Finance majors prepare for this career by studying topics about “planning, raising funds, making wise investments and controlling costs,” according to the College Board. This knowledge sets them up for a wide array of career paths in the areas of corporate finance, financial institutions and investments.
Executives in search of well-rounded finance students look for certain skills. Studies have revealed that these executives want schools to place more emphasis on quantitative, strategic, critical decision-making and communicative skills, which are sometimes best developed in classes outside of business schools. If you want to get the best possible preparation for the finance world from your undergraduate education, put some thought into which classes to take, that may fall outside the finance curriculum.
What Companies Want
Business leaders at Booz Allen Hamilton, a strategy and technology consulting firm, discussed areas of change that could be implemented at graduate business schools, in the article “What Business Needs from Business Schools.” They suggested that more courses were needed to teach graduates to effectively manage individuals and team-driven organisations, provide tools for problem solving and provide better grounding in theory. They also recommended more courses outside of the traditional curriculum.
Companies are in need of strategic candidates, not walking resumes.
Finance professors from various universities have strongly recommended the following courses:
- Mathematics – Courses in college algebra and calculus will help students learn how to solve equations in complex financial markets. Statistics helps with decisions based on the likelihood of various outcomes and allows finance students to learn to reach conclusions about general differences between groups and large batches of information. It also explains the movements of a company’s stock.
- Accounting – Financial and managerial accounting courses teach finance students how to understand, record and report financial transactions, monitor the company’s budgets and performance, and examine the costs of the organisation’s products and services.
- Economics – Economics looks at how scarce resources are allocated to achieve needs and wants. A course in macroeconomics will teach finance students to understand the impact of financial market activities on the overall economy. Microeconomics will help them understand the behaviours that occur within individual firms and among consumers, as well as how various financial decisions can impact a firm’s success.
- Psychology – Financial professionals need to understand the behaviours and thought processes that help drive the movements in financial markets. A course in critical thinking teaches a finance student to reflect and evaluate an argument, and examine situations in all dimensions before applying a solution. This involves understanding what is not known about the situation versus what is known. Behavioural finance can help finance students explore why and how the financial markets aren’t working, by examining how investors’ behaviours are associated with market anomalies. This subject helps financial professionals determine where investors make mistakes and how to correct them, by examining the emotion or thought behind the actions. Behavioural psychology helps finance majors look at the observable and cognitive aspects of human behaviour, within a financial environment. (Find useful insight about how emotions and biases affect the market in (Taking a Chance on Behavioural Finance.)
- Writing – A course in technical writing will teach students how to put forth strong, clear and organised ideas, purposes and explanations in memos, reports and letters.
Additional Course Recommendations
Business consultants also recommended courses in psychology, economics and human behaviour. In addition, they recommended classes in the following areas of study:
In order to land top jobs, or simply get employed you need to be well organised and have the ability to deliver what a business will need from your potential.
- Communications – A communications course, such as public speaking, helps finance students present financial reports and explain the meanings behind equations and numbers, to colleagues in group settings. It also helps with the management of people and organisational relations, such as in delegating responsibilities to employees within financial departments. Business students also need courses in corporate communications, crisis communications and PR strategies, according to a number of highly ranked studies. It shows how financial scandals and downturns can affect shareholder support, consumer confidence and corporate reputation issues. Finance students will benefit from knowing how to handle corporate reputation issues, should they arise
- Ethics – Corporate scandals, such as the Enron scandal, which involved highly irregular accounting procedures, have also encouraged some business schools, to add a course in ethics to their finance curricula. These courses focus on moral development in an attempt to stem future misconduct in business environments.
The Bottom Line
Students studying finance will be tasked with big responsibilities in their careers. They will have to manage the flow of money at their companies and identify financial risks and returns to make effective business decisions. Those finance majors who want to have an edge over their competition, both during the initial post-graduate job search and throughout their careers, will take advanced mathematics, accounting, economics, psychology, communications and writing courses to gain a deeper insight into their jobs and a better ability to work effectively with people.