When choosing between accounting or finance jobs, it’s essential to understand the core functions and responsibilities of each field. Finance professionals oversee money and investments for individuals, corporations, and governments, often working in fields such as investment banking, wealth management, and financial planning.

Accounting skills cover precise documentation, upkeep, and reporting of financial records. Accountants serve individuals, work in corporations, or at public firms, providing accurate transaction entries and financial statements

Careers in finance and accounting offer unique opportunities and challenges, each playing a critical role in the financial health of businesses.

In this article, we cover the main differences between the two careers—starting from education, typical job titles, skills, accounting and finance salary prospects, and industry outlook.

Key Highlights

Key Highlights

  • An accounting career path is projected to grow by 4% from 2022 to 2032.
  • Is finance a good career path? Yes, it will increase by 8% from 2022 to 2032, faster than average.
  • The average accountant salary is around $78,000; financial analysts earn about $95,000.
  • Among the accounting certificates, the CPA stands out; finance professionals often obtain CFA credentials.
  • Accounting vs finance career path overview: accountants can advance to roles like a forensic accountant or a CFO; financial analysts may grow to become investment bankers or portfolio managers.

Table of Contents

Finance vs Accounting Degree

Careers in finance and accounting usually start with a bachelor’s degree in finance, economics, or business. Pursuing advanced degrees, such as an MBA for financial analysts, can greatly enhance your employability.

The table below compares finance vs accounting degree, curriculum, and finance qualifications:

Degree in Accounting

An accounting degree is a good major for those who want to pursue specialized careers. It involves evaluating a business’s financial position—from basic bookkeeping to managing balance sheets and income statements. The focus is often on past records and present reports, including their creation and analysis, and extends to planning, controlling, decision-making, stewardship, and accountability.

Although a bachelor’s degree is suitable for many accounting roles, pursuing postgraduate studies provides specialized expertise. In a typical accounting career path, to become a chartered accountant (CA), you need additional finance qualifications. These can often be gained on the job, sometimes with employer subsidies.

Accounting students usually specialize in auditing, tax, risk assessment, international accounting, and forensic accounting, which covers legal cases like fraud. Further specialization through postgraduate degrees at the Master of Research (MRes) or PhD levels is also an option.

Whatever education you choose, ensure you include the obtained accounting skills on your resume to showcase your expertise and get a better chance at landing an internship in finance and accounting.

Degree in Finance

A degree in finance provides a foundation for careers in financial services, business, banking, and consultancy. It involves managing current and future financial figures, predicting growth, assessing resources, and exploring funding options. When comparing a finance vs accounting degree, it’s clear that finance emphasizes strategic financial management and forward-looking analysis.

A bachelor’s degree in finance qualifies you for many finance careers, but postgraduate studies provide advanced knowledge. Finance qualifications, often specific to the country of work, may be required for higher-level positions and can again be earned on the job with employer support.

With a degree in finance, you can focus on areas like corporate finance, financial evaluation, behavioral finance, derivatives, and more, with some specializations offered as entire postgraduate courses. Others may be banking, international finance, financial engineering, and financial planning.

Finance vs Accounting Degree: Entry Requirements

For undergraduate programs, you need strong numerical skills and relevant high school qualifications in subjects like math, but no specific work experience. When choosing between accounting vs finance career path, it’s important to note that for postgraduate programs, a related undergraduate degree or professional experience is required—though strong quantitative and analytical skills can also suffice.

What Jobs Can You Get with a Finance Degree?

Pursuing a degree in finance opens up a wide array of job opportunities across various industries. But is finance a good major for your future job prospects?

Here’s a list of 30 potential finance career progression options you can explore with a finance degree.

  1. Investment Banker
  2. Financial Analyst
  3. Portfolio Manager
  4. Financial Planner
  5. Risk Manager
  6. Treasury Analyst
  7. Credit Analyst
  8. Asset Manager
  9. Equity Research Analyst
  10. Corporate Finance Manager
  11. Financial Consultant
  12. Investment Analyst
  13. Private Equity Analyst
  14. Hedge Fund Manager
  15. Commercial Banker
  16. Wealth Manager
  17. Compliance Officer
  18. Financial Controller
  19. Mergers & Acquisitions Analyst
  20. Real Estate Analyst
  21. Quantitative Analyst
  22. Venture Capital Analyst
  23. Financial Examiner
  24. Budget Analyst
  25. Insurance Underwriter
  26. Economic Analyst
  27. Market Research Analyst
  28. Trading Specialist
  29. Credit Risk Analyst
  30. Actuary

What Jobs Can You Get with an Accounting Degree?

Many people ask, “Is accounting a good major?” The answer is a resounding yes. A degree in accounting provides a solid foundation for many jobs within the industry.

Explore this list of 30 accounting position titles you can pursue along the accountant career path.

  1. Public Accountant
  2. Management Accountant
  3. Tax Accountant
  4. Auditor
  5. Forensic Accountant
  6. Government Accountant
  7. Financial Accountant
  8. Internal Auditor
  9. Cost Accountant
  10. Compliance Auditor
  11. Budget Analyst
  12. Accounting Manager
  13. Payroll Manager
  14. Tax Consultant
  15. Corporate Accountant
  16. Financial Controller
  17. Accounts Payable Specialist
  18. Accounts Receivable Specialist
  19. Bookkeeper
  20. Accounting Clerk
  21. Staff Accountant
  22. Senior Accountant
  23. Chief Financial Officer (CFO)
  24. Financial Analyst
  25. Revenue Analyst
  26. Treasury Accountant
  27. Fixed Asset Accountant
  28. Fund Accountant
  29. Grant Accountant
  30. Investment Accountant

Careers in Finance and Accounting: Certifications

For accountants, the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) title is particularly crucial, symbolizing deep expertise in US public accounting standards and practices, and it is considered the most respected among accounting certificates in the field.

In finance, while some analysts hold CPA credentials, the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation is more common and specifically geared towards their role. The CFA credential emphasizes investment decision-making, setting it apart from the CPA’s focus on public accounting. CFAs are proficient in managing investments and making strategic financial decisions, showcasing their expertise in various investment-related areas.

Here are five of the most respected finance and accounting certificates to consider:

  1. CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst): A finance certificate that focuses on investment management and financial analysis, requiring candidates to pass three levels of exams.
  2. CPA (Certified Public Accountant): Among the most-wanted accounting certificates for auditing and tax preparation, requiring passing a comprehensive exam and meeting state-specific requirements.
  3. CFP (Certified Financial Planner): A finance certificate, specializing in financial planning and investment advice, requiring completion of education courses and passing a rigorous exam.
  4. FRM (Financial Risk Manager): Deals with financial risk management, requiring passing two levels of exams focused on risk assessment and quantitative analysis.
  5. CMA (Certified Management Accountant): A finance certificate in management accounting and strategic financial management, requiring passing a two-part exam.

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Accounting vs Finance: Career Path and Jobs

When choosing between an accounting vs finance career path, it’s essential to understand the variety of roles available in each field. Both sectors offer a range of job opportunities that cater to different skills and interests.

Before making a decision, explore the various types of accounting as well as finance career progression, comparing the opportunities you can pursue.

Types of Finance Jobs

What do most careers in finance deal with? Such jobs encompass a broad spectrum of roles related to managing money, investments, and financial strategy. Here are some common types of finance jobs.

  • Investment Banker: Specializes in raising capital for companies, governments, and other entities. Investment bankers also provide advisory services for mergers, acquisitions, and other financial transactions.
  • Financial Analyst: Analyzes financial data to help businesses make informed investment decisions. Financial analysts often work in investment firms, banks, or corporate finance departments, underlining the importance of finance qualifications.
  • Portfolio Manager: Manages investment portfolios for clients, including individuals, institutions, and mutual funds. Portfolio managers make decisions about asset allocation and investment strategies.
  • Financial Planner: Assists individuals and families in managing their personal finances, including retirement planning, tax strategies, and investment planning.
  • Risk Manager: Identifies and assesses financial risks within an organization and develops strategies to mitigate those risks. Risk managers work in various industries, including banking and insurance, highlighting a crucial role in the finance vs accounting spectrum.
  • Treasury Analyst: Manages a company’s liquidity, investments, and risk related to financial activities. Treasury analysts focus on cash management, capital markets, and financial planning.

Types of Accounting Jobs

Accounting jobs are primarily focused on the accurate recording, reporting, and analysis of financial transactions. Here are some common types of accounting jobs, including entry-level accounting positions:

  • Public Accountant: One of the most common accounting position titles in the industry. Provides accounting, auditing, and tax services to a variety of clients, including individuals, businesses, and government entities. Public accountants often work for accounting firms or as independent practitioners.
  • Management Accountant: Works within a company to record and analyze financial information for internal use. Management accountants assist in budgeting, performance evaluation, and cost management. Proficiency in Excel for accounting is paramount for the role.
  • Auditor: Examines financial statements and records to ensure accuracy and compliance with regulations. Auditors can work internally within a company or externally for accounting firms. Including auditing experience in your accounting skills section in your resume may boost your employability due to its dynamic nature.
  • Tax Accountant: Specializes in preparing and filing tax returns, as well as advising clients on tax planning and compliance. Tax accountants must stay current with tax laws and regulations.
  • Forensic Accountant: Investigates financial discrepancies and fraud. Forensic accountants use their skills in accounting, auditing, and investigative techniques to analyze financial data for legal cases. Highlighting forensic accounting on your accounting skills in your resume can be advantageous in the long run.
  • Government Accountant: Works for government agencies to ensure the proper use of public funds. Government accountants audit and manage financial records for federal, state, and local government entities, representing an important accounting position title in public service.

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Finance vs Accounting: Skills

When comparing careers in accounting and finance, it’s essential to understand the key skills required for each profession. While there is some overlap, each field also demands specific competencies that cater to its unique responsibilities.

Finance vs Accounting: Overlapping Skills

Careers in finance and accounting both need a solid foundation in the following skills:

  • Analytical Thinking: Ability to assess complex financial data and draw meaningful conclusions.
  • Attention to Detail: Precision in handling financial records and data to ensure accuracy.
  • Problem-Solving: Ability to identify issues and develop effective solutions.
  • Communication: Clear and effective communication of financial information and recommendations to stakeholders.
  • Excel Proficiency: Expertise in using Excel for accounting and financial analysis, and reporting.
  • Accounting Skills: Understanding accounting principles and financial statements to inform analysis and decision-making—highlighting the intersection of accounting vs finance skills.

Financial Analyst Skills

What are the right skills for a finance resume to stand out? Financial analysts require a distinct expertise to excel in their roles.

  • Financial Modeling Skills: Proficiency in creating financial models to predict performance and guide investment decisions—a crucial part of your finance career progression.
  • Market Analysis: Ability to analyze market trends and economic conditions to forecast opportunities and risks.
  • Strategic Planning: Skills in developing long-term financial strategies and advising on investment opportunities—often enhanced by obtaining a finance certificate.
  • Risk Management: Expertise in identifying and mitigating financial risks.
  • Investment Analysis: Evaluating investment opportunities to recommend the best options for clients or the organization.
  • Quantitative Analysis: Using statistical techniques and software tools to analyze financial data is an important skill for anyone seeking finance career progression.
  • Economic & Industry Knowledge: Insight into economic conditions and industry trends to provide context for financial analysis.
  • Project Financing: Ability to manage projects, coordinate tasks, and understand the financial aspects of project management.

Accounting Skills

Common accounting skills needed to succeed on the job relate to financial reporting, tax preparation, and regulatory compliance.

  • Knowledge of Accounting Standards: Familiarity with GAAP, IFRS, and other accounting standards to ensure compliance in financial reporting, essential for many accounting or finance jobs.
  • Tax Expertise: Understanding of tax laws and regulations to prepare and file accurate tax returns. This is a key part of what accountants do all day.
  • Financial Reporting: Preparing and presenting accurate financial statements and reports. Proficiency in Excel for accounting can greatly enhance this skill.
  • Budgeting and Forecasting: Creating and managing budgets and forecasting future financial performance, which are crucial accounting skills.
  • Regulatory Compliance: Ensuring all financial practices comply with relevant laws and regulations, a common requirement in accounting or finance jobs.
  • Accounting Software Proficiency: Expertise in using accounting software such as QuickBooks, SAP, or Oracle to manage and streamline financial processes.

Ensure you highlight the right accounting skills—resume details like these help you stand out to potential employers.

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What Do Accountants Do All Day?

To illustrate what accountants do all day, let’s follow a typical day for Sarah, an accountant at a mid-sized company. Her day starts with recording financial transactions and reconciling bank statements—a key aspect of an accountant career path.

She then updates the general ledger and prepares financial statements to ensure compliance with GAAP. Sarah handles payroll, manages accounts payable and receivable, and ensures bills are paid on time—skills she mastered while pursuing a degree in accounting.

After lunch, she prepares tax returns and offers tax planning advice. Sarah also conducts audits, checking for accuracy and spotting any discrepancies or fraud. Using accounting software, she streamlines these tasks efficiently.

Finally, she meets with management to discuss financial strategies and provide insights based on her analysis. Sarah’s day is a blend of meticulous record-keeping, compliance checks, and strategic financial planning—fundamental activities in accounting or finance jobs.

What Does a Financial Analyst Do All Day?

To understand what financial analysts do daily, let’s follow John—a financial analyst at an investment firm—through his typical workday. His day begins with reviewing financial news and market trends to inform his analysis.

John then analyzes financial data and creates models to predict future performance, using his financial modeling skills. Mid-morning, he assesses investment opportunities and prepares reports with recommendations for clients or senior management. John meets with colleagues to discuss market insights and strategies, a crucial part of the finance career progression and outlook.

After lunch, he dives into risk assessments, evaluating potential financial risks and developing strategies to mitigate them. John uses specialized software to streamline data analysis and financial modeling skills.

He spends part of the afternoon presenting his findings to clients or management, offering strategic advice based on his analysis. John’s day involves a blend of data analysis, market research, risk management, and strategic planning—key skills for a finance resume.

Accounting and Finance: Salary Expectations

Accounting and finance salary prospects vary significantly based on factors such as—job role, experience, location, and industry—with finance roles typically offering higher earning potential compared to accounting positions.

Financial analysts have a median annual salary of around $95,000, with top earners making over $169,940.

An average accountant salary is around $78,000 a year, with the top 10 percent earning more than $132,690.

Remember—these figures can vary based on experience and the sector you’re in. For instance, financial analysts in investment banking typically start with higher salaries compared to those in other sectors.

Here’s an overview of finance vs accounting salary comparisons, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Accounting or Finance JobsJob Scope2023 Median Pay
Investment BankerFacilitate financial transactions and capital-raising initiatives for corporations and governments.$118,200
Investment AnalystConduct research and analysis to develop investment strategies for clients or companies.$112,950
Financial AnalystsProvide businesses and individuals with strategies for investment to maximize profits.$99,890
Personal Financial AdvisorsHelp individuals plan their finances for a secure future.$99,580
Management AnalystsOffer recommendations to enhance organizational efficiency.$99,410
Budget AnalystsManage the financial planning for businesses and government entities.$84,940
Financial ExaminersEnsure financial institutions comply with the laws governing financial operations.$84,300
Accountants and AuditorsThese professionals manage and examine the financial records of organizations.$79,880
Accounting and Finance Salary Prospects

Accounting or Finance Jobs: Key Differences

How do accounting or finance jobs differ? Both accounting and financial analysis are intricate fields—each with its own set of challenges and responsibilities.

Accounting or Finance Jobs: Primary Focus

Accounting skills extend beyond documenting and reporting a company’s financial activities, offering a retrospective view of its financial health. Think of accountants as financial historians and investigators, carefully reconstructing each transaction to create a clear financial narrative through their reports.

Finance, in contrast, is oriented toward the future. It involves using those financial reports to make projections, develop strategies, and guide the company’s financial direction. Accounting and finance salary prospects predominantly differ because of this, with financiers taking a firm’s outlook a step further.

Financial analysts act as navigators and forecasters, delving deeper into the accountants’ work to predict future trends, spot growth opportunities, and identify potential cost-saving measures. Essentially, their work picks up where the accountant’s work leaves off.

Is finance still a good career path for you? Once again, consider the dynamic nature of the industry, the diverse opportunities for specialization, the potential for substantial career growth, and financial rewards.

Accounting or Finance Jobs: Risk Management

Careers in finance and accounting involve a certain level of risk. Accountants concentrate on preventing errors in financial reporting, and ensuring accuracy to avoid poor decisions and legal issues. In contrast, financial analysts deal with the uncertainty of future events. Incorrect predictions can lead to significant problems, such as overproduction and financial losses.

Accounting or Finance Jobs: Problem-Solving Approach

In their accounting career path, professionals must prioritize precision, ensuring every financial record adheres to standards like GAAP or IFRS. They address complex issues such as—determining the appropriate timing for revenue recognition from major sales and ensuring it is accurately reflected in financial statements.

On the other hand, for a successful finance career progression, you must be a strategic forecaster who uses data to predict market trends and consumer behavior, combining hard data with educated guesses. For instance, you might evaluate how changes in consumer preferences could affect future sales, transforming data into actionable insights for decision-making.

Here’s a summary table that helps you compare accounting vs finance career path options:

  Aspect  Accounting Career Path  Finance Career Path
Primary EmployersPublic accounting firms, corporate entitiesBanks, financial institutions, corporate entities
Role with Financial StatementsCreation and maintenance of financial recordsAnalysis and interpretation of financial records
PerspectiveBackward lookingForward looking
FocusPrecision, complianceStrategic insight, analysis
PurposeReporting financial statusEnhancing value, guiding future decisions
Problem-Solving ApproachAdherence to rules and standards (GAAP, IFRS)Analytical and predictive methods
CertificationsCPA (Certified Public Accountant)CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst), MBA
Risk ManagementPrevention of errors, ensuring accurate reportingForecasting risks, predicting financial outcomes
Business Strategy RoleCommunicating financial healthIdentifying growth opportunities, cost-saving measures
Thought ProcessMethodical, rule-basedStrategic, data-driven
Educational BackgroundEmphasis on accounting principles, auditing, tax lawsEmphasis on finance principles, investment strategies, market analysis
Decision-Making ImpactSupports operational stabilityDrives investment and growth strategies
Accounting or Finance Jobs: Career Paths Overview

Bonus Resource: Watch our YouTube video “Finance vs Accounting: Which Career Choice Is Right for You?

Accounting or Finance Jobs: Outlook

Both professions offer promising opportunities, but the growth rates and demand can vary. Here’s a closer look at the projected employment trends for accounting or finance jobs over the next decade.

The employment of accountants and auditors is expected to increase by 4% from 2022 to 2032, aligning with the average growth rate for all occupations. There will be approximately 126,500 job openings for accountants and auditors each year over the decade. This indicates steady demand and job security, leading to competitive accounting and finance salary prospects.

Even more promising is the employment of financial analysts, which is projected to grow by 8% from 2022 to 2032—faster than the average for all occupations. This indicates a robust demand for financial analysts in the coming years, thus excellent opportunities for rapid finance career progression.

Accounting or Finance Jobs: The Impact of AI on the Finance Job Market

AI will transform finance jobs but won’t replace them, as human judgment and decision-making remain essential.

Rather, it will revolutionize accounting or finance jobs by automating routine tasks such as data entry and transaction processing—allowing professionals to focus on strategic activities. For accounting position titles, AI will enhance accuracy in financial reporting, compliance, and fraud detection, while streamlining the auditing process.

Financial analysts will benefit from advanced data analysis and predictive modeling, improving market trend insights and investment decision-making. Consequently, professionals will need to develop financial modeling skills adapted for AI technology and data analytics to stay competitive.

Human judgment and decision-making will continue to be at the forefront—playing a key role in interpreting complex data, handling uncertainty, and building trust within the finance industry.

Accounting vs Finance Career Path: Which Is Better for You?

Choosing between careers in finance and accounting depends on your skills, interests, and long-term goals. Both fields offer rewarding opportunities but cater to different professional strengths and preferences.

Is Accounting a Good Career Path for You?

If you have a keen eye for detail and enjoy working with numbers, an accounting career path might be the right choice for you. Accountants must be meticulous and methodical, ensuring accuracy in financial records and compliance with laws and regulations. You need strong accounting skills and a deep understanding of accounting principles and software.

The types of accounting jobs include public accountants who offer tax preparation, auditing, and consulting services for individuals and businesses; or management accountants, focusing on internal financial processes, budgeting, and performance evaluation within an organization.

Other roles may be tax accountants who specialize in tax planning and compliance, forensic accountants, investigating financial discrepancies and fraud, and government accountants, dealing with public funds and ensure financial accountability within government agencies.

An accountant career path often starts with a degree in accounting and several junior roles, advancing to senior positions such as—accountant, auditor, or eventually a Chief Financial Officer (CFO). Earning a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) certificate can significantly boost your career prospects.

Bonus Insight: Read about the Big 4 Accounting Firms and how to climb up the corporate ladder within the industry.

Is Finance a Good Career Path for You?

What do most careers in finance deal with? If you are interested in strategic planning, investment analysis, and understanding market trends, a finance career path may be a better fit. Financial analysts need strong analytical skills to assess market conditions and predict future performance. They often work in roles such as investment bankers, portfolio managers, and risk managers, requiring strong financial modeling skills.

A finance professional can also become financial planners, helping individuals and families manage their finances, or treasury analysts, focusing on a company’s liquidity and risk management.

Understanding accounting vs finance skills is crucial as it helps in identifying which career path aligns better with your strengths.

In finance, career progression can lead to high-level positions such as investment banker or portfolio manager. Many finance professionals may need to pursue an advanced finance certificate like the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation to boost their career opportunities.

Ultimately, choosing between accounting or finance jobs depends on your personal interests and strengths—whether you prefer the detailed, rule-based work of accounting or the dynamic, forward-looking nature of finance.

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Is Accounting Harder than Finance?

Both fields have their unique challenges. Accounting requires meticulous attention to detail, adherence to standards, and a thorough understanding of tax laws and financial statements. Finance involves strategic planning, investment analysis, and understanding market trends. The difficulty depends on your personal strengths and interests.

Is It Better to Be a Financial Analyst or Accountant?

The best choice depends on your career goals and skills. Financial analysts focus on evaluating investment opportunities, analyzing market trends, and advising on financial strategies. Accountants are responsible for maintaining financial records, ensuring compliance with regulations, and preparing financial statements. If you enjoy detailed, methodical work, accounting might be better. If you prefer analyzing data and making strategic recommendations, consider finance.

What Is the Highest Paid Job in Accounting or Finance?

In accounting, high-paying roles include Chief Financial Officer (CFO) with salaries ranging from $150,000 to over $300,000 annually, partners at large accounting firms can earn between $200,000 and $800,000, and specialized roles like forensic accountants typically earn between $80,000 and $150,000.
In finance, some of the highest-paid positions are investment bankers, who can earn $100,000 to $300,000 in their early years, with senior roles exceeding $1 million, portfolio managers often earn between $100,000 and $250,000, with top performers earning significantly more, and hedge fund managers can earn from $300,000 to several million dollars annually depending on the fund’s performance.

What Career Is Better—Accounting or Finance?

The better career depends on your interests and strengths. Accounting offers a stable career with clear progression and is essential for ensuring financial accuracy and regulatory compliance. Finance offers dynamic opportunities in investment management, corporate finance, and financial planning, often involving more strategic decision-making. Consider what aligns best with your career aspirations and personal skills.