Corporate Finance Degrees: Associate, Bachelor's & Online Classes

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

Working in corporate finance can give you the opportunity to provide executives with the information they need to make important business decisions. By completing a degree program in corporate finance, you can develop the financial and business knowledge to pursue a variety of different positions in the field. In addition to a degree, some positions, such as financial analyst, could require licensure through the Financial Industry Regulatory Industry (FINRA).

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of financial analysts was predicted to grow 23% from 2010-2020, but the job market is expected to be competitive. Many corporate finance careers require at least a bachelor's degree. For financial clerk positions that don't require a bachelor's, earning an associate degree can give you an advantage with some employers, according to the BLS.

Associate Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? People who are interested in entry-level roles in corporate finance organizations People who are interested in analysis or management roles in corporate finance organizations
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary) - Brokerage clerk ($42,000 - often requires 1 month of on-the-job training)*
- Payroll clerk ($37,000 - 1 month of on-the-job training is often necessary)*
- Bookkeeping and auditing clerk ($35,000 - typically requires 6 months of on-the-job training)*
- Financial manager ($107,000 - usually requires at least 5 years of experience in a business or financial position)*
- Financial analyst ($76,000)*
- Budget analyst ($69,000 - may have to complete a year of on-the-job training)*
Time to Completion About 2 years full-time About 4 years full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Roughly 5-8 general education classes
- About 4-8 core business courses
- 8-10 classes in the finance major
- General education requirements (often around 10-12 courses)
- As many as 20 or more core business and management courses
- Roughly 8-10 finance major courses, some of which will be corporate finance electives
Prerequisites High school diploma or its equivalent High school diploma or its equivalent
Online Availability Yes, though may be a general finance degree instead of corporate Yes, though may be a general finance degree instead of corporate

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

Associate in Corporate Finance

If you're interested in a career in corporate finance, be aware that most companies will have limited opportunities available for people who don't have bachelor's degrees. An associate degree can help you compete for the entry-level jobs that don't require a bachelor's; however, many of those jobs might be more suited to someone who is interested in accounting versus finance.

Before enrolling in an associate degree program in corporate finance, you may want to check whether or not the credits are transferrable, in case you decide to later enter a bachelor's degree program. For example, the credits from an Associate in Science (AS) degree in business may be more easily transferred than those of an Associate in Applied Science (AAS) degree in finance, because the AS is usually designed for individuals who seek to continue their education after graduating, while the AAS is usually designed for people who seek to immediately enter the job market.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Some employers prefer applicants that have an associate degree.*
  • Though most of positions obtainable with an associate degree are full-time, a significant number of opportunities exist for people who prefer part-time work.*
  • A degree could teach you the necessary math and computer skills to succeed in one of these positions.
  • May be able to later transfer credits to a bachelor's degree program.

Cons

  • Most of the education for these careers can be accomplished through on-the-job training.*
  • Many of the entry-level jobs in this field are geared towards accounting instead of finance, so an accounting or general business degree may be more helpful than a corporate finance degree.
  • If you're looking to earn a high salary, you may want to instead pursue a bachelor's degree.*
  • You could compete with more experienced high school graduates, or even bachelor's degree holders for some entry-level positions.

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Courses and Requirements

While some schools offer associate degrees specifically in corporate finance, others only offer a general finance degree; however, these programs often let you choose electives that focus on corporate finance. Either way, you will need to complete general education courses required by your school, in addition to the business and finance courses for your major. Some of the classes for your major might include:

  • Macroeconomics and microeconomics
  • Business statistics
  • Accounting (both financial and managerial)
  • Analysis of financial statements
  • Risk management
  • Banking and money

Online Degree Options

Online associate degree programs are often designed for general finance, rather than specifically tailored to corporate finance. Again, you can choose electives that focus on corporate finance. You'll probably take about the same number of courses as in a traditional program, but you may be able to go at your own pace, allowing you to complete the program sooner, or on a part-time basis while you continue to work. However, while enrolled in an online program, you may not have access to the campus resources and internships, if you live out of the area where the school is located.

Stand Out With This Degree

Many of the jobs in the corporate finance field require the use of computers, so any training you can complete in computer technology will be beneficial, particularly if it centers on spreadsheets, presentations, database creation, or business intelligence software programs.

Professional certification can also give you an edge when applying to jobs. For example, the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers offers the Certified Bookkeeper designation, which requires you to have two years of work experience, pass a four-part exam, and sign a code of ethics.

Bachelor's in Corporate Finance

Some programs confer a bachelor's degree specifically in corporate finance, but it's more likely that you will find programs that offer a degree in finance with a corporate finance concentration. These degrees can assist you in obtaining a position as a corporate financial analyst, budget analyst, or financial manager. Most of these careers provide intellectual challenges and high salaries, but they tend to require at least a bachelor's degree, because of the financial, business, and economic knowledge needed for success. In some cases, however, a bachelor's degree may not be sufficient for advancement or promotion. For example, according to the BLS, companies may prefer or require that financial managers and financial analysts hold a master's degree in business.

In addition to obtaining a bachelor's degree, some jobs in the securities industry may also require you to earn a professional license through FINRA. An employer typically sponsors aspiring licensees, but passing the exam could require that you spend extra time studying, or enrolling in exam prep courses.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Financial analyst job growth was predicted to increase 23% from 2010-2020, which is faster than average for all jobs.*
  • The jobs you may apply for after you earn your degree typically pay significantly more than the national average salary.*
  • Earning this degree can prepare you to further your education by earning a Master of Business (MBA) degree, which can lead to job advancement and executive careers.
  • Can help you develop the financial and business knowledge necessary to pursue a variety of careers.

Cons

  • Despite the job growth prospects for financial analysts, there will still likely be more applicants than there are jobs available.*
  • Finance manager positions were predicted to have slower-than-average job growth of 9% from 2010-2020, so competition will likely be even greater for these jobs.*
  • Corporate finance careers can be stressful, with long hours and deadline pressures.*
  • You could be competing against individuals who hold MBAs for the same positions.

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Courses and Requirements

A bachelor's degree program in corporate finance generally covers a wide array of topics, in areas such as finance, accounting, management, and economics. As part of your degree program, you'll take a number of general education courses. You'll also take a significant number of courses in foundational business concepts like business law, accounting, marketing, strategy, and operations. Your major courses could include topics like portfolio management, financial analysis, corporate strategy, and capital management.

Online Degree Options

Online degree programs exist for this major, though, again, they are not necessarily always specific to corporate finance. The coursework will be similar to a traditional program, but you generally have the options of flexible scheduling and choosing whether or not you'll visit campus. Some programs follow a hybrid format, meaning that you'll be required to periodically attend campus throughout the program; thus, it's important for you to consider the program format and location before enrolling.

Stand Out With This Degree

Despite the strong job growth predicted for financial analysts, the BLS forecasts that there will be heavy competition for these high-paying positions. One way to gain an advantage over other job seekers is to pursue professional certification. You can become a Chartered Financial Analyst by acquiring four years of work experience, passing three exams on various investment topics, and joining the CFA institute. Another certification you can earn is the Certified Treasury Professional designation, which requires that you possess at least two years of experience, and pass an exam.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Benedictine University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelors in Management
      • Bachelors in Management
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BS - Business Administration - Finance
      • BS - Accounting
      • Bachelor of Science in Business Administration - Organizational Behavior
      • Bachelor of Science in Business Administration - Business Development
      • BS - Business Administration - General
      • BS - Business Administration - Management
  • Online Programs Available
    3. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Business Administration - Finance
      • Bachelor of Business Admin - Accounting
      • Bachelor of Accounting
      • Bachelor of Business Administration - Generalist
      • Bachelor of Business Admin: Operations Management
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Keiser University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.A. - Business Admin: Finance
      • B.A. - Accounting
      • Business Administration, BA - Management
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.S. - Business Management With No Concentration
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Southern New Hampshire University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BS Finance
      • BS in Business Studies - Business Finance
      • BS in Accounting - Finance
      • BS in Accounting
      • BS in Business Studies - Accounting
      • BS in Finance - Financial Planning
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Utica College

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Fraud and Financial Crime Investigation
      • Online Bachelor of Science in Fraud and Financial Crime Investigation - Financial Investigation
      • Online Bachelor of Science in Fraud and Financial Crime Investigation - Fraud Prevention and Detection
  • Campus and Online Programs
    8. Full Sail University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.S. - Music Business
  • Campus Locations:
    9. Virginia College

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor: Private Sector Accounting
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Thomas Edison State University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BS in Accounting/CPA
      • BS in General Management

Featured Schools

Benedictine University

  • Bachelors in Management

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Colorado Technical University

  • BS - Business Administration - Finance
  • BS - Accounting
  • Bachelor of Science in Business Administration - Organizational Behavior

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American InterContinental University

  • Bachelor of Business Administration - Finance
  • Bachelor of Business Admin - Accounting
  • Bachelor of Accounting

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Keiser University

  • B.A. - Business Admin: Finance
  • B.A. - Accounting
  • Business Administration, BA - Management

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Herzing University

  • B.S. - Business Management With No Concentration

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Southern New Hampshire University

  • BS Finance
  • BS in Business Studies - Business Finance
  • BS in Accounting - Finance

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Utica College

  • Bachelor of Science in Fraud and Financial Crime Investigation
  • Online Bachelor of Science in Fraud and Financial Crime Investigation - Financial Investigation
  • Online Bachelor of Science in Fraud and Financial Crime Investigation - Fraud Prevention and Detection

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Full Sail University

  • B.S. - Music Business

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