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

finance vs accounting

You’ve got a way with numbers—there’s no getting around that. You’ve always run the household budget for your family, meticulously balancing your checkbook and managing the bills. You’re good at what you do—so why not make a career out of it? Utilize your strengths to launch a number-crunching career in Finance or Accounting.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), both business sectors are projected to grow faster than average in the coming years—and they’re not just growing; they’re also reliable. These fields boast better than average job security in tough times. After all, companies will always need their taxes filed and budgets balanced. These growing fields need business-savvy professionals with a high comfort-level for working with numbers, plus a lot of ambition—none of which you’re short on!

But which path to pursue? When it comes to finance versus accounting, both fields have plenty to offer and consider. To help you decide, 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 vs. Accounting: Job opportunities

One of the most puzzling parts about deciding between earning a Finance degree versus an Accounting degree is the similarity in potential job titles. There is some overlap between the two fields, but there are major differences as well. To help illustrate this, we scoured 800,000 real-time job postings from the past year.* This data helped us identify the five most common job titles for candidates in each field of study.

Top job titles for finance majors

Top job titles for accounting majors

Financial analyst

Accountant

Business analyst

Staff accountant

Controller

Financial analyst

Director of finance

Accounting manager

Credit analyst

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, and there will be some potential for career-outcome overlap.

Finance vs. Accounting: Job outlook & salaries

Everyone has their own reason 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 both accounting and finance careers show promise in earning potential and job outlook. According to the BLS, accounting jobs are projected to increase by 10 percent through 2026, while financial analyst jobs are projected to grow by 11 percent. You can rest easy knowing your skills will be needed in tomorrow’s job market.

If you’re motivated to earn more in your career, a finance or accounting path could serve you well—both boast promising earning potential. The BLS reports that the median annual salary for accountants in 2017 was $69,350, while financial analysts earned $84,300.** Both of these figures are significantly higher than the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ reported 2017 median salary for all workers in the US, which was $37,690.

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 skill sets 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

Accounting

Accounting

Account reconciliation

Budgeting

General ledger

Forecasting

Financial statements

Financial reporting

Budgeting

Economics

Financial reporting

Statutory accounting principles (SAP)

Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP)

Financial modeling

Balance sheet

Variance analysis

Month-end close processes

Financial planning

Public accounting

Don’t let these lists intimidate you. It’s highly likely you don’t possess all of the skills listed above, but that’s okay. The curriculum in an Accounting or Finance degree program is 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

Whether you decide to pursue finance or accounting, one thing remains certain: You will need an education to gain entry into the field.

Our examination of accounting and financial analyst job postings of the past year made it clear that your best route for getting started in either field is a degree. In fact, our analysis found 99 percent of financial analyst and accounting job postings preferred candidates to have at least a Bachelor’s degree.*

In case you had any doubts or were second-guessing your decision to go to college, know that earning a Bachelor’s degree isn’t optional for these careers—it’s required.

The bottom line

Choosing a career path isn’t easy—especially when you have as many options as the business world offers. Hopefully this comparison of finance versus accounting can help you calculate the best career for you and your ambitions.

If you can picture yourself working in finance, then find out what to expect in the finance field. Are you leaning more toward accounting? Hear from accountants on what they wish they knew before launching their career.

 

*Burning-Glass.com (Analysis of 799,032 finance and accounting jobs, March 1, 2017 – Feb. 28, 2018.)

**Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, [career information accessed April 16, 2018] www.bls.gov/ooh/. 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.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published in September 2012. It has since been updated to include information relevant to 2018.


This piece of ad content was created by Rasmussen College to support its educational programs. Rasmussen College may not prepare students for all positions featured within this content. Please visit www.rasmussen.edu/degrees for a list of programs offered. External links provided on rasmussen.edu 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. Rasmussen College is a regionally accredited private college and Public Benefit Corporation.

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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