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Master of Accountancy

A master’s degree in accounting is frequently the highest degree pursued by those in the accounting and auditing fields. Although a few accountants and auditors may choose to pursue a doctoral degree, most find that a master’s degree satisfies the requirements for earning higher positions of responsibility, and higher salaries, in an accounting career. The number of master’s degrees in accounting awarded each year continues to increase,1 showing that this degree is in high demand for those working in, and hiring for, the accounting field.

Reasons for Earning a Master’s Degree in Accounting

Combined with a bachelor’s degree in accounting, a master’s degree usually satisfies the 150 credit hour requirement held by most states for sitting for the Uniform CPA exam, and the attendant professional designation of CPA. According to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, those with a CPA designation earn salaries 10 to 15% higher than those without the designation.2 Even without a CPA designation, a master’s degree in accounting shows employers that a candidate is career focused and has strong competencies in accounting, making candidates with a master’s degree in this field highly sought after. Additionally, according to AccountingWeb, accountants who certify as specialists in certain emerging fields such as carbon accounting may be more competitive in the workplace,3 and earning a master’s degree is a great way for accountants to develop specialist expertise.

Admissions Requirements for Master’s Degree Programs

Most programs for master’s degrees in accounting require candidates to have a bachelor’s degree in accounting. For candidates who have a bachelor’s degree in a different field, supplemental accounting courses may be taken prior to admission to a master’s program. In either case, a required GPA of at least 3.0 for courses taken in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree is standard. Since a master’s degree is an advanced degree, candidates may also be required to take standardized tests designed for graduate students, such as the GRE, GMAT, or MCAT. Students may be expected to submit letters of recommendation from previous professors, peers, or managers.

Types of Master’s Degree in Accounting Programs

A master’s degree in accounting offers several specializations that can help students who are targeting a specific area of accounting as a career choice. Potential employers will appreciate the extra level of expertise these specializations will afford graduates. Some of those accounting specializations offered by master’s of accountancy programs are listed below.

Master of Science in Accounting with Audit Specialization

A Master’s of Science in Accounting with Audit Specialization degree focuses on the science and theory of auditing, while also educating students about the principles of accounting. This program develops students’ core knowledge about auditing. Current degree programs are also incorporating coursework that uncovers and explains new technologies for auditing and information management, preparing students to advance their careers through a firm understanding of these in-demand technological skills.

Master of Science in Accounting with Finance Specialization

A master of science degree in accounting with a specialization in finance is an advanced degree designed for career accountants and auditors wishing to gain a deeper knowledge of the fundamentals of corporate finance, such as valuation, cost management, and financial decision making. Those holding this degree are equipped to move beyond the entry and mid-levels of accounting and auditing careers to positions of responsibility in management and beyond. This degree also helps students develop the communication skills necessary to success in such roles, while developing the understanding of ethical standards in business and finance.

Master of Science in Accounting with Government Specialization

Accounting for the government is a focused field that requires a focused degree, which is where the MS in Accounting – Government Specialization degree steps in. There are many issues unique to government accounting not faced by organizations in the public and private sectors, such as fulfilling government auditing and reporting requirements and using governmental accounting standards, which are addressed by this degree. This degree also helps students build on existing communication and decision making skills to further their governmental career goals.

Master of Science in Accounting with Tax Specialization

An Master of Science in Accounting degree with Tax Specialization is focused on the science of accounting, particularly as it relates to taxation. This degree covers all aspects of the US tax system, and to a lesser extent may also cover issues in international taxation. Students pursuing this degree will typically take all of the required courses for a standard master’s in accounting, with additional courses in taxation to earn the specialist designation. This degree covers theoretical and research based accounting in addition to more traditional accounting, allowing graduates of these programs develop problem solving skills in these areas that will greatly enhance their careers as tax specialists.

Coursework for Master’s in Accounting Programs

Most master’s degrees in accounting are awarded after successful completion of 30 credit hours, at least half of which are directly related to accounting principles and practice. More competitive programs may require additional coursework before awarding a master’s degree. Examples of courses taken for a master’s in accounting include:

  • Financial Analysis
  • Managerial Finance
  • Business for Accountants
  • Business Ethics
  • Advanced Financial Reporting

Online Master’s Degree in Accounting

Master’s degree programs typically take between one and three years to complete. This shorter course of study lends itself well to online degrees, and there are many top tier online master’s degree in accounting programs available. In many cases, these courses are taught by the same respected professors who lead traditional classroom accounting courses. Especially for those already in the workforce, an online master’s degree in accounting can be a flexible and value oriented way to earn an advanced degree.

Career Opportunities for Individuals with a Master’s in Accounting

Since a master’s in accounting is the highest degree that most career accountants and auditors choose to pursue, those holding this degree have a wealth of career opportunities. Just a few occupations available to holders of master’s degrees in accounting include financial analysts, who make an average annual salary of $74,350;4 and executive level managers, who make an average salary of $101,250.5 Those holding a master’s degree in accounting are also in a position to pursue high level accounting and auditing careers with some of the world’s best known firms.

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References:
1. AICPA: http://www.aicpa.org/InterestAreas/AccountingEducation/NewsAndPublications/DownloadableDocuments/2011TrendsReport.pdf
2. US News: http://money.usnews.com/careers/best-jobs/accountant
3. Accounting Web: http://www.accountingweb.com/topic/technology/carbon-accounting-hot-new-growth-area-accountants
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/financial-analysts.htm
5. Bureau of Labor Statistics: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/financial-analysts.htm