Timothy Peck 7 min read 12th Grade, Academic Tips and Info

Should You Major in Finance?

Finance majors study the past performance of companies and markets to develop economic strategies that increase profitability. Finance majors possess a broad skill set—they’re confident using advanced math, expert communicators, and natural problem solvers.

 

Do you think you have what it takes to be a finance major? Keep reading to learn more about this rewarding career path.

 

Overview of the Finance Major

 

What are classes and assessments like?

 

Finance majors will find themselves in classes of varying sizes; it’s highly likely that broad introductory business classes such as Accounting are crowded, while thinner attendance is anticipated in the more major-specific courses like International Banking.

 

Similarly, students will encounter a wide variety of challenging coursework in pursuit of their degree. However, the majority of finance-specific assessments are project- and presentation-based. Students should plan on working on these projects both individually and in groups.

 

What are the course requirements most finance majors will need to take?

 

The requirements necessary to achieve a bachelor of science degree in finance vary from program to program, but a majority of them require a student to take foundational business and mathematics classes. Common introductory business classes include:

 

  •     Accounting
  •     Business Law and Ethics
  •     Economics
  •     Management

 

Examples of common introductory math classes include:

 

  •     Algebra
  •     Calculus
  •     Quantitative Methods
  •     Statistics

 

After building a strong base of basic business and mathematical skills, finance students’ coursework becomes more finance-focused. These classes include:

 

  •     Asset and Debt Management
  •     Bonds
  •     Business Communication
  •     Capital Planning
  •     Corporate Finance
  •     Corporate Valuation
  •     Econometrics
  •     Financial Reporting
  •     Funds Acquisition
  •     Impact Investing
  •     Individual Investment
  •     International Banking
  •     International Financial Management
  •     Financial Analysis
  •     Microeconomic Theory
  •     Macroeconomic Theory
  •     Portfolio Management

 

Students studying finance at a liberal arts college will have their business and math classes supplemented with classes in the humanities, social sciences, and language. In fact, foreign language classes (and even minors) are a very popular option for students with aspirations of a career in international business.

 

What sort of student would succeed (or wouldn’t) in this major?

 

A student with strong mathematical and statistical skills is a particularly good fit as a finance major. However, there is more to finance than simply crunching numbers. Creative problem-solving and the ability to make calculated decisions quickly are skills prized in finance majors. The ability to communicate complex ideas is also an extremely important trait for finance majors to possess. 

 

Do most students go on to grad school?

 

An advanced degree—typically either an MBA or Masters of Finance—is not typically needed to enter popular financial fields, although many upper-level finance positions do require further education. Because of this, most finance majors enter the workforce and accrue professional experience before pursuing an advanced degree. According to U.S. News and World Report, the average student entering a full-time MBA program has 4.3 years of work experience.

What Can You Do With A Finance Degree?

 

Five of the most popular career paths for finance majors are:

 

1. Investment Banker

Median Salary: $100,783

Projected Growth: 4% from 2019 to 2029

 

Investment bankers help improve the financial position of their clients. Working on Wall Street is the aspiration of many finance majors pursuing careers in investment banking, but there are numerous opportunities in investment banking that exist outside of New York City’s iconic street. For example, investment bankers provide a variety of services such as underwriting, trading stocks and bonds, providing financial advice, and managing assets for clients from around the world. 

 

2. Financial Analyst

Median Salary: $61,224

Projected Growth: 5% from 2019 to 2029

 

Many finance majors find careers as financial analysts. Financial analysts use a collection of information—like economic trends, business news, and corporate strategies—to assess the performance of stocks, bonds, and other investments. Financial analysts use their knowledge of investment performance to assist businesses and individuals (and, in some cases, the public and financial media) to make informed investment decisions.

 

3. Real Estate Portfolio Manager

Median Salary: $60,487

Projected Growth: 5% from 2019 to 2029

 

Those working in real estate finance, like real estate portfolio managers, focus more on the economic side of the business than the property side of the industry. Real estate portfolio manager positions are often found with larger financial service organizations, such as a division within a commercial or investment bank. Finance majors working in real estate portfolio management assist these organizations by providing risk assessment and analyses of factors like property value, investment potential, and debt structure. 

 

4. Financial Examiner

Median Salary: $65,171

Projected Growth: 7% from 2019 to 2029

 

Finance majors who go on to work as financial examiners generally find themselves on one of two career paths: they either work in risk assessment or consumer compliance. Those working in risk assessment evaluate the security of a financial institution’s investments. The consumer compliance side of the industry is focused on ensuring that borrowers are treated fairly (e.g., that they don’t fall prey to “predatory loans” or get discriminated against for their race, religion, or other characteristics).

 

5. Mergers and Acquisitions Analyst

Median Salary: $138,223

Projected Growth: 5% from 2019 to 2029

 

Mergers and acquisitions analysts work within corporate finance to help businesses grow through buying new companies, dividing existing ones, restructuring operations, and combining businesses. One of the more prestigious career paths a finance major can take, mergers and acquisitions analysts assist in the completion of complex deals—the position is noted for the exceptional amount of research required, long hours, and high stress. The payoff for the long workdays and nerve-wracking work is that mergers and acquisitions analysts are commonly well compensated.

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Best Colleges for Finance Majors

 

Here are CollegeVine’s top five colleges for students interested in Finance. To be clear, not every college listed has an actual Finance major; they are simply some of the best schools to prepare you for a career in finance.

 

1. Harvard University

Location: Cambridge, MA

Acceptance Rate: 5%

Undergrad Enrollment: 6,755

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1460-1580 SAT, 33-35 ACT

 

Harvard is one of the most renowned colleges around the world and is ranked second on the U.S. News listing of the best national universities. Boston, Massachusetts (just minutes from Cambridge) is home to 35 colleges, universities, and community colleges, which give the city a collegial feel.

 

Harvard does not technically have a finance major, which speaks to the strength of the value of a Harvard education. Students with an interest in finance will find a home on the Quantitative Finance track offered by Harvard’s Statistics Department, which culminates in a degree in statistics. This degree path focuses on the quantitative issues that arise in finance and insurance modeling. Graduates from Harvard’s statistics program have gone on to careers with numerous prestigious companies such as Google, IBM, Goldman Sachs, and Credit Suisse, while others have gone on to pursue advanced degrees.

 

Learn more about Harvard and what it takes to get accepted.

 

2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Location: Cambridge, MA

Acceptance Rate: 7%

Undergrad Enrollment: 4,530

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1520-1580 SAT, 34-36 ACT

 

MIT consistently finds itself compared against Harvard for many reasons—to name a few, MIT is located just down the street from Harvard, ranks just behind it in the U.S. News rankings of top national universities (MIT was fourth), and is an excellent option for students studying finance.

 

MIT is known for being at the forefront of innovation and technology, and its finance program, which is offered through its well-respected Sloan School of Management, holds true to those principles. Available only since 2016, MIT finance degree programs were launched in response to the overwhelming popularity of the university’s finance classes as electives.

 

Finance coursework includes requirements in subjects like Managerial Finance, Corporate Finance, Communication, Accounting, Microeconomics, Probability, and Statistics, along with restricted electives such as Entrepreneurial Finance and Venture Capital, Taxes and Business Strategy, and Communicating with Data. 

 

Learn more about MIT and what it takes to get accepted.

 

3. Princeton University

Location: Princeton, NJ

Acceptance Rate: 6%

Undergrad Enrollment: 5,422

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1460-1570 SAT, 33-35 ACT

 

One of the oldest and most respected universities in the world, Princeton’s ivy-covered campus has developed a reputation for turning out high-quality graduates from all its programs, but particularly finance majors. 

 

Princeton’s undergraduate finance program culminates with a certificate that attests to the student’s proficiency in the discipline of finance. In addition to the foundational schools of thought that form the basis of finance-focused coursework—such as economic theory, mathematics, and probability and statistics—Princeton finance students also explore other disciplines such as operations research, engineering, computer science, psychology, politics, and history.

 

Students pursuing finance can choose electives that suit their individual needs and interests, or choose from five suggested tracks: Mathematical Finance, Corporate Finance, Derivatives Pricing and Risk Management, Investment Management, or Information Technologies for Finance.

 

Learn more about Princeton and what it takes to get accepted.

 

4. University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) 

Location: Philadelphia, PA

Acceptance Rate: 8%

Undergrad Enrollment: 10,019

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1460-1550 SAT, 33-35 ACT

 

Located in Philadelphia, UPenn offers all the benefits of living in a major U.S. city while its close proximity to New York City and Washington, D.C., provides finance majors easy access to jobs in global markets.

 

UPenn’s Wharton School has a well-deserved reputation for turning out some of the best minds in business. Expectations are high for students graduating with a concentration in finance; the belief is that they are ready to not only enter, but also excel at all areas of finance, or to pursue a career in law or the public sector.

 

UPenn offers five unique tracks that provide specialization in a particular area of finance: Corporate Finance, Capital Markets and Banking, Private Equity and Venture Capital, Investments, and Quantitative Finance. Students can pursue one (or more) of these tracks, or choose to design a more individual learning path.

 

Learn more about UPenn and what it takes to get accepted.

 

5. Stanford University

Location: Stanford, CA

Acceptance Rate: 4%

Undergrad Enrollment: 6,996

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1440-1550 SAT, 32-35 ACT

 

Something that finance majors will understand—and part of the appeal of becoming a Cardinal—is that Stanford has graduated more billionaires than any institution other than Harvard. It’s also worth noting that while Stanford has less than half the number of billionaire graduates than Harvard, the average net worth of a Stanford billionaire is the highest of any school.

 

Similar to Harvard, Stanford does not have a dedicated finance major; however, its high-quality education and acclaimed business courses still make the school a top-choice for finance-focused students.

 

Without a clear path to a finance major, most Stanford students opt to focus on a degree in Economics—which explores the economic aspects of modern society and the techniques needed for the analysis of economic problems—and follow the Finance track. Students following the Finance track will take elective courses such as Introduction to Financial Decision Making, The Modern Financial System, Money and Banking, Introduction to Financial Economics, International Finance, and Institutional Investment Management.

 

Learn more about Stanford and what it takes to get accepted.

 

There are many more schools that are great for students interested in finance. See the complete list of best colleges for finance.

 

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Timothy Peck
Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
A graduate of Northeastern University with a degree in English, Tim Peck currently lives in Concord, New Hampshire, where he balances a freelance writing career with the needs of his two Australian Shepherds to play outside.