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Finance Degree vs Accounting Degree: Just what is the difference?

By Brendan Conway updated on Monday, July 15, 2013

Finance. Accounting. Finance. Accounting. Which should you choose? It's a mind-boggling question, or so it would seem at first glance. But not to worry! This issue can be unwound. Determining which option you should choose in the question of "finance degree vs accounting degree" may be simpler than you would first think.

Finance Degree vs Accounting Degree: Primary Difference

First things first. What is the primary difference between a finance degree and an accounting degree? Well, this is a complicated question. The exact differences may vary from school to school, as schools can offer different specific curricula and different degrees for similar programs. The meaning of a finance degree from one university may not match the meaning of a finance degree from another, and the same applies to an accounting degrees. Some schools may not even offer finance degrees or accounting degrees, as they may lump everything in the subjects together into a single degree program under a single term.

But, that said, there is a general definition of finance and accounting that can be used to talk about the 2 subjects when thinking about the issue of "finance degree vs accounting degree". Finance is specifically a subject of study which involves the management of money, while accounting is a subject which involves obtaining, collecting, organizing, and otherwise dealing with financial information. The difference, in other words, is pretty much that finance is about actually shifting or manipulating money, while accounting is about tracking those kinds of manipulations.

Should I pursue a finance degree or an accounting degree?

Alright, so we've covered the basic ideas of what differentiates finance and accounting. Now, to the next question: which should you choose?

Well, this one's a toughie. A lot of the time, someone who earns an accounting degree can actually work in the fields of finance, and vice versa, but this isn't always true. If you know specifically that you've got an interest in the subject matters that would fall into the domain of finance or accounting, as described above, then it should be a pretty clear choice. But if you don't know with certainty that you're interested in either an accounting career or a finance career...

The answer probably lies in what you're hoping to do in the long run. If you're interested in earning a CPA, then earning a degree in accounting is a pretty good idea. If not, then you may be better served by pursuing a finance degree. That said, however, many will encourage students to pursue accounting degrees because of the preparation that an accounting degree would give for the CPA exam, and because CPAs often have more job opportunities for them.

What about pursuing a finance degree and an accounting degree?

Another option, of course, would be to try to double major, and pursue a degree in both. This option might be quite the undertaking, but in the end it might pay off with huge dividends. In fact, due to the overlap between the two subjects, you might very well be able to pursue a degree in one subject, while taking many courses in the other, and come out of school essentially well-versed in both.

In the end, it comes down to whatever you think the right choice for you and your career goals is.

About the Author

Brendan Conway is the Web Content Editor for Peterson's Interactive and is well-versed in the world of higher education and admissions. He is a graduate of Hamilton College, and has been working in admissions advice, test-prep advice, career planning advice, and similar fields for the majority of his career since graduation. Brendan endeavors to provide the most relevant, useful, and interesting information via Peterson's Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ feeds. Brendan enjoys lexicological oddities and voraciously reading in his free time.

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