What to Know About Becoming a Finance Major?

A finance major learns comprehensive monetary skills to analyze, plan, and manage the financial performance, decisions and investments for an individual, a business or non-profit organization. It is oriented on the future using data gathered in the past and present.

To become a finance major, you’ll complete general education courses plus required courses for finance majors in macroeconomics, microeconomics, markets, personal and corporate finances, tax law, statistics, capital, equity and additional courses related to your specific focus within finance. Some schools require a written essay or verbal interview as part of the application process for becoming a finance major at that university.

The benefits of a finance major are the acquisition of real-world skills related to macro and microeconomics, financial planning and management, financial data analytics, capital acquisition and allocation, risk management, and investment strategy. These skills are in high demand in the business world, government and non-profit sectors.

Main careers and job titles for finance majors are economist, finance manager, financial planner, financial analyst, personal and corporate financial adviser, budget analyst, auditor, financial examiner, accountant or CPA, investment banker, venture capitalist, broker, wealth manager, insurance manager, and actuary.

What is a Finance Major?

A finance major is a narrowly defined business major focusing on decisions about investing financial resources, financial management and maximizing earnings. 

Finance majors learn to use mathematical, statistical and analytical principles related to money management, collect and analyze financial data to make effective capital investments, create budgets, reduce risk while maximizing profits, and communicate effectively with clients. This knowledge is used to create the best financial plans related to the financial needs and goals of the client, whether an individual, corporation, governmental agency or non-profit. In short, finance majors learn strategies and skills to help clients make, manage and protect greater financial profits while minimizing financial risk and tax liability.

As a finance major, you will take economic, financial, and money management courses as part of your program of study. These will be applied through coursework in microeconomics, macroeconomics, mathematical principles of business and economics, accounting, statistics, the stock market and other financial markets such as the currency market and money markets, financial data analysis, financial services, debt management, banking, capital acquisition, mergers and acquisitions, organizational behavior, financial modeling, business taxation, venture capital and private equity, budgeting and investing.

A finance major is considered a STEM major because it involves the use of mathematical principles requiring analytical and quantitative skills. The integration of technology and finances also makes it a STEM program.

What are the Differences Between a BS Degree and BA Degree in Finance?

A BS in Finance has a narrow focus including many STEM courses. A BA in Finance is a broader degree program with fewer STEM classes and more liberal arts and humanities.

The Bachelor of Science degree in Finance is considered a STEM degree because of the emphasis on math, statistics, accounting, macro- and microeconomics, computer skills and the integration of technology into business finance. A BS degree in Finance prepares you for MBA studies and for a career in financial analytics, markets, investments and management.

The Bachelor of Arts in Finance degree includes basic business skills, economics and financial management but also language, communication and literature studies. A BA in Finance prepares you for a wider range of careers or more graduate school options.

What are the Requirements for Becoming a Finance Major?

The requirements to become a finance major at most major universities include the following:

  • Complete General Education Prerequisite Courses: Prerequisites usually include 30 to 60 credit hours in general education courses such as college algebra or calculus, statistics or statistical methods, data and graphs, English composition, humanities or foreign language and science electives in biology, geology, chemistry, or physics.
  • Choose a Concentration in Finance: Some schools require students becoming a finance major to choose a specific path that determines which classes the student takes to complete their program. Options from top schools include Corporate Finance, Commercial Banking, Financial Analysis, Capital Markets, Investment Banking, International Finances, Financial Adviser, Data Science and Digital.
  • Complete Required Classes for Finance: Most finance degrees include required courses in micro- and macroeconomics, financial markets such as the stock market and currency markets, financial data analysis, financial services, debt management, capital and equity and banking. 
  • Complete Specialized Courses for your Concentration: These courses are more specific to the area of finance you are studying. The range of courses depending on your concentration can include corporate taxation, venture capital, Forex, accounting, mergers and acquisitions.
  • Maintain a 2.0 grade point average, or GPA, to be accepted as a finance major. This is a C class grade average.

Most universities also require you to meet at least two times with an academic adviser. The first meeting takes place when you are accepted into the business school or when you are deciding on a concentration. The second meeting takes place prior to graduation to ensure that you have completed the academic requirements to be awarded a degree in finance.

How Hard is the Finance Major?

Majoring in finance is moderately difficult, but easier for students with a natural interest in finances, economics, numbers and math.

The finance major is challenging because it is math-intensive and requires good skills in critical thinking, problem solving and logic. Students are exposed to new and complex financial principles and concepts. A large volume of reading is necessary on a broad range of financial and economic topics. The student must possess a good grasp of the information to perform well on tests, written papers and verbal reports. Classwork preparing the students for passing certification tests in their finance careers is quite demanding.

Courses in algebra, calculus, accounting, statistics, econometrics, data and graph analysis, and financial analysis are considered the most difficult courses for a finance major.

Why is Finance a Good Major?

Finance is a good major because it prepares you for an in-demand career in a range of fields related to money.

There are 5 reasons that finance is a good major:

  1. It leads to high-paying careers. The median annual income for financial and business occupations in 2021 was $76,570 according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics Business and Financial Occupations page for Business and Financial Occupations. And salaries have risen since then.
  2. The field is growing. Employment in these sectors is expected to increase by 7% before 2031, resulting in 715,000 new jobs. When workers permanently leaving these occupations is considered, more than 980,000 new job openings are expected each year, according to BLS.gov statistics.
  3. It prepares you for professional certifications. Many careers in finance and financial services require professional certifications such as Certified Financial Planner (CFP), Financial Risk Manager (FRM) and Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA).
  4. You learn transferable skills. The knowledge and skills learned when completing a finance major can be applied to job descriptions outside of finance and business, further expanding career opportunities.
  5. It is a good step toward furthering your education. A finance major is a good undergraduate degree for students preparing to apply for graduate school. Top graduate programs for finance majors are Master of Science in Finance or MSF, Master’s in Finance or MFin, Master’s in Economics or MEcon, and Master’s in Business Administration or MBA. Many with a degree in finance apply to law school, especially if they want to work in tax law or corporate law. 

What are Finance Degree Types?

There are 4 finance degrees, each with greater requirements and a longer course of study: Associate degree, bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and doctoral degree/PhD.

Associate’s Degree in Finance: This is a 2-year degree typically consisting of 4 semesters. An associate finance degree prepares students with a basic grasp of financial concepts and skills. Programs are 60-64 credit hours. The classwork includes general financial principles, accounting, management and planning, reading financial statements, finance law and banking. Students with an associate degree in finance continue their education or seek careers in bookkeeping, accounts receivable and payable, sales, marketing, advertising, real estate, lending or financial advisory services.

Bachelor’s Degree in Finance: The bachelor’s degree program is 8 semesters usually over 4 years. Most finance bachelor’s degrees require a minimum of 120 credits including core and elective courses in economics (macro and micro), accounting, statistics, stock and currency markets, investments, trading, financial services, capital, financial modeling, and individual and corporate taxes etc. A bachelor’s in finance is excellent preparation for an entry-level job in financial services and related fields. It is also a good major for applying to graduate school in business, finance, accounting and economics.

Master’s Degree in Finance: Master’s programs in finance take 1-3 years to complete. Many students pursue a master’s in finance while working a full-time job, and many programs offer flexible schedules to accommodate your career. Credit hours range from 36 to 48 hours. The focus can be a general master’s of finance or one targeting a specific aspect such as international finance, financial management, entrepreneurship, corporate finance, business analytics, business administration, or economics.

Doctoral Degree in Finance: A PhD or doctoral degree in finance typically takes 3-5 years and includes a doctoral thesis. Most finance PhD programs emphasize financial analysis with emphasis on macroeconomic analysis, microeconomic analysis, domestic and international financial markets, banking and monetary systems, savings and capital formation, and financial theory. A PhD in Finance prepares you for a career as a financial analyst, financial manager, university professor, compensation and benefits director, chief financial officer and researcher in economics and finance.

What Are the Average Salaries for a Finance Manager?

The average salary range for a financial manager or finance manager is $27,000 to more than $166,000 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Salary is based on the worker’s degree level, experience and job performance.

Here are salaries for finance managers based on the degree level the worker has earned.

  • The average salary for a bachelor’s degree in finance is $72,475.
  • The average salary for a master’s degree in finance is $98,860.
  • The average salary for a PhD degree in finance is $107,531.

What Can You Do With a Finance Major?

There are many options for careers in finance, economics and related fields when you earn a degree in finance. Here are 10 jobs for finance majors.

Finance Manager: Finance managers analyze financial data, create financial reports, direct investments and provide advice on maximizing profitability and long-term financial health.

Financial Planner: Financial planes provide guidance to individuals and businesses on creating investment programs and choosing options to ensure long-term financial goals.

Financial Analyst: A financial analyst provides guidance to individuals and organizations about using capital or credit to produce a profitable return.

Financial Advisor: These financial professionals provide advice on eliminating debt and making investments that fit the client’s financial goals based on their risk tolerance, age and financial needs.

Financial Sales Agent: Also called financial services sales agents, they guide clients to appropriate purchases within various financial markets including the stock market, securities and commodities.

Financial Examiner: This job description includes ensuring compliance with laws and regulations governing monetary transactions.

Management Analyst: This career is focused on improving an organization’s efficiency as a means of cutting cost and boosting profit.

Tax Examiner and Collector: The job description for a tax examiner or collector includes determining the amount of tax owed by an individual or corporation and collecting the tax revenue for the government.

Accountant or Auditor: These workers prepare and examine financial statements and records.

Loan Officer: Loan officers evaluate loan applications and recommend that they be approved or declined.

This table provides verified data on financial careers, required degree level to start and average salaries.

Common Jobs for Finance MajorEntry Level DegreeSalary
Finance ManagerBachelor’s$131,710
Financial PlannerBachelor’s$94,170
Financial AnalystBachelor’s$95,570
Financial AdvisorBachelor’s$94,170
Securities, Commodities & Financial Sales AgentBachelor’s$62,910
Financial ExaminerBachelor’s$81,410
Management AnalystBachelor’s$93,000
Tax Examiner & CollectorBachelor’s$56,780
Accountant or AuditorBachelor’s$77,250
Loan OfficerBachelor’s$63,380
Budget AnalystBachelor’s$79,940
Compensation & Benefits SpecialistBachelor’s$64,120
Cost EstimatorsBachelor’s$65,170
Market Research AnalystBachelor’s$63,920
Property Appraiser & AssessorBachelor’s$61,340
LogisticianBachelor’s$77,030
Insurance UnderwriterBachelor’s$76,390
ActuaryBachelor’s$105,900

Can You Be an Accountant with a Finance Degree?

Yes, you can become an accountant with a degree in finance. Accounting and finance are interrelated and the courses required overlap significantly.  

A degree in finance is excellent preparation and will qualify you if you intend to sit for the exam to become a CPA or certified public accountant.

What Are the Best Double Majors with Finance?

The best double majors with finance include economics, accounting and marketing. Getting a double major in one of these related fields deepens your skill level and knowledge base of finances, which is very attractive to potential employers.

If you enjoy technology, consider a double major in computer information systems or computer science. These double degrees with finance are useful for financial analysis and econometric analysis.

As a result of a double major in finance plus econ, accounting, marketing, or computer information, you will qualify for more jobs and a potentially higher salary than if you simply have a finance degree alone.

What Are the Best Minors for a Finance Major?

The best minors for a finance major are considered to be accounting, economics, computer science, statistics and foreign language.

The best minors to go with a degree in finance are those that further your skills in an area of interest such as becoming an entrepreneur, financial analyst, economist or getting into international finance.

What Are the Differences Between a Finance And Accounting Major?

Finance is future-oriented while accounting focuses on the past and present financial business performance.

Finance analyzes financial and accounting data, reports and records to strategize for, correct, guide and project growth and profitability using the organization’s capital and other financial assets. Accounting uses the same information to determine how successful the organization has been in utilizing those assets up to the present.  

What Are the Differences Between a Finance and Economics Major?

Finance and economics majors have a different focus and scope of classes while at the same time there is significant overlap in the degrees. Finance majors have a narrower program of study than economics majors.

More specifically, finance is the study of financial systems and what impacts them such as banking, loans, markets, debt and investments. The focus is often individual companies and organizations.

On the other hand, economics majors study a broader range of topics related to the economy as a whole. These topics include every aspect from supply, production, sales and consumption, the impact of governmental policies and regulations on the overall economy and domestic and international trade. 

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