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Difference between economics, actuarial science, finance and accounting?

  1. Apr 25, 2012 #1
    Not sure if this is better suited to the careers forum but anyhow. I sort of know the difference between those 4 fields but I was just wondering if anyone could explain the differences in more detail, I've got another 3 days work experience that I haven't got anything for so I was thinking on doing something relevant to one of those fields.

    Accounting - mainly to do with business and personal accounts and transactions
    Actuarial - statistics and stuff related to insurance and risk management

    I don't really know the difference between economics and finance as they seem pretty similar going by the uni good I looked them up in.

  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 25, 2012 #2
    I also forgot to ask if anyone had any ideas of what sort of non-bank places I could look to get work experience for one of those as most of the banks I looked at for work experience only take A level students.
  4. Apr 25, 2012 #3


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    Staff: Mentor

    So what level are you at?
  5. Apr 25, 2012 #4
    GCSE I'll be doing A levels next year.
  6. Apr 26, 2012 #5
    The biggest difference you need to be aware of is that two of the four careers on your list are professions and two are not.

    If you get a job in finance, then you work in finance. The term represents a vast number of often very different job descriptions that can vary from quantitative analysts in investment banks to mortgage underwriters. There’s no hard definition on exactly who works in finance and who doesn’t. Many actuaries and economists work in finance (hedging variable annuities and monitoring economic indicators, for example).

    As a contrast, consider that while I’ve been working in the financial sector (insurance) and the actuarial department for 3.5 years, I’m not yet an actuary. You work in finance when you get a job in finance (however you choose to define it), but there is a governing body that decides whether you’re an actuary or not. I believe this governing body is the IFA in your case.

    An economist is typically someone who works in or studies the discipline of economics. They usually, but not always, have a degree from a college in economics. As with finance there is no governing body that decides whether you’re an economist.

    In the US accounting is, for the most part, a profession. Some people without a CPA still call themselves accountants, but there are many tasks required of accountants that you cannot perform without a CPA. I apologize but am too lazy to research how accounting works in the UK (maybe you could look it up and let us know), but I’d bet a dollar it is similar.
  7. Apr 26, 2012 #6
    Thanks for the reply.

    I was refering to finance as a subject that I seen in a uni course guide (You can see it here).

    But to me theres very little difference between it and the same unis economics degree (Course info here).

    Whats the difference between the 2 courses?

    My mum is sort of an accountant but she specialises in taxes and wages so I'm not really sure about the rest of the field but to call yourself an accountant over here you need to be a member of the Institute of Chartered Acountants.
  8. Apr 26, 2012 #7
    Well, looking at the two course content lists from the links you gave, it looks like they start out with a few similar prerequisites and then diverge into two completely different things. Which makes sense, I guess, since they’re two different studies.

    I’ll go further with my analysis and say that it appears to me that the economics degree includes classes mostly studying economics, while the finance degree has an internship and studies classes that usually include the word “finance” or “financial” or “investment”.

    Maybe I don’t understand exactly what you’re asking. Economists do have to understand financial markets, and most people who work in finance should understand some economics, but ultimately most of what they learn is different, and I think that’s well represented in the course listings.
  9. Apr 26, 2012 #8
    What sort of jobs would Finance lead to that Economics wouldn't or vice versa.
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