When looking for accounting and finance degree comparisons available on the Internet and in print, it is important to remember that the terms can mean different things to different schools. Some schools may combine the two programs for space purposes, while they may be distinctly separate at another institution. While there are some general guidelines that many schools believe separate the accounting major and degree program from the finance major and degree program, individual schools may vary.
Accounting and Finance Degree Comparisons
Past Versus Present
One of the easiest ways to distinguish between an accounting and finance degree is to consider that accounting deals more with structure of a business, while finance deals more with structuring money. While accounting focuses on managing and analyzing financial data, finance focuses on managing actual money. The primary distinction is made between "data" and "money." Accounting also tends to look back to see what caused something. For example, an accountant filing your taxes would need to review your past year's purchases and information, which is in contrast to the way that finance typically works. Financiers would be looking to the present and future. For example, they would be looking at how to invest money to see a future return. The distinction can be a bit abstract, but it is still one of the more common ways professionals distinguish between the two fields.
In schools where the two programs are distinct, the course load differs. Common courses in accounting degree programs include cost accounting, auditing, and taxation. In finance degree programs, common courses tend to focus more on economy-based areas like macroeconomics, microeconomics, and the finance market.
Prepared Versus Preparing
Similar to the past versus present reference, another way the two fields differ is in what they achieve. In accounting, much of the focus is on preparing information and data based on the past for the future. It is, in a sense, a historical roadmap for the future. In finance, there is also a focus on preparing, but it is preparing for a future event.
How Are the Two Similar?
While many accounting and finance degree comparisons focus on how the two majors differ, there are also a few ways in which they overlap. They include:
- Both fields value the importance of data in making important decisions. For example, an accounting firm will frequently provide data that a financial analyst will use to make a future decision. The two fields also look at data in a similar manner.
- Both fields focus on the same questions. For example, with both having money as their bottom line, they are both concerned about how much something will cost or has cost in the past.
- Both fields look to increase the amount of revenue a source holds. For example, a financial analyst may look to help a client achieve the investment with the largest return. At the same time, an accountant may work with a company to locate tax breaks and initiatives to help reduce taxes and earn a higher return.
- In the modern-day finance world, especially for entry-level positions, many employers will request a degree in either major.
A Final Thought
There are two important elements to keep in mind if you're thinking about a career path in finance or accounting. The first is how your institution or the school you would like to apply to handles the two fields as you are looking to choose a major. The second area of concern is to figure out what role you would like to adopt in a career past college. Often, that position will dictate whether an accounting degree or a finance degree is a better tool for your future.