If you want to have a career in finance, or improve your existing career, you may want to consider enrolling in a finance degree. However, the term ‘degree in finance’ is quite vague because there are various types.
All of these programs are offered at a range of different schools on campus, in full time and part time delivery models, but also online, through distance learning, and in hybrid formats. This demonstrates just how many options there are, and why it is so important to look into what type of degree is right for you. Let’s take a closer look at each of these options.
Certificates in Finance and Associate’s Degrees in Finance
Certificates and associate’s degrees give you the ability to take on an entry level position, usually clerical or administrative. This is the perfect option for people who don’t meet the competitive entry requirements of bachelor’s degrees, or for those who are unsure about whether or not they want to work in the field of finance. Usually, it takes no more than a year to complete these options, and they are also very affordable.
Bachelor of Science in Finance
If you want an in-depth knowledge of finance, then you should consider completing a bachelor’s degree. Usually, you will have to study for around four years, and you will then have the basic skills needed to take on a financial position in a variety of organizations.
Master of Science in Finance and MBA Degree with Finance Concentration
Once you have completed your bachelor’s degree, or any other undergraduate degree, you can hone your skills and knowledge further by completing a master’s degree. There are even some programs that combine the bachelor’s and the master’s degrees, which is perfect for those who know exactly where they want their career to go. Usually, it takes around two years to complete a master’s program. This degree, and particularly the MBA degree with concentration in finance, will lead to very significant career advancement.
Doctorate Degree in Finance
With a doctorate degree, you will be able to perform financial research, or you will be able to provide instruction to the next generation of finance students. It can take years to complete a doctorate degree, and it is generally also quite expensive. It is not a particularly popular degree, which means that if you want to enrol for it, you are more likely to be accepted subject, of course, to the requirements set by the university for this degree. Also, because it is not so popular, there is a significant shortage of financial researchers and faculty, so job opportunities are abundant.
What You Will Learn
Up to and including bachelor’s degree level, you will usually learn about ebusiness, international finance, personal finance, statistics, accounting, business law, macro- and micro-economics, and so on. The higher the level of your degree, the more in depth your courses will be. At master’s degree level, you will take advanced core classes, but you will also choose a concentration and complete advanced courses on management, economics, corporate finance, strategic management, and so on.
Degree programs increase students’ technical and theoretical knowledge about the world of finance. This will equip students with a range of important financial skills that are relevant to the workplace. Students learn about the economy and the socio-political factors that affect it, wealth management, and so on. There is often a strong focus on statistics, which is a closely related discipline. Additionally, information technology is now inevitably a part of the degree program.
With the bachelor’s and master’s degrees, you should be able to take a number of optional modules. These enable you to become more experienced in specific fields of finance. Some of these options are advanced accounting theory, risk management, employment law, management accounting, business law, audits, business strategy, taxation, and so on. These are very wide ranging subjects, which reflect the wide scope of finance. After graduation, you could work in virtually any type of industry, from commercial banking to real estate, from financial planning to insurance, from investment banking to money managing.
Once you have determined which degree to go for, you will have to decide how you will study. Many schools and universities now offer online learning options and this is almost always available for finance, as very few live interaction is needed. By studying online, you will have a lot more flexibility, but you do need to have the discipline to pursue it. You also have to make sure that the school you choose is properly accredited.
Pros and Cons of Different Study Formats
- If you study online, you have substantial flexibility, completing your courses as and when it is convenient to you, from any location with an internet connection. Online learning is often more affordable, particularly because you don’t have the costs required in going to school, such as room and board. Additionally, most universities charge different fees for in state and out of state students, but the same rate for online students. You do need to be able to handle independent learning, although the interactive programs have been designed to increase interaction, including Facebook groups and chat rooms.
- If you study on campus, you won’t have as much flexibility. What you have is the option to study during evenings or weekends, making it slightly more flexible. Usually, studying on campus is a bit more expensive. You may also have to pay more if you choose a university in a different state from your own. The advantage is that you will engage in highly structured learning, knowing exactly which class you follow, where, and when. You also have constant interaction with your fellow students, faculty, and other staff.
Every school has set entry requirements for finance programs, and these depend on the school and on the level of degree you choose. Usually, the entry requirements become more competitive as you go for higher degrees. Almost all schools will also require you to demonstrate English proficiency if you are a foreign student.
Finance Degree Topics
Depending on the school you choose to go to, the curriculum will be set up in different ways. However, almost all of them will include the following courses in their curriculum:
- Corporate finance, where you will learn how businesses and organizations manage their finances. You will be able to evaluate the cost of capital, set financial return benchmarks, learn about risk mitigation strategies and about mergers and acquisitions, and understand how to value a business.
- International finance, where you will learn about international taxation, international financial reporting, international trade policies, foreign direct investment, international monetary systems, international financial markets, and more. Furthermore, you can specialize in issues such as developing economies or Islamic finance.
- Behavioral finance, which is a new element of the degree programs, but one that is becoming increasingly popular. This looks at why some people and organizations make ‘bad’ financial decisions from a psychological perspective. It looks at social, economic, and psychological factors that influence how groups and individuals behave financially.
- Financial mathematics, which includes mathematical and computational skills. This is one of the most important elements if you want to specialize in your career. You will learn about valuation of derivative securities, interest rate modeling, key computational financial methods, and advanced analytical models.
- Financial economics, which focuses strong on microeconomics. You will learn about consumer and producer behaviors, market efficiency, resource allocation, optimization, comparative statistics, equilibrium, and more.
Careers After Finishing Your Degree
Once you have decided which degree you want to complete, and you finish your degree, you will be able to enter the job market. Financial careers are often highly paid, particularly for those who have more advanced degree programs. In fact, if you have a master’s degree, you will usually earn around $15,000 per year more than someone with a bachelor’s degree. Here are some salaries within the financial industry include:
- Securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents earn an average of $71,550 per year at bachelor’s level.
- Financial analysts earn an average of $80,310 per year at bachelor’s level.
- Personal financial advisors earn an average of $89,160 per year at bachelor’s level.
Choosing Your Degree Program
Now that you know the different types of finance degree programs, you should be better equipped to choose the program that is right for you. Additionally, you could opt for subjects that are related to finance, like accounting or banking. Because there are so many options out there, it is vital that you speak to an admissions counselor or careers advisor, or that you take some career options tests, so that you are better equipped to choose what is right for you. After all, a degree is a significant investment in terms of both time and money.