What is the Difference Between Accounting and Finance?

Although similar, there are differences between accounting and finance career positions. Accounting and finance professionals will take similar courses to finish degree programs and will find positions in the same industries and companies. The differences in each degree program, however, are instrumental in beginning to prepare these future business professionals for the differences in the responsibilities and roles of these two fields.

Degree Programs in Accounting and Finance

Typically, the first step in pursuing a career in either the finance or the accounting field is to complete a degree program. Many of the courses that an accounting major and a finance major will complete in an undergraduate curriculum are the same or similar. General business courses and basic accounting courses are often the first requirements to finish before moving on to more advanced course work in one discipline or the other.

Accounting majors are often preparing to enter into specific types of accounting, such as public accounting, government or non-profit accounting, or private accounting. Courses typically include cost accounting, income taxation, global accounting, accounting systems, and auditing.

Finance majors often are preparing for careers in budgeting, investment, and financial analysis. In addition to some accounting courses, students in the finance degree program will also complete money and banking, corporate financial analysis, investment fundamentals, business strategy and policy, and financial markets. 

Careers in Accounting and Finance

The different focuses of the degree programs are necessary in order to prepare students for future careers in one of these specialty financial-related careers. Like the curriculums, there are similarities in the positions and industries an accounting and a finance professional will work in; however, the common positions and organizations are different from one another.

Accounting professionals are likely to own their own firms or to work in an office setting for corporations, government agencies, non-profit organizations, or private accounting firms. Accountants might work with individuals to prepare taxes or manage the assets and liabilities of a major corporation. Many of the tasks that are associated with accounting positions include handling taxes and tax information, preparing financial statements, and recording financial transactions.

Finance professionals can work in similar environments as accountants, but many of the positions in the finance field can also be found specifically in financial institutions and with private financial planning firms. Professionals in this field might work as financial advisors or planners, financial analysts, loan officers, or budget analysts.

Professional Certifications

Both accountants and financial professionals might also complete certifications to qualify for positions and to advance professional skills and knowledge. Depending on the whether working in accounting or finance, there are professional certifications that are more suited to one field or the other. For example, a finance professional might work toward completing a Chartered Financial Analyst or Certified Professional Planner designation. An accountant would likely complete the Certified Public Accountant designation. Additional information on certifications can be reviewed at The Association of Accountants and Financial Professionals in Business website.

With the differences between accounting and finance, future professionals interested in either field can tailor an education, experience, and certification process to follow a rewarding, in-demand career path.