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Navigating Your Future: Finance vs. Accounting Degrees

Revised: February 12, 2024

Finance and accounting are closely related, focusing on tracking and managing money. However, the terms are not interchangeable. Anyone interested in launching a career in one of these fields will need to understand the difference between finance and accounting, as this will allow them to choose a degree program that suits their strengths, individual passions, and long-term career goals.

Finance vs. Accounting: Key Differences

If you are looking at an accounting vs. finance degree, it's important to understand the key differences between these two fields. According to Smart Asset, accounting is a practice that focuses on tracking transactions and money flow for an individual or a business organization. On the other hand, finance is a broader term that refers to managing money both in the short- and long-term.

Essential Skills

The skill sets for an accounting and finance career are pretty similar. However, choosing a degree program that will allow you to meet the specific needs of your desired field is still important. 


According to Forbes, the most essential skills for an aspiring accountant include:

  • Detail-oriented
  • Organized
  • Capacity for critical thought

Accountants must also complete a degree program that helps them become well-versed in basic accounting principles. They also should acquire professional experience that allows them to effectively and efficiently review financial statements, prepare financial reports, and perform auditing tasks.

Finance Professional

According to Indeed, the most essential skills for a finance professional include:

  • Detail-oriented
  • Organized
  • Analytical
  • Problem-solving

Those who want to work as a financial advisor or financial analyst also need to be able to budget effectively, perform risk analysis and valuation, and manage cash flow.

Role in Decision-Making

As professionals who spend more time tracking and managing cash flow, accountants play a less active role in the financial decision-making at any organization. Instead, they monitor the accounts and review that all accounting guidelines are being followed. Individuals who are more interested in providing real-time feedback and playing a role in making those crucial financial decisions may be well-suited to a career in finance, where you would have more opportunities to work with clients and provide actionable insight to help them accomplish their short-term and long-term financial goals.

Long-Term vs. Short-Term View

In the finance sector, professionals often look into the future to create dynamic strategies for their clients. Whether you work in the financial planning industry and deal primarily with individuals or specialize in corporate finance, you often look months and years ahead to create an effective investment strategy that allows your clients to accomplish their financial goals.

Accounting, on the other hand, is much more focused on the short-term. A CPA, for instance, will work to create accurate financial reports and prepare tax documents for the current fiscal year rather than trying to help their clients develop a financial management strategy for the future.

Choosing the Right Career and Degree

Knowing your interests and identifying your professional goals within this sector will help you choose the right career path and degree program.

Educational Pathways

There are two distinct educational pathways for those interested in pursuing a career in finance or accounting. Suppose you want to work as an auditor or in public accounting. If so, your best option is to pursue an accounting degree. Whether you opt for an associate or a bachelor's degree in accounting, you will receive the foundational knowledge and skills-based training necessary to launch a career in this field.

Suppose you are more interested in financial planning or hope to work as a financial analyst. In that case, a finance degree program is a better choice. This degree program will focus on long-term financial strategy development, investments, and risk analysis.

Career Trajectories

When comparing an accounting vs. finance degree, you will see that both programs offer varied career trajectories. Personalizing your career path to accommodate your strengths, professional interests, and long-term goals is easy.

Earning an accounting degree will give you the skills and experience necessary to begin working as an accountant. From there, you may find that you are interested in working as an auditor or specialize in your career by focusing on public accounting.

The career trajectory for those in finance can be more varied. An entry-level finance professional may begin working as a financial planner. However, they may go on to earn positions as a senior financial analyst or budget management specialist.

Industry Demands

Both the financial and accounting industries are dynamic industries that are constantly changing. The current economic conditions often influence them, and professionals in these sectors must be ready to ebb and flow along with the times. Most professionals in the finance and accounting fields work full-time, with accountants often working longer hours during the busy tax season each year.

Salary Expectations

The finance and accounting fields are known for their lucrative career opportunities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, financial professionals can expect to earn an average annual salary between $80,000 and $100,000. The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that the median annual salary for accountants in 2022 was about $78,000.

Educational Options

There are several educational options to consider when you are interested in a career in finance or accounting, allowing you to choose a degree program that suits your current lifestyle.

Online vs. In-Person Study

The first significant decision you must make regarding your degree program is whether you pursue your degree online or in person. Previously, online degree programs were considered an alternative to traditional, in-person programs. However, in recent years, they have become the preferred option among students. An online degree program provides the same high-quality educational experience yet allows students to complete their coursework in a time and manner that is convenient for them. Online degree programs are ideal for students currently working or with other personal responsibilities that may make it difficult to attend class in person.

Benefits of an Associate Degree

An associate degree program is ideal for students looking to begin working in accounting as soon as possible. An associate degree takes about two years when completed at the standard pace. It is more affordable than a bachelor's degree program. At Champlain College Online, our associate degree in accounting is the ideal stepping stone to a financial career. It provides the foundational knowledge needed to work as an accountant while allowing you to develop your interest or niche in this field. Once you have earned an associate degree, you can continue to accrue professional experience and determine which career trajectory is best for you.

Transition to a Bachelor's Degree

When you opt to pursue an associate degree in accounting, you can easily transition to a bachelor's degree program in finance or accounting. This ability to transition to an advanced degree allows you to feel confident in your initial investment in your education, knowing that you can expand your career possibilities in the future if you so choose.

Start Your Journey Today

The finance and accounting fields are dynamic industries with plenty of potential. If you want to begin your career as soon as possible, consider Champlain College Online. You will find that Champlain offers a variety of degree programs that can help you get started. The associate degree in accounting offered at CCO is a flexible and affordable program that will provide you with the core competencies you need to work as an accountant. From there, you can continue to customize your career and personalize your path. Request more information about Champlain degree programs today.


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