If you’re having a tough time choosing between a general business major and a finance major, your struggle is understandable. The career fields of business and finance are so closely connected that the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) categorizes the jobs within them as a single occupational group. With such a large overlap when it comes to college curricula and career prospects, these two degree programs can be difficult to differentiate. Among the most significant distinctions between studying business and studying finance are how specialized your degree is and what your future job prospects will look like.
Degree of Specialization
A school of business usually offers a number of different programs of study. A Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) or Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Finance degree is one of the more specialized educational options for undergraduate business students. Like a Bachelor of Accountancy or other focused bachelor’s degree program, it still includes some core coursework in the basics of other fields of business. However, this major is more specialized than a business management or business administration major.
While students pursuing a general business degree will take finance courses, they don’t focus on the subject specifically. Instead, they devote their time to a balanced blend of studies in business law, marketing, operations management, organizational behavior and other subjects. Classes for finance majors are more likely to revolve around finance concepts and skills. They might include financial markets, investments, corporate finance and financial statement analysis.
A business administration major might have the option to specialize in finance or in another concentration such as accounting or marketing. Finance majors may also get to pursue a specialization, but those specializations are often narrower than one would typically find in a business administration degree program. Specialization options for bachelor’s in finance students might include wealth management, investments, real estate or preparation for a Master of Science in Finance degree.
Another difference between finance and in general business degrees is the amount of math coursework required. While business students can often get away with only basic college algebra and introductory or business calculus, finance is a “math-focused business major.”
Job Opportunities for Business and Finance Graduates
Is specialization a good thing or a bad thing when it comes to finding a job? The answer is difficult to pinpoint and largely depends on the type of employer you want to work for and the role you want to have. There is always the risk that, if you earn a degree that is too specialized, your education may not be versatile enough for you to get certain jobs you may want. This possibility is especially pertinent to jobs in companies in which work responsibilities are not highly compartmentalized and one employee may need to fill several job functions. On the other hand, if your education is too broad, employers might feel that you don’t have enough depth in a complex subject area like finance to add value to their organization. If you have a business administration degree but are applying for a job that requires expertise in finance, your prospective employer may feel that you would need far more on-the-job training than the company is willing to provide.
This reality certainly doesn’t mean that neither degree will get you a job, but instead, that neither major is intrinsically a better choice than the other. That said, although both of these scenarios certainly exist, studies have found that finance and other math-focused business majors, like accounting, have some benefits over a general business degree. General business majors have a greater chance of unemployment or underemployment as well as lower salaries than their peers who majored in finance, The Washington Post reported.
However, there is a great deal of similarity between the jobs open to graduates with a business degree and ones open to finance majors. The BLS lists both business and finance as acceptable degrees for a number of financial specialist roles, including budget analyst, insurance underwriter, loan officer, personal financial advisor and tax collector.
Other finance jobs, like financial analyst and financial examiner, more often require a finance degree or a background in accounting, economics or even math. However, a finance degree is less likely to help you get into management, marketing or human resources.