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What is the Difference Between a Finance Degree and an Accounting Degree?

If you’re interested in working with money, you may be wondering whether a finance degree or accounting degree is best for you. While the differences between the two types of degrees may feel subtle, there are definite differences. It can be a good idea to look into both kinds of programs and the types of work they best prepare you for before you make a decision.

What the Different Degrees Prepare You For

One of the easiest ways to categorize the differences in the degrees is to consider the varying kinds of jobs that you can get with one or the other. If you decide to get an accounting degree, you will likely be preparing for work either as an accountant or an auditor. Accountants are generally concerned with the handling of various types of financial records. Most people who work in accounting become certified public accountants (CPAs) by passing an exam. CPAs can work in a variety of settings such as corporations, non-profits or government offices.

Students who graduate with finance degrees generally work as financial analysts. While accountants are primarily responsible for handling financial records, including a large amount of detailed paperwork, financial analysts are basically money managers or advisers. They counsel their clients about potential investments, helping companies and individuals make decisions about the best kinds of investments they can make. Some types of duties could overlap in accounting and analyst jobs; money managers need to be able to handle records and sometimes accountants will need to give advice. But the emphasis or main focus of the jobs are different, thus they require different degrees and kinds of preparation.

Different Kinds of Coursework

Because the two degrees prepare graduates for different kinds of work, you can expect variety in the coursework. Where you will find overlap is in the areas cited above that might also overlap in career responsibilities. It probably goes without saying that both finance and accounting students need to have strong math skills, so you will likely end up taking higher math courses in either a finance degree or accounting degree. Business administration or management classes are also likely to show up in both curricula. Accountants, however, need classes in subjects like accounting theory, statistics and business ethics. Depending on what kind of accounting work you go into, you might also need to take courses in things like taxes. Finance students are more likely to take coursework in areas such as corporate finance or managing financial portfolios.

Being good with numbers may be what started you down the road of considering a career in either finance or accounting, but it’s what you most enjoy doing with numbers that may push you in one direction or the other. If you’d rather keep detailed and accurate records, you may want to choose accounting. If you’d rather explore helping companies and individuals make good investments, you might want to go into finance. Whether you choose a finance degree or accounting degree, the good news is that job growth in both fields is predicted to be strong in the coming years.