In this economy many people are looking to go back to school for an advanced degree, not only to increase their marketability but also to network and get their foot in the door through various internships. One of the areas where there is large growth for graduates in the post-economic downturn job market is in accounting divisions within large-scale companies. This is due to both an increased demand in oversight of accounting practices by both the government in order to better guard against the type of financial mismanagement that led the country into a recession, and also a part of a broader attempt by larger companies in general to streamline their business model and remain competitive in the new millennium. The people that they are looking for to fill these jobs and become an integral part of the business structure all have one thing in common: a graduate degree in accounting
One of the common misconceptions about MBA’s in accounting is that they are roughly similar to an MA in accounting (MAcc); not true. While a master’s in accounting will give a Certified Public Accountant a step up in base pay and an increased marketability and skill set, an MBA in accounting gives you much more. While you will still get roughly the same background as an MA in accounting
regarding the ins and outs of being an accountant and balancing ledgers, a typical MBA program
with a focus in accounting will also teach you how to best apply those same technical skills in real world large-scale situations while taking the overall business model of your company in mind. MBA accounting
programs will teach you to apply those technical skills to real-world situations, making you a candidate for management type positions rather than being a lower-level number-cruncher.
Val M. O'Day, affiliate accounting faculty at Regis University
, says, "students in a master's of accounting program acquire highly technical competencies in the accounting field and are prepared to pursue careers in such areas as internal auditing, forensic accounting, controllership, international accounting, tax accounting and not-for-profit accounting. In addition to the core accounting competencies, students enrolled in an MBA in accounting program will develop the necessary skills to assist management in key decision making efforts through the interpretation, analysis and evaluation of company financial information."
Typical classes that you would take in an MBA program with an accounting focus would include the following:
- Financial Decision Making
- Tax of Corporation & Shareholders
- Classes in both Human Behavior & Organizational Dynamics
- Global Economic Environment
Classes like these and others will give you both the technical skills to pursue a career in accounting while also giving you the expertise to manage the accounting division for a company instead of working as an entry-level CPA.
According to a recent article, MBA accounting programs teach students the skills necessary to hold an upper-management accountant position with the expertise to manage certified accountants, utilize advanced software to track financial records and transactions and above all, make educated decisions that increase the bottom-line.
The Bottom Line
This is the crux of the difference between getting a MAcc and pursuing an MBA with a focus in accounting: marketability and starting salary. With an MBA in accounting you will be applying to jobs that will put you in a management position over recent graduates with MA’s in accounting that have just become licensed CPA’s. The changing global dynamic in corporate business culture brought on by the recent recession is making management-level accountants more and more indispensible.
Because of this, both the requirements for entry into an MBA accounting program and the costs associated with the degree are far more significant than those of a typical MAcc. On average an MBA program will cost $40,000 a year not including books and loans for living expenses, with most programs taking two years. This is a far greater front-end expense than your typical MAcc program and should be taken into account when considering your options; while your starting salary with an MBA in accounting will be higher you will also have accrued more debt than if you had pursued a MAcc.
Whether you are looking in to getting a graduate degree for an increase in salary or simply to augment your resume, understanding the differences between an MBA in accounting and a MAcc degree
is very important. While a MAcc degree will increase your technical proficiency and buff up your accounting skills, an MBA in accounting will focus more on the broader business applications of accounting practices within the overall business model of a particular company or business sector. This in and of itself will give you a leg up on the competition upon graduation, slating you for a management position right off the bat and making advancement over the course of your career more likely. In the long term the front end costs of an MBA in accounting are far outweighed by the immediate returns both in salary and personal marketability.
Looking for more info? Check out these articles:
Accounting Curriculum | MBA or MS | MBA Subject Concentrations
Finnian Durkan is a Seattle-based writer and has a BA in Political Science from Yale University.