A degree in finance includes lessons in accounting, economics, computer science, finance, information systems, international business, management, and marketing. Undergraduate and graduate degree programs help answer the call of companies who need qualified, specifically-trained individuals who have knowledge of areas such as business networks and international financial markets, as well as taxation and accounting practices. Both bachelor's and master's programs often include an internship as part of the requirements. The programs below are designed to prepare students for careers such as financial writer, consultant, commodities risk manager and financial analyst.
Associate of Applied Science in Finance
At the associate's degree level, any department or division (such as business, economics, finance, computer science, mathematics and marketing) may offer a substantially weighted component in mathematics to accommodate this specialty. These programs prepare graduates to directly enter the job market. Job applicants can expect to demonstrate core competencies in statistics, economics, computer science, derivatives, calculus, and investment--in addition to an understanding of financial institution operations.
General requirements are likely to include courses in accounting, business software applications, business law, management courses, and marketing. Students learn key concepts, operational methods and credit. They prepare to investigate, analyze and grant credit to understand credit laws and participate in credit collection systems. Graduates possess knowledge and skills for budgeting, writing financial plans and making investment decisions. Other coursework commonly includes:
- Economic theories
- International business and economics
- Introduction computer science
- Information systems
- Data communications
- Business networks
Bachelor of Science in Computational Finance
The finance industry welcomes individuals with a deep knowledge of mathematics, probability, and statistics. Courses of study explore each of these subject areas and emphasize business applications. Instructors prompt students to solve real-world projects while demonstrating an understanding of industries' needs. Many bachelor's degree candidates work while attending school, so part-time or flexible schedules may be offered.
Prospective graduates expect programs to be exacting and thorough in six major disciplines: finance, marketing, management, accounting, information systems and economics. Internships are the result of partnerships between the educational institution and business leaders, often leading to positions after graduation. Studies might reflect:
- Integral and differential calculus
- Matrix algebra
- Integration, differential equations and approximation
- Probability models and statistics
- Microeconomics and macroeconomics
- Continuous and discrete-time finance
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Master of Science in Computational Finance
Graduate programs cover advanced concepts and applications, such as fixed-income securities, contingent claims and equilibrium asset pricing. Students learn credit-risk modeling and analysis, volatility measurement and dynamic trading; they also develop economic intuition and an understanding of quantitative analysis. Seminars discuss financial services trends, regulatory issues, information systems and new product developments.
Independent study allows candidates to research areas of interest. In addition to internships, some schools require students to complete an applied finance project, using the finance tools and techniques learned in their program. Chartered Financial Analysts Institute (CFA) is the gold standard for a wide range of career paths. Graduates who successfully pass CFA certification exams possess knowledge, skills and competencies relevant to many financial industry employers.
Courses review and advance studies covering empirical methods, stochastic calculus, economic concepts and quantitative methods. Students learn binomial and trinomial option pricing and to hedge interest rate risk. They familiarize with the language, techniques, strategies, problems, and solutions so much a part of finance in all its manifestations. Courses for this usually terminal degree include subjects such as:
- Default probabilities, loss and correlation
- Practical risk models and analysis
- Derivatives: pricing theory, methods and problems
- Fixed income markets: bond pricing, instruments and portfolios
- Accounting and taxation issues
- Risks: market, credit, liquidity and volatility
Entry-level positions occur in most industries, including broadcast networks, pharmaceuticals, investment banks, media providers, publishing and marketing. They are also available with government agencies at local, state and federal levels. Graduates may accept software positions with globally active banks, finance positions in investment groups or consulting jobs with insurance organizations.
Graduates with a bachelor's degree may work with banks or other financial firms, but may also find opportunities as financial writers or product specialists, interest rate developers, commodities risk managers, model reviewers, administrative officers, treasury capital analysts or IT managers.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) expects financial analyst jobs to increase faster than the national average from 2014-2024, based on increasing complexity and global diversification as the industry continues to ramp up for a new investment options. Competition is particularly keen in investment banking and securities exchange, best met by applicants who have graduate degrees and professional certification. Positions for financial analysts are growing at 12% for the same projected decade. The BLS also notes that financial analysts earned a median annual salary of $80,310 in May, 2015 (www.bls.gov).
Students enrolled in an associate's program in finance learn about credit, investments, and economics. Bachelor's students explore concepts in marketing, managing, and accounting, while master's students complete independent studies in a specialized topic of their choosing.