By earning your master’s degree in accounting, you will find many tantalizing, good-paying career prospects are now available to you.
Earning a master’s in accounting is a solid career choice because the tax and regulatory environment has gotten more complicated since the financial meltdown of 2008 and 2009. Companies need to be more careful than ever to comply with regulatory and tax requirements issued by the federal government. To do so, they must rely on highly skilled and qualified accountants to prepare and examine all of their financial records.
In addition, more companies are wanting to go public with the economy continuing to improve. This means that more highly qualified accountants are needed to handle the very complicated legal documents. These complex transactions have many financial documents that parties to the transaction are required to complete and disclose.
Earning your master’s in accounting will certainly increase your ability to find excellent accounting work. Also, note that a master’s in accounting program can be an excellent preparation for the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) examination.
Why Earn a Master’s in Accounting?
Earning a master’s degree in accounting is a superb choice for financial professionals who want to work in many good-paying accounting roles. For example, with a master’s degree in this field, you could find yourself working in these types of roles:
- Public accountant: Handle accounting, tax, auditing and consulting work for individuals, corporations and government agencies. Many public accountants are CPAs and either own their own company or work for a public accounting firm.
- Management accountant: This also can be called a cost, managerial or corporate accountant, who records and analyzes the financial data of companies that they work for.
- Government accountant: Responsible for maintaining and examining government agency records. They may also audit private companies and individuals whose activities are subject to being regulated and taxed.
Earning your master’s in accounting provides you with the knowledge to pass the CPA examination, which is 14 hours long and is quite difficult. CPAs always will earn a higher salary than regular accountants.
You should have a bachelor’s degree in accounting or finance to be admitted into this master’s program. Most universities expect to see substantial accounting work experience as well.
Typical admissions requirements for graduate level accounting programs usually include:
- GMAT or GRE scores. Sometimes this requirement can be waived if you have substantial work experience.
- All bachelor’s and graduate program transcripts.
- An updated resume featuring educational, employment and achievement history.
- GPA of at least 2.5; some schools may expect 3.0 or higher.
- At least two professor and/or work recommendations
- Statement of purpose
Curriculum and Courses
The core curriculum of the typical master’s in accounting program will be focused on similar topics, regardless of the program. At the University of Michigan for example, you are required to take these classes in their master’s program:
- ACC 555: Corporate Financial Research and Reporting
- ACC 561: Federal Taxation
- ACC 565: Financial Instruments and Structured Finance
- ACC 601: Information Systems Design
- ACC 625: Advanced Financial Accounting
- ACC 630: Auditing & Assurance
- ACC 695: EY Accounting and Public Policy Symposium
In some cases, if you have completed a bachelor’s degree in accounting, you may be able to apply for a waiver for some core classes.
Also, you will be required to complete electives, such as:
- ACC 650 & ACC 640: Cost Systems/Advanced Management Accounting
- ACC 620: Federal Taxation II
- ACC 711: Financial Statement Analysis I
- ACC 713: Financial Statement Analysis II
- ACC 725: Managing the Maize and Blue Fund
- BLL 555: Ethics and Negotiations for Accountants
- LAW 691: International Tax
- LAW 726: Partnership Tax
- LAW 746: Tax of Financial Instruments
- LAW 747: Taxation of Individual Income
- LAW 749: Corporate Taxation
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Accounting Program Accreditation
As you are looking at your options for a master’s in accounting program, we advise that you check if the program has been accredited by a quality accreditation agency. This ensures that the program meets high quality standards. It also ensures that your degree will have a high level of value to potential employers.
An excellent accounting accreditation organization is the AACSB. This organization accredits business schools, but it also has the AACSB Accounting Accreditation for bachelor’s and master’s programs in accounting.
Career Outcomes and Job Titles
Professionals who earn a master’s degree in accounting will usually work in professional accounting, auditing, or related financial recording and reporting work. They can work for many types of businesses, nonprofits and government organizations.
Some of the common employment settings you could see include:
- Accounting firms
- Consulting firms
- Financial services organizations
- Law firms
- Insurance agencies
- Mortgage companies
- Small businesses
- Health care organizations
You could be in a position with the following job titles:
- Accounting manager
- Internal auditor
- Tax advisor
- Tax preparer
- Forensic accountant
- Inventory analyst
- Accounting director
- Independent auditor
- Billing manager or supervisor
- Senior accountant
Also, government statistics report that most accountants are working in the following fields:
- Accounting services for companies: 26%
- Government agencies: 8%
- Financial and insurance companies: 8%
- Company and enterprise management: 7%
- Manufacturing companies: 6%
Job and Salary Outlook
The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the job outlook for accountants is excellent: 11% increase in jobs by 2024 which is faster than average. Economic experts anticipate that there will be a higher demand for accountants as the US economy gains strength and adds more jobs. Also, accountants who are CPAs will likely enjoy even stronger job opportunities.
The median salary for all accountants in 2015 was $67,190. The top 10%, who often have their CPA designation and a master’s, was $118,000.
Scholarships and Grants
There is more job demand today for accountants, so there are more master’s in accounting programs available. There also are excellent scholarship programs available for students who want to study accounting.
Some universities will offer accounting scholarships specifically for their university’s students. However, there also are general accounting scholarship available from top accounting-related organizations across the US:
- Ritchie-Jennings Memorial Scholarship Program: Offered by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE), this scholarship is available to accounting students who want to work in fraud examination. You can earn scholarships of $10,000, $5000, $2000 and $1000 annually.
- Crush the CPA Exam Scholarship Program: Accounting students who are earning a bachelor’s or master’s degree can get this $1000 scholarship to help them study for the CPA examination.
If you want to earn your master’s in accounting, we also would like to offer you these additional accounting resources:
- Accounting and Financial Women’s Alliance: This organization promotes the interests of women in accounting and financial fields, so that they may achieve their full career potential.
- National Society of Accountants: Provides the accounting profession with national accounting industry leadership. It also offers guidance and help to accounting professionals so they can succeed in their careers.