Master’s Degree in Accounting

Master's degree in accounting

Offered by a variety of colleges and universities, an accounting master’s degree is a graduate degree awarded in the accounting field. Typically, accounting master’s degrees are 30 to 36 semester hours total and are designed to provide students with the necessary credits and training to sit for the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) examination. An accounting master’s degree could help you to advance in your accounting career or act as a stepping stone on your way to an accounting PhD. If you are looking to gain a competitive edge in the job market, start exploring accounting master’s degree programs.

Types of Accounting Master’s Programs Available

If you study on a full-time basis, a master’s program in accounting typically takes one year to two years to complete. Programs can be offered in both an online and traditional campus format. Most accounting programs at the master’s level require students to complete a certain number of undergraduate prerequisite courses in accounting subjects during their bachelor’s degree studies in order to qualify for admission.

There are four common types of accounting master’s programs available: the Master of Accountancy (MAcc), Master of Professional Accountancy (MPAcy), the Master of Science in Accounting (MSA), and the Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a concentration in accounting.

Although the naming conventions of the programs will vary by school, the MAcc, MPAcy, and MSA tend to offer a similar curriculum geared towards helping graduates excel in a public accounting career. The MBA in accounting will typically differ from the three other master’s degrees by providing a generalized business education with an accounting focus inorder to prepare students for management positions in different sectors. The MBA often takes a full two years to complete and requires graduates to earn about 60 credit hours.

Accounting Master’s Degree Curriculum & Certification

The curriculum of master’s degree programs in accounting is meant to strengthen students’ critical thinking and problem-solving capabilities, as well as enhance their skills in financial accounting, auditing, taxation, and cost accounting. Courses that students may be required to take include the following:

  • Financial accounting & reporting
  • Advanced auditing
  • Corporate tax decisions & strategies
  • Financial statement analysis
  • Fund accounting

A master’s program in accounting accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International) helps students to fulfill the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) requirements. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, every accountant filing a report with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) must have earned their CPA.

CPA candidates in most states are required to complete 150 semester hours of college coursework, which is 30 hours more than the usual four-year bachelor’s degree. Though earning a master’s degree is not a prerequisite for sitting for the CPA exam, it can help students meet the credit requirement, as well assist them in acquiring the advanced accounting training necessary for passing the exam.

Graduates could also elect to pursue various other forms of professional certification in the field of accounting in order to enhance employment prospects. Two of the most common are the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) and Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) designations. Both require two years of experience in their respective fields (management accounting and internal auditing), as well as passing a two-part exam and completing continuing education requirements.

Accounting Career Options

Graduates of master’s degree programs in accounting are prepared to deal with advanced and complex accounting issues. Accounting degree holders can find jobs not only at accounting firms, but also across the business landscape. A master’s program in accounting is designed to prepare students to pursue mid-to-senior level positions in government, private, public, and non-profit organizations. Throughout their careers, some accountants might eventually advance to executive level positions as controllers, treasurers, financial vice presidents or chief financial officers. Specific jobs that graduates may qualify for include:

  • Management accountant
  • Government accountant
  • Tax accountant
  • Internal auditor
  • Public accountant
  • Financial analyst
  • Accounting manager
  • Chief cost accountant
  • Budget director
  • Manager of internal auditing

Accountant Employment Outlook

Despite the challenging economic times we face, the demand for qualified accounting professionals is high. An increasing number of organizations are seeking the expertise of accounting professionals as financial laws become stricter and the economic downturn tightens company budgets. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the employment of accountants will grow 16% from 2010 to 2020. Those with master’s degrees and CPA certification should receive the best job opportunities.

In 2012, the median annual salary for accountants and auditors was $63,550. Salaries will vary by experience level, location, and individual organization. The bottom 10% of accountants earned $39,930, while the top 10% earned more than $111,510.

Whether you are looking to take the next step in your career or are hoping to advance academically, pursuing a master’s degree in accounting could open the door to a myriad of possibilities in the accounting field. Explore accounting programs at the master’s level on our site today!