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Companies looking to maximize profits and minimize loss must make risk-averse, sound financial decisions on a daily basis. Intelligent, informed choices about expansions, investment opportunities, budgets and purchases can be the difference between an organization flourishing or floundering. Global markets and technology have changed the way money moves, and corporations rely on professionals who can analyze financial options and make insightful recommendations. An online degree program in finance can help prepare students to enter this growing field, or a range of related occupations.
A career in finance can suit individuals who enjoy the challenge of solving problems using mathematics, like working with analytical and business intelligence software, and have the ability to communicate effectively. For the busy parent or working professional, online degree programs in finance can make it possible to earn a degree and uphold other commitments at the same time. Most of the coursework is theoretical, allowing individuals to balance life, work and study. Students studying in online finance degree programs also learn about the strict ethical standards and regulations that apply to the financial field.
What do finance professionals do?
An online finance degree may qualify you to work for employers such as investment firms, commercial banks, insurance providers, real estate companies, government agencies, and universities. Self-employment may be another option. Depending on your job role and the type of institution you work for, your duties may include:
- Studying economic trends and business cycles and evaluate financial data
- Preparing financial statements for companies
- Ensuring legal compliances are met
- Helping management make financial decisions to reduce costs and maximize profits
- Estimating the future financial needs of individuals or businesses and helping make financial plans to meet them
- Researching investment opportunities and help clients make investment decisions
- Buying and selling stocks, bonds, commodities and other financial instruments
- Providing recommendations for mergers, acquisitions and public offerings based on financial analyses
Occupations and Career Outlook
Finance degrees open up a broad variety of careers, many of which are expected to grow at a rate faster than average. Stock markets, investments, retirement funds — these are all areas where financial expertise is important. The table below lists some of the occupations related to this field along with job openings, average salary, total employment and job outlook for 2016 to 2026 using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Projected Job Growth
(2016 - 26)
|Appraisers and Assessors of Real Estate||58,880||$60,830||14.4%|
|Personal Financial Advisors||200,920||$124,140||14.4%|
|Billing and Posting Clerks||476,010||$38,460||14.2%|
|Accountants and Auditors||1,241,000||$77,920||10%|
Choose a degree that can help you meet your career goals
An online certificate or associate degree in finance can immerse students in the basics of finance.
According to the BLS, many employers in financial institutions prefer hiring individuals with at least a bachelor's degree. Some job roles may require graduate or post-graduate degrees.
Graduate and post-graduate online finance degree programs may qualify individuals to enter leadership and management positions in businesses or financial institutions.
Online Certificate Programs in Finance
What can I expect to learn in an online certificate program?
Undergraduate online certificate programs in finance can give you an understanding of how the financial world works, including best practices in personal finance, the workings of various financial institutions and different investment instruments. You may be able to use the credits from your certificate program toward an associate or bachelor's degree program should you wish to advance your education.
Typical duration: Up to one year of part-time study
General prerequisites: High school diploma, GED
Typical coursework: Typical coursework for an online certificate in finance can include subjects like:
- Principles of finance
- Financial statement analysis
- Financial economics
- Risk management
- Introduction to accounting
What can I do after earning a certificate?
An undergraduate certificate in finance may qualify you for entry-level roles in business-related fields or the insurance industry. Some potential careers are:
- Claims adjuster
- Claims appraiser
- Claims investigator
Online Associate Degree Programs in Finance
What can I expect to learn in an online associate degree program?
Topics can include the principles of finance, such as asset structure, risk, income, and cash flows. Students also learn about micro and macroeconomics, marketing, and personal finance.
Typical duration: Two years of full time-study
General prerequisites: High school diploma, GED
Typical coursework: Typically, associate programs cover general education classes like English, math, and science as well. Some core topics you may find are:
- Principles of banking
- Money, banking, and financial markets
- Financial accounting
- Financial literacy
- Financial and asset management
- Trade and finance law
You may be required to pass a proctored examination or complete a capstone project.
What can I do after earning an associate degree?
Graduating from an associate degree program in finance may qualify you for entry-level jobs in the banking and finance industry. Some potential careers are:
- Bank teller
- Loan officer
- Real estate broker
- Insurance sales agent
Online Bachelor's Degree Programs in Finance
What can I expect to learn in an online bachelor's degree program?
Bachelor's degree programs tend to offer a deeper understanding of financial concepts than associate degrees. Students can decide to enter corporate finance, studying fluctuations in the market and guiding the short-term and long-term investments of a company or personal finance, helping individuals and families build savings, create a budget, and make long-term investments for retirement or insurance.
Schools may offer this degree as a bachelor's in finance or as a bachelor's in business administration with a concentration in finance.
Typical duration: Four years of full-time study
General prerequisites: High school diploma, GED, associate degree
Typical coursework: Coursework generally includes topics related to management policy and organizational behavior. In addition to topics mentioned in the associate degree section, bachelor's degree programs in finance typically include:
- Personal financial management
- International finance
- Financial institutions and markets
- Corporate finance
- Financial and managerial accounting for decision making
- Financial statements and management decisions
- Investment and portfolio analysis
- Security analysis and valuation
- Contemporary issues in finance practice
Possible electives: Real estate finance, federal income tax for individuals, personal financial planning, retirement and estate planning
You may also be required to complete a capstone project or an internship as a part of your degree program.
What can I do after earning a bachelor's degree?
A bachelor's degree program in finance can prepare graduates for roles in public, corporate, or personal financial services. As a bachelor's degree holder, you may be eligible for entry-level job roles in financial institutions such as financial advisory firms, broking houses, and banks, along with financial management positions in businesses. Some potential occupations are:
- Appraisers and assessors of real estate
- Budget analyst
- Cost estimator
- Financial analyst
- Financial examiner
- Securities, commodities, or financial services sales agent
- Personal financial advisor
- Financial specialist
Online Master's Degree Programs in Finance
What can I expect to learn in an online master's degree program?
The Master of Science (M.S.) in Finance and Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a concentration in finance are the two common degree types offered online.
- The M.S. degree tends to place more emphasis on building the quantitative skills of students, and usually features a range of finance courses
- An online MBA program, typically spends more time on teaching the leadership, management and entrepreneurial skills necessary to run a financial institution
While MBA programs also offer finance courses, they're often less than the number taken in an M.S. program.
Typical duration: One to two years of full-time study
General prerequisites: Bachelor's degree
Typical coursework: Students in a master's degree program in finance typically study financial institutions and world markets, as well as the federal and international policies and regulations that govern financial services. Coursework may include:
- Portfolio management
- Economic analysis (firm and consumer)
- Finance fundamentals and value creation
- Financial econometrics
- Options pricing and risk management
- Current issues in corporate finance
- Multinational managerial finance
- Mergers and acquisitions
Possible electives: Advanced financial modelling, cost management, information technology auditing, financial intermediation
Some online finance master's degree program may also require you to be present for an on-campus residency and complete a capstone project or internship.
What can I do after earning a master's degree?
Those who earn an online master's degree in finance may better qualify for financial management positions. These individuals are responsible for preparing financial statements, supervising analysts, and helping with financial decisions.
Students who earn the online MBA in finance typically pursue administrative and supervisorial roles, such as that of a controller. These financial managers put together forecasts of a company's financial standing. They are also in charge of any reports that the government requests.
Some potential occupations are:
- Cash manager
- Risk manager
- Insurance manager
- Portfolio manager
- Asset/wealth or private equity manager
- Investment banking or commercial lending officer
- Financial model builder
- Financial analyst
- Mutual fund manager
- Financial risk manager
- Corporate finance officer
Online Doctoral Degree Programs in Finance
What can I expect to learn in an online doctoral degree program?
Students can choose to earn either a Doctor of Finance (Ph.D.) or a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) with a concentration in finance.
Typical duration: Full-time students typically complete these degree programs in three to seven years.
General prerequisites: Master's degree
Typical coursework: Coursework for the Ph.D. often immerses students in multivariate modeling, stochastic calculus, probability and measure theory, and quantitative and qualitative research practices.
DBA classes tend to cover ethical leadership practices, management theory, and global finance practices.
In addition to core curriculum, doctoral candidates must complete a dissertation. The dissertation may be a study and analysis of original, collected data, or a new interpretation of existing research. With a doctorate in finance, graduates might pursue careers as postsecondary educators, researchers, or financial consultants.
Some online DBA and Ph.D. programs may also ask students to fulfill residency requirements. The lengths of these residencies can vary depending on the program and the institution offering it.
What can I do after earning a doctoral degree?
After earning a Ph.D., students may be able to pursue a career as a researcher or university-level educator. After a DBA with a concentration in finance, students may advance to leadership positions in corporations or government agencies.
The accreditation process is a voluntary process that schools undergo to demonstrate that their educational programs meet the high quality standards required by professions. Accreditation may be institutional or programmatic. Enrolling in an accredited school or program can make you eligible for certain financial aid and allow you transfer credits from college to college, if needed.
As online finance degree programs come under the business ambit, two business professional bodies that accredit online finance degree programs are:
- International Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE)
- Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AASCB)
Certifications and Licensures
Professional certification requirements vary depending on the financial field you work in. Here are a few certification programs:
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) is the main regulatory body that issues licenses for individuals working in the securities and financial services industry.
Individuals working as personal financial advisors or in the securities industry may need a variety of licenses depending on the products they sell. You may find more information on licensing requirements from the North American Securities Administrators Association.