Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) professionals shepherd two companies as they merge or as one acquires the other. This career falls under the category of finance and business professions, which the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects will add 591,800 new jobs between 2018 and 2028. This guide introduces this career path and explores the academic concentration that can lead to it.
What Is a Mergers and Acquisitions Concentration?
Mergers and acquisitions concentrations prepare students for careers improving corporate performances and developing new businesses. This concentration builds on fundamental accounting and finance principles, including company performance, strategy, and operational decision-making, examining the nuances of corporate restructuring.
Through coursework, internships, projects, case studies, and capstone experiences, students learn to provide actionable advice to companies that are merging, acquiring another business, or getting acquired. Learners study topics such as mathematics, communication, data, trading, market forecasting, and business law.
Graduates can work as risk analysts, take mergers and acquisitions jobs, or move into senior financial leadership roles at companies. Professionals who want to work in investment banking also need an M&A background to earn licensure through the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.
Often, a bachelor's degree gives students the education they need to launch their careers. An MBA or an MS in accounting with an emphasis in mergers and acquisitions can help financial professionals advance to the next level in their careers.
A bachelor's degree provides the fundamental education required for most entry-level accounting and finance jobs. In this program, students take courses on topics such as statistics, business finance, cost accounting, and principles of accounting. M&A students may take additional courses in banking and finance to prepare for future jobs or advanced degrees in mergers and acquisitions.
As with any master's degree in accounting, students pursuing an M&A concentration complete core coursework in general accountancy. This coursework usually includes topics such as quantitative skills, financial accounting, data analysis, and business ethics. An MBA emphasizes business courses, while an MS and a master of accounting (MAcc) focus on accounting courses.
In addition to these subjects, M&A students take courses specifically related to mergers and acquisitions, such as advanced financial reporting, negotiation strategy, and post-merger integration.
An accounting degree with a mergers and acquisitions concentration offers many professional and personal benefits, such as preparation for high-paying finance careers. The list below details just a few of the benefits an M&A degree can provide.
Pursue Leadership Roles in Federal Acquisitions
The U.S. government offers careers in acquisition, contracting, purchasing, and program and project management. Taking mergers and acquisitions courses can help students prepare for these federal roles.
Prepare for the CPA Exam
Earning a certified public accountant (CPA) designation can dramatically increase an accountant's career and earning potential. An M&A degree can help students qualify and prepare for the CPA exam.
Compete for Top Financial Positions
Senior M&A managers, risk management professionals, and financial executives hold some of the most well-paying positions in finance. Generally, these positions require focused knowledge rather than general skills.
Gain Risk Management Skills
Students learn how to anticipate the effects of an unfavorable event and recommend a course of action to mitigate or avoid that event.
Gain Financial Management Skills
This degree teaches students how to overcome financial problems, converting these challenges into benefits for their employers.
When an M&A Concentration Is Better Than a General Accounting Degree
Students seeking careers in risk management or M&A should consider an M&A concentration. Learners who plan to work in federal acquisitions also benefit from a specialized educational track.
When a General Accounting Degree May Be Better Than an M&A Concentration
A general accounting degree may better serve students who are unsure of their career goals or who want to keep their job options open after graduation. It is not necessary to specialize if, for example, a student plans to become a CPA but has no specific career focus beyond that ambition.
What About Other Concentrations?
The finance and accounting fields offer a wide array of potential concentrations that lead to lucrative and fulfilling careers. Prospective students can use the links below to learn more about the possible academic tracks and career outcomes of some of the top specialties in accounting.
Courses to Expect With a Mergers and Acquisitions Concentration
Curricula vary by program, but many M&A programs include some version of the following courses. Not all institutions, however, offer these particular courses, and some schools offer other courses in the field. Plus, some courses in general accounting programs overlap with courses in mergers and acquisitions.
Students in this course learn about the unique nature of government contracting, especially federal contracting, along with the differences between commercial and government contracts. Course topics include organization of the Federal Acquisition Regulation, current reforms in acquisitions, and controversies in the field.
Business Strategies and Proposals
Learners study how to incorporate business strategies into federal acquisition contracts. Specifically, students in this course learn to respond to a request for proposals, commonly known as an RFP, from the federal government. Other topics include federal acquisition law, RFP analysis, proposal preparation and review, and recommended follow-up actions.
Managerial Economics and Globalization
This course creates a framework for corporate resource allocation using analysis and techniques rooted in economic theories. Students examine topics such as the ways in which global economic integration affects production, sourcing, and pricing in different market structures. Plus, learners study how economic analysis supports competitive business strategy decisions amidst market conditions and government regulations.
M&A Tax Planning
Students learn about the major tax implications that can follow the different structures of M&A deals. They study the fundamentals of successful M&A tax planning and look at which structures are more favorable under particular circumstances. Students also learn how a tax strategy can help maximize profits in a deal.
Even before negotiators conclude an M&A deal, professional analysts must plan for the newly combined organizations to successfully integrate under a new management structure or team. In this course, students learn the cultural, social, and structural implications of combining organizations along with the core components of a post-merger integration model and the practical tools for cultural integration.
Careers for Mergers and Acquisitions Degree Graduates
Earning a degree in accounting or finance with a concentration in M&A can help students launch careers in areas like corporate risk analysis, public accounting, financial leadership, and acquisition analysis. These jobs can provide lucrative wages; according to the BLS, business and finance professionals make a median salary of $69,820 per year.
While undergraduate students can pursue a specialization in mergers and acquisitions, the field especially welcomes professionals with graduate education. A master's in accounting or an MBA with a specialization in M&A can qualify graduates for senior management jobs, risk analysis positions, and CFO roles. Graduate programs also prepare students for CPA credentials.
Risk managers help companies prepare for, deal with, and respond to financial risks. They create what-if scenarios that help corporate leaders project their losses in the event that certain risks become real. These professionals may work for a single corporation, or they may act as consultants who serve several companies.
In this sensitive, high-level corporate position, professionals study potential opportunities for growth through mergers or acquisitions. The senior manager evaluates other companies for purchase or merger, formulates a plan, presents recommendations to the board, and engages in negotiations with sellers. Usually, senior managers lead a full M&A team of accountants and financial professionals.
Sitting in the top financial position in a company, a CFO takes leadership responsibility for all of that company's financial operations. This officer makes up part of the c-suite along with other top executives who together provide strategic direction to their corporate enterprise. Typically, finance and accounting departments fall under the CFO's purview.
Financial analysts help companies add to the bottomline by studying the factors that affect corporate wealth and offering recommendations based on what they learn. These professionals help companies protect their investments during tough times and expand during high-growth seasons.
CPAs handle an array of financial documentation for companies and individuals. These professionals may handle taxes, audits, accounts, and government reports. Some CPAs work in the finance departments of large corporations, while others work at accounting and auditing firms. Some CPAs set up their own small businesses and serve customers directly.
Selecting an Accounting Program With an M&A Concentration
Choosing the right school is key to launching a successful M&A career. Generally, colleges and universities that excel in fields such as economics, finance, banking, or business provide top-quality education in mergers and acquisitions. Future students should consider factors such as prestige, cost, culture, program length, and accreditation when weighing potential programs.
Any institution under consideration should hold regional accreditation, and the best programs typically hold additional accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International or another relevant programmatic accrediting body. Accredited online programs typically offer the same academic quality as their on-campus counterparts.
Frequently Asked Questions
What kind of degree do I need for M&A?
Many professionals begin their careers with a bachelor's degree in accounting, finance, business, or a related field.
What job requirements are there for mergers and acquisitions?
Mergers and acquisitions professionals research and analyze prospective business deals. They use financial statements and other information to learn about stability, growth, and market share.
How do I become an M&A analyst?
A bachelor's degree in accounting, finance, or a related field coupled with several years of experience in investment banking prepares professionals for roles in mergers and acquisitions.
Is mergers and acquisitions a good career?
Though demanding and challenging, mergers and acquisitions represents a lucrative career specialty within the field of finance. M&A professionals generally work long hours but hold secure, high-paying jobs.
Can you get a mergers and acquisitions degree online?
Many schools offer online degrees with mergers and acquisitions concentrations. Typically, students pursue the concentration during a business or accounting degree.
Professional Organizations and Resources
The associations below provide access to the latest research, networking opportunities, and other services and resources that help members stay current with the accounting field and profession.
The Association for Corporate Growth Established in 1954, ACG provides education, networking opportunities, and advocacy for its more than 15,000 members. Members gain access to financial data and expert intelligence in ACG publications.
Association of Professional Merger & Acquisition Advisors An international membership organization, APMAA provides online educational resources, a members-only discussion forum, networking opportunities, and an online certification program. The association also publishes a code of ethics. Members include business brokers, acquisition specialists, accountants, and certified valuation analysts.
The Alliance of M&A Advisors Middle market M&A professionals can build their professional network and advance their careers through this group. The organization hosts an annual conference, provides a wealth of resources, and manages the CM&AA certification.
M&A Source Founded in 1991, M&A Source provides education and training for middle market business intermediaries. Members can receive discounts on conferences, courses, and services. They can also earn the M&AMI certification to distinguish themselves in the field.