Business Finance Degrees: Bachelor's, Associate & Online Class Info

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What will you learn in a business finance degree program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of an associate's and bachelor's degree and potential careers.
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Studying Business Finance: Degrees at a Glance

Finance involves the study and analysis of the methods used to sell products and other assets. The business finance field incorporates a broad range of occupations in the insurance, financial planning and corporate finance sectors. Graduates of business finance programs pursue careers in accounting, tax collection, budget analysis and cost estimation.

The associate's degree program can prepare you for entry-level financial jobs in the business industry. While the associate's and bachelor's degrees offer similar coursework, the bachelor's degree program can qualify you for employment opportunities in financial management. Furthermore, the bachelor's degree program provides the educational foundation to needed to pursue a variety of industry certifications, such as the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) offered by the CFA Institute or the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) administered by your state's Board of Accountancy, which can increase your earnings and employment opportunities.

Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Individuals interested in entry-level support positions in business or finance People who ultimately want to work in financial management or a subfield of finance
Common Career Paths (with approximate median salary) - Bill and account collector ($32,000)*
- Financial clerk ($34,000)**
- Bookkeeping, accounting or auditing clerk ($35,000)*
- Accountant or auditor ($63,000)*
- Financial analyst ($76,000)*
- Financial manager ($107,000)*
Time to Completion 2 years full-time 2 years with an associate's degree; 4 years full-time without an associate's degree
Common Graduation Requirements - General education courses
- About 10-15 courses in business-related subjects
- General education courses
- Approximately 20-25 courses in finance-related studies
- Internship
- Capstone or directed study project
Prerequisites High school diploma or equivalent High school diploma or equivalent
Online Availability Yes Yes

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures), **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2010 figures).

Associate's Degree in Business Finance

The associate's degree program in business finance offers a well-rounded curriculum that can give you foundational knowledge in information literacy, mathematics, diversity and communication. You can typically select from multiple focus areas, allowing you to tailor your finance degree to fit your needs. You'll be able to learn about risk and return, cash flow management and investments. Program requirements typically revolve around coursework, so you probably won't be required to complete a special project or an internship.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • You may have improved job prospects for positions that only require a high school diploma (bookkeeper or financial clerk)
  • The program you select may transfer to a bachelor's degree program in finance or a related discipline
  • Only takes 2 years to finish the program (some may take less time)

Cons

  • You usually cannot obtain a position in financial management without a bachelor's degree or a graduate degree
  • Salary may be limited, depending on the employer*
  • Associate's degree programs may not provide training or education in advanced financial topics
  • Does not prepare you for some certifications (you may need a bachelor's degree or additional work experience to qualify)

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

Courses and Requirements

The associate's degree curriculum offers general education coursework combined with courses in financial topics and technology. Some programs offer courses that build a framework for more advanced courses, so you may experience several prerequisite course requirements. Here are some courses you might take:

  • Principles of finance
  • Financial statement analysis
  • Risk management
  • Managerial accounting
  • Microeconomics
  • Financial markets

Since this degree program is strictly based on coursework, you won't have to worry about gaining work experience or completing a special project before you can earn the degree.

Online Degree Options

An associate's degree in finance is available through several colleges in an online format and offers more flexibility than an on-campus program. Some institutions offer the program in an accelerated format, which may require slightly more than a year to complete. Online programs are designed for working professionals and may offer coursework focused on technical skills to enhance the experience, such as human-computer interaction and information fluency. Your coursework is usually identical to what you get in an on-campus program.

Stand Out with This Degree

You can increase your employment prospects by pursuing a certification related to your area of expertise. For example, the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers confers the Certified Bookkeeper credential, which validates your skills in managing business transaction files. Furthermore, staying abreast of new financial management technologies, such as accounting software, can increase your knowledge of current trends in technology. Here are a few steps you can take to stand out with this degree:

  • Join a professional association that confers a certification in your selected area of interest
  • Participate in an internship at a banking or financial institution to gain valuable experience
  • Take some courses that train you how to use financial technologies that are typically used in your particular industry, such as accounting and spreadsheet programs

Bachelor's Degree in Business Finance

The bachelor's degree program offers an educational experience that reaches beyond foundational coursework and provides hands-on experience in the financial industry. Students can learn about international financial analysis, trading and the philosophy of investments. You'll have more options to tailor the program to your needs than you would in an associate's program. Some schools may even integrate finance with other areas of study, so you could focus on accounting or economics as well as finance. Schools are beginning to offer rooms and learning areas that are designed to simulate a real-life business environment, which can give you some hands-on learning opportunities while you're in class.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Can lead to high-paying jobs with some experience (financial managers earned a median salary of roughly $107,000)*
  • A bachelor's degree is often required to be eligible for most financial certifications
  • The flexibility of the degree can provide a wide range of career opportunities, including budget and financial analysis, insurance underwriting or financial advising

Cons

  • You may be competing with candidates who hold a Master of Business Administration or a master's degree in a related discipline
  • Not all programs have internship opportunities, so you may have to try to get financial experience on your own time and not get academic credit for it
  • You'll spend at least 4 years in school and possibly end up in debt by the time you're done

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

Courses and Requirements

The bachelor's degree program prepares graduates for managerial positions that require the ability to make critical financial decisions. Programs require about 5-10 core business courses, plus about 5-10 courses in finance. You may be able to take courses in mathematics, economics, accounting principles, managerial finance and financial markets. Some of your elective options include capital markets, international finance or financial planning.

Some schools require directed study in finance or an internship at a financial institution, but this is not a universal requirement. You'll typically take a capstone or seminar course towards the end of the program, which allows you to put all of the finance and business concepts to use before your graduate.

Online Degree Options

Online bachelor's degrees in business finance are available, but degree programs in business administration with a concentration in finance may be more common. Online programs sometimes provide an accelerated learning experience. Much of the coursework is the same as on-campus programs, and you may even have options to pursue a dual-degree if you're looking to obtain a master's degree as well. You still can have access to the same resources that on-campus students have, such as training courses to help you prepare for the CPA certification exam upon graduation.

Stand Out with This Degree

Increasing your marketability depends on the area of financial expertise you select. Multiple organizations and associations offer certifications and licensing options in the insurance, securities and accounting disciplines. Each credential has different requirements, so you'll need to figure out which certifications might be good for the industry you want to work in.

Accountants usually seek the CPA designation, which is standardized by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and offered by your local Board of Accountancy. If you choose the insurance industry, you can pursue the Chartered Property and Casualty Underwriter credential offered by the American Institute for Chartered Property Casualty Underwriters. Most schools offer examination preparation courses and discounted study materials during the time you're enrolled.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Saint Leo University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BA: Accounting
      • BA: Business Administration - Management
      • BA: Business Administration - Logistics
      • BA: Business Administration - Marketing
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Purdue University Global

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Accelerated MS in Finance Option
      • BS in Finance
      • BS in Finance - General Finance
      • BSBA in Financial Analysis
      • BS in Finance - Investments
      • Bachelor: Accounting
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Brenau University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor in Business Adminstration - Accounting
      • Bachelor in Business Adminstration - Financial Economics
      • Bachelor in Business Adminstration
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Business for Secondary Education
  • Campus and Online Programs
    5. Full Sail University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.S. - Music Business
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Regent University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Accounting
      • Bachelor of Science in Business
      • Bachelor of Science in Business - Accounting
      • Bachelor of Science in Professional Studies - Business
      • Bachelor of Arts in English - Government
      • Bachelor of Arts in Government
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BS - Accounting
      • BS - Business Management
  • Campus and Online Programs
    8. South College

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Business Administration with a Concentration in Accounting
      • Bachelor of Business Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.S. - Business Management With No Concentration
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Utica College

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Fraud and Financial Crime Investigation
      • BS in Fraud and Financial Crime Investigation - Financial Investigation
      • BS in Fraud and Financial Crime Investigation - Fraud Prevention and Detection

Featured Schools

Saint Leo University

  • BA: Accounting
  • BA: Business Administration - Management
  • BA: Business Administration - Logistics

What is your highest level of education completed?

Purdue University Global

  • Accelerated MS in Finance Option
  • BS in Finance
  • BS in Finance - General Finance

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Brenau University

  • Bachelor in Business Adminstration - Accounting
  • Bachelor in Business Adminstration - Financial Economics
  • Bachelor in Business Adminstration

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Grand Canyon University

  • Bachelor of Science in Business for Secondary Education

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Full Sail University

  • B.S. - Music Business

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Regent University

  • Bachelor of Science in Accounting
  • Bachelor of Science in Business
  • Bachelor of Science in Business - Accounting

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Colorado State University Global

  • BS - Accounting
  • BS - Business Management

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South College

  • Bachelor of Business Administration with a Concentration in Accounting
  • Bachelor of Business Administration

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