If you're thinking about moving into a finance career, knowing the top schools for finance, understanding the career outlook and knowing common career paths can help prepare you for success.
Coursework in finance bachelor's programs typically includes training in accounting, business administration and management. Master's and post-graduate finance degree programs often require courses in subjects more specialized to individual finance specialties.
Several schools around the country also offer fully online finance degrees, for students who are too busy to enroll in a traditional, campus-based program. Partially online degree plans, known as hybrid programs, may also be available at institutions where fully online options are not yet available.
Read on below for information about the best schools and colleges for finance degrees, some prime careers for upcoming finance graduates and some helpful tips about professional organizations and financial aid programs.
Best Colleges for Finance Degree Programs
We used data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) to score hundreds of colleges nationwide in eight categories. Click the button to learn more about how we calculated the scores, and read on to discover the ten best schools and colleges for finance degrees at the bachelor's level.
Affordability and prominence of finance degrees stood out most of all for our No. 1 school. Only one other college in our top ten had a higher percentage of finance degrees in its 2015 graduating class than the University of Nebraska at Omaha, and its average in-state undergraduate tuition and fees amount of for 2015-16 ranked No. 3 among schools on our list.
The Omaha institution was also one of the best schools for partially online finance degrees, according to NCES numbers. More than 48 percent of students took at least some of their coursework online in 2015. The student-faculty ratio at UNO was 16:1 in 2015, tying it for No. 2 among our top 10 schools in that category.
No other school on our list awarded more finance degrees than the City University of New York's Bernard M. Baruch College. Nearly 20 percent of the degrees awarded at the Manhattan school in 2015 were in finance disciplines, at the graduate and undergraduate levels combined. Its total of 873 finance degree programs completed in 2015 topped the list as well, beating out some schools more than twice its size.
Baruch recorded the second-lowest tuition and fees cost of any school on our list in 2015-16, and it was one of the few schools we surveyed to offer on-campus classes in evenings and on weekends for students who need some flexibility in their schedules.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln put up strong numbers in on our institutional spending metrics, suggesting a firm commitment to quality education at the mid-sized Midwestern institution. UNL spent nearly $11,300 per full time student on instructional expenses and more than $3,700 per student on academic support, ranking it at No. 3 and No. 2 among schools on our list, respectively.
Degrees at UNL cover three specializations in finance: general finance, a certified financial analyst (CFA) track and banking and risk management. It also had the fourth-highest admissions rate among schools on our list, accepting roughly three in four applicants in 2015.
Only four schools on our list charged a lower average amount for tuition and fees than the University of Northern Iowa, where students paid $7,817 on average in 2015-16. The student-faculty ratio at the Cedar Falls school was 17:1 in 2015, good for the No. 3 spot among schools that made our top ten.
Although no fully online finance degree programs are offered at UNI as of 2017, approximately one in five students take at least some courses online. On-campus flexibility options are also available, including academic and career counseling and placement services for alumni once they finish their degrees.
The least expensive average tuition among schools on our list can be found at this Tallahassee institution. NCES numbers show an average tuition and fees expense of just $6,507 for the 2015-16 academic year. Florida State University also had the No. 2 graduation rate among our ten best finance schools, coming in just percentage points below the top entry in that category.
FSU is far and away the largest school in our top ten, awarding the No. 1 total of undergraduate and graduate degrees in 2015 and the second-highest number of degrees in finance. Along with its bachelor's degree program in finance, FSU offers a business administration doctorate with a finance concentration for students at the highest level.
The University of Iowa came in at No. 1 among schools on our list for the acceptance rate of its admissions policy, and the numbers show a firm dedication to helping students succeed. More than 41 percent of students were able to take some of their courses online, good for the No. 3 spot among our top ten schools, and alternative tuition plans are available for students who need them.
The student-faculty ratio at Iowa was 15:1 in 2015, tying it for the top spot among schools on our list on that metric. What's more, the Iowa City institution spent nearly twice as much as the second place school in our top ten for academic support features such as libraries, A/V technology and curriculum development.
Located in Oxford, Ohio, this medium-sized school had the No. 1 graduation rate among schools that made our list. Four out of five students eligible for degree completion in 2015 earned the right to graduate, placing Miami University in the top 50 of all schools we studied nationwide.
Miami OH also took the No. 3 spot in our top ten for the prominence of its finance program among all degrees available in its academic catalog. Students who finish their undergraduate study in finance can go on to enroll in the school's Master of Business Administration (MBA) program, where the concentration in finance includes coursework in risk management, mergers and acquisitions, investment management and more.
Our No. 8 school, located in Newark, Delaware, came in at No. 1 among all colleges on our list for the amount of money it spent on program development, information technology and other instructional expenses. The University of Delaware offers two distinct Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degrees for finance students, one in general finance and one in financial planning and wealth management.
A student-faculty ratio of 16:1, tied for No. 2 among schools on our list, suggests that students can find one-on-one help from faculty if they need it. Placement services for degree completers and a robust academic and career counseling department can help both students and alumni make productive use of their time spent in college.
An average tuition and fees expense of less than $7,700 placed the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater at No. 4 among our top 10 schools on the affordability metric. Students who applied for admission in 2015 were accepted at a rate above 80 percent, giving UWW the No. 2 spot among schools on our list in that category.
Nearly one in four students at the Whitewater institution took some of their courses in the virtual classroom, and the flexibility measures didn't stop there. UWW also offered weekend/evening courses and alternative tuition plans. The finance concentration of the Bachelor of Business Administration (B.B.A.) program contains available emphases in insurance, real estate and financial planning.
While other schools in our top ten may allow for partially online finance degrees, Northern State University is the one school on our list that features fully online degrees for finance students. More than 48 percent of students at the Aberdeen, South Dakota, school take at least some of their courses online.
NSU offers online finance degree programs in the banking and financial services concentration, for students at the bachelor's, master's and associate levels. Just three other schools on our list had a greater prominence of finance graduates among its total degrees awarded in 2015, and its average tuition and fees cost came in under $7,900 per year.
Finance Degree Programs and Common Career Paths
An associate degree in finance may qualify you to work in certain entry-level positions in the field, but at least a bachelor's degree is typically necessary for most finance pros. A master's or doctoral degree may be required for top-tier jobs or those in competitive markets.
Career Outlook for Finance
Whether you're hoping to specialize in personal finance, corporate finance or another segment of the field, it can help to know which finance careers are on the rise. Check out this quick list of hot occupations in finance and see if any match your educational goals.
PROJECTED JOB GROWTH(%)
|Personal Financial Advisors
|Property Appraisers and Assessors
|Accountants and Auditors
|Financial and Investment Analysts, Financial Risk Specialists, and Financial Specialists, All Other
Financial Aid and Scholarships for Finance Majors
Some aid programs for finance students have geographic or demographic restrictions and some focus on specific subjects, like the Ritchie-Jennings Memorial Scholarship Program for fraud examiners. Here's a short list of potential aid programs in finance.
Based on continued positive academic performance
Q&A with an expert
Why would you encourage someone to pursue a degree in finance?
Because you can both do good and do well. Professionals who help people with their financial security make people's lives better. Kids attend college, people have more secure retirements and charities receive donations because individuals are more financially secure as a result of working with qualified professionals.
What are some advantages that a finance degree can bring to a graduate's skillset but may be overlooked in other business disciplines?
Generally, finance programs stress analytical skills and these skills translate nicely to other disciplines and endeavors. Good finance programs focus less on specific financial products and more on analytical skills that arm the professional with the ability to analyze new products being offered in the marketplace.
Is a master's degree necessary for most finance jobs or can graduates typically get into the field after graduating with their bachelor's? What career moves in finance might require a graduate degree?
Generally, entry level finance jobs can be had with a bachelors degree. However, the field is very competitive and to thrive, both advanced, specialized graduate degrees and professional certifications have become necessary for professionals to advance.
To be included in these rankings, all schools must meet the following initial criteria for the specific subject being ranked.
- Offer an undergraduate degree (either associate or bachelor’s) in that subject.
- Have awarded at least one degree or certificate in that subject in the most recent year of IPEDS data available.
Based on those criteria, we ranked all 2-year and 4-year schools in IPEDS that reported data for all of the following points. Ratings are calculated on a 10-point scale, using the weights specified.
- In-state undergraduate tuition & fees, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Graduation rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Accessibility, based on admissions rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Institutional spending, based on two equally weighted factors, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Instructional and academic support expenses per full-time enrolled student
- Instructional and academic support spending as a percentage of all expenses
- Student-to-faculty ratio, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Flexibility, based on the following factors, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Percent of students enrolled fully or partly in distance education
- Whether the school offers programs that can be completed entirely in the evenings and on weekends
- Whether the school offers academic and career counseling
- Whether the school offers job placement services for students who complete their programs
- Whether the school offers any alternative tuition plans, such as a payment plan or guaranteed rate
- Size of program, based on how many of the degrees and certificates awarded in 2014-15 were in this particular subject, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Related subjects, based on the number of similar topics for programs in relevant CIP codes that are offered at any level, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015