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Earning a master’s in accounting can lead to a lucrative career as a certified professional accountant (CPA), financial manager, tax examiner, or senior financial advisor.
Beyond CPA exam preparation, a master’s in accounting builds career skills in decision-making, communication, and risk management.
Accounting degrees combine advanced finance coursework and CPA training to qualify graduates for the CPA exam, required for licensure in all U.S. states. Schools commonly offer accounting as a business concentration, which ranked among the most popular college majors for the 2016-17 academic year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Online learners can pursue affordable accounting degrees, with many schools offering in-state tuition rates and accelerated completion times to their distance learners. Accountants and auditors earned a median annual wage of $71,550 as of 2019, with jobs in the field projected to increase by 4% from 2019-2029.
The following sections explore the nation’s most affordable master’s in accounting programs.
What Is Accounting?
Accounting includes recording, interpreting, and reporting business and financial transactions. The practice originated in ancient civilizations, who developed forms of primitive counting and measurement systems, trading terms, and currency.
Many Americans use the terms “accountant” and “CPA” interchangeably, especially regarding common job duties like tax preparation. In 1917, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants developed an exam for CPA licensure. Aspiring CPAs must pass this exam as a requirement to practice professionally and file reports through the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Professional accountants are increasingly invaluable in the workforce. Nearly all businesses require the services of accountants and CPAs. Most accountants work in finance and insurance, government, and management industries. Nearly one-quarter of accountants in the U.S. provide accounting, bookkeeping, tax preparation, or payroll services.
While an MBA can provide accounting students with a broad business education, a master’s in accounting prepares enrollees to pursue CPA licensure for professional practice. Some programs offer specialized study at the master’s level in fields like tax or forensic accounting. Though not required for most entry-level accounting jobs, many employers now prefer candidates with master’s degrees.
Nearly 1.3 million accountants work in the U.S., with particularly high concentrations in California, New York, and Texas. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 4% job growth from 2019-2029 for entry-level and senior accounting positions nationwide. Master’s in accounting graduates qualify for lucrative careers as CPAs, financial managers, and tax examiners.
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Why Get an Affordable Accounting Master’s?
Like any college degree, earning a master’s in accounting requires a significant investment of time and money. Most college students need financial aid.
Some aspiring accountants might wonder whether a master’s in accounting is worth it, but this degree offers comprehensive CPA exam preparation, diverse career opportunities, and high salary potential. Applicants with demonstrated financial need may qualify for the maximum financial aid.
Some of the most affordable master’s in accounting offer set tuition rates and accelerated completion times through online programs. Strong candidates for master’s degrees in accounting include detail-oriented students with math and analytical thinking skills. Learners with graduate-level accounting degrees can pursue:
Diverse Career Opportunities
Many graduates of master’s in accounting programs become CPAs. However, this degree can also lead to roles in finance and management. Graduates become equipped with organizational, analytical, and critical thinking skills, qualifying them for diverse job opportunities.
A master’s in accounting serves a dual purpose by developing advanced accounting skills and preparing enrollees for the CPA certification exam. The most affordable master’s in accounting can help learners save on tuition and additional exam preparation costs.
High Earning Potential
Graduates with accounting degrees can maximize salary potential and return on investment. The BLS reports a median annual wage of $71,550 for accountants and auditors in 2019, with finance and insurance workers among the top earners.
Most Affordable Master’s in Accounting Programs
Our list profiles the 15 most affordable master’s in accounting programs for 2021. We also provide detailed information about each school. Follow the link below to learn how we compile our rankings.
Located at the heart of Texas' capital city, UT Austin maintains an international reputation for academic excellence. Boasting strong community partnerships, the university embraces core values that center learning, leadership, and responsibility.
Housed within the McCombs School of Business, UT Austin's master's in professional accounting (MPA) programs prepare students for professional success. Three months after graduation, 97% of the school's 2020 graduates had received job offers. Students can follow a generalist track or pursue concentrations in financial reporting and assurance, taxation, or managerial accounting and control. They can also earn an internal auditing certificate.
Coursework covers financial accounting, managerial accounting, and legal issues. A distinguished speaker lyceum addresses current issues in the field. UT Austin's traditional MPA accepts applicants with diverse undergraduate backgrounds. The university also offers an integrated MPA for undergraduate business students. Its ECON-MPA caters to undergraduate economics majors.
UT Austin's Affordability
UT Austin's program allows students to complete their studies in as little as one year. Learners with prior accounting coursework can shave four courses from their degree, potentially dropping the credit requirement from 43 to 30.
Program at a Glance
School Type: Public Accreditation: SACSCOC Tuition: $5,919/semester (in state, 15-credit course load); $12,258/semester (out of state, 15-credit course load) Required Credits: 43 credits Program Length: 1 year Delivery Format: On campus Admissions Process: Online application, fee, 2 essays, 2 recommendation letters, resume, transcripts Standardized Tests: GMAT or GRE Application Cost: $125
Known for champion athletics teams, the Florida Gators embrace a mission of academic achievement in pursuit of positive change. Boasting state-of-the-art facilities, UF excels in research and innovation.
Operating within the Warrington College of Business, UF's accounting master's program caters to students with accounting backgrounds. Prerequisite expectations include accounting foundations, calculus, and microeconomics. Students lacking this experience may take preparatory courses through UF.
With concentration options in auditing or taxation, UF's program prepares students to qualify for CPA credentials in Florida. Core coursework emphasizes advanced accounting, accounting regulation, and tax professional research. Degree-seekers must also complete business core requirements in organizational behavior, strategic management, commercial law, and communication.
Florida residents benefit from low in-state tuition rates. Enrollees can browse UF's scholarship search engine for institutional and private awards. The university's affordability-focused resources include a bookstore deferred payment program.
Program at a Glance
School Type: Public Accreditation: SACSCOC Tuition: $12,740/year (in state); $30,134/year (out of state) Required Credits: 34 credits Program Length: 1 year Delivery Format: On campus Admissions Process: Online application with transcripts, personal statement, resume, 3 recommendation letters GPA: 3.0 minimum after 60 credits and for all upper-division accounting courses Standardized Tests: GMAT Application Cost: $30
Located just outside of Sacramento, UC Davis hosts more than 39,000 students across 102 majors. The university emphasizes practical learning and job readiness. Enrollees enjoy access to numerous research, data analysis, and internship opportunities.
UC Davis's master of professional accountancy (MPAc) program prepares degree-seekers from diverse academic backgrounds for accounting careers. Nearly half of its students enter as non-business majors.
Learners benefit from job search assistance through the program's career development team and annual "meet the firms" networking event. UC Davis states that 98% of its MPAc graduates receive job offers within three months of graduation.
Course topics include financial reporting, analysis and use of accounting reports, managerial accounting and control, and auditing and attestation services. Students must complete introductory coursework in financial and managerial accounting, business law, and statistics before entering the program.
UC Davis's Affordability
MPAc candidates can apply for teaching assistantships to help defray their educational costs. The program awards merit-based scholarships to nearly four out of five students and maintains a list of outside scholarships.
Program at a Glance
School Type: Public Accreditation: WSCUC Tuition: $49,824/year Required Credits: 48 credits Program Length: 9 months Delivery Format: On campus Admissions Process: Online application, transcripts, resume, 2 recommendations, essay, personal introduction, virtual interview Standardized Tests: GMAT or GRE (candidates with GPAs below 3.2) Application Cost: $125
UW's three-term accounting program focuses on data analytics and field-relevant technologies. Students develop flexibility and problem-solving skills as they prepare for the Washington CPA exam. Typical courses cover accounting, audit, and insurance regulation; data analytics for professional accountants; and advanced accounting codification research.
An accounting internship allows degree-seekers to build field experience. Before graduation, all students complete an experiential learning project drawing on their internship experience or independent research.
UW's master's in accounting program also features career coaching. Enrollees enjoy networking opportunities with Seattle-based corporations like Starbucks, Amazon, and Microsoft.
UW's full-program tuition offers a low-cost master's in accounting option. The accelerated program prepares degree-seekers to enter the job market quickly. Students may also qualify for institutional scholarships.
Program at a Glance
School Type: Public Accreditation: NWCCU Tuition: $21,999/program (in state); $27,300/program (out of state) Required Credits: 48 credits Program Length: 9 months Delivery Format: On campus Admissions Process: Online application with resume, transcripts, 3 recommendations, 3-minute video essay addressing career goals Standardized Tests: GMAT Application Cost: $85
Founded in 1848, UW promotes the "Wisconsin Idea," which states that education should extend beyond the classroom. Driven by this mission of outreach, the school collaborates with business, medicine, and industry stakeholders to meet statewide challenges.
Designed for enrollees without prior accounting experience, UW's general master of accountancy program prepares graduates to pass the CPA exam. Degree-seekers may pursue a taxation emphasis. This specialized track features courses in advanced financial reporting, partnership taxation, and international taxation.
The program features career advancement resources such as networking receptions, career fairs, and alumni connections. UW also hosts student chapters of the Institute of Management Accountants; the National Association of Black Accountants; and Beta Alpha Psi, an honor society for students pursuing finance careers. Many students participate in a summer internship.
At UW, 40% of accounting master's candidates secure teaching assistantships to help defray their educational costs. Scholarships and graduate assistantships may provide additional financial assistance. Students pursuing paid summer internships typically earn about $6,000-$8,000.
Program at a Glance
School Type: Public Accreditation: HLC Tuition: $21,166/year (in state); $42,703/year (out of state) Required Credits: 54 credits Program Length: 2 years Delivery Format: On campus Admissions Process: Online application, transcripts, 4 essay-question responses, 2 recommendations; some applicants complete admission interviews Standardized Tests: GMAT Application Cost: $75
With the beach just three miles away, CSULB's campus features a beautiful combination of peach trees, artwork, and modern facilities. The university's more than 39,000 students enjoy opportunities for research, creativity, and public engagement.
CSULB's master's in accounting program prepares participants for CPA exams and fulfills educational requirements for licensure. The program caters to students with accounting backgrounds. Enrollees benefit from career coaching, a business mentorship program, and networking opportunities. Program applicants must complete prerequisites in intermediate accounting, federal taxation, and auditing.
Students proceed through the curriculum as a cohort. Course topics include corporate governance and financial reporting, financial statement analysis, taxation of partnerships and S corporations, and forensic accounting. A comprehensive auditing project culminates the degree.
CSULB boasts a low full-program cost of about $18,800 for in-state students and $30,700 for nonresidents. The program offers scholarship and graduate assistantship opportunities. Students pay no fees for orientation events or CPA test-prep materials.
Program at a Glance
School Type: Public Accreditation: WSCUC Tuition: $3,588/term (in state); $3,588/term plus $396/credit (out of state) Required Credits: 30 credits Program Length: 11 months Delivery Format: On campus Admissions Process: Online application, resume, 2 recommendation letters, short-answer essays, video essay addressing personal goals GPA: 2.75 minimum Standardized Tests: GMAT or GRE Application Cost: $70
Columbus-based Ohio State promotes community-driven research, academic achievement, and diversity. The school maintains championship athletic teams, corporate partnerships, and numerous research initiatives.
A STEM-driven accounting program, Ohio State's master's in accounting offers a highly customizable program for students from diverse academic backgrounds. Emphasizing data analytics, the curriculum features courses in financial modeling, software tools, assurance services, and information quality. Enrollees can fulfill accounting prerequisites through a summer seminar before beginning their studies.
Required core courses explore fundamentals of accounting and data analytics, accounting policy and research, financial reporting, and management control. Learners can pursue electives in auditing, taxation, finance, logistics, and other business areas.
Ohio State's Affordability
Ohio State offers a variety of funding options for accounting master's students, including merit scholarships, education assistance scholarships, assistantships, and fellowships. With its low cost of living, Ohio offers an affordable place to study.
Program at a Glance
School Type: Public Accreditation: HLC Tuition: $32,883/program (in state); $57,599/program (out of state) Required Credits: 31 credits Program Length: 9 months Delivery Format: On campus Admissions Process: Online application, transcripts, resume, essay, 2 letters of recommendation, recorded video interview Standardized Tests: GMAT or GRE Application Cost: $60
Located about two hours from Indianapolis, U of I sits on the border between twin cities Urbana and Champaign. The university's campus features a technology research park, renowned performing arts center, and athletics facilities.
U of I's accounting program prioritizes personal attention and customized learning. Students both with and without accounting backgrounds benefit from its data analytics-focused curriculum. In 2019, master's in accounting graduates achieved a 100% domestic job placement rate within three months of graduation. Alumni have found employment at companies such as Deloitte, EY and PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Core requirements include accounting analysis, managerial accounting, auditing, and federal taxation. Students can choose from concentrations such as business and public policy, data analytics, information technology and control, supply chain management, and taxation. U of I also offers a master of accounting science with tracks that include business and public policy, finance, and real estate.
U of I's Affordability
U of I charges the same per-term rate for on-campus students, regardless of residency. Online students, similarly, pay a flat per-credit rate. The program also offers scholarship opportunities.
Program at a Glance
School Type: Public Accreditation: HLC, AACSB Tuition: $850/credit (online); $39,100/year (on campus) Required Credits: 32 credits Program Length: 18-36 months online; 1 year on campus Delivery Format: 100% online or on campus Admissions Process: Online application, transcripts, prerequisite form, resume, personal statement, 2 recommendations GPA: 3.0 minimum for last 2 years of study Standardized Tests: GMAT or GRE (international students only) Application Cost: $70 (domestic students); $90 (international students)
UNC Chapel Hill opened its doors to students in 1795, making it the country's oldest public university. The nickname "Tar Heels" refers to both the university's athletics teams and its more than 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students.
UNC Chapel Hill master's in accounting students can choose between an on-campus degree, designed for enrollees with non-accounting backgrounds, and a flexible online option. Following the same curriculum structure, both programs promote CPA readiness and peer collaboration. Learners can also pursue tax, audit, or financial analysis and reporting concentrations.
Core requirements for UNC Chapel Hill's master's in accounting include courses in accounting systems essentials, advanced spreadsheet modeling, federal income tax, and managerial accounting. The program's robust recruiting process helps 98% of its graduates secure job offers within three months of graduation.
UNC Chapel Hill's Affordability
Featuring flat per-credit tuition rates for its online accounting students regardless of residency, UNC Chapel Hill also boasts competitive fees for its one-year on-campus program. About half of program enrollees receive fellowships of up to $25,000.
Program at a Glance
School Type: Public Accreditation: SACSCOC Tuition: $1,446/credit (online); about $21,000/term (in state, on campus); about $29,000/term (out of state, on campus) Required Credits: 36-48 credits Program Length: 12-36 months (online); 10-12 months (on campus) Delivery Format: 100% online (synchronous) with some in-person requirements or on campus Admissions Process: Choose between online on-campus program, online application, transcripts, 2 recommendations, statement of purpose resume; some applicants undergo an interview Standardized Tests: GMAT or GRE Application Cost: $95
Cal State LA 's mission emphasizes public service, diverse experiences, and community engagement through campus programs like intramural sports and student clubs. Founded in 1947, the university enrolls 26,000 students.
Housed in the university's College of Business and Economics, Cal State LA's master's in accounting program enrolls students with three or more years of professional experience. Specialization options include financial and public accounting, accounting information systems, and taxation. Students can also pursue certificates in areas such as fraud examination and internal auditing.
The curriculum features courses in accounting information systems, auditing, and financial accounting theory. Learners use case studies and research to solve accounting problems. The program also offers networking events and guest lectures. Program participants can join clubs such as the Accounting Society, the Financial Management Association, and the Hispanic Business Society.
Cal State LA's Affordability
Cal State LA features low per-term tuition rates, particularly for in-state students. The flexible program allows students to reduce costs by finishing quickly or continuing to earn a salary while pursuing their degree part time.
Program at a Glance
School Type: Public Accreditation: WSCUC Tuition: $3,588/term (in state); $396/credit additional fee (out of state) Required Credits: 33 credits Delivery Format: On campus Admissions Process: Online application, transcripts, resume demonstrating minimum 3 years of work experience, statement of purpose, 2 recommendation letters GPA: 3.0 minimum Application Cost: $70
A City University of New York institution, Hunter maintains multiple Manhattan campuses and satellite facilities. Embracing its location, the college benefits from New York City's resources and gives back through community service.
Hunter's program prepares students with undergraduate accounting degrees for CPA licensure. The curriculum fosters critical thinking through courses covering research techniques in accounting, advanced auditing, and managerial economics. A capstone research project explores business ethics, communications, and research.
Taking advantage of New York's position as a global financial hub, Hunter connects students with internships at locations such as the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Big Four accounting firms. Weekday evening classes serve working professionals' schedule needs.
Hunter's low tuition rates provide a particular advantage for in-state students who complete the program within the shortest time frame. Out-of-state tuition still represents a competitive option, however, and the flat per-credit rate makes part-time study an equally viable option.
Program at a Glance
School Type: Public Accreditation: MSCHE Tuition: $5,065/term (full time, in state); $425/credit (part time, in state); $780/credit (out of state) Required Credits: 30 credits Program Length: 1 year Delivery Format: On campus Admissions Process: Online application, transcripts demonstrating bachelor's in accounting, statement of purpose, 2 recommendation letters GPA: 2.75 minimum (overall), 3.0 minimum (accounting courses) Standardized Tests: GMAT Application Cost: $75
UGA enrolls over 39,000 students at its Athens campus, about an hour's drive from Atlanta. Known for graduating numerous Rhodes Scholars, the university features diverse attractions including research initiatives, public outreach, and NCAA basketball.
UGA's accounting master of accountancy (MAcc) program prepares degree-seekers to pass the CPA exam. The traditional program admits students who hold a bachelor's in accounting. Additional degree options include an MS/MAcc in financial planning and a dual degree in law and accounting. Students pursuing the traditional MAcc can specialize in audit, taxation, or advisory.
UGA's core curriculum varies by track. Required courses may cover advanced accounting; financial statement analysis; accounting data, risk, and control; and accounting analytics. The university matches students with employers through accounting career fairs, alumni networking opportunities, and on-campus recruitment events.
UGA offers students a variety of financial aid opportunities. Graduate assistantships reduce tuition and include stipends. Out-of-state students may qualify for merit-based tuition reduction. The program also awards scholarships ranging from $500-$5,000.
Program at a Glance
School Type: Public Accreditation: SACSCOC Tuition: $6,339/semester (in state); $14,008/semester (out of state) Required Credits: 30 credits Program Length: 1 year Delivery Format: On campus Admissions Process: Online application, 3 recommendation letters, resume, evidence of bachelor's in accounting, statement of purpose, optional personal statement Standardized Tests: GMAT Application Cost: $75 (domestic students); $100 (international students)
QC's accounting master's program admits students with and without accounting backgrounds. Curricular requirements vary from 30-71 credits depending on students' needs. The program prepares students for public and private sector accounting positions or for accountancy teaching careers.
The accounting core prepares students to obtain CPA credentials in New York. Required courses examine financial accounting theory, advanced auditing theory and practice, communication, and business entity taxation. Students may pursue electives in economics and risk management. Learners with non-accounting bachelor's degrees must complete accounting prerequisites before enrolling in core requirements.
New York residents can take advantage of QC's low per-term tuition cap by enrolling in a full credit load and completing their degree as quickly as possible.
Program at a Glance
School Type: Public Accreditation: MSCHE Tuition: $5,545/term (in state); $855/credit (out of state) Required Credits: 30-71 credits Delivery Format: On campus Admissions Process: Online application, transcripts, 3 recommendation letters, 500-word essay GPA: 3.0 minimum Standardized Tests: GMAT Application Cost: $75
Part of USF's Muma School of Business, the master's in accounting admits students with undergraduate accounting degrees. Learners can study at both the Tampa and St. Petersburg campuses. Concentrations include assurance, corporate, forensic accounting, or taxation. With the guidance of advisors, students can tailor their degree toward Florida CPA licensure.
The six-credit curriculum core addresses financial reporting and professional issues as well as innovation and analytics in accounting. Students round out their studies with a 12-credit concentration and six additional elective credits. All participants deliver an oral presentation as their comprehensive final examination.
USF advertises its affordability with pride, claiming to charge one of the country's lowest tuition rates. The university also offers a variety of scholarship opportunities.
Program at a Glance
School Type: Public Accreditation: SACSCOC, AACSB Tuition: $7,840/year (in state); $15,864/year (out of state) Required Credits: 30 credits Delivery Format: On campus Admissions Process: Online application, transcripts demonstrating undergraduate degree in accountingGPA: 3.0 minimum Standardized Tests: GMAT Application Cost: $30
A member of the State University of New York system, Stony Brook educates students in a small town on Long Island. The university affirms a commitment to quality education, research, leadership, and community.
Designed for students with accounting backgrounds, Stony Brook's degree prioritizes accounting competencies, communication, critical thinking, and professional ethics. In addition to the MS, Stony Brook also offers an MBA in accounting.
The MS program fosters CPA readiness through courses in accounting for the small business entrepreneur, ethics, law, accounting information systems, and forensic accounting. Master's candidates also complete an accounting capstone.
Stony Brook's Accounting Society provides opportunities for community participation and professional development. Students can connect with accounting firms at annual networking events.
Stony Brook's Affordability
Stony Brook's low per-credit tuition rates allow students to pursue a master's in accounting for a competitive price, particularly those claiming New York residency.
Program at a Glance
School Type: Public Accreditation: MSCHE Tuition: $471/credit (in state); $963/credit (out of state) Required Credits: 30 credits Program Length: 2 semesters Delivery Format: On campus Admissions Process: Online application, transcripts demonstrating bachelor's in accounting, 3 recommendation letters, resume, statement of purpose GPA: 3.0 minimum Standardized Tests: GMAT Application Cost: $100
What the Best Cheap Accounting Programs Have in Common
Accounting programs often vary in structure and emphasis, but quality programs typically share characteristics that set them a step above the rest.
They are accredited.
Accreditation ensures that schools adhere to high educational standards. Regional and national accrediting bodies assess the entire institution. Regional accreditation holds schools to the most rigorous standards and leads to a more prestigious credential. All of the schools on our list hold regional accreditation from one of these organizations:
Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
Students seeking a master’s in accounting may also look for programmatic accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).
They offer academic excellence.
Academic excellence encompasses traits like retention rate, graduation rate, and faculty statistics. Retention rate measures the percentage of learners who continue from one year to the next. Graduation rate tracks those who follow the program through to the end. Strong retention and graduation rates suggest that a program delivers positive student experiences. A robust faculty with many full-time professors likewise indicates program strength.
They are reputable.
We measure reputability by assessing the percentage of applicants a school admits and the percentage of admitted students who attend the program. When a school admits a smaller percentage of applicants, the program can tailor its curriculum to the particular student body. We also look at the return on investment, calculated based on graduate salaries after six years.
They are affordable.
Affordability factors include tuition rate after grants and scholarships, percentage of students receiving financial aid, and post-graduation debt. Low student debt and default rates demonstrate that an institution offers favorable tuition rates in comparison to potential earnings. When a large percentage of students receives financial aid, it lowers the school’s overall cost.
Jobs for Master’s in Accounting Graduates
An affordable accounting degree can lead to senior positions in accounting and finance. Many graduates of master’s in accounting programs pursue CPA certification, while others seek employment as financial managers, advisors, or tax examiners.
BLS data indicates a median annual wage of $71,550 and a projected 4% job growth rate from 2019-2029 for accountants and auditors. Financial managers enjoy a 15% projected job growth from 2019-2029 and earn a median annual wage of nearly $130,000.
While most accounting jobs require only a bachelor’s degree, many employers prefer candidates with master’s degrees in accounting or MBAs. A master’s degree may qualify accountants to advance their careers to become senior financial examiners.
Accountants prepare financial records like federal taxes, and auditors examine them. These professionals may work in government, management, or forensic accounting sectors. Most accountants obtain CPA licensure to file reports through the SEC and enhance job prospects. Most employers prefer a master’s in accounting, though entry-level jobs may require only a bachelor’s degree.
Financial managers help organizations meet long-term financial goals. They prepare financial statements and reports to make investments in the best interests of their clients. An entry-level financial manager needs at least a bachelor’s degree and five years of work experience. Many financial managers begin as accountants, financial analysts, or securities sales agents.
These professionals advise clients on personal financial matters, including retirement, investments, and estate planning. They address meeting short- and long-term financial goals for their clients. Some personal financial advisors also serve as insurance brokers or tax advisors. Many earn master’s degrees and certified financial planner certifications to enhance their job prospects.
Tax examiners and collectors audit and compile individual and corporate taxes on behalf of the government. A candidate should hold a bachelor’s degree and specialized work experience in auditing, accounting, and/or tax compliance. The IRS requires an entry-level tax examiner to hold either a bachelor’s degree or at least one year of specialized field experience.
Financial examiners work to ensure that financial institutions like banks and credit unions comply with federal laws and regulations. Duties include evaluating loan risks, assessing bank management, and analyzing balance sheets. Candidates with master’s degrees in accounting or business administration and several years of experience can qualify for senior financial examiner positions. Seniors often train entry-level employees.
What To Expect From Master’s in Accounting Programs
Most schools offer affordable accounting degrees as standalone programs or concentrations of business. Some requirements, such as completion time, vary between programs. Generally, a master’s in accounting takes two years to complete, though most online programs offer accelerated course schedules and shorter paths to graduation. A full-time student can complete an online master’s in accounting in 12-18 months.
The master’s in accounting emphasizes acute accounting skills and CPA certification preparation. Core courses delve deep into accounting principles, practice, and theory. Many master’s in accounting programs offer concentrations in auditing, compliance, and taxation. A typical master’s in accounting comprises 30-36 credits and culminates in a thesis or capstone requirement.
Most schools offer part-time and full-time enrollment options, along with synchronous and asynchronous course delivery. Applicants typically must hold bachelor’s degrees and submit official academic transcripts for consideration.
Applying to a master’s in accounting requires some common criteria among schools, though requirements vary. Most programs require applicants to hold bachelor’s degrees, including prerequisites in financial accounting, microeconomics, and statistics. Some schools require candidates to have completed prerequisites in a campus setting (not online), at a degree-granting four-year institution, and/or with a minimum C grade.
Applicants’ transcripts typically must demonstrate GPAs of at least 2.5-3.0. Schools that do not set minimum GPA requirements holistically consider students’ official transcripts instead. Many programs require candidates to submit GMAT or GRE scores, though degree-seekers with extensive work experience may qualify to waive this requirement.
Deadlines also vary among institutions. Most schools prefer online applications through popular online application tools like Common App over traditional mail-in forms. Online programs commonly offer a choice of fall or spring admission and accept applications on a rolling basis.
Degree and Concentration Options
Aspiring professionals can pursue several types of accounting degrees at the master’s level. Common options include a master of science (MS) in accounting, a master of accountancy (MAcc), or a master of professional accounting or accountancy (MPAc). Many MBAs also offer accounting as a concentration.
A master’s in accounting provides acute training in accounting practice and theory. Students build on the undergraduate curriculum to develop advanced skills in auditing, accounting ethics, and corporate and international accounting. Unlike the MBA in accounting, other types of master’s in accounting also provide intensive preparation for the CPA exam.
MS, MAcc, and MPAc degrees also feature concentrations. A master’s in accounting typically offers more in-depth specializations than an MBA, with options in forensic accounting, financial analysis, and compliance. Graduates can pursue CPA certification or advanced careers in financial management, tax examination, or financial advising.
Popular Accounting Courses
A master’s in accounting builds on the foundational concepts of an undergraduate accounting degree. Typical coursework emphasizes global accounting, ethics, and advanced practices, culminating in a thesis or capstone. Some programs may include a focus in a specialization such as forensic or tax accounting.
A master’s in accounting develops advanced accounting skills and prepares students for CPA certification. Though individual course requirements vary by program, most master’s in accounting include the following core and elective courses:
This course builds on basic auditing practices, exploring topics like complex auditing problems and behavioral/ethical auditing principles. Course content explores case studies, contemporary auditing research, and student presentations. Learners can expect this course to include reading-intensive study materials.
As a critical function of many accountants and CPAs, corporate financial management includes the study of finance in a corporate context. Enrollees consider broad subjects like budgeting, accounting policies, and portfolio management, along with acute topics in capital structure, financial markets, and investments.
A master’s in accounting emphasizes ethics coursework to prepare graduates for sound, moral careers in finance and business. Students learn to solve problems they may encounter as professional accountants by using academic research and ethical decision-making. Instructors often present case studies and mock problems as examples.
This mainstay of any master’s in accounting prepares students for careers in the global marketplace. Topics include financial reporting and accounting standards for international businesses. Students also explore taxation laws and accounting issues in global finance.
Nearly all master’s in accounting programs culminate in a capstone requirement. Schools may vary in their individual capstone criteria, but common options at the master’s level include a practicum, thesis, and presentation. Most capstone courses require extensive research and analytical writing during the final two semesters of the degree.
Multiple factors can affect the cost of earning a master’s in accounting. Considerations include a school’s prestige and public or private status, and whether the school offers online or traditional programs. Additionally, schools may assign different tuition rates to in- and out-of-state students. According to the NCES, graduate tuition and fees reached an average of $11,617 at public institutions and $24,712 at private institutions in the 2016-17 academic year.
Even students enrolled in the most affordable master’s in accounting may require financial aid to help offset tuition costs. Most undergraduate applications require a completed FAFSA form to determine federal financial aid eligibility, but graduate programs typically rely on other forms of aid, such as scholarships, grants, and loans.
Learners qualify for various types of aid, depending on several factors. Online students often enjoy set or in-state rates for distance programs. On-campus students may receive teaching assistant positions, work-study jobs, or employer-reimbursement programs. Many graduate students also supplement their degrees with employment.
Most students exhaust all “free” financial aid first, including scholarships and grants, which do not require repayment. Loans require repayment with interest.
Most students require financial aid to complete even the most affordable master’s in accounting degrees. Degree-seekers can start with the FAFSA to determine their eligibility for financial aid, which tends to be more limited for graduate students. The following list includes some common considerations for cost-conscious students.
Online vs. In-Person Learning
Earning a master’s in accounting online can dramatically reduce tuition costs. Some of the most affordable master’s in accounting offer set or in-state tuition rates, enabling online learners to pay a flat fee to study anywhere they choose. Students willing to forgo the immersive campus experience can save money on time and tuition through online programs.
Even with quick, easy access to virtual information, many courses still use hard-copy books and learning materials. Many schools offer book rentals and buy-back programs that enable students to reuse discounted course materials.
Maximizing Credit Loads
Students may consider overloading credits in programs that do not assign per-credit tuition rates. By maximizing their credit load, learners may meet their degree requirements in less time and at a lower cost than if they pay per credit. Students should consider the scheduling requirements of overloading credits if they have other life or work commitments.
Learners with previous academic, life, or work experience can transfer credits toward master’s in accounting degrees. Online programs encourage students to apply the maximum number of transfer credits, granting them faster completion times and lower costs than traditional programs.
Choosing the Right Affordable Accounting Degree
Learners should only consider accredited master’s in accounting programs, especially for CPA certification. Beyond regional or national accreditation, a master’s in accounting might hold programmatic accreditation from an agency such as AACSB International. The following list features some of the most critical considerations for affordable accounting degrees.
Some of the most affordable master’s in accounting degrees offer set or in-state tuition for online learners. Always compare financial aid packages among prospective programs.
A master’s in accounting offers acute specializations tailored to a student’s career goals.
Candidates should determine if they want a small school experience, which may offer a more closely knit student body, or a larger school, which may offer more diverse coursework and available student services.
Competitiveness/Difficulty/Cost of Admission
Some of the most affordable master’s in accounting boast inclusive admission and waive application fees.
Some students require personalized attention from instructors, while others prefer more anonymity in the classroom.
Online accounting degrees enable students to learn anywhere and may feature set tuition rates.
Some of the most affordable master’s in accounting offer accelerated programs and abbreviated tuition costs.
University Resources/Career Services
Many affordable accounting degrees employ staff to ensure students meet CPA exam qualifications.
Graduates can increase their career prospects and earning potential with a master’s in accounting. Ask admissions departments if they compile data on student success.
Should You Get Your Master’s Degree in Accounting Online?
Accounting at the graduate level translates well to an online learning environment. Enrollees in a master’s in accounting are typically mid-to-late-career professionals looking to switch or advance their careers, so online degrees allow them to continue maintaining employment. An online master’s in accounting also enables students to gain technology experience and network globally while completing their degrees.
Online degrees in accounting can save students time and money over campus-based programs. Many schools allow students to enroll full or part time and choose to attend classes on campus, online, or through hybrid study.
Finding an affordable accounting degree is a primary concern among graduate students. Many online programs offer in-state or discounted tuition rates for distance learners, regardless of their resident state. Online students can also avoid paying additional costs for commuting, housing, and campus amenities.
Questions About Affordable Accounting Master’s Degrees
How much does it cost to get an accounting degree online?
A school may charge variable tuition for online programs based on its public or private status and state reciprocity agreements. Distance learners often enjoy perks like in-state tuition rates and book rental options.
What is the best master's degree for accountants?
Schools commonly offer master’s degrees in accounting or MBAs with an accounting concentration. Students with either degree meet the minimum education requirement for many entry-level roles in accounting and finance.
Should I get an MBA or master's in accounting?
MBA and master’s degrees in accounting share some similarities, including core coursework in soft accounting and business skills. Generally, MBAs suit students looking for broad accounting programs with flexible career options, while master’s degrees in accounting best serve aspiring CPAs and accountants.
What can I do with a master's degree in accounting?
Many master’s in accounting degree-holders pursue CPA licensure to become accountants. A master’s degree can also lead to careers in financial management or senior-level tax or financial examiner positions.