Finance vs Accounting: What’s the Difference, and Which is Right for You?
You have a way with numbers and a desire to pursue a career in business. But what is the difference between finance and accounting, two of the most common business degrees? The quick answer is that an accounting major is focused on concrete numbers within budgets, audits, taxes and more, while a finance major has a wider range, covering an array of specializations in business, economics, and banking. Read on to learn more about each career path and which is best for you.
Finance is the use of financial data and information to manage and analyze financial trends in regards to investments and opportunities. Financial advisors, for example, focus on returns on investment (ROI) and strategies that maximize investments. Some day-to-day duties of a financial analyst include evaluating current and historical financial data, studying business and economic trends, and recommending individual investments and portfolios based on research and trends.
Common jobs in the finance world include:
- Commercial Banking
- Financial Consultant
- Financial Trader
- Hedge Fund Manager
- Investment banker
Common places of employment for finance jobs include:
- Commercial Banks
- Credit Unions
- Mortgage Institutions
- Finance Companies
- Regulatory Agencies
Accounting is the process of keeping financial accounts, whether they are budgets, audits, or taxes. With a concentration on numbers and financial reports in the business world, accountants and auditors manage the day-to-day cash flow within an organization. Some typical responsibilities of an accountant or auditor include examining financial statements, computing taxes, organizing and maintaining financial records, and suggesting ways to reduce costs, enhance revenues, and improve profits.
Common jobs in the accounting world include:
- Payroll Administrator
- Risk Assessment
- Tax Advisor
Common places of employment for accounting jobs include:
- CPA Firms
- Public Accounting Firms
- Corporate Businesses
- Finance Companies
- Tax Agency
Accounting is a narrower field that focuses on professional processes to manage numbers and accounts, while finance uses the same information to analyze potential growth patterns in order to strategize company finances. Although these fields sound similar and utilize similar skills, they have their differences.
The accounting vs finance difference comes down to how you want to interact with a business’s finances. An accounting degree student will utilize professional principals and processes to manage numbers rather than influence them. On the other hand, a finance degree student will be more interested in financial strategy and control, and how they can wisely invest based on financial trends.
Finance vs. Accounting: Necessary Education
There are different career opportunities when comparing finance vs accounting depending on your education level. According to an analysis completed by Burning-Glass.com, 99% of finance jobs and 97% of accounting jobs preferred the applicant to have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Check out the chart below to see what the minimum education level is required for accounting vs finance jobs posted annually.
|Finance Jobs||Accounting Jobs|
|High school or vocational training||89||2,620|
|Graduate or professional degree||4,320||4,236|
*Source (Analysis of 161,156 accounting jobs and 78,956 financial analyst jobs, July 1, 2014 – June 30, 2015).
Finance vs. Accounting: Degree & Coursework
The course offerings vary between a finance vs accounting major, but some core business courses can be similar between the two majors. See below a listing of common courses for both majors.
|Common Finance & Accounting Degree Courses|
|Principles of Marketing|
|Business Statistics I|
|Business Statistics II|
|Principles of Management|
|Principles of Finance|
The course offerings vary between a finance vs accounting major. Even though similar skills are needed for both programs and some content overlaps, there is a difference between accounting and finance coursework. See below a listing of different courses for both majors.
|Unique Finance Degree Courses||Unique Accounting Degree Courses|
|Money, Banking and Financial Institutions||Intermediate Accounting|
|Risk Management||Investment and Business Taxation|
|Principles of Management||Fraud Auditing|
|Sport Business and Finance||Advanced Accounting|
Finance vs. Accounting: Top Jobs
Pursuing your degree in finance or accounting can open many exciting career paths in the business world. Check out the table below to see examples of job opportunities for a finance vs accounting degree.
|Top Finance Jobs||Top Accounting Jobs|
|Personal Financial Advisor||Financial Analyst|
|Financial Manager||Management Analyst|
|Securities, Commodities, and Financial Services Sales Agent||Tax Examiner|
Finance vs. Accounting: Salary Expectations
Both finance vs accounting jobs can take on a variety of titles and responsibilities. Below is information regarding the current related job titles listed in the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, as well as the annual median salary for each position.
Finance Salary Expectations
|Finance Job Title||Job Description||Average Median Salary|
|Financial Analyst||Financial analysts provide guidance to businesses and individuals making investment decisions. They assess the performance of stocks, bonds, and other types of investments.||$84,300|
|Budget Analyst||Budget analysts help both public and private companies organize their finances. They prepare budget requests and monitor institutional spending.||$75,240|
|Personal Finance Advisor||Personal finance advisors provide advice on investments, insurance, mortgages, estate planning, taxes, and retirement to help individuals manage their finances.||$90,640|
Accounting Salary Expectations
Accounting Job Title
Average Median Salary
Accountants and Auditors prepare and examine financial records. They ensure that financial records are accurate and taxes are paid properly and on time. They help ensure organizations run efficiently.
Cost estimators collect and analyze data in order to estimate the time, money, materials, and labor required to manufacture a product, construct a building, or provide a service. They typically specialize in a particular industry.
Tax examiners determine how much is owed in taxes and collect tax from individuals and businesses on behalf of federal, state, and local governments. They review tax returns, conduct audits, identify taxes owed, and more.
Finance vs. Accounting: Career Outlook
When comparing both finance vs accounting jobs, it is clear that both careers are promising in growth. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), accounting jobs are projected to increase by 10 percent through 2026. The BLS also expects financial analyst positions to increase by 11 percent in the same period. Both of these growth expectations are faster than the national average growth percentage of seven percent for all occupations.
The accounting field is expected to continue its growth due to the growing economy and intricate tax laws that are constantly evolving. Often, corporations who switch from private to publically traded businesses will need employees in the accounting field to help prepare financial documents
The field of finance is also expected to grow due to technological advancements that allow more data and analysis to be possible.
Projected growth in employment from 2016-2026
Finance and accounting are two of the most popular business degrees in higher education today. While they can be similar, they also have many differences that may help you to decide which degree might be right for you.
|Necessary Education||Bachelor's Degree is Preferred||Bachelor's Degree is Preferred|
|Degree & Coursework||Business Management Courses||Accounting Courses|
|Top Jobs||Analyst, Financial Advisor||Accountant, Auditor|
|Salary Expectations||$75,000 - $90,000||$50,000 - $85,000|
|Career Outlook||11% increase (2016-2026)||10% increase (2016-2026)|
If you’re ready to utilize your number skills in a rewarding career in either finance or accounting, GMercyU can help you reach your goal. Learn more about GMercyU’s accounting and finance programs today!