A Guide to the Specialized Master’s in Accounting
Welcome to MetroMBA's Master's in Accounting Guide. While not a replacement for a traditional MBA program, a specialized Master’s in Accounting degree is ideal for professionals interested in working in public accounting and earning their CPA. At many top business schools, a Master’s in Accounting is focused on a career in corporate accounting or consulting, providing a strong knowledge base of accounting principles and business applications.
Scroll down to find some of the world's best Master's in Accounting degrees offered by the world's leading business schools: a list that continues to grow year by year. But first, what is a Master’s in Accounting, what does it take to graduate, and what career opportunities are available after graduation?
What is a Master’s in Accounting?
A Master’s in Accounting (MAcc) degree is hyper-focused on accounting. It is designed to prepare students for their CPA examination with a combination of graduate courses in accounting, management, tax, and leadership. The degree is designed for early career professionals with zero to five years of work experience, and want to pursue a career in corporate accounting. Students tend to be younger as previous work experience is not required and many students enter the program directly post-undergraduate school.
The degree dives into both fundamental and advanced subjects in accounting, including subjects such as tax research methodology, advanced auditing, corporate financial management, and ethics in accounting. The goal is to provide students with a deep understanding of the strategic role of accounting in business and society.
Graduates should be well versed in the fundamental concepts of accounting, effective accounting methods, and the knowledge required to pass the CPA exam. They’ll graduate with opportunities at one of the “Big Four” accounting firms (KPMG, Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young) and advanced upper management positions.
Most MAcc programs jump right into accounting-focused curriculum with courses in accounting ethics, auditing, financial statements, tax planning and strategy, and more. However, there may be the opportunity for students to take more specialized accounting and finance courses such as those covering mergers and acquisitions or family wealth preservation.
Typical classes include:
- Corporate Financial Reporting
- Financial Decision Making
- Auditing and Assurance
- Business Taxation
- Financial Statement Analysis
- Business Law
Depending on the program, you may have the option to customize your coursework to a more specific area of finance. For example, you could choose to concentrate your curriculum in:
- Forensic Accounting
- Management Accounting
- Accounting Information Systems
Most Master’s in Accounting programs tend to be shorter, requiring just 12 months to complete all requirements. Other MAcc programs may be slightly longer in length, up to two years, but typically that’s for a part-time program. Programs can be full-time or part-time, residential or online, it all depends on the exact program you choose. No matter the case, it’s typically an intensive and fast-paced program with a busy schedule.
Admissions into a MAcc program can vary based on the business school, but typically requires a high level of excellence in grades and test scores. Applications may consist of:
Applications may consist of:
- Resume (work experience ranges from 0 to 5 years, but averages around 0 to 2 years)
- Essay or Personal Statement
- Letters of Recommendation
- Academic Transcripts
- GMAT or GRE (averaging quantitative scores in the top 80 percent)
At minimum, applicants are expected to have a strong background in accounting, usually an undergraduate degree in accounting. Other common undergraduate majors include finance, business administration, and economics.
The total cost of your Master’s in Accounting program will vary greatly based on the program you select. Tuition ranges from $25,000 to $85,000 for a year plus living expenses. In many cases, funding is available for MAcc students in the form of scholarships, fellowships, employer sponsorship (particularly from a Big Four accounting firm), and teaching assistantships. There are also loans and external financial support sources available.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects employment for accountants and auditors to grow 10.7 percent from 2014 to 2024, with about 142,400 jobs expected. Master’s in Accounting graduates are qualified to work as an accountant or auditor in the private and public sector. They can choose to take on specialized roles in financial analysis and budgeting or more managerial roles.
Graduates often go on to work in public accounting firms or for large financial institutions or government organizations. Potential employers include:
- Ernst & Young
- Grant Thornton
- Rothstein Kass
- Capital Group
- Wells Fargo
- Credit Suisse
- Goldman Sachs
One thing to note is that Master’s in Accounting students typically earn less than MBA graduates, since they tend to have less work experience under their belts and a narrower range of skills. Projected salaries vary based on the exact career field but average around $69,350. The highest paid earn $122,220 while some of the lowest paid earn $43,020. Here’s how that breaks down:
Here’s how the salaries break down in terms of annual median salary (USD):