Master’s Degree in Accounting
What Is a Master’s in Accounting Degree Program?
Master’s in accounting degrees designed to cover advanced accounting topics and leadership methods. Classes within these master’s programs could not only expand your fundamental accounting toolbox but also teach techniques to lead a team toward financial goals.
Many of these programs are designed to help students prepare for the certified public accountant (CPA) exam. Coursework may cover topics commonly asked in the test.
These master’s programs go by several different names:
- Master of Science in Professional Accountancy (MSPA)
- Master of Accountancy (MAcc)
- Master of Business in Accounting (MBA)
In some cases, as with the MBA program, accounting may be offered in conjunction with a business degree.
What’s the difference between accounting and finance?
While the terms “finance” and “accounting” are sometimes used interchangeably when discussing fields of study, there are some subtle differences between the two. In fact, they actually feed into each other.
Finance deals with distributing assets. This could include ensuring parts of a business are properly funded or other budgeting concerns.
Accounting is what happens after—it is the act of recording and reporting financial decisions. Reports from accountants could help inform a finance department’s future monetary decisions.
Possible concentrations in master’s in accounting programs
Many programs offer concentrations in accounting. Some concentrations might include:
- Forensic Accounting
- Environmental Accounting
- Management Accounting
- Mergers and Acquisitions
The CPA Exam and Master’s in Accounting Programs
As mentioned above, many master’s in accounting programs act as a way to prepare for the CPA examinations. The coursework offered in the master’s program may teach relevant material. The CPA exam may cover the following subjects.
- Auditing and Attestation
- Business Environment and Concepts
- Financial Accounting and Reporting
Before taking the CPA exam, test agencies may require students to complete 150 of accounting education. Earning a master’s in accounting could contribute to this requirement.
Exam and certified CPA requirements may vary by state. Be sure to check the specific guidelines prior to signing up for this test.
Applying to Master’s in Accounting Programs
Typically, master’s in accounting programs require applicants to hold a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field. Students without this degree might still be encouraged to apply. Schools may then require these students to complete prerequisite courses or submit supplemental materials such as a letter of purpose, additional letters of recommendation, and a professional resume.
In terms of previous academic requirements, schools may request official transcripts from your undergraduate program. Additionally, you may be asked to submit a 2.75 to 3.0 undergraduate GPA. Some programs may also require GRE or GMAT exam scores.
Admission requirements differ between schools. Speak to an admissions counselor for more information.
Benefits of Pursuing a Master’s in Accounting Degree
Increased job opportunities and earning potential
Having a master’s degree in accounting could greatly expand your job opportunities. For starters, some employers prefer to hire job candidates who have a master’s degree for certain occupations. In addition, master’s programs may offer a broader range of concentrations, meaning you could have more opportunity to pursue a specialty position within accounting.
Having a master’s degree in general could boost your earnings. In 2021, those who held a master’s degree earned $12,824 more than those who held a bachelor’s degree.1
Professional development and networking opportunities
A master’s degree in accounting could foster professional development and provide networking opportunities. Many programs offer internships, job placement services, and opportunities to connect with alumni and other professionals in the field. These connections could be invaluable for finding job opportunities, learning about industry trends, and building a professional network.
Many master’s degree programs in accounting offer concentrations geared toward deepening your understanding in a particular area, such as auditing, tax, management, and so on. Focusing on a specific area could help differentiate you from other accountants and prepare you for a career in a specific field or industry.
Pathway to CPA licensure
A CPA license is a highly coveted credential that could open up a world of opportunities for individuals in the accounting field. With this license, you could apply for accounting jobs that may not be available to those with only an entry-level education. For instance, a CPA is allowed to prepare audits, which is a legal obligation for public companies to file audited financial statements with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Furthermore, if the IRS seeks to audit a business, a CPA could speak on the business’s behalf, effectively serving as its representation. This is a capability that a non-CPA financial accountant does not have.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Master’s in Accounting Program
In choosing a program, it’s important to ascertain whether the program could help you meet your future goals. Here are some specific tips about how you might do that.
Specializations and concentrations offered
As mentioned previously, many schools offer concentrations, such as taxation or forensic accounting, within their programs. If a program doesn’t have concentrations, look at the electives to see if there are some that meet your interest and goals.
Look for a program that is accredited by a recognized accrediting body, such as the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) or the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP). Also make sure the school itself is accredited. Accredited programs and schools are evaluated by outside organizations for quality and rigor, and in addition to providing you with reassurance about a program, you will typically need to have attended an accredited school to earn a CPA license.
Ranking criteria and reputation of the institution
There are some other ways to determine the quality of a school and master’s program. You’ll find a number of websites that rank programs based on different criteria. Although these might be helpful, remember that what makes a master’s program a good fit for you might not be the same as for others, so don’t let rankings be your sole method of determining the reputation of a school.
In addition, consider talk to alumni of the programs you are interested in, as well as current students. You could get a first-hand evaluation and also ask targeted questions based on your desired outcomes.
Finally, research the program’s alumni outcomes to get a sense of whether you might be able to reach your goals by earning a degree from the program.
Faculty expertise and experience
Consider the faculty’s expertise and experience in the field of accounting. Look for programs that have faculty with a blend of academic and practical experience in accounting.
Delivery format and flexibility
Many schools offer online or hybrid programs. You’ll want to determine which format might be a good fit for your lifestyle and goals before choosing a master’s program. We discuss the pros and cons of online learning later in this article.
Career support and networking opportunities
You may find that some schools are stronger in providing career support than others. If such support is important to you, research the career services available from the programs you are considering.
You might also want to look at potential networking opportunities with alumni and industry professionals. Creating a strong network could go a long way in helping you pursue and land a job.
Popular Schools with Master’s Degrees in Accounting
Comparison of Online vs. On-Campus Master’s in Accounting Programs
Flexibility and convenience of online programs
The digital classroom typically allows you to log into courses as time allows. This flexible scheduling could be a great option if you are pursuing a degree in conjunction with pursuing professional goals or if you have family or other responsibilities.
On the other hand, if you prefer having more structure and would rather not to have to spend time scheduling courses throughout your day, an on-campus environment might be a better option for you.
Networking and collaboration opportunities
Networking could play a huge role in launching your career. When learning in a classroom, you have the opportunity to interact with your professors and fellow students face to face. Social activities might also be a good place to network with others. Working alongside other students could also provide opportunities for collaboration.
However, online programs also typically offer opportunities for networking through virtual events and social media . You’ll often be able to meet virtually online with your faculty and classmates and engage and interact and collaborate as if you were in a traditional, on-campus program.
The bottom line is your personal preference: If you feel the need for in-person contact, you’ll probably want to pursue on-campus education. However, if you are comfortable interacting with others online, you could thrive in an online environment.
Cost and affordability
Cost does not necessarily correlate with delivery method—you’ll find a range of costs with both online and on-campus programs. However, there are several aspects of online learning that could make it more affordable.
In the first place, you won’t have to deal with costs associated with relocating and room and board if you are living on-campus or transportation costs if you are commuting. You could also potentially finish your studies faster, which means you might be able to enter the workforce sooner. Finally, with the flexibility of online study you could work as you pursue your education./
Potential Career Paths and Opportunities for Master’s in Accounting Graduates
The career path you might pursue may depend in part on any concentrations you studied. However, following are some possibilities.
Certified Public Accountant (CPA) (and Auditor)
Median annual salary, 2022: $78,0002
Financial and Investment Analyst
Median annual salary, 2022: $95,0803
Median annual salary, 2022: $139,7904
Personal Financial Advisor
Median annual salary, 2022: $95,3905
Median annual salary, 2022: $82,2606
States with the highest employment level in Accountants and Auditors, 2021:2
|State||Employment||Annual mean wage|
Top paying states for Accountants and Auditors, 2022:2
|State||Annual mean wage||Employment|
GradSchools.com Offers 359 Graduate Schools with Masters in Accounting Degree Programs
Sources: 1https://www.bls.gov/emp/chart-unemployment-earnings-education.htm | 2https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes132011.htm | 3https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes132051.htm | 4https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes113031.htm | 5https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes132052.htm | 6https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes132031.htm |
Based on national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Accessed 6/27/2023.
This is an offer for educational opportunities that may lead to employment and not an offer or guarantee of employment and that may help prepare students to meet the certification requirements of the field they choose to study. Students should check with the appropriate certifying body to make sure the program they apply to will help meet any certification requirements. Students should also consult with a representative from the school they select to learn more about career opportunities in that field. Program outcomes vary according to each institution’s specific program curriculum.
Western Governors University
Grand Canyon University
The University of Arizona Global Campus
Seton Hall University
SUNY Polytechnic Institute
New Mexico State University
University At Albany (S.U.N.Y.)
Carnegie Mellon University
University of Illinois at Chicago