Finance Programs and Schools
While an accounting degree is meant to cover a diverse range of business functions in nearly any industry, a degree in finance is narrower in focus. Financial accounting serves the decision makers outside of the organization, such as banks, government agencies, stockholders and suppliers.
Those interested in a career in the finance industry can pursue educational programs geared towards a number of niche specialties including financial management, financial planning, financial banking support services, international finance and public finance. Although these programs differ slightly, students should expect to take a wide range of course in business ethics, business fundamentals, business theory, economics and accounting.
Some specialized finance programs will require more specific core courses, including:
Financial Banking Support Services:
- International Trade and Commerce
- Commercial Banking Management
- Understanding Private Equity
- Valuation and Securities
- International Business Management
- International Bankruptcy Laws
- Risk Management
- Corporate Finance
Entry-level careers, such as bank teller or customer service representative, typically don't require education beyond high school. However, most positions at higher levels require a Bachelor of Science in Finance or a Master of Business Administration (MBA.) In addition, a few finance fields, such as international finance, require an MBA as the minimum standard of education.
The majority of colleges in the United States now offer students the ability to complete some or all of their coursework online. If you are unable to attend classes full-time on campus, a flexible online schedule is a good option for you. Benefits of online education include the ability to repeat lectures, pause in places where you need further clarification and moving at a faster pace without having to wait for the instructor to answer the questions of other students.
Although no specific credentials are required beyond having a college degree, you can improve your employment opportunities by seeking voluntary certification. One popular license acquired by finance majors after graduation is the CFA certification. To qualify for the exam the student needs a bachelor's degree and three years of experience in the finance industry. The certification process consists of three rigorous exams over the course of three years (usually while working in the finance field.)
Students can also pursue certifications specifically targeted at advancing their careers in targeted finance industries:
- Personal Financial Advisers- To become certified as a financial planner, one must pass the CFP exam after completion of a number of additional academic credits, passing a comprehensive set of exams and following a strict code of ethics.
- Financial Banking Support Personnel- The Certified Personal Banker credential is the most prestigious in the banking industry. It is offered by the Bank Training Center to people with six months of work experience in the banking industry. Candidates must present a professional reference, adhered to a code of ethics and pay a $75 exam fee.
- Financial Planners - The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards offers the Certified Financial Planner Credential. To be eligible to take the exam, you must have three years of full-time work experience and also meet ethical requirements outlined in the organization's Standard of Professional Conduct.
- International Finance- The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Institute offers a CFA designation to professionals with at least a bachelor degree and three years of professional work experience. You must pass three progressively difficult exams. Another option is to earn a Certified Treasury Professional certification through the .
- International Finance- Depending on your state of residence and your specific job, you may be required to pursue certification beyond your bachelor or graduate degree. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) is responsible for determining all securities licensing requirements. The Registered Representative (RR) certification is popular in this industry. It is available to financial brokers who work for a company licensed by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and who advise clients on mutual funds, stocks and bonds.
Currently, the industry is a rapidly growing, with 5,911,700 people employed in the finance and insurance sector in the United States in August of 2013. This means there are a number of career choices, depending on the financial sector one wants to focus on. These opportunities include financial clerks, financial managers, loan managers, investment analysts and loan officers.
Finance professionals can expect to see a wide salary range of $35,000 to over $100,000 depending on the niche industry, career experience and location although the mean average is $89,410, according to the BLS's 2012 statistics. The most lucrative finance careers include:
- National and International Financial Managers- The BLS reports that international and national financial managers earned an average annual salary of $103,910 in 2010. For positions based in the United States, the pay ranged from $56,120 to $166,400. The projected growth rate for the decade 2010 to 2020 is nine percent, slightly slower than the average occupation.
- Financial Services Sales Agents-With an average annual salary of $100,950, financial services sales agents tend to earn the highest income for public finance employees.
- Financial Planners- The median annual salary for financial planners in 2010 was $64,750. In a separate 2012 regional industrial report, the BLS indicated that the highest concentration of financial planning jobs are located in New York, California, Texas, Florida and Illinois. New York also reports the second-highest salary for financial planners behind Connecticut. The 2012 median salaries in these states were $130,710 and $123,250.