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 an online master's degree in accounting develop in-depth knowledge of specific areas such as taxation, forensic accounting, and risk management.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects accountant and auditor jobs to grow 7% from 2020-2030, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations. This page highlights the best online master's in accounting programs, popular questions, and salary data.
How Much Do Accounting Majors Make?
Accounting degree graduates enter a well-paying field, but salary varies by location and employer. The BLS reports that accountants and auditors earn a median salary of $73,560 per year, much higher than the median salary of $41,950 for all occupations.
Accountants and auditors working in Washington, D.C., New York, and New Jersey earn the highest annual salaries. However, the cost of living is higher in these locations. Masters in accounting graduates working in the finance and insurance sectors earn a median salary of $78,600 annually. The top 10% of accountants and auditors earn over $128,000 per year.
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Popular Questions About Master's Degrees in Accounting
An accounting master's degree online prepares graduates to sit for the CPA exam. The degree also qualifies students for positions like financial analyst, company controller, and forensic accountant.
A master's in accounting prepares graduates to work in fields directly related to accounting, such as auditing or corporate taxation. Learners interested in a general business career in marketing or operations should consider an MBA.
Most online master's degrees in accounting require 30-36 credits for completion and typically take 12-18 months to finish. However, factors such as enrollment status often impact the degree's completion time.
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 in a well-designed program.
Best Online Master's Degrees in Accounting 2021
Why Get a Master's Degree in Accounting?
Accountants who decide to pursue a master's in the field give several reasons for their decision. Many cite the five benefits of earning a master's in accounting listed below.
An online master's degree in accounting includes coursework that prepares graduates for the exam's four sections. These sections include auditing and attestation, business environment and concepts, regulation, and financial accounting and reporting.
Large companies and organizations usually prefer graduates with an accounting master's degree for top accounting or finance positions. Graduates rely on their knowledge and training to make timely, cost-effective, and future-oriented financial decisions.
An online master's accounting degree presents the holder as a learned, ethical, and committed professional. It shows that the individual has the analytical skills to help companies make informed business decisions in keeping with current regulations governing their industry.
A well-designed accounting master's program includes courses that cover the latest research findings, practical applications, and regulatory changes that impact the accounting arena.
Industries often pay accountants with master's degrees higher salaries because these professionals hold high qualifications and have the training to make sound financial decisions.
Online Master's in Accounting Program Requirements
A master's in accounting program online typically requires applicants to hold a bachelor's degree in the field or a related arena such as business or finance. Most programs require applicants with an undergraduate degree in an unrelated field to complete prerequisite coursework before enrolling. Many accounting master's programs also require a minimum GPA (often 3.0 or higher) and GRE or GMAT scores no more than five years old.
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 addressing a real-world accounting problem or situation.
Master's in Accounting Specializations
A broad field of study, accounting supports several specialization areas for accountants. Students can select a specialization of interest to focus their studies, such as the four described below.
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.
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.
Accountants specializing in tax accounting prepare tax returns for individuals and companies. They determine deductible expenses, calculate gains and losses against income and profit, and track the movement of funds.
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
An online master's degree 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 before 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.
Accountants use the skills developed in a data analytics class to accomplish various tasks, including identifying areas that require attention to enhance efficiency. Knowing how to interpret 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. They learn how to complete key components of federal tax returns and identify and implement tax-related strategies to benefit clients.
Federal Income Tax
In an advanced financial accounting class, enrollees study fixed assets and liabilities. They learn about acquisitions and investments and shareholder equity. Students also examine the components of cash flow statements and learn how to critically evaluate and prepare them. The course teaches students about various accounting methods and how to apply them.
Advanced Financial Accounting
Scholarships for Accounting
Many colleges and universities offering master's degrees in accounting have 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 comprise only a small sample of funding opportunities available to students pursuing an accounting degree at an accredited college or university.
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.
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.
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.