Every month thousands of individuals search Google for “accounting versus finance degree” to help figure out which degree is the best fit for their particular interests.
If you’re one of those that finds yourself in this position, then you’ve come to the right place.
You may already have prior experience working in these areas but as you look to earn a degree it’s important to have a clear understanding of two fields that may seem quite similar, yet are very different.
We’ve broken down accounting and finance into four main categories to offer a step-by-step comparison of the two fields. Hopefully, this will give you the confidence you need to make the right career choice once you’re in the position to do so.
Accounting vs. Finance: career growth and salaries
Everyone has their own reasons for wanting to advance their career. It could be that you want to earn a larger salary to provide for yourself and your family. Or maybe you just want to ensure that you have a career that will provide you with employment opportunities well into the future.
Both are great reasons for earning a degree. And lucky for you, our research shows that careers in both accounting and finance are doing quite well in terms of strength of salaries and future job growth (see chart).
While the job outlook for accounting careers is expected to grow by 16 percent through 2020, the number of finance careers is expected grow 23 percent over the same time period. But before you mark a career in finance as the clear winner is this category, bear in mind that the projected employment for finance analysts from 2010-20 is about 290,000, while projections for accounting and auditing jobs looks to be more than 1.4 million.
Tip 1: Check out Salary.com’s U.S. Salary Wizard to research the salary ranges for these job titles in your specific area to see how they compare to your current level of income. The results should provide you with even more motivation to advance your career.
Accounting vs. Finance: job opportunities
One of the most confusing steps in deciding between an accounting degree versus a finance degree is the similarity in potential job titles. To help clarify, we analyzed more than 200,000 job openings over the past year and identified the five most popular titles for candidates with degrees in each of these fields of study.
It’s clear that certain positions – accountants, financial analysts and financial managers – fall into both groups. And while this may be a source of confusion for choosing one degree over the other, the truth is that finance jobs and accounting jobs often require similar skills. Think of this duplication as doubling your options.
Tip 2: Go to O*Net Online to do a deeper dive into the specifics of these careers. By learning about the tasks and work activities performed in these positions you may begin to develop a stronger interest in a specific career path.
Accounting vs. Finance: skills needed to succeed
Our analysis revealed a large number of skills that are desired for a career in either field. We’ve taken the liberty of highlighting the most popular ones to clearly illustrate the scope of work one can expect in both careers.
Again you will notice that a few of the skills – accounting, financial analysis and financial reporting – are shared by both career fields. This should be seen as added flexibility in your career choice, not a limitation of your options. In addition to developing the skills that employers are looking for in candidates it will also be important to continue to add new skills as you progress throughout your career.
The more in-demand skills you develop the stronger your career options will be.
Tip 3: Consider making a checklist of these skills. As you continued to develop them, check them off your list and then add them to your LinkedIn profile. This way you can focus on developing the skills you need while potential employers can see that you have all of the skills necessary to do the job.
Accounting vs. Finance: degree requirements
It was clear from our analysis of more than 200,000 jobs in accounting or finance that the vast majority of the positions require some level of education. Here’s a percentage-based breakdown for your reference:
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.
Tip 4: Start compiling a list of potential employers in your area that hire individuals with these credentials. Every ethical business needs professionals that understand how to responsibly balance the books and manage money. This should help you see the potential for your career opportunities.
The bottom line
But if you are still hesitant, try creating a pros and cons list; simply type out your likes or dislikes and advantages or disadvantages that you see on each side in order to help you make a more definitive decision.
Or try connecting with professionals already working in these careers and set up an informational interview. This will help you build a plan of action for your future career without the pressure of actually applying for a position … yet.