The principles and practices of finance represent a key area of business knowledge with applications in banking, investing, marketing, real estate development, and general business planning and management. Studying finance involves learning about monetary policy, banking systems, asset management, accounting procedures, economic modeling, and market forecasting. At the undergraduate level, students who opt for a major in finance are introduced to financial theories, investment banking, risk management, and tools that support informed, fiscally sound business decisions. A bachelor’s degree in finance can be a pathway to careers in commercial banking, investment banking, financial trading, portfolio management, private equity and venture capital, real estate, and other fields that are grounded in understanding the relationship between monetary assets, interest rates, and financial instruments such as stocks, bonds, commodities, and derivatives.
A bachelor’s in finance is typically a four-year Bachelor of Science (BS) degree program with a major in finance, financial services, financial accounting, or business finance. Students in these programs complete a range of general education coursework in arts, science, mathematics, and humanities, such as English composition, calculus, history, behavioral science, and physical science. There are often additional prerequisite courses for students preparing to major in finance. These may include applied mathematics and statistics courses, introductory courses in microeconomics and macroeconomics, and foundational coursework in accounting, business law, business computing, professional communication, and organizational management. Finance major courses generally cover topics in financial accounting, reporting, and analyses; money and asset management; banking operations and regulations; investment and portfolio management; and taxation.
Online bachelor’s in finance programs utilize distance-learning technologies to offer a more convenient and flexible alternative to traditional, campus-based bachelor’s programs. These programs provide all or most of their coursework online through learning management systems (LMSs), which allow students to view lectures, complete assignments, participate in class discussions, contact instructors, and engage in other instructional activities from anywhere with an Internet connection. Students in an online program can earn a bachelor’s in finance degree without relocating or commuting to a college or university campus, which may be advantageous for those who do not live near a school that offers a finance major and for students who anticipate working full-time while earning their degree.
OnlineEducation.com conducts independent research into online bachelor’s programs and identifies programs that offer a major in finance. These programs may be offered as part of a larger business major or separately, and they have a variety of designations. These include:
These programs are classified based on several important criteria. They must be offered by regionally accredited, non-profit colleges and universities, and they must offer all or most of their coursework online. Programs that require students to attend more than two campus visits per year are not currently listed on the site.
Up to half or more of the credits required to graduate from an online bachelor’s in finance degree program may be in the area of general education coursework, which commonly includes an English writing/composition course, and a selection of classes in the arts, physical and behavioral sciences, and humanities. In preparation for a finance major, students are often required to take certain prerequisites, such as calculus, statistics, and introductory economics classes. Some online bachelor’s in finance programs incorporate a core business curriculum that may include foundational coursework in accounting, business law, finance, business computing, marketing, management, and/or international business. Core coursework in a finance major generally covers topics in financial accounting and reporting; banking operations and regulations; investment strategy and management; the federal system of taxation; risk and security analysis; financial research methods; and the integration of financial concerns into strategic business plans.
While curricula, course names, and course descriptions vary by program, the core finance curriculum is generally comprised of six or more courses that examine topics detailed in the table below. These course names and descriptions are adapted from actual online bachelor’s in finance programs.
|Fundamentals of Financial Accounting||An overview of the accounting cycle, financial reporting, and the preparation of financial statements, and the ethical standards for accounting.|
|Intermediate Accounting I||The theoretical foundations for accounting standards as a context for financial regulations and professional accounting practices.|
|Intermediate Accounting II||An intensive examination of the accounting cycle, with a focus on adjusting, correcting, reversing, and closing entries.|
|Money & Banking||Banking operations and regulations, the banking industrys role in the national economy, and the structure of the global banking system.|
|Corporate Finance||Long-term investment and financing issues in corporate management, including capital budgeting and capital structure decisions, and the effect financial leverage has on a firms valuation.|
|Multinational Corporate Finance||Financial planning and strategies for corporations with multinational holdings, with a focus on foreign exchange rates, international monetary policy, tax regulations, and accounting procedures.|
|Fundamentals of Investments||Stocks, bonds, mutual funds, commodities, and other financial investment tools.|
|Cost Accounting||The concepts and practices involved in recording and analyzing payouts of various types and budgeting for costs over time.|
|Federal Taxation||An introduction to the preparation of federal income tax returns.|
|Financial Research Methods||An introduction to commercial and publicly available financial research databases and the basics of data analysis.|
|Principles of Real Estate||An overview of financial concerns in real estate development and property investments.|
|Security Analysis & Portfolio Management||Security analysis theory and practice, including the selection and management of financial asset portfolios and an examination of securities markets, enterprise risk management, and general risk-return analyses.|
The basic admissions requirement for an online bachelor’s in finance program is a high school diploma or the equivalent. In addition to high school transcripts, online programs may require students to submit SAT scores, one or more letters of recommendation, and/or a personal goals statement/written essay. Some of the other factors that admissions boards may weigh include high school class rank and GPA in relevant high school coursework (mathematics and English are common). Admissions criteria vary by program; prospective applicants are advised to consult with each program they are considering in order to determine the specific requirements for that program. It is also important to note that students transferring into an online bachelor’s degree program may be subject to different admissions standards than traditional applicants.
There are several features of online bachelor’s degree programs that may vary by program and that prospective students should be aware of as part of the application process. For example, there are two different modes of online instruction: synchronous and asynchronous instruction. There are also variations in how programs are structured, including whether or not programs offer full-time and/or part-time enrollment options. Finally, some online programs may require students to attend a limited number of campus visits, which entail traveling to attend several days of in-person instructional activities.
Instructional Methods: Synchronous instruction is analogous to on-campus classroom instruction in that it requires students to be logged on to the program’s LMS at designated times for live lectures and/or discussions. Students who want the structure of a traditional campus-based program and the benefits of being able to take classes online should consider a program that utilizes synchronous instruction. Asynchronous instruction omits this real-time aspect of online learning and allows each student to log on at his or her convenience to view lectures and complete assignments. While asynchronous instruction offers more flexibility than synchronous instruction, it requires more self-discipline, as students are responsible for keeping up with weekly lectures and completing assignments by designated due dates.
Enrollment Options: An online bachelor’s program is similar to a campus-based program in that it typically requires the completion of 120 credit hours of coursework over eight semesters, or four academic years. However, many online programs are designed to give students the option of graduating in as few as three years, provided they attend courses year round and carry a full-time course load of four or five classes per semester. There are also online programs that do not adhere to a traditional academic calendar, allowing full-time students to graduate in three to four years by taking one or two courses per terms that last between six and ten weeks. Many online bachelors’ programs also allow for part-time enrollment, which gives students the option of taking fewer courses per term (two or three per semester). Part-time students may add a year or more to the time it takes to complete the program.
Campus Visits: While it is not uncommon for online degree programs to hold on-campus orientation and instructional sessions, these campus visits are not typically part of online bachelor’s degree programs. Prospective applicants who do not want to have to travel in order to earn their degree should examine each program carefully to determine whether or not a program requires students to attend on-campus sessions. OnlineEducation.com does not list online bachelor’s in finance degree programs that require more than two campus visits per year.