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 provide a solid foundation and are good preparation for entrepreneurs who want to start their own business.
How Business Administration and Finance Degrees Differ
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. A bachelor of arts or bachelor of science degree in finance tends to be more specialized, with a greater emphasis on investments and the workings of financial institutions.
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, whereas a finance program may address “hard” skills such as financial analysis and accounting.
There is considerable overlap at many universities among the courses that a business administration or finance student will be required to take, particularly during their freshman and sophomore years. Both involve a significant amount of basic math as well as accounting, statistics, economics and business law.
The business administration student is likely to move on to courses in subjects such as leadership and organizational behavior while the finance student will drill deeper into topics such as corporate and global finance. These programs vary depending on the school.
Either a business administration or a finance undergraduate degree is considered sufficient preparation for many entry-level jobs, although 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.
Students may continue their training immediately after earning an undergraduate degree or later in their careers. At that point, it might be paid for – or even required by – their employer. See "A Look at Entry-Level Careers in Finance" and "How to Land a Finance Job With a Bachelor's Degree."
According to the latest estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 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 2017 earnings, and projected job growth from 2016 to 2026:
- Financial analysts Earnings: $84,300. Projected job growth: 11%
- Financial managers Earnings: $125,080. Projected job growth: 19%
- Management analysts Earnings: $82,450. Projected job growth: 14%
- Personal financial advisers Earnings: $90,640. Projected job growth: 15%
- Securities, commodities and financial services sales agents Earnings: $63,780. Projected job growth: 6%
Several independent organizations accredit business schools including the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International), the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) and the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (IACBE).
The Bottom Line
Both a business administration degree and a finance degree can prepare you for a career with many types of employers or as an entrepreneur. Both require significant numerical skills, but a finance degree places greater emphasis on math to better prepare you for a job that primarily entails financial analysis. Thus, a business administration may fit your interests and skills better if you are inclined toward the management side that requires more soft skills, such as interpersonal relations.
If undecided, you can begin a general business major at many colleges and later decide to concentrate on finance (or other specialties such as accounting, entrepreneurship or marketing). To look ahead beyond the bachelor's degree, read, "Applying to Grad School: GPA Vs. Work Experience" and "When Is Grad School Worth It?"