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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 North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chapel Hill, NC
2 University of Washington Seattle, WA
3 University of Florida Gainesville, FL
4 University of Virginia Charlottesville, VA
5 University of Georgia Athens, GA
6 University of Notre Dame Notre Dame, IN
7 University of Maryland - College Park College Park, MD
8 Vanderbilt University Nashville, TN
9 North Carolina State University Raleigh, NC
10 University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Champaign, IL

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Top Accounting Programs and Schools of 2020

Rank Logo School Name Type Accreditation Description Quick Facts

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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

The University of North Carolina prepares students to enter the field of accounting in just one year. The master's degree in accounting caters to students with and without backgrounds in accounting.

Core courses provide students without prior accounting coursework with a strong theoretical foundation that is built upon as students progress through the program. Students with prior academic experience in accounting can quickly advance through the degree with reduced curriculum requirements.

Core courses focus on accounting, finance, and professional development training which includes topics on leadership, ethics, and communication. Electives range from courses in law and governmental accounting to economics and negotiations.

The master's of accounting degree provides students with the opportunity to study abroad as part of its global immersions experience. Students have traveled to Shanghai, London, and Istanbul where they interacted with business executives and learned from leaders of the world's largest companies.


University of Washington

Public NCCU
1400 NE Campus Parkway
Seattle, WA
(206) 543-2100

UW's Michael G. Foster School of Business offers a master's in accounting program that emphasizes modern concepts, such as big data, financial statement auditing, and recent changes to tax law. Students learn from industry leaders at firms like Amazon, Costco, Deloitte, and Microsoft. Graduates gain the credits and experience necessary to take Washington's CPA exam.

The program only admits new students in the fall. To qualify, applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited postsecondary institution, provide official GMAT scores, and demonstrate good communication, managerial, and analytical skills through two personal essays. Prospective students must also submit a resume and three professional references.

UW's accounting master's program students may choose tracks in auditing or assurance. Learners take courses in a synchronous format and must complete an independent project and an internship before graduating. The program also includes courses in communication, accounting ethics, and assurance regulation.

The Foster School, located in Seattle, is accredited by AACSB International.


University of Florida

Public SACS/CC

Gainesville, FL
(352) 392-3261

University of Florida's Fisher School of Accounting, part of the Warrington College of Business in Gainesville, FL, offers a 34-credit master's in accounting degree designed for individuals with strong accounting backgrounds. Students are not required to choose a concentration, however, students who are interested can specialize in auditing or taxation. Graduates are eligible to sit for the Uniform CPA exam in Florida.

Prerequisite coursework includes intro to financial accounting and managerial accounting, calculus, macroeconomics, federal income tax, and auditing. UFL houses the International Center for Research in Accounting and Auditing, which aims to increase the student's and faculty's global visibility. Many students enroll in the schools 3/2 five-year program, which combines a BSac with the MAcc degree. Applicants must have a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0 and a minimum GMAT score of 550. GRE scores are not accepted.


University of Virginia

Public SACS/CC
1827 University Avenue
Charlottesville, VA
(434) 924-0311

UVA, located in Charlottesville, Virginia, offers one of the best accounting master's programs in the Southeast, and the degree can be completed in nine months. The 30 credit master's in accounting is available in two tracks: financial reporting and assurance or tax consulting. Students who choose the financial reporting and assurance concentration complete five courses that focus on topics such as accounting policy, data management, and financial trading.

Students also complete four electives and a tax course. Course electives provide students with a broad foundation in areas including behavioral decision making and information technology. The tax consulting concentration includes courses in tax strategy and tax research. Students of this track take financial and accounting courses and are equipped with a variety of skills. Students have the opportunity to participate in the program's international accounting experience that features global coursework and a spring break trip to London.


University of Georgia

Public SACS/CC
Administration Building
Athens, GA
(706) 542-3000

University of Georgia's Terry College of Business, the first business school in the south, offers one of the best accounting master's programs in the country. The program offers three specializations: audit, taxation, and audit systems. The curriculum consists of 12–18 credits of foundational courses in risk assessment, legal and regulatory environments, microeconomics, and more. Students are required to take three to six credits of accounting electives and six to 12 credits of MBA electives.

The school's Career Center partners with the MAcc department to help connect students to potential positions at prestigious companies. UGA boasts an impressive job placement rate of 99%. All applicants are required to submit GMAT scores. Financial aid is available in the form of graduate assistantships and out-of-state tuition waivers (for one year).


University of Notre Dame

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

The University of Notre Dame offers a master's of accounting that can be completed in one year.

The 30-credit program is available in two tracks: assurances and advisory services and tax services. Both tracks prepare students for careers in public accounting or corporate finance. Students are required to complete core courses in financial management or policy, negotiation, and taxes and business strategy. Students who choose the assurances and advisory services track take courses such as applied investment management, behavioral finance, and corporate banking.

The tax services track exposes students to topics in tax including personal financial planning and state and local taxes. Graduates have a 99% placement rate within three months of graduation, and students can participate in a two-week study abroad experience in China or South America. Applicants must possess a foundation in business and have an accredited bachelor's degree.


University of Maryland - College Park

Public MSCHE

College Park, MD
(301) 405-1000

University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business offers a master's of science in accounting that covers compliance, financial reporting, internal auditing, fraud prevention, IT security, taxation, and more. Students in this program can choose to specialize in tax, internal audit, financial regulation, or public accounting. Located in the District of Columbia area, the school boasts highly trained, top-ranked faculty.

Students are encouraged to complete internships during the course of their studies. Prerequisites include undergraduate coursework in managerial and financial accounting with a minimum grade of "B". Students may only begin this program in the fall semester. Transfer credits are not accepted into this program. Applicants are not required to submit GRE or GMAT scores, however, it is recommended. Applicants are automatically considered for financial aid in the form of graduate assistantships and scholarships.


Vanderbilt University

Private (Non Profit) SACS/CC
2101 West End Avenue
Nashville, TN
(615) 322-7311

Vanderbilt University's master's of accounting is an accelerated program that can be completed in 12 months. Graduates have a 100% placement rate and are prepared to pass the CPA exam. The MAcc assurance degree is 37 credits; the program begins in August and concludes the following summer.

The degree consists of four modules and CPA exam preparation. Courses offered include managerial finance, business ethics, and taxation of business entities. Students receive professional development training and a leadership assessment that reveals strengths and weaknesses. A licensed executive coach facilitates collaborative peer-group work to help students improve leadership skills.

Students have the opportunity to participate in a paid internship during the third module that can pay more than $10,000. Students are assisted in finding an internship site at a location of their choice; many students have received full-time employment offers from internship firms.


North Carolina State University

Public SACS/CC
2101 Hillsborough Street
Raleigh, NC
(919) 515-2011

Students in NC State's Jenkins master of accounting program benefit from a combination of rigorous classroom learning and practical experiences that prepare them for a variety of careers in both public and private sectors. Students move through the program's one-year coursework quickly while preparing to take the state's CPA licensing exam.

This master's in accounting degree includes tracks in enterprise risk management, information technology, and tax strategy. Students may also opt to study abroad in Prague, lead financial literacy classes on campus, and take part in internships with the region's top financial professionals.

To apply, prospective students submit their undergraduate transcripts, GMAT scores, a personal statement, three letters of recommendation, and a resume. Eligible applicants must hold a bachelor's degree in accounting, business, finance, or related field from an accredited college or university.

The Poole School of Management, which houses the university's accounting master's program, is accredited by AACSB International.


University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

601 E John Street
Champaign, IL
(217) 333-1000

The University of Illinois Gies College of Business offers a fully online master's in accounting degree known as iMSA. The program focuses on technology, complex data analytics, financial reporting, and audit and control to prepare students for the challenges and needs of businesses, organizations, and government agencies worldwide. The 32-credit program prepares students for the Illinois CPA exam.

Eligible applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university with a minimum 3.0 GPA and some undergraduate coursework in business and accounting. The program also requires GRE or GMAT scores and at least three years of professional experience with demonstrated career progression.

The accounting master's degree includes 16 eight-week courses and usually takes between 18 months and three years to graduate. Core courses include account analysis, managerial accounting, and federal taxation, with electives focused on topics like data analytics, advanced financial reporting, and statistical analysis.

The Gies College of Business is accredited by AACSB International.


Wake Forest University

Private (Non Profit) SACS/CC
1834 Wake Forest Road
Winston Salem, NC
(336) 758-5000

Students enrolled in Wake Forest University's master's of accounting program can specialize in assurance services, financial transaction services, or tax consulting.

Each concentration is 30 credits and can be completed in two semesters. The assurance services track includes courses in auditing and forensic accounting. The financial transaction services track is unique to the university and focuses on financial management and business analysis. The tax consulting track prepares students for careers in tax services, and topics include tax policy and research methods. Students begin coursework in August and receive CPA exam preparation prior to graduation in May.

A semester-long paid internship is available to students who wish to gain onsite experience during tax season. Graduates of the master's in accounting have held the leading national CPA exam pass rate 13 times, and 100% of students have found employment by graduation. The program is open to students of all academic backgrounds, and almost a third of students are non-accounting majors.


University of Michigan - Ann Arbor


Graduates of the University of Michigan's master's of accounting program have some of the highest CPA exam scores in the nation, and the program's coursework prepares students to pass the test and quickly pursue careers. Nearly 100% of graduates find employment within three months of graduation.

The master's in accounting can be completed in eight months and shares a curriculum with the university's MBA program. This format provides students with a broad range of knowledge and skills that prepare them for a variety of careers. The core curriculum focuses on topics in accounting and finance, and students choose from a number of electives to complete course requirements.

Many students choose nonbusiness electives to enhance their degree. Electives include peacebuilding, efforts at health care reform in the U.S., and international trade policy. Students receive many opportunities to network with alumni.


Rice University

Private (Non Profit) SACS/CC
6100 S Main
Houston, TX
(713) 348-0000

Rice University, located in Houston, Texas, features a master of accounting degree through the Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business. The program features an expedited option that allows students to graduate in as few as 10 months and prepares learners to sit for the Texas State Board of Public Accountancy licensing exam. Typically, students take classes from August through May, with the exam occurring the following summer.

Program courses focus on federal taxation, financial futures, advanced managerial accounting, and business law for accountants. Students also participate in four one-week intensive learning units on auditing regulation, accounting control, judgement and decision making, and fair value accounting.

All applicants must hold at least a bachelor's degree and submit a current resume, along with three personal essays focused on the student's career goals, ethics, and passion for accounting. Non-Rice undergraduates and alumni must also provide GRE or GMAT scores and two evaluations from professors, supervisors, or colleagues.


The University of Texas at Austin

Public SACS/CC
110 Inner Campus Drive
Austin, TX
(512) 471-3434

The master's in professional accounting from the University of Texas is open to students with and without academic backgrounds in the field. Students with an undergraduate degree in accounting complete 31 credits to meet degree requirements. Learners from other academic areas complete four additional courses that provide them with a foundation in business and accounting theories and practices.

Four concentrations are available: financial reporting and assurance, managerial accounting and control, taxation, and generalist. Each track consists of 18 credits, and the generalist track allows students to choose from several electives to customize their degree. The master's of accounting core curriculum includes a unique distinguished speaker lyceum that allows students to learn from distinguished accounting professionals and business leaders from the community. Topics focus on current issues faced by professionals.

Students complete introductory courses in assurance services and taxation and are familiarized with information technology's role in the field.


University of Southern California

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

The University of Southern California's master's degree in accounting is 30 credits and consists of five core accounting courses, a communication course, and four electives.

Core courses emphasize professional development, and topics include professional responsibilities, ethics, and fair value accounting. Electives include forensic accounting and mergers and acquisitions. The master's of accounting program admits 22% of applicants, and students come from diverse academic backgrounds including economics, finance, and social sciences. Admitted students have an average GMAT score of 640 and a 3.5 undergraduate GPA. Graduates have a high placement rate, with 97% of domestic graduates finding employment shortly after graduation.

The average starting salary for graduates of the program is $60,000. The program provides students with a global understanding of accounting, and upon completion of the global accounting experience course, students have the opportunity to travel to China or the United Kingdom.


Boston College

Private (Non Profit) NEASC/CIHE
140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill, MA
(617) 552-8000

Graduates of Boston College's master's of accounting program possess technical knowledge in the areas of auditing, strategic cost management, and financial statement analysis.

The program's first-time CPA exam pass rate is 82.5%, while the national average is 55%. The average student GMAT score is 685, and 18% of students come from accounting backgrounds. The program admits approximately a quarter of its applicants, and students without accounting training begin coursework in the summer in order to meet prerequisite course requirements. The curriculum consists of 30 credits, and students can take up to four courses in non-accounting electives.

Students are required to complete 10 hours of community service as part of the university's commitment to its Jesuit heritage. Learners are mentored by the program's faculty who have academic interests in crash risks, audit markets, and international accounting.


University of Wisconsin - Madison

500 Lincoln Dr
Madison, WI
(608) 262-1234

University of Wisconsin's master's in accounting degree, designed for individuals with little experience or background in accounting, is a 54-credit, two-year, full-time program. The curriculum combines fundamental and technical skills with ethics and professionalism to prepare students to sit for the CPA exam.

The first year consists of 24 credits with courses in taxation, financial reporting, and business law. The second year is made up of 30 credits of courses in financial statement analysis, advanced assurance services, cost management, and a capstone course. Students must take between four and six electives in non-accounting, business-related areas; students can choose to concentrate on taxation. Learners are encouraged to complete a summer internship in order to gain hands-on experience in the field and build their professional networks.

Prerequisites include an introduction to financial accounting course; this course can be taken after being admitted.


The University of Texas at Dallas

Public SACS/CC
800 West Campbell Road
Richardson, TX
(972) 883-2111

UT Dallas students can enroll in an online master's in accounting degree, with the exception of 15 hours that the Texas State Board of Public Accountancy requires students to take on campus. The program prepares graduates for the state's CPA exam and qualifies them for licensure.

Students in this accounting master's program encounter classes focused on managerial accounting, cost accounting, auditing, and taxation. In a tax research course, students explore the various legal authorities relevant to individual and business taxpayers, giving them the tools to assist with sound tax planning and compliance matters.

Some students may fast track up to six hours of their UT Dallas-based undergraduate accounting coursework toward their master's degree, allowing them to graduate earlier. The program also offers cohort and flex models, with the latter enabling students to move through coursework at their own pace.

Applicants must provide undergraduate transcripts, GRE or GMAT scores, a letter of recommendation, a resume, and a personal goals statement.


University of Pennsylvania

Private (Non Profit) MSCHE
34th & Spruce Street
Philadelphia, PA
(215) 898-5000

The University of Pennsylvania's master's in accounting is part of the school's MBA program. The two-year degree integrates theories of accounting, finance, and economics to prepare students for careers in a variety of business settings.

The accounting major includes a foundational course in financial accounting that covers in-depth economic principles. An accelerated version of the course that can be completed in six weeks is available to students who have an academic background in financial accounting. Course material is taught in several formats, including case studies that help students grasp cost management concepts and issues in financial reporting. The core curriculum includes courses in marketing, ethics, and operations.

Students gain skills in leadership and teamwork, and graduates are prepared to take the CPA exam. Students have access to several professional development opportunities, including student-led conferences, networking forums, and employer information sessions.


CUNY Bernard M Baruch College

Public MSCHE
One Bernard Baruch Way (55 Lexington Ave at 24th St)
New York, NY
(646) 312-1000

CUNY's Baruch College, located in New York City, offers MS and MBA accounting degrees through its Zicklin School of Business. Both programs prepare students to take the New York CPA licensing exam.

The 36-credit MS program emphasizes finance, economics, advanced accounting, financial statement analysis, and business taxation. It also features credit waiver options for students with equivalent courses as undergraduates. The MBA program, meanwhile, includes 34 credits and emphasizes foundational and functional skills related to accounting's role in business operations. MBA students may enroll full time or take evening classes only.

Eligible applicants to both master's in accounting programs must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university. They also must provide GRE or GMAT scores, two letters of recommendation, a resume, and two personal essays.

The Zicklin School of Business is accredited by AACSB International. Both accounting master's programs fulfill the requirements of the Institute of Management Accountants and the Institute of Internal Auditors.


Clemson University

Public SACS/CC
201 Sikes Hall
Clemson, SC
(864) 656-4636

Clemson University offers a 30-credit master of professional accountancy degree. The downtown Greenville, South Carolina, location gives students many internship opportunities.

Clemson boasts strong networking opportunities through local organizations and college-sponsored events. The curriculum consists of eight core courses, two specialization courses, and four, no-credit CPA courses. The school offers an audit and a tax track. CPA exam review is integrated directly into the curriculum so that students may sit for all four parts of the exam prior to graduation.

Prerequisites include 30 credits in business coursework and 18 credits in upper-level accounting coursework. Students can begin in either the fall or spring semester. Applicants are accepted on a rolling basis. Financial aid is available in the form of scholarships, fellowships, assistantships, and student loans.


Michigan State University


East Lansing, MI
(517) 355-1855

Michigan State's Eli Broad Graduate School of Management features a 30-credit MS in accounting program at the university's East Lansing campus. The program includes concentrations in taxation, information systems, and public and corporate accounting, allowing students to customize their accounting master's degree based on their career goals.

One of the more rigorous courses, U.S. taxation of multinational transactions, explores the various regulations and compliance issues connected to transactions of American citizens living outside the country.

Minimum admission requirements include a bachelor's degree from an accredited postsecondary institution with a GPA of at least 3.0, along with basic knowledge of spreadsheets, database management systems, and networking. Applicants must submit two letters of recommendation, a video essay, and GMAT or GRE scores. Incoming students may begin the program in the fall, spring, or summer terms.

The master's degree in accounting equips students with the skills, knowledge, and credit requirements to sit for the Michigan CPA licensing exam. The Eli Broad Graduate School is accredited by AACSB International.


Texas A&M University

Public SACS/CC
805 Rudder Tower
College Station, TX
(979) 845-3211

Texas A&M, located in College Station, offers a master's degree in accounting that prepares students to work for the Big Four accounting firms of Deloitte, EY, KPMG, and PwC.

In the program's assurance services and information management track, students explore business and accounting practices from a consulting and planning perspective. Students may also move ahead with the tax consulting and financial planning track, which focuses on the taxation of different business entities and how it affects decision making. Both tracks require 37 credits and most students graduate in two years.

To qualify for admission, prospective students must hold a bachelor's degree and achieve a 550 GMAT score or a 302 GRE score. Undergraduate or graduate transcripts must reflect intermediate accounting, business computing, and micro- and macroeconomics courses.

The master's in accounting program gives students the knowledge and credit hours necessary to take the Texas CPA licensing exam. Texas A&M Mays Business School is accredited by AACSB International.


Virginia Tech University

Public SACS/CC
210 Burruss Hall, 800 Drillfield Dr.
Blacksburg, VA
(540) 231-6000

The Department of Accounting and Information Systems at Virginia Tech offers a 30-credit master's of accounting and information systems program that's designed for students with many different backgrounds.

Students have the option of specializing in audits, financial services, information systems, or tax. Students with a demonstrated strong background in accounting can complete the degree in 12–18 months. Learners without accounting or business administration backgrounds can complete the degree in around two years.

Prerequisites include principles of financial and managerial accounting, macro and microeconomics, calculus and matrices, statistics, and business law. Students can begin this program in the spring, summer, or fall semesters. While applicants are required to submit GMAT scores, students with GPAs of 3.5 or higher are eligible to receive a GMAT waiver.


Brigham Young University

Private (Non Profit) NCCU
Main Campus
Provo, UT
(801) 422-4636

Brigham Young offers a master's in accounting that covers everything from principles of accounting and business law to tax research, financial statement analysis, and fraud prevention and detection. Students in this program have the opportunity to concentrate in professional accounting or tax. Learners who choose the professional accounting track will focus on refining their technical abilities and research skills.

Students who choose the tax track will study corporate taxation; property transactions; local, state, and international tax; and more. The program is designed for students who have a bachelor's in accounting or a business-related degree. Applicants must have completed some pre-management and pre-accounting coursework. They are also required to submit a minimum GMAT score of 650. Financial aid is available in the form of scholarships, assistantships, and student loans. Electives include human resource management and leadership.

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%

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.