What is the Difference Between a Masters in Accounting and a Master of Finance?

To some, the difference between finance and accounting is like the difference between apples and oranges. Apples and oranges are both fruit. Finance and accounting both deal with money. While some people consider finance and accounting interchangeable, they are actually quite distinct.

There are several differences between a Master’s in Finance and a Master’s in Accounting. As Master’s programs, both fields of study are far more specialized than the general undergraduate degree. Accounting tends to deal with financial records and bookkeeping, along with analysis of such records. Finance primarily deals with monetary growth and profit potential. Finance encompasses elements used within accounting to help achieve its goals, whereas accounting does not necessarily depend on the use of finance principles to complete its most basic tasks.

Master’s in Accounting

The Master’s in Accounting is very detailed and specific. As computer technology has grown, many software programs are capable of doing the simple bookkeeping that accountants have traditionally done. Graduate accounting students take courses involving subject matter such as: control systems, auditing, information systems, tax accounting, financial statement analysis, forensic accounting and more. The degree also qualifies graduates to work as a personal or business Certified Public Accountant. An undergraduate accounting degree isn’t necessary to gain access to this Master’s program, but some core prerequisites may be required without an undergraduate degree in a business discipline. Like the Master’s in Finance,a solid undergraduate g.p.a. and a good score on the GRE exam are usually sufficient for entry to a program.

Master’s in Finance

The Masters in Finance prepares students for careers in corporate finance, banking, investment and other such fields. Strong analytical and quantitative skills are essential. With a more varied course selection than the Masters in Accounting, finance graduates are thoroughly prepared for a career involving money. Students experience courses tackling such concepts as: economics, statistics, corporate finance, investment, financial management, financial analysis, risk management, capital markets, securities and more. It is worth nothing that there are several graduate programs that combine the fields of Finance and Accounting into a dual major. With the amount of overlap in these two fields, a combined degree makes complete sense.

Career Options

As similar, yet different, as the two fields may be they frequently lead to different career paths. Accounting often leads to a career such as an accountant, bookkeeper, budget analyst, tax planner, financial planner or financial controller. The career path of those holding a Master’s in Finance is often vastly wider. Among the many options are: financial analyst, portfolio manager, investment banker, mutual fund manager, lending officer and financial planner.

The income disparity between the two fields is also noticeable. A regular accountant salary is well under $50,000, with corporate accountant salaries reaching into the low to mid $100,000’s. The range salaries for the Master’s in Finance holder stretch from just under $50,000 to well past the mid $200,000’s. In the case of being a portfolio manager or working in corporate banking, the salary and compensation packages can often far exceed that $200,000 mark. While the differences are clear, there is indisputable overlap in the two fields. Pursuing one or the other should be a matter of choice, based upon personal interest and aptitude.

Further Reading: What is the difference between accounting and finance (and economics)?

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