A degree in business administration or finance can lead to opportunities in many different fields. The skills these degrees provide are valued in large organizations and small ones, profit-making businesses, not-for-profits and the public sector. Either degree is also good preparation for starting your own business.
How They 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 broader grounding in the world of commerce. A BA or BS 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 one devoted to finance. For example, one major state university says it expects its business administration graduates to “demonstrate an in-depth knowledge of human resources” and “be able to work effectively in a team-based environment.” The same university’s objectives for its finance graduates, however, almost all refer to “hard” skills such as financial analysis and accounting.
There is considerable overlap at many universities between the courses that a business administration or finance student will take, especially 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 like leadership and organizational behavior, while the finance student will drill deeper into topics such as corporate and global finance. These programs vary from school to school, of course, but that’s a general overview.
Either a business administration or a finance undergraduate degree is considered sufficient preparation for many starting 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, when 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 Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates, the kinds of jobs for which graduates with either degree qualify pay well and demand is strong. Some examples, including the job's average 2013 earnings and projected job growth from 2012 to 2022:
- Financial analysts Earnings: $91,620. Projected job growth: 16%
- Financial managers Earnings: $126,660. Projected job growth: 9%
- Management analysts Earnings: $89,990. Projected job growth: 19%
- Personal financial advisers Earnings: $99,920. Projected job growth: 27%
- Securities, commodities and financial services sales agents Earnings: $102,510. Projected job growth: 11%
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
Either degree can prepare you for a career with many types of employers. Both require significant numerical skills, with the finance degree putting a greater emphasis on them, which can be better preparation for a job that primarily entails financial analysis. One may fit your interests and skills better.
If you are undecided, you can start off as a general business major at many colleges, then concentrate on finance (or other specialties such as accounting, entrepreneurship or marketing), if that’s where your interest turns out to lie. To look ahead beyond the bachelor's degree, read, Applying To Grad School: GPA Vs. Work Experience and When Is Grad School Worth It?