Written By Kathleen Swed
BEST MASTER'S

Master's in accounting degrees serve students interested in industry careers in fields such as accounting, auditing, taxation, and financial management. U.S. accountants and auditors make a median annual salary of $70,500 and can anticipate employment growth of 6% -- 90,700 new positions -- by 2028, according to 2018 Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projections.

To stay current with this evolving field, the following information includes an updated list of the nation's top master's in accounting programs. Use this information to choose your accounting master's program more wisely.

The Top 10 Master's in Accounting Programs

Rank School Location
1 University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA
2 Northwestern University Evanston, IL
3 University of Southern California Los Angeles, CA
4 Washington University in St Louis Saint Louis, MO
5 Vanderbilt University Nashville, TN
6 University of Michigan-Ann Arbor Ann Arbor, MI
7 Rice University Houston, TX
8 University of Notre Dame Notre Dame, IN
9 University of Rochester Rochester, NY
10 Emory University Atlanta, GA

See more schools


Top Accounting Programs and Schools of 2020

How We Rank Online MBA Programs

Want to know how we create our rankings? We assess schools based on affordability, academic quality, student success and online flexibility.

Quality (35% of total score)

Quality schools are those with a low student-to-faculty ratio and high retention rates of returning freshmen, that ideally also offer a wide range of specialized accounting programs.

Affordability (15% of total score)

When weighting affordability, a low net price and high percentage of students receiving financial aid were particularly important, though a low percentage of graduates defaulting on their student loans also factored in.

Online Flexibility (15% of total score)

Schools with a high percentage of fully online graduate students ranked highest for online flexibility, but consideration was also given to those with a good percentage of students enrolled partially online in hybrid programs.

Student Success (35% of total score)

When calculating student success, the metrics of a high graduation rate and a high 20-year net present value (i.e., a student's ROI on their tuition 20 years later) were weighted equally.
Rank School Name Type Accreditation Description Quick Facts
1

University of Pennsylvania

Private MSCHE
Address
34th & Spruce St
Philadelphia, PA
19104
(215) 898-5000

Located in Philadelphia, Penn offers an MBA in accounting through its famed Wharton School. An Ivy League institution, the Wharton School is the oldest collegiate business school in the world. Academic standards are incredibly high, as are student success outcomes.

The 19-unit accounting master's degree takes two years to complete and prepares graduates to sit for the certified public accountant (CPA) exam. Core requirements for the MBA include fundamentals of financial accounting and accelerated financial accounting. The accounting concentration explores relevant topics such as cost management, financial reporting and business analysis, financial disclosure analytics, and taxes and business strategy.

Applicants must submit GRE or GMAT scores. The application also requires an essay and resume. Over 92% of Wharton School graduates secure full-time employment within six months of graduation.

Penn is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

2

Northwestern University

Private NCACS/THLC
Address
633 Clark St
Evanston, IL
60208
(847) 491-3741

Located in Evanston, Illinois, Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management offers an MBA in accounting. Kellogg was the first school to establish a one-year MBA program, and the school provides an array of global learning opportunities, including study abroad programs and local experiences with international businesses.

The two-year program features nine core courses and four electives in accounting. The MBA curriculum examines accounting for decision-making, business strategy, marketing management, and business analytics. The accounting concentration requires coursework in managerial accounting, financial planning for mergers and acquisitions, and financial reporting and analysis. Students can also receive course credit for field studies, in which they help an outside organization solve a business problem.

Applicants must hold an accredited bachelor's degree and submit an application, essays, a resume, and GRE or GMAT scores. Additionally, candidates may undergo an interview. Approximately 98% of Kellogg School graduates secure job offers within three months of graduation.

Northwestern holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.

3

University of Southern California

Private WASC/SCUC
Address
University Park
Los Angeles, CA
90089
(213) 740-2311

Located in Los Angeles, USC's Marshall School of Business offers a master of accountancy that consistently ranks among the best programs in the country. The accounting program includes courses in professional responsibilities in accounting, advanced enterprise systems and technologies, auditing and assurance services, and fair value accounting. Students can also participate in a global learning experience, which includes travel to China.

Depending on their academic background, students can complete the program in 9-12 months by taking 30-48 credits. Those without an undergraduate degree in accounting begin the program with a 15-credit summer intensive centered on accounting principles and practice.

Applicants must submit GRE or GMAT scores, along with a personal statement and resume. The application offers the opportunity for students to include an additional essay and video. Students with a minimum GPA of 3.5 may qualify for a standardized test waiver.

USC holds regional accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission.

4

Washington University in St Louis

Private NCACS/THLC
Address
One Brookings Dr
Saint Louis, MO
63130
(314) 935-5000

WUSTL's Olin School of Business offers a 33-credit master of accounting that students can complete in as little as two semesters. The program requires 16.5 credits of core requirements, nine credits of accounting electives, and 7.5 credits of other electives. The program hosts a comprehensive orientation session to begin each student's journey at the university.

Program requirements include business analysis using financial statements, financial accounting, auditing, and accounting policy and research. Elective options include courses such as strategic cost analysis, information technology control and audit, fraud prevention and internal controls, and tax and business strategy.

Applicants must hold an accredited bachelor's degree and submit transcripts, a resume, an essay, and GRE or GMAT scores.

WUSTL holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.

5

Vanderbilt University

Private SACS/CC
Address
2101 West End Ave
Nashville, TN
37240
(615) 322-7311

Located in Nashville, Tennessee, Vanderbilt's Owen Graduate School of Management offers a 33-credit master of accountancy. The one-year program allows students to select a specialization in either assurance or valuation.

Required courses include business ethics in accounting, engagement communication, managerial finance, financial reporting, and managerial strategy and analysis. The Becker CPA review course makes up the final nine credits of the program.

Applicants must submit transcripts, essays, and a resume. Vanderbilt prefers GMAT scores, but applicants may submit GRE scores. All students must complete prerequisite course requirements in financial accounting, managerial or cost accounting, microeconomics, and statistics. Applicants must complete prerequisite courses in an in-person format through a program accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.

Vanderbilt's master's degree in accounting program boasts a 100% post-graduation employment rate. The school holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

6

University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

Public NCACS/THLC
Address
503 Thompson St
Ann Arbor, MI
48109
(734) 764-1817

Through the Stephen M. Ross School of Business, U-M offers a 30-credit master of accounting that incorporates cross-disciplinary electives to give learners a well-rounded education. Students can complete the accelerated program in eight months. The program's curriculum emphasizes CPA exam preparation.

Participants begin the program with an intensive symposium, which incorporates a trip to Washington, D.C. Core course requirements include federal taxation, corporate financial research and reporting, and information systems design. Elective options include cost systems, international tax, and partnership tax.

Applicants must submit transcripts, a resume, essays, and GRE or GMAT scores. U-M requires an interview prior to admission. Prerequisite course requirements include principles of financial accounting, principles of managerial accounting, intermediate financial accounting, microeconomics, and statistics.

100% of U-M's master of accounting graduates secure employment within three months of completing the program.

U-M holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.

7

Rice University

Private SACS/CC
Address
6100 S Main St
Houston, TX
77005
(713) 348-0000

Located in Houston, Texas, Rice's Jones Graduate School of Business offers a 36-credit master of accounting. A 10-month program designed to prepare participants for the CPA exam, the program runs in a cohort-based structure.

Students complete coursework in financial reporting, financial statement analysis and valuation, federal taxation, accounting theory, and accounting and data analytics. Rice features a distinguished speaker series, which invites seasoned professionals to give informative lectures to enhance students' experience.

Applicants must submit a resume, essays, and GRE or GMAT scores. Prerequisite requirements include financial accounting, issues in financial reporting, and auditing. Rice reports a 98% post-graduation employment rate for alumni who graduated between 2017 and 2019.

Rice is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

8

University of Notre Dame

Private NCACS/THLC
Address
400 Main Building
Notre Dame, IN
46556
(574) 631-5000

Located in Indiana, ND offers a 30-credit master of science in accountancy that students can complete in just 10 months, including an opportunity for a two-week international study in China, South America, or South Africa. The program focuses on CPA preparation. Participants may select concentration options in assurance and advisory or tax services.

The core assurance and advisory concentration explores advanced assurance services and topics in accounting measurement and disclosure. The tax services concentration features cutting-edge courses in taxes and business strategy and tax research.

Applicants must submit a resume, a slide presentation, an essay, and GMAT scores. Prerequisite requirements include accountancy I and II, measurement and disclosure I and II, strategic cost management, audit and assurance services, and federal taxation. Students lacking prerequisites may enroll in ND's accounting immersion program.

In 2019, 100% of ND's master of science in accounting graduates accepted job offers within six months of completing the program. ND holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.

9

University of Rochester

Private MSCHE
Address
500 Joseph C. Wilson Blvd
Rochester, NY
14627
(585) 275-3221

Rochester's Simon Business School offers a 39-credit master of science in accountancy with available internship and non-internship tracks. The curriculum prepares graduates for the CPA exam. Participants can finish the program within one year.

The curriculum includes core courses in basic business law, programming for analytics, basic federal income tax accounting, and managerial accounting and performance measurement.

Applicants must submit an essay, a resume, and GRE or GMAT scores. Required prerequisites include three credits of financial accounting, 2.5 credits of accounting electives, three credits of economics, three credits of finance, 18.5 credits of business electives, 30 credits of liberal arts and sciences, and 51 credits of free electives.

Rochester boasts a 100% employment rate within four months of graduation. The school holds regional accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

10

Emory University

Private SACS/CC
Address
201 Dowman Dr
Atlanta, GA
30322
(404) 727-6123

Located in Atlanta, Georgia, Emory's Goizueta School of Business offers a two-year MBA with a concentration in accounting. Students can participate in spring study abroad opportunities, leadership training at the U.S. Army Base of Fort Benning, or other leadership opportunities. The program also incorporates a professional internship.

Accounting elective options include courses such as managerial accounting and control, financial statement analysis, advanced financial accounting, and federal income taxation. Applicants must submit a resume, essays, and GMAT or GRE scores. Emory may require an interview as part of the admission process.

Emory reports that 97% of its MBA graduates reported job offers within three months of finishing the program. Emory holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

11

Lehigh University

Private MSCHE
Address
27 Memorial Dr W
Bethlehem, PA
18015
(610) 758-3000

Located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Lehigh's College of Business offers a 30-credit master of science in accounting and information analysis. Students can complete the program within one year. The curriculum combines accounting and technology to help learners solve business problems. Available concentrations include finance, economics, management, information systems, accounting, and marketing.

Core course requirements include IT auditing, the corporate financial reporting environment, and forensic accounting and auditing. Students take 12 credits of electives in their chosen specialty area or to strengthen their general knowledge.

Applicants must submit an essay, a resume, and GMAT scores. Prerequisite course requirements include intermediate accounting I and II, accounting information systems, fundamentals of accounting, cost accounting, and fundamentals of federal income taxation. Those without a background in business must take economics, statistics, financial accounting, managerial accounting, legal environment, supply chain, management, and intro to information systems.

Lehigh is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

12

Case Western Reserve University

Private NCACS/THLC
Address
10900 Euclid Ave
Cleveland, OH
44106
(216) 368-2000

Located in Cleveland, Ohio, CWRU offers a 30-credit master of accountancy that features a professional track and a STEM-focused analytics track. The one-year program prepares learners to take the CPA exam.

Core course requirements include advanced financial reporting, advanced federal taxes, advanced auditing theory and practice, and analysis of contemporary accountancy issues. The professional track explores accounting information systems, as well as corporate reporting and analysis. The analytics track examines probability and statistics, as well as predictive modeling.

Applicants must hold an accredited bachelor's degree and submit essays, a resume, and GRE or GMAT scores. Prerequisites include financial accounting, managerial accounting, intermediate financial reporting I and II, auditing, U.S. taxation, U.S. business law, and Excel applications and auditing. Students may complete prerequisites during the program.

CWRU holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.

13

Villanova University

Private MSCHE
Address
800 Lancaster Ave
Villanova, PA
19085
(610) 519-4500

Located in Pennsylvania, Villanova's School of Business offers a 30-credit master of accounting with data analytics. The curriculum focuses on CPA credentials and provides an overview of business topics and accounting principles. Full-time students can complete the program in one year.

Villanova's master's in accounting features courses in leadership, negotiations, advanced topics in financial disclosure and fraud, risk management and performance measurement, and valuation issues in accounting.

Applicants must submit a resume and two essays. Villanova does not require standardized test scores, but applicants may submit GMAT scores if they wish. Prerequisite requirements include intermediate accounting I and II, federal income tax, and auditing.

Villanova holds regional accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

14

New York University

Private MSCHE
Address
70 Washington Sq S
New York, NY
10012
(212) 998-1212

Located in Manhattan, NYU's Leonard N. Stern School of Business hosts the Vincent C. Ross Institute of Accounting Research, which conducts large-scale research projects on topics of interest to accountants and financial professionals. Students can complete the school's CPA-focused master of science in accounting in one year.

NYU's program requires courses in advanced managerial accounting, auditing, financial reporting and disclosure, foundations of corporate finance, modeling financial statements, and taxation of individuals and business income. All students attend orientation before beginning the program. Courses run in a cohort-based model.

Applicants must submit an essay, professional information, and GRE or GMAT scores. Depending on academic history, some students may qualify for a standardized test waiver.

NYU's accounting graduates report a median starting salary of $74,900 after finishing the program. NYU holds regional accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

15

Tulane University of Louisiana

Private SACS/CC
Address
6823 St. Charles Ave
New Orleans, LA
70118
(504) 865-5000

Located in New Orleans, Tulane's Freeman School of Business offers a 30-credit master of accounting that students can complete in as little as 10 months. Available concentrations include analytics, energy, entrepreneurship, risk management, strategic and innovation management, structured finance, and taxation.

Core requirements include ethics in accounting and finance, auditing, advanced financial accounting, business law, and principles of entity taxation. The master's in accounting focuses on preparing students to take the CPA exam.

Applicants must submit an essay, a resume, and GRE or GMAT scores. Prerequisite course requirements include financial accounting, managerial or cost accounting, and intermediate accounting I and II.

Tulane graduates boast post-graduation employment with several top companies, including IBM, Pfizer, CapitalOne, and the Walt Disney Company. Tulane holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

16

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Public SACS/CC
Address
103 South Bldg Cb 9100
Chapel Hill, NC
27599
(919) 962-2211

UNC-Chapel Hill's Kenan-Flagler School of Business offers a master of accounting designed for students with fewer than 12 undergraduate credits in accounting. Concentration options include tax, audit, and financial analysis and reporting. Students can complete the program in as little as one year, and the curriculum focuses on CPA preparation.

The master's degree in accounting requires courses in financial reporting, introductory finance, managerial and cost accounting, federal income tax, and data analytics for accountants. Students begin the program with an orientation and leadership immersion experience.

Applicants must submit an essay, a resume, and GMAT or GRE scores. UNC-Chapel Hill's master of accounting graduates report a 98% employment rate within three months of finishing the program.

UNC-Chapel Hill holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

17

Boston College

Private NECHE
Address
140 Commonwealth Ave
Chestnut Hill, MA
02467
(617) 552-8000

BC's Carroll School of Management offers a one-year master of science in accounting. Students with a background in accounting can complete the program in 30 credits. Those without undergraduate experience in accounting can finish in 39 credits.

Core requirements for both tracks include taxes and management decisions, financial statement analysis, and assurance and consulting services. Students without a background in accounting take courses such as economics, information systems, business law, financial accounting practice, and federal taxation.

Applicants must submit an essay, a resume, and GRE or GMAT scores. According to the school, 94% of BC's accounting graduates report that they secured a job within three months of completing the program. BC holds regional accreditation from the New England Commission on Higher Education.

18

Wake Forest University

Private SACS/CC
Address
1834 Wake Forest Rd
Winston-Salem, NC
27106
(336) 758-5000

Located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Wake Forest's School of Business offers a 30-credit master of science in accountancy. Specialization options include assurance services, tax consulting, and financial transaction services. Students can complete the program in two semesters.

Required courses include data analytics and communication, introduction to analytics, and strategic cost management. Students may take foundational summer courses prior to beginning the program, such as principles of financial accounting, introductory statistics, and introductory tax. The program offers an optional paid internship semester.

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

19

William & Mary

Public SACS/CC
Address
200 Richmond Rd
Williamsburg, VA
23187
(757) 221-4000

Located in Williamsburg, Virginia, W&M's Raymond A. Mason School of Business offers a 30-credit master of accounting with available concentrations in academic research auditing and assurance, taxation, and valuation and advisory services. Participants may also explore a focus area during W&M's winter field experience program. Students can complete the program in one year.

Required courses include professional accounting, derivatives and risk management, and tax research and current topics. The curriculum prepares students to take the CPA exam.

Applicants must submit GMAT scores and complete an interview prior to admission. Roughly 90% of W&M's master's in accounting graduates secure employment before leaving the program.

W&M holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

20

Creighton University

Private NCACS/THLC
Address
2500 California Plaza
Omaha, NE
68178
(402) 280-2700

Located in Omaha, Nebraska, Creighton's Heider College of Business offers a 33-credit master of accounting. As a part of the CPA-focused program, students participate in co-curricular activities related to professional or service organizations.

Course requirements include advanced managerial accounting, advanced auditing, current issues in the accounting profession, and advanced financial accounting.

Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree in a related field with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Students with a lower GPA must submit GMAT scores. Prerequisite course requirements include external financial reporting issues, managerial accounting for decision-making, principles of taxation, auditing, and accounting information systems.

Approximately 99% of Heider Business School alumni report securing full-time employment within six months of graduation. Creighton holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.

21

George Washington University

Private MSCHE
Address
1918 F St NW
Washington, DC
20052
(202) 994-1000

Located in Washington, D.C., the GW School of Business offers a 30-credit master of accountancy that allows learners to network with businesses in the nation's capital. Full-time students can complete the CPA-focused program in as little as nine months. Part-time students can finish in 21-60 months.

Course requirements include intermediate accounting I and II, cases in management accounting I and II, and contemporary auditing theory. Students without a background in accounting must take financial accounting, introductory managerial accounting, microeconomics for the world economy, and introduction to business and economic statistics.

Applicants must hold an accredited bachelor's degree and submit a resume, a statement of career objectives, and GRE or GMAT scores. Students with a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.25 may qualify for a standardized test waiver.

GW holds regional accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

22

University of Virginia-Main Campus

Public SACS/CC
Address
1827 University Ave
Charlottesville, VA
22903
(434) 924-0311

Located in Charlottesville, UVA's McIntire School of Commerce offers a 30-credit master of science in accounting that full-time students can complete in nine months. The program offers concentrations in financial reporting and assurance, and tax consulting.

Required courses for both tracks include accounting policy, data management and analytics for accountants, leading for success in the accounting profession, and communicating effectively as accounting professionals.

Applicants must hold an accredited bachelor's degree. Students with a GPA lower than 3.5 must submit GMAT scores. Prerequisite course requirements include financial accounting, managerial accounting, intermediate accounting I and II, U.S. federal taxation, and auditing.

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

23

Loyola Marymount University

Private WASC/SCUC
Address
One LMU Dr
Los Angeles, CA
90045
(310) 338-2700

Located in Los Angeles, California, LMU offers a 30-credit master of science in accounting that focuses on preparing students for the CPA exam. Full-time students can complete the program in as little as nine months, while those studying part time can finish in 18-36 months.

Required courses include financial reporting, taxes and business strategy, advanced auditing, and accounting ethics, professionalism, and the public interest.

Applicants must hold an accredited bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA. LMU requires GRE or GMAT scores for admission. Prerequisite course requirements include financial accounting, cost or managerial accounting, accounting or management information systems, intermediate accounting I and II, taxation, and auditing.

LMU holds regional accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission.

24

Drexel University

Private MSCHE
Address
3141 Chestnut St
Philadelphia, PA
19104
(215) 895-2000

Located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Drexel's LeBow College of Business offers a 45-credit master's in accounting. Full-time students can complete the program in as little as one year. Students may also elect to study on a part-time basis. The program offers minor study areas in business analytics management, finance, taxation, computational data science, and applied data science.

Required courses include accounting analysis and theory, international financial reporting, law for the CPA, assurance service, and current issues in the accounting profession. Designed for students with a background in accounting, the curriculum prepares participants to take the CPA exam.

Applicants must submit an essay, a resume, and GMAT or GRE scores. Drexel prefers GMAT scores. Drexel accounting alumni work for companies such as Comcast, Ernst and Young, and JPMorgan.

Drexel holds regional accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

25

Drake University

Private NCACS/THLC
Address
2507 University Ave
Des Moines, IA
50311
(515) 271-2011

Located in Des Moines, Iowa, Drake's College of Business and Public Administration offers a master of accounting that focuses on CPA preparation and data-driven leadership. Credit requirements and program duration depend on each student's individual academic background.

Required courses include tax research and planning, seminar in auditing, and leading with data. Students without a background in business and accounting must take foundational courses such as accounting information systems, intermediate accounting I and II, and individual taxation.

Applicants must submit a resume, an essay, and GRE or GMAT scores. Depending on academic history, some students may qualify for a standardized test waiver.

Drake's College of Business and Public Administration reports a 98.2% accomplishment rate among its graduate school alumni, which includes alumni engaged in relevant employment or further academic studies.

Drake holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.


Should I Get a Master's Degree in Accounting?

Disciplined, detail-oriented students with analytical and mathematical aptitude often excel in accounting programs and careers. Graduates of accounting master's programs can qualify for many positions, including public accountant, corporate accountant, government accountant, and tax examiner. Some graduates continue their education and work as researchers or academics. Students may pursue accounting degrees for any of the following reasons:

  • Certified Public Accountant Licensure

    New accounting professionals often pursue this degree as preparation for CPA licensure. Master's programs in accounting typically meet the educational credit hour requirements for taking the CPA exam and provide the accounting, analytical, and technological skills CPAs need.

  • Career Advancement or Transition

    Professionals seeking career advancement or transition may enroll in accounting master's programs with concentrations relevant to desired industries or roles. Accounting professionals interested in senior positions typically pursue master's degrees.

  • New Skills

    Accounting programs focus on key practices and skills in core accounting areas such as forensic, public, auditing, and government accounting. Students also learn cost analysis and financial regulation applications helpful in business decision-making.

  • Academic Career Preparation

    An accounting master's degree can prepare students for the doctoral degree often needed for teaching or research careers in business.

Keep in mind that master's degrees in accounting have various titles based on their intended purpose and student demographic. Master of science (MS) in accounting and master of accountancy (MAcc) programs typically serve students with bachelor's degrees in accounting-related subjects, while master of professional accounting (MPAc) and master of business administration (MBA) in accounting programs may accept students with other academic backgrounds.

What Can You Do with a Master's in Accounting?

Master's degrees in accounting can lead to diverse roles in various industries, so as you research master's programs, look for curriculum concentration options relevant to your career interests and aspirations. Accounting master's program graduates may find work with accounting firms, government entities, and other organizations in public and private sectors. Common entry- and mid-level jobs include tax examiner, accountant, or auditor. More experienced professionals may qualify to become financial advisors or financial managers.

These careers often require professional licensure, so if you intend to pursue a high-level career, choose a master's program that prepares you for licensure examinations in certified public accounting, certified management accounting, or certified internal auditing.

Accountant or Auditor

Accountants and auditors help clients comply with tax laws and financial regulations by organizing and reviewing financial statements, calculating taxes, and completing tax returns. These professionals also may provide guidance on financial operations, bookkeeping, and accounting processes.

Median Annual Salary: $70,500

Projected Growth Rate: 6%

Budget Analyst

Institutions consult budget analysts for their advice regarding best practices for organizing finances. Budget analysts analyze data and budget proposals, create reports, and make corresponding funding suggestions.

Median Annual Salary: $76,220

Projected Growth Rate: 4%

Financial Analyst

Sometimes called investment or securities analysts, financial analysts advise clients on how to invest money. They often work for banks, financial firms, and insurance companies.

Median Annual Salary: $85,660

Projected Growth Rate: 6%

Personal Financial Advisor

These professionals assist individual clients with investment and insurance decisions and help them plan for major life expenses such as college tuition or retirement.

Median Annual Salary: $88,890

Projected Growth Rate: 7%

Financial Manager

Financial managers oversee organizational finance activities. These professionals monitor high-level financial planning activities, conduct data analysis, create reports and plans, and advise top executives.

Median Annual Salary: $127,990

Projected Growth Rate: 16%
LEARN MORE ABOUT MASTER'S DEGREES IN ACCOUNTING

How to Choose a Master's in Accounting Program

Good accounting master's programs typically reside at higher education institutions with regional accreditation agencies approved by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Nationally accredited programs also meet educational requirements established by state accounting licensure boards and by the federal government. However, regionally accredited schools garner more respect, and programs typically only recognize degrees and credits from schools boasting similar (or better) accreditation standards.

To qualify for federal financial aid, you must attend an accredited higher education institution. Keep in mind that high-quality programs sometimes charge higher tuition rates, but may also defray student costs through financial aid, scholarships, and work study. Top accounting programs also frequently hold programmatic accreditation from organizations such as the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, and the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education.

Deciding between degree programs also requires consideration of other practical concerns such as location and delivery format. On-campus programs usually provide better networking and mentorship opportunities, but can cause problems for students who cannot relocate or commute to campus easily. Busy working adults interested in programs at distant schools often opt for online attendance options. Bear in mind that online students need self-discipline and a willingness to use online learning technology.

Hybrid program formats offer the best of both worlds, combining online convenience with the in-person learning benefits gleaned from periodic visits to campus. Before applying to any program, consider carefully whether you can realistically meet on-campus attendance and/or capstone and internship requirements.

How to Get into a Master's in Accounting Program

Decent master's in accounting programs typically require applicants to hold bachelor's degrees from regionally accredited schools. Some programs require an accounting-related bachelor's degree and/or prerequisite coursework in core areas such as taxation and managerial and/or financial accounting. Eligible applicants typically hold 2.75+ GPAs, though more competitive programs often require higher minimum GPAs. Many programs also require a Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) score of 500+.

Professional work experience can also factor into admissions decisions, particularly for MBA in accounting applicants. Executive master's programs require several years of prior accounting work experience, and most MBA programs expect some business-related work history.

Applicants typically complete applications and submit application fees online. Applications often feature a personal essay or statement of purpose, which you should compose and edit carefully ahead of time. Supplementary application materials also usually include official transcripts from all prior schools, official GMAT scores, and two or more letters of recommendation from professional supervisors or teachers.

Request recommendation letters at least several weeks before the application deadline, and if necessary, remind your recommenders to submit their letters. Some programs also require a professional resume demonstrating relevant work experience. Seek help in designing and editing an effective resume.

What to Expect in a Master's Program

Most master's in accounting programs feature similar introductory coursework in auditing, tax law, ethics, and financial reporting. However, the exact nature of the more advanced classes you take, as well as the overall length and cost of your graduate studies, can vary significantly across programs.

Courses in a Master's in Accounting Program

While curricula vary, master's in accounting programs often build on foundational undergraduate coursework in statistics, economics, and finance. If you did not major in accounting or a related field, you may need to take additional introductory classes before enrolling in the more advanced courses listed below.

International Accounting
This course introduces students to the unique laws and policies that guide accounting in the global marketplace. While international accounting standards closely resemble those used in the U.S., many important differences exist. Students may also practice tax preparation for a hypothetical multinational corporation.
Tax Research Methodology
Some master's in accounting programs require students to complete a research-based thesis in order to graduate. This course explores methods for collecting, analyzing, and presenting tax-related research data. It also features an introduction to the rules and procedures associated with representing clients before the Internal Revenue Service.
Situational Ethics in Accounting
Handling an individual or organization's finances often presents ethical challenges with no clear solution. Through a review of policies, case studies, and philosophical theories related to both ethics and justice, this course helps students develop a framework for making more ethical decisions in their professional practice.
Business Law
This course offers a broad overview of business law outside the context of accounting. For example, students learn about employment law, internet law, tort and product liability, and contracts. This multifaceted understanding of legal issues and regulations benefits students who plan to take on leadership roles in financial management.
Accounting Capstone
Offered either in lieu of or in conjunction with a thesis, a capstone course allows students to apply their learning to a real-world accounting issue. For example, students may partner with a local nonprofit organization to conduct an internal audit and make recommendations about how to reduce operating costs in order to provide more services to the community.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Master's in Accounting?

Most master's in accounting programs consist of approximately 30-35 credits. Full-time students in these programs usually earn their degree in about two years, though part-time students may need up to four years to graduate.

If you did not earn a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field, you may need to take up to 15 credits of bridge coursework. These introductory classes often cover topics such as statistics, microeconomics and macroeconomics, and accounting fundamentals. Completing bridge coursework can add up to one year to the overall length of your graduate studies.

On the other hand, if you have completed accounting-related courses or possess significant professional experience, you can sometimes test out of certain classes and earn your degree faster. Many online programs also feature self-paced courses, allowing you to advance through the material as soon as you can demonstrate mastery of a given subject. However, you should exercise caution when considering a self-paced course of study, as some students can become overwhelmed or fall behind without the support of classmates or an instructor.

How Much Is a Master's in Accounting?

Master's in accounting programs differ drastically in cost based on institution and program type, location, and caliber, with master's in accounting programs often costing less than MBA or MS programs. Public universities typically charge much less than private universities, and attending public universities in state often reduces tuition costs significantly.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, public four-year institutions assessed graduate tuition averaging $11,617 for the 2016-2017 academic year. Private four-year institutions charged an average of $24,712 annually.

Remember to consider additional cost-of-living expenses such as housing, transportation, and food costs when choosing where to study. Living on campus often proves more expensive than commuting to campus. However, factor commuting costs into your decision, since regional auto and rail travel costs to urban campuses add up quickly. Consider an online degree option if you live far from your desired school. Online programs sometimes boast lower tuition rates.

Students enrolling in accredited schools may apply for federal financial aid and should fill out a FAFSA, through which the federal government offers low-interest grants and loans to eligible students. Institution, department, or program scholarships and work-study programs may also help cover tuition costs. Eligible students can explore outside scholarships based on financial need and/or merit, and working professionals sometimes receive tuition-reimbursement from their employers.

Certifications and Licensure a Master's in Accounting Prepares For

  • Certified Public Accountant

    Most states require public accountants to hold CPA certification earned by passing the CPA exam. To take the exam, candidates typically need a bachelor's degree and two years of public accounting experience. Many accounting master's programs tailor their curricula to prepare students for this certification exam.

  • Chartered Financial Analyst

    Students and professionals interested in finance and investing positions may need to earn CFA certification. To obtain certification, candidates pass the CFA Institute's three sequential examinations in investment theory, financial accounting, and portfolio management.

  • Certified Management Accountant

    Designed for aspiring accounting and financial managers, CMA certification focuses on strategic financial management, planning, analytics, and performance. Candidates demonstrate competency through the Institute of Management Accountants' two-part CMA exam. Prerequisites include two years of related work history and a bachelor's degree with relevant coursework.


Resources for Accounting Graduate Students

  • U.S. Department of EducationThe ED provides grants, work-study opportunities, and student loans to help students finance their postsecondary education. The department also offers resources on how to identify and apply for state aid and private scholarships.
  • Harvard Business School Working KnowledgeWorking Knowledge acts as a repository for research conducted by Harvard Business School faculty and doctoral students. You can use the site to brush up on subjects such as finance, management, and tax law.
  • Purdue Online Writing LabEven in a field like accounting, students must know how to write well to succeed at the graduate level. Purdue OWL offers tips on writing academic papers and cover letters.
  • NYSSCPA Accounting Terminology GuideThe New York State Society of CPAs built this guide of over 1,000 accounting and finance terms. This accessible listing can serve as an invaluable tool during your graduate education.
  • This Way to CPAThe American Institute of CPAs built this guide for students who want to become certified public accountants. The site provides details on education and experience requirements and hosts resources about preparing for the exam.