Understanding the Ins and Outs of a Finance Major
Do you enjoy working with numbers? Are you the type of person who would rather invest your money than splurge on a night out on the town or a new pair of shoes? Is there something satisfying about seeing your money grow year after year? If so, then a career as a financial analyst, finance manager, or investment fund manager may be right for you. All these positions require at least a bachelor's degree, preferably with a major in finance.
What Is Finance?
Finance is a broad term used to describe things involving money and investments. Investopedia defines finance as "matters regarding the management, creation, and study of money and investments". In terms of a university degree, finance students study banking, investing, and money. This is distinct from an economics degree, which deals with theories of production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services, while finance is more about creating wealth.
Advantages of a Finance Major
There are several advantages to choosing finance as a major. A few of these include:
There are several lucrative and rewarding careers you can pursue with a degree in finance. These include becoming a financial or wealth advisor, an investment relations associate for a publicly traded corporation, a budget or credit analyst, or even pursuing a career as a commercial real estate agent.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), financial advisors in the United States earn a median salary of $94,170 annually. Currently, there are around 330,000 such positions in the US, but the BLS projects that number will increase by 15 percent by 2031. That's faster than the average for all types of jobs.
Skills Are In-Demand
The skills you gain with a finance degree will serve you well in any number of careers. You'll learn about disciplines such as data analysis, risk management, capital allocation, and investment strategy, as well as general business skills such as communication, collaboration, and how to adapt and react to changing market and business conditions.
As we mentioned above, it's not unusual to make a healthy salary with a finance career. Your exact salary will depend on the type of company you work for, whether or not you are self-employed, where you work, and your experience. Obviously, you can expect to earn more as you increase your experience, knowledge, and client base, if applicable.
Challenges of a Finance Major
You might be asking yourself, "is a finance major hard?" The answer is that it depends on your commitment and your dedication. Some of the things to remember when considering a finance major include:
Earning an undergraduate degree in finance requires at least four years of dedicated study. Though it is definitely possible, it may be difficult to balance work-life responsibilities as you spend time earning your degree. In addition, if you choose to continue your education and earn a master's degree in finance, you can expect to spend an additional two years in college.
The coursework for a degree in finance can be challenging for some and includes courses in general business fundamentals, as well as courses in investment, accounting theory, corporate and international finance, ethics, and communication. These classes involve a lot of reading and working with numbers, which can lead some people to think of finance as a hard major.
A major in finance, like any four-year degree program, requires a substantial financial investment. Most colleges and universities, including Johnson & Wales University (JWU), offer an array of financing options, scholarships, and grants for students. At JWU, more than 90 percent of students receive some type of financial assistance from the university.
Finance Major Curriculum
Johnson & Wales University offers three different degrees in finance--a Bachelor of Science in Finance, a master's degree in finance, and a Master of Business Administration in Finance. The BS in Finance is a four-year program, while the two master’s programs may be completed in two years. All three programs are available online and in person at JWU's Providence, RI campus.
The curriculum for the bachelor’s in finance degree at JWU includes courses in business basics, such as accounting, business law, marketing, and human resources, as well as more specialized finance courses in subjects like advanced accounting, financial markets and institutions, international finance, and investments. Ethics and communications courses are also highlighted. In addition, JWU boasts a robust internship program that gives students the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in the workplace and learn the real-life applications of their studies.
The curriculum for JWU's master’s in finance degree program builds on what the student learned in the undergraduate program. Courses for this program are more specialized and include topics like personal financial planning, investment and portfolio management, statistics, risk management, and corporate financial accounting.
The MBA in Finance differs from the MS in Finance in that it concentrates more on general business and management skills than solely on finance. Core courses for this program include effective leadership, operations management, and strategic marketing, as well as financial reporting, financial management, ethics, risk management, and financial planning.
Jobs for a Finance Major
Finance jobs are varied and generally rather lucrative. Some of the many careers you can pursue successfully with an undergraduate or graduate finance degree include:
A financial manager is charged with managing the financial health of a company and advising senior management on ways to increase the return on investments and mitigate risk. Financial managers also assist with long-term financial planning.
The BLS reports that the median annual salary for a financial manager is $131,710, and the number of financial manager positions is expected to grow by 17 percent through 2031. That's faster than the average job growth rate in the United States.
A loan officer works for a bank, credit union, mortgage company, or other financial institution that offers loans. They work with consumers or business clients and accept and process loan applications. Most states require that loan officers be licensed.
According to the BLS, the median annual salary for a loan officer in the United States is $63,380. They estimate that the number of loan officer jobs in the United States will grow by around four percent by 2031.
Financial analysts advise individuals and businesses about how to best invest their money for a maximum return.
According to the BLS, you can expect to earn a median annual salary of $95,570 as a financial analyst. The BLS estimates that there will be an additional 31,900 financial analyst jobs created by 2031. That's a nine percent growth rate, which is higher than the average growth rate for all jobs in the US.
Investment Fund Manager
An investment fund manager works for a brokerage or other financial company to manage the components of, and the risk associated with, a fund. This is the person who decides what stocks, bonds, or commodities to purchase inside the fund and when it's time to sell them.
According to Zippia, the average annual salary for an investment fund manager in the United States is $115,892.
Is a Finance Major Worth It?
Whether or not a finance degree is worth pursuing is rather subjective, but the potential return on your investment with a finance degree makes the choice very appealing. According to the BLS, the average worker in the US brings home slightly more than $54,000 per year. Many finance careers come with salaries of nearly double that amount.
Of course, there are also intangibles to consider. Do you enjoy working with numbers? Are you the type of person who is comfortable working with the public, as with a financial advisor or loan officer position? Only you know for sure whether it’s the right career for you.
Getting Your Finance Degree at Johnson & Wales University
Johnson & Wales University offers a BS, MS, and an MBA in finance which can be completed online or on campus. JWU has an excellent career services center that offers resume assistance, interview preparation, and career guidance, both while the student is enrolled at the university and after graduation. The career services office is also an excellent resource for networking with other JWU graduates and business leaders.
Benefits of Online Learning
JWU's online degree programs give students the flexibility of attending classes and completing coursework at their own pace and schedule. With online discussion boards, students can collaborate on projects and get advice and input from their professors.
About Johnson & Wales University
In addition to the finance degree programs, Johnson & Wales offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs in more than 100 fields of study. Founded in 1914, JWU has a current enrollment of more than 8,000 undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students. The university is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.
For more information about completing your degree online, submit the Request Info form, call 855-JWU-1881, or email [email protected].