Why earn a graduate degree in accounting?
If you think it’s difficult or even impossible to measure the benefits of higher education exactly – think again. According to the United States Social Security Administration, people who hold a graduate degree earn over $1 million more throughout their entire professional careers than high school graduates. Also, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that, in 2018, people with a master’s or a professional degree earned $400 and $800 more per week than bachelor’s degree holders.1
Earning a graduate degree does pay off in the accounting field, too. However, when you do your research for a master’s in accounting, you may see that – next to the traditional program that we have already covered – there are other graduate degree types available with similar names.
While any of these degrees can be a great addition to your studies and may help you advance in your accounting career, there are differences between them. It’s good to know these distinctions before making such an important decision, so let’s look at these programs in more detail.
What is Master’s of Business Administration?
The Master’s of Business Administration (MBA) is typically an extension of an undergraduate degree, so it will likely include the same classes as an undergraduate program. The difference is that courses present students with advanced material and teach them how to apply said material in specific real-life situations. Universities that offer MBA programs would generally expect you to have some experience in the field of study when joining, so you can have context about what you learn.
About an MBA in Accounting degree
Typically, a Master’s of Business Administration (MBA) is a degree with a strong focus on business. A generalist degree, even when you add a specialization, the MBA is less geared towards research work and more aimed at creating a broad spectrum of managerial and leadership skills needed in your professional career.
You can also choose an MBA with a focus on accounting, a program that is available at many higher-education institutions. However, before researching and making your decision, first check if the degree’s curriculum includes the body of knowledge required to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA).
How can an MBA in Accounting help?
This program will develop your skills and offer the knowledge required to perform in the current accounting work environment. Courses will usually cover financial and business analysis, decision-making, leadership, and provide the essential accounting knowledge needed in this field.
MBA admission requirements
Institutions that offer an MBA in Accounting usually require applicants to hold an undergraduate degree in a related field with a GPA test score of at least 3.0. Universities ask for high Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) or Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) scores, too. They also want students to produce undergraduate coursework transcripts that prove advanced math competencies, as well as letters of recommendation and essays or personal statements.
It’s good to know that some institutions also ask for a resume as they prefer candidates with at least 2 or 3 years of professional experience in their field of study. Highly competitive programs usually accept candidates who can demonstrate a high score on their GMAT or GRE exams and will most likely include an interview stage in their admission process.
Program cost and duration
The duration for most full-time MBA in accounting programs is 2 years or around 30 credit hours. However, you can opt for an accelerated MBA, which cuts the total program duration down to 18 months. You can qualify for this type of program if you already have significant work experience in your desired field of study.
The cost of an MBA degree can vary significantly depending on the type of program and the institution that offers it. A full-time program is typically more expensive than an online or hybrid option and studying at an out-of-state school will set you back more than if you choose an institution from your state. Also, the more reputable the university, the higher the cost of your MBA in accounting degree. Expect to pay between $350 and $1500 per credit.
MBA in accounting curriculum
The MBA in accounting curriculum exposes students to a broad body of knowledge in all aspects of business management. The program develops competencies gained during your undergraduate studies in business management, communications, information technology, marketing, or finance. The curriculum also includes coursework in topics like financial accounting, cost accounting, and managerial accounting.
Choosing an MBA program that is recognized at state and national level is essential when factoring in that only credit hours from accredited institutions qualify you for CPA exam admission. See if your program is a recognized one by checking it with the following well-known organizations:
Career outlook with an MBA in accounting
Holders of an MBA in accounting usually work as financial analysts, tax managers, and chief financial officers.
Even if it’s a degree highly sought-after nowadays, an MBA has its downsides. Firstly, as already mentioned, it is an extension of an undergraduate program, so chances are you’ll be exposed to the same type of material learned during your bachelor’s years. Some of the information will be new, of course, but the format is a reinterpretation of your undergraduate studies.
Regardless of the chosen specialization, MBA programs expect all students to learn a standard curriculum that includes marketing, communications, and leadership skills. This can mean that you attend classes that may not be as relevant to your current role as you would like. Let’s say your goal is to pursue a career in accounting, and you’re taking classes in advanced marketing. It might be that learning that specific knowledge won’t help you advance into a better role.
However, this diversity in an MBA curriculum can be a two-sided sword, as it could also turn to your advantage. The breadth of knowledge you can gain in an MBA could open new career opportunities in other functional areas of your organization.
Another drawback with MBAs is that many of their classes aren’t taught in conjunction with other courses. This is important because connections made between classes provide the advantage of developing essential skills needed in the business world, where constant communication and interaction with other departments of your organization are commonplace.
MBA in Accounting or Master’s in Accounting?
Choosing between an MBA in accounting program and another master’s in accounting degree – be it the traditional version or an alternative one – should be based on your career goals and personal preferences. However, to make an informed decision, you need to know how each program can help you.
An MBA in accounting is an excellent degree if you want to unlock more diverse employment opportunities. If, on the other hand, you wish to gain specialist knowledge in the accounting field of your choice, a Master’s in Accounting (MA) may be the right choice for you. Should you be more inclined towards mathematics and science studies but want to continue specializing in a specific accounting branch, a Master’s of Science in Accounting can be what you need. Let’s explore in more detail what this degree has to offer.
Master’s of Science in Accounting
A Master’s of Science in Accounting (MSA) – or a Master’s of Professional Accounting (MPA), as you may find it called throughout your research – does not deviate substantially from the curriculum of a traditional master’s in Accounting degree. The main differentiator is that an MSA program emphasizes science classes and the accumulation of advanced applied mathematics knowledge.
Compared to an MBA in accounting, an MSA’s curriculum will focus more on teaching specialized accounting skills, while addressing business management is a secondary goal.
MA or MSA?
Just like a traditional master’s in accounting program, an MSA degree is designed for students with an educational background in accounting or professional experience in this field. All in all, these 2 programs are actually very similar.
The main difference is that a master’s of science is a more applied interdisciplinary degree where courses are more focused on advanced mathematics applications and other science-related topics. All the program courses work together, having an integrated approach, and giving you the high-level skills and advanced knowledge necessary to advance in your accounting career within your organization.
Duration of studies
Earning a Master’s of Science in Accounting can take up to 2 years or around 35 credit hours. You can choose between a full-time program, hybrid formats, and even programs that are entirely online. Learn more about the best master’s in accounting programs, their tuition rates, and the duration of the program.
Cost of tuition
Earning a master’s degree can be expensive. However, the cost of a master’s degree varies depending on the type of program and the institution that offers it. According to FinAid.org, the cost of tuition ranges from $1,000 per credit hour at lower-ranked institutions to $4,000 at highly-competitive universities.
MS in Accounting admission requirements
Entry requirements for a master’s of science in Accounting do not change much from those of a traditional MA program. Holding a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution, good scores for the GMAT or GRE tests, as well as transcripts of undergraduate degree courses, references, and letters of recommendation. Prestigious programs may also ask you to undergo an interview process.
How does an MSA help?
An MS in Accounting curriculum will give you not only the body of knowledge but also the credit hours needed to meet CPA exam entry requirements. Most states require at least 150 credit hours to qualify for the exam. This means that, if you add the credits from your bachelor’s degree to those from the master’s you get the 150 credit hours to sit for the CPA examination.
This degree will also equip you with the necessary skills to advance in your professional career, qualifying you for positions such as forensic accountant, tax examiner, or auditor.