Studying finance can lead to many different career opportunities. The degree you choose depends on your interests and career goals. Finance degree programs are available at all levels, from the associate’s degree to the doctoral degree. There are many choices and different paths you can take while pursuing a finance degree. In this article, we discuss the best degrees for finance college students can get. We also cover what is the highest degree in finance and what jobs you can get with a finance degree. Read on for information on the best degree for finance for college students.
What is a Finance Degree?A finance degree covers different business topics. Undergraduate finance programs teach students the skills they need for different careers in business. A finance degree program gives you basic business principles and then builds on the foundation. Students take core courses in:
- Business law
What Finance Degrees are Available?You can study finance at any level. You can earn a(n):
- Associate’s degree
- Bachelor’s degree
- Master’s degree
- Doctoral degree or PhD
Associate Degree in FinanceCommunity colleges and technical schools offer two-year finance degrees. Associate’s degree programs introduce students to fundamental and core finance principles. You can earn an Associate in Finance or Associate in Financial Management, depending on what the school and program offers. The degrees take two years to complete.
Courses You TakePlan on taking core courses in math, science, and statistics along with general business and finance classes. Finance and business administration courses cover topics in financial accounting, financial reporting, financial statements, and international finance.
Possible Career ChoicesStudents with an associate finance degree can look for positions as:
- Accounting associate
- Associate or assistant financial analyst
Bachelor’s Degree in FinanceA finance bachelor’s degree helps students build a strong foundation in core business and finance principles. You can earn a Bachelor of Science in Finance or a Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance. Some schools offer a Bachelor of Arts degree in Finance, but these programs are rare. A traditional bachelor’s degree takes four years to complete. Accelerated and online programs can take less time.
Courses You TakeA finance major takes business administration and finance courses. You also take math, science, and social science classes. Once your general education courses are out of the way, you will focus on finance. Plan on taking courses that cover topics like financial risk management and investment management. You also study corporate accounting and portfolio management.
Possible Career ChoicesWith a bachelor’s degree and completing an undergraduate finance program, you can qualify for positions in finance like:
- Chartered financial analyst
- Investment banker
- Personal financial advisor
- Risk management office
Master’s Degree in FinanceThere are two master’s degree pathways for financial professionals. There is the MBA with a concentration in finance or a Master in Finance degree. The MBA prepares students for various leadership and management roles in business and finance. The Master of Finance prepares you for high-level executive positions. The master’s degree takes about two years to complete.
Courses You TakeBoth master’s programs cover advanced business and finance topics. Students take courses that explore financial planning in corporations and businesses. You also learn what personal financial advisors do on the job. You study financial analysis and learn to read financial statements. Your courses and research teach you how to analyze financial data and interpret financial records. You spend a lot of time on financial reporting and analysis.
Possible Career ChoicesYou can qualify for advanced business and finance roles with an MBA in finance or master’s finance degree. Positions include:
- Budget analysts
- Credit managers
- Financial analysts
- Financial examiners
- Financial managers
- Investment bankers
- Personal financial advisors
Doctorate or PhD in FinanceThere are two types of doctorate degrees in finance. The DBA or Doctor of Business Administration with a concentration in finance or PhD in Finance. A DBA degree gives you professional courses you can apply to business and finance careers. A PhD focuses on research and academics. If you want to become a professor, you need a PhD. Most programs take two to four years after you’ve earned a master’s degree.
Courses You TakeIn a DBA program, you take advanced business courses relevant to work in financial institutions. The advanced degree covers topics in enterprise risk actuaries and global finance. You also study business intelligence and corporate governance. A PhD program offers courses in everything from economics to advanced statistics. You also learn accounting theory and study financial decision making.
Possible Career ChoicesWith a PhD or DBA, you can qualify for jobs as a:
- Certified financial planner
- Chief financial officer
- Executive roles in finance
- Financial manager
- Finance professor
- Personal financial advisor
- Portfolio management analyst
What is the Highest Degree You Can Get in Finance?There are many different degree levels in finance. As discussed above, you can start with an associate degree and work your way up to a DBA or PhD. What’s the highest degree in finance? A PhD is the highest finance degree you can get. To work in the financial industry, you don’t need a PhD (which is the highest degree). A bachelor’s degree can get you different financial sector jobs in:
- Corporate finance
- Financial accounting
- Financial management
- Financial planning
- Financial records
- Investment management
- Risk management
Certifications After the Finance DegreeSome finance professionals have certifications. You can get these add-ons to your education without getting a degree. Certifications offer specialized knowledge in an area of study. They are important to employers because they show you have expertise in a subject area. They can also help you advance your career and increase your earnings potential.
Certified Financial Planner CertificationThe CFP certification is a popular choice for financial planners. To qualify for the exam and certification, you need a bachelor’s degree. You must also complete a board-approved training program for financial planners. This is a good certification to get after you finish your finance major and earn your degree. It offers higher wages and increases advancement opportunities.
Certified Treasury Professional CertificationBudget analysts and financial managers can earn CTP certifications. To qualify, financial professionals need two years of corporate financial experience. A graduate-level degree, not just a bachelor’s degree, is also needed. But you don’t have to get a finance master’s degree. You can earn an economics degree or study another subject.
Chartered Financial Analyst CertificationFinancial analysts and investment bankers can earn a CFA certification. This certification requires the completion of an educational component and an exam. There are different levels of the CFA certification you can get, but they are all valuable to potential employers.
Can You Get a Finance Degree Online?Looking for an online degree program in finance? Online finance degrees are out there if you know where to look. You can earn a finance degree online. Many accredited colleges and universities offer 100% online degree programs. These programs allow students to work at their own pace. You take courses in the evenings or on the weekends. They are flexible and convenient. Getting an online degree doesn’t mean sacrificing your educational experience. Many programs have internship and capstone requirements. They give students a comprehensive look at financial analysis through research and practical application. An online bachelor’s degree program in finance can help you get on the right career path from the jump.
What to Look for in an Online Finance ProgramYour finance degree program should fit your career goals. It should also align with your budget and lifestyle. When searching for online programs in finance, you should first make sure the school has received accreditation. Accreditation is an important standard of quality. It offers the assurance that you can trust the program and the curriculum you will cover. An accredited program can build a strong foundation for your financial career. Your finance degree program should also fit your budget. Most programs and schools offer financial aid awards to qualifying students. Undergraduate programs have scholarships and grants that help offset tuition costs.
Financial Industry OverviewThe Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports good job growth and earnings potential for financial professionals over the next 10 years. A breakdown of what to expect is as follows.
Job Outlook for Finance CareersThe BLS expects a 7% growth in jobs for business and financial occupations over the next decade. Growth will result in about 715,000 new jobs over the ten-year period. Specific industry-related jobs will experience higher job growth. These occupations include:
Financial AnalystsFinancial analyst occupations should see a 9% job growth over the next 10 years. 32,000 job openings will result each year, on average, through 2031. Openings will result from the need to replace workers who retire and exit the labor force. Demand will also increase due to economic activity. As new businesses emerge and current businesses expand, the need for financial analysts will increase.
Financial ExaminersThe BLS reports that employment for financial examiners will grow 21% through 2031. This is about three times faster than the average for all other occupations. Each year, for the next 10 years, the industry should see about 7,000 new jobs added. Most openings will result from the need to replace workers who retire or transfer to other jobs. But demand should also come from the need for financial institutions to comply with federal regulations. Banks will hire examiners to help reduce compliance costs. They will also work to improve financial health and the regulatory environment.
Management AnalystsThese finance professionals are in demand. The BLS reports an 11% growth in jobs for management analysts over the next 10 years. Over 100,000 job openings for this occupation should result each year for the next decade. Openings will occur due to increased demand to improve efficiency and cut costs in organizations. Demand for these finance professionals will also result from the need to replace those who retire and exit the labor force.
Personal Financial AdvisorsThe Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a 15% growth in jobs for personal financial advisors over the next 10 years. The BLS expects 30,500 job openings each year for the next decade. While most of the openings will result from replacing those who retire or transfer to other jobs, the main driver is the aging population. Large numbers of baby boomers will retire. As the time nears, they will seek finance planning and advice. Longer lifespans will also extend retirement periods. This will increase demand for financial services.
Pay for Finance CareersPay varies by occupation. Degree level and years of experience can also impact earnings. Below are the average salaries for several different financial professionals as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- Budget analysts: $79,940/year
- Financial examiners: $81,410/year
- Management analysts: $93,000/year
- Personal financial advisors: $94,170/year
- Project management specialists: $94,500/year
Difference Between a DBA and PhD in FinanceThe big difference between a PhD and DBA is course material. The recipient of a doctorate degree is an expert in the field. But does someone with a DBA know as much as a PhD candidate? Here are a handful of courses taught in most PhD in finance programs.
- Calculus for Business and Life Sciences – Calculus is the study of change through mathematics. This course applies a mathematical approach to the worlds of business and humanity.
- Financial Markets – A course that teaches you everything there is to know about various markets in the financial sector. From the Tokyo Stock Exchange to the NYSE. You also study financial analysis and risk management.
- International Logistics – This course teaches students about the different elements involved in international logistics. It covers integrity and pedigree. It also covers chain of custody and track-and-trace.
- Legal Environment of Business – Any competent finance master knows the legal parameters of all areas of the money world. This course covers this important subject area.
- Management Information Systems – MIS are computerized processing systems that help manage information that’s critical to an organization. The MIS course gets the grad ready for interacting with these modern systems. It is an elective, but some programs require it.
- Social and Behavioral Science Study – A unique finance course that gives advanced insights into the human behavioral and social patterns that play a role in how finance works.