College students who decide to study business and like working with numbers often run into the same predicament: Finance or accounting? Choosing the
Difficulty and Competition
Accounting and finance courses can both be very challenging but most students find an accounting degree to be more demanding. Also, accounting students who want to take the CPA exam need to meet their state’s educational requirements. Most states require candidates to have completed 150 credit hours by either taking additional courses beyond a bachelor’s degree or by going on to complete a master’s degree. Because an accounting degree is usually more demanding and can take longer to complete, there are typically more finance graduates and competition for the finance jobs.
Winner for Less Demanding Degree – Finance Major
Winner for Less Job Competition – Accounting Major
Job Availability and Outlook
Accounting graduates are in high demand and the job industry is expected to grow at a rate of about 20% with the field adding close to 200,000 jobs through 2018. Public accounting firms are hiring extensively on campus for new audit, tax, and advisory positions. Corporations and small businesses are also starting to increase their campus recruiting efforts for accounting roles. Finance, treasury, and banking will also see job growth but not at the same rate as the accounting industry.
Financial adviser jobs are expected to grow at a staggering rate of 32% through 2016 but currently there are only about 200,000 employed as financial advisers so the overall job market is much smaller than the accounting market which employs roughly 1,200,000.
It is important to keep in mind that accounting majors usually have the tools to be hired for many of the entry level finance positions but finance majors are not typically qualified for accounting roles. The nature of the accounting degree provides graduates with more flexibility and career options.
Winner – Accounting Major
Both accounting and finance majors can go on to have very successful and lucrative careers. Many of the top Wall Street executives, investment bankers, traders, and portfolio managers have finance backgrounds. Many of the Fortune 500 CEOs, CFOs, other business leaders, and entrepreneurs have accounting backgrounds. A finance degree makes sense for those interested in the stock market, financial planning, and banking. An accounting degree is better suited for those who are interested in financial reporting, taxation, planning, forecasting, and managerial financial analysis. Depending on the career path you want to pursue, you can find immense success with either degree.
Winner – Tie
Speaking with professors and other industry professionals will help you understand more about your career options with both degrees. After you decide which career path you want to pursue, the choice will become much easier. For students who want the job security of the accounting field and the tools to work in finance at any point in their career, an accounting major with a finance minor might end up being the best choice.