Overview of Master's Degree in Accounting
A master's degree in accounting (MAcc) is quickly becoming the preferred degree for employers, especially for management positions. While a bachelor's degree in accounting is sometimes proficient, many employers require a master's degree for advancement to positions such as accounting manager, budget director or chief financial officer. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that accountants who have earned their masters degree earn about $3,000 more than those who only have their bachelors degree.
Some students choose to pursue a master's degree in business administration (MBA) with a concentration in accounting, which provides them with a curriculum that has a greater focus in business skills. However, those who are only interested in working in accounting should pursue their MAcc.
Each program typically lasts two to three years. Students who earn their Macc at the end of the program leave prepared to take their Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam and their Certified Management Accountant (CMA) exam. Both of these designations are nationally accepted as the standard for practicing accountants.
Applying to a Master's Degree Program in Accounting
Admissions to accounting programs are competitive and applicants are often at the top of their class. Many students pursuing a master's degree in accounting have a bachelor's degree in accounting. This is helpful because master's degree students should enter the program with basic accounting knowledge.
Over 40 states require that CPA applicants have completed one hundred and fifty higher education credits. The simplest way to do so is to first obtain your bachelor's degree in accounting, and then a master's degree in accounting. Even if you don’t have your bachelor's degree in accounting, you can still pursue a master's degree in accounting, but you have a better chance of being admitted to the program if you have at least two years of accounting experience.
The standardized test that most accountants must take in order to apply to a master's degree program is the General Management Admission Test (GMAT), though some programs will accept the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Other requirements include obtaining three letters of recommendation, writing a personal statement and sending in your college transcripts.
How to Choose an Accounting Master's Degree Program
Most full-time accounting programs take two to three years to complete. However there are also accelerated courses that can last anywhere from 1 year to 18 months. There are generally two tracks one can choose in an accounting master's degree program. In a financial track, students become experts at analyzing data from outside companies. They will typically go on to work in an accounting firm. Those who choose a managerial track work within an organization to assess data from that firm only.
Some MAcc programs provide a general education in accounting, with courses in all areas of advanced accounting. This program is perfect for individuals who have a passion for accounting, but are adaptable to different types of companies. Other programs specialize in a specific type of accounting, such as forensics accounting or internal accounting. This program restricts where a student can work after graduation, but is best for students who are enthusiastic about one particular type of accounting.
Accountants, especially those who have earned a master's degree have favorable prospects as financial laws and regulations continue to evolve. However, you should contact the career services department of the graduate school that you wish to attend to ensure that your school has a high rate of job placement. Also perform research on what types of careers alumni hold to get an idea of the focus of the degree program.
If time is an issue, you may want to choose an online master's degree program in accounting. Earning your degree online allows you the flexibility to pursue other responsibilities such as work and family. Or, if you feel more comfortable completing courses in the classroom, you may choose to take night or weekend courses part-time. Though choosing this option will increase the amount of time it takes to earn your masters degree, it will provide you with the time to pursue other ventures.
What to Expect an a Master's Degree Program in Accounting
Common courses in a master's degree program in accounting may include cost management, accounting theory, auditing, tax and business strategy, consulting services, forensic accounting, financial accounting and more. In addition to preparing students for the CPA exam, the curriculum is designed to teach students the skills needed for a middle or senior management position in accounting. Graduates of a master's degree program can also use their skills to start their own accounting company.
The last part of your MAcc program will be spent working on your master's thesis. Your thesis will involve research on a specific accounting topic of your choice in which you calculate statistics and explore theoretical answers to the problem. Sometimes your thesis will require completing an internship at a company and then writing a research paper inspired by a problem encountered at the company. In order to successfully complete your master's thesis, you will need to have advanced accounting, written and mathematical skills.
Top 10 Grad Schools for Accounting
- University of Phoenix
- American InterContinental University
- University of Illinois, Urbana, Champaign
- Strayer University
- University of Houston System
- The University of Texas at Austin
- Brigham Young University
- University of Central Florida
- Michigan State University
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