Differences Between Finance and Accounting Careers

Accounting and finance can seem like two different names for the same profession, as both careers are numbers-oriented, demand rigorous attention to detail, and include roles from the smallest sole proprietorship to the largest enterprises in the world.

The increasingly sophisticated and complex nature of the business world progressively requires not only number-savvy accountants and financial experts, but also for people to make decisions based on what they know.

Finance looks to the future, through advice and strategy, or the process of acquiring the funding itself. A lot of the work focuses on managing investments, by studying markets and making investment decisions. Finance can focus on an individual or a family, or a corporation as part of a team of experts that guide an organization’s investment strategy.

Accounting is a day-to-day, present-focused profession, rooted in concrete numbers. It focuses on recording financial information such as budgets, audits, taxes and expenses.

Workplace Variety

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 10% career growth for business and financial occupations through 2026, largely due to increased globalization, economic growth, and complex taxes and regulations.

Professionals can establish their own practice (usually taking on other small businesses or individuals as clients), accept a position in a company of any size, or work for a professional services firm such as KPMG or EY (Ernst & Young). In some cases, financial professionals may need to travel to their clients establishments, particularly those in an analyst or advisory role.

Working in both finance and accounting calls for at least a bachelor’s degree, according to the BLS. And both fields require similar skills.

  • Professionalism to interact with clients and other professional teams.
  • Communication to communication essential information to clients.
  • Attention to detail to ensure accurate records and information. Accounting professionals must rigorously ensure records are accurate; finance professionals need to be able to meticulously review the details in an investment or portfolio.
  • Analysis to analyze available information. Accounting professionals need to be able to review records and accounts to establish the health of a clients finances. Finance professionals need to process vast amounts of information related to investment and strategy.
  • Computer skills to navigate software packages aimed at bookkeeping, analysis, forecasting, and other financial and accounting areas.

Careers in Finance

Within finance, students can pursue several specialties. Many financial professionals work for organizations, although some may work as consultants.

Finance professionals can work as portfolio managers, overseeing investment portfolios (real estate, stocks, bonds, etc.); fund managers (buying, selling or projecting the value of hedge or mutual funds); ratings analysts that assess the ability of a business to repay debt; risk analysts, who estimate returns and risks related to specific investments, and analysts that procure investments and assess an operation’s performance.

Careers in Accounting

Within accounting, students can elect to pursue either accounting or auditing. Many careers in the discipline may require a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) credential, which will include an exam and educational requirements. Accountants can manage public documents for corporate entities, individuals, or government organizations (including taxes), examine financial statements within a legal framework, oversee company documentation and cost analytics, and oversee financial operations in government.

Auditors often work as consultants to organizations, reviewing financial statements to ensure the records meet designated standards. Organizations may also use auditors to uncover financial mismanagement or impropriety.

While both finance and accounting require similar skill sets, students can select the right career path by deciding how they would like to specialize, and whether they would prefer the record-focused, day-to-day lens of accounting or the forward-looking, analytical role of a finance professional.

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