Finance vs Accounting Degree – What’s the Difference? [2020 Guide]

What’s the difference between a finance vs accounting degree? Compare careers, salaries, job growth, and top schools offering both programs.

finance vs accounting degree

What are the pros and cons of a finance vs accounting degree? This is a common decision battle among individuals who cannot decide whether to study finance or accounting.

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The main difference between the two subjects is that accounting is a narrower field, whereas finance is broader with many different specializations.

Finance vs Accounting Degree Courses

An accounting degree provides an excellent education and skills to succeed in various accounting careers. It may also teach students how to analyze a company’s financial reports, which is essential to an accountant’s career.

Accounting

Here are some examples of accounting courses you’re likely to take.

  • Auditing: A course in auditing focuses on teaching you how to examine an individual or company’s financial reports and accounts.
  • Forensic Accounting: This course explains the principles of accounting and investigation methods, which is essential to determine any financial crimes.
  • Tax Accounting: If you are interested in various accounting techniques that concentrate on taxes instead of finances, this course may be perfect for you.

On the other hand, a finance degree provides a wonderful educational opportunity that teaches various skills to conduct financial services. A degree in finance is centered around learning how to manage companies’ current and future funds, instead of the past.

If you study finance, you must learn how to assess and predict a company’s possible future growth by looking at resources, statistics, and financial reports.

Finance

Here are some common courses in finance degree programs.

  • Behavioral Finance: This is an interesting course that teaches different psychology theories and behaviors of investors and financial analysts.
  • Financial Planning: A course in financial planning may teach you how to estimate the funds needed and required for client and business objectives and determine the competition.
  • International Finance: This course explains aspects of financial economics, such as exchange rates, currencies, monetary systems around the globe, foreign investments, and many other issues involving international finances.


Accounting and finance both require managing and handling money; accounting looks at the past, and finance helps companies predict future needs.

No matter which degree you choose, both can be accessed through traditional or online degree programs. Plus, if you want to finish your degree quicker, there are accelerated finance degree programs and accelerated accounting degree programs.

Finance Degree vs Accounting Degree Jobs

Finance Degree vs Accounting Degree Jobs

You may find a person with an accounting degree pursuing a career as an actuary, auditor, bookkeeper, budget analyst, or tax advisor. A person with a finance degree, on the other hand, may have the job title of commercial banker, financial consultant, financial manager, insurance officer, or stockbroker.

Accountant firms, insurance agencies, banks, and public sector agencies are a few top employers that are looking for individuals with accounting and finance degrees. Both fields are predicted to grow by 10% over the next five years.

What Is the Difference Between Accounting and Finance Job Responsibilities?

female accountant working in the office

The job responsibilities for a person working in finance usually entails managing and investing money for individuals, corporations, and government operations. These individuals are responsible for making sure that there is enough money for the client or company’s necessities.

Finance professionals are also expected to manage funds in a way that will reduce any potential risks that could occur.

A graduate of an accounting program may be working for a company recording, maintaining, and reporting their financial records. These individuals ensure that all financial transactions have been entered correctly.

Accountants are also responsible for ensuring all account balances are correct and financial information is accurate.

Also, no matter if you have a bachelor’s or master’s degree, both fields will still have similar job responsibilities. So ultimately, what you can do with a master’s in finance and a master’s in accounting can be almost identical depending on your preferences.

Accounting and Finance Degree Salary

Accounting and Finance Degree Salary

The National Association of Colleges and Employers conducted an analysis and determined that the average annual salary for accounting degrees in the United States is generally around $57,511, and the average annual salary for finance degrees is $58,464.

Therefore, there is no significant difference between the two fields when it comes to salary.

Accounting Degree Jobs and Salaries

Here are some specific career paths for accountants and the average salary you can expect after graduation.

  • Accounting Manager: In this career path, you may be responsible for developing and implementing various systems for collecting, analyzing, and verifying all types of financial information. The average annual salary that an accounting manager makes is $70,733.
  • Forensic Accountant: This career path consists of basic duties involving detecting fraud. A forensic accountant investigates and analyzes financial issues along with evidence. Annually, a forensic accountant makes an average salary of $66,535.
  • Certified Public Accountant: If you are planning to become a certified public accountant, you may be expected to perform a variety of responsibilities, such as accounting, taxes, reporting, and audit procedures for different companies and clients. As a certified public accountant, you can expect to make an average annual income of $65,431.

Finance Degree Jobs and Salaries

Here are some specific career paths for finance graduates and the average salary you can expect to make.

  • Chief Financial Officer: People in this career path are responsible for ensuring the company they work for has their finances in check. Chief financial officers are also required to predict the future of the business. The average yearly salary that a chief financial officer makes is $132,261.
  • Finance Manager: If you plan to pursue a finance manager position with a company, you may be responsible for the creation and monitoring of departments and their budgets. Annually, a finance manager can expect to make an average income of $90,640.
  • Financial Analyst: Individuals that are interested in becoming a financial analyst may be required to complete several duties, such as research and analyze trends in the marketplace, demographics, and many other factors to help organizations make good financial investments. The average salary that a financial analyst makes in a year is $60,196.

Sometimes, a person with an accounting degree may pursue a career path in finance, and a person with a finance degree may pursue a career path in accounting.

Finance vs Accounting Professional Organizations

Joining a professional organization is a great benefit for graduates and students in both finance and accounting programs.

By becoming a member of a professional organization, you may be able to attend networking events, meet experts in the accounting and finance fields, continue your education with available educational opportunities, and remain informed of the offered scholarship opportunities.

Accounting Professional Organizations

logos of Accounting Professional Organizations

Here are a few professional accounting organizations to consider joining.

  • Institute of Management Accountants: This professional organization is for accounting professionals that are responsible for the accounting functions in various companies and businesses. It was created in 1919 and now consists of 70,000 members around the globe.
  • The Institute of Internal Auditors: Individuals interested in or working in the field of auditing are encouraged to become a part of this organization, which focuses on the auditing aspects of accounting. This is a large organization with 180,000 worldwide members.
  • Young CPA Networks: This is a great organization established by the Certified Public Accountants. Its main goal is to bring services, advice, mentorships, and information to those interested in becoming or already pursuing a career as a CPA.

Consider joining the organization that matches your interests.

Finance Professional Organizations

logos of Finance Professional Organizations

These professional finance organizations are ideal for students as well as working professionals.

  • Financial Planning Association: If you are interested in finance advocacy and leadership, this professional organization may be perfect for you. It was founded in 1973 and works with specific organizations and businesses to create professional development and practice for financial planning professionals.
  • The Association for Financial Professionals: This is an excellent organization that provides certificate and credential opportunities to members. Additionally, it hosts the largest finance conference in the United States every year and offers wonderful career resources, mentorships, and networking opportunities.

These are just a few professional organizations that may help you advance or gain new career prospects in the accounting and finance industry.

They may also keep you informed and up to date on new trends in the field as well as introduce you to some of the finest individuals in the accounting and finance sector.

Finance vs Accounting Certifications

professional happily receiving a certificate

There are a few certifications required to practice in the field of accounting and finance. A bachelor’s degree may help you prepare for these certifications, and employers may ensure you have received certain certifications to prove you are ready to practice in the field.

Accounting Certifications

These are the two most in-demand certifications for accountants.

  • Certified Public Accountant: This certificate is essentially the same as a chartered accountant certificate. The main difference is that it is administered and recognized by companies in the United States. By earning a CPA, you are recognized by companies as a certified accountant that can perform various tasks, such as auditing, taxes, and analysis of financial reports.
  • Chartered Accountant: This certificate is recognized worldwide, and how long it takes to receive this certification depends on which country you reside in and how much education and professional experience you have obtained. This is a good certificate for individuals planning to work outside America for international organizations.

After graduation, you can start working toward certification in your chosen field.

Finance Certifications

These are two popular certification choices for finance professionals.

  • Certified Professional Risk Manager: If you are interested in managing exposures, risks, and hazards that may occur, this certification is recommended for you. This shows companies and clients that you have studied and learned the necessary knowledge and skills to help manage potential risks.
  • Chartered Financial Analyst: This certificate is a good investment for individuals interested in gaining more credentials in finance. This is one of the most recognized certificates in the field of finance, and it can lead to new or advanced job opportunities.


Earning one or both of these certificates shows clients and businesses that you have more skills, education, and experience than other applicants.

There are many other certification options that are not required but may look good on your resume. With research, you may be able to find certain certificates that will benefit you and your career goals.

Questions Related to Earning a Finance or Accounting Degree

Here are a few more questions you might have as you decide which degrees to pursue, between finance and accounting.

What’s the Difference between Finance and Accounting?

The main difference between finance and accounting is that accounting deals with past and present income and funds, whereas finance involves looking at the present and future funds.

Finance careers also deal with having the duty of analyzing and predicting the future growth or financial gain that a business may experience.

Accounting vs Finance which is Harder?

Which area of study is harder depends on the individual. Some students may consider accounting to be difficult, whereas some students may find finance to be hard. It all depends on you and what you are expecting out of a degree.

Most accounting and finance degree programs require advanced mathematics, business courses, and economic courses. Therefore, you should be prepared to study these subjects beforehand.

Should I Major in Finance or Accounting?

This is a personal choice; it depends on your educational goals, career goals, interests, and passions. Before deciding on a major, make sure that it aligns with your goals and interests. There is no right or wrong answer, and the investment will be practically the same, so ultimately it is up to you to decide.

Since finance and accounting are two highly intertwined subjects, graduates with either one of these degrees have the potential to pursue very similar careers.

Can I Get an Accounting Job with a Finance Degree?

Yes, you can get an accounting job with a finance degree. Finance and accounting may be slightly different, but they are closely related subjects. Therefore, if you study finance and decide you want to change careers and pursue an accounting career, you may be able too since the educational paths are similar.

You may also be able to get your Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license with a finance degree, but it may require going back to school to take a few extra accounting courses.

Is a Degree in Finance Worth It?

accountant working in the office

Yes, a finance degree or accounting degree is worth it if you are interested in handling finances and managing money for clients and businesses. After graduation, you can expect to earn an average of $58,000.

Once you’ve determined which degree matches your career, educational, and professional goals, start applying to finance or accounting programs and look into potential financial aid opportunities to ensure you can earn your degree as seamlessly as possible.

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Taylor Burgess
WRITTEN BY
Taylor Burgess