Master’s Degree in Accounting

What Is a Master’s Degree in Accounting?

A Master’s degree in accounting offers a broad base of accounting knowledge and prepares candidates for professional business practices. Some Master’s degrees in accounting require a bachelor’s degree in relevant subject matter, while some are offered without any need for prerequisite subject qualifications. The aim of a Master’s degree in accounting is to equip students with theory as well as practical applications of accounting principles and prepare them to handle the work in the field. Some Master’s degrees in accounting come with further specializations such as in taxation, financial analysis, forensic accounting, and compliance etc.


A Master’s degree in accounting also typically fulfills the educational requirements for certified public accountant (CPA) credentials. As of 2019 figures shared by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), accountants and auditors with a Master’s degree can make an average annual salary north of $70,000. However, as a master’s degree is also the first step towards higher professional growth and promotions at the workplace, most accounting graduates make much higher annual salaries than this figure as they approach higher professional ranks such as manager or financial controller.

What is the way Forward after Obtaining a Master’s Degree in Accounting?

While some candidates opt to pursue education even after obtaining a Master’s degree, such as a doctorate or another Master’s degree in a relevant field, most candidates choose to join the employment force. A master’s degree in accounting is an excellent starting point for both these options.

It prepares aspiring PhD candidates with necessary yet comprehensive knowledge of the subject. Many reputable positions such as professor, public policy researcher, analyst or consultant may require a PhD in Accounting and a Master’s degree is the perfect start for that journey.

For further education, Master’s in accounting degree holders can opt for accounting certifications as well, such as certified management accountant or certified public bookkeeper.

Likewise, it also enables graduates to hunt and land high-paying jobs, prove competitiveness in the field, and also qualify for a CPA exam. There are a number of direct Accounting jobs that become a possibility after attaining Master’s degree in accounting. Some of these options are:

  • Forensic Accountant.
  • Public Accountant.
  • Auditor.
  • Income Tax Professional.
  • Financial Accountant.
  • Management Accountant.

How to Get a Master’s in Accounting?

Different educational institutions have different admission requirements, but most accredited Master’s programs in accounting need a bachelor’s degree in the relevant specialization, or at least in generally accounting subjects. Some programs may allow admission of graduates from different educational backgrounds but most institutions are likely to require some extra courses to be cleared before offering proper admission.

Different universities offer Master’s degrees of different durations, but a typical master’s degree in accounting may take up to two years for regularly enrolled students. Some institutions offer programs that are of 18 to 20 months duration as well. Part-time candidates or students enrolled in online programs may have to spend longer than this to complete their coursework and obtain the degree.

Community colleges usually have lower tuition fees, and distance learning may also allow for a more cost effective way for obtaining a master’s degree. However, since Master’s degrees are inherently a professional level degree, the best programs are usually offered at universities that hold regional accreditation from Council for Higher Education Accreditation agencies.

Moreover, in addition to bachelor’s in accounting or some associate degree qualifications, most reputed Master’s programs also have admission requirements of GPAs (usually 2.75 to 3.0 range minimum), as well as GMAT scores (usually above 500 minimum).

What to Expect While Pursuing a Master’s degree in Accounting?

After a candidate has proven fulfillment of prerequisite requirements, a master’s in accounting degree typically requires 30 credits, which takes one to two years. However, other requirements as part of the coursework, such as internships or thesis, may prolong the duration of the program. (Thesis is rarely a coursework requirement in Master’s in accounting degree programs).

The coursework of a master’s in accounting degree is heavily intensive towards accounting based subjects and may include courses like advanced financial accounting, fraud auditing, accounting information systems, international accounting and accounting ethics etc.

Some universities allow students to take courses all year round, while some offer specific courses in only one or two semesters per year. Candidates need to check these details for different institutions they are considering for enrollment.

What Kinds of Master’s in Accounting Degrees are Available?

A Master’s degree is a preparatory tool for different types of jobs, which means that different types of master’s degrees act as specialized heat-guided missiles offering learning and skills development towards specific qualifications and professions. Some of the options may include:

  • Master’s in Accounting or Master of Accountancy.
  • Master of Science in Business Administration in Accounting.
  • Master of Business Administration in Accounting.
  • Master of Science in Accounting.

Many candidates wonder about the difference between a Master’s degree (MA) and a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) in accounting. Here are the outlines for both options to assist prospective students in making the choice between them:

    • Duration:Both MA and MBA in accounting typically take 1 to 2 years.
    • Skill Development:MA in accounting prepares candidates with organization, communication, IT, and technical financial skills; MBA prepares students towards risk management, financial decision making, and leadership roles.
    • CPA exam preparation:Both MA and MBA in accounting pave the way for taking CPA exams.
    • Courses:MA typically involves coursework around federal taxation, financial instruments, financial accounting etc; MBA usually has courses like business strategy, business analysis, financial reports, taxation, and financial accounting.
    • Possible career paths:MA graduates usually opt for jobs like public accountant, management accountant, forensic accountant, auditor etc; MBA degree holders are usually seen as business consultants, chief operating officers, management analysts, financial managers etc.

Can a Master’s Degree in Accounting be Obtained Online?

As has already been explained, a Master’s degree is inherently a professional qualification. This means that a majority of candidates pursuing a master’s in accounting degree have either already joined the profession or are actively seeking to join the workforce. Therefore, most reputed institutions offer online Master’s in accounting programs to facilitate candidates in continuing their studies without needing to take a sabbatical from their careers.

Even for students enrolled full-time, online education offers multiple advantages such as a flexible schedule and lower costs. However, self-study and maintaining consistency is easier said than done for most students. Therefore, it is recommended that candidates choose between distance learning and regular classes after taking a trial test of online learning.

Accredited Master’s Programs in Accounting

It is incredibly important to pay attention to the accreditation status of the institutions offering master’s degrees in accounting before enrollment. An institution that is accredited – either regionally or nationally – meets the eligibility requirements as defined by independent accrediting agencies. Regional accreditation is considered more valuable in the higher education community.

Some of the renowned regional accreditation agencies are the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, the New England Commission of Higher Education, and the Higher Learning Commission. Other reliable accreditation agencies include names like the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education, the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs, and the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.

How to Select the Best Institution for a Master’s Degree in Accounting?

A Master’s degree is a major educational qualification that requires a lot of time, effort, and financial and other resources. Therefore it is important that candidates do a thorough research for good institutions and also keep their program choices in line with their career goals.

Some students fare better in distance learning, while some perform better when mentorship and peer learning are available. Similarly, some candidates will benefit more through an accelerated program, while some will find their learning and performance improve best in part-time enrollment.

It is also important to consider different strengths offered by different universities, such as educational reputation, choice of subjects, affordability, degree requirements, and so on.