When it comes to choosing the right Bachelor’s or Master’s degree abroad, you might get confused by Accounting vs Finance — which are often seen as the same thing, but they are more like a cake and a slice of cake. In other words, Accounting is part of Finance, but Finance has a much broader scope and is more complex than Accounting.
What other differences are there, and how can those impact your academic and professional future? Let’s find out!
Accounting vs Finance – What’s the difference?
Both Accounting and Finance are essential cogs in the larger Business and Economics machine. But what sets them apart?
Accounting has a narrower focus when compared to Finance. Accounting is all about creating and storing financial records. These records can belong to private companies, individual people, government or state agencies, and so on.
Some of the main tasks of accountants are:
- ensure all financial transactions are processed correctly
- keep account balances up-to-date
- verify and guarantee the accuracy of financial statements
- follow the latest accounting policies, regulations, and changes
Finance deals with financial systems and the management of money and investments. Finance involves working with banking institutions, transaction policies, investment funds, credits, and so on.
Some of the main tasks of financial experts are:
- ensure the client (company, individual, government) has enough funding for their objectives
- oversee the optimal distribution of funds
- manage capital (funding) and avoid potential risks
Accounting vs Finance specialisations
As a future international student, you’ll have an important choice to make: you can either study a general degree in Accounting or Finance, or you can choose a specialisation. These specialisations are more common at Master’s level, allowing you to diversify your knowledge and advance in your career.
These are some of the most popular branches or subdisciplines of Accounting and Finance:
Accounting vs Finance classes
The curriculum of your degree will vary depending on the country, university, and study programme you choose. Still, below, you’ll find some of the most common classes and subjects for Accounting and Finance students:
- Auditing and Assurance Services
- Modern Accounting Research
- Financial Accounting
- Financial Reporting
- Advanced Taxation
- Company Law
- Forensic Accounting
- Management Accounting
- Financial Statement Analysis
- Ethics in Business and Accounting
- Corporate Finance
- Modern Finance
- Asset Pricing
- Accounting Fundamentals
- Quantitative and Statistical Analysis
- Financial Analysis and Reporting
- Investment Appraisal
- Accounting and Information Systems
- Financial Derivatives
- Ethics of International Business
Top universities where you can study Accounting or Finance
We are living in the age of capitalism, so both degrees are in demand. You can find Bachelor’s and Master’s programmes in Accounting or Finance at almost any university. That’s why you should choose an academic institution carefully and try to find out more about what it has to offer.
If you only settle for the best, these are the top-ranked Accounting and Finance schools according to TopUniversities:
- Harvard University, the US
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the US
- Stanford University, the US
- The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), the UK
- University of Oxford, the UK
- University of Cambridge, the UK
- University of Pennsylvania, the US
- University of California, Berkeley (UCB), the US
- University of Chicago, the US
- New York University (NYU), the US
Check out the complete Accounting & Finance ranking.
You don’t need to limit yourself to these universities. There are other criteria and rankings available, so feel free to check them out:
- Best Finance and Accounting universities according to Times Higher Education
- Best Economics universities according to US News
Accounting and Finance skills
To achieve success as an accountant or financial professional, these are some of the essential skills you need to master:
- Gather, organise and interpret data
- Create accurate and detailed (financial) reports
- Great attention to details
- Analytical and critical thinking
- Spreadsheet Proficiency (Microsoft Excel, Google Sheets)
- Digital skills, work with specialised software (e.g. Freshbooks, NetSuite ERP)
Of course, soft skills, like communication or teamwork, will also come in handy. But you’ll learn about them and other useful tips and tricks during your studies.
Accounting vs Finance jobs and salaries
Since these two disciplines differ, it is only natural that the careers you can develop are also different. Here are some typical jobs you can do with each degree and the average salaries in the US according to Glassdoor:
Jobs with an Accounting degree
- Accountant – 53,700 USD/year
- Auditor – 56,600 USD/year
- Accounting Assistant – 50,350 USD/year
- Bookkeeper – 30,800 USD/year
- Payroll Clerk – 36,800 USD/year
Jobs with a Finance degree
- Financial Advisor – 54,900 USD/year
- Financial Planner – 57,900 USD/year
- Budget Analyst – 57,450 USD/year
- Credit Analyst – 52,750 USD/year
- Actuary – 97,750 USD/year
Both Accounting and Finance degrees allow future graduates to go on and enjoy high-paid jobs and stable careers. You will also be free to choose to work independently, for a specialised firm, or a big international company.
Regardless of which discipline wins your heart, you’ll need to be a numbers person to make it. One wrong digit or one moment of absent-mindedness can cost you and your client a lot. This is the price of working in Accounting or Finance, but the rewards make it all worth it.
You might also be interested in the differences between Finance and Economics.