Accounting vs Finance Degree: Which One is Better and Why?

There is always a debate between getting a general finance degree or niching down into an accounting degree. It really comes down to if you want to be in general finance or have an accounting background.

We are going to compare and contrast accounting vs finance degrees so you’ll have a better idea of what the studies look like and the job prospects afterward. Let’s kick it off with finance degrees.

accounting vs finance degree

What is a Finance Degree?

A finance degree is a more general business than an accounting degree. Some of the classes between finance and accounting degrees often overlap but finance degrees generally don’t get to the higher level of accounting.

Courses in a finance route generally include:

  • Intro to accounting
  • Principles of financial management
  • Corporate finance
  • Economics
  • Behavioral finance
  • Investment or wealth management
  • Financial analysis and reporting
  • Personal finance
  • A capstone finance course

As you can see the width of the material can be wide. Often there is a bit more flexibility in electives as well in finance majors. All of these courses generally set students up for a good exit from college.

What Jobs Can a Finance Degree Get?

With a new finance degree in hand, individuals have a wide variety of finance jobs open up to them but the common ones are:

  • Corporate finance roles
  • Planning and budgeting
  • Wealth management
  • Trading
  • Financial advisor

One you won’t often see is finance students getting accounting jobs out of college. If you go the more general route of finance then often there isn’t enough niche knowledge in accounting to pursue an accounting job unless you have a dual degree in finance and accounting.

While there are lots of jobs for finance majors, the one drawback is all the competition for these jobs. Since finance is a bit more generalized, there seem to be more new grads going into general finance than accounting.

Read More:

Do Accountants Work Long Hours? (The Truth to the Hours)

What is an Accounting Degree?

accounting and finance degree male graduate

An accounting degree covers a lot of the finance side but goes into more accounting-heavy classes. Typically an accounting degree course schedule may look similar to the following:

  • Principles of accounting
  • Economics
  • Accounting 102
  • Introduction to taxation
  • Auditing
  • Cost accounting
  • Fundamentals of managerial accounting
  • Financial reporting and analysis
  • Advanced accounting

While there will still be electives to choose from during an accounting degree, the main coursework over a four-year degree focuses on accounting classes. This is mainly in part because accountants are encouraged to take the CPA exam after college and once they have 150 credits.

That is why so many accountants pursue dual degrees because otherwise, you would have 120 credits after 4 years of college. Even if you graduate straight from college with an accounting degree, there are always job opportunities.

What Jobs Can an Accounting Degree Get You?

Some of the job opportunities straight out of college for accountants include:

  • Auditing
  • Taxation
  • Budgeting and planning
  • Corporate finance
  • Financial reporting
  • Bookkeeping
  • Advisory
  • Private accounting 

Most new grads will have to make two choices. The first choice is if they want to go into audit or tax. Next, they will need to decide if they want to go into a large or small firm. While there are jobs outside of audit and tax, these are the main staples for new grads.

If you decide to go to a small firm then you might just see a mix of audit and tax. When you go to the big 4 like EY, generally you specialize in one of the two.

Read More:

10 Interesting Niches For Accountants [Good Career Choices]

Does Finance Pay More Than Accounting?

It might seem like the finance grads earn more right of out college, but once accountants get their CPAs, they generally see a sizeable increase after 3-5 years.

Undoubtedly if a finance major goes into wealth management, they have the opportunity to earn more than an accounting major but overall for most finance majors, the pay is often similar to accountants. Especially in the early years just out of college.

Who Works Longer Hours?

accountants working 40-hour week

If you know anything about accounting then you have probably heard of the busy season for public accountants or the month-end close for private accountants. Both generally require long hours and accounting in general is no job for people that want to work 40-hour weeks. 

40-hour weeks are rare in accounting, especially if you average your time out over the year. Usually, it is going to be more than that.

Finance doesn’t have the straightest hours either if you get into banking and work on an investment deal. The hours in finance heavily depend on the job you take but there isn’t a preset busy season like the accounting tax season.

Is There a Clear Winner? (Accounting vs Finance Degrees)

Accounting and finance degrees both have great prospects to get a job out of college. While the job opportunities may be a bit better for accountants, the sky is really the limit when it comes to earnings in finance.

While it is true that partners in the big 4 can make a lot of money, there is a long grind for roles like that. Some finance jobs like wealth management require sales skills where you build up your own book of business and your compensation is tied to it. 

There isn’t a real winner between the two degrees but make sure you consider everything and also how the personality of these jobs can be a bit different.

Final Thoughts on Finance Degrees vs Accounting Degrees

Accounting and finance degrees are both fantastic degrees. While you can learn most of it online these days, the degrees are still one of the college degrees where people can actually make money after college.

With great job prospects for both degrees, it doesn’t really matter which one you choose if you want to be in the business field, either one would be a great option.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Shopping Cart