What Is Finance?
Individuals, companies, and governmental agencies all must make decisions regarding their money. Such choices are numerous – and highly important. After all, wise financial management can determine whether an organization possesses the wealth to expand its operations. Wise personal management can determine when you can retire and what kind of lifestyle you have.
Employers value input from financial experts, and obtaining a degree in finance is an excellent way to gain the knowledge necessary to weigh in on financial matters. Finance majors learn the intricacies of how to allocate resources over time under conditions of risk or uncertainty. They become well-versed in theories, applications, and analytical tools that help predict what actions will succeed and which will not.
For their services, people in financial occupations stand to make good money of their own. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for this group was $76,570 in May 2021, which is quite a bit higher than the $45,760 median annual wage for all occupations. Plus, overall employment in business and financial occupations is projected to grow 7 percent from 2021 to 2031.
Best Finance Schools In The U.S.
Of course, there are many places at which to study finance, and you must weigh them all against your individual needs such as interests, career aspirations, location, and costs. For additional assistance in locating schools that award finance degrees, check out the Find Your Perfect “U” tool. You can search over 6,000 colleges and universities with 11 different filters to find the perfect school for you!
Looking to study finance while receiving a top-notch liberal arts education? This Ivy League school in Philadelphia fits the bill. Undergraduates can earn a BS in Economics through the prestigious Wharton School, with finance being one of 20 concentrations offered. Students learn how to apply business methods and economic theory to real-world problems.
The highly active Wharton Undergraduate Finance Club enhances the collegiate experience through speakers, competitions, and networking events. Undergrads leave well-prepared to take on a variety of entry-level positions. Many, though, opt to further develop their financial acumen through graduate study, and UPenn itself offers a finance concentration in its MBA program, as well as awards the PhD in finance.
Would you like to manage real money for course credit? Students enrolled in FINC 422/668 at this public institution do just that. Through management of The Tanner Fund, they put their theoretical knowledge to practical use. Even if you aren’t fortunate enough to grab a spot in this popular class, you’ll graduate with a solid foundation in the core financial areas of corporate finance, investments, and markets and institutions.
In addition to earning a BBA in Finance, interested majors can enhance their employability by fulfilling requirements for specialized certificates in areas such as petroleum ventures or trading, risks, and investments. The university also offers graduate programs leading to an MS in Finance, an MFM in Financial Management, and an MRE in Land Economics and Real Estate.
Whether you’re interested in earning a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate in finance, this private institution in Massachusetts will give your job applications a major boost. In fact, among the most recent undergraduate class from the Carroll School of Management, 94% were employed within three months of graduation and commanded an average starting salary of $71,000.
The college has an international reputation for excellence. Faculty are top scholars and practitioners in the industry and often publish in prestigious journals. And while the coursework is rigorous, students note that the college maintains a collaborative nature where peers, staff, and even alums are committed to helping you succeed.
With an acceptance rate around 20%, getting into the MBA program at the prestigious Kellogg School of Management requires a stellar application. Students who land a coveted spot at this private institution in Evanston, Illinois receive a top-notch education that combines classroom learning with plenty of hands-on experiences. Finance is one of eight majors offered.
Graduate students interested in research careers can pursue a Doctorate in Finance, which includes substantial coursework in mathematics, statistics, and economics. At the undergraduate level, students from any major may seek a Financial Economics Certificate to be awarded along with the degree in their chosen major. Getting into the certificate program requires fulfilling prerequisites in economics and math and then completing a sequence of four courses covering principles of finance, investments, derivatives, and topics in financial economics.
If your career aspirations include working in finance in the Big Apple, this public college in NYC might assist in getting your foot in the door. Seniors seeking a BBA in finance can enroll in an internship training program that offers three credits a semester for 20 weekly hours of work. And for Baruch undergrads looking to immediately continue their Baruch experience in graduate school, the Path to MS program streamlines the admission’s process – eliminating standardized test scores for those with a qualifying cumulative undergraduate GPA. Embark on your MS in finance, financial risk management, real estate, accounting, or related field without needing to take the GMAT or GRE!
While Hofstra’s location in Hempstead, NY, is more than 30 miles from Wall Street, walking into the Martin B. Greenberg Trading Room at the Frank G. Zarb School of Business certainly channels the same feeling of hustle and bustle. With 34 Bloomberg Professional terminals, it is one of the largest academic trading rooms in the nation.
Whether you’re at this private institution to earn a BBA or MS in Finance or to make finance the concentration of your MBA, Hofstra considers real-world simulations a vital part of the learning experience. And for those who want to learn more about the ever-expanding global marketplace, the conferences and executive speaker series hosted by the Center for International Financial Services and Markets brings the world to you.
All students who earn a BSM from this private school in New Orleans, Louisiana receive a solid foundation in corporate finance, capital markets, and investments. The university is particularly well-suited, however, to finance majors with an interest in the rapidly changing field of energy, both traditional sources and renewable energy. At the graduate level, Tulane offers a fast-paced, immersive Master of Finance degree. The curriculum covers much of the same material found on the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) exam, putting graduates in a good position to pass that career-boosting test.
With an enrollment of more than 43,000 students, you’d expect this public school in Tallahassee, Florida to offer a wide variety of majors. FSU does not disappoint. It awards the BS in Finance, the MSF, an MBA with an emphasis on finance, and a PhD in Business Administration with a major in finance.
Ambitious undergrads can apply to the Combined Pathways program to take courses that give them a jump start on graduate school. Another great reason to keep that undergraduate GPA high is that FSU’s College of Business awards a substantial number of scholarships to upper-division business students (rising juniors and seniors), including ones specifically designated for finance majors.
Students wishing to study finance at a large public school in Florida possess another great option in Florida International University. But if relocating to Miami isn’t for you, FIU’s online BBA in Finance or Master of Science in Finance can provide the same rigorous studies as on campus and put you on your way to achieving career goals.
FIU also conducts a research-oriented, on-campus PhD program in business administration with a concentration in finance. As one might guess from the university’s name, the institution ranks particularly high in international business, and the composition of the student body reflects the university’s commitment to diversity. More than two-thirds of its business school undergrads are Hispanic/LatinX, and international students represent more than 120 countries.
No doubt about it: OSU is a very large school. This public institution in Columbus, Ohio enrolls more than 60,000 students and offers some 12,000 courses! But with size comes opportunity. The university conducts 200+ study abroad programs and hosts more than 30 career fairs each year. And with more than half a million OSU alumni throughout the world, graduates receive a huge network along with their diploma.
The school is also known for sustainability, commitment to veterans, a strong LGBTQ+ community, and quality of campus food. Whether you’re seeking a BS in Finance, a Specialized Master in Business – Finance (SMF), an online or on-campus MBA, or a PhD in Business Administration with an emphasis on finance, you’ll appreciate the fact that OSU also has a national reputation as a great value for the money.
What To Expect As A Finance Major
As a finance major, you will learn how money is raised and invested. You will also acquire skills in assessing risk and using financial modeling to explore different strategies and scenarios. You will gain a deep understanding of economic policy and its impact on markets, and upon graduation, you’ll be ready to help your employer with asset and liability management.
Types of Finance Classes
The courses taken by students in finance vary by institution as well as by individual interests. However, there are some classes that are fairly standard to most programs. These often include:
- Basic Finance
- Corporate Finance
- Buyouts and Acquisitions
- Investment Banking
- Real Estate Finance
- Fixed Income Analysis
- Data Analytics in Finance
- Risk Management
- Forecasting Techniques
- Global Financial Systems
Students pursuing a degree in finance also should be aware that graduation requirements often include specific courses in microeconomics, macroeconomics, calculus, and statistics.
Skills Learned in a Finance Major
Graduates of finance programs learn a variety of skills. These abilities help them go on to immediate employment or to pursue higher-level degrees, often in business or law.
Skills gained include:
- Agility to quickly understanding and process new information
- Verbal and written communication
- Evaluation of financial markets
- Financial modeling
- Reading financial statements
- Basic accounting
- Valuation methods
- Statistical data analysis
How Long Does It Take to Get a Finance Degree?
Earning a bachelor’s degree in finance generally takes four years of full-time study. A master’s degree requires an additional two years. Note that some places, including many of the best finance schools, offer accelerated routes that enable highly qualified students to achieve both a bachelor’s and a master’s within five years. PhD programs generally take five years to complete.
Factors contributing to the length of time to earn a degree in finance include:
- Previous education (graduate programs may require students without an undergraduate finance degree to take additional classes)
- Part-time vs full-time learning
- Accelerated program availability
Finance Degree Specializations
All students learn the fundamentals of finance. However, finance degrees also can come with specializations that suit individual interests and career aspirations. Some popular specializations include:
- Corporate finance
- Capital markets
- Private equity and venture capital
- Quantitative finance
What Can I Do With A Finance Degree?
Money is important everywhere! Thus, a finance degree opens doors for employment in a variety of settings. Some possibilities include:
- Commercial, investment, and savings banks
- Brokerage firms
- Insurance companies
- Investment advisory services
- Non-profit institutions
- Wall Street
- Government agencies
Finance Major Career Paths
People possessing a degree in finance often land quite lucrative jobs. The following chart notes some of the many careers and salaries. Note that projected job growth is not a guarantee. Estimates are made under current conditions. And as every smart finance major knows, variables are always changing!
- Median Salary: $95,570
- Career Outlook: +9% (2021-2031)
- Required Education: Bachelor's Degree
Analysts evaluate financial data and economic trends to help businesses and individuals make decisions about where to invest money to obtain profit.
- Median Salary: $94,170
- Career Outlook: +15% (2021-2031)
- Required Education: Bachelor's Degree
Advisors assess the financial situations of clients and help them make decisions on how to reach short-term and long-term monetary goals.
- Median Salary: $131,710
- Career Outlook: +17% (2021-2031)
- Required Education: Bachelor's Degree
Managers oversee the financial health of an organization and perform activities such as preparing reports, overseeing employees, recommending cost-cutting measures, and guiding investment decisions.
- Median Salary: $62,910
- Career Outlook: +10% (2021-2031)
- Required Education: Bachelor's Degree
Agents connect buyers and sellers in financial markets.
- Median Salary: $77,250
- Career Outlook: +6% (2021-2031)
- Required Education: Bachelor's Degree
These professionals prepare and examine financial records to ensure accuracy and proper fulfillment of tax and compliance obligations.
How To Get Into The Top Finance Colleges
Think earning an undergraduate degree in finance might be a good career move? The following steps can help you land a spot in the best finance school well-suited to meet your needs and interests:
Admissions Requirements for Finance Degree Programs
Each institution has its own admission’s requirements, so carefully follow instructions when applying. The following are items frequently requested:
- The school’s application or The Common App (a standardized application used by thousands of schools – be sure the places you’re applying to accept it)
- High school transcript that includes courses taken, grade in each, and cumulative GPA
- Transcripts from any previous post-secondary institutions
- Recommendations from teachers, counselors, or other relevant professionals
- SAT and/or ACT scores
- Proof of English language proficiency (if an international student)
- Application fee
Finance Schools FAQ
Where do people with a finance degree find jobs?
- Many who graduate with a major in finance work for financial institutions such as brokerage firms, investment advisory services, commercial banks, and savings banks. Others find employment with corporations, non-profits, and governmental agencies.
Is a finance degree worth it?
- For someone who is good with numbers and likes figuring out how to allocate resources while minimizing risk, a finance degree can definitely prove a worthwhile pursuit. The median salary of financial occupations is well-above the national average, and predictions show growth of 7% in the field over the next decade.
What are the best finance schools?
- The best finance school is the one that fits the individual student’s interests and circumstances. Among the many great U.S. institutions that award finance degrees, standouts include University of Pennsylvania, Texas A&M University, Boston College, Northwestern University, and CUNY Bernard M. Baruch College.
What type of courses do finance majors take?
- Students pursuing finance degrees take a variety of classes that teach them about financial markets, forecasting financial outcomes, and allocating resources. Courses such as corporate finance, valuation, risk management, and investment banking are part of the curriculum at most schools. Finance majors also take advanced math classes such as calculus and statistics.