A degree in finance can open doors to a wide range of exciting career opportunities. Whether you’re looking to work as a financial analyst in a private business, an accountant for a nonprofit, or help individuals achieve their retirement goals, enrolling in a collegiate finance program can give you the tools you need to succeed.
But the tools of higher education don’t come cheap. Even with an online finance degree program can cost $24,000 to $75,000. Fortunately, there are many available avenues in the way of loans, grants, and scholarships that can support your dreams and ease financial anxiety.
What Is a Finance Degree?
A finance degree program focuses on the study of money management, investing, and market trends. It can prepare you for a job in the economic sector, or lay the groundwork for graduate studies in business or law.
Undergraduates enrolled in an accredited four-year program typically obtain either a Bachelor of Science or a Bachelor of Arts, depending on the area of focus. Introductory coursework can include the fundamentals of economics, statistics, business law, and accounting. Some people interested in working in finance may also consider pursuing a math degree.
Is a Degree in Finance Worth It?
Good News: Entry-level compensation in the field of finance tends to top the national median salary. The employment rate in this sector is expected to grow 8% “from now until 2030.
While jobs in the financial realm are competitive, there is an expanding need for more accountants, strategists, and market analysts. Most of these ground-floor opportunities require at least a bachelor’s degree in finance. Another big bonus of a business finance degree program is connections—the alumni and internship possibilities that could lead to employment.
What Kinds of Finance Degrees Are There?
Educational institutions can offer a Bachelor’s in finance, Associate’s Degrees, Master’s Degrees (including MBAs), and Doctorate programs. Wondering what to do with a finance degree? Popular subfields within a finance program include financial planning, management, and accounting, which could help steer you in a career direction.
A student pursuing a degree in financial management learns how to make informed financial discussions for nonprofit businesses and corporations. Students can take classes in business economics, data analysis, financial reporting, and business law.
A degree in financial planning prepares you to assist businesses, individuals, and families in creating monetary plans for the future. Course topics can be in retirement strategies, investment portfolios, tax planning, healthcare, estate planning, and risk management.
While a degree in accounting offers a more specific focus than a general finance degree, the employment opportunities are far from limited. There are an estimated 135,000 job opportunities projected each year. Students take courses in auditing, tax preparation, and qualitative analysis.
What Can I Do With a Finance Degree?
From analysts to money managers, to a think tank researcher or top government economist, a degree in finance can pave the way to a world of job opportunities.
Loan officers work for banks, mortgage companies, and credit unions. They are instrumental in helping businesses and individuals acquire a home, a business loan, or new car. A loan officer usually holds a bachelor’s degree in finance, accounting, or business.
Personal Financial Advisor
Personal financial advisors work with individuals and families to reach their economic goals. They assist with investment portfolios, navigating tax laws, and can help make retirement dreams come true. Financial advisors may be required to complete certifications, acquire licenses, or complete ongoing education requirements. Requirements may be dictated by your specific career path, employer, or state.
Banks and other institutions rely on financial examiners to help keep them out of trouble. A financial examiner helps businesses comply with current laws and regulations, making sure all their transactions follow mandated guidelines. They can specialize in risk assessment, keeping companies fiscally secure, or in consumer compliance to protect customers.
A financial analyst works for banks and investment companies assessing market trends to inform investment choices and strategical direction. They help create financial forecast models, fiscal reports, and then recommend a course of action.
A financial manager oversees the financial well-being of a business. Responsibilities include supervising company cash flow, keeping tabs on expenses, submitting financial reports, and developing long-term fiscal goals for investment institutions, banks, or insurance companies.
How to Pay for a Finance Degree
A degree in finance can help put you on a career path to success, but the journey usually isn’t free. In 2020, 64% of college grads took out loans for school. An undergrad program can cost you, and a graduate degree only adds to the educational price tag.
Fortunately, there is federal aid, private student loans, scholarships, and other options that can help alleviate the fiscal burden of higher education.
Federal Student Loan
Applying for a federal student loan is usually the first stop on the quest for college funds. With a current interest rate of 3.73% for undergraduates, federal loan rates are fixed and lower than most private loans. They also don’t require a credit check or cosigner. You don’t have to start repayment until after college, so you can worry about your coursework vs. a monthly bill.
The first step is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid “Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) to determine how much financial aid you can receive. This application is used to determine student eligibility for federal financial aid including scholarships, grants, and work-study, in addition to federal student loans.
Private Student Loan
When federal loans and things like scholarships aren’t enough to cover the cost of a finance degree program, a private loan for students can be one option to fill in the gaps. These loans are issued by banks, online lenders, or credit unions. The lender will check your credit score and financial records to determine the loan amount and terms for which you qualify.
Younger applicants who don’t have a credit score or have limited employment history may consider applying with a cosigner, typically a parent or legal guardian, to pledge responsibility for your loan. Rates for undergrad and graduate student loans can vary, so be sure to do your homework and shop around at various lenders to find the best loan for your situation.
It’s a good idea to research the pros and cons of federal vs. private student loans to determine how they can work best for you.
Most colleges and universities accept credit cards for tuition payments. But while it may be tempting to rack up those travel points and cash back rewards, be careful. Many schools will charge you a convenience fee. And even if you have a 0% interest card, that rate can jump up to 12.99% to 24.99% after 18 to 21 months. Might be wise to check out other ways to get that finance degree before paying with plastic.
Borrow from Loved Ones
Borrowing from a loved one for your finance degree may allow for lower interest rates (if any) and generous repayment arrangements. But be sure to spell the terms of the loan on paper to legally protect you and the lender, and to avoid potential confusion, argument, or future resentment.
“Cash is king!” as the saying goes. No educational institution will turn it down. By working as much as you can during school and summer vacations to help pay for college, you can avoid borrowing interest-accruing loans.
College scholarships mean free money gifted from numerous organizations. They can be based on financial need or merit — awarded for grades, test scores, talent, ancestry, or special interests.
Scholarship money does not generally have to be paid back. You can find information from government resources, a college financial aid office, a high school counselor, or this state-by-state scholarship guide. Pay attention to the submission deadlines and application requirements so you don’t miss your chance to qualify.
One difference between grants and scholarships is that grant money is typically awarded solely based on financial need, and often by government agencies. For example, the Federal Pell Grant is gifted to undergraduate students from low-income households. Like scholarships, grants do not have to be repaid.
The job rate in the finance sector is growing, with higher than average entry-level salaries. There’s an optimistic chance a degree in finance could yield good returns in the future. With all the potential funds from federal and private student loans, scholarships, and grant money, pursuing a degree in finance doesn’t have to be a high-risk investment.
1. Need a private student loan to cover your school bills? Because approval for a private student loan is based on creditworthiness, a cosigner may help a student get loan approval and a lower rate.
2. Even if you don’t think you qualify for financial aid, you should fill out the FAFSA form. Many schools require it for merit-based scholarships, too. You can submit it as early as Oct. 1.
3. Would-be borrowers will want to understand the different types of student loans peppering the landscape: private student loans, federal Direct subsidized and unsubsidized loans, Direct PLUS loans, and more.
What does a finance degree do?
A finance degree can prepare you for employment in the financial sector—as an analyst, accountant, manager, financial planner, or loan officer.
What is the best degree for finance?
Any kind of degree from a finance program could set you up to succeed in your desired field. Some of the higher paying finance jobs are in financial management and analysis.
How can I pay for a finance degree?
Investigate federal and private student loans, grant money, and scholarship opportunities.
Photo credit: iStock/Nuthawut Somsuk
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