What Can I Do With a Master's Degree in Accounting?
If you can see yourself crunching numbers for an accounting firm, helping a small business secure startup funding, or directing big financial decisions for a major corporation, earning your master’s degree in accounting is a critical step. A master’s degree in accounting can help you become a highly sought-after specialist or even a leader in the field.
Accounting is a fertile professional field filled with opportunities for career advancement and high earning power. But in order to truly seize on these opportunities, you should consider earning a master’s degree. This advanced degree in accounting is a basic threshold if you plan to sit for your state licensing exam, and become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA).
Just getting started? Check out our look at the accounting major to find out how you can get an undergraduate degree in accounting.
If you’re ready to earn your graduate degree at one of the most prestigious schools in the world, get started with a look at the Most Influential Schools in Accounting.
Or read on to find out what you can expect as an accounting master.
Why Get a Master’s Degree in Accounting?
If you plan to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), the most direct route is to earn a master’s degree in accounting (or in a closely related field such as business administration with a concentration in accounting). Accounting is among the best-paying professions in the business sector, but there are several prerequisite courses that you’ll need to complete before you can become certified. While an undergraduate degree in accounting will not likely fulfill these requirements, most advanced degree programs in accounting do incorporate these prerequisites. Therefore, one of the strongest arguments in favor of earning a master’s degree in accounting is the access it provides to you to the top roles in your field. Whether you plan to apply your accounting knowledge to financial decision making for a Fortune 500 company, to balance the ledgers for a government agency, or to provide financial services as an independent accounting consultant, earning a master’s degree in accounting will make this possible.
Learn more about these and other top influencers in the field of business accounting.
How Can I Qualify To Get a Master’s Degree in Accounting?
Many accounting programs will require you to complete the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT). Some programs may require you to meet a certain scoring threshold while others may merely require that you complete the exam. These requirements will vary from one accounting master’s program to the next.
If no GMAT is required, the primary requirement for gaining eligibility into an accounting master’s program is completion of a bachelor’s degree from a properly accredited undergraduate school. While programmatic accreditation is not specifically required in this field, most regionally-accredited graduate schools will require that your bachelor’s degree be granted by a regionally-accredited college or university.
Some colleges may offer bundled bachelor’s and master’s degree programs, where you could earn your advanced degree in one continuous five-year program. This option could save you time and money if you already know that you’ll be pursuing your advanced degree. However, the accelerated pace of such a program may make this a challenging way to earn both degrees. Find out if your school offers this bundling option and ask about eligibility requirements. But be sure you’re up to the added challenge!
For any additional questions about eligibility, refer to your intended program and learn more about application requirements and any additional requirements such as work experience, academic performance thresholds, and referrals. Some programs may require that you’ve completed specific undergraduate courses in math, business administration, and accounting principles.
If you’re still working on building your qualifications, check out our look at the accounting major to find out how you can get an undergraduate degree in accounting.
What Kinds of Advanced Accounting Degrees Are There?
Though you can become an accountant or auditor after earning a bachelor’s degree in accounting, you will likely still be short of the necessary course requirements to sit for your CPA exam. Earning one of the following advanced degrees will provide you with the proper prerequisites to ascend to this top role in the field:
- Master of Accounting (MAcc): A Master’s degree is the basic threshold for pursuing certification as a licensed public accountant. (Alternately, you may also qualify for CPA licensure as a Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a concentration in accounting.) In order to become a CPA, you’ll also need to log a specified number of professional hours as well as sit for a state licensure exam. This certification would give you access to leadership roles as a practicing accountant or a financial officer, in either the accounting field or in the industry of your choice.
- PhD in Accounting: The doctoral is a terminal degree in accounting, and will typically require between 3 and 5 years for completion. This degree is recommended for students interested in conducting field research or pursuing a professorship in accounting.
What are Some Popular Accounting Specializations?
The accounting specialization you choose will depend largely on the context in which you plan to apply your accounting skills. Your choice of specialization will help to determine whether you’ll practice for a private company, an accounting firm, a government agency, a research think tank or any number of other contexts where accounting plays a critical role. Popular specializations include:
- Accounting (General)
- Accounting Technology
- Accounting and Finance
- Accounting and Business/Management
- Accounting and Related Services
What Courses Will I Take as an Accounting Master?
Your accounting specialization will determine many of the courses you’ll take as an accounting master. Likewise, you will be required to take a number of requisite courses on foundational topics such as advanced financial accounting and accounting information systems. However, you’ll also have a chance to choose from an array of courses that most interest you.
Common accounting masters courses include:
- Auditing Theory
- Accounting Ethics
- Budget Analysis
- Accounting and Cybersecurity
- Global Finance and International Accountancy
- Detecting Accounting Fraud
- Tax Law
- Financial Reporting and Business Analysis
Is a Master’s Degree in Accounting Worth It?
Accounting professionals enjoy high earnings relative to other career paths. However, there is a wide variation in earning potential for auditors, accountants and other financial services specialists. The wage premium for accounting professionals with advanced degrees is fairly high, with many of the most lucrative career paths reserved for masters in accounting. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), while the median annual wage for accountants and auditors was $71,550 in 2019, there was a significant gap in earnings between those at the lowest and highest ends of the wage spectrum. While the lowest 10% of accounting professionals earned less than $44,480 in 2019, the highest 10% earned more than $124,450. A master’s degree and a public certification can help to place you at the top end of this pay scale.
What Are The Top Jobs With a Master’s In Accounting Degree?
While you could qualify to become an auditor or accountant with a bachelor’s degree in accounting, a master’s degree in accounting will qualify you to earn a certification to become a CPA. In addition to this top job in accounting, you could improve your qualifications for an array of specializations and leadership roles in accounting and financial services, including these top jobs:
- Accountants and Auditors
- Tax Examiners and Collectors
- Financial Managers
- Appraisers/Assessors of Real Estate
- Claims Adjusters
- Insurance Underwriters
Curious how far you could go with a master’s degree in accounting? Start with a look at the top influencers in accounting!***
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