Associate's and bachelor's degrees are available in the fields of economics and finance. Students who want to pursue a bachelor's degree can major in either financial management or economics, which both can lead to careers in banking. Both programs, which last from 2 to 4 years, require a high school diploma or an equivalent as well as SAT or ACT scores. Some programs also require letters of recommendation.
Associate of Arts in Economics
An Associate of Arts in Economics program helps students understand how economics work on a federal, state and business level. Most loan officer careers require a post-secondary degree, although some banking professionals may specialize with experience and on-the-job training. An associate's degree program in economics qualifies graduates for entry-level work in most economics and financial administration fields.
Those enrolled in an associate's degree program learn general education subjects such as the humanities in addition to courses specific to economic theory. The following are some of the core courses relating to economics:
- Business law
- Principles of economics
- Global economy
Bachelor of Science in Financial Management
A bachelor's degree program in financial management teaches prospective loan officers the key tools needed to collect and analyze numbers related to an individual's or group's budget, payroll and expenses. Due to the nature of the program, enrollees not only learn about money and numbers, but also about leadership, business protocol and communications. These skills contribute to successful management in all sectors. Other materials, such as letters of recommendation, may be requested by the school for admission.
Degree programs in financial management tend to focus less on macroeconomics and more on avenues of taxation, investment and portfolio management--all of which are useful for successful loan officers. The following are typical courses in such a program:
- Tax law
- Investment management
Bachelor of Science in Economics
An economics bachelor's degree program teaches core principles relevant to the role of a loan officer. A broad overview of economics prepares graduates for employment with banks, credit unions, private loan companies and the government. Educational prerequisites may include a high school diploma, test score submission and prior coursework in relevant fields such as advanced mathematics or statistics. Curriculum covers topics in communication, mathematics and science in addition to career-specific classes for:
- Global markets
- Corporate organization
Continuing Education Information
Graduates with an associate's degree in economics can continue on to a 4-year bachelor's degree program in economics, accounting or financial management. Professionals may choose to obtain certification from professional financial organizations to keep skills and knowledge current, as well as to enhance their credibility and employment prospects.
Keeping current on contemporary issues such as global trade is important for those working in finance. Professional certification is offered through several national organizations, including the Association for Financial Professionals. Some employers may sponsor employees to take courses at colleges and universities to keep up-to-speed in the finance industry.
Graduates with a bachelor's degree in economics can go on to pursue a graduate degree in the field. They may also choose to complete a specialized certificate program through a school, or seek certification from a private organization--for example, Loan Review Certification offered through the Bank Administration Institute. With experience, loan officers advance to supervisory or managerial positions.
Career Outlook and Salary Information
Job growth among loan officers is expected to increase at the average rate of 8% from 2014-2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Salaries vary depending on the specific job; however, in 2015, the BLS reported the median annual salary of loan officers as $63,430 with the top ten percent earning an annual salary of more than $130,630 (www.bls.gov).
Individuals interested in becoming loan officers, where they will evaluate and recommend the approval or denial of loan applications, can earn associate's or bachelor's degrees in the fields of economics or finance. Keeping up on professional development through personal study or through company programs is suggested.