Affordable Online Finance Degrees

The academic field of finance focuses on the way funds and assets are managed, designated, and dispersed. Finance professionals are responsible for ensuring the monetary health of their employer, whether they crunch numbers for a corporation or assist individual clients with their personal funds and investments. Those who work in finance are also trained to monitor two critical variables: the time value, or current value, of different assets; and the potential liabilities and losses, or ‘risk’, that different investments pose. The stock market is a dynamic, unpredictable system, and finance professionals are called upon to analyze current trends and make informed, minimal-risk predictions. An online degree in finance will prepare you to succeed in this challenging sector.

The continued role of the United States as a global economic hub ensures healthy career prospects for those who earn online finance degrees. Additionally, the implementation of new regulations governing the way people and companies do business — as well as evolving technology and increasingly complex investment portfolios — have increased the demand for qualified professionals in certain areas of the financial sector.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects above average job growth for certain finance jobs — such as finance analysts and finance examiners — over the next eight years.

This page examines educational trends and career prospects for students who are planning to earn their finance degree online. Our goal is to provide a comprehensive resource that will help you decide if an online degree in finance is right for you.

Did You Know?

As of 2016, there was nearly $1.46 trillion dollars of U.S. currency in circulation — most of which was outside of the country. As a finance student, you learn about the growth, flow, and value of money, along with dozens of other skills that can be applied to the business world and beyond. Explore the possibilities available for finance degree-holders.

View Degree Options

What Can You Do with a Degree in Finance?

Financial Analyst

$80,310 Avg Annual Salary
Bachelor's Degree Required

Financial analysts recommend stocks, bonds, and other investment options for businesses, organizations, or individuals. Some specialize in singular investments, while others offer advice on collections of investments (also known as portfolios). They carefully analyze the market and current economic trends before making their picks in order to minimize risk and increase the probability of a favorable return-on-investment (ROI) for their clients. Financial analysts generally fall into two categories: buy-side analysts, who create investment plans for mutual funds, insurance companies, and other institutional investors; and sell-side analysts, who counsel financial services personnel tasked with selling investments. Most financial analysts work in New York City and other financial hubs in the U.S. and across the globe; financial analyst salary expectations vary by location.

  • Licensure Required: None
  • Time Commitment: 4 years
  • Median Annual Salary (Entry-Level): $54,488
  • Median Annual Salary (Mid-Career): $63,812
  • Median Annual Salary (Late-Career): $71,880

Financial Examiner

$78,010 Avg Annual Salary
Bachelor's Degree Required

The primary responsibility of a financial examiner is to make sure that banks and other financial institutions are complying with federal laws and regulations. They study balance sheets, expense accounts, and loan documents in order to assess the assets and liabilities of a given institution. Financial examiners typically work in one of two areas: risk scoping, or ensuring that banks and other financial lenders are able to offer loans without incurring major losses; or consumer compliance, a field that evaluates individual loan programs in order to determine whether or not borrowers are treated fairly. The majority of financial examiners work for the finance or insurance industry, or for government agencies at the state or federal level.

  • Licensure Required: None
  • Time Commitment: 4 years
  • Median Annual Salary (Entry-Level): $53,000
  • Median Annual Salary (Mid-Career): $73,000
  • Median Annual Salary (Late-Career): $82,000

Financial Manager

$117,990 Avg Annual Salary
Bachelor's Degree Required

Financial managers oversee the monetary health and activities of corporations and organizations. Day-to-day duties include drafting budgetary reports, advising on investment opportunities, and analyzing the market for the latest trends. The BLS notes that the role of financial managers has evolved as technology has improved; historically these employees spent most of their time monitoring their company’s financial traffic, but currently their jobs mostly entail data analysis and providing guidance to senior executives. Chief financial officers (CFOs) lead financial management teams at most institutions. Other roles for managers include: controllers, who prepare financial reports; treasurers, who handle company budgets; and risk managers, who study business trends in order to minimize potential losses. Although licensure is not required for financial managers, these employees often boost their career standing by earning certification through entities like the CFA Institute and/or the Association for Finance Professionals. Financial manager salary expectations tend to be much higher than other employees in this sector.

  • Licensure Required: None
  • Time Commitment: 4 years
  • Median Annual Salary (Entry-Level): $59,067
  • Median Annual Salary (Mid-Career): $71,413
  • Median Annual Salary (Late-Career): $68,007

Finance Careers by the Numbers

BLS data indicates that the median annual salary for all finance careers is $65,710 — nearly $30,000 higher than the median annual earnings for all professions. Although the median financial manager salary was the highest among all finance professionals, the projected growth for this career path sits at a relatively low 7%. By contrast, careers as personal financial advisors — the second-highest salary in the field — are expected to grow by as much as 30% between 2014 and 2024. The median financial analyst salary placed fourth on the earnings list, just above $80,310.

Top Finance Careers by Income and Growth Rate
Career Salary Job Outlook
Financial Managers $117,990 + 7%
Personal Financial Advisors $89,160 + 30%
Management Analysts $81,320 + 14%
Financial Analysts $80,310 + 12%

Highest Paying Financial Manager Careers by Sector

What Does it Take to Succeed in Finance?

Anyone can pursue an online finance degree, but those with certain personality traits stand to enjoy the most success in this dynamic field. The following table lists some of the attributes that will help you thrive in the financial sector.

  • Communication

    Finance professionals often work on teams or as part of a larger department. They are expected to be in constant communication with their peers and provide critical market updates as promptly as possible. Communication is also crucial when dealing with individual clients who have not received a formal education in finance.

  • Attention to Detail

    Finance professionals must carefully pore over budget reports, balance sheets, and other documents to minimize risk and ensure the monetary wellbeing of their employer or clients. A keen understanding of financial regulations is also required.

  • Presence of Mind

    Finance professionals often work under pressure and must make valuable market predictions in order to reduce potential risk. This level of uncertainty can create a stressful job environment, and cool-headed individuals are often the ones who are selected to advance into higher positions.

  • Trustworthiness

    The financial sector is governed by strict laws and regulations, and professionals in this field are expected to follow the rules. Ethical employees who understand their legal obligations are an invaluable asset to any company’s financial department. Trustworthiness will also help financial analysts and advisors build healthy relationships with the clients or businesses they serve.

Associate Degree in Accounting: An Overview

Who should pursue an associate degree in finance?

Anyone who wants to pursue a career in finance and would like to gain some introductory knowledge about the field.

How many years will it take to complete?

Most associate online finance degree programs require a one- or two-year commitment.

Is a thesis or capstone usually required?

No, although some programs feature a capstone course.

What type of jobs does this degree prepare you for?

While most finance professions require at least a bachelor’s degree, an associate may be sufficient for some entry-level jobs.

What's the average salary for someone who holds this degree?

According to PayScale, the average salary for an entry-level finance or accounting professional is $45,000.

Core Concepts

An associate degree in finance focuses on the following core concepts:

  • Understand fundamental principles related to budgetary and asset and investment management
  • Learn basic strategies for analyzing market trends, monitoring business activities, and reporting on monetary strengths and weaknesses
  • Calculate potential risk factors and develop long-term plans for minimizing liabilities and maximizing returns
  • Apply financial regulations and policies to real-world business scenarios
  • Communicate with clients about complex financial concepts using terminology that is accessible and easy to understand

Course Highlights

Personal Finance

Description The elements of personal financial planning, such as making major purchases, supporting a growing family, and preparing for retirement.
Job Skill Be able to develop and implement an integrated, comprehensive plan to meet financial goals and prepare for financial emergencies.

Principles of Economics

Description An introduction to concepts and theories related to micro- and macroeconomics
Job Skill Be able to advise companies or individual clients using philosophically-oriented approaches to money management. Microeconomics is related to principles of individual (household) funds, whereas macroeconomics deals with factors that affect national income such as inflation and gross domestic product.

Principles of Accounting

Description An introduction to strategies used by today’s professional accountants
Job Skill Be able to advise companies or individual clients in terms of maximizing profits, minimizing losses, and following financial regulations.

Business Statistics

Description Strategies pertaining to the way corporate financial data is observed, tallied, and reported
Job Skill Be able to analyze different documents in order to find trends and patterns that positively or adversely affect the monetary health of a company or individual client.

Bachelor’s Degree in Finance: An Overview

Who should pursue a bachelor's degree in finance?

Anyone who wants to pursue a career in finance and begin applying for jobs immediately after graduation.

How many years will it take to complete?

A commitment of at least four years will be required of anyone who earns a finance degree online.

Is a thesis or capstone usually required?

An undergraduate capstone project is required in many (but not all) undergraduate online finance degree programs.

What type of jobs does this degree prepare you for?

An online bachelor’s degree in finance is sufficient to be considered for entry-level positions in most finance career pathways.

What's the average salary for someone who holds this degree?

According to PayScale, the median salary among those who earn a bachelor’s degree in finance is $55,248.

Core Concepts

An online bachelor’s degree in finance concentrates on the following core concepts:

  • Use principles of risk and security to inform decisions related to portfolio management and analysis
  • Apply financial laws and regulations to real-world business contexts in order to evaluate compliance and minimize risk
  • Collaborate with fellow finance professionals in order to effectively organize company assets, make sound investments, develop long-term budgetary plans, and maintain monetary health
  • Utilize various qualitative and quantitative methods in order to deliver accurate, up-to-date financial reports

Course Highlights

Corporate Finance

Description Intermediate principles of analysis, asset management, and corporate strategy are introduced
Job Skill Be able to develop long-term spending strategies, compose comprehensive budget reports, and perform in-depth risk assessments at the corporate level.

Management and Organization Theory

Description A look at philosophical approaches to finance at the corporate level
Job Skill Be able to apply the four principles of management — planning, organizing, leading, and controlling — to real-world problems, and to develop strategies for companies in terms of ethics and fiscal responsibility.

Financial Analysis

Description Methods and strategies for observation, analysis, and reporting financial data
Job Skill Be able to analyze financial records and market trends, apply data to corporate or individual budget plans and use the findings to maximize potential gains and minimize risk.

Wealth Management

Description Elements of asset management, career planning/retirement, and taxation
Job Skill Be able to meet with clients of different socioeconomic backgrounds and provide valuable, evidence-based guidance regarding funds, assets, investments, and risk management.

Affordable Schools With Online Bachelor’s Programs

Master’s Degree in Finance: An Overview

Who should pursue a master's degree in finance?

Anyone who wants to pursue a career in finance and effectively compete with bachelor’s degree-holding counterparts in the job market.

How many years will it take to complete?

Most master’s in finance online programs require at least a two-year commitment, although some programs are accelerated.

Is a thesis or capstone usually required?

Yes, a capstone project will be required for the majority of online master’s in finance degree programs.

What type of jobs does this degree prepare you for?

Since most finance careers are attainable with a bachelor’s degree, an online master’s in finance program will build on your undergraduate skills and allow you to enter the job market with additional academic experience.

What's the average salary for someone who holds this degree?

According to PayScale, those with a Master of Finance degree earn a median annual salary of $92,782, and those with a Master of Science in Finance earn a median annual salary of $67,788.

Core Concepts

A master’s in finance online degree will emphasize the following core concepts:

  • Provide expert financial advice for senior executives of corporate entities operating at the national and multinational level
  • Use advanced principles of asset management and risk analysis to safeguard high-volume personal and corporate accounts
  • Lead teams that perform complex data analyses and produce comprehensive, long-term budgetary plans
  • Communicate with peers and clients using advanced terminology about the role and operations of the Federal Reserve and other federal financial institutions

Course Highlights

Managerial Economics

Description Principles of economic theory and decision science
Job Skill Be able to approach corporate-level management using theory-based economic models, and utilize different tools designed to calculate potential risk and liabilities.

Investment Analysis & Portfolio Management

Description Advanced strategies for market analysis and asset management
Job Skill Be able to assess the strengths and weaknesses of different investments (including stocks and bonds), and communicate these factors to clients using accessible terminology.

Financial Modeling

Description A look at the role of modeling in the world of modern finance
Job Skill Be able to use different financial models to analyze current market trends and evaluate a company’s monetary health in terms of performance and risk management.

Financial Econometrics

Description Methods of approaching economics using mathematical operations
Job Skill Be able to develop and evaluate complex financial databases based on econometric principles such as exploratory data analysis and regression analysis.

Affordable Schools With Online Master’s Programs

PhD in Finance: An Overview

Who should pursue a PhD in finance?

Anyone who wants to pursue a career in finance and increase their competitiveness in the job market for highly sought after positions.

How many years will it take to complete?

Most Ph.D. programs require a commitment of three to four years.

Is a thesis or capstone usually required?

Yes. Doctoral students are usually required to compose and defend a dissertation during their third or fourth years.

What type of jobs does this degree prepare you for?

Although most careers in finance are attainable with a bachelor’s degree, a Ph.D. will prepare you for positions concentrated in financial research. Many academic positions are also available to doctoral finance graduates.

What's the average salary for someone who holds this degree?

According to PayScale, the average salary for someone with a Ph.D. in Finance is $157,778, and the average salary for someone with a Doctor of Philosophy in Finance is $117,810.

Ph.D. in Finance Overview

Unlike online finance degree programs at lower levels, Ph.D. programs focus less on classroom learning and more on financial theory and advanced research methods. By the end of the second year, most Ph.D. in Finance programs require students to sit for a comprehensive exam. Over the course of their Ph.D. program, students must compose a dissertation related to finance, and then defend it at an academic seminar or conference. Doctoral students are also expected to write and peer-review articles for publication in academic journals. In many cases, professors and program faculty members will review each student on an annual basis, noting both achievements and areas where improvement is needed.

Next Steps: Professional Certification

While most finance careers do not require formal licensure, many employees choose to earn certification in order to boost their professional standing and increase job security within their highly competitive field. Finance professionals commonly pursue the following certifications:

  • Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA): The CFA is a certificate for investment professionals available through the CFA Institute. The course of study is divided into three progressive levels that must be completed in succession, and each level culminates in a comprehensive six-hour exam. Individuals who complete all of the requirements earn the title of ‘CFA charterholder’. Those who wish to pursue the CFA must pay a one-time enrollment fee of $450, as well as registration fees for all three exams.
  • Certified Treasury Professional (CTP): The CTP is a professional credential for treasurers available through the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP). In order to be eligible for the CTP, you must have at least two years of corporate finance experience or a graduate-level degree in a finance-related field. As of 2016, the fee for taking the CTP exam is $796 for current AFP members who register early and $1,096 for non-members who register early.
  • Certified Government Financial Manager (CGFM): Available through the Association of Government Accountants (AGA), the CGFM focuses on skills and knowledge pertaining to financial managers working for local, state, or federal government agencies. The exam costs $125 per sitting. You may retake the exam after 30 days of your first attempt; subsequent retakes require a wait time of at least 90 days. Those who earn CGFM status must renew their certification on an annual basis and accrue at least 80 continuing education hours every two years.
  • Certified Financial Planner (CFP): This credential is designed for financial professionals who help individuals organize and allocate their funds and assets. Completion of the CFP requires coursework that draws from a comprehensive curriculum that focuses on ethics and trust-building in the financial planning profession. The final exam consists of two three-hour testing sessions, and is offered at more than 250 testing centers across the country.
  • Financial Risk Management (FRM): This credential from the Global Association of Risk Professionals (GARP) evaluates candidates on their ability to identify, assess and mitigate financial risk. The FRM exam is based on GARP’s online, self-paced coursework, which is divided into two segments. The introductory ‘Foundations’ course tackles topics like credit and market risk, insurance risk, and regulatory guidelines laid out by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision; the Foundations course costs $199. The second, lengthier ‘Risk and Regulation’ segment goes in-depth to focus on issues like international standards for operational and asset/liability management; a fee of $399 is required for this course.

Sites You May Also be Interested In

Finance Job Boards

  • eFinancialCareers In addition to a global job-search aggregator, this site features information for students, company profiles for top employers, an extensive blog, and a section dedicated to IT jobs in the finance sector.
  • This site offers services for both job-seekers and employers, as well as a nationwide job-search aggregator that can be filtered for 37 different professional titles.
  • American Institute of CPAs The AICPA, a professional organization serving accountants across the U.S., maintains a robust job board with options for job-seekers and employers. The site also offers a virtual career fair once per year.

Finance Blogs

  • Money Crashers Dedicated to fostering “a community of people who try to make financially sound decisions,” this comprehensive blog features sections dedicated to smart banking and credit card management.
  • The Finance Professionals’ Post Developed by the New York Society of Security Analysts, this nonprofit forum takes an academic, research-driven approach to topics related to the financial and banking sectors.
  • Real Time Economics This blog, maintained by the Wall Street Journal, features posts revolving around national and international business topics, such as banking policies, economic analysis, and current market trends.

Professional Organizations