An online degree in finance provides the core knowledge needed to grow a career in the field. Whether it’s an associate degree or a doctorate, a quality program includes support services for students both during the program and post-graduation. Programs should be affordable and feature a high graduation rate, illustrating a desire for student success. The best online finance degree programs allow students to grow their professional networks and gain hands-on experience by working with professors who are leaders in the field. we’ve scoured the nation’s colleges to provide this list of the Best Online Finance Degree Programs for 2017. Check out the best-of-the-best below.
Online finance programs are offered by institutions of all sizes, including junior colleges, state schools, private institutions and for-profit colleges. With so much competition, it is important for students to be able to recognize a quality program. Fortunately, there are several ways to identify opportunities that meet or exceed expectations.
Accreditation is an important credential to look for when picking a university or college, as well as when choosing a specific degree program. Accreditation is a sign that the institution meets or exceeds standards for its faculty, curriculum and student services. The U.S. Department of Education recognizes six regional accrediting bodies for the accreditation of colleges and universities. In addition there are accrediting agencies that recognize the quality and legitimacy of specific degree programs within each institution.
Internships are extremely important in an online finance degree program. Students should choose a college or university with a strong reputation for its internship program. Ideally, students should be able to land a quality internship within their specialty area, as it can be greatly improve the chances of securing employment after graduation. Because quality entry-level jobs in finance are limited, employment at top firms can depend on a successful internship within an organization.
However, firms set their own requirements for internships. Some may be open to all college students from a wide range of majors while others are limited to upperclassmen pursuing finance or business-related degrees. In some cases internships are taken by bachelor’s degree-holders hoping to find a full-time position in the highly competitive job market. The best way to qualify for an internship is to maintain a high GPA and accrue specialized skills in communications and technology that set candidates apart from the competition.
Quality institutions should have the resources in their distance-learning program to help them shine among the competition. For example, in any online program, virtual tools are essential. A reputable program should utilize advanced communication technology and provide 24/7 access to comprehensive online materials.
In addition, students should have support for navigating the online program, such as an online academic counselor to guide them along the way. In addition, a finance program benefits from a credentialed faculty with experience teaching in a distance learning program. With the high level of competition for jobs in the financial sector after graduation, students should also be given the opportunity to declare a specialization area so they can delve deeper into an area of interest and become more attractive to potential employers.
There are a number of professional organizations in business and finance with reputable certification programs. The following is a list of finance-related certifications that are well-recognized in the finance and business professions:
Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA): One of the most respected credentials in the world of finance is the Chartered Financial Analyst credential, awarded by the CFA Institute and analogous to the CPA designation in accounting. To earn the CFA credential, candidates must satisfy a number of job requirements and pass a series of examinations. Exam content includes academic theory, industry practice and ethical and professional standards.
Certified Financial Consultant (CFC): The Institute of Financial Consultants administers the CFC certification. To qualify, candidates must show proficiency in areas such as financial reporting and analysis, investment management, corporate finance, and risk management by watching a series of videos, studying lecture notes and completing a tutor assessment and exam.
Certified Financial Planner (CFP): In order to become a CFP under the Certified Financial Board, candidates must complete a comprehensive course of study at an approved college or university, spend several years employed in the industry, and pass the CFP Certification Exam.
Certified Credit Counselor (CCC): The National Association of Certified Credit Counselors awards the CCC credential to candidates who pass a comprehensive exam based on debt collection, the psychology of spending, debt resolution, ethics, consumer resources, and consumer protection legislation.
Hearing about another person’s experience in an online finance program can be very helpful for prospective students. Someone who has graduated from a program has a unique insight into the benefits and drawbacks involved in choosing a program, applying for admission and landing a job after graduation. Tom McMahon shares his online experience below.
1. How did you decide to pursue an online bachelor’s degree in finance?
I toyed with the idea of going away to school but didn’t want to leave my friends and family. I also had a great part-time job that I didn’t want to lose. A friend’s brother was taking classes in finance from a well-known online school and encouraged me to look at the program. I was able to apply and get started immediately. I’m a night owl and loved that I could check in on my classes and study and do assignments in the middle of the night when everyone else in the house was asleep.
2. What was your experience in the program?
It took me four years to earn a bachelor’s degree in finance. It flew by. My instructors were fantastic and I learned a lot very quickly. My younger sister ended up enrolling in the same program and it became a competition to see who could do better. I was able to customize my degree with an accounting concentration. I took 18 credits in management and marketing- which I highlighted on my resume after graduation.
3. Did you do an internship?
Yes- it was required. I worked on a project for a family friend’s firm. All I had to do was get approval from my program coordinator, which was easy. My responsibilities included generating leads and assisting on a marketing campaign. I loved every minute of it. It totally cemented the idea of a career in marketing for me.
4. Were you able to find a job after graduation?
Believe it or not I found a job BEFORE graduation- and not with the family friend’s firm where I interned. I actually worked with someone during the internship who left for another firm while I was still in school. We stayed in touch and he contacted me when a job opened- a basic, entry-level marketing job, but it meant being paid doing what I had discovered I loved doing. Since I was finishing up classes online, I worked part-time for a few months before graduating and moving to a full-time schedule.
5. What advice would you give to prospective students looking at online degree programs?
When I was looking at schools, I have to admit I was a little worried about not being taken seriously if I went to school online. Like it was a stigma, I guess. Turns out I shouldn’t have given it a second thought. My current employer told me that a lot of the staff has attended the same school I went to. So my advice would be to check out all the options- you don’t want to settle. But definitely keep an open mind.
6. Describe a challenge you faced in the online program.
The biggest challenge was not over-doing it. Since I loved to do my school work in the middle of the night and had a part-time job during the day, I had to figure out how to make a schedule that allowed for sleep! I made it work though. I had to get organized and map out my study times, writing times, etc. and schedule work around that. If I had it to do again I would organize myself better right from the beginning.
Whether considering an associate or doctoral degree, online programs in finance cover the whole spectrum of degree levels and offer varied concentration areas. Online programs in finance have been established for a number of years, giving students many choices when selecting a school. Some rise above the competition by providing flexibility for working students, real-world internship experience, and great value for cost. The search tool below allows students to search potential schools by factors most important to their individual needs.
Information and data from trusted sources remains paramount in the search for quality online finance programs. The following page contains research material from higher education and subject-matter experts, which includes a breakdown of online programs in finance at top U.S. colleges and universities. It also provides a comprehensive guide to the educational opportunities in the field, which outlines degree options, levels, requirements and more. Find the right program for you, or learn more about online finance degrees from those in the know.
Finance is the study of management of money and assets. Individuals, businesses and organizations must raise, manage and allocate fund to increase profit and minimize risks. Finance is a broad area of study covering areas such as accounting, market analysis, investments, micro- and macro-economics and more. Strong online finance degree programs prepare students to become financial analysts, budget analysts, financial managers as well as loan officers, insurance agents and real estate brokers (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). Let’s begin by looking at the online degree options open to those interested in pursuing a career in finance.
Students enter the field of finance from different points, based on different career and educational paths. For this reason, it’s important to examine the full spectrum of online finance degrees, from the introductory associate credential to the terminal doctorate option. The following timeline looks at the higher educational journey in its totality, providing a detailed rundown of each step.
An Associate of Science in Finance degree program helps students develop the basic knowledge and skills to pursue an entry-level finance career. Along with the general requirements common to all associate degrees, a finance program provides an introduction to areas such as corporate finance, business law and ethics, investment principles, credit analysis and more. These courses also build a foundation so that students who plan to move on to a bachelor’s degree can explore the subjects on a deeper level later on. Students who want to transfer to a four-year program should meet with academic advisors at both schools as soon as possible to ensure they meet all requirements for a successful transfer experience.
Not all students will go on to a four-year program. For these students, some schools offer an Associate of Applied Science in Finance, which is a more occupation-oriented program. It combines a broad general education with core skill-based courses which prepare students to enter the workforce directly after graduation in positions such as bookkeepers, credit officers and loan processors.
An online bachelor’s degree in finance is a basic requirement for pursuing a successful career in the field. It expands upon the core elements introduced at the two-year level, delving deeper into critical concepts necessary for individuals following a professional career path. An online undergraduate degree in finance is one of the most popular programs offered in a distance learning program. It typically requires 120 credit hours over four years of study, although many schools offer accelerated programs as well. Finance is a highly regulated industry and it is important to understand the rules and regulations. For example, in 2013, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) brought 1,535 disciplinary actions against registered brokers and firms. (FINRA.com) Some of the key courses included in an online finance degree program during years three and four include:
Principles of accounting: Focuses on the fundamentals of financial analysis through the use of statements found in government, business and organizations. Students learn the skills needed to make efficient financial decisions.
Principles of economics: Covers the basics of macroeconomics and microeconomics. Macroeconomics delves into large economic issues like inflation and interest rates, while microeconomics deals with individual economics issues such as supply and demand and consumer choice.
Investment fundamentals and security analysis: Identifies ways to make investment decisions through the understanding of securities and concepts of valuation. The course also examines the mechanics and costs of trading.
Money and banking: Focuses on the global financial system and the role of financial services companies in money and capital markets. It also explores a variety of specific topics such as the U.S. banking systems, investments, credit and credit extensions.
International financial management: Provides an overview of the evolution of the international monetary system. The class also discusses specific issues facing international business firms and banks including foreign exchange markets, rate determination, foreign currency, and international debt and equity markets.
Other primary courses:
An online doctorate in finance program provides students with a solid foundation in modern finance and the theoretical and empirical tools to prepare them for research and teaching careers in academia. With a PhD in finance it is also possible to pursue a high-level management career as a CEO or CFO in a government or corporate setting. The path towards a doctorate in finance usually encompasses a thorough study of areas such as asset pricing and portfolio management, corporate finance, international finance and macroeconomics. To qualify for a doctoral program, candidates must have completed comprehensive training in economics, mathematics, engineering and statistics from an accredited undergraduate institution.
Students must complete a rigorous curriculum to earn an online doctorate in finance. The requirements can include a combination of in-depth coursework in economics, statistics, a number of exams, and several research papers. In addition, many Ph.D. programs have research and teaching fellowship components, unpaid assistant positions for course credit. Finally, students are required to research, write and defend a dissertation.
Online doctoral programs may substitute fellowships with several residency requirements throughout the coursework that last a few days to up to a week or more. During these experiences, students develop the subject matter knowledge and research skills -- such as planning, methodology and design, data collection and analysis -- which are necessary to write a dissertation. Residency requirements can vary widely, so it is important to learn about what is expected from different college and university programs before making a decision to enroll.