A finance major can be the first step toward a career in the world of money and markets. Learn more about coursework, the outlook for finance major jobs, and more.
A finance major may seem like a natural choice if you love working with numbers and money. Yet, finance graduates do so much more. They provide valuable services to corporations, small businesses, non-profits, and individuals to help them manage a critical resource. Before you start advising people about where to invest their money and creating financial forecasts, you probably need a degree. Choosing finance as a major could be a good place to start.
The term "finance" refers to the management of money. When you major in finance, you'll generally explore topics like financial planning, banking, and investing, all while developing valuable job skills like problem-solving and communication.
In a finance major degree program, you study financial theories and how they apply in the business world to help companies and individuals make and manage money. You practice using mathematical concepts, statistics, and analytical tools to solve problems and make decisions. With a finance degree, you can prepare for a career as a financial planner, financial analyst, commercial banker, investment manager, and more.
As a finance major, you study finance-related topics, including math, economics, and statistics. You can expect to take several math classes like accounting, calculus, and business math. These courses establish a foundation for finance courses that cover valuation, investing, international banking and finance, econometrics, and buyouts and acquisitions. You may see the following courses in your school's curriculum:
Analysis of Financial Statement Presentation
Banking, Financial Institutions, and Society
Business and Economic Forecasting
Federal Taxation for Businesses
Financial Management of the Firm
Fundamentals of Business Statistics
Mergers and Acquisitions
Principles of Macroeconomics
Principles of Microeconomics
Statistical Methods in Business
Venture Capital and Private Equity
If you're an undergraduate finance major, you will likely spend the first two years of your degree program taking general education courses. Social science, literature, and humanities courses can introduce you to new perspectives and build a broad knowledge base. You may use the skills you learn in composition and public speaking courses throughout your career.
In your junior and senior years, you typically spend more time taking courses related to your major. This is when you delve into topics like finance and management principles, business law and ethics, corporate valuation, and urban fiscal policy. During your final two years, you may have opportunities to study areas of interest such as real estate development, entrepreneurial finance, hedge fund management, and fintech.
If you're a finance major in a master's program, your courses tend to cover more advanced topics than what's available at the undergraduate level. The concepts tend to be similar, but you have more time to devote to them. You may spend an entire semester examining behavioral finance, business tax laws, bond markets, derivatives markets, portfolio management, venture capital, and more.
People who choose to major in finance are interested in numbers, financial markets, and finding ways to make money. They tend to be natural problem-solvers who like setting goals and researching ways to reach them.
Through your coursework, you can build on and expand these skills as you learn how markets work, how to value a business, and how to consider the implications of money-related decisions.
With a finance degree, you can choose to work in several fields where you can help other people and businesses create plans that help them achieve their goals. The work is not only financially rewarding but also can give you the satisfaction of knowing you helped someone solve a problem or make a dream come true.
You also may find a finance degree practical if you plan to pursue additional education or work in business, law, or a related field. Many finance majors earn professional certifications like Certified Financial Planner (CFP) or Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA). In doing so, you can expand your skill set and create additional career opportunities.
Read more: What Should I Major In? 5 Things to Evaluate
The job market for a finance major is favorable, with average growth expected in the sector through 2030. The US Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) anticipates the industry will add more than 750,000 jobs during that period . Part of this demand is the result of the evolving and highly-regulated world of finance. Companies need professionals to help them stay in compliance with regulations and tax laws.
Demand for some finance careers is growing more rapidly than the rest of the field. The BLS expects jobs for market research analysts to grow 22 percent by 2030, with nearly 100,000 jobs opening annually . Demand for financial examiners will likely increase by 18 percent, and jobs for management analysts should grow at a rate of 14 percent [3,4].
With a finance degree, you can work in various private and public organizations, from a loan officer in a local bank to a personal financial advisor or hedge fund manager. In fact, this versatility is one of the reasons people choose this degree. It's lucrative and practical, and today's graduates may be more interested in jobs that let them help people and communities through financial stewardship and planning. Here are a few of the roles they may take to make this happen:
*All salary data represents median salary in the United States, according to the BLS (May 2021)
Budget analyst: $79,940
Cost estimator: $65,170
Financial analyst: $81,410
Financial examiner: $81,410
Loan officer: $63,380
Management analyst: $93,000
Market research analyst: $63,920
Personal financial advisor: $94,170
Property appraiser: $61,340
Purchasing agent: $75,410
Real estate broker: $62,010
Securities sales agent: $62,901
You can start exploring finance concepts and applications before becoming a finance major. In a course like Introduction to Finance: The Basics from the University of Illinois, learn more about financial statements, financial ratios, and the like. Brush up on your math skills in Introduction to Calculus from the University of Sydney. If you're ready to dive into more advanced topics, consider the Finance & Quantitative Modeling for Analysts Specialization from the Wharton School or the Investment and Portfolio Management Specialization from Rice University.
Accounting and finance majors take some of the same classes, but a key difference is the graduates' career plans. Finance majors typically plan to pursue careers in banking, investing, and financial services. Accounting majors usually work as accountants, auditors, and tax preparers for companies or government agencies.
Yes, you can become a certified public accountant (CPA) with a finance degree. However, you must meet all of your state's requirements to earn the license. In all states, you need at least 150 hours of college courses before you can take the CPA exam. Many states require you to take a certain number of hours in topics like auditing, accounting, business, and taxation. Check with the agency that issues licenses to CPAs for your state's specific requirements. If CPA is your career goal, you may want to take those required courses as electives if they're not already part of your degree path.
Finance majors typically work toward a Bachelor of Science in Finance (BS), but some schools offer a Bachelor of Arts in Finance (BA) degree. Since a BS curriculum tends to emphasize science and math, it may seem like an obvious choice for a finance major. However, pursuing a BA may be a better choice depending on your plans.
The curriculum for a BA degree can give you more flexibility to explore topics outside of finance that may relate to your career plans. For example, if you want to work as a personal financial planner, you may be able to apply what you learn in psychology and sociology courses to help you understand why people make certain decisions that affect their financial well-being. Similarly, courses in visual design, public speaking, or foreign languages may support your work.
Read more: What Is the Difference Between a BA and a BS Degree?
Some finance majors augment their studies with a dual major or minor in a related field like accounting or business administration. Other options for dual majors include finance and economics, finance and management, and finance and marketing.
1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Business and Financial Occupations, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/home.htm.” Accessed August 19, 2022.
2. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Market Research Analysts, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/market-research-analysts.htm.” Accessed August 19, 2022.
3. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Financial Examiners, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/financial-examiners.htm.” Accessed August 19, 2022.
4. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Management Analysts, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/management-analysts.htm.” Accessed August 19, 2022.
This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.