Finance Degree vs. Accounting Degree (2024)

A career in finance can be exciting and rewarding. But many people who want to study the field of finance in college often wonder which degree to pursue: a finance or an accounting degree. Both deal with numbers and analyzing large volumes of data. Also, both can provide an opportunity to work for different financial institutions, such as banks, brokerage firms, insurance companies, as well as the opportunity to be self-employed. Finance, however, is a broader and more comprehensive field of study, where accounting is a subset of finance.

To better understand the differences between a finance versus accounting degree, here is an outline of what finance professionals and accountants do, along with an overview of several common career choices, median salaries, and some of the main similarities and differences between finance and accounting careers. Students who are interested in pursuing a career in finance can consider earning anonline bachelor’s in finance.

Finance Degree vs. Accounting Degree (1)

Finance Professionals

What do finance professionals do?

Finance professionals analyze financial data and provide advice to businesses or people regarding investments and how to best spend and allocate their financial resources. They advise owners and managers about making investments, growing their revenue, and appraising the value of their company.

Types of careers:Individuals who pursue a career in finance can work as financial advisors, financial analysts, financial managers, and budget analysts.

Median salaries:The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports the annual median wage for all business and financial occupations is $69,820. The annual median salary for financial advisors across the U.S. is $87,850, while financial analysts make an annual salary of $85,660. The annual median salary for financial managers is $129,890, and the annual median salary for budget analysts is $76,540, according to the BLS.


What do accountants do?

Accountants collect and review financial records on a daily basis, from all types of accounting books and ledgers, to tax returns and beyond. They are responsible for making sure the financial statements of individuals and organizations are accurate and comply with all laws and regulations. They estimate the costs of operation and ensure that taxes are paid, processes are optimized, and that an organization understands the impact of its financial transactions.

Types of careers:Most professionals in accounting work as accountants or auditors.

Median salary:According to the BLS, accountants and auditors across the U.S. make an annual median salary of $71,550.

Finance vs Accounting: Similarities

For those considering a finance versus accounting degree, it can be important to understand the similarities between the jobs. The following commonalities are meant to be a guide and are not always applicable to, and uniform among, all jobs and regions.

  • Both degrees can provide a path to a finance career. Although a finance degree is broader, many companies employ finance professionals who are accounting majors.
  • Both careers deal with numbers and data as the primary sources of information to make their statements and reach their conclusions.
  • Both careers enable professionals to work with a wide range of clients and organizations in finance, business, and other industries.
  • Both careers can allow professionals to advise senior management on financial transactions and decisions.
  • Both degrees can allow individuals to pursue additional certifications and degrees.

Finance vs Accounting: Differences

Students and professionals who are debating between a finance versus accounting degree can take into account the differences between the roles. These differences are summarized below and are meant to be a guide. They are not always applicable to, and uniform among, all jobs and regions.

  • Finance professionals usually analyze financial data to plan the best way to source and allocate funds. Accountants collect and report past and present financial data on a daily basis to ensure that expenditures are in line with a company’s performance.
  • Finance professionals are largely interested in future investments and study financial records and the market to best inform broader financial strategies. Accountants focus on operations, transactions, and processes to make sure books are balanced and a company is maximizing its resources.
  • Accountants play an important role in ensuring taxes are paid and regulatory requirements are met. Additionally, some finance professionals, such as financial managers, can have more power in the decision-making process and can use information provided by accountants to make decisions.
  • Accountants can become CPAs, or certified public accountants — professionals who can represent clients before the Internal Revenue Service and file with the Securities and Exchange Commission the audited financial reports that are required for every company. Finance degree holders can also take the tests to become a CPA; however, most states require heavy coursework in accounting to qualify, which many finance degree holders lack.
  • Finance professionals deal with aspects such as return on investment (ROI) and risk management, and accountants focus on items such as balance sheets and income statements.
  • The field of finance offers more career choices but also less predictability. In some cases, careers in finance might offer higher pay. Careers in accounting can offer more predictable and stable work but less pay in many cases.
  • Careers in finance can be demanding with longer hours, while careers in accounting can require fewer hours, except during certain time periods, such as tax season.

The differences between finance professionals and accountants are summarized below.

Finance Professionals

  • Plan the best way to source and allocate funds
  • Focus on the analysis of market trends to inform strategies
  • Have a good deal of decision-making power
  • Can pursue a career as a financial analyst, financial adviser, investment banker, or even a stockbroker


  • Focus on operations, financial transactions, and overall financial processes
  • Collect and report financial data on a daily basis
  • Have career options including specialized areas of accounting, auditing, and taxation

Finance Degree vs. Accounting Degree

Careers in both finance and accounting have several things in common, such as a strong focus on crunching numbers and analyzing data. However, there are also notable differences between them, as demonstrated above.

When choosing a finance versus accounting degree, students and professionals should keep the listed information above in mind and think about what is important to them.

For instance, due to the more structured nature of accounting, working as an accountant is usually a more stable pursuit than finance. If individuals want to have the flexibility of changing careers down the line, a degree in finance can provide the opportunity to do so. If the goal is to gain stronger personal wealth management skills, greater decision-making power, or more influence on a company’s overall financial strategy, a degree in finance could be the better choice. If individuals would rather focus on current financial operations without worrying about where a company’s money will go, accounting could be a better fit.

Making a decision between a finance degree versus accounting degree all depends on personal preferences and priorities. Both a finance degree and an accounting degree, however, can provide a solid basis for growth in the dynamic financial industry.

Pursue a Degree in Financial Services

Individuals who are deciding whether to pursue a finance versus accounting degree should weigh the similarities and differences of each field’s career options and degree choices.

If you are interested in pursuing a career in financial services, consider exploringMaryville University’s online bachelor’s in finance degree. By earning a degree in finance, you can learn the skills to succeed as a finance professional.

Now that you better understand the intricacies of a finance versus accounting degree, you can also discover potentialfinancial services careers for bachelor’s degree graduates.

Recommended Reading

How to Become a Financial Analyst

The Ultimate Guide to Going Back to School for Accounting

Why Major in Finance?


Accounting Tools, “The Difference Between Financial and Managerial Accounting”

Houston Chronicle, “The Differences Between Financial Accounting & Management Accounting”

The Blueprint, “How Managerial and Financial Accounting Differ”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, Accountants and Auditors

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, Budget Analysts

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, Business and Financial Occupations

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, Financial Advisors

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, Financial Analysts

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, Financial Managers

Finance Degree vs. Accounting Degree (2024)


Which degree is more useful accounting or finance? ›

Also, both can provide an opportunity to work for different financial institutions, such as banks, brokerage firms, insurance companies, as well as the opportunity to be self-employed. Finance, however, is a broader and more comprehensive field of study, where accounting is a subset of finance.

Is accounting less competitive than finance? ›

The finance industry is more competitive than accounting, so it's harder to get a job in finance. Higher risk of job loss. If you choose a career path in accounting and your company goes bankrupt or closes down, you can find another job easily because there are many companies that need accountants.

How do I know if accounting is right for me? ›

Examine your interests and skills to determine which accounting career resonates with you the most. Consider areas where you excel—like financial analysis, problem-solving, or attention to detail. This will help you choose a path that aligns with your natural abilities.

Which requires more math finance or accounting? ›

Accounting is more involved, with strict sets of arithmetic rules governing it. Finance requires an understanding of economics as well as some accounting. However, it does depend on your interest and skills.

What pays better, accounting or finance? ›

Salary expectations

In an analysis of the top-paid business majors for US graduates, NACE (the National Association of Colleges and Employers) reported that starting salaries for accounting majors in the US averaged US$57,511, while finance majors started at a slightly higher salary of US$58,464.

Is finance harder than accounting? ›

While both finance and accounting can be difficult majors, accounting is considered more difficult because it requires more discipline and a lot of math. Accounting is more complex because it relies on precise sets of arithmetic principles.

Is there a decline in accounting majors? ›

Fewer people are graduating with accounting degrees, according to a new report, although most programs are optimistic about enrollment. A survey from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) found that bachelor's degree completions dropped 7.8% between the academic years of 2021 and 2022.

Is accounting a declining career? ›

- According to the AICPA, there is a 33% decline in first-time candidates taking the CPA exam. - In 2022, there were 1.6 million Accountants/Auditors in the profession. - Of the 1.6 million, 300,000 left the profession and only 47,000 entered it. Jobs are increasing, Accountants are decreasing.

How difficult is a finance degree? ›

Finance degrees are generally considered to be challenging. In a program like this, students gain exposure to new concepts, from financial lingo to mathematical problems, so there can be a learning curve.

Why is no one going into accounting? ›

The 150-hour requirement is seen as a barrier to entry. Accounting is perceived as boring. Compensation is lower than for other majors such as finance and technology.

What is the #1 rule in accounting? ›

Rule 1: Debit all expenses and losses, credit all incomes and gains. This golden accounting rule is applicable to nominal accounts. It considers a company's capital as a liability and thus has a credit balance. As a result, the capital will increase when gains and income get credited.

What is the golden rule for accountant? ›

The three golden rules of accounting are (1) debit all expenses and losses, credit all incomes and gains, (2) debit the receiver, credit the giver, and (3) debit what comes in, credit what goes out. These rules are the basis of double-entry accounting, first attributed to Luca Pacioli.

Should I major in accounting if I'm bad at math? ›

You don't need to be a math whiz to be an accountant. Your not going to use Algebra or Calculus to do the job. Attention to detail and being meticulous are more important. Software these days takes care of a lot of the mistakes done years ago on paper.

Is a finance degree worth it? ›

Finance degree jobs can provide relatively high pay, stability, opportunities for advancement and consistent demand projections. Careers in finance may also offer flexibility for employees by allowing them to work remotely or in hybrid environments.

What is the difference between accounting and finance degree? ›

Accounting is a narrower field that focuses on professional processes to manage numbers and accounts, while finance uses the same information to analyze potential growth patterns in order to strategize company finances. Although these fields sound similar and utilize similar skills, they have their differences.

Is accounting the most useful degree? ›

An accounting degree lays the foundation for many careers in business, including entrepreneurial ones. Once you gain experience and establish business contacts, you may consider starting your own business. Whether in tax accounting or consulting, you can pursue several avenues with an accounting background.

Is an accounting degree still useful? ›

An accounting degree opens doors to many career paths in finance, government, and technology. Accountants' median annual wage was $78,000, with those holding a master's degree possibly earning 10 to 20% more.

Is accounting one of the best majors? ›

An accounting degree is a solid foundation for numerous career roles, including auditing, certified public accounting, business analysis, financial management, and more.

Which accounting degree is best? ›

PhD and Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) in accounting are both doctoral degrees in accounting and simultaneously the highest degrees in accounting. These two degrees take a good amount of work—around four to five years—to complete and are considered a big accomplishment for accountants.

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