Research shows that accounting and the related field of finance remain some of the steadiest in terms of job demand, job growth and overall satisfaction. Coming out of the last recession, accounting and finance continued to add jobs, while most other industry sectors lost them. After all, every business in every industry always has need for professionals who can keep the financial books in order.
It is fortunate that today there are master’s degrees where you can study both subjects; otherwise, you might have to earn a degree in each field! These days, it is possible to get a high level of knowledge in accounting and finance in approximately two years of study.
To learn if a master’s degree in accounting and finance is worth it, let’s take a closer look at what each part of that graduate degree is about:
Master of Accounting
A master of accounting provides you with the required skills and knowledge to have a successful and dynamic career in public and private accounting. Most master of accounting programs offer you the background and knowledge to prepare for the CPA examination (more details on this below).
A master of accounting program focuses often not just on the technical and analytical aspects needed for advanced accounting positions. You also will learn vital strategic and communication skills that are required for success in today’s complex business world.
Some of the most common subjects learned in a graduate accounting degree program are:
- Advanced Financial Accounting
- Management Communication
- Advanced Managerial Accounting
- Advanced Auditing
- Financial Management
- Advanced Tax Concepts
- Fraud and Forensic Accounting
- Strategic Management
- Governmental and Nonprofit Accounting
- Accounting Research
Master of Finance
A master of finance degree provides you with the ability to succeed in the financial sector, with learned skills that include:
- How to value stocks, bonds and derivatives using modern valuation techniques
- Understand how to value investment projects strategically
- Appreciate the importance of making financial decisions ethically
- Construct a strong and efficient portfolio using advanced methods for estimating ROI and risks
- Develop a complete understanding of how markets work per the Efficient Market Hypothesis
- Blend sophisticated financial modeling with an international mindset
Combining both the accounting and finance skillsets in one degree will put you in a very strong position for high level, good-paying accounting and financial work. Consider:
In Demand Occupations in Accounting and Finance
A master’s degree in accounting and finance can place you in a strong position for many in-demand occupations. The Bureau of Labor Statistics or BLS reports that all business and financial occupations will experience an 8% increase in employment demand by 2024. Many jobs specific to accounting and finance will see even higher job growth. BLS notes that the US economy will add approximately 632,000 new jobs in business and finance by 2024.
Some occupations that will experience high demand for well-educated professionals in these related fields include the ones listed below. These jobs will be more in reach for professionals with a master’s in accounting and finance. So earning that advanced degree could be a critical step for your future career.
Accountants and Auditors
Accountants and auditors review and examine a variety of financial records as well as tax documents. Their critical job is to make sure that financial records are completely accurate and that taxes are paid on time.
Not only must accountants and auditors examine and prepare financial documents. They also must be able to explain their findings in detail to stakeholders, such as senior executives in the company. These accounting professionals must also write reports and have meetings with organization managers on the firm’s tax situation.
Some of the different types of accounting include:
- Public accounting: Perform accounting, auditing, tax preparation and consulting. Clients usually are corporations, individuals and governments.
- Management accounting: May be referred to as cost, industrial, managerial or private accounting. Record and analyze financial information for the companies for which they work.
- Government accounting: Maintain and examine financial and accounting records for government agencies.
- Auditing: Checking for financial mismanagement within a company.
Virtually all accountants have a bachelor’s degree, but the highest-paying positions in accounting go to Certified Public Accountants or CPAs. These tax professionals are licensed by the Board of Accountancy in their state. Being a CPA requires you to pass a rigorous national exam.
Most states mandate that you complete 150 hours of college classes to be certified. This is 30 hours above a bachelor’s program. If you complete a master’s program in accounting and finance, you should be able to sit for the CPA examination. This advanced degree is an excellent preparation for being a CPA and is very much worth the time and investment.
The job outlook for accountants is strong, with 11% more jobs expected by 2024. The economy is getting stronger, and more companies are hiring, and new ones are being created. Stricter laws and regulations in the financial sector are increasing the need for financial services and accounting.
Demand should be even higher for accountants with a master’s and a CPA designation.
The median pay for accountants and auditors was $68,100 in May 2016, with the top 10% with a master’s making more than $120,000 per year.
Financial analysts are experts in providing financial guidance to businesses and individuals that need to make decisions about their investments. The major work of financial analysts is to provide analysis of stocks, bonds, real estate and other types of investments for their clients.
Financial analysts may work in pension funds, mutual funds, banks, security firms, insurance companies and financial organizations. Some financial analysts may be referred to as investment or securities analysts.
Financial analysts can be either buy-side analysts or sell-side analysts. Buy-side analysts devise investment strategies for companies that have money to invest, usually in the millions of dollars or more. These are institutional investors and include mutual funds, hedge funds and insurance companies.
Sell-side analysts provide advice to financial services agents who market stocks, bonds and related investments.
Other types of financial analysts include portfolio managers, fund managers, ratings analysts and risk analysts.
Financial analysts have a bachelor’s degree, and may will earn their master’s degree in accounting, finance or both. Some employers may require a financial analyst to have an MBA as well. Having very good knowledge of options pricing, risk management and bond valuation are critical.
Master’s of accounting and finance students who want to increase the quality of their credentials may opt to obtain their Chartered Financial Analyst of CFA designation. This designation requires a bachelor’s, four years of work experience in the field and passing of three exams.
The job outlook for financial analysts is good, with 12% more jobs expected by 2024. More financial products and portfolios need expert financial analysts and managers who have excellent knowledge of specific geographic areas.
The median pay in this field is $81,760, with the top 10% with the most experience and a master’s degree earning $165,000 per year.
Top Cities for Accounting and Financial Professionals
A potent combination of advanced skills in accounting and finance will make you an attractive job candidate in these hot US cities:
- Chicago: Major bank and financial services are numerous in the Windy City.
- Houston: The energy sector in the fracking boom is doing well, so jobs that revolve around the energy trading floor are growing fast. A low cost of living makes this a great choice.
- Los Angeles: A global city that hosts many multinational corporations; accounts payable and payroll managers are in demand.
- Paramus, NJ: Home to big companies in pharmaceuticals, manufacturing and distribution. A big demand for controllers and cost accountants, New York City is just down the road.
- Raleigh, NC: Diverse economy with great opportunities in high technology, government and nonprofit, healthcare and education.
A master’s degree in accounting and finance is definitely worth the financial and time investment, because of the unique skillset you develop in a limited time that will position you for very enticing career opportunities.
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- Leverage Job Prospects with a Master’s in Accounting. (2014, June 19). Retrieved from https://www.usnews.com/education/best-graduate-schools/top-business-schools/articles/2014/06/19/leverage-job-prospects-with-a-masters-in-accounting
- Financial Analysts. (2015, Dec. 17). Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/financial-analysts.htm#tab-5
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- Top 10 Cities for Accounting and Finance Pros. (2014). Retrieved from https://www.accountingtoday.com/slideshow/top-10-cities-for-accounting-and-finance-pros