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5 Best Master’s in Taxation Degrees 2021

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Earning a master’s in taxation prepares students for rewarding careers in business and finance. Popular career paths for tax professionals include accounting, financial management, financial analysis, and tax examination and collecting. Many employers require or prefer job candidates with master’s degrees. A master’s in taxation can improve the career opportunities and salaries available to graduates.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects an 8% growth in business and financial occupations between 2020 and 2030, about as fast of a growth projection for all occupations. Factors contributing to this projected growth include expanding economies, globalization, and a complex regulatory and tax environment.

This page includes our list of the best master of taxation programs. We also answer the question, “What can I do with a master’s in taxation?”, explain what to expect from a typical program, and suggest strategies for choosing the right school.

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What to Expect | Jobs | Top Tax Master’s | FAQs

What Is Taxation?

Taxation is a subdiscipline of accounting, and individuals specializing in tax matters usually concentrate in areas like individual, partnership, or corporate taxation. Tax professionals help organizations across industries make sense of complicated regulations and laws. Skilled tax accountants can help organizations streamline their financial planning by assisting in their understanding of and compliance with tax obligations.

Tax professionals help organizations across industries make sense of complicated regulations and laws.

Jobs available in taxation include tax accountant, certified public accountant (CPA), tax examiner and collector, and financial analyst. Tax professionals find work in nearly every industry; major employers include accounting and tax preparation services, finance and insurance groups, and government organizations. Many tax professionals choose self-employment as well.

People drawn to taxation often demonstrate a knack for numbers, attention to detail, and a strong aptitude for problem-solving. Professionals in this field enjoy opportunities to work in several industries, contribute to the accounting community, and engage in challenging work. The profession is also known for high standards of ethics and integrity.

A master’s in taxation helps graduates distinguish themselves from other job applicants and qualify for more specialized, well-paid positions.

Why Get a Tax Master’s?

You may be asking yourself, “Should I get a master’s in taxation?” Only you can answer that question, but earning a master of taxation degree offers expanded career opportunities, solid salaries, and specialized new skills. A master’s in taxation also prepares students to apply to law school and become tax attorneys.

  • Career Opportunities: Earning a master’s in taxation equips students for business and finance careers. Master’s in tax graduates pursue jobs as CPAs, tax examiners and collectors, financial managers, and financial analysts.
  • Higher Salaries: A taxation master’s degree helps tax professionals qualify for more specialized positions, which often garner higher salaries. The degree also gives graduates a specialized skill set to leverage when negotiating for better compensation.
  • Specialized Skills: Graduates of master’s in taxation programs hold high-level technical accounting skills. Students gain understanding of complicated state and federal tax codes and regulations.

What to Expect From Master’s in Taxation Programs

Tax master’s programs provide a foundation in general accounting theory and practice while focusing on specialized knowledge of tax regulations and tax law. Tax master’s programs prepare degree-seekers for a variety of careers helping companies and individuals understand their tax obligations and comply with the law.

Most tax master’s degrees take two years or less to complete and require 30-60 credits. Cost varies by program, but learners can usually earn the most affordable degrees at public universities where they can pay in-state tuition. Curricula for taxation master’s programs vary, but common offerings include fundamentals of taxation, tax research and writing, corporate taxation, and tax procedure.

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Admission Requirements

Admission requirements for master’s in taxation programs differ by university but always call for a bachelor’s degree at minimum. Requirements rarely ask for an undergraduate degree in any specific field, but applicants can increase their chances if they hold a bachelor’s in accounting, finance, or a related discipline. Those without this academic background may need to complete prerequisite foundational courses before enrolling in tax master’s classes. Some programs also require relevant professional experience.

Most tax master’s programs require applicants to hold a minimum 3.0 GPA and earn satisfactory GRE scores. Prospective students with strong academic backgrounds may receive a GRE waiver in some cases. The graduate application process usually requires learners to submit college transcripts, standardized test scores, letters of recommendation, and a resume. Additional materials may include writing samples, answers to essay questions, and a statement of purpose.

Degree Options

Schools offer many types of master’s in taxation programs, including an MS in taxation, an MS in accounting with a concentration in taxation, a master of accountancy (MAcc) with a taxation concentration, and a master of laws (LL.M.) in taxation. Below, we compare master’s in tax degrees.

  • MS in Taxation: This degree emphasizes U.S. tax regulations and codes. Students gain proficiency in general accounting but focus on tax accounting. Graduates work as tax accountants, tax examiners, and CPAs.
  • MS in Accounting with a Taxation Concentration: A master of science in accounting with a taxation concentration focuses on general accounting theory and practice. Students take some specialized taxation courses and qualify for careers as CPAs, tax accountants, tax examiners, and general accountants.
  • MAcc with a Taxation Concentration: Curricula and career opportunities for these MAcc programs mirror those of MS in accounting programs with taxation concentrations.
  • LL.M. in Taxation: A master of law in taxation provides specialized legal training in taxation. LL.M. students may include current lawyers, juris doctor students, and accounting majors. Depending on their academic backgrounds, graduates might work for law firms, accounting companies, or government agencies.

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Comparing Master’s in Tax and General Accounting Degrees

Because taxation is a subfield of accounting, general accounting master’s degrees and taxation master’s degrees are quite similar. A general accounting degree covers a broader curriculum, providing a foundation in advanced theory and practice of accounting.

A master’s in taxation focuses primarily on specialized tax theory and practice. It makes sense to earn a tax master’s if you know you want a career in taxation. Students who earn a general accounting master’s qualify for an expanded assortment of career opportunities.

Master’s in Taxation Master’s in Accounting
Program Length 1-2 years 1-2 years
Course Load 30-60 credits 30-60 credits
Types of Classes Fundamentals of taxation, partnership and corporate taxation, tax research and writing, tax procedure Advanced financial accounting, auditing and assurance, federal taxation, corporate financial research and reporting
Focus Taxation Financial accounting, auditing, taxation
Admission Requirements Bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited school, minimum 2.5-3.0 GPA, acceptable GRE scores, finance/accounting prerequisites Bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited school, minimum 2.5-3.0 GPA, acceptable GRE scores, finance/accounting prerequisites
Career Opportunities Tax accountant, tax examiner, financial analyst, financial manager Financial accountant, CPA, financial analyst, auditor, financial manager, financial analyst, forensic accountant, management accountant

Popular Taxation Courses

Specific curriculum vary by program but usually focus on the fundamentals of tax law, theory, and practice. Students gain an understanding of major tax regulations and U.S. tax code. Most master’s in taxation programs require core, elective/concentration, and project/capstone courses. Below, we describe some common master’s in taxation courses.

  • Fundamentals of Taxation: Students receive an introduction to foundational tax principles while exploring the income tax treatment of individuals and businesses in this core class. Topics include the U.S. federal tax system, applying tax law to business decisions, and evaluating tax policies. This course also explores issues like expense deduction, income recognition, and property transactions.
  • Tax Research: This core class provides an introduction to the theories and methodologies of tax research. Students learn techniques for detecting risk, assessing primary and secondary sources, and finding potential tax problems. Enrollees gain analytical, communication, and research skills.
  • Estate and Gift Taxation: An elective course, estate and gift taxation focuses on the federal taxation of estates and gifts. Topics include determination of taxable estate, gross estate, and taxable gift. Participants develop quantitative and problem-solving skills.
  • Consolidated Tax Returns: This elective explores the federal tax treatment of consolidated groups. Topics include intercompany transactions, stock basis calculations, and loss disallowance rules. Enrollees learn to determine what is considered a consolidated group.
  • Corporate Taxation: This core course covers advanced federal income taxation of corporations, with emphasis on the connection between financial considerations and tax law. Students learn about the tax treatment of tax-free mergers and acquisitions, dividends, and redemptions. Learners develop problem-solving, analytical, and research skills.

How Much Will a Master’s in Tax Cost?

The cost of a master’s in taxation varies by school. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average graduate tuition and required fees totaled $19,314 as of the 2018-19 academic year.

Factors affecting the price of a master’s in taxation include type of school (public or private), program format (online or in person), and tuition rate (in-state or out-of-state). In-state tuition at a public university typically offers the most affordable option. Distance education programs can sometimes save degree-seekers money with tuition discounts and accelerated options.

Prospective learners should consider other costs they may incur during their studies, including textbooks, technology upgrades, housing, and transportation. Master’s in taxation programs often provide financing options including scholarships, grants, low-interest loans, and graduate research or teaching assistantships.

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Jobs for Master of Taxation Graduates

Prospective students often ask: “What can I do with a master of tax degree?” Potential career paths for graduates include a variety of tax, finance, legal, and business opportunities such as CPA, tax accountant, and tax examiner and collector.

Those who continue their education or enter the program with a law degree, can practice tax law. CPAs need to earn a CPA certification in addition to a degree in order to practice. Below, we describe some typical careers for graduates of master’s in law programs, including common job duties, expected salary, and projected occupation growth.

  • Certified Public Accountant: CPAs help clients with accounting, auditing, and tax issues. They may review client financial information, learn about new government regulations, and prepare documents for internal or external audits. CPAs tend to work more during tax season. Typical employers include government agencies and public accounting firms. Many CPAs opt for self-employment.
    Required Education: Master’s degree | Average Annual Salary: $69,087
  • Tax Accountant: Tax accountants earn an average annual salary of over $57,000, but can make even more through commissions, profit sharing, and bonuses. Typical job duties include preparing tax returns, strategizing ideas for reducing tax obligations, and explaining tax regulations to clients.
    Required Education: Bachelor’s degree | Average Annual Salary: $57,634
  • Tax Examiners and Collectors, and Revenue Agents: Tax examiners and collectors and revenue agents work on behalf of the government to determine the tax obligations of organizations and individuals. Typical job duties may include conducting audits, examining tax returns, collecting tax payments, and keeping records on cases.
    Required Education: Bachelor’s degree | Job Outlook (2020-30): -4% | Median Annual Salary: $55,640
  • Financial Manager: Financial managers often work for investment firms, banks, and insurance companies. These professionals manage the overall financial health of organizations. Job duties may include preparing statements, supervising employees, analyzing market trends, and advising management on financial matters. Financial managers’ earnings rank among the highest available to master’s in taxation graduates.
    Required Education: Master’s degree often preferred | Job Outlook (2020-30): +17% | Median Annual Salary: $134,180
  • Financial Analyst: Financial analysts advise individuals and companies about financial issues. These professionals make investment recommendations, study business trends, write reports, and evaluate opportunities. Financial analyst job categories include fund managers, risk analysts, and portfolio managers.
    Required Education: Bachelor’s degree | Job Outlook (2020-30): +6% | Median Annual Salary: $83,660
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Choosing the Right Taxation Graduate Program

Our rankings list of the best master’s in taxation programs is a great place to start, but choosing the right program takes time and research. Below, we explain some additional key factors to consider when selecting the right school for you.

  • Accreditation: Attending a regionally accredited college is crucial for your chances of getting financial aid, transferring credits to another institution, and qualifying for professional licensure. Look for schools accredited by an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Graduate accounting programs also hold separate programmatic accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.
  • Cost: To get the best return on investment, find an affordable taxation program that still meets your other priorities. Many colleges offer financial aid opportunities including scholarships, grants, federal student loans, and graduate assistantships.
  • Program Length: Most master’s in taxation programs take two years to complete. Choosing an online or accelerated degree may allow you to finish in as little as one year.
  • University Resources: Research what types of student support your program offers. This may include resources like library access, tutoring, IT help, and career development.

Should You Get Your Tax Master’s Online?

Many schools offer master’s in taxation degrees online. Earning a tax master’s online may offer more convenience for some students, especially those with full-time jobs or family responsibilities. Learners of all kinds increasingly see the appeal of distance education, particularly as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to make in-person learning more tenuous. In addition to convenience and flexibility, online programs may be more affordable. Many schools offer tuition discounts to out-of-state learners pursuing fully online degrees.

Earning a tax master’s online may offer more convenience for some students, especially those with full-time jobs or family responsibilities.

Online students may manage to reduce their student loan burden and graduate with less debt by continuing to work while in school. Only you can decide if distance education will work for you. Consider factors like your learning style, expectations of the college experience, and your goals for earning a degree.

Although many people can learn new things by taking online classes, some simply absorb new information better in a face-to-face program. Students who want to participate in a lot of extracurricular activities and engage in campus life may also prefer a traditional in-person degree experience.

The Top Master’s in Taxation Schools

  1. University of Washington
    Location

    Seattle, WA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The University of Washington takes pride in its nearly 300 specialized research centers across many disciplines. Seven faculty members have won Nobel Prizes.

    Master of Science in Taxation

    The UW Foster School of Business offers a master's in taxation program. This program prepares students for careers working with complex tax codes and for the CPA exam. The curriculum takes an ethics-based, innovative approach to taxation, providing an in-depth analysis of economic decision-making and its ramifications in the accounting industry.

    UW's taxation MS is an accelerated, nine-month program requiring full-time enrollment from late September through early June. The curriculum includes coursework about tax issues in property ownership, fundamentals of corporate taxation, timing and periods of taxation, and advanced issues in corporate taxation.

    Applying to UW

    Applicants must prove good undergraduate academic standing through transcripts and a CV, complete an online application, and provide a video essay and written response to application questions.

    Program at a Glance

    School Type: Public
    Accreditation: NWCCU
    Tuition: $24,999/term (in state), $27,381/term (out of state)
    Required Credits: 51 credits
    Program Length: 9 months
    Delivery Format: On campus

  2. California State University, Fullerton
    Location

    Fullerton, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    As the largest business school in the state, California State University Fullerton offers students numerous connections with regional, national, and international businesses. CSUF's worldwide alumni network comprises over 65,000 members.

    Master of Science in Taxation

    CSUF's master's in taxation prepares graduates to enter careers in law firm tax departments, CPA corporations, and government tax agencies. The industry and research focus of this program supports all students regardless of professional background or undergraduate education, though some prerequisite coursework may be required.

    The master's in taxation program at CSUF requires commitment and rigorous studies. Ideal applicants for this program hold an undergraduate degree with a minimum 3.3 GPA. CSUF taxation students must maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA across the degree's 30 credits of coursework.

    Applying to CSUF

    Prospective CSUF students must complete an application and provide a professional resume, a statement of purpose, a leadership and creativity statement, and official transcripts. GMAT or GRE scores are not required, but strongly recommended for applicants with GPAs of less than 3.3 in undergraduate coursework.

    Program at a Glance

    School Type: Public
    Accreditation: WSCUC and AACSB
    Tuition: $270/unit (in state); $396/unit (out of state)
    Required Credits: 30 credits
    Delivery Format: On campus

  3. California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo
    Location

    San Luis Obispo, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Located in San Luis Obispo, Cal Poly offers more than 150 undergraduate majors and minors and over 50 graduate programs across its six academic colleges.

    Master of Science in Taxation

    Cal Poly's master's in taxation program offers a hands-on approach through specialized curriculum, a high-touch environment, and small class sizes. This 10-month, on-campus program provides students with the rigorous taxation foundation they need to enter the workforce.

    The master's in taxation program at Cal Poly requires an internship to bolster high-demand professional skills. Students benefit from real-world work experience in professional settings, including public accounting firms; internal auditing departments; and local, state, or federal government agencies. Interns often receive compensation from the cooperating firm or agency.

    Applying to Cal Poly

    Prospective Cal Poly students must submit an online application and provide a statement of purpose, a resume, two letters of recommendation, and undergraduate transcripts.

    Program at a Glance

    School Type: Public
    Accreditation: WSCUC
    Tuition: $24,795/year
    Required Credits: 45-49 quarter credits
    Program Length: 10 months
    Delivery Format: On campus

  4. University of Minnesota Twin Cities
    Location

    Minneapolis, MN

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    University of Minnesota Twin Cities is one of only five universities in the country offering engineering, medical, law, veterinary medicine, and agricultural schools all on one campus.

    Master of Business Taxation

    UMN's master of business in taxation balances foundational business and accounting studies with concentrated elective studies. Enrollees in the taxation master's program at UMN benefit from 20 credits of core studies and 10 elective credits students can customize to fit their career goals.

    UMN understands that working professionals require flexibility in their advanced studies, so the program permits a variety of learning options: Students can pursue their degrees full time, part time, or online at their own pace. Professionals hoping to increase their career opportunities also benefit from the UMN taxation alumni network of more than 1,000 members and employers.

    Applying to UMN

    UMN applicants must complete an online application, provide undergraduate transcripts, and submit GMAT or LSAT tests scores.

    Program at a Glance

    School Type: Public
    Accreditation: HLC
    Tuition: $1,360/credit (in state); $1,954/credit (out of state)
    Required Credits: 30 credits
    Delivery Format: 100% online, on campus, or hybrid

  5. The University of Alabama
    Location

    Tuscaloosa, AL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The University of Alabama established itself through a constitutional provision in 1820. As Alabama's oldest public university, UA has played a significant role in influencing education across the state.

    Online Juris Master (JM) Concentration in Taxation

    UA's online JM in taxation provides enrollees with advanced legal tax training designed for non-lawyers. The flexible virtual program offers business students and accounting professionals the opportunity to obtain an advanced tax degree at their convenience.

    Coursework in UA's master's in taxation program helps prepare graduates to sit for the CPA exam or give themselves a competitive edge in the accounting job market. UA's taxation courses include personal income tax, corporate tax, partnership, and capital transactions. Enrollees can also choose electives to support their areas of interest.

    Applying to UA

    Candidates for UA's program must hold an undergraduate degree in accounting or business from an accredited university, demonstrate a minimum score of 300 on the revised GRE test or 500 on the GMAT. UA waives score requirements for applicants who have passed all four sections of the CPA exam.

    Program at a Glance

    School Type: Public
    Accreditation: SACSCOC
    Tuition: $1,735/credit
    Required Credits: 30 credits
    Program Length: 2 years
    Delivery Format: 100% online (asynchronous)

Our Ranking Methodology

What the Best Master Tax Programs Have in Common

The taxation programs on our list vary by region and population, but they all share important academic factors that affect students’ experiences.

  • They are accredited. To maintain accreditation from independent agencies, schools must demonstrate academic rigor and quality.

    Regional accrediting agencies include the Higher Learning Commission (HLC); the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE); the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE); the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC); the The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU); and the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).

    Program-specific accreditors include: the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB); the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP); and the The American Bar Association (ABA);
  • They offer academic excellence. The top 15 schools on our list boast high retention rates, graduation rates, full-time faculty proportions, and student-to-faculty ratios. These factors often affect student success. For example, DePaul University reports an impressive 92% employment rate for graduates of its taxation master’s degree.
  • They are reputable. In a field like taxation, attending a reputable school is crucial for landing a job or preparing for the CPA exam. To determine which programs help students reach their career goals, we analyze the percentage of applicants admitted, the admissions yield, and the mean earnings of graduates after six years.
  • They are affordable. To help degree-seekers plan their educational investments, we carefully consider each school’s affordability using metrics like net price, loan default rate, percentage of students with scholarships or federal aid, and the average amount of aid awarded. We look for affordable, accredited schools like California State University Northridge, which offers rates as low as $772 per credit.

Master of Taxation Questions

  • Can I get a tax master's degree online?

    Many master’s in taxation programs include online or hybrid options that offer greater convenience and flexibility than traditional on-campus degrees.

  • What can I do with a master's in taxation?

    Earning a master’s in taxation provides preparation for a variety of career opportunities, including tax examiner, financial analyst, tax accountant, and financial manager. With the right academic background, you can also become a tax lawyer.

  • Is taxation a good career?

    Taxation careers provide stability, intellectual challenge, and lucrative salaries. For example, the BLS reports that financial managers earned a median annual salary of $134,180 as of 2021. The BLS also projects a 17% growth rate for the occupation from 2020-30.

  • Is a master's in tax worth it?

    Earning a master’s in taxation takes time and money, but can offer a substantial return on investment. Graduates qualify for a variety of in-demand careers with higher-than-average salaries. To get the best return on your educational investment, look for tax master’s programs at public universities offering financial aid opportunities.


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