BY JORI HAMILTON
When deciding what type of education and background you want to have, it pays to know the field or career you plan on going into. Consider the benefits of studying finance in college. While some accounting or finance careers will require a college degree, others need only a certificate. You may also be able to start out with certification and then pursue an advanced college degree in order to grow in your career.
Your first step, though, is deciding which jobs interest you the most. From there, you can compare education requirements and job outlook to choose a path.
Accounting vs. Finance
Before you explore the different career paths in accounting and finance, it pays to know how these two fields differ. To the layman, you may assume that they’re similar simply because they have to do with money. They have inherent differences, though, and understanding them will make it easier to choose the right career path for you.
Accounting involves recording and analyzing financial records. Finance, on the other hand, focuses on how money is managed. These descriptions sound similar, but it helps to look at it this way: Accounting deals with areas like accuracy when filing taxes and fiscal compliance, while finance deals with areas like finding the best investment options and personal or corporate budgeting.
Accounting Fields and Jobs
There are various jobs that you can get in the field of accounting and several branches of accounting that you can opt to work in. These include:
- Auditing: As either an internal or external auditor, you’ll examine an organization’s funds to see if there has been any mismanagement, either accidental or purposeful. In a government accounting position, you’ll audit government-related individuals or businesses.
- Forensic Accounting: You’ll help businesses, individuals, and/or law enforcement by evaluating financial records. Most of the cases you work will be complex, and some will involve analyzing instances of fraud.
- Management Accounting: You’ll handle budgets and prepare financial records for your organization. Part of this job is also assessing operational expenses.
- Tax Accounting: You’ll prepare taxes at the local, state, and federal levels. You’ll have to remain updated on the most recent codes and code changes, and you’ll have to explain to clients how these changes may affect them.
There are a variety of accounting fields and jobs you can choose from, and these are just four of the more common ones.
3 Most Common Branches of Finance
While there are numerous jobs in the finance field, they tend to fall into one of three branches: corporate finance, personal finance, or public finance. Here’s a breakdown of each type of finance and common jobs in each category.
According to Investopedia, corporate finance is a division of a company that handles decisions related to finances and investments. Corporate finance deals with both short- and long-term strategies with the primary goal of maximizing shareholder value. A few examples of positions include:
- Benefits Officer: This role combines financial knowledge with human resources. Benefits, like pension funds and healthcare benefits, must be managed to ensure they’re cost-effective for the company while also being beneficial for the employee.
- Cash Manager: The cash manager position ensures that there’s a positive relationship between the company and banks so that short-term credit needs can be met. This position also makes sure that the company always has enough working capital and that any surplus cash is well invested in order to gain interest.
- Financial Analyst: This role handles capital budgeting, which means estimating how much the annual budget can be and then monitoring it to ensure it’s being adhered to. Financial analysts also assess proposals and help make decisions about buying or leasing equipment.
Personal finance deals with how individuals manage, save, and invest their money. Careers in personal finance help individuals and households make savvy financial decisions. If you want to learn more, check out the best YouTube channels for learning about finance.
One of the most common career paths in personal finance is financial planning. Financial planners work with individuals to create plans to secure their current and future financial situations. After reviewing the client’s current financial status and going over their goals with them, the financial planner will come up with a plan to reach those goals. Financial planning jobs are available at small firms as well as nationwide companies.
Public finance isn’t very straightforward, as it actually has two definitions:
- Financial management for government or government-related organizations. This may include airports, school districts or recreation areas, for example. Jobs include accountants, controllers, treasurers and risk managers.
- Specialist branch of finance that raises funds for governments and public authorities. Financial management is the primary career path for this type of public finance, and the job usually requires working alongside elected officials to create legislation and policies for different funding sources, like fines or taxes.
For individuals who want to contribute to their community or society, a job in public finance may be a good option. You’ll work to make sure that taxpayer money is used in a way that makes the most sense for both government entities and the public.
Entering the world of finance is a smart move if your main concern is job outlook upon graduation. They are diverse fields that offer a wide range of positions for those interested. Once you have your heart set on a specific career path, getting as much training and education early on will put you in the best position to secure a job after graduation.
Bio: Jori Hamilton is a writer from the Northwest who is passionate about education and social justice issues. You can follow her on Twitter @HamiltonJori