Top Online Master’s in Accounting Programs 2021

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An MBA and a master’s in accounting separately fulfill the educational requirements for the certified public accountant (CPA) exam. However, each program prepares graduates for unique professional opportunities. Students who earn an MBA often graduate with a breadth of knowledge applicable to broad business arenas such as operations, marketing, or management. Graduates with a master’s in accounting, on the other hand, develop in-depth knowledge of specific areas such as taxation, forensic accounting, and risk management.

Accounting graduates enter a well-paying field. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports a 2019 median salary of $71,550 for accountants and auditors, much higher than the median salary for other occupations ($39,810).

How Much Do Accounting Majors Make?

The BLS reports a 2019 median salary of $71,550 for accountants and auditors. Accounting firms and agencies providing tax preparation, payroll, and bookkeeping services hire the highest number of accountants (33.41%) followed by oil and gas extraction companies (5.94%), and investment firms (5.38%).

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FAQs

  • What can you do with a master's in accounting?

    A master’s in accounting prepares graduates to sit for the CPA exam and qualifies them for positions like financial analysts, company controllers, and forensic accountants, among others.

  • Is a master's in accounting or MBA in accounting better?

    A master’s in accounting prepares graduates to work in fields directly related to accounting such as auditing or corporate taxation. Individuals who prefer to pursue a more general business career in marketing or operations should consider an MBA.

  • How long is a master's in accounting?

    Most accounting master’s programs require 30-36 credits for completion and typically take 12-18 months to complete. However, factors such as part-time versus full-time enrollment often impact the length of time to complete a master’s in accounting degree.

  • Is a master's in accounting hard?

    Yes, some of the best accounting master’s programs demand rigorous work. However, graduates often report that the professional and personal rewards of earning a master’s in accounting outweigh the challenges inherent in a well-designed program.

Best Online Master’s Degree in Accounting 2021

  1. Georgia Southern University
    Location

    Statesboro, GA

    Tuition

    $15435

    A public university located in Statesboro, Georgia Southern offers an online master of accountancy. Graduates can sit for the CPA exam. Learners can complete all coursework online in an average of two years.

    Students complete six core courses in accounting and law, including current legal issues, tax research, fraudulent financial reporting, and seminar in auditing. In addition to core courses, students choose 12 credits of electives to help direct their studies towards career goals.

    The school allows students to transfer up to six credits from previous accredited coursework toward their degree. Applicants need a bachelor's degree in any field to qualify for admission, but applicants without an accounting degree may need to complete prerequisites before starting. The school does not require students to submit standardized test scores.

    Georgia Southern is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The school also boasts programmatic accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.

  2. University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
    Location

    Edinburg, TX

    Tuition

    $4319

    Located in Brownsville, UTRGV offers an accelerated online master of accountancy. Students complete coursework in seven-week increments and can finish in about one year. Graduates can sit for the CPA exam.

    Degree-seekers choose from one of two concentrations: auditing or taxation. Learners from both tracks take four required courses: advanced accounting, business law for accountants, information technology for accounting, and professional ethics. From there, students complete a four-course series for their chosen track and choose electives to satisfy degree requirements. A final capstone allows students to demonstrate skills mastery and collaborate with peers.

    Applicants need a bachelor's degree and must send GMAT test scores to apply. The school offers a waiver for applicants who already possess a CPA license or a 3.25 GPA in undergraduate or past graduate work.

    UTRGV holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  3. Emporia State University
    Location

    Emporia, KS

    Tuition

    $13670

    Located in Emporia, Kansas, ESU offers an online master of accountancy. Most students finish in as little as one year and can begin at one of the program's six yearly start dates. Graduates can sit for the CPA exam.

    The 30-credit program includes required courses such as advanced management accounting, advanced accounting information systems, accounting theory, and advanced auditing. From there, students choose electives in a variety of subjects, such as government, fraud, or information systems.

    Applicants need an undergraduate degree with a minimum GPA of 2.65 in the last 60 credits of coursework to qualify for admission. The program requires GMAT scores but offers waivers to students who show significant work experience, candidates with a business bachelor's degree and a GPA of 3.5, or students who already possess a master's degree in any field.

    ESU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. The school also possesses programmatic accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.

  4. Mississippi College
    Location

    Clinton, MS

    Tuition

    Unconfirmed

    A private Baptist college located in Clinton, MC offers an online master of accountancy. Students can complete the 30-credit program in about two years. Graduates can sit for the CPA exam.

    Learners begin with courses such as a survey of financial accounting, business finance, and business statistics. Accounting courses include intermediate accounting, federal tax accounting, government accounting, and business law and ethics. The program has no on-campus requirements and focuses solely on accounting's foundational and advanced skills.

    Applicants need a bachelor's degree with a minimum GPA of 2.25 and GMAT scores to apply for the program. Students with a 3.0 GPA or higher may waive the standardized test requirement. The program allows students to take up to one semester of coursework before submitting sufficient GMAT scores.

    MC holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The school also earned programmatic accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.

  5. Southern Utah University
    Location

    Cedar City, UT

    Tuition

    $14702

    Located in Cedar City, SUU offers an online master of accountancy. The curriculum offers 30 credits for accounting students but includes foundational courses (72 total credits) for students new to the field.

    Degree-seekers must complete four required core courses: taxes for pass-through entities, auditing, practice and theory seminar, and accounting ethics seminar. The program offers elective courses, and learners can choose from topics like corporate tax, property transactions, or forensic accounting. Learners may also choose an internship for hands-on experience at an approved location near them.

    Applicants need an undergraduate degree in any field to apply for the program. Students without an accounting degree must take foundational prerequisite courses.

    SUU holds regional accreditation from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

Why Get a Degree in Accounting?

Accountants who decide to pursue a master’s in the field give several different reasons for their decision. Many cite the five benefits of earning a master’s in accounting listed below.

Prepare for CPA Exam
A master’s in accounting includes coursework that prepares graduates for the exam’s four sections, namely, auditing and attestation, business environment and concepts, regulation, and financial accounting and reporting.
Job Requirement
Large companies and organizations usually prefer graduates with a master’s in accounting for top accounting or finance positions. They rely on their knowledge and training to make timely, cost-effective, and future-oriented financial decisions.
Enhance Professional Credibility
A master’s in accounting presents the holder as a learned, ethical, and committed professional possessing the analytical skills to help companies make informed business decisions in keeping with current regulations governing their industry.
Keep Industry Knowledge Current
A well-designed master’s in accounting includes courses that cover the latest research findings, practical applications, and regulatory changes that impact the accounting arena.
Qualify for Higher Salary
Industries often pay accountants with master’s degrees higher salaries because they know these professionals hold high qualifications and possess the training to make sound financial decisions for their business.

Master’s in Accounting Program Requirements

Applying for a master’s in accounting typically requires applicants to hold a bachelor’s degree in the field itself — or a related arena such as business or finance. Most programs require applicants with an undergraduate degree in an unrelated field of study to complete prerequisite coursework prior to enrolling. Many accounting master’s programs also require a minimum GPA (often 3.0 or higher) and the submission of GRE or GMAT scores from tests taken no more than five years from the time of application.

Culminating requirements for accounting master’s programs differ among schools. Most institutions require candidates to write a thesis. Some colleges prefer candidates to complete a capstone project tackling a real-world accounting problem or situation.

Accreditation and Online Colleges

Master’s in Accounting Specializations

A broad field of study, accounting supports several specialization areas for accountants who prefer to focus their practice in a specific arena that holds their professional or personal interest, such as the four described below.

  • Financial Accounting

    The financial accounting specialization involves the preparation of financial statements that reflect a company’s overall fiscal performance. Companies often present these statements to external stakeholders, including investors, creditors, and customers.

  • Forensic Accounting

    Using a variety of accounting and investigative techniques, forensic accountants perform a thorough financial examination of an individual or business. These findings often appear in court or legal proceedings.

  • Tax Accounting

    Accountants specializing in tax accounting prepare tax returns for individuals and companies, determine deductible expenses, calculate gains and losses against income and profit, and generally track the movement of funds.

  • International Accounting

    Accountants specializing in international accounting use the guidelines provided in the International Financial Reporting Standards to evaluate and determine the financial standing of a foreign company or individual.

Courses in an Accounting Master’s Program

A master’s in accounting usually requires 30-36 credits for completion. Curricula often include foundation and concentration courses, with many programs requiring enrollees to complete an internship experience prior to graduation. To prepare graduates for high-level analytic work, most schools also require students to enroll in research, communication, and writing classes. Continue reading for a sample of classes offered by some of the best accounting master’s programs today.

Accountants use the skills developed in a data analytics class to accomplish a variety of tasks, including identifying areas that require attention to enhance efficiency. Knowing how to interpret big data allows accountants to manage risks better and to make sound long- and short-term business decisions.

A federal income tax course covers topics such as gross income, tax-deductible expenses, and applicable tax regulations for employees and self-employed filers. Students examine existing federal tax structures for individuals, and corporations learn how to complete key components of federal tax returns and identify and implement tax-related strategies to benefit clients.

In an advanced financial accounting class, enrollees study topics such as fixed assets and liabilities, acquisitions and investments, and shareholder equity. Students examine the different components of cash flow statements and learn how to critically evaluate and prepare them. The course also teaches students about various accounting methods and how to apply them.

Scholarships for Accounting

Many colleges and universities offering master’s degrees in accounting maintain scholarship and fellowship programs for students. Other sources of accounting scholarship opportunities include professional associations, nonprofit organizations, and public corporations with vested interests in the field. The three scholarships presented below make up only a small sample of funding opportunities available to students pursuing an accounting degree at an accredited college or university.

  • AICPA John L. Carey Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants welcomes applications for this scholarship from students pursuing a master’s in accounting and CPA licensure. Eligible applicants hold a liberal arts or a non-business degree.

    Amount: $5,000

    See Scholarship

  • EFWA Moss Adams Foundation Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: The Educational Foundation for Women in Accounting welcomes applications from minority women returning to school as college juniors or seniors or as a graduate student. Eligible applicants demonstrate financial need and commitment to pursuing a career in accounting or finance after graduation.

    Amount: $1,000

    See Scholarship

  • Ritchie-Jennings Memorial Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners welcomes applications for this scholarship from graduate students pursuing a degree in accounting, business administration, finance, or criminal justice. Eligible applicants take at least six credits per term and demonstrate a commitment to pursuing a career in the anti-fraud field after graduation.

    Amount: $1,000-$10,000

    See Scholarship

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