What are some Differences between Accounting and Finance Career Preparation?

A love of numbers, high standard of ethics, and enjoyment of structure and processes are all qualities that might lead to investigating the differences between accounting and finance careers. Some of the skills required by professionals in both fields include knowledge of business operations, mathematics, and communications.  While there are common skill sets, each field has unique focus areas to help prepare students for a successful career path.

Preparing for Careers in Finance

Students majoring in finance will take courses that help to prepare for a career working with markets, price trends, risk assessment, and interest rates. Much of the course work will also include accounting and general business operations. In a finance curriculum, courses include those that focus on finance strategies in corporations, credit risk modeling, investment analysis, investment banking, financial statements and analysis, and corporate finance. Common courses are risk analysis, retirement planning, topics in financial markets, portfolio management, and financial analysis.

Finance careers include loan officer, mortgage management, financial services executive, insurance agent, credit analyst, and investor relations specialist. Professionals in this field are likely to work in banking, financial services and planning firms, corporations, government agencies, health care organizations, educational institutions, and non-profit organizations. Required skills include written and oral communication, management and leadership, problem solving, research and analysis, and critical thinking.

Preparing for Careers in Accounting

While the programs are similar, there are differences between accounting and finance. The focus of accounting includes more advanced accounting, economics, and business law. Specific course work is likely to include auditing, forensic accounting principles, taxation, business law, taxation and regulation, business statistics, macroeconomics and microeconomics, and information systems for business. Accounting students must prepare for working in various settings and maintaining knowledge of changing laws and regulations for individuals and companies or organizations; the courses in accounting curricula are designed to give that knowledge and expertise.

To be successful in the accounting field, professionals must have a number of skills in addition to a degree. Some of the common requirements for various positions include being detail oriented, working well with numbers, enjoying working independently and in teams, communicating with clients and peers, and committing to ongoing learning. Like finance, accounting professionals can find positions in almost every industry from non-profit groups to government agencies. For many accountants, the standard career path includes completion of a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) certification.

Additional Certifications

In addition to the CPA designation, finance and accounting professionals can often benefit from obtaining other certifications beyond a degree. While these certifications can be beneficial for either career field, there are some designations that are best suited for each profession. For example, finance professionals might pursue designations such as the Certified Financial Planner (CFP), Certified Financial Manager (CFM), or Certified Government Financial Manager (CGFM). Accounting professionals might benefit more from designations such as Certified Management Accountant (CMA), Enrolled Agent (EA), and Certified Internal Auditor (CIA). An additional certification that covers both careers is the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) certification.

Both a career in finance and a career in accounting require professionals who can work with and analyze numbers in order to make recommendations and drive financial operations of various companies and organizations. With further information on the differences between accounting and finance careers, future professionals can tailor a degree and experience in each specific field to meet their individual goals.