Accounting vs Finance Degree – What Should I Choose?

This is a question I have run into a lot over the years. My answer is going to come from my own experience and how I have seen others grow in their careers. The ultimate decision needs to come deep from within.

At times, I have sat down with Accountants who didn’t love accounting at all. They got into it because it is what their parents were doing. They went down the accounting path because they were told it is one of the more stable careers. Yet, they find out somewhere along the way it doesn’t draw out their best strengths.

My advice above all else is to not start the job search on the job board but looking within to discover your strengths and passion first.

Accounting vs Finance Degree: What Should I Choose?

accounting vs finance degreeAll that being said, let’s take a closer look at this dilemma. I think this is a dilemma for many because they both involve working around numbers. It is also a difficult decision because there is some cross over between the two. Both routes for the most part require you to take accounting courses for example. Here are some thoughts to consider:

Choose finance if you are okay with selling – Most of the opportunities for finance graduates upon graduation revolve around sales to a certain degree. It is very difficult to start off in a full fledged Financial Analyst position. I just have not seen it happen that way very often.

The reason I mention this is because most pure accountants do not enjoy the selling aspect at all. Do not force yourself down that route if that is who you are.

Choose finance if you do not ever plan on being in accounting – I know that statement may sound narrow-minded and I will agree there are exceptions to this rule. After 10 years in the accounting recruitment arena, I can count on one hand the hiring managers who were open to a finance degree candidate for a Staff Accountant position. Most want that accounting degree.

Choose accounting if you want a more structured background – By structured, I am not saying it is better than a finance career by any means. With a finance degree you have many more options, but that is not necessarily an advantage. Finance degree can include a career in sales, corporate finance, stocks, operations, financial planning, real estate, insurance, and much more. As you can tell that is a much broader background. If you saw all of those careers on one resume, you may wonder why they seem to hop around in their career. With accounting it is much different. For example, public accounting and corporate accounting are different but viewed favorably on a resume.

Choose accounting if you want both finance and accounting in your career – If you think you might have an interest in both accounting and finance, then I recommend you get the accounting degree. It is much easier to start a career as an Accountant and move over into a Financial Analyst role, then it is to start in Finance with a finance degree and try to move over into accounting.

Again, these are observations of what I have seen working in the accounting & finance sector for the past several years. As mentioned before, there are exceptions. However, the statements above have proven themselves to be true over time.

    Jonathan has been blogging since 2009 and is still in awe that the Creator of the Universe desires to have a relationship with him. His passions include spending time with his kids, reading, March Madness, surprise get-a-way trips with his wife, and watching funny YouTube videos.

    Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

    Leave a Reply

    2 thoughts on “Accounting vs Finance Degree – What Should I Choose?

    1. My degree was in finance (1982) primarily because I hated accounting at the time. I ended up with a staff accountant job, and then went on to become the controller of a large company. I  realized that I needed to go back and pick up the additional coursework for an accounting major in order to meet the requirements for the CPA exam, simply to add “legitimacy” to my credentials as a Controller in industry. I passed the exam in 1993. I have functoined in Controller/CFO roles for the past many years. My finance background has helped me assist business owners in their personal financial decisions over the years, , but I find that the CPA designation brings a “gold standard” level of trust, especially when first interviewing for a position. Most of the “finance” I use day-to day,  I learned on the job (which I would not have learned working for a CPA firm over the years)  and through life experience. I find that my colleaugues in CPA firms, although far more informed on the tax side (and I always call my CPA firm colleagues when I need to consult on the tax consequences of a complex financial transaction) are often not well versed in general business management and financial decision making. Bottom line–CPA’s in public accounting and “industry” accounting are two distinct career areas with their own strong points, but I would definitely recommend both a  finance degree and the CPA designation in order to be successful working on the industry side.

      • Great perspective. Thanks for sharing. This will be helpful to many people that read this article.