Despite the bad rap the financial industry has received in recent years, planning for a career in finance still remains a smart proposition. In fact, issues plaguing the industry today only emphasize the current need for highly educated financial professionals to keep things on track. As a result, choosing to earn a degree in finance could lead to a rather lucrative career upon graduation.
Like marketing, finance is typically considered to be a specialized area of business administration. It is also a field that can be specialized in or studied independently via online finance courses. An academic career in finance will provide you with skills and knowledge to effectively manage money.
Finance specialists are tasked with understanding and forecasting the value of money at a given moment in time. We use this skill in our daily lives when we budget our spending or, say, fund a retirement plan. The profession is also key for businesses and corporations that have far more complex financial needs than the average individual or family.
In addition to a student's core curriculum in finance, there are several general subject areas that could benefit budding financial specialists, like psychology and communication. There are also many courses designed specifically for finance majors. Below are some of these courses that you can find at colleges and universities throughout the country:
- Business Finance
- Banking and the Financial System
- Financial Theory and Analysis
- Corporate Financial Management
- Entrepreneurial Finance
- Managerial Economics
- Capital Markets and Investments
- Management of Financial Risk
Depending on your interests, there are several key areas to specialize in within the field of finance. Finance should never be considered a "one size fits all" field. Each individual or entity deals with money in very different ways. Three of the more general specializations are corporate finance, personal finance and public finance.
A corporate financial specialist will typically work with businesses and corporations to manage their overall financial picture, or even just a small aspect of it, depending on the size of the institution. Personal financial specialists will work with consumers and individual clients to advise them on how to optimally structure their finances. A public financial specialist is an expert on financial management for government institutions.
Finance, like other business-related fields, tends to be a specialization within a larger degree pathway, such as business economics and business administration. There are opportunities, however, to study finance as an independent field at many colleges and universities, as well as through online courses. Certificates in finance are also available.
At the bachelor's degree level, students can choose to major in finance directly. The resulting degree would be a Bachelor of Science in Finance. Because the field is largely analytical and numbers-oriented, the field is considered to be a science and not an art.
Graduate degrees in the field are typically represented as a specialization within a Master's of Business Administration (MBA) program. Doctoral candidates will receive a Doctor of Philosophy in Finance upon successful completion of a Ph.D. program in the field. Earning a Ph.D. in the field is generally suitable only for those who wish to take on a research or educational role.
Ideal Candidates for Finance
Candidates best suited for a career in finance are those with strong analytical and decision-making skills. Being able to advise third parties on the best way to manage their money can take a lot of courage and preparation. It also requires expert communication skills, since finance can often be a touchy subject. In the end, one wrong move or slip of the tongue could mean significant financial losses for your client or employer, or worse, the end of your career in the field.
Today, the demand for financial specialists remains particularly high. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job growth for financial analysts over the course of this decade is projected at 23 percent, or faster than average. Employment opportunities for personal financial advisors is expected to grow by 32 percent between 2010-2020. Median salaries for both career pathways was calculated at roughly $65,000 – $75,000 per year.
Finance remains an essential component of the national and global economy. Career candidates in the field of finance must possess several distinct skills as they relate to the management and analysis of money and its value at a particular time. If your long-term career goals involve working with money and contributing to the financial success of both yourself and those you work for, earning a degree in finance is a sure way to start.