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Best Online Bachelor Degree Programs in Finance

Apr 13, 2021

Online Finance Degree Overview

Online finance degrees are commonly available at nearly all levels. These programs usually cover topics such as general business and management practices, math, finance, economics, and investing, with higher degrees providing more in-depth, specialized knowledge. Some programs may also be designed to offer more customization of the degree, such as with concentrations within the realm of finance, or improve career prospects by preparing students to pass certification exams after graduating.

Best Online Bachelor Degree Programs in Finance

Study.com scoured online programs across the nation for a variety of factors, such as tuition cost and financial aid, admittance rates and educational supports and resources, retention and graduation rates, student-faculty ratio, career resources and job placement, along with distinct aspects of the programs, including degree concentrations. The result is this list of online programs through which you can pursue your Bachelor's Degree in Finance. If you are interested in a career in finance, and if you are interested in pursuing this degree online, then the schools here are all great options for you to consider for your future studies!

1. Louisiana State University-Shreveport

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$7,327 84% 31% 94% Yes Yes AP Credits

Louisiana State University-Shreveport (LSUS) offers three Bachelor of Science (BS) in Finance programs, each with a different concentration area: Financial Analysis, Insurance, and Real Estate. All programs provide students with broad backgrounds in finance and emphasize critical thinking and connecting theory to practice. Each program does a great job providing students with the skills and knowledge needed to prepare for careers in finance related to their respective programs' concentration areas. We appreciated how much flexibility LSUS has built into these programs, offering multiple start dates throughout the year and accelerated coursework options to better fit into students' busy lives. The tuition rate is the same for in-state students and out-of-state students, and every student gets to work with a personal advisor throughout their entire time in one of the BS programs at LSUS.

2. SUNY College of Technology at Canton

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$8,650 85% 47% 95% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits

SUNY College of Technology at Canton (SUNY Canton) allows students to pursue and complete all requirements for the Bachelor's of Business Administration (BBA) in Finance program, accredited by the International Accreditation Council for Business Education, through the SUNY Canton global OnLine Campus. Students here have the opportunity to use real domestic and global financial market data for projects and case studies on investments and risk management in upper-level program electives, as well as partake in field experiences including service learning opportunities and internships. All SUNY Canton OnLine Campus programs boast tuition rates lower than those of leading online and for-profit competitors for students from the state of New York.

3. Florida International University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$6,565 58% 63% 90% Yes Yes AP Credits

Florida International University (FIU) Online's Bachelor of Business Administration - Finance track made our list because it seeks to teach students to effectively and efficiently collect, analyze, and manage financial information using ideas and techniques from quantitative disciplines and principles of financial decision-making. Each student is paired with a success coach, who will serve as a guide and support throughout individual students' time in the program. Students also have the option of joining and graduating through the FIU Honors college, which requires additional coursework that may include interdisciplinary seminars, study abroad opportunities, and thesis research, but also provides students access to virtual co-curricular opportunities and career advising and faculty support through the Honors College Career Services Center.

4. University of Alabama at Birmingham

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$8,568 74% 63% 95% Yes Yes AP / ACE / NCCRS Credits

The standout online Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Finance program offered through the University of Alabama at Birmingham's Collat School of Business is fully intended to fit into students' schedules. This program accepts transfer credits, offers scholarships for eligible students, and is notable for its round-the-clock technical help desk, strong student satisfaction and retention rates and its professional accreditation through the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). Full-time student-focused faculty members, all of whom teach in the program's on-campus counterpart, teach all courses. Online students have access to the Collat School's Career & Professional Development Services, including the online Handshake career services management platform. In addition to having chances to network and collaborate with professors and fellow students online, there are also opportunities to virtually participate in a number of student organizations.

5. Old Dominion University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$8,568 74% 63% 95% Yes Yes AP / ACE / NCCRS Credits

Old Dominion University's online Finance Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (BSBA) program offered through the Strome College of Business allows students to either start and finish in their program or else bring in college credits and complete at least 30 of the 120 credits hours needed to graduate online through the University; students who transfer from the Virginia Community College System benefit from the Guaranteed Admissions Agreement transfer process. The program includes synchronous, asynchronous, and blended courses, with some synchronous courses offering archives where students can watch missed lectures or review lectures while they study. Students can also consider starting to earn graduate credits that they can use toward a Master of Business Administration degree or Master of Public Administration degree while completing the BSBA program.

6. Davenport University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$19,338 82% 49% 98% Yes Yes AP / ACE / NCCRS Credits

Davenport University offers its Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance program, accredited by the International Accreditation Council for Business Education, through its online Global Campus. The program also has a financial planning specialization registered with the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) Board of Standards, so students can take the CFP exam without having to go through the normal, lengthier application process. Online students have access to job fairs, internships, networking opportunities, and competitions just like on-campus peers. The program offers six start dates throughout the calendar year, and a whopping 95% of students receive financial aid.

7. Maryville University of Saint Louis

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$28,470 83% 71% 99% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits

The online Bachelor of Science in Financial Services from Maryville University of Saint Louis is designed to help students advance in the financial service industry with a focus on practical experience. The program prepares students for the Securities Industry Essentials exam and allows students to specialize their capstone on a case of their interest. Other student benefits include connecting with a faculty of financial experts dedicated to mentorship, getting a jumpstart on a graduate degree, financial aid, and transfer credit opportunities.

8. Dickinson State University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$7,784 100% 41% 93% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits

Dickinson State University, in Dickinson, North Dakota, has been educating business students since 1927 and continues to reach students all over the country with its IACBE-accredited programs online. The Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance prepares students for careers in commercial banking, financial planning, investment banking, real estate and more. It can be completed fully online in a flexible format to fit the busy schedules of working adults.

9. Missouri State University-Springfield

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$7,588 88% 56% 97% Yes Yes AP Credits

The online Bachelor of Science in Finance degree program from Missouri State University's Springfield campus specifically prepares students to sit for the prestigious Chartered Financial Analyst certification. The program is accredited by the AACSB, with a curriculum that will help students excel in corporate finance or financial services industries. Students can also leverage the career center for help with job placement and job search resources.

10. Northwood University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$28,080 79% 54% 98% Yes Yes AP Credits

Northwood University in Midland, Michigan online Finance program mixes business management with finance to help develop students' entrepreneurial spirit. The ACBSP-accredited curriculum and focus on real-world experience also prepares students for the Series 7 and DFP exams. Qualified students can also complete their graduate education faster with an accelerated BBA/MBA program.

11. Kansas State University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$10,800 95% 65% 88% Yes Yes AP / ACE / NCCRS Credits

The bachelor's degree in Personal Financial Planning program from Kansas State University provides students eligibility to sit for the CFP and Accredited Financial Counselor exam. Taught by the same faculty as the on-campus programs, students from this program historically have an above-average pass-rate with the CFP exam. A 97 percent job placement rate for its K-State's online programs and 50 years of online education experience round out the perks of earning this degree.

12. University of Memphis

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$9,912 85% 53% 97% Yes Yes AP / ACE Credits

The Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance from the University of Memphis is offered fully online and is accredited by the AACSB. This program allows students to fulfill the academic requirements to sit for the CFA or CFP exams and features the same rigorous curriculum as the on-campus program. Other perks of the program are its affordability, 24/7 online tutoring, as well as academic advising support.

13. Texas A & M University-Commerce

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$8,958 43% 43% 91% No Yes AP / NCCRS Credits

Texas A&M University - Commerce has an online Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance that is designed to prepare students for competitive careers in banking, corporate finance, financial analysis, and personal financial planning. The program is AACSB-accredited, prepares students for certification exams, and helps students develop managerial skills with the guidance of accomplished faculty. Students can also take advantage of networking opportunities with industry connections, gain internship experience, join a student organization, and more.

14. University of Minnesota-Crookston

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$12,116 68% 50% 93% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits"

The University of Minnesota - Crookston has been educating online students for more than 25 years, providing them necessary experience for excellent programs like the Bachelor of Science in Finance. This program is accredited by the ACSBP and is geared to give students a well-rounded, diverse education in investments, tax, insurance, estate planning, corporate finance, ethics, and more. Combined with the communication and technology skills, graduates will be highly marketable in the industry.

15. Dallas Baptist University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$30,320 90% 58% 97% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits

The Bachelor of Business Studies in Finance at Dallas Baptist University is focused on a Christ-centered university education - and the same goes for its online programs. The institution has been leading online education since 1998, with a focus on expert faculty and a transformative experience. This program is taught in an asynchronous format with class sizes at an average of 11 to foster personal connections.

16. University of Massachusetts-Amherst

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$16,389 64% 82% 90% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits

University of Massachusetts - Amherst offers an online Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Finance that is AACSB-accredited and geared toward giving students real-world, technical business experiences in corporate finance, financial modeling, investments, bank management, and international finance. Student benefits include guidance from Isenberg College of Business advisors well-rehearsed in online learning, the opportunity to get involved with professional industry organizations to build their network, and more.

17. Metropolitan State University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$8,114 56% 34% 86% No Yes AP / ACE / NCCRS Credits

Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, MN, offers an online Bachelor of Science in Finance that is rooted in financial theory, so students develop sound financial decision-making for their careers. The program also focuses on communication skills and critical thinking to prepare them for careers in corporate finance to personal investment services. Students will be taught by award-winning faculty and have access to resources like academic advising, technology tutoring, the library, and more.

18. Brenau University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$31,084 58% 46% 97% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits

The online Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance at Brenau University in Gainesville, GA, provides students with real-world experience using actual market data and the latest analytics tools. The program is pending accreditation by the ACBSP, and the College of Business and Communication faculty has over 50 years of experience teaching working adult students. Small class sizes promote interaction between colleagues and professors, and students will leave the program as innovators with financial experience.

19. University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$14,358 75% 59% 98% Yes Yes AP Credits

The University of Massachusetts - Dartmouth enables students to earn their online Bachelor of Science in Finance with flexibility of defined assignment due dates. This high-quality, AACSB-accredited program is taught by leading experts in the finance field who help students in developing analytical and adaptable skills. Other benefits for online students include a generous transfer policy, personal advising, online writing center and tutoring, and personalized attention from faculty.

20. University of the Incarnate Word

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$32,576 94% 51% 99% Yes Yes AP / ACE Credits

The accelerated Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in Finance program at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, TX, consists of a broad business administration education, as well as a concentration in finance. This ACBSP-accredited online program boasts a 12:1 student to scholar-to-faculty ratio, as well as 20 years of online education experience. Students can also take advantage of free undergraduate textbooks, no additional fees, reduced tuition rates, and 24/7 online tutoring.

21. Oral Roberts University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$30,070 68% 55% 99% Yes Yes AP / ACE Credits

Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, OK, has a wonderful, fully online Bachelor of Science in Financial Management program that commits to educating students in mind, body, and spirit to set them apart from their competitors in the in-demand financial industry. Students will graduate prepared to lead in personal and corporate finance or continue their education to a graduate program. An academic and student success team supports students throughout their program, as well as an online strategies class to help prepare for online courses.

Online Associate Degrees in Finance

Associate's degrees in finance are available online, often with titles like Associate of Science in Finance or Associate of Applied Science in Finance; sometimes, they may be combined with accounting as well, for an Associate of Applied Science in Finance and Accounting. Like most associate's degree programs, they consist of some general education courses and major-related courses, and usually take around 2 years to complete. Students who've completed an associate's degree program in finance can often transfer this work into a 4-year university to get credit towards a bachelor's degree, if so desired. These programs usually cover the basics of business and finance, and can prepare students for careers in entry-level finance positions, such as bookkeeping or financial clerks.

Online Bachelor's Degrees in Finance

Bachelor's degrees in finance are in particularly high demand, and can be found online under names like Bachelor of Science in Finance, Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance, or Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a Finance concentration. They often function as the minimum level of education needed for management positions within a company. At the bachelor's level, programs may start to have concentrations, and this allows for more specific direction of your course of study. Bachelor's degrees in finance typically require around 4 years to complete, but some schools offer accelerated programs which can be completed faster. Many careers in finance will require a bachelor's degree in finance at minimum for entry-level positions.

Online Master's Degrees in Finance

Master's degrees in the field of finance are both valuable and readily available online. They may go by names such as Master of Science in Finance, Master of Business Administration in Finance, or similar, and usually take between 1.5 and 2 years to complete. To enroll in a master's program, it's necessary to hold a bachelor's degree first, which often must be in business, although not necessarily finance. Master of Science in Finance programs may have further concentrations available, helping students to thoroughly explore niche areas of the field and develop a specialty. One option are so-called '4+1' style programs, which enable students to earn a bachelor's and master's back to back in a shorter time than trying to pursue both alone, which may be advantageous to those just starting their postsecondary education. Master's degrees in finance are strongly preferred for mid-level and senior positions in many companies.

Online Doctoral Degrees in Finance

Degrees at the doctoral level in finance are more difficult to find online, but they do exist. They come in two main types: the Doctor of Business Administration, which is a slightly more professionally oriented program, and a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), which is more academically oriented. Ph.D. programs may be found under different names, such as a Ph.D. in Finance, Ph.D. in Business Administration with a concentration in Finance, or similar. Programs typically take about 4 years to complete, although individual completion times may vary, and are usually centered around a capstone project, or in the case of Ph.D.s, a dissertation. A dissertation is a dedicated piece of original research in the field, which must be defended before a board of professionals. Specialized courses make up the first few years of a doctoral program, while the third year and beyond are almost exclusively dedicated to dissertations. As Ph.D.s are so research based, they tend to be best for those hoping to enter academia, while the DBA is most commonly held by executives and other high level professionals.

Online Certificates in Finance

Certificate programs are non-degree awards and are generally brief and highly specialized. Certificate programs in finance are available online at both the graduate and undergraduate level. Undergraduate certificate programs are usually designed to provide an introduction to the field of finance, and can be used to get started on a career in the industry quickly. Since they don't include general education requirements like degrees do, certificate programs can usually be completed in under a year. The credits from these programs are often set up to easily transfer into associate's or bachelor's degree programs, should a student decide to do so later. The kind of careers in finance obtainable without a degree include insurance sales agents, real estate brokers, and bookkeeping clerks, to name just a few.

Graduate certificate programs are usually specialized, and only available to those who already hold a bachelor's degree. They can, for example, help students to obtain the skills and knowledge necessary to pass certification exams. They also often cover management skills, and specific areas like corporate finance or portfolio management. In some cases, credits from a graduate certificate can be transferred to a master's program later, although this differs from school to school.

Finance Specializations/Concentrations

Finance degrees offered online may or may not have concentration options, depending on the school, but those schools that do offer concentrations tend to have a wide variety of options. Check out the following concentrations below.

  • Financial Analysis - covers securities analysis, financial research, and corporate finance.
  • Financial Planning - prepares students for a career as a financial planner, teaching skills such as asset valuation, taxation, and retirement planning.
  • Investment - designed to teach students how to manage investment portfolios, market analysis, and more.
  • Insurance - specializes in topics like risk assessment, fraud, and underwriting.
  • Real Estate - focuses on property law, salesmanship, and property investment.
  • Wealth Management - covers topics like portfolio management and stock valuation.

It's also sometimes possible to pursue a second major in another area, such as a double major in finance and marketing, where the combination of skills may open the door to new career paths.

Curriculum/Coursework for a Finance Degree

Bachelor's degrees in finance include courses in general business topics, in addition to finance core courses and any concentration courses. Coursework commonly includes the following introductory level topics.

  • Accounting - teaches students about bookkeeping, recording transactions, and presenting this information in a useful way.
  • Finance - shows basic areas of finance, such as financial planning and analysis, budgeting, and long-term investing.
  • Marketing - focuses on concepts like consumer behavior, theory behind marketing strategy, and effects of marketing.
  • Management - includes organizational structure, leadership skills, and management ethics.
  • Economics - consists of basic economic theory, macroeconomics and microeconomics, how economies can grow, and concepts such as supply and demand.

Other finance courses may also be needed, depending on the program. Elective courses available will commonly include upper-level courses in other areas of business, like intermediate or advanced accounting, as well as courses delving into highly specific areas of finance, such as risk management or portfolio management. These may overlap with concentration requirements in some cases. Students will also be expected to complete all of the standard general education requirements, such as writing proficiency, algebra and statistics, and arts and humanities courses.

Difference Between Finance & Accounting Degree Programs

Finance and accounting are closely related fields, with some overlap between. The differences are important, however, and students should consider carefully which degree program would be best for them.

Accounting is a highly specialized field; accountants add up the numbers and present results only. While they may occasionally offer advice on improving these numbers, their advice tends to be limited to general suggestions ('reduce this department's budget by 20%') rather than specific ('invest in this company'). They are constantly observing and collecting data to find out exactly where a company or individual's income stands in relation to expenditures.

Those in finance, on the other hand, look at bigger picture issues, such as a company's historical spending and revenue or their role in the wider economy. In careers like financial planning, professionals use tactics to help individuals work on their investments, looking at things like income, risk aversion, tax, etc. to decide what's the best course for them. Those in the finance industry might also buy and sell investments directly, either to or on behalf of their clients, which accountants almost never do. Finance can be a difficult field, since the consequences of decisions and recommendations can translate to massive quantities of money, for better or worse. Those aiming to work in the industry need to be ready to be decisive.

All said, it's still possible to shift from accounting to finance or vice versa relatively easily, since much of the knowledge and skills needed are shared. Obtaining higher degrees is one option to change fields as this can ensure that those moving between the two are adequately prepared.

How Long Does it Take to Get an Online Bachelor's in Finance?

As with other bachelor's degree programs, most online bachelor's degrees in finance require 120 credits, or about four years to complete, although this time can be shortened in certain situations.

If a student already has some college credits, or an associate's degree, they can often transfer those credits into the new program, cutting up to two years off the completion time. While the amount of transfer credits accepted will vary from school to school, many schools accept between 75 and 90 credits, which is nearly 3 years' worth of credit. Some schools may even offer what are called prior learning assessments, which allow students to obtain college credit for work experience or other forms of non-formalized learning.

Some online schools also offer accelerated course structures, allowing dedicated students to take courses faster and thus complete their graduation requirements quickly. This can also be aided by asynchronous courses, which are prerecorded so students can move through these at their own pace. While completion time can differ depending on your prior education, ultimately it's up to you as a student to determine how long it takes to earn your degree.

Accreditation for Online Bachelor's in Finance Degrees

There are three types of accreditation that online schools may have, and the distinction can be important. The first is national accreditation, where a school is recognized by national organizations as having a valid program. The other is regional accreditation, where a school is recognized by the nearest of 7 regional accrediting agencies. The third is programmatic accreditation.

While nationally accredited schools will often accept credits from regionally accredited schools, the reverse is rarely true, so accreditation can be very important if you have plans to transfer or intend to pursue higher degrees later on. Regionally accredited schools often focus on academic degrees, while nationally accredited schools are almost always geared towards training for specific careers, such as technical schools. Another major difference is that attending a school with regional accreditation is essential to obtaining federal financial aid. National accreditation is not inherently inferior; rather, it's simply used for different purposes.

Programmatic accreditation is for specific programs offered by a school. The programs are assessed for quality and alignment with industry skills and knowledge, ensuring the degree will be respected in the field. For finance degrees, programmatic accreditation can be obtained from the following organizations:

Finance Licensure & Certification

Certain careers within finance may require licensure. Rules for licensing vary from state to state in most cases, but insurance adjusters, securities brokers, and investment advisors are some financial professionals who need a license to practice. Some of these licenses, such as for brokerage, require a company to act as a sponsor, so they may not be a prerequisite for employment in that case. Always consult the laws in your state to determine what kind of licensure you may need.

There are many different finance oriented certifications out there, many of which are highly specialized. Some of the most common include the Chartered Financial Analyst credential, the Certified Financial Planner credential, and the Chartered Financial Consultant designation.

The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)

This credential is offered by the CFA Institute, and is perhaps the most well known as it requires the passage of three different exams to receive full certification. Applicants will need to hold an undergraduate degree, be in the final year of a bachelor's degree program in finance, or hold work experience in the field. They should possess an international passport, complete work experience in the industry, and provide 2-3 letters of reference from professionals. CFA credentials are primarily used by those performing portfolio management and investment analysis. While continuing education is recommended, it is not required. Membership in the CFA Institute must be renewed every year to remain chartered.

The Certified Financial Planner (CFP)

This credential, offered by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, is another significant credential in the industry. To become a CFP, it is necessary to hold a bachelor's degree (in any field), complete the required education through a registered program, and then pass the CFP exam. Applicants also need to accrue 6,000 hours of work experience, or 4,000 hours through a formal apprenticeship program, as well as agree to the ethics requirements and submit to a background check to prove it. The certification will need to be renewed every two years, and requires 30 credit hours of continuing education, with at least 2 hours of ethics credits, in order to be maintained.

The Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC)

Offered by the American College of Financial Services, this designation is structured around an educational program of 8 courses, designed to teach critical aspects of financial consulting and planning. Additional requirements include 3 years (6,000 hours) of work experience in the field, and passage of the ChFC exam after completing the course. To maintain certification, an individual will need to reaffirm their commitment to the ethics requirements each year, as well as pay annual membership fees, and complete 30 credit hours of continuing education every 2 years, including 1 credit hour of ethics courses.

Finance Career Information

There are a large number of careers out there which a finance degree can lead to, including:

  • Financial Analysts
  • Personal Financial Advisors
  • Financial Managers
  • Finance Specialist
  • Insurance Underwriters
  • Insurance Adjusters
  • Real Estate Brokers
  • Financial Brokers

A select few of these are highlighted below.

How to Become a Financial Analyst

Financial analysts look at data to predict the performance of stocks, bonds, and other forms of investments, providing this information to companies and other organizations to aid in decision making. They can also analyze risk to determine insurance rates and help minimize losses. The analysis process involves the use of math and statistics in combination with historical data, often using computer systems to do so, and thus skill in these areas is important.

This work is usually done in office buildings and financial institutions, on a fairly normal schedule. Financial analysts are usually required to have a bachelor's degree in finance, accounting, or certain math-related fields. Holding a certification such as the Chartered Financial Analyst can improve odds of finding employment, and once hired, it may be necessary to obtain a securities broker license from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). Broker licenses are only needed for those in positions where they may be directly selling stocks or investments rather than analyzing them.

The median annual income for financial analysts as of may 2019 was $81,590, according to the BLS. Job growth among financial analysts was projected to be 5% over the ten year period between 2019 and 2029, slightly faster than the national average. Advancements in data technology are part of the reasons for this growth, but employment of financial analysts is highly tied to the state of the economy. Employment is highest in the northeast, in states like New York and Massachusetts, although there are still many positions in large states like California, Texas, and Florida.

How to Become a Personal Financial Advisor

Personal financial advisors consult with clients, providing them with advice and suggestions on how best to handle their investments, savings, and insurance. They can also assist in planning for specific goals or life events, such as college savings or retirement funds, and provide reports on how the investments are progressing.

Personal financial advisors usually work in offices, although they may occasionally need to travel. A bachelor's degree is typically required, with a preference for degrees in accounting, finance, or business. Since they work face to face with clients, interpersonal skills are highly important, and mathematical skills are very relevant to the actual research and calculations.

Master's degrees can improve the odds of employment even further, as can certifications such as Certified Financial Planner. On-the-job training is often a requirement for new hires in the field, allowing them to learn about handling portfolios and build a list of clients in their first year. As with financial analysts, personal financial advisors who directly buy, sell, or trade stocks or provide specific investment advice may need certain licenses in order to operate, such as the FINRA broker license, and register with either state regulators or the federal Securities and Exchange Commission.

The median annual salary for personal financial advisors was $87,850 in May 2019, according to the BLS, and many personal financial advisors working for larger firms can see annual bonuses based on performance. Growth in employment for personal financial advisors is expected to be 4% over the ten year period from 2019 to 2029, as fast as the national average. Growth is driven by the increasing shift from pensions to Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs), although automated, computer driven recommendations have been a moderating force on growth. States with high concentrations of personal financial advisors include New York, California, Florida, Texas, and Pennsylvania, although other states such as North Carolina and Illinois also employ large numbers.

Career Advancement in Finance

Finance is an industry where certifications play a major role in promoting individuals to higher positions. As noted above, many of these certifications also require several years' of experience or additional study, so the rate at which a financial professional can climb the corporate ladder is somewhat limited. Depending on the exact area of finance you work in, certifications such as CFA or CFP can help you find higher level jobs. For many of these certifications, continuing education credits are essential for maintaining the credential. Due to the way laws governing taxes and financial transactions can change from year to year, it's often advantageous even for those without certifications to obtain these continuing education courses.

Because of finance's overlap with other areas of business like accounting, obtaining certain licenses, such as Certified Public Account (CPA) for financial planners or brokerage sale licensing can also be beneficial.

Returning to school for higher degrees can also help with career advancement. A master's in finance or an MBA can help to demonstrate commitment to the field and a desire to achieve more, and these programs tend to focus on leadership and management skills that more senior positions, such as financial managers, require. The highest position in the field of finance for most companies is the Chief Financial Officer, or CFO, an executive title for the person who manages the finances for an entire corporation. Like other executives, CFOs are extremely well compensated, but also face large amounts of stress and intense competition. CFOs often have a decade or more of experience in the field, and may hold these higher degrees and certifications.

Financial Aid and Scholarship Information for Finance Degrees

The main source of financial aid for most students is from the federal government, in the form of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. Students attending colleges accredited by the US Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation may be able to get financial aid by filling out the FAFSA forms, depending on their situation. Students will need to provide their social security number (and those of their parents, if still a dependent), your and/or your parents' income tax information, your driver's license number (if you have one), schools you may attend, and information on any savings, investments, or other forms of assets or untaxed income such as child support. Male students will also need to ensure that they are registered for the Selective Service System in order to receive aid. Once the information has been gathered and put into the form, it will be reviewed and determinations of need will be made, which are returned in the form of the Student Aid Report (SAR). The SAR will list any types of assistance the government deems you eligible for like grants (such as the Pell Grants), federal work-study programs, subsidized or unsubsidized loans, and other forms of support, such as aid for military families.

Additionally, the SAR is commonly used by colleges and other organizations to award scholarships, particularly those which are need-based as opposed to merit-based, so filling out the FAFSA correctly is very important. Scholarships often have restrictions as to who is eligible for the award; students may need to be of a particular race or gender, meet certain academic minimums in areas like GPA, be pursuing particular majors, or attending certain schools. Scholarships may also be available based on your or your parents' membership in certain groups, such as the military or a union. While you should strive to apply for as many scholarships as possible, you should always check to make sure you're eligible for the reward and that it will be usable for the online program you intend to take.

For working adults, it's also sometimes possible to obtain assistance from your employer, particularly if the degree you're pursuing will help you to become a better employee. Reach out to your employer's HR department to find out if it has any degree assistance programs available. Receiving this type of aid may require you to report grades to the company and maintain a certain level of progress in order to continue on. Professional organizations in the field may also offer aid to students who have expressed interest in the career.

For finance, the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) offers several scholarships for those planning to go into state or local government finance. The Association of Latino Professionals for America (ALFPA) also offers scholarships to students of Latino or Hispanic heritage who are majoring in areas such as finance and accounting. State and local organizations may offer scholarships too, such as the Minnesota Association for Financial Professionals (MNAFP), which offers scholarships to finance students attending in-state schools such as the University of Minnesota. Scholarships can be found all over, so be as thorough in your search as you can!

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