Are you looking for FAME and fortune? If you clicked on this headline, you just might be, but not the kind of fame that puts your name in lights and paparazzi on your trail. FAME degrees are those in finance, accounting, management and economics and they're some of the most popular subjects of study in higher education across America. Two of the most common degrees in these fields are accounting degrees and finance degrees. If you're deciding between the two, we're here to help you break down the differences including what you'll study and how much you might be able to make.
The Differences Between Accounting and Finance
Comparing an accounting degree with a finance degree is a little like comparing a slice of pizza vs the whole pizza. In other words, accounting is a specialized field within the world of finance. In the broadest sense, professionals in finance manage assets, make investments and oversee a company's financial strategy from a high level.
Accounting professionals, on the other hand, look at the day-to-day flow of money in and out of a company. They might dive into a business's books, crunching numbers, looking for spending and revenue trends and ensuring tax compliance with local, state and federal laws.
Put succinctly, finance professionals look at future transactions and accounting professionals look at past transactions. Neither is less or more important than the other — an accounting role might be best for someone who's detail-oriented, patient and adept at math while a finance role might be better suited for people with a strong theoretical knowledge, analytical skills and a big picture mindset.
Accounting vs. Finance: What Will You Study?
In a finance degree program, your course of study will vary depending on the school and the concentration you choose. However, there are some topics and courses that are fairly common to all of them. You might take coursework in areas like:
- Risk management
- Corporate finance
- Banking analysis
- Capital markets
Your accounting coursework will be dependent on the same factors but, in a general sense, you'll take courses that cover subjects such as:
- Business taxation
- Financial reporting
- Quantitative analysis
- Budget Analysis
Finance vs. Accounting Degrees: What Careers Can You Pursue?
There are all sorts of career possibilities for graduates with these degrees and neither one will preclude you from getting a job in the broader field. In other words, with an accounting degree, you'll still be able to work in finance positions and vice versa. However, accounting is a little more specialized and finance is more general, which can lead to more flexibility with career choices.
Some career options for accounting majors include:
- Tax advisor
- Budget analyst
- Compliance officer
Finance majors might find careers as:
- Investment banker
- Financial analyst
- Personal financial advisor
- Hedge fund manager
- Financial examiner
Accounting vs. Finance: How Much Can You Make?
For many, the number of zeros a job comes with might be the biggest consideration. While we advise balancing this consideration with other factors like job satisfaction, upward mobility and a passion for what you do, here are some figures on how much you might make with both degrees.
Graduates with a bachelor's degree in accounting make an average annual salary of $63,000, according to Payscale .com. A master's degree doesn't make a huge difference in the field when it comes to salary — accounting professionals with a master's brought home an average of $65,000 per year. Senior tax accountants did a little better at $70,000.
A bachelor's degree in finance, which is the entry-level degree for many positions in the field, netted graduates an average of $71,000 per year. At this level, financial analysts made $60,000 financial controllers made $84,000 and finance managers made $97,000.
Students who pursued a master's in finance enjoyed a bigger salary jump than those in accounting who went from a bachelor's to a master's. Overall, these grads made $79 ,000 per year. Some of the positions that made the most at this level include chief financial officer ($149,000), finance director ($129,000), portfolio manager ($91,000) and corporate controller ($93,000).