Accounting vs. Finance: Which Degree Should You Pursue?
Written by: Wilson College • Feb 28, 2023
Accounting vs. Finance: Which Degree Should You Pursue? ¶
Accounting and finance degrees both offer opportunities for a thriving career. Which one should you choose? Starting salaries for those with a bachelor’s degree in finance are slightly higher than for those with a bachelor’s degree in accounting. However, the difference is slight, and the gap quickly closes as the careers progress.
Additionally, both degrees work with numbers and often with the people who have questions about those numbers. With so many similarities in the accounting vs. finance discussion, it may be best to look for the differences to help make a decision. Finding those small differences makes it easier to see which track is the right choice, depending on preferences and goals for the future.
Accounting vs. Finance Program Curriculum ¶
The curricula in programs for accounting and finance degrees are similar in many ways, but key differences exist.
What Is the Main Difference Between Accounting and Finance Degrees? ¶
The biggest difference between accounting and finance degrees is that a finance degree focuses on planning, managing, and analyzing monetary and financial aspects of businesses and other organizations, while an accounting degree offers students an opportunity to develop their accounting and managerial abilities. This difference may seem subtle, but it can be significant when it comes to the exact kind of work a graduate from one of these programs will perform.
What Can You Learn in an Accounting Program vs. a Finance Program? ¶
In an accounting program, students can expect to learn information such as:
- Cost accounting
- Managerial accounting
- Tax accounting
- Generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP)
- International reporting standards
After earning a degree, many graduates pursue Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or Certified Management Accountant (CMA) certification.
While finance programs do teach students the fundamentals of accounting, they focus more on topics such as:
- Portfolio management
- Corporate finance
- International finance
- Financial reporting
Finance graduates may then choose to specialize in an area of work, such as becoming certified financial planners (CFPs).
How Long Does It Take to Get an Accounting Degree or a Finance Degree? ¶
One consideration when choosing between an accounting and a finance degree might be the length of time that the different programs take. Here, the two are equal: It generally takes four years to earn either degree.
Accounting vs. Finance Careers and Salaries ¶
When choosing a career, students should consider salary, alongside other factors. While compensation varies based on numerous factors, such as education level, experience, and industry, salaries for accounting vs. finance graduates are quite similar, particularly early in their careers, according to Payscale.
What Can You Do With an Accounting Degree? ¶
Below are some popular, rewarding careers that an accounting degree can lead to.
Certified Public Accountant ¶
CPAs perform many types of accounting services. They may work with individuals, businesses, nonprofit organizations, or government agencies. They may focus on specific areas of accounting, such as government, public, forensic, and corporate.
The median annual salary for CPAs was approximately $71,000 in November 2022, according to Payscale.
Tax Accountant ¶
Tax accountants use their deep knowledge of tax laws to help people and organizations address tax issues and file forms properly. They can also help and advise clients through audits.
The median annual salary for tax accountants was approximately $58,000 in November 2022, according to Payscale.
Auditors review financial records to ensure that they’re accurate and that they comply with regulations and laws for the area and industry. Internal auditors work for organizations themselves to ensure that they’re in compliance and operating legally and ethically, while external auditors work for governing bodies to identify possible violations.
The median annual salary for auditors was approximately $59,000 in November 2022, according to Payscale.
What Can You Do With a Finance Degree? ¶
Much like accounting degree graduates, finance degree graduates can pursue a wide range of careers.
Financial Analyst ¶
Financial analysts monitor data and conduct research on economic conditions to make recommendations about how a company can improve its profits.
The median annual salary for financial analysts was approximately $63,000 in November 2022, according to Payscale.
Personal Financial Advisor ¶
Personal financial advisors assess their clients’ liabilities, assets, and financial goals, and make financial plans that are tailored to their needs. These professionals also monitor their clients’ accounts.
The median annual salary for personal financial advisors was approximately $62,000 in November 2022, according to Payscale.
Budget Analyst ¶
Budget analysts help organizations track spending. They also review proposed budgets and develop new ones as they look for ways to increase a company’s productivity and profits.
The median annual salary for budget analysts was approximately $63,000 in November 2022, according to Payscale.
Discover the Ways an Accounting Degree or Finance Degree Can Improve Your Career ¶
Careers in accounting and finance can be both rewarding and challenging. Wilson College Online incorporates a financial foundation with a liberal arts education to produce graduates who understand the international and ethical climate of today’s business world. With both an online Bachelor of Science in Accounting and an online Bachelor of Arts in Finance, Wilson College Online prepares students for a range of business careers. Find out how Wilson College Online can help you take the next step on your path today.