Finance vs. Accounting Courses: Choosing a Program

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 29 March 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Finance and accounting courses may help you advance your finance or accounting career. Courses provide candidates with the opportunity to specialise and gain the skills necessary to pursue a career as a financial consultant or accountant. Understanding what finance and accounting courses are available can help you make more informed career decisions and encourage you to take relevant steps to select the right course for your career ambitions. In this article, we assess finance vs. accounting courses by analysing their content, job prospects and resulting salaries, including a guide to the difference between finance and accounting.

What is the difference between finance vs. accounting courses?

When comparing finance and accounting courses, it's important to note what these courses offer. Finance and accounting certificates are additional certifications to undergraduate degrees that provide candidates with the opportunity to further their knowledge and specialise in a type of finance or accounting. Some career options require candidates to possess these additional certifications as they show a high grade of knowledge and assure clients and employers that the candidate can confidently manage complex financial cases.

Finance and accounting courses vary in status, expectation, length and prerequisite. Typically, candidates embark on these certifications after completing a finance, accountancy or economics undergraduate or postgraduate degree. These courses expand on the core teachings delivered at the undergraduate level. Finance courses aim to ensure that candidates can offer financial services to different clients such as those seeking wealth management, financial risk analysis or underwriting. Accounting certifications may entitle candidates to more senior roles at a financial or accountancy firm, depending on the type of course. International employers may also recognise some certifications, expanding candidates' career options.

What is the difference between finance and accounting?

There are some key differences between finance and accounting. Whilst some key duties and skills are interchangeable between the two topics, such as requiring candidates to possess confident mathematical, analytical and consulting skills, financial and accounting professionals differ in terms of the type of analysis they do. Financial advisors typically help clients plan for future investments like property or business, whereas accountants help clients focus on their past and current expenses. Financial professionals also help their clients with investment portfolio management, underwriting and financial planning, whilst accountants help their clients navigate tax, cost and auditing.

Related: What Is a Management Accountant? Your Guide To This Career

Financial professionals take on more of a strategy and planning role while accountants primarily focus on analysing their clients' strategy and summarising its success. Accountants also help their clients keep track of vital financial documents to ensure they don't infringe on any laws or violate financial regulatory requirements.

Related: An Accountancy Career: 12 Accountancy Jobs With Salaries

Top 4 accounting courses

When selecting your accounting course, consider your long-term career goals. Your certification serves as a testimony to your abilities and suitability for the job, so ensure you choose a course that matches the type of career you're aiming for. You may also consider pursuing a certification that's most conducive to your pre-existing qualifications, such as an undergraduate degree. This may significantly improve your chances of success and help you adjust to the course easier.

Here are four popular accounting courses:

1. Certified Chartered Accountancy

Becoming a chartered accountant relies on gaining an Associated Chartered Accountant (ACA) accredited certification. This certification is in high regard and internationally recognised as a prestigious certification. This certification ensures that candidates possess specialist knowledge of business finance and can advise clients on the best financial strategies.

Becoming an ACA accredited chartered accountant may entitle candidates to more senior positions with competitive company benefits. This qualification may also help candidates set up their own accountancy businesses. The national average salary for an ACA accredited chartered accountant is $86,833 per year.

2. Certified Public Accounting

Certified public accountancy courses teach candidates how to deliver services that align with the public interest. The course encourages accountants to always work in the interest of their clients or business and make financial decisions and advisements based on this. This qualification also ensures that candidates permanently abide by a strict code of conduct that upholds respect towards their client's growth and success.

These accountants help clients assess their business's financial health and viability and advise them on the appropriate course of action to help them make the right decisions to improve their financial status. The national average salary for a certified public accountant is $89,626 per year.

3. Forensic Accounting

A Certified Practising Accountant (CPA) accredited forensic accounting course teaches candidates how to conduct thorough investigations into potential financial criminal behaviour. These courses teach candidates the correct techniques to approach many financial infringements such as fraud, laundering and tax evasion. Forensic accountants may work on a contract basis on behalf of a criminal investigations firm and help police organise evidence and fill in evidence gaps to reach a reasonable conclusion concerning a case.

Candidates on this course learn the key signs of financial criminal behaviour and how to organise evidence for prosecution. The national average salary for a CPA certified forensic accountant is $82,502 per year.

4. Certified Management Account

Candidates who undertake a certified management accountancy course learn how to conduct financial planning successfully and analyse professional business ethics and financial decisions. The Institute of Certified Management Accountants (ICMA) teaches candidates how to advise senior management in business on how to make financial decisions to support a business's growth.

The overall goal of certified management accountants is to increase the value of a business, which is integral to a business's financial development. The national average salary of a certified management accountant is $94,481 per year.

Related: How to Become a Certified Management Accountant (Step Guide)

Top 4 finance courses

Finance courses are specifically designed to prepare candidates to work in roles such as investment banking, financial analysis or as chief financial officers (CFO). These courses teach candidates valuable techniques on how to strategically plan and manage budgets for their clients.

Here are four top finance courses:

1. Chartered Financial Analyst

This highly regarded qualification, which holds a master's degree equivalent in some nations, ensures that candidates can manage portfolios, advise on investments and manage corporate finance. Candidates who study this CPA-accredited course reassure their clients that they hold a high degree of knowledge and can advise on a variation of financial matters at a business, making them highly valuable.

Due to the stature of this certification, it may entitle those that complete a chartered financial analyst course to higher-paying and more senior roles in a business. On average, candidates take at least four years to become charter holders. The average salary for a chartered financial analyst is $101,153 per year.

Related: Different Types of Finance Jobs (With Duties and Salaries)

2. Financial Risk Manager

A financial risk management course teaches candidates how to assess every area of risk involved in investment and corporate banking. Candidates receive specific training on how to forecast and respond to risk whilst accurately advising their clients on minimising the risk associated with their financial decisions. This internationally recognised qualification can boost a candidate's career prospects.

A financial risk management course requires candidates to pass two exams and spend two years in the industry to gain formal experience. The national average salary for a qualified financial risk manager is $148,421 per year.

3. Chartered Life Underwriter

Chartered life underwriter candidates learn how to advise their clients on the appropriate course of action when choosing life insurance policies, including advising them on all indications and responses to risk and planning insurance solutions. This certification teaches candidates the importance and impact of life underwriting on the wider public interest and how to advise their clients on making investments with added security.

Candidates typically require a passing grade for each topic, such as insurance law, estate planning, insurance and business planning. The national average salary for a chartered life underwriter is $134,401 per year.

4. Chartered Financial Consultant

Candidates who undertake a Financial Planning Association of Australia (FPA) accredited course in financial planning or consultancy learn how to guide a business to achieve its financial goals. Similar to other certifications, financial consultants work with senior staff within a business to raise the value of a business to secure its financial longevity.

Financial consultants advise their clients on all investments to ensure they align with company targets and values. This ensures that a company doesn't spend money unnecessarily. Consultants also work with these clients to ensure they have adequate planning in place for retirement funds. The national average salary of a financial consultant is $119,059 per year.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location. Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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