Finance is a subfield of business that deals with money management. If you choose to study finance, you will learn how to manage money in a variety of ways. The primary profession in this field trains you to grow portfolios by investing in the stock market. But a finance degree will prepare you for many positions with corporate businesses or financial institutions like banks, insurance companies and mortgage firms.
Many students are drawn to this field because finance jobs pay very well. And unlike many areas of business, it is not necessary to earn a graduate degree. However, you can study finance at the graduate level, so you should keep in mind that an MBA will qualify you for more positions and distinguish you from other job applicants.
Check the Guide to Accreditation in Higher Education to learn more about accreditation and how to determine if the program you select meets the necessary standards.
Certificate in Finance
- Credit hours/length of study: 6 months – 1 year (12-15 credit hours)
- Coursework: The exact courses that you take while studying for an undergraduate finance certificate will vary according to the length and depth of your program. But you will likely take courses in financial accounting, investment strategy, risk management and international finance.
- Employment prospects: An undergraduate certificate in finance will not qualify you for any finance positions on its own. However, it may enhance your business resume and improve your personal investing skills.
- Credit hours/length of study: 1 year (12-15 credit hours)
- Coursework: You may take a variety of different courses to earn a graduate finance certificate. However, you are likely to take classes such as managerial accounting, financial management, portfolio management and quantitative analysis.
- Employment prospects: Most finance jobs require only a bachelors degree, so a graduate certificate will boost your resume and give you an edge over your competition. A sample of the professions that you will be qualified for include financial analyst, personal financial advisor, financial examiner and financial sales agent.
Associate Degree in Finance
An Associate of Arts (AA) in Finance includes classes in the humanities as well as in finance and business to give you a broad background. The AA is not a common finance degree but you can use it to transfer into a bachelor’s program.
An Associate of Science (AS) in Finance requires more science and mathematics classes to give you a technical education. The AS degree is the best choice if you plan to transfer into a bachelor’s degree program.
An Associate of Applied (AAS) in Finance in finance teaches job specific skills that train you to work in the field. The AAS degree is the best option if you want to enter the workforce immediately after graduation.
- Credit hours/length of study: 2 years (60-65 hours)
- Coursework: An associate degree in finance will teach you the basic principles that govern business and finance. If you decide to pursue this degree, you will take introductory classes in accounting, business law, microeconomics, macroeconomics and investing.
- Employment prospects: An associate degree in finance will prepare you for very few jobs. You may be able to find work as a loan officer, but the primary function of this degree is to earn credits that you can transfer into a 4-year degree program.
Bachelor’s Degree in Finance
Bachelor’s degrees are the most common level of education in this field. When you are looking for a bachelor’s degree program, you should keep in mind that some schools offer finance degrees that also focus on another subject, like accounting or economics.
A Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Finance degree has more liberal arts classes, so you will study the humanities along with business and finance. The BA degree is the best choice if you want to continue on to graduate school.
A Bachelor of Science (BS) in Finance has more science and math classes that are designed to give you a strong technical background. The BS is the best option if you want to enter the workforce as soon as you graduate.
A Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) in Finance has a strong focus on business classes, so you will learn management skills along with the principles of finance. The BBA is a good choice if you want to become a financial manager.
- Credit hours/length of study: 4 years (120-130 hours)
- Coursework: You will take a variety of classes that focus on business and money management. Your core business classes will likely include marketing, accounting and business law. You will also take classes that are specific to finance like economics, portfolio management and investment strategy. In addition, you will have some courses in finite mathematics and statistics.
- Employment prospects: With a bachelor’s degree, you could work as a financial analyst or advisor, who help people and businesses to manage their investment portfolios. You could also become a sales agent, who buys and sells stocks and bonds. And after you gain several years of work experience, you will be qualified to work as a financial manager.
Master’s Degree in Finance
A Master of Science (MS) in Finance has advanced business, finance and mathematics classes. The MS is a good choice if you want to focus on finance, rather than business management, in your graduate studies.
A Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Finance has core business classes and offers many finance and investment banking electives. The MBA is the best option if you want a business education that leads to a managerial position.
A Master of Financial Engineering (MFE) offers engineering courses like computer science and mathematics along with finance. The MFE is preferable if you want to work as a financial engineer.
- Credit hours/length of study: 2-3 years (30-40 hours)
- Coursework: The courses that you take while you study for a masters degree in finance vary somewhat according to which degree you choose to pursue. In all finance masters programs, you will take advanced classes about investing strategies, derivatives and financial institutions. And in an MS program, you will also take business, accounting and ethics. On the other hand, in an MBA program, you will take classes like organizational management and financial decision making. And if you decide to get an MFE, you will take classes like computational finance, stochastic calculus and credit risk modeling.
- Employment prospects: A masters degree in finance qualifies you for any professional job in finance. However, most management positions require that you gain several years of experience before you can apply. So while you can be a financial analyst, financial examiner or financial engineer with the appropriate masters degree, you will not be qualified to be a financial manager as soon as you graduate.
Doctoral Degree in Finance
A Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Finance includes advanced finance classes and focuses on theoretical research. The PhD is the best option if you want to pursue an academic research career at a college or university.
A Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) emphasizes applied financial research that can be used to solve business problems. The DBA is the best option if you want to work as a finance professional at a corporation or government agency.
- Credit hours/length of study: 5-7 years (60-72 hours)
- Coursework: If you decide to earn a doctorate in finance, you will get to design the focus of your own program. However, you will be required to take certain mathematics classes like linear algebra, calculus and probability. You will also take courses in economics, accounting, corporate finance theory and financial markets. In addition, most doctoral programs require students to complete a dissertation that is based on their original research.
- Employment prospects: A doctoral degree in finance will primarily prepare you for research positions. You could work for government agencies and think tanks, or you could become a professor at a college or university.
Careers in Finance
- Loan Officer
- Personal Financial Advisor
- Financial Analyst
- Financial Sales Agents
- Financial Examiner
- Financial Engineer
- Financial Manager
Because finance is a field usually associated with big business, many major corporations offer scholarships listed here, including Verizon, Wal-Mart, MasterCard, and Wells Fargo. The amount of money these scholarships offer varies greatly, with a range of $1,000 – $32,000 represented. But don’t restrict your search to only the biggest donors. As you are searching for scholarships, remember that every bit of financial aid you receive will help to pay for your education and reduce the student debt you will be obligated to pay back post-graduation.