When you’re planning your collegiate future, you may not know what you want to do at first. It’s completely normal not to pick a major for the first couple of years.

However, if you have a penchant for math, order, and details, accounting or finance may be the best path to pursue. Add in the fact that the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects accounting and finance to experience faster than average career growth through 2024, and both of these fields are even more enticing.

But, which do you choose?

Believe it or not, the two are very different fields. In this article, we explain the difference between an accounting vs finance degree.

Accounting vs Finance: Defined

We can sum up accounting vs finance pretty easily.

In accounting, you’re helping a business with their current financial situation. With finance, you’re helping a business achieve a future financial goal. So, accounting is the now and finance is the future.

Of course, it’s much deeper than that. Accounting deals with concrete numbers.

You’ll deal with audits, budgets, and taxes on a day-to-day basis. Most companies have a bookkeeper that handles payroll and benefits, so you won’t need to worry about that aspect.

Finance mainly deals with the management of money.

You’ll study the stock and bond markets, even if you’re not working on Wall Street. You’ll help businesses and individuals invest their money wisely, following trends and analytics.

This includes investments and investment banking. You’ve heard of a stockbroker or hedge fund manager? In most cases, these money managers have an MBA — a Masters of Business Administration.

Most financiers are usually involved with projections. So, you’ll train on how to get your clients the best return on their investments.

Earning an Accounting Degree

When you’re earning your degree in accounting, you’ll start off with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting. You’re, of course, welcome to continue your studies to earn your Master in Accounting.

Like the world of finance, getting your masters opens up job opportunities. In a 2014 survey, 46 percent of participants planned on hiring Master in Accounting graduates, but only 36% planned on hiring people with bachelor’s degrees.

Accounting is a four-year degree. If you pursue a master’s, it generally takes another one to two years.

While criteria vary depending on school and program, you can plan on needing 120 credit hours for your bachelor’s. You’ll take the core curriculum along with specialized courses in accounting.

Earning a Degree in Finance

It will take you four years to earn your Bachelor of Arts in Finance or Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a focus on Finance. Like accounting, it will take one to two years to earn your MBA.

For both bachelor’s, you’ll take your core curriculum and finish in four years. But, the workload is much heavier.

Instead of 120 credit hours, you may be required to complete 180 for a BSBA – Finance. You’ll also take specialized courses in accounting, macro and microeconomics, an introduction to Business Law, and several others.

For the BA in Finance, your core curriculum will lean toward English classes more than math. But, you’ll also need to take major courses like marketing, macro and microeconomics, business law, and financial management.

Of course, that’s only a sample size. If you want to become a graduate student, you’ll delve a little deeper in these specialized classes.

Hollywood has made it so the average person thinks that you have to have an MBA in Finance. You don’t. An entry-level position, like a financial analyst, requires a bachelor’s.

What Career Are You Interested In?

The best way to decide which degree is best for you is by knowing the jobs that will be available in your chosen field. Let’s take a look at your job options once you have your degree in hand.

Accounting

Most people who study accounting choose from one of two main options: Auditor and account.

An auditor works for a consulting company. There are exceptions where some do work for an organization or government organization. Think IRS.

Auditors review financial records and statements to ensure they’ve been handled correctly. They can also come in to search for mismanagement or other improprieties.

Many accountants take an exam after their degree to become a Certified Public Accountant. This opens up the employment field, like any other specialty in an industry.

A few interesting options for an accountant are:

  • Public account (or CPA) – Manages financial documents for individuals, corporations, or organizations. Tend to focus on taxes.
  • Forensic accountant – Analyzes financial statements, often regarding the law or the legal system. Usually focuses on embezzlement, contract violations, or embezzlement.
  • Management accountant – Oversees finances for private companies. Usually focuses on budgets, costs analytics, and risk analysis.
  • Government accountant – Handles financial operations involving governmental oversight.

You base your choice on what interests you and what you feel you would do best in.

Finance

In finance, your options in what you specialize in are much broader. That’s because there are many different aspects involved in being a financier. But, you’ll see they’re all related.

The top jobs in finance are:

  • Financial analyst – Works in banks, pension funds, insurance companies, and other businesses. Provides guidance in making investment decisions; analyzes and asses the performance of investments.
  • Financial planner – Works largely with individuals. Organizes finances and projects the ROI of savings and investments.
  • Financial advisor – Advise a company or individual on investing in stocks, bonds, and other types of financial assets.
  • Fund manager – Usually works in an investment firm. Focuses on buying, selling, and future projections on the value of mutual or hedge funds.
  • Portfolio manager – Works for a wealth management firm, insurance company, bank, hedge fund, or any other organization in the securities industry. Oversees the investment portfolio of an individual or business.

There are also a vast number of analyst jobs in finance. These focus on assessing and analyzing various financial undertakings.

How Much Can You Make?

This is what you really want to know, isn’t it?

Well, we’ve got some good news. Both accounting and finance are lucrative careers.

The Bureau of Labor and Statistics reports that last year, the median income for an accountant and an auditor was $69,350.

For a financial analyst, it was $84,300. Remember, a financial analyst is considered an entry-level position. Hedge fund managers and more advanced financiers make well into the six-figure range.

Which Will You Choose?

As you can see, when it comes to an accounting vs finance degree, you have many options.

What do you like studying? What field interests you more? How much room to grow are you looking for?

Now that you know an overview of both accounting and finance, answering those questions should come easier to you.

If they don’t, take our professional assessment. This will help you decide what you’re good at and in what field you’ll fit best.