Finance Degrees


Finance is the lifeblood of every business. A degree in finance equips you with the knowledge and skills to understand how companies operate, make sound investment decisions, and navigate the complexities of the financial world. It’s not just about numbers; it’s about critical thinking, problem-solving, and strategic decision-making – all transferable skills that are valuable assets in any industry, Even if you don’t end up in a traditional finance career, a finance degree provides a strong foundation for success in today’s dynamic business environment.
Richard Bove, Senior Research Analyst at Odeon Capital Group

The field of finance offers a range of degree options catering to various levels of expertise and career aspirations.

Associate Degree in Finance

  • Duration: Typically 2 years
  • Focus: Provides foundational knowledge in finance, basic accounting, and economics, along with general education courses.
  • Outcome: Graduates can qualify for entry level positions such as junior financial analyst. It is also a stepping stone for those planning to pursue a bachelor’s degree.

Bachelor’s Degree in Finance

  • Duration: Generally 4 years
  • Focus: Offers a comprehensive education in financial management, corporate finance, investment analysis, and financial markets and institutions. Includes a mix of core finance courses, electives in specialized areas, and general business education.
  • Outcome: Prepares students for a broad range of finance-related careers, including financial analyst, financial planner, investment banker, and portfolio manager. It lays the groundwork for professional certifications and graduate studies.
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Master’s Degree in Finance

  • Duration: Usually 1-2 years
  • Focus: Provides an in-depth understanding of finance, emphasizing advanced concepts in financial analysis, investment management, and corporate finance.
  • Outcome: Equips graduates for advanced positions in the finance sector, such as senior financial analyst, senior investment analyst, or financial consultant. It is also beneficial for those aiming for leadership roles or specialized finance fields like quantitative finance or financial engineering.
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Some common specializations in Master of Finance; corporate finance, investment management, quantitative finance, international finance, financial risk management, derivatives, financial engineering, fintech.

MBA with a Concentration in Finance

  • Duration: Typically 2 years
  • Focus: While covering a broad range of business practices, an MBA with a finance concentration dives deeply into financial strategy, global markets, mergers and acquisitions, and corporate risk management.
  • Outcome: Graduates are often sought after for high-level managerial roles in finance, such as finance manager, chief financial officer, or finance director, and are well-equipped to handle strategic decision-making.
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Doctorate in Finance (Ph.D.)

A PhD in Finance is not a common degree compared to bachelor’s or master’s degrees in finance.

  • Duration: Usually 4-6 years
  • Focus: Focuses on research methodologies and advanced theory in finance. Students undertake original research culminating in a dissertation that contributes new knowledge to the field.
  • Outcome: Primarily prepares graduates for careers in academia, research institutions, or highly specialized analytical and advisory roles in financial policymaking or consulting.

While a PhD qualifies you for professorships and research positions in finance, these roles are limited compared to the abundance of available finance jobs in the industry.

What to Expect at Each Level

Bachelor’s degree in finance is designed to lay a solid foundation in core areas such as corporate finance, investment principles, financial markets, and accounting. Alongside these core courses, students also engage in general business studies and a liberal arts education, which helps develop well-rounded analytical, problem-solving, and communication skills.

This degree level is aimed at preparing students for entry-level positions in various financial sectors, such as financial analysis, banking, personal finance, and corporate finance. The emphasis is on understanding broad financial concepts and the ability to apply them in practical, real-world business situations. Students often have the opportunity to participate in internships or cooperative education programs, which provide valuable hands-on experience.

The Master’s degree in finance, on the other hand, delves deeper into financial theory and quantitative methods. This program is more specialized and intensive, focusing on developing expertise in specific areas of finance such as accounting, forensic accounting, quantitative finance, financial engineering, risk management, or investment management. A Master of Finance degree is particularly valuable for those looking to advance their careers to higher levels of responsibility or to specialize in a particular branch of finance. The coursework is rigorous, often involving complex mathematical models, advanced financial theories, and extensive use of statistical and analytical tools. Students can expect to engage in a mix of coursework, case studies, and capstone projects or a thesis, which encourages the application of theoretical knowledge to solve sophisticated financial problems.

Is a finance degree worth it?

It depends on your career goals, the state of the job market and there are some important financial considerations.

From a career perspective, a finance degree is often highly valuable due to the broad array of lucrative and stable job opportunities it offers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for business and financial occupations was $76,570 as of May 2022, significantly higher than the median annual wage for all occupations at $45,760. Furthermore, the employment of business and financial operations occupations is projected to grow 7% from 2021 to 2031.

Finance degrees offer flexibility in career paths. Graduates can enter diverse roles across various industries such as corporate finance, banking, investment management, and consulting. This versatility is a significant advantage in the dynamic job market, where adaptability to different financial roles can lead to increased job security and career advancement opportunities.

However, the worth of a finance degree also depends on the cost of the education and the potential debt incurred. According to data from the Education Data Initiative, the average total cost of a 4 year degree can range from $50,000 to over $200,000 depending on whether the institution is public or private. Yet, graduates in finance-related fields tend to have higher starting salaries and increased earnings over their careers, which can mitigate the impact of these costs.

Common questions about finance degrees

Our career advisors have heard it all from students, here are some of the most common questions they get asked when it comes to determining if studying for a finance degree is the right choice.

“I’m good at math and interested in business, but I’m not sure if finance is the right fit. What else could I do with a finance degree?”

A finance degree is versatile! While it equips you for finance careers, the skills you learn are valuable in many areas. Here are a few examples:

  • Consulting: Financial analysis skills are highly sought after by consulting firms that advise businesses on strategy and operations.
  • Marketing: Understanding financial metrics can help you analyze marketing campaigns and measure their ROI (Return on Investment).
  • Entrepreneurship: If you dream of starting your own business, a finance degree provides a solid foundation for understanding financial planning, fundraising, and managing your company’s finances.
  • Non-Profit Sector: Non-profit organizations also need people with financial expertise for budgeting, grant writing, and managing donations.

“Is a finance degree too theoretical? Do I need a lot of math?”

While there’s a foundational element of math and financial theory, a finance degree also focuses on practical applications. You’ll learn to use financial modeling software, analyze real-world financial data, and solve business problems using financial concepts. The amount of math can vary depending on the program, but strong quantitative skills are definitely an advantage.

“I hear finance can be stressful. Is it all just high-pressure jobs on Wall Street?”

There are definitely some high-pressure environments in finance, especially in investment banking. However, there are many other career paths within finance that offer a good work-life balance. For example, corporate finance roles at smaller companies might offer a more relaxed work environment compared to Wall Street firms.

“I’m interested in technology. Can I combine finance and technology in my career?”

Absolutely! The field of Fintech (Financial Technology) is booming. With a finance degree, you could explore careers in areas like online banking, mobile payments, or blockchain technology. Some universities even offer FinTech specializations within their finance programs.

“Is a finance degree worth it if I don’t want to work in a traditional office setting?”

The world of finance is evolving. There are increasing opportunities to work remotely or in a hybrid model. Additionally, with your financial expertise, you could explore freelance consulting or starting your own online business.