How much money do you want to make, and how much schooling do you want to go through? We're asking the difficult question upfront because going through a Master's in Accounting program will take time, effort, energy, and money.
Even with financial aid and finding the most affordable Master's in Accounting degree program available, there will still be out-of-pocket costs or student loans to pay back.
However, higher education exists for a purpose. If you're interested in seeking a master's degree, you already know that employers are interested in hiring the most qualified candidates to fill positions.
Achieving a Master's in Accounting, going through a MAcc program to become a Master of Accountancy, getting a Master of Professional Accountancy or Accounting, or an MBA in Accounting could be the prerequisite to stepping into the accounting career you want.
What Are The Benefits of a Master's in Accounting Degree?
The first, most obvious answer is money. In the United States, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median salary for an accountant is $74,000 per year. As for the top ten percent of accountants, the average salary is $120,000.
You can expect higher salaries in more prestigious accounting firms, but more expensive credentials such as a graduate degree and extensive experience can also be expected. Yes, you can skip the higher degree and work in accounts receivable, but the chances are that if you're reading this, you have loftier aspirations.
Another important result of taking on a master's degree program is connections. Remember that the college is invested in your future for their own sake; it's in their best interests that your degree turns into a high-paying job.
Students can take advantage of career services and find on-campus networking opportunities through professors and other students, whether through a mentoring role or an avenue for finding job opportunities. Class sizes will be smaller, as is the nature of graduate education courses. This allows for more intimate connections and attention from professors.
Graduate programs also prepare students for the level of work they'll be performing in the working world. As graduate students are working toward their degrees, they'll have to hone their communication skills, decision-making skills, time management abilities, and complete relevant coursework.
If they want to enter full-time, top-level accounting positions, accounting graduates will need to be familiar with the workload. To get into a degree program, you will need:
- A bachelor’s degree
- A GMAT exam score
- Relevant work experience
- A recommendation letter
- A personal statement
Just like any application, having these is no guarantee of acceptance. Some grit and determination will be your other essential ingredients as you apply. The degree program you choose will prepare you for the stress you will experience when dealing with businesses, customers, and their money.
What Are the Essential Courses?
Not only will students learn auditing and financial accounting, but leadership skills are also emphasized.
Because top-tier accountants will most likely be expected to lead teams rather than work in isolation, many courses will be teaching accounting students how to take the ideas, concepts, and skills they've learned and translate them into orchestrating groups of employees to accomplish corporate goals.
Some important courses that will appear in MAcc programs are:
- Accounting practice and regulation
- Corporate governance
- Financial reporting
- Advanced management accounting
- Research methods in accounting
There are also many electives that could make candidates more appealing. Higher math courses, business, marketing, and other classes that may not be essential for completing the degree program can nevertheless make candidates more attractive to potential employers.
Employers may also want to see that you've worked in an internship or part-time in relevant positions.
What Are Some Master's Degree Options?
The accounting profession offers a great variety of concentrations depending on the students' career goals:
Master's of Business Administration (MBA) in Accounting:
This degree teaches business principles for those interested in more business-focused positions, such as managerial accounting jobs, entrepreneurship opportunities, business consultant, financial manager, and other critical roles regarding a company's position in the marketplace.
Because accounting and business are so tied, it's possible to attend a school of business that equally emphasizes accounting.
Master of Professional Accountancy:
Think of this option as a more "hands-on" type of learning, being more practice-based than theory-based. Courses handle internal auditing, taxation, and fraud examination. Students can pursue jobs such as public accounting, fraud, taxes, and forensic accounting.
Master's in Accounting:
Also known as Master of Accountancy, this concentration takes the broad view of accounting. Students who graduate with this degree can go on to take the exam to become a CPA. This education prepares students for careers in forensic accounting, management accounting, or government accounting.
Any of these specializations put graduates on a better footing to reach higher incomes. They are by no means a guarantee of being hired, but coupling a graduate degree with professional development training can be the edge a candidate needs to stand out among other potential hires.
What is the Master of Science in Accounting?
It's very similar to the Master’s in Accounting or Master of Accountancy. It covers the broad view of the accounting field students need and prepares graduates to take on roles such as forensic accountant, budget analyst, and staff accountant.
Is There a Difference Between a Master's and an MBA?
Because a Master's of Business Administration is so often initialized as MBA, it's easy to forget that it's still a Master's degree in accounting, though it contains as much of a business education as an accounting education. Still, there are some essential differences between an MBA in Accounting and a Master's in Accounting:
Skills: Students in the MBA in Accounting program will focus more on leadership, financial decision-making, and risk management. Master's in Accounting focuses on organization, IT and information systems, communication, and technical financial skills. Both prepare students for the CPA exam.
Courses: MBA in Accounting offers classes on taxes and business strategy, business analysis, and financial accounting. Master's in Accounting has courses on financial accounting, financial instruments, and federal taxation.
Careers: The MBA in Accounting prepares students to become management analysts, financial managers, chief operating officers (COOs), and business consultants. Master's in Accounting graduates are best equipped to become forensic accountants, auditors, public accountants, and management accountants.
Both programs take the same length of time, usually 1 to 2 years. You can generally find either program at a college of business. If you're considering a specific graduate school, ensure they have the appropriate courses for your chosen degree path.
Is an Online Masters of Accounting Program Worthwhile?
Just because a Masters of Accounting program is online does not mean it requires any less of its students. Typically, such programs last from 1 to 2 years and require 30 to 45 credits.
If a student has an unrelated undergraduate degree, there may be prerequisite courses they need to complete. They may also need to complete the GRE or GMAT exams, have achieved a minimum GPA, and/or have relevant work experience.
Thankfully, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, online education doesn't have the same stigma as it used to. As long as students put in the work and can prove their education imparted the appropriate skillset, employers will not be put off by an online degree.
However, some students thrive in classrooms but don't have the ability to self-motivate when learning from home. If you're considering taking an online degree program, assess whether you will be able to make the most of it. Also, networking will be more difficult because of the relative lack of classroom contact.
Can't I Just Take the CPA Exam Without a Degree?
It's true; it is possible for someone to become a certified public accountant (CPA) without graduating from a Master of Accounting program. Understand that it may not be the easier path you wish it to be.
Also, most states do require candidates to at least have a bachelor's degree or other undergraduate degrees to take the exam. If you live in Maine, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Georgia, or Alaska, you can take the exam without that prerequisite.
These states aren't completely lax in their requirements, however. Their educational requirements include:
Maine: 15 credit hours of accounting courses and 4,000 hours of relevant CPA supervised work.
Hawaii: 18 credit hours of courses in accounting as well as accounting experience.
Massachusetts: 21 credit hours of accounting courses, along with rules regarding which classes count towards those credits.
Georgia: 20 credit hours of accounting, 18 hours of which must be upper-level classes.
Alaska: 15 credit hours of accounting classes and one year of work experience.
Candidates can take the exam in a different state from the one in which they are becoming certified. If you're unsure about your state's regulations, request info from relevant parties in state government and accounting firms in your area. Remember that achieving CPA licensure is required to practice as a CPA no matter where you go.
Should I Choose a Program with AACSB Accreditation?
AACSB stands for Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, and it's an organization composed of international educators, businessmen, and students and is overseen by the US Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).
As to whether you require an MBA in Accounting program with AACSB accreditation, that's entirely dependent on your goals.
If you desire a top position in a prestigious company or accounting firm, then seek a program with AACSB accreditation and pay attention to the program's rankings. The higher your aspirations, the higher the requirements.
However, if you're not planning on practicing in a large city or are entering a less competitive field of accounting, then accreditation may not matter for your career trajectory. The education you receive will be far more important.
We hope you have found this breakdown helpful. HappyAR is focused on working with businesses to improve their AR collections. A big part of this is partnering w/ various accountants and AR professionals to help them improve their collections on behalf of their clients. Check us out here.