Banking & Financial Services: Diploma, Associate & Online Classes

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What kind of job can you get with a diploma or associate's degree in banking and financial services? Find out degree program requirements, online options and info on courses and banking and financial services training programs.
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Studying Banking and Finance: Programs at a Glance

The banking and financial services industry employs people in a range of occupations. Job opportunities are concentrated in the real estate, investment, insurance and banking segments. Financial services professionals process loan paperwork, manage customer accounts and administer cash in banking environments. Employers seek applicants who possess a background in finance, strong computer skills and integrity.

The diploma or certificate program in banking and financial services offers a basic education in accounting and business mathematics. The associate's degree program delivers training in financial concepts and transactions. Career paths for both programs are similar; higher-level positions usually require a bachelor's or master's degree. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals poor job growth for some positions. New account clerks could expect -2 to 2% growth and credit authorizers could see 3 to 9% growth over the 2010-2020 decade.

Diploma Associate's
Who is this degree for? People seeking entry-level support positions in the banking and financial services industries Individuals who wish to pursue a financial services career that might lead to higher paying positions or advancement opportunities
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary) - New account clerk ($31,000)*
- Statement clerk ($33,000)*
- Credit authorizer ($34,000)*
Career options are similar to the diploma, although an associate's degree might increase earnings or improve advancement potential
- Insurance underwriter ($61,000)*
Time to Completion Up to 1 year full-time 2 years full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Up to roughly 48 credits - Roughly 60 credits
Prerequisites High school diploma or equivalent High school diploma or equivalent
Online Availability Limited (online certificates are available) Yes

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Diploma in Banking and Financial Services

The diploma program offers preparatory training for entry into the banking and financial services field. Programs provide an education in loan examination, cash management and financial information systems. Some schools design programs that satisfy the needs of those already employed in the industry. Most programs emphasize business concepts in addition to banking and financial services topics. Keep in mind that the diploma program will not prepare you for high-level positions in finance, including Certified Public Accountant. Most positions in management and analysis require a bachelor's degree, at minimum.

Pros and Cons


  • Statement clerks could expect healthy job growth of 20% to 28% over the 2010-2020 decade*
  • Several entry-level financial services positions only require a high school diploma, which might increase your marketability
  • Some diploma programs transfer to associate's degree programs


  • Median annual salaries were relatively low; statement clerks earned $33,000 and new account clerks earned $31,000, as of May 2011**
  • Diploma programs were limited and many schools only offered certificates
  • Online programs might offer fewer courses and much less course diversity

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2010-2020 job growth projections), **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Courses and Requirements

The banking and financial services program delivers the foundation required to obtain entry-level financial services opportunities. Programs emphasize financial risk management, commercial banking and economics. Many programs offer a combination of business, finance and customer service courses. You will gain an understanding of customer service ethics, financial management software and business communication. Following are some common courses offered by the program:

  • Investment principles
  • Business finance
  • Credit management
  • Principles of accounting
  • Business mathematics
  • Money and banking
  • Business statistics

Online Program Info

Some schools offer certificate programs in a distance-education format; diplomas may prove more difficult to find. Programs may require fewer credits than campus-based options. Some schools offer certificates that emphasize bank lending in addition to general banking options. Online programs offer courses in law and banking, financial accounting and computer literacy, while campus-based programs generally offer a deeper exploration of the field.

Stand Out with This Credential

Demonstrating your skills and commitment to the banking and financial services industry might improve employment prospects. The American Bankers Association (ABA) offers a number of certification options in mortgage and commercial lending, retail banking, retirement services, to name a few. The retail banking credentials - Certified Customer Service Representative, Certified Personal Banker and Certified Bank Teller - validate a candidate's understanding of sales services, ethics and banking basics. The ABA establishes specific eligibility requirements for each credential; experience, professional references and certificates issued by the American Institute of Banking are required for retail banking designations.

Associate's in Banking and Financial Services

The associate's degree program will enhance your learning experience by providing a wider range of courses in finance, lending and banking. You may also encounter programs that offer specialization or elective coursework. The program develops skills in securities, risk management and banking regulations. Compared to the diploma program, the associate's degree curriculum might set the foundation for access to opportunities for advancement or higher salaries; although keep in mind most employers prefer candidates with a bachelor's degree for positions in management or analysis. The appropriate mixture of education and experience might lead to opportunities in insurance underwriting and access to industry-standard certifications.

Pros and Cons


  • Insurance underwriters earned a relatively competitive median annual salary of $61,000*
  • Programs offer a deeper foundation than the diploma
  • Associate's degree credits might transfer to a bachelor's degree program


  • Advancement and access to higher-paying positions will require a bachelor's degree
  • The associate's degree career path is similar to the diploma; you might earn a salary comparable to graduates of a diploma program
  • Competition against bachelor's degree candidates might present a challenge

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Courses and Requirements

The associate's degree program combines business training with law, finance and elective coursework. Some programs offer an internship to help you gain experience. You will learn the fundamentals of personal and consumer finance, financial risks and monetary allocation. You will also take general education and information technology courses to round out your education. Programs offer courses in professional selling, banking compliance and regulations, consumer lending, personal financial planning and spreadsheets. Elective courses include trust management, management information systems and credit risk management, to name a few.

Online Degree Info

The online associate's degree program emphasizes the development of skills in financial markets, money management, lending and securities. The online curriculum offers a basic knowledge of the industry through coursework similar to traditional programs. You will take courses in business finance, statistical methods and accounting principles. The online curriculum may offer courses that require a minimum of 4 credits per class. This might increase the amount of time you commit to each class; however, students graduate most programs in 2 years with roughly 90 credits.

Stand Out with This Degree

Similar to the diploma program, pursuing certification through the ABA will validate your skills. The ABA's certifications in retirement services and retail bank management generally require more experience. Consequently, taking advantage of internships will provide a head start in gaining the required experience. If you plan to pursue a career in accounting or money management, the CFA Institute's Chartered Financial Analyst program might provide the skills validation required for entry-level positions. In order to qualify, you must have a combination of education and experience that totals 4 years. Alternatively, 4 years of professional experience in the financial industry is sufficient.

Degree Alternatives

The BLS revealed poor job growth projections for some positions in the field. Insurance underwriters would see a 6% increase in job growth while credit authorizers would experience a 3% to 9% increase over the 2010-2020 decade. The BLS also projected that statement clerks will enjoy a 20% to 28% increase, but positions paid relatively low median annual salaries of $33,000, as of May 2011. You might consider pursuing a bachelor's degree in financial services.

While the program requires more time and money, the long-term career benefits might exceed the initial investment. The bachelor's degree might make positions that pay more money and offer more responsibility available to you. For example, cost estimators could expect 36% job growth over the 2010-2020 decade and earned a median annual wage of $59,000 as of 2011. In addition, while financial managers will experience 9% job growth over the 2010-2020 decade, they earned a median annual salary of $107,000, as of May 2011.

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