You’ve always had a knack for numbers, and budgeting and math equations are included in your list of favorite activities. Sound familiar? If you’re math-minded and interested in the financial industry, you’ve likely struggled with the decision between a degree in accounting and finance.
Finance or Accounting Degree Which Is Better
While these degrees are laterally similar, there are some important differences between the two. Below are some differences to find what best suits your needs.
1) Core Competencies
Because accountants and financial analysts and advisers are required to be well-versed in quantitative analytics and math, the core competencies for both degrees do experience some overlap. However, accountants often go onto focus on business law and administrations, statistics, and accounting ethics.
If you plan on going into a specialty, you’ll need further instruction in the right discipline, which many determine after getting started in their career. Finance professionals in turn are expected to become well-versed on economics and financial management, along with behavioral finance, asset markets, and private equity, among a host of other topics and focuses.
2) Career Options
Finance Degree: A finance degree bleeds into a variety of different positions in the finance industry. Some financial analysts are tasked with investing, others become commercial bankers. You may choose to pursue a career path in hedge fund management, or consider a position as an insurance officer. If you’re picturing yourself in the glamorous, high-pressure world of stock broking, you’ll likely want a degree in finance.
Accounting Degree: Those with degrees in accounting generally find themselves within two primary categories, including accounting and auditing. Accountants are generally found in businesses, while auditors are employed by external auditing firms. Common job titles found in the world of accounting include financial consultants, treasurers, tax advisers, actuaries, accountants, and credit controllers.
3) Continued Education
Both accounting and finance careers require continued education should you wish to advance your career. Higher salaries are common amongst those with special certifications in both fields. For accountants, the penultimate goallies in the distinction of becoming a CPA, or certified public accountant.
Individuals that wish to pursue this career path must pass an intensive test called the CPA Exam. This test is made of four parts, and can take years to pass in full. Most candidates find they must retake various portions of the test time at least a few times before receiving a passing score. Many purchase study courses and spend months preparing to sit just one portion of the exam.
There are also many requirements that must be met before even being allowed to take the test, including years of firsthand experience, and a certain amount of hours of related course work. Most accounting professionals that take this exam already have their master’s degree.
In contrast, one of the topmost distinctions for those in the finance profession is called a CFA, or a Chartered Financial Analyst. Like the CPA Exam, the CFA Exam is extremely rigorous and difficult to pass. Most will retake the exam, and it can take years to receive a passing score on all portions.
It’s important to keep in mind that this test can only be sat for one or two times per year, depending on which section a candidate is taking. Most finance professionals hold a related degree, or have four years of qualified work experience in a finance discipline.
Most candidates must take CFA exam prep courses for months prior to sitting for the exam.
In terms of continued education, both financial and accounting professionals are tasked with difficult paths. However, these types of designations can result in six-figure salaries and numerous job opportunities.
4) Employment Outlook
Finance and accounting careers have comparable growth outlooks in the next decade. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, accounting and auditing jobs are expected to grow by about 11 percent, while financial analyst jobs are expected to expand by about 12 percent.
This positive outlook for employment growth in both arenas shows that both degrees are ideal for those looking for stable careers. However, there are key differences in earnings potential. Finance careers tend to make a bit more, as financial analysts have a median salary of $80,310, while accountants and auditors have a median salary of $67,190.
There are major benefits to both finance and accounting degrees, and sometimes it’s simply a matter of sitting down and really considering your career aspirations. Considering these facets, choose the degree that will best benefit your professional future. 🙂