If knowledge truly is power, then continuing your education is one way to gain a competitive edge in the business world. What you know and how you apply it could very well be the difference between rising to the top and sinking to the bottom. If you've been considering an online finance degree, you're already taking a step in the right direction. Online degrees in finance are growing in popularity among finance professionals who want to advance their skills while continuing to work.
Finance vs. Accounting
A lot of people confuse finance with general accounting, which focuses more on basic business operations. The field of finance is narrower in scope and the expertise finance professional bring to companies is often used to support decision making that happens outside the company (stockholders are a good example). Earning a finance degree will provide you with the skills you need to work with a variety of organizations including small businesses and large corporations alike to help manage assets, debts and resources.
What Kind of Finance Degrees Can You Get?
For every level of education, an online finance degree program exists. You'll find everything from certificate programs to Master of Science in Finance degrees (MSF) and the familiar Master of Business Administration (MBA).
Certificate programs are generally available in the areas of accounting, financial planning and basic investing. Although they're not technically degrees, these certificate programs provide students with the basic skills, knowledge and principles related to a single aspect of finance.
Bachelor's degrees in finance focus more on financial accounting and theory, but include courses that help students develop critical thinking and decision-making skills. A typical curriculum for a bachelor's degree in finance might include areas like managerial finance, fundamentals of investing and portfolio management, and global finance.
Graduate-level online finance degrees may be either an MSF or MBA with a concentration in finance. Both of these master-level online finance degrees ready students for leadership roles in the corporate world, but the MSF is shorter than the MBA program and focuses on in-depth study of financial theory and real-world application. If you choose to pursue an online MBA degree with a finance concentration, your curriculum will be broader and include accounting, finance, economic, information systems and management.
Choosing the Right Program
Knowing which online finance degree program to choose will have a lot to do with the area of finance you already or would like to work in. The course work you do for your online finance degree may shed light on your existing career path or point you toward a new one. Jobs you can get with an online finance degree include:
- Financial analyst. Financial analysts examine an organization's financial status and evaluate it on a number of points, like assets, liabilities and investments, then make recommendations to improve that status in line with the organization's goals. An online finance degree can lead to working as a budget, credit, investment, risk or tax analyst.
- Financial manager. Your online finance degree could land you the position of financial manager, where you manage financial reporting, assets and investments for any organization in just about any industry.
- Corporate finance. When you're in corporate finance you'll put your online finance degree to work helping businesses raise capital, grow, make acquisitions, and influence their overall financial strategy. Competition is fierce in this segment of the job market, making an online finance degree a worthy investment.
This list of finance jobs is by no means exhaustive. If you've got an online degree in finance, you'll also find career opportunities in investment banking, financial planning and in the insurance and real estate industries.
When it comes to choosing an online finance degree program, you'll want to spend some time locating online finance degree programs that offer a curriculum you like and can afford. Study the course catalog, the faculty's credentials and be sure you understand the online finance degree's requirements--everything from whether you ever need to visit campus to the maximum number of years you can take to complete the program.
Finally, don't take the school's word that it's accredited. Fraudulent accreditation and accreditation agencies abound on the Internet. Make sure the online finance degree program you choose is well-established, approved by professional finance organizations and that the accreditation agency is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council on Higher Education.
Paying for Your Degree
We've been taught to think that most things we get on the Internet are less expensive than in the brick-and-mortar world, so it may be surprising to learn that online finance degrees can cost as much earning them on campus.
Check to see if the online finance degree program you've chosen offers federal student loans or financial assistance (most do). If you're currently working, you employer may be willing to cover the cost of tuition if you can show that your degree directly benefits the company.