Is a Finance Degree Hard?
Reviewed by Hannah Brauer
Sep 12, 2022
Is a Finance Degree Hard?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the demand for financial analysts is on the rise. And the field’s higher-than-average salaries may have many students wondering if majoring in finance is for them. But is a finance degree hard?
For some students, studying finance comes naturally. However, other students may have to spend a little more time studying and ask for more help if they want to succeed. But even if a finance degree requires extra effort, it is highly likely that your hard work will pay off.
If you’re considering pursuing a degree in finance or are curious about what you can do with a finance degree, there are a few details you should know before you start applying to programs. In this article, we’ll go over the key components of a finance major, what a typical course of study looks like, and how you can prepare yourself for the rewarding journey ahead.
What Does a Finance Degree Entail?
Studying finance in college means exploring all of the monetary aspects of the business world. Finance degree programs are designed to expose every finance major to subjects that include investment banking, economics, and trading on national and international scales.
A thorough understanding of the world of business finance means grasping many related disciplines. As such, finance degree programs generally include coursework in a variety of other subjects relating to business school, including:
At the undergraduate level, finance degrees often result in a B.B.A., or a Bachelor’s of Business Administration. While accounting is a course taken by finance majors, an accounting degree is not the same and entails a slightly different path. Make sure to read up on the differences between an accounting degree vs. a finance degree for a more in-depth comparison.
Why Does Finance Have a Reputation as a “Hard” Major?
When asking, “How hard is a finance degree?”, it’s important to realize every student will approach the subject differently. One thing that’s for sure is the high amount of math you will need to study. Finance is a mathematical discipline, so if you aren’t as comfortable with math as with other ways of thinking, you may find it more challenging.
Additionally, finance also makes use of a vast, highly specific vocabulary. While this is true of many majors, some students may need more time and help than others to master the lingo while also familiarizing themselves with the field’s many intricate concepts. It also requires extensive knowledge of a range of intersecting fields (marketplaces), so an interest in how finance works in the real world is important for success.
Not to mention, finance is an ever-changing, nuanced field. Having a healthy curiosity for finance and keeping up with how it is changing is important, too.
What this means is that you should be prepared to make the commitment that the field of finance requires. With a willingness to learn at your own pace and ask for help when you need to, anyone can tackle a degree in finance.
What Are the Typical Courses in a Finance Program?
Although a degree in finance may seem intimidating, finance programs are made up of manageable courses. Let’s look at some of the most common classes for finance majors using North Central College’s finance degree program’s curriculum as an example, knowing that courses similar to this can be expected in most finance programs:
In this course, you’ll learn the fundamentals of accounting and how to communicate financial information to various interested parties, which may include stockholders, business management, and government agencies.
Financial accounting courses also focus on specific branches of accounting that are integral to the field. At North Central, these topics include:
- Assets accounting
- Liabilities accounting
- Owner’s equity accounting
Business and Economics Statistics
Business and economics statistics courses expose finance majors to how statistics are used in the world of business. At the undergraduate level, students learn the basic concepts of statistics and how to apply them to a range of business situations.
This course also familiarizes students with common finance technologies, including:
- Spreadsheet programs
- Statistics programs
- Other analytic computer tools
Principles of Microeconomics and Macroeconomics
These two courses deal with small- and large-scale economic issues. They’re designed to help students understand how finance operates on a global, national, local, and individual level.
- Macroeconomics – In this course, students work to understand the factors that affect large-scale economic issues. Those factors include economic theories regarding inflation, fiscal policies, income distribution, and unemployment.
- Microeconomics – Courses in macroeconomics study smaller-scale economic issues, such as consumer buying habits, how businesses, firms, and corporations operate, and how the market is structured.
Investments and Portfolio Management
As a student in this course at North Central, you’ll study investment tools and learn portfolio management fundamentals. You’ll also learn to analyze investment portfolios, how stocks and bonds are evaluated, and look at how international financial markets operate.
International Business or Finance
This course takes economics worldwide with topics like interest rate parity and international arbitrage. Essentially, it involves taking a broad view of how financial markets work all over the globe. In an international finance course, students engage with topics that include:
- How exchange rates are determined
- How to assess exchange rate risks
- How multinational corporations budget capital
Principles of Marketing
Principles of marketing touches on ethics, consumer behavior, and more. At the end of the course, students should come away with a cursory understanding of marketing as:
- A discipline
- A principle
- A profession
At North Central, marketing principles courses enable students to consider all aspects of marketing as it relates to finance, from promotional strategies to designing their own marketing plans.
What Are the Requirements for a Bachelor’s in Finance?
Along with the courses listed above, you’ll need to meet the overall credit requirements to graduate from your business school as a finance graduate. Usually, credit requirements include a mixture of major-specific courses, general education courses, and electives.
In many cases, you’ll also need to earn a sufficient grade to pass each individual course and claim the credits.
What Happens After Graduation?
Once you’ve completed your finance degree program, you may want to take the three CFA exams to become a Chartered Financial Analyst. The CFA is a professional certification that could boost your earning potential and help you progress further in your finance career.
You can also enroll in a master’s program to further your studies. For some who choose to continue their education, a master’s degree in finance provides the chance to develop specialized knowledge and skills, which may earn you a higher salary.
How Can I Prepare for a Finance Program?
The more you prepare for your finance degree, the easier it’ll be to absorb the knowledge, understand the disciplines, and improve your own learning rubric.
To that end, here are a few ways you can set yourself up for success.
While finance doesn’t hinge solely on mathematics, a great deal of it does involve numbers.
As such, a keen understanding of mathematics can give you a leg up when you start your degree program. In which case, be sure to sign up for upper-level math courses like:
Review Finance Terminology
Reading finance books and glossaries or watching videos can familiarize you with the vocabulary you’ll need to know as a finance student.
Additionally, see if your high school offers business courses. If so, you should definitely take them. You’ll familiarize yourself with some of the basics of finance, and it will look good on your program applications.
Work on Interpersonal Communication
To excel in finance, you need to do more than understand facts and figures—you also need to be able to explain them to others. Learning to “translate” finance into plain English is a skill you’ll learn in college, but you can start early by practicing writing and public speaking on your own before you enroll.
How? Here are a few ideas:
- Take a few more English classes – In addition to all the math and business classes you’ll take, seek out English and literature courses to develop your written communications skills.
- Join the debate team – If your school has a debate team, consider joining it. You’ll learn the basics of public speaking and how to craft and present effective arguments.
- Write for your school newspaper – Reporting on events at your school and in your community for your school publication is the chance to hone your writing skills and bolster your applications with extracurriculars.
Embrace the Challenge
As a finance student, you will encounter classes, exams and projects that provide more of a test than you’ve experienced before. That is how it’s supposed to work: this is a challenging and rewarding subject, and learning how to tackle those challenges now will only benefit you when you are dealing with real people.
Where You Study Makes All the Difference
So, is a finance degree worth it? Finance will likely take some work to conquer—especially if you’re not mathematically inclined—but it’s an incredibly rewarding endeavor that can manifest as a fulfilling, lucrative career.
After all, the best things in life are often the ones you have to work for.
Whether you choose to major in finance, pursue a minor, or use your electives to dip your toes in, you’ll want to attend a top-notch school like North Central College. With a support network of dedicated staff and students, you’ll have nothing holding you back.
Hannah Brauer is the internal communication specialist in the North Central College Office of Communications. She has four years of experience working in higher education with students, faculty and staff. She has a bachelor's degree in English from Eastern Kentucky University.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2022, April 18). Occupational Outlook Handbook: Financial Analysts. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved May 19, 2022, from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/financial-analysts.htm
What is A Finance Degree? The Best Schools. Retrieved August 28, 2022, from https://thebestschools.org/degrees/finance-degree-overview/#
Exam Dates, Cost, and Registration Fees. CFA Institute. (n.d.). Retrieved May 18, 2022, from https://www.cfainstitute.org/en/programs/cfa/exam
How Do I Prepare For a Finance Degree While In High School? Degree Query. Retrieved August 28, 2022, from https://www.degreequery.com/how-do-i-prepare-for-a-finance-degree-while-in-high-school/