is the better option: finance or accounting? 

Before making a decision about your major, consider speaking with an academic advisor. If you are still in high school, talk to a guidance counselor about your options. It is also a good idea to speak with family members or acquaintances with a background in either field. You can ask them about their experiences to get a sense of whether a finance degree or an accounting degree may be the best choice for you.

In the meantime, here is a little insight into both degree programs to give you a better understanding of what to expect in these fields.

What Is a Finance Degree?

In earning a Bachelor of Science in Finance degree, students learn a variety of skills on a wide-range of topics. Some of these topics covered include investments, securities and risks, economics, trade and banking, and financial markets. Students prepare for a variety of careers and learn money management. Money management and finance apply to many different aspects in business, and a degree in finance teaches you how to apply your abilities anywhere, from small businesses to global corporations. 

Some finance courses include:

  • Financial Accounting
  • Financial Risk Management and Insurance
  • Real Estate
  • Introduction to Investments
  • Investments and Portfolio Management

What Is an Accounting Degree?

Students in a Bachelor of Science in Accounting program also gain expertise that opens the way to a variety of career opportunities. An accounting degree focuses on situations that accountants or other individuals in the business field have to work with, such as ethical issues faced by auditors, budgeting and financial statement preparation. 

Some of the program courses for accounting include:

  • Financial Statement Analysis
  • Cost Accounting
  • Management Accounting
  • Financial Accounting
  • Intermediate Accounting

What Careers Are There for Graduates With a Finance Degree?

A finance degree can open many doors in the field for graduates. Finance professionals are needed in various types of organizations, including small businesses, mega-corporations and nonprofits. Students who earn a BS in Finance may go on to pursue careers in investment banking, corporate finance, risk management and equity research.

A career path in finance involves the analysis of financial statements to intelligently plan for the future distribution of a company’s assets. In other words, professionals in this field are responsible for making financial decisions that affect the growth of the company.

A few 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
  • Financial Planner: Helps individuals take care of their finances, helps make sure everything is in order for the future and helps clients plan in order to achieve their goals.

It is worth noting that some careers may require additional credentials beyond a bachelor’s degree. For example, aspiring financial planners may need to earn the CFP® certification through the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc.

What Careers Are There for Graduates With an Accounting Degree?

Graduates with an accounting degree are qualified to pursue accounting roles in nearly any industry and type of organization. Some may even choose to start their own accounting and tax preparation business. Students who earn a BS in Accounting may go on to pursue careers in forensic accounting, public accounting, auditing or government accounting.

Finance professionals analyze data and make projections to help individuals and organizations make financial decisions, whereas accounting professionals track assets and prepare financial statements and reports. In short, accounting professionals tend to focus on the evaluation of a business’ current financial situation, while finance professionals focus on making decisions for the future.

Some career possibilities for graduates with an accounting degree 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 whether the entity has underpaid or overpaid their local, state or federal taxes
  • Revenue Agent: Conducts audits and makes sure taxes are in order to ensure that tax money owed to the government is paid

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 vs. Accounting Degree: Which Degree Is the Best Option?

It can be difficult to choose between finance and accounting. If you already contacted your advisor and are unsure which degree is the best option for you, consider:

Contacting a Program Alumnus

No one better understands the process of earning an accounting or finance degree than someone who has done just that. Contemplate 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.

Doing Further Research

Go online and do further research. Find out what people from both accounting and finance backgrounds think about their program choice. It is also a good idea to look into various careers. You may want to check out the specific classes that are required for each degree at your college and see which classes are more appealing to you.

Looking Into Minors

If you enjoy both finance and accounting, there is another possibility: You could choose to major in either finance or accounting and minor in the other. This is a way for you to get experience in both fields.

Exploring Internships

In addition, keep your eyes open for internship opportunities. You could participate in an internship at an investment banking firm for 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.

Researching Careers

Another way to help you select which major you want to pursue is by finding and researching a career or multiple careers that interest you. If you know what career you want to strive for, choosing a major may be easier, as you can choose whichever major is better suited to your desired career. One resource you can use to your advantage when researching careers is the Occupational Outlook Handbook and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Remember to keep in mind that both degrees have value. No matter whether you choose a finance or accounting degree, you will be learning valuable information that can help give you many career opportunities in the future.

Are There Higher-Level Degrees in Accounting and Finance?

After deciding on the issue of accounting vs. finance and earning an undergraduate degree, you may want to consider a Master of Business Administration in either finance or accounting. Both an MBA in Finance and an MBA in Accounting enhance your career qualifications and help you dive even deeper into your chosen field. Master’s degrees can be earned through online or evening classes, so you can work and earn your degree at the same time. 

Prepare to pursue a rewarding career in business 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. The college also offers an MBA in Finance and an MBA in Accounting. If you would like to learn more about GCU and the degrees offered, click on the Request Info button at the top of your screen. If you are interested in reading more, visit the GCU blog page to explore more business blogs

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.

Scroll back to top