The field of finance has a reputation for offering excellent earning potential. If you want to work in this profitable industry, you might be eager to complete your education so that you can get your career started. You should expect to spend a minimum of two years of full-time study on your finance education, but for the best career opportunities, you might need to invest four to five years or more in your education.
Two-Year Degrees in Finance
Students who decide early on that they want to work in a finance role can pursue the degree path even at a junior college or community college. These schools often offer associate’s degrees in finance, which can typically be completed in two years if you study full-time. In an associate’s degree program in finance, you will complete general education coursework in a breadth of studies, core classes in different business disciplines and foundational coursework specific to your major. You might take business classes like Introduction to Business, Business Orientation, Principles of Management, Economics and Business Law. Often, accounting courses, including studies in financial and managerial types of accounting, are part of the curriculum. Your finance courses might include general Financial Management, Securities and Investments and Personal Financial Management.
A two-year college program serves as an introduction to the field. You won’t be an expert in finance, by any means, but you will have a strong foundation to build on if you transfer to a four-year school or the basic education you need to get your first paraprofessional job in financial services. Unfortunately, if you end your education after earning your associate’s degree, your career opportunities in the field of finance will be very limited. You need at least a bachelor’s degree for most business and finance jobs, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Without that four-year degree, your career options might be limited to administrative support roles in financial services, such as bank teller or financial clerk. These roles perform different functions than true finance professional roles, and their salaries are considerably smaller.
It’s no surprise that prospective finance students consider the community college option a smart investment. Finishing your first two years at community college before transferring to a four-year school could save you thousands of dollars, The Washington Post reported.
Four-Year Finance Degrees
If you’re serious about your finance career, you don’t want to settle for the limited positions available to you with an associate’s degree. Studying for just two more years to earn a bachelor’s degree can give you many more lucrative and prestigious opportunities. With a four-year degree, you can move into a variety of business and finance roles, including financial analyst, financial examiner and personal financial advisor, the BLS reported.
A bachelor’s degree in finance includes all of the introductory coursework you would find in an associate’s degree, plus more varied core business classes and more in-depth studies in finance. At the bachelor’s degree level, for example, students tend to more comprehensive business courses than those pursuing an associate’s degree only. Rather than a single introductory economics course, students will take classes devoted to both microeconomics and macroeconomics. Classes like Introduction to Business Information Systems, Strategic Management and Business Policy, Supply Chain Management and Principles of Marketing might round out your general business studies. You will also gain a deeper knowledge of the finance field through courses in international finance, corporate finance, intermediate financial management, portfolio analysis and financial statement analysis.
To maximize your future career potential, take advantage of a financial internship during your college experience. This experience allows you to test-drive your intended career, gain experience and begin networking while earning college credit and possibly money.
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Graduate Options in Finance
While not needed to get started in a finance career, a master’s degree can certainly be valuable in this field. If you are looking into graduate school, there are two paths you could pursue – and choosing one degree over the other could save you a year of studies.
The Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree has long been considered the standard graduate program for students in any business career field. A traditional MBA degree takes two years of full-time study to complete. A more recent educational option is the specialized Master of Finance degree. This program is shorter than the typical MBA program and often takes one year to complete, according to U.S. News & World Report.
Studies in MBA and Master of Finance programs include graduate-level coursework in finance, but they have a different degree of specialization. MBA programs have a broader scope and include studies in other areas of business administration but allow students to declare a concentration in finance or another field. The Master of Finance degree has a narrower focus that often appeals to employers who are seeking candidates with more advanced and specialized technical skills.
The actual time it takes to get your MBA can vary considerably. Some ambitious students pursue an intense one-year accelerated program, while part-time students often take up to four years to finish. More than 58 percent of MBA students go to school part-time.