Choosing a School

Choosing the right postsecondary school is one of the most important decisions you will make. The finance career you desire will determine the type of degree necessary, and your school selection will be based on this. Most finance careers require bachelor’s degrees, although many finance professionals also pursue postgraduate degrees. The finance course requirements for your chosen career will impact your choice of school. Many colleges and universities offer bachelor’s and master’s degrees in finance, business administration, or other areas. But only you, the student, will know which school is right for you once you have weighed all considerations.

There are many factors to consider when selecting a college. Prioritize them to help you narrow down your search. Consider location. Do you prefer an urban or rural location? Another factor is size or enrollment. Are you more comfortable in the setting of a large university, a smaller college campus, or an online college? To help you decide, visit and tour the schools to which you are applying. This is the only way to determine what is right for you.

Class size is usually determined by school size. Public schools and universities, while they may cost an in-state student less to attend, generally have larger enrollments and therefore larger class sizes. These classes may be taught by teaching assistants, so you will have less interaction with your professors. Private schools, on the other hand, are usually much smaller than public schools. Class size is also smaller, which allows for opportunities to interact directly with professors.

Cost, as referenced above, is another important consideration. However, you should not let cost deter you from applying to any school that interests you. Support may be available in the form of scholarships or grants, financial aid, or installment plans for tuition payments. Until you have gone through the entire application and financial aid process, you will not know the exact cost of your education.

One final consideration has to do with the level of specialization you want in your course work. Do you want your academic focus to be specialized and aimed solely at one area of finance, or do you want a broader curriculum in order to have a more diversified background in this field? Once you have answered these questions, you will be able to narrow down your options and select the school that is right for you.

Accreditation

Obtaining a degree in finance from an accredited school, institution, or program, whether in a traditional or online classroom, is very important in solidifying the education credentials of the person who is graduating. Accreditation exists to ensure the curriculum and faculty of higher educational institutions and programs meet both academic and professional standards. At the undergraduate degree level, students applying to a college or university program know that an accredited school offers a quality education and that their tuition dollars will be well spent. Accreditation at the graduate level serves a similar purpose.

  • Schools and educational programs also benefit from being accredited. Accredited schools receive both professional and public support, as well as international attention. High-performing students from diverse backgrounds are interested in attending accredited schools and therefore will contribute to a more varied student body. Schools can then promote a richer academic experience in what they deem to be a better educational and learning environment.
  • Schools receive institutional accreditation from accrediting agencies whose primary objectives are to maintain and improve the standards of educational programs and schools. An accreditation review encompasses both the operational as well as academic aspects of a school and includes reviews of a school’s or program’s classes, faculty, student services, cost, and degrees to ensure they meet the level of standards that have been set by the United States Department of Education.
  • Schools that work with accrediting agencies are motivated to continually improve their own standards and programs; this ensures students will recognize their overall education to be a positive experience. Accreditation can be at the national level or at the regional level. Nationally accredited institutions are typically more career oriented, whereas regionally accredited institutions offer areas of study that are more academic in nature. Another key benefit to attending an accredited school is the fact that an accredited institution has greater accessibility to student financial aid in the form of scholarships, grants, and federal student loans, as well as to postsecondary education and military programs.
  • Students who intend on receiving their entire education via online programs need to be especially careful in ensuring the education and training program offered is accredited and that the eventual degree to be conferred will be valid. A student who decides to enroll in a different school’s graduate or continuing education program later on may need to prove that the initial degree was conferred from an accredited school. If the student is unable to do so, the graduate school or continuing education program may not accept the student for enrollment. It is important for students to beware of those online schools that are not accredited but that appear to have normal business operations and legitimate training programs; in actuality, they may be fraudulent, providing fake diplomas that are without any merit or value to the student. Students who complete such programs will have wasted both time and money for an “education” that is essentially worthless.
  • Students interested in a career in finance should ensure the schools they attend and the finance course programs they take online are accredited. To confirm the accreditation status of a particular educational institution, students can check with the Council of Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) or with another recognized organization such as the Distance Education and Training Council. The U.S. Department of Education maintains a database of nationally recognized accrediting agencies.

Factors to Consider

Choosing a School

There are many factors a prospective student must take into consideration when deciding to attend a finance course at a college or university or enrolling in an online course. Whether the individual is a high school student preparing to enter college for the first time or a graduate student working toward obtaining a master’s degree in finance or business administration, the student must make many of the same decisions.

Prospective finance students must weigh a school’s academic curriculum heavily when deciding which school to attend. They must ensure the school or program is accredited and aligned with national educational and professional standards and the instructors and professors are well qualified. Bachelor’s degree courses in finance teach students the basics of how money flows as well as how to maximize and allocate funds for individual or business clients, offering courses in micro- and macroeconomics, laws and rules of finance, and financial modeling. In general, the curriculum for a master’s degree in finance should include studies in financial resource management, analysis of financial markets and investments, budgeting, risk management, and other financial methods used to develop capital. Students also need to ensure the school they attend offers the program of courses necessary for their finance specialty, whether that specialty is accounting, financial planning and investing, banking, or any other area in the field of finance.

The location and distance of the school from home are two other very important factors. Colleges and universities can be located in urban, suburban, and rural settings. You should research not just the college itself but also the surrounding area. Decide what amenities, facilities, and services are important to you, and choose your school in an area that will meet those requirements.

  • In terms of distance, do you want to attend school near your home or in another state altogether?
  • Do you plan to visit home often?
  • Will you travel by plane, bus, or car?

Students who are studying finance may want to attend school in an area that provides opportunities for internships or for practicing their chosen professions. Or, the student may decide to attend class from the comfort of his or her own living room by taking classes online.

For those who will be attending classes on campus, they will need to decide if they also want to live on campus. If a large percentage of the student population lives on campus, there are likely to be more activities and events available than if only a small percentage of students live on campus. The social and academic culture and values of a school are important to many people.

Cost is another important consideration when selecting a school. College can be very expensive; consider your chosen career and the potential return you will receive on the undergraduate, graduate, and certification studies investment you will be making. Unless students have significant financial resources, those applying to colleges may also want to complete requests for financial aid. Other funding options that may be available include obtaining a job through a work study program or working as a teaching or research assistant. In some cases, these positions include a stipend for tuition and the student’s cost of living expenses.

One other key consideration is a school’s job placement program and its level of success for those students graduating with a bachelor’s or master’s degree. A student wants to be certain that his or her chosen school has a good track record of supporting graduates in the job application process and helping them to move into relevant positions.

Distance-Learning Classes for a Finance Course

Individuals who aspire to careers in finance can be college students, while those who want to enhance their credentials and résumés can be working professionals, college graduates, or anyone interested in a midlife career change. Regardless of their educational plans and intentions, they can all take advantage of any number of distance learning programs to complete the course work necessary for earning degrees in finance. Today, there are numerous accredited schools that offer online courses to prepare students for their associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and even doctoral degrees in virtually any finance-related field.

Accounting is just one example of a course that is available online.

Course work includes accounting principles and theory, advanced bookkeeping methods, business management skills, and cost and budget control. Additional online training for accountants includes financial reporting, statement analysis, industry standards and ethics, legal topics, tax auditing, banking practices, and financial planning and consulting.

Taking a finance course via a distance program works for those students who are unable to attend classes on-site due to time or distance limitations. Additionally, these students can choose their distance learning programs from a very large pool of academic offerings, perhaps from an educational institution they might not otherwise be able to attend. These students can complete course work around their own schedules, and they may even do so with much more motivation than they would if they were scheduled to take classes in classroom settings. Financially, distance learning is more economical because the student does not have to drive to and park at a distant facility for class. In general, students can earn their degrees more quickly and more economically by taking classes online.

As long as the student has the necessary computer equipment and an Internet connection, taking an online course is simple. Schools offer registration and orientation online, along with course schedules and other valuable information. Online, the student can access the course syllabus as well as lessons and their components, such as readings and assignments. Students can participate in discussion boards, lectures, and videos with professors and other students and so remain in touch and in contact during the process. An online grade book allows students to track their progress throughout the course.

Distance learning offers great benefits, allowing students to tailor their course work to meet their professional and educational goals.

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