Defining the finance and accounting worlds encourages some confusion, and I can definitely empathise with that as the line between the two often shifts depending on where you’re standing.
I can give you a general way to compare the apples and pears of finance and accounting which is a finance degree will teach you about the management of money, while an accounting degree teaches you how to gather, organise and process this financial information. So to reiterate in other words, finance covers the shifting and manipulation of money, and accounting is about tracking that.
These differences become quite obvious when you look at the subject guide for courses and majors. These are the accounting vs. finance subjects at my university:
- Accounting for Business Combinations
- Cost Management Systems
- Accounting Standards and Regulations
- Applied Company Law
- Assurance Services and Audit
- Taxation Law
- Management Decisions and Control
- Financial Statement Analysis
- The Financial System
- Quantitative Business Analysis
- Investment Analysis
- Commercial Bank Management
- Corporate Finance: Theory and Practice
- Derivative Securities
- Ethics in Finance
- Investment Banking
The exact differences between a finance degree and an accounting degree may vary from university to university, as each one would have a varying course structure and program so the meaning of a finance or accounting degree from one university, could mean very different things to the ‘same’ degree from the next university over. Other institutes may even group subjects together under a single umbrella term, so don’t take degree or subject names as face value without reading up on the actual content of them.
I chose to do a finance major from my business degree, not even a purely finance or accounting degree, but that’s me. Much of the time, someone who earns an accounting degree can still work in finance, and vice versa, but often this may not be the case.
Ask yourself, where do you want to end up? If you want to be a Chartered Accountant, then an accounting degree would be your best bet. If not, I would take the finance route, which could give you a few more pathway options under the finance umbrella.
There is the option to double up and do a double major, or a double degree. While being a major undertaking, the return could be tenfold and if there’s a level of uncertainty in your preference for finance or accounting, gives you peace of mind that you’re not going to graduate with regrets and qualifications you’re not interested in.