Most Affordable Online Master’s in Accounting of 2022

| Accounting.com Staff Updated on June 21, 2022

Most Affordable Online Master’s in Accounting of 2022

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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 $73,560 as of 2020, with jobs in the field projected to increase by 7% from 2020-30.

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.
  • Professional Certification: 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.

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 $73,560 and a projected 7% job growth rate from 2020-30 for accountants and auditors. Financial managers enjoy a 17% projected job growth from 2020-30 and earn a median annual wage approaching $135,000.

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.

Accountant/Auditor

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.

  • Required Education: Bachelor's degree, master's preferred
  • Job Outlook (2020-30): +7%
  • Median Annual Salary: $73,560

Financial Manager

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.

  • Required Education: Bachelor's degree, master's preferred
  • Job Outlook (2020-30): +17%
  • Median Annual Salary: $134,180

Personal Financial Advisor

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.

  • Required Education: Bachelor's degree, master's preferred
  • Job Outlook (2020-30): +5%
  • Median Annual Salary: $89,330

Tax Examiner

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.

  • Required Education: Bachelor's degree, master's preferred
  • Job Outlook (2020-30): -4%
  • Median Annual Salary: $55,640

Senior Financial Examiner

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.

  • Required Education: Master's degree preferred
  • Job Outlook (2020-30): +18%
  • Median Annual Salary: $81,430

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. 

Admission Requirements

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 in accounting or a similar subject. Applicants should have completed 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.

How Much Will a Master's in Accounting Cost?

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 $12,410 at public institutions and $26,597 at private institutions in the 2019-20 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 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.

Making Cheap Accounting Degrees Even Cheaper

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.

Book Rentals

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.

Transfer Credits

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. The following list features some of the most critical considerations for affordable accounting degrees.

  • Cost/Financial Aid: 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.
  • Concentrations/Specializations: A master's in accounting offers acute specializations tailored to a student's career goals.
  • School Size: 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.
  • Student-to-Teacher Ratio: Some students require personalized attention from instructors, while others prefer more anonymity in the classroom.
  • Location: Online accounting degrees enable students to learn anywhere and may feature set tuition rates.
  • Program Length: 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.
  • Earning Potential: 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.

Most Affordable Master's in Accounting Programs

Completing a master's degree in accounting provides the training necessary to enter the accounting field or climb the corporate ladder. Review our ranking of five top accounting schools based on key factors, such as academic quality and affordability.

#1

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

School Information
Location Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Admission Rate 23%
Graduation Rate 91%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 12% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Established in 1795, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is one of the nation's top public colleges. The school enrolls about 31,000 students in 264 programs and administers high-quality, affordable education.

Master of Accounting

The master of accounting (MAC) enrolls learners from various academic and professional backgrounds. Working professionals take evening classes and complete the degree in 12-36 months.

Enrollees take more or less coursework based on their level of technical competency. All students receive the training required to sit for the Uniform CPA exam. Participants learn core skills, such as income tax preparation, financial reporting, auditing, and data analytics for accountants.

Students can choose one of three concentrations: tax, audit, or financial analysis and reporting. Enrollees attend a leadership immersion held on campus in Chapel Hill. The program offers four start terms each year.

UNC-Chapel Hill's Affordability

Students can complete the degree in a 12-month accelerated time frame that saves money. Enrollees pay the same affordable per credit tuition rate regardless of residency status. UNC-Chapel Hill awards fellowships worth an average $3,000-$6,000 to both online and on-campus MAC enrollees.

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Institutional: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges; Program: Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business
  • Tuition: $1,446/credit
  • Required Credits: 36-48
  • Program Length: 12-36 months
  • Delivery Format: 100% online (asynchronous and synchronous) 
  • Admissions
    • Process: Admission requires a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited college, school transcripts, and a resume.
    • Standardized Tests: GRE or GMAT scores. Waivers are available for qualified applicants.
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#2

Northcentral University

School Information
Location La Jolla, California
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

Located in San Diego, Northcentral University (NCU) develops programs to meet the needs of working professionals. Students can earn degrees in fields, such as business, education, and psychology entirely online.

Master of Science in Accounting

NCU's master of science in accounting (MSA) prepares enrollees for the Uniform CPA exam. Students complete the 30-credit MSA asynchronously online in a recommended 16 months. The curriculum uses Wiley CPAexcel to teach competencies established by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

The curriculum teaches key skills, such as financial, managerial, and cost accounting. Students learn how to apply auditing, accounting, and tax concepts in business contexts. They also explore how to ensure organizations comply with tax and regulatory requirements.

NCU's Affordability

Students pay the same affordable tuition regardless of residency status. Participants lock in tuition for the duration of their enrollment in the MSA. Students completing the degree in the accelerated 16-month time frame save time and money, making the MSA an affordable option.

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Private
  • Accreditation: Institutional: WASC Senior College and University Commission; Program: Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs
  • Tuition: $938/credit
  • Required Credits: 30 
  • Program Length: 16 months
  • Delivery Format: 100% online (asynchronous)
  • Admissions
    • Process: Admission requires a bachelor's degree from an accredited college and school transcripts.
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#3

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

School Information
Location Champaign, Illinois
Admission Rate 59%
Graduation Rate 85%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 39% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Founded in 1867, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Illinois) enrolls about 51,000 students. A top-ranked public college, Illinois delivers 250 programs through 16 colleges and academic units.

Master of Science in Accounting

The Gies College of Business and Coursera partner to deliver the iMSA. Students attend classes in a live global classroom, completing 32 credits in 18-36 months  Enrollees receive a strong accounting foundation and specialized training in elective areas. 

The core curriculum covers auditing, accounting analysis, federal taxation, and managerial accounting. Students complete 12 credits in elective coursework that can include machine learning for accounting. 

Enrollees can also use elective credit to learn how to apply analytics-based tools in accounting areas like fraud examination. The iMSA prepares learners to sit for the Uniform CPA exam, and graduates join a strong alumni network.

Illinois' Affordability

Students pay an affordable $20,564-$27,200 for the iMSA depending on elective courses. Enrollees pay the same tuition rate regardless of in-state or out-of-state residency. Qualified students may receive need-based scholarships that cover 70% of tuition.

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Institutional: Higher Learning Commission; Program: Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business
  • Tuition: $20,564-$27,200 program cost; $850/credit accounting courses
  • Required Credits: 32
  • Program Length: 18-36 months
  • Delivery Format: 100% online (asynchronous and synchronous)
  • Admissions
    • Process: Admission requires a bachelor's degree and prerequisite coursework, such as principles of accounting.
    • GPA: 3.0 (recommended)
    • Standardized Tests: GMAT or GRE scores (optional)
    • Cost: $70 domestic applicants, with waivers available
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#4

SUNY College at Old Westbury

School Information
Location Old Westbury, New York
Admission Rate 78%
Graduation Rate 48%
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 16% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

At SUNY Old Westbury, students study on a 604-acre campus located 22 miles from New York City. The school enrolls about 4,400 students in 45 undergraduate and 16 graduate programs. 

Master of Science in Accounting

The master of science in accounting offers tracks for students with a bachelor's in accounting and those without. The degree meets the 150-credit hour requirement needed for CPA licensure in New York state. 

Students complete 30-62 credits depending on their academic background. Learners with an accounting degree complete 30 credits in two years. Students without an accounting degree complete foundational coursework, such as intermediate accounting, auditing, and income tax preparation.

All accounting majors learn fraud examination, global finance, and advanced auditing skills. A notable course focuses on taxation for corporate managers. Only students who reside in select states can enroll in the MS in accounting.

Old Westbury's Affordability

Students in the MS in accounting benefit from SUNY's affordable tuition. Old Westbury boasts annual tuition that costs less than 20% of the national average for private schools. Students can use financial aid, such as scholarships, to help pay for tuition.

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Institutional: Middle States Commission on Higher Education 
  • Tuition: $471/credit or $5,655/semester, in state; $963/credit or $11,550/semester, out of state
  • Required Credits: 30-62
  • Program Length: Two years for accounting majors
  • Delivery Format: 100% online (asynchronous)
  • Admissions
    • Process: Admission requires a BA, BS, or BBA and submission of college transcripts. Applicants without a degree in accounting may have to complete prerequisite coursework.
    • Standardized Tests: GMAT with waivers available
    • Cost: $50
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#5

North Carolina State University at Raleigh

School Information
Location Raleigh, North Carolina
Admission Rate 45%
Graduation Rate 82%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 41% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

North Carolina State University at Raleigh (NC State) specializes in science, technology, engineering, and math programs. About 36,000 undergraduate and graduate students benefit from the school's emphasis on experiential learning. NC State also manages a robust virtual college.

Master of Accounting

The Poole College of Management administers the online master of accounting (MAC). Working professionals can complete the MAC in 18-36 months, or take as long as six years. Students without an accounting background can complete prerequisite accounting courses online. The program has a first-time CPA pass rate that consistently ranks above the national average.

The MAC's public accounting track prepares enrollees for public accounting careers and to sit for the CPA exam. Students interested in pursuing careers in the industry choose the business and industry track. Participants may further customize the degree with one of three specializations: IT, tax strategy, or enterprise risk management.

NC State's Affordability

The school offers affordable in-state tuition for MAC students, and competitive tuition rates for those who live out of state. Students can use financial aid to help pay for tuition. The college of management offers merit-based scholarships worth $2,000-$19,000 for MAC students.

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Institutional: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges; Program: Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business
  • Tuition: $505/credit, in state; $1,504/credit, out of state
  • Required Credits: 30-31
  • Program Length: 12-72 months
  • Delivery Format: 100% online (asynchronous)
  • Admissions
    • Process: Admission requires a bachelor's degree and prerequisite accounting coursework.
    • Standardized Tests: GMAT with waivers available
    • Cost: $75 for U.S. citizens and permanent residents; $85 for non-resident aliens and international applicants.
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Questions About Affordable Accounting Master's Degrees

How much does a master's in accounting cost?

While costs vary among schools, a typical master's in accounting ranges from $10,000-$35,000 at public and private colleges.

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.

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