A bachelor's degree in finance can help students gain a specialized skill set for entry-level finance careers. Depending on the school, students in undergraduate finance programs may earn a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) or Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in business or business administration, usually with a concentration in finance. Students in finance degree programs take a variety of general education, core business and finance elective classes, generally over the course of four years.
Online bachelor's degree in finance: coursework and overview
Taking a combination of finance electives and courses in other areas of business can benefit individuals interested in a finance career. Although course selection varies by school, below are several courses that are common across degree programs:
- Principles of Finance: Courses provide an introduction to financial analysis and management techniques. Topics commonly covered include the time value of money, risk and return, capital budgeting and valuation of stocks and bonds.
- Corporate Finance: Students learn how to make and analyze corporate investment and financing decisions and determine how those decisions impact a firm. Specific course topics include capital budgeting, dividend policy, risk and capital structure.
- Investments: Students examine theories and practices regarding investment analysis and management. They study concepts important to investment making, such as security markets, portfolio selection and analysis and the tradeoff between risk and return.
- International Finance: Students learn about the characteristics of international financial markets and explore financial decisions made by multinational companies. Coursework typically includes topics such as foreign exchange markets and international investments.
- Financial Management: Courses review important concepts in managing a company's finances, including capital budgeting techniques, financial analysis and valuation.
- Financial Accounting: Students learn how to develop and analyze financial statements -- including a balance sheet, income statement and statement of cash flows -- according to the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). Courses may also discuss the depreciation of assets and inventory valuation.
- Economics: Introductory courses provide an overview of basic economics concepts, such as supply and demand, market structures and pricing and trade. Many schools offer courses on specialized topics such as microeconomics, macroeconomics and econometrics.
- Statistics: Students learn how to calculate and analyze statistical data and study concepts such as correlation, sampling and probability.
Potential careers for individuals with a bachelor's degree in finance
A bachelor's degree in finance or a related field not only can help provide students with important knowledge and skills for finance careers, but it is also often a requirement for entry-level positions. Below are some careers that students may be eligible for after earning their degree:
- Financial analysts recommend investments and portfolios to businesses and individuals by measuring the performance of investment opportunities. Analysts examine financial statements and factors such as commodity prices and tax rates in order to assess a company's value and future earnings. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, financial analyst positions usually require a bachelor's degree in a relevant field, such as finance or business administration, in addition to a familiarity with options pricing, bond valuation and risk management. Investment and corporate finance classes may help students gain an understanding of concepts relevant to this career.
- Budget analysts develop budget reports and track spending for various institutions, such as universities and businesses. They also estimate their clients' future financial needs, help develop and review organizations' budgets for accuracy and legal compliance and sometimes recommend spending cuts or redistribution. The BLS notes that taking courses in statistics or accounting can help students prepare for the numerical and analytical aspects of the job.
- Personal financial advisors help clients make investment, tax and insurance decisions. Advisors explain investment options and the riskiness of those options to clients and make recommendations in accordance with financial goals, such as funding one's education or saving for retirement. According to bls.gov, courses in investments, taxes and risk management can help individuals prepare for the job responsibilities of a financial advisor.
- Insurance underwriters determine whether or not to provide insurance to applicants and serve as a link between insurance companies and agents. Many underwriters specialize in life, health, mortgage, or property and casualty insurance. The BLS states that taking courses in business, finance and economics can be useful for applicants seeking underwriter positions.
- Securities, commodities and financial services sales agents buy and sell securities and commodities and offer investor advice to companies. Agents also study financial markets and securities' performance and make recommendations in regards to public offerings, mergers and acquisitions. Bls.gov reports that a bachelor's degree in finance, accounting, business, or economics can be an asset for those applying to entry-level agent positions. Taking an elective course in financial markets may also provide students with relevant knowledge and skills for this career.
Instead of pursuing one of the above paths, graduates of bachelor's in finance programs may wish to further their education and earn a Master of Business Administration (MBA) or a specialized master's degree in finance. A master's degree may improve options for employment and may be required for advancement in finance careers. For example, some employers hiring budget analysts prefer candidates with graduate degrees, according to bls.gov. Individuals who are considering applying to graduate programs, it's a good idea to speak with an admissions counselor to assess qualifications and requirements.
To obtain further detail on earning a bachelor's degree in finance, interested individuals can check out the Guide to College Majors in Finance.
"Budget Analysts," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/budget-analysts.htm
"Financial Analysts," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/financial-analysts.htm
"Insurance Underwriters," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/insurance-underwriters.htm
"Personal Financial Advisors," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/personal-financial-advisors.htm
"Securities, Commodities and Financial Services Sales Agents," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/sales/securities-commodities-and-financial-services-sales-agents.htm