Business Administration vs. Finance Degree: An Overview

A degree in business administration or finance can lead to opportunities in both large and small organizations in the public and private sectors. Both degrees also provide a solid foundation and are good preparation for entrepreneurs who want to start their own businesses.

There is often considerable overlap among the courses that business administration and finance students must take, particularly during their freshman and sophomore years. Both degrees involve taking a significant amount of basic math as well as accounting, statistics, economics, and business law courses.

Either degree would be beneficial in landing a future job. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), business and finance jobs are expected to grow 5 percent by 2029, with 476,200 new jobs predicted on the horizon.

Key Takeaways

  • A finance degree places a greater emphasis on math to prepare students for a job that entails financial analysis.
  • A business administration degree will emphasize managerial skills and human resource skills, such as interpersonal relations and customer service.
  • Both degrees involve taking a significant amount of basic math, as well as accounting, statistics, economics, and business law courses.
  • A business administration or a finance undergraduate degree is considered sufficient preparation for many entry-level jobs like those in the commercial banking, money management, real estate, and investment banking sectors.

Business Administration Degree

A business administration degree, such as a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) or a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (BSBA), generally offers a broad grounding in the world of commerce. In addition to analytical skills, a business administration program may focus on interpersonal or “soft” skills to a greater extent than a finance program.

For example, a program may expect its business administration graduates to demonstrate an in-depth knowledge of human resources and be able to work effectively in a team-based environment. Group projects are more common in business classes, as they help students prepare for working in teams. On the other hand, even a limited working knowledge of algebra should be more than enough to meet mathematics requirements. Depending on the program, a business administration student is likely to move on to courses in leadership and organizational behavior. On the whole, business administration majors are generalists who know something about the specialties of all the people that they manage.

The broad-based nature of the business administration degree also gives it long-term advantages in shifting job markets. Particular lines of business, such as railroads, manufacturing, and computers, rise and fall with technology. However, the experience that people gain in running businesses can be transferred from one industry to another. Students who earn business administration degrees are less likely to mistakenly invest their human capital in yesterday’s vision of tomorrow.

Finance Degree

A bachelor’s degree in finance tends to be more specialized. The degree places a greater emphasis on investments and the workings of financial institutions. In addition, finance students may drill deeper into topics such as corporate and global finance, and a finance degree program may address “hard” skills such as financial analysis and accounting.

In particular, finance majors need to have a more substantial background in mathematics. A solid grasp of algebra is increasingly important as students progress in finance. Furthermore, a basic knowledge of calculus can make seemingly complex topics easier to understand. However, students can often get by without calculus in many undergraduate programs.

Graduates can typically find work in fields like banking, real estate, money management, or investment banking. A finance undergraduate degree, as well as a degree in business administration, is considered sufficient preparation for many entry-level jobs. However, some students go on to receive other certifications or advanced degrees such as a Master of Business Administration (MBA) or a Master of Science in Finance.

Getting a degree in finance also gives students a chance to learn more about investing. No one believes that ordinary people are likely to become great athletes or generals in their spare time. Yet, many people try to beat the market without proper training. By majoring in finance, students can spend years studying the workings of financial markets. That not only gives finance majors the ability to earn more in the job market, but also the potential to earn more on their investments.

Degrees in both business administration and finance—especially advanced degrees—will usually open doors to lucrative positions in the finance and business sectors.

Special Considerations

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest estimates, the types of jobs for which graduates with either degree qualify for pay well, and the demand is strong. Below are some examples of average salaries in 2019 earnings (most recent figures), and projected job growth from 2019 to 2029:

  • Financial analysts Earnings: $81,590; Projected job growth: 5 percent 
  • Financial managers Earnings: $129,890; Projected job growth: 15 percent 
  • Management analysts Earnings: $85,260; Projected job growth: 11 percent 
  • Personal financial advisers Earnings: $87,850; Projected job growth: 4 percent 
  • Securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents Earnings: $62,270; Projected job growth: 4 percent 

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