Financial Degree Program Overviews

Apr 24, 2020

Essential Information

Several financial degree programs are available at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Earning an 2-year associate's degree in finance or financial services, for example, can train students in accounting and bookkeeping. A 4-year bachelor's program provides more advanced instruction and include management training, and can even be found online. Associate's degrees and bachelor's degrees require a GED or high school diploma and submission of SAT or ACT scores in order to enroll. Bachelor's programs prefer students with strong analytical, quantitative, and computer skills, as well.

Finance master's programs often focus on research, with students choosing a concentration, like corporate finance or quantitative finance. Doctoral degree programs are also research-intensive, and they're typically designed for aspiring financial researchers or university professors. Master's programs look for students with a bachelor's degree in a math-intensive field. Doctoral candidates must have a bachelor's or master's degree with a strong math component.

Associate of Arts in Financial Services

An associate's degree program in financial services provides students with a basic overview of financial institutions, the products and services they offer and their value to the economy. Candidates study a wide range of business topics such as commercial and consumer credit management, investment analysis, account and debt management, public relations, and customer service. Financial services associate's degree programs focus on basic business and economic concepts. Coursework may cover the following:

  • Business finance
  • Micro-economics principles
  • Introductory accounting
  • Business communications
  • Business statistics

Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance

Finance majors examine the role money plays in businesses, government agencies, communities, nations, and the global economy. Graduates are qualified for various financial positions in real estate, corporate finance, banking, investment management and financial services. Students pursuing a bachelor's degree in finance study a broad range of financial topics, including acquisitions and mergers, fund management, interest rates, financial forecasting, security trading, financial risk management, government policy, capital structure, and security issuance. Classes may include:

  • Quantitative business techniques
  • Price theory
  • Money and banking
  • Financial management and security analysis
  • Business policy
  • Management information systems

Master of Science in Finance

The master's in finance program focuses on the academic foundations of finance and quantitative methods of fiscal management. These programs can take 2-3 years. Graduate students acquire a strong conceptual understanding of finance and hone their analytical skills as they prepare for managerial careers in business, government, and the not-for-profit sector. The finance master's curriculum builds on a bachelor's or master's degree in business administration. Coursework may include the following:

  • Value creation
  • Derivatives and risk management
  • Global markets
  • Corporate management and financial intermediation
  • Fixed income securities
  • Controllership

Doctor of Philosophy in Finance

Doctoral finance programs can take 5-8 years and are designed to build the skills required for research-related, academic positions in financial economics. Students working toward a Ph.D. in Finance receive in-depth instruction in the configuration of financial markets and institutions, statistical and quantitative analysis methods, mathematical modeling techniques, advanced econometrics, and applied research. Doctoral students in finance programs study a wide variety of financial subjects, including asset pricing and valuation, market fluctuations, and the structure of financial intermediaries. Courses might cover:

  • Probability theory
  • Statistical inference
  • Microeconomic analysis
  • Econometric methods
  • Financial markets
  • Corporate and empirical finance theory

Popular Career Options

Students holding an associate's degree in financial services are prepared to seek entry-level bookkeeper, accounting assistant or billing clerk positions with various financial services businesses, such as banks, credit card companies, insurance agencies, stock brokerages, and consumer finance companies. A bachelor's degree is the minimum requirement for many finance-related positions, including financial advisors, analysts, counselors and managers.

Master's or doctorate degrees in finance are specialized degrees for individuals with specific career interests in the areas of financial management and applied financial research. Graduates are prepared to work at public and private organizations in a wide variety of advanced financial positions. Graduates could also seek positions in academia.

Continuing Education Information

Personal financial advisers with a bachelor's degree and three years of related work experience may become a Certified Financial Planner, or CFP, by passing a comprehensive examination. Financial analysts with a bachelor's degree and four years of relevant work experience can earn Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) certification by passing three examinations administered by the CFA Institute.

Employment Outlook Salary Info

A Doctor of Philosophy in Finance is an academic degree designed for individuals interested in scholarly research and an academic career; almost all graduates work in academic institutions. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS,, annual median earnings in May 2019 for postsecondary business teachers, including finance instructors, was $87,200. In addition, many college professors earn significant supplementary compensation from research, consulting, and writing for publication.

An Associate of Arts in Financial Services, a Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance, a Master of Science in Finance, and a Doctor of Philosophy in Finance all prepare students for various finance-related jobs in many different positions. In addition to finding a variety of different jobs, bachelor's holders can also become certified to increase their employability without earning higher degrees.

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