The broader financial services sector is made up of banking, asset management, insurance, and venture capital. Within these subsectors, finance professionals may focus their careers on specialized areas such as corporate finance, corporate governance, investment banking, financial markets analysis, each of which requires both general knowledge of finance along with specialized knowledge specific to the area of focus.
According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, financial services represented 7.2 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product in 2014. The size and complexity of the U.S. financial services market provides plenty of opportunities for those interested in mastering skills related to one of the following, among many more:
- Strategic financial planning
- Financial analysis and risk analysis
- Credit and investment
- Stocks, bonds, and commodity markets
- Maximizing shareholder value in corporate finance
- Capital and securities markets
- Financial management and capital budgeting
Degrees in finance prepare students to pursue or advance in careers in banking, security analysis, financial analysis, personal financial planning, and corporate finance. Finance graduates enjoy careers in business, industry, government, and private and public corporations.
In addition to regional accreditation, finance degree programs often receive accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) and/or the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP), both of which have received recognition by the U.S. Department of Education.
Associate’s Degrees in Finance
Associate degrees in finance allow students to receive in-depth instruction in financial procedures, from accounting principles and investment strategies to global economics and business statistics/law.
These entry-level programs, which take about two years to complete, prepare students to enter the workforce as entry-level financial managers, financial analysts, and financial planners, among others. They also provide a solid foundation for further education and training.
Associate degrees in finance may be structured a number of ways:
- Associate in Science (AS) in Finance
- Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Financial Services
- Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Finance and Banking
Typical coursework in these programs includes:
- Financial accounting
- Managerial accounting
- Principles of macroeconomics
- Principles of microeconomics
- Marketing principles
- Introduction to business
- Introduction to investments
- Personal finance
Bachelor’s Degrees in Finance
Bachelor degrees in finance emphasize the in-depth skills necessary for management-level careers in the finance and investment industry. Graduates of bachelor’s degree programs in finance are prepared to pursue a master’s degree or begin a career in corporate finance, investment and portfolio management, banking, and international finance, just to name a few.
They also prepare students to take the examinations required to earn industry credentials, including the highly respected Certified Financial Planner (CFP) and Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designations. Both of these designations require candidates to possess a bachelor’s degree or higher.
The structure of these programs often depends on the college of university offering them:
- Bachelor of Science (BS)/Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Finance
- Bachelor of Science (BS)/Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Financial Analysis
- Bachelor of Science (BS) in Finance and Economics
- Bachelor of Science (BS) in Finance and Accounting
- Bachelor of Science (BS) in Business, with a finance concentration
Bachelor’s degrees in finance often include basic business instruction in accounting, marketing, management, and information systems. Admission into these programs generally requires the completion of specific prerequisites such as English, marketing, statistics, economics, and accounting.
Typical courses in a bachelor’s degree in finance include:
- Principles of Financial Accounting
- Principles of Managerial Accounting
- Principles of Marketing
- Principles of Organizational Behavior
- Business, Policy, and Strategy
- Fundamentals of International Business
- Business Finance
- Global corporate citizenship
- Investment analysis
- Quantitative methods in finance
- International finance
Many bachelor’s degrees in finance culminate in an internship experience or capstone experience (business project).
Master’s Degrees and Specialized MBAs in Finance
Master’s degrees in finance allow students to build upon their undergraduate knowledge base and focus their graduate study in areas like:
- Financial technologies
- Corporate finance
- Personal financial planning
- Financial management
- Capital markets
Graduates of these programs often pursue careers in areas such as:
- Financial engineering
- Risk management
- Quantitative asset management
- Macroeconomic and financial forecasting
- Quantitative trading
- Applied research
Just a few of the careers that graduates of master’s degrees in finance pursue include corporate finance officers, investment bankers, commercial lending officers, mutual fund managers, and financial risk managers.
Admission into these programs is often competitive. Candidates must possess strong undergraduate GPAs, professional letters of reference, and well-rounded resumes to gain admission into these programs.
Master’s degrees in finance are often designed as:
- Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Finance
- Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Accounting and Finance
- Master of Science (MS) in Finance
The core curriculum of a master’s degree program, which provides students with the analytical fundamentals of modern finance, often includes coursework such as:
- Corporate finance and financial accounting
- Financial econometrics
- Mergers and acquisitions
- Managerial economics
- Financial modeling
- Quantitative analysis for decision making
- Short-term financial management
- Risk management
- Money and capital markets
- Derivatives markets
Doctoral Degrees in Finance
Doctoral degrees in finance, which are reserved for those who have completed their masters-level studies, integrate theory and research with practice. Many students pursuing doctoral degrees in finance have undergraduate and graduate degrees in finance, economics, mathematics, engineering, statistics, and other quantitative disciplines.
Students of doctoral programs often apply their knowledge to professional roles in consultancy, corporate finance, research, and teaching.
Doctoral programs in finance, which require the completion of doctoral-level coursework, as well as an original research project and dissertation, are competitive and rigorous.
These programs may be designed as:
- PhD in Finance
- Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) in Finance