A master's in taxation can prepare you for an exciting career in strategic tax planning, corporate tax management, or international taxation consulting. This 30-plus-credit degree takes 1-2 years to complete. As a taxation student, you may take courses in tax accounting, tax procedure, and tax law.
Unlike a broad-based master's in accounting, a taxation degree can put you on a specialized career path managing government or corporate tax offices. According to Payscale data accessed in May of 2023, professionals with a master's in taxation earn an average annual base salary of $93,000.
More and more professionals are earning master's degrees, and according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), business is their top choice. If you want to join the almost 200,000 people who receive a master's degree each year, explore this guide to learn about taxation degrees and see a ranking of top programs in the field.
Why Get a Master of Science in Taxation?
Become a CPA: In many states, becoming a certified public accountant (CPA) means earning 150 postsecondary credits. If you hold a bachelor's degree in accounting, a master's in taxation may be the perfect way to complete your educational requirements. CPAs can work in public accounting, corporate accounting, government offices, or nonprofit organizations.
Add on to a JD or MBA: If you are a lawyer or a business executive who wants to specialize in tax work, you may need to bolster your academic credentials with a master's in taxation. People who hold a JD could look at adding on an LL.M. in taxation, and people with an MBA may want to consider an accounting-focused tax degree.
Achieve a leadership role: If you aspire to a senior-level role, a master's degree can be a valuable tool to help you achieve your goal. While most management positions do not explicitly require a graduate degree, corporate leaders may value the skills and knowledge you have gained in a master's program.
What to Expect From Master of Taxation Programs
A master's in taxation focuses on the key concepts and practices of tax law, analytics, and research. This program emphasizes real-world taxation procedures and strategies for individuals, corporations, and partnerships.
Most tax-related master's degree programs consist of 30-33 credits. Taking 15 credits per semester, full-time students may be able to complete their curricula in one year, while at six credits per semester, part-time students could need two years.
Courses may include tax research methodology, partnership taxation, ethics in business, or tax law and policy. Some degrees conclude with a capstone experience where students do in-depth research and analysis.
Graduate schools typically allow students to transfer only a few courses into their program. If you have master's-level credits in the discipline from an accredited school, talk to your admissions counselor about transfer options.
Degree, Concentration, and Format Options
Schools offer many variations on a taxation degree, including the MS in taxation, MAcc in taxation, MS in accounting with a taxation concentration, MBA with a taxation concentration, and LL.M. in tax law.
- MS in Taxation: A master of science in taxation emphasizes general accounting practices and procedures but with an emphasis on U.S. tax regulations and codes. Graduates may pursue certification as a CPA or work in tax advising, tax accounting, or tax management.
- MAcc in Taxation: Assuming an undergraduate majors in business or accounting, this degree emphasizes the technical and critical thinking skills required for a career in federal tax management.
- MS in Accounting With Taxation Concentration: Focused on preparing students for the CPA exam, this degree emphasizes financial theory and ethics as well as tax research and tax law. Graduates may work as accountants, analysts, or consultants.
- MBA With Taxation Concentration: A management-centered degree, the MBA in taxation blends the best of broad business knowledge with the technical aspects of taxation. Graduates are prepared to make business decisions in light of potential tax consequences.
- LL.M. in Tax Law: Open to people who already hold a JD, the LL.M. in tax law offers expertise in the complexities of tax issues, including tax risk, tax pricing, and international tax treaties.
Some colleges offer a master's in taxation online or in a hybrid format. Online students should look at whether their program offers synchronous coursework, where the class meets together online, or asynchronous courses, where students complete their work on their own time.
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Should You Get a Taxation Master's or a General Accounting Master's?
Taxation is a subsector of accounting. Consequently, degrees in these two subjects tend to overlap. However, master of taxation programs offer their own distinctive focus and prepare students for specific kinds of accounting careers. When would you want to pursue a taxation degree instead of an accounting degree?
Both programs require a bachelor's degree for admission. Both demand 1-2 years of study. And both require strong accounting and business skills. The difference is in the emphasis and the outcomes.
Do you plan to serve in a broad-based accounting leadership role, such as a corporate finance director or chief financial officer? If so, you probably want an accounting degree.
Do you plan to work as an IRS agent, tax accountant, or financial analyst? You would probably benefit from a taxation degree.
Comparing Master's in Taxation and Accounting
Sources: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Colorado Boulder
||Master's in Taxation
||Master's in Accounting
||Specialized knowledge in the theory and practice of taxation
||Broad knowledge of accounting and auditing
||International taxation, taxation of partnerships, research and writing in income taxation
||Advanced business law, professional ethics in accounting, business risk & decision analysis in auditing
||Tax director, IRS agent, tax manager
||Auditor, accountant, CPA, financial analyst
Each university sets its own admissions requirements and procedures, but the following requirements and prerequisites are generally expected:
- Bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university
- LL.M. programs generally require a JD
- GPA of 3.0-3.25
- GMAT minimum scores (may be waived for applicants who meet minimum GPA standards, hold a CPA license, or have a master's degree in a related field)
- Completion of certain undergraduate courses such as intermediate accounting I and II, taxation, auditing, finance, and economics
Some schools may also require letters of reference, professional experience, or a resume as part of the application package.
Popular Taxation Graduate Courses
Each school creates its own curriculum, offering its own distinct variety of courses. Often, these courses include a core of accounting or taxation classes, a series of concentration courses in taxation, and a few electives. Many programs incorporate an internship and a final project or master's thesis.
- International Taxation: Students explore the fundamentals of international taxation. This course focuses on the taxation of U.S. source income for non-U.S. residents and the taxation of foreign source income for U.S. residents and citizens. Students must complete a fundamentals of accounting course as a prerequisite.
- Tax Research and Professional Practice: In this course, students review court cases, federal regulations, and the Internal Revenue Code. They emphasize the ethical responsibilities, roles, and regulations of tax professionals before the IRS. Topics include CPA review, tax practice strategies, and IRS examination of returns.
- Advanced Tax S-Corps and Partnerships: Class participants explore the fundamentals of federal income taxation as they apply to shareholders, partnerships, and pass-through corporations. The course focuses on the organization and capital structure of the S-Corps or partnership. Topics include stock redemptions, taxable and tax-free mergers, and dividends and other distributions.
- Wealth, Transfers, Trusts, and Estates: In this course, learners engage in the study of the gift, estate, and income taxes as they affect the transfer and accumulation of wealth through lifetime transfers or estates. Topics include a review of trusts along with other estate-planning tools and techniques to help individuals achieve their financial goals.
How Much Do Taxation Master's Programs Cost?
According to NCES, the average master's degree cost an average of $19,749 per year as of 2020-2021. However, NCES data also shows that public institutions cost just $12,394 annually. Clearly, several variables affect total cost.
In-state tuition is just one such cost variable. Other factors that affect the price include the school's prestige, whether it is a nonprofit or for-profit institution, and whether the program is available online or in person. Besides tuition costs, books, fees, and living expenses can add up quickly.
To cover these costs, many students take advantage of financial aid options such as competitive scholarships, private grants, or corporate educational reimbursements. Check out the links below for more information about these and other financial resources.
Should You Get Your Degree Online?
According to NCES data, 59% of students at postsecondary institutions enrolled in at least one online course in the fall of 2021. Distance learning options are popular when they are convenient, accredited, and easy to access.
Some students, however, prefer the structure, support, and engagement of a face-to-face classroom experience. If you are one of these learners, you may want to explore evening classes, weekend courses, or synchronous online programs.
Taxation Jobs and Salaries
A master of taxation can prepare graduates for leading careers in tax accounting. According to Payscale, this degree can help secure a position as a tax accountant, tax director, senior tax manager, senior tax analyst, or chief financial officer. These jobs can pay more than $200,000 a year.
As a member of the business and financial sector, tax professionals are part of a growing collection of professions. The BLS projects that this sector will add 715,000 new jobs between 2021 and 2031, a growth rate of 7%.
Tax attorneys help their clients maximize their economic benefits by staying up to date on the legal aspect of taxation. These professionals may work with private clients, at corporations, or in the public sector. Since tax law changes frequently, it's important for tax attorneys to maintain knowledge of current iterations in the tax code.
- Required Education: JD and LL.M.
- Job Outlook (2021-2031): 10%
- Median Annual Salary (May 2021): $127,990
Tax consultants are business strategists. They help companies discover the most tax-advantaged way to approach decisions. Often, companies bring in a tax consultant when the leadership knows they need help reducing their tax burdens. Many tax consultants hold certification as a tax advisor or they have enrolled agent status with the IRS.
Tax accountants help people or companies file returns with the IRS. Their goal is to provide an accurate return while maximizing their client's tax savings. Many tax accountants hold a CPA license, and some are enrolled agents with the IRS. These professionals may work for a large firm or set up their own business.
Selecting the Right MS in Taxation Program
Many considerations go into selecting the right master's program. Consider the following key factors for choosing programs:
- Accreditation: Only consider schools that hold institutional accreditation, but remember that many top business schools also hold programmatic accreditation with the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International or another accrediting agency.
- Admission: Some schools may decline your application or require you to take additional coursework, earn a higher score on an admission test, or gain more real-world experience.
- Staff Credentials and Diversity: Consider how many professors hold a terminal degree and how much experience they have in business and academia. Also, look at the faculty's age, race, gender, sex, and other diversity factors.
- Alumni Network: A robust alumni network can help you gain a foothold in local professional associations and may provide a boost in your job search.
- Future education opportunities: Do you plan to pursue a Ph.D., JD, or other terminal degree? If so, make sure the master's program you select positions you as a top candidate for that degree.
See our data-derived list of the best master's in taxation programs below.
Best Master's in Taxation Programs
#1 Best Master’s in Taxation Degrees
California State University-Fullerton
- Fullerton, CA
- 4 years
Located in northern Orange County, CSUF offers 109 graduate and undergraduate degrees through its eight colleges. CSUF Titans can also participate in more than 375 clubs and organizations, many focusing on leadership, wellness, or athletics.
Master of Science in Taxation
CSUF's master of science in taxation prepares students to serve in law firms, CPA offices, or tax agencies. The program meets California's 150-hour requirement for aspiring CPAs.
Students take nine credits of tax courses, 12 taxation-related elective credits, and six business-related credits. As part of their electives, enrollees may complete a 1-3 credit internship. This degree concludes with a professional capstone in which students demonstrate problem-solving skills using accounting tools in a professional context. Graduation requires a minimum 3.0 GPA.
CSUF welcomes new enrollees in the fall and spring semesters. Some new students may need to complete prerequisite courses.
Applying to CSUF
Applicants should hold a bachelor's degree, preferably in accounting or business administration with a "B" in all major coursework. Prospective students with a GPA lower than 3.3 should consider submitting GRE or GMAT scores.
Program at a Glance
- School Type: Public
- Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC); Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)
- Tuition: $3,588/semester
- Required Credits: 30
- Delivery Format: On campus
Percent Online Enrollment
Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
#2 Best Master’s in Taxation Degrees
CUNY Bernard M Baruch College
- New York, NY
- 4 years
Founded in 1847 as the Free Academy, Baruch was the first free public college in the United States. Today, it serves more than 19,700 students. Baruch offers 29 undergraduate majors, 56 graduate-level specializations, and two doctoral specializations.
Master's in Taxation
Baruch welcomes applicants from diverse backgrounds to its master's in taxation. This program prepares students to assume tax-related roles at accounting firms, government agencies, or corporations. Students may count the program toward the 150 credits required for a CPA license in New York.
This master's degree requires one preliminary course, 16.5 major credits, and 15 credits of electives. Courses include partnership taxation; current problems in taxation; and estate, trusts, and planning. Students may choose to concentrate in financial planning by taking six of their elective credits in the field.
Enrollees may switch between full-time and part-time course loads.
Applying to Baruch
Applicants need a bachelor's degree in any field. They do not have to submit the GMAT, GRE, or EA scores. Applicants who have completed financial accounting with a "B-" or better can waive the required preliminary course.
Program at a Glance
- School Type: Public
- Accreditation: Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB); Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
- Tuition: $470/credit (in state); $855/credit (out of state)
- Required Credits: 31.5-34.5
- Program Length: 1-1.5 years
- Delivery Format: On campus
Percent Online Enrollment
Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Common Questions About Taxation Master's Degrees
What is a master's in taxation called?
A master's in taxation could be called an MS in taxation, an MS in accounting with a focus in taxation, an MAcc with a concentration in taxation, or an LL.M. in taxation. Each of these degrees has a different emphasis and structure.
How many years is a master's in taxation?
Most master's in taxation programs take two years to complete. However, accelerated or bachelor's-to-master's programs might just require one year for graduate work.
Should I get a master's in accounting or taxation?
If you plan to work as an accountant, auditor, or financial consultant, a master's in accounting may be best. On the other hand, if you plan to be a tax director, tax accountant, or tax manager, you could find a master's in taxation is a better choice.
Is a master's in taxation worth it?
According to Payscale data accessed in May of 2023, people with a master's in taxation earn an average base salary of $93,000 a year. The average cost of graduate tuition is $19,749 per year, so this degree offers an excellent return on investment.