Finance vs. Accounting: Which Degree is Right for You?

finance versus accounting header

You’ve got a way with numbers – there’s no getting around it.

So what’s stopping you from pursuing a career that utilizes your strengths? Finance and accounting are two business sectors that require savvy computation and a high comfort-level with numbers, plus a lot of ambition – none of which you’re short on!

Maybe you’ve already worked in these fields, or maybe you’re just beginning to narrow down your search. When it comes to finance versus accounting, both offer exciting earning potential and career growth opportunities. So which path should you take?

We dissected the two fields into a side-by-side comparison to help you answer the big question: finance or accounting? Keep reading to see which degree you should pursue.

finance versus accounting data

Finance vs. Accounting: job opportunities

One of the most puzzling parts about deciding between a finance degree versus an accounting degree is the similarity in potential job titles. We used real-time job analysis software from to examine more than 385,000 accounting and finance job openings over the past year.* This data helped us identify the five most common job titles for candidates in each field of study.

Finance majors’ top job titles

Accounting majors’ top job titles

Risk Manager


Financial Analyst

Financial Analyst

Applications Developer

Staff Accountant

Quantitative Analyst

Accounting Manager

Credit Manager

Tax Manager

You may note that financial analysts are found in both categories. And while this may be a source of confusion for choosing one degree over the other, the truth is that finance and accounting jobs often require similar skills. Just think of this duplication as doubling your options.

Finance vs. Accounting: career growth & salaries

Everyone has their own reasons for wanting to advance their career. Maybe you’re hoping to earn a larger salary to support your family. Or maybe you’re just looking for a career that will provide you with some job security for your future.

Both are great motivators for earning a degree. And lucky for you, both accounting and finance careers are promising in both areas. Accounting jobs are projected to increase by 13 percent through 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). On the other hand, the BLS expects financial analyst positions to increase 16 percent in the same time period.

The median annual salary for accountants in 2012 was $63,550, according to the BLS. Financial analysts can expect to earn about $76,950 annually.** As you can see, professionals in both industries enjoy higher than the average American salary, which the BLS last reported as $47,230.

Finance vs. Accounting: skills needed to succeed

Our previously-mentioned analysis revealed the most in-demand skills employers are seeking in each field. Take a look at the skillsets side-by-side to get a better idea of the scope of work in each career.

In-demand finance skills

In-demand accounting skills

Financial analysis



Account reconciliation


Financial statements

Financial reporting

General ledger


Financial reporting

Financial planning & analysis

Generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP)


Accounts payable & receivable

Financial statements

Balance sheet

Financial modeling

Public accounting

Variance analysis

Accounting management

Don’t let these lists intimidate you. It’s highly likely you don’t possess all of the skills listed above, but that’s ok! The curriculum in an accounting or finance degree program was designed to help you acquire these types of skills. But your degree is only the start; both finance and accounting professionals will be expected to continue learning and developing new skills throughout their careers.

Finance vs. Accounting: education requirements

Our analysis made it quite clear that earning a degree is an important step to working in finance and accounting alike. In fact, 99 percent of finance job postings and 97 percent of accounting job postings preferred candidates have at least a bachelor’s degree.

In case you had any doubts or were second-guessing your decision to go to college, earning a bachelor’s degree is what you need to do to put yourself in the best position to succeed. So while choosing between a degree in accounting or finance may seem difficult, the most important choice is just deciding to go back to school in the first place.

The bottom line

You’ve got options when it comes to business careers. Calculating the pros and cons of finance versus accounting can help you narrow down your decision.

If you can picture yourself working in finance, then find out what to expect about working in finance. Are you leaning more towards accounting? Learn more about what accountants actually do.

* (analysis of 385,561 finance & accounting jobs, Aug. 1, 2014 – Jul. 31, 2015.)

**Salary data represents national, averaged earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries and employment conditions in your area may vary.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This article was originally published on September 26, 2012. It has since been updated to reflect information relevant to 2015.


External links provided on are for reference only. Rasmussen College does not guarantee, approve, control, or specifically endorse the information or products available on websites linked to, and is not endorsed by website owners, authors and/or organizations referenced.

Kristina is a Content Marketing Specialist at Collegis Education who researches and writes content on behalf of Rasmussen College. She hopes her content helps enlighten and engage students through all stages of their education journeys.

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