What do finance degrees cover?
Finance degrees usually cover a combination of technical and theoretical knowledge, including the basic finance skills you will need to enter finance careers. You will learn how wealth is measured and also how finance influences and shapes the way companies behave. Economics and statistics are also covered, since they are crucial to the understanding of finance. Other important finance topics which will probably be taught include accounting, mathematical methods, macro and microeconomics and information technology.
Usually bachelor’s degrees in finance last for three or four years, while a Masters in Finance will last for one or two. In the UK, undergraduate finance courses are mostly three years, except for in Scotland where they are four, and postgraduates study for one year (in Scotland, two). In the US, finance is mostly taught for four years at undergraduate level, and two at master’s level.
Unlike accounting, which is a somewhat narrower field, finance courses cover a wide range of subjects, which are designed to give students a wide-reaching understanding of the business world today. Teaching typically includes both lectures and practical seminars. Assessment methods are a mixture of individual module assignments, group project work and written examinations.
Careers in finance
Studying finance often leads to a wide range of potentially well-paid career options. Graduates may choose to work for an accountancy firm or put their knowledge and skills into management consultancy, risk management and audit, wider business and management, banking or local and national government. Some of the most common finance careers include:
Financial management careers
Careers in financial management can vary considerably depending on the type and size of the organization involved. Tasks may include monitoring cash flow, contributing to long-term business planning and strategy, managing budgets, providing financial reports, ensuring financial regulations are met, and assessing opportunities to reduce costs and increase profits.
Financial trading careers
Careers in financial trading involve buying and selling financial instruments including stocks, shares, bonds and assets. Typically, financial traders are employed by large investment management companies, and buy and sell on behalf of their firm. A particularly high-pressure career, financial trading requires an ability to stay calm under pressure, make quick decisions and multi-task.
Many graduates of finance degrees also go on to insurance careers. Roles in this sector include assessing the financial risk involved in insuring different things, providing advice to customers, processing insurance claims, and identifying new opportunities for insurance companies. Similar roles are available in the pensions sector.
Financial consulting careers
Careers in financial consulting involve providing advice to help businesses and individuals improve their financial processes and performance. This could mean offering guidance on budgeting, debts, investment, wills and estates, mortgages, and the development of business plans and strategies. Financial consultants may work within a consulting firm, or may be self-employed.
Commercial banking careers
If you opt to pursue a career in commercial banking, you will find yourself involved in all sorts of financial services for commercial banks – from large companies to local institutions. You can work as a bank teller, loan officer, marketing and branch manager and others. Talented professionals can advance from a local branch job to a position in corporate headquarters. Such a promotion would expose you to a number of other areas, such as international finance.
Hedge fund careers
Jobs in the hedge fund sector are considered by many to be somewhat glamorous. Hedge funds are largely unregulated investment funds, whose managers buy or sell a wide array of assets and financial products. Finance careers in this field include roles as a financial analyst, trader, regulatory compliance officer, quantitative officer, marketing manager and portfolio manager.