Finance vs. Accounting: Which Degree is Right for You?
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.
|In-demand finance skills||In-demand accounting skills|
|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.