Master of Accounting Degree Overview


Updated May 10, 2024

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Master of accounting enrollees may pursue the degree to learn valuable skills and increase career opportunities. Learn about degree benefits, program options, and career paths. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Master's in accounting programs teach advanced accounting principles, tax concepts, and financial regulations. Individuals who wish to further their accounting knowledge and careers can pursue master of accounting degrees.

The accounting industry offers stable and in-demand jobs as almost every field requires accountants to manage financial data. The field has existed for over 8,000 years, dating back to ancient Mesopotamians keeping records of goods and livestock.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the number of master's program graduates has increased annually since 2012. A survey from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants indicates that over 75% of responding institutions expect graduate accounting program enrollment to be the same or higher in 2023-2024 compared to 2021-2022.

This in-depth guide covers the benefits of pursuing an accounting master's degree, explores program options, and details career opportunities. Individuals considering master of accounting programs can learn about prospective education and professional pathways below.

Popular Online Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Why Get an Accounting Master's Degree?

  • Career Opportunities: Bachelor's degree-holders can pursue entry-level accounting jobs, but managerial and specialized roles may require a master of accounting degree. Employers often consider advanced degree-holders as experts in the field, opening up career advancement opportunities. Senior positions may offer higher salaries and increased job security.
  • Specializations: Master of accounting students can pursue programs with concentrations in analytics, taxation, risk management, and more. Enrollees can view available specializations and curricula to find the program that best aligns with their career goals. Experts with niche knowledge can pursue career opportunities in that field.
  • Networking Opportunities: Master of accounting programs may enroll like-minded individuals who can provide advice and connections. Schools may also offer accounting organizations that host conferences, events, and meet-and-greets. Enrollees can also network via internships, which can lead to full-time careers after graduation.

Master's in Accounting Degree Options

Students interested in pursuing master's degrees in accounting can choose from several options. The following list outlines the degree types available to accounting master's students.

Master of Accountancy: Master of accountancy (MAcc) degrees typically provide a broad overview of the accounting profession. Students take core, elective, and foundational courses. Graduates can take the exam for certified public accountants. Other career pathways include forensic accounting, management accounting, and government accounting.

Master of Science in Accounting: Generally, a master of science (MS) in accounting does not differ substantially from a MAcc program. Curricula typically include a broad overview of the accounting profession and various types of accounting. Graduates can pursue careers as forensic accountants, budget analysts, and staff accountants.

Master of Arts in Accounting: MA in accounting programs focus more on the humanities aspect of the field than an MS degree. Attendees may study financial reporting, auditing, and control systems. Common roles for graduates include accounting manager and internal auditor.

Master of Professional Accountancy or Accounting: Master of professional accountancy and accounting degrees tend to be practice-based rather than emphasizing theory. Students take courses in career-relevant areas like fraud examination, internal auditing, and taxation. Graduates can pursue careers in public accounting, fraud, taxes, and forensic accounting.

Master of Business Administration in Accounting: MBA in accounting degrees examine accounting theories and practices, along with business principles, practices, and theories. Graduates with MBAs in accounting can qualify for various business-focused careers, such as management analyst, business consultant, and financial manager. These graduates may take the CPA exam to pursue more traditional accounting careers as public accountants, management accountants, or auditors.

Accounting Concentrations

For those seeking specialized degrees, many master's in accounting programs offer concentrations. Concentrations let students focus their studies on the specific areas of accounting relevant to their career interests and goals. Students who choose concentrations take core classes on top of courses in their specialization.

The number and types of concentrations available vary by program, but typical concentrations include financial accounting, auditing, forensic accounting, and international accounting. Other possible specializations include taxation, accounting information systems, and government accounting. In most cases, concentrations appear on students' diplomas and transcripts after graduation.

Should You Get Your Master of Accounting Online?

Students should consider how pursuing an online master of accounting program may benefit them. Online programs are becoming increasingly popular due to their accessibility, flexibility, and affordability. Accounting programs may be well suited for online learning, as students can learn accounting principles and test them on Excel simultaneously.

While traditional students have geographical restrictions and may need to relocate for out-of-state programs, online students can choose programs across the country. Working students and accelerated attendees may benefit from the flexibility of online programs, allowing them to attend class and finish courses on a customized schedule.

On-campus learning also offers benefits, including the opportunity to network with classmates, professors, and prospective mentors. Individuals that require a personal touch to their learning experience should consider in-person programs.

Interview With an Accounting Professor

Portrait of Dr. Katherine Campbell

Dr. Katherine Campbell

Why did you choose to study accounting? Was it something you were always interested in?

Like many accountants, I did not know anything about the accounting profession when I started college. I was studying art history. Because there are art auction houses, I wanted to know something about auctions.

I needed permission to take a business course, and the dean advised me to take principles of accounting. I found it fascinating — one course led to another, and I ended up with an accounting degree and the opportunity to start my career at a Big Four public accounting firm.

What advice would you give to students considering earning a degree in accounting?

Studying accounting develops business analysis skills, and public accounting firms are typically at the top of lists of best places to start careers. Accountants don't always spend their entire careers working in accounting, so one of the best things about studying accounting is that it is an outstanding foundation for many business careers.

In fact, many successful entrepreneurs have accounting backgrounds. Phil Knight, the founder of Nike, is one example; I recommend his memoir "Shoe Dog" to students.

What advice would you give to students who are trying to decide whether to earn an accounting degree online or on campus?

Both online and on-campus programs can be great options for pursuing an accounting degree. I encourage students to find a program that suits their learning style and supports their career objectives. Regardless of delivery mode, students should do a bit of research to find a high-quality program that has a current curriculum and a track record of success in graduating students who become successful professionals.

What are the benefits of earning a master's in accounting? Are there different benefits for those who want to be professionals in the field vs. academics?

A master's in accounting is an especially good option for students who want to pursue the certified public accountant (CPA) designation. A master's program will help students meet the 150 credit hour requirement to sit for the CPA exam, prepare for the exam, and develop analytic and communication skills that are important for success in accounting careers.

Research shows that in public accounting firms, having a master's degree is associated with more rapid promotion and a greater probability of promotion to partner. While a master's in accounting would benefit those pursuing both professional and academic career paths, most programs have a professional focus.

Studying accounting develops business analysis skills, and public accounting firms are typically at the top of lists of best places to start careers.

From your perspective as an accounting academic, is there anything that you wish would change about the accounting industry? Why or why not?

Like it or not, the accounting profession is changing rapidly due to advances in technology and its application. This creates a dynamic environment with opportunities for innovative thinking and new roles in developing and utilizing technology. While individuals might occasionally find themselves wishing for a slower pace of change, it is an exciting time to enter the accounting profession.

Accounting Jobs and Salaries

Master's-level accounting graduates may have additional career opportunities through fulfilling job prerequisites or developing the knowledge necessary for advanced roles. Degree-holders can pursue many jobs, including forensic accountant, financial controller, and actuary. Certain roles can pay a median salary of over $100,000 throughout the United States, as explored in the following section.

As accounting professionals earn more experience, they may qualify for promotions. Individuals can increase their promotion opportunities by earning advanced degrees or additional certifications.

Forensic Accountant

Forensic accountants analyze financial documents to uncover fraud, embezzlement, and other crimes. They create reports and present findings to their employers. These experts may be asked to testify as witnesses in trials. Individuals can pursue forensic accountant roles at accounting firms, law enforcement agencies, and insurance companies.

Average Annual Salary (May 2024): $77,240

Source: Payscale

Financial Controller

Financial controllers act as companies' lead accountants to oversee financial reporting and budgeting. These experts extract patterns and insights from internal financial data. They can discuss corporate trends and expenditures with management. Companies may expect prospective financial controllers to have accounting, tax, and leadership experience.

Average Annual Salary (May 2024): $93,080

Source: Payscale

Budget Analyst

Budget analysts help create overall budgets for clients and review individual program funding requests. These professionals analyze financial data and recommend changes that can maximize revenue while minimizing costs. Budget analysts also forecast future corporate requirements and budgeting needs.

  • Job Outlook (2022-32): +3%
  • Median Annual Salary (2023): $84,940
Source: BLS


Actuaries use finance, math, and business knowledge to estimate the likelihood and cost of future events. Corporations may hire actuaries to create insurance policies and mitigate the risk of unknown future possibilities. Actuaries may explain their findings and mitigation ideas to non-experts through visual presentations and reports.

  • Job Outlook (2022-32): +23%
  • Median Annual Salary (2023): $120,000
Source: BLS

Continuing Education in Accounting

Each aspiring CPA must complete 150 credit hours of coursework (or equivalent) before obtaining licensure. Bachelor's in accounting programs usually include only 120 credit hours. Master's in accounting programs usually have at least 30 credits, which should fulfill the CPA education prerequisite. Most states have similar requirements but may apply them differently.

States set the requirements for CPA licensure renewals, including continuing professional education (CPE) credits. CPA holders usually require an average of 40 CPE credits annually. CPE enrollees may have class requirements, including completing certain in-person courses.

Master's degree-holders can also pursue other certifications, including chartered financial analyst or certified management accountant. These alternative certifications may require relevant work experience.

An individual can also choose to pursue a Ph.D. in accounting. Most Ph.D. programs require each applicant to hold a master's degree in the field. With a doctorate in accounting, graduates can pursue advanced roles like professor, researcher, and chief financial officer.

Common Questions About Master of Accounting Degrees

How many years is a master's in accounting?

Master's in accounting programs typically take two years for full-time students to complete. Online students who take courses part time may take longer, while accelerated programs can be completed in 1-1.5 years.

Is a master's worth it in accounting?

Individuals interested in learning advanced accounting principles and pursuing high-level career opportunities may find master's in accounting programs worth the time and effort. Graduates may increase their earning potential and standing with prospective employers.

Is an MBA better than a master of accounting?

MBAs and master of accounting programs focus on different topics, which means each degree can be better suited for certain individuals. Students who wish to study marketing, finance, and operations can pursue MBAs, while enrollees interested in taxation, auditing, and accounting can consider master of accounting programs.

Which is better: a CPA or a master's in accounting?

The "better" program aligns with your personal and professional goals. CPA examinees must study accounting principles that all master's candidates likely study. Master's degree enrollees can focus on specific accounting topics and concentrations.

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