Finance is a timeless career option. Businesses have an ongoing need for professionals who can guide cash flow decisions and suggest cost-saving strategies. Careers in finance aren't all focused on massive corporations, either; many families are eager to hire a personal financial advisor to help them make wise, proactive, long-term spending and saving decisions.
Whether you're interested in earning an online bachelor's degree in finance, a master's degree in international finance or some other finance-related degree, this page covers all the essentials you need to know. Keep reading for an overview of the top online colleges for finance as well as the degrees offered in the field and some options for careers to pursue after graduation.
Best Online Colleges for Finance in 2018-19
Finance is a field that lends itself well to online learning, so students have many options. However, not all institutions are created equal. Using a methodology that looked at factors such as tuition cost, acceptance rate and graduation rate, and using data from the National Center for Education Statistics' Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), OnlineColleges.com has ranked the following as the top online colleges for finance.
University of Phoenix-Arizona
Nova Southeastern University
University of Minnesota-Crookston
Southern New Hampshire University
Kaplan University-Davenport Campus
Dallas Baptist University
Interview with an Expert
them interact with material independently. Professors
are constantly interacting with their students.
Lecturer in finance and MBA program co-chair
Penn State Behrend
Lecturer in finance and MBA program co-chair
Penn State Behrend
Q: What qualities make Penn State's online finance major an outstanding program?
A: There are several different things that make it an outstanding program. One of them is the high touch nature. We don't just put students out there in the ether and have them interact with material independently. Professors are constantly interacting with their students. We have online discussion forums, and professors are routinely emailing students and answering questions.
Also, we keep the program just as rigorous as [it is] for our residential students. We don't water it down because it's an online program.
I spent 16 years in industry and private wealth management before I started teaching at Penn State Behrend. Some of my other counterparts have also spent a number of years in practice. I think that adds real value for the students.
We're a university recognized program with the CFA Institute, and we're also a university recognized program with the CFP Board. So students can feel very comfortable and confident going and testing for [those credentials].
Q: What support does Penn State offer their online student body?
A: One thing I do for students is try to [continually] enhance the course. When one student asks me a question, I respond to that student one-on-one, but then I also send a broadcast email to all my students so if anyone else is struggling with the exact same thing they all get the benefit of the same answer. We have a natural feedback mechanism built into our online courses, and we call it Muddiest Points. It's essentially a feedback loop where the students can tell us where they were struggling during a lesson's content. That's one way so that they don't have to send me an email. They submit something anonymously so they feel more open to communicating, and we can resolve those issues as they come up.
Sometimes students will send me a question, and they are really struggling. What I've done is three different things. Sometimes, I will physically write down a sample problem for the student and handwrite a solution, scan it and email it. That will often times clear it up. Sometimes, I've found students need to see me face-to-face so we've set up Skype meetings. The third approach would be over the phone. Sometimes, students would just rather talk over the phone.
Another aspect to supporting students in the online community is to be extremely responsive via email. We make an internal effort in our program to always communicate within 24 hours, and it is usually a lot faster than that.
In the online Finance major offered by Penn State Behrend through World Campus, we have also been very intentional to make our online students feel like they are a part of our residential student body. We have given them access to residential tutoring services, club meetings, and we even have a World Campus student currently sitting as an officer in two of our residential finance clubs. Club participation is conducted via either a conference call, our YouTube channel, or a Skype session.
Q: How does the online finance program differ from the on-campus program?
A: The only difference between our two programs is the method of delivery. With the online content, [students] have the exact same learning objectives as those in our residential program. They have the exact same projects as our residential program. They just have a different mechanism of delivery. They are not seeing me once a week or twice a week so it requires discipline from a student's perspective, but I typically find our World Campus students are extremely disciplined and motivated learners.
Why Pursue an Online Finance Degree?
Majoring in finance is a great choice for an undergraduate or graduate student who is interested in how financial markets work, investing, and money and banking. While some students might choose finance as a concentration for a general business degree programs, a degree in finance's more focused curriculum may offer a better understanding of the various skills that can be applied in financial careers, from banking to portfolio management to brokerage.
What Online Finance Courses Can I Take?
Finance degree programs can cover any number of different aspects of the financial industry, touching on personal finance, corporate finance, and domestic and international markets. Among the typical required courses for someone majoring in finance include:
- Money and banking
- Corporate Financial Management
- Risk management
- Money and Capital Markets
In addition, finance majors usually take related business coursework, such as in accounting and management, in order to develop a strong foundation of business knowledge. Elective courses may target finance in specific industries, such as property investment. Some schools also allow finance majors to develop a specialization in areas like international finance or financial regulations.
Aspiring finance students have different degree levels to choose from, including associate, bachelor's, master's, and even a Ph.D. The higher the degree level, the more technical and in-depth the coursework gets — at the graduate level, that includes very complex mathematics courses like econometrics. Students who are looking for an advanced program that can help them learn more about management-level roles within an organization often opt to pursue an MBA or DBA with a finance concentration, rather than the more technical advanced finance degree track.
What Skills Are Necessary to Work in Corporate Finance?
Finance degree programs cover a broad range of money management areas, expecting their students to learn mathematical, analytical, research, and problem-solving skills as they navigate the coursework. Because money permeates just about every aspect of our culture, there are many ways to work with it and many skills that go into working with it well. Key attributes that students of finance programs may want to focus on include:
- The ability to understand statistical data
- A strong knowledge of the stock market
- How to apply financial business strategies
- Investment best practices
- Familiarity with modern financial software and tools
Coursework is also intended to help students gain an understanding of how to evaluate financial performance and perform financial forecasting. This can lead to a better understanding of other valuable financial skills, such as how to manage portfolios; how to make ethical decisions; and how to manage economic challenges.
What Financial Certifications Are There?
If you want to become a financial advisor or someone who manages investments for others, financial licenses will establish your expertise and your credibility. Here's a brief overview of financial licenses:
CFP® - Certified Financial Planner
To become a CFP®, you must pass the CFP® Certification Examination. Before you can sit for the exam, you must complete a college-level program of study in personal financial planning, including a financial plan development (capstone) course registered with CFP® Board. Afterward, you must log 6,000 hours of experience through the Standard Pathway, or you can choose to earn 4,000 hours of experience though the Apprenticeship pathway. Upon passing the CFP® exam, there's one more step: completing an application, and passing the detailed background check that will be conducted by the CFP®. Once approved, you'll be a CFP®.
Anyone who aspires to sell securities products must be tested, qualified and licensed by FINRA. To become registered as a securities professional, you must pass one or more qualifying exams administered by FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority). For instance, the Series 7 Exam - General Securities Representative Exam (GS) is for those who wish to trade certificates of deposit, among other things. This demonstrates that you are competent in the particular area you'd like to work.
Finance Career Opportunities
For those interested in the outlook of finance careers, here are five occupations that are regularly held by graduates in the field.
People interested in this field may find their employment prospects increase if they receive a Chartered Financial Analyst designation. Some online finance degrees are specifically tailored to help students earn this credential from the CFA Institute. Those hoping to move on to advanced positions may need a master's degree in finance or an MBA. Nearly a quarter of all financial analysts work in the securities, commodity contracts, and investments industry.
In addition to a degree in finance, financial examiners benefit from coursework in accounting. After gaining some experience, examiners may be in line to work as senior examiners although many employers prefer to hire those with a master's degree for these positions.
Most loan officers work full-time from their office, but some may visit an applicant's home to meet with clients. With the right mix of education and experience, loan officers may be promoted to management or supervisory positions.
Those with a bachelor's degree can apply to become a Certified Financial Planner after they have three year's work experience and pass the CFP Certification Examination. This exam can be rigorous, but there are courses focused on its content that can give you a helping hand if needed. Becoming a CFP is a voluntary designation but can be helpful for those who want to distinguish themselves as experts in the field.
If you're not certain whether or not finance is a good field for you, it might be helpful to look at our pages for some of the field's sister disciplines. You may find a subject that suits you better, or you may realize that finance is really a good choice for you after all.
Using the National Center for Education Statistics’ Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), we generated a list of colleges and universities that met the following four criteria for the specific subject being ranked:
- Offer a degree or certificate program in that subject, either in an online or hybrid format
- Have at least 1% of students attending some form of distance education
- Have awarded at least one degree or certificate in that subject in 2016-17
- Have reported data for all 11 ranking variables listed below
We ranked 1,813 colleges and universities in the United States on 11 criteria, using 2016-17 data from IPEDS:
- Program prominence, based on how many of the degrees and certificates awarded via distance education in 2016-2017 were in this particular subject
- Related subjects, based on the number of similar topics for programs in relevant CIP codes that are offered via distance education at any level
- Ratio of students participating fully or partially in DE to Total Enrollment
- Average in-state tuition for undergraduates
- Graduation rate
- Retention rate
- The availability of any tuition plans (Payment, Prepaid, Guaranteed, Other)
- Services (Academic/Career, Placement for Completers)
- Credit offerings (Dual, Life, AP, Military)
- Percent of undergraduate students awarded federal, state, local, institutional or other sources of grant aid
- Average amount of federal, state, local, institutional, or other sources of grant aid awarded to undergraduate students
All schools were scored on a 10-point scale for each of the points listed above. Individual data point scores were then multiplied by their respective weights, and the scores were added together, for a maximum possible score of 10 points.
NOTE: Schools' tuition amounts are based on 2016-17 undergraduate and graduate data reported to the National Center for Education Statistics. The actual cost of tuition may vary.
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2017-18, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/