Deprecated: Function create_function() is deprecated in /var/www/ on line 208
Master in Accounting | Context - Context

Master in Accounting

Master’s in Accounting

Master’s in Accounting Overview

The Master’s in Accounting is a graduate professional degree that prepares graduates for roles in various accounting fields. It also provides students with the requisite 150 credit hours that most states require before the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination can be taken. [1]

A Master’s in Accounting is often abbreviated to MAcc, Mac or MAcy. It can also be referred to as a Master’s in Finance, a Master of Science in Accountancy (M.S.Acy) or Master of Professional Accountancy (M.P.Acy.)

The cachet of the CPA

From small startups to global blue chips, celebrities to government agencies, everybody who deals with a large amount of money needs an accountant — and increasingly they want Chartered Public Accountants (CPAs). The CPA qualification is recognized internationally and highly respected. Employers view it as a mark of credibility, experience, an excellent education, and the highest standard of quality, ethical practice. And they are prepared to pay for it.

Is the MAcc right for me?

The degree appeals primarily to bachelor’s in accounting, business, or finance graduates who wish to earn their CPA, and career changers seeking programs with a bridge or alternative path curriculum.

Undergraduate programs are typically 120 credits and do not fulfill the requirement to sit for the CPA exam (150 credits.) Completion of the MAcc is the primary pathway to passing the CPA.

Research by the American Institute of CPAs (AIPCA) uncovered these trends for 2013-2014 [2]:

  • Accounting program enrollment and accountant hiring reached an all-time high.
  • Hiring of professionals with master’s degrees also saw its highest growth.
  • 91% of firms anticipated hiring as many, or more, accounting graduates in the next year — particularly large firms.

Why earn a Master’s of Accounting?

Top motivations to earn a Master of Accounting include:

  • Personal satisfaction and community impact. Accountancy enables you to enjoy a fulfilling career while helping businesses succeed. Intuit found that small businesses enjoy 89% more success when they hire an accountant. [3] The field also offers an opportunity to enjoy varied rewards from your work — as well as the attractive financial benefits.
  • Advanced credentials. The master’s degree helps you hit the credit requirement to sit for the CPA exam. [4] The CPA accreditation positions you for the best accountancy jobs as you progress in your career, providing a powerful resume boost and proving your professional expertise.
  • Diverse career opportunities. Accountants are in demand across every industry and business, providing services to appeal to markets across all sectors. This means you can enjoy a rich, varied, and interesting career trajectory which could take you to all manner of employers.
  • Increased earning potential. Accountants earn a median salary of $67,190. [5]
  • Job security. There is a shortage of CPAs in the market, which means that license holders are heavily in demand. [6] The MAcc prepares you to practice in a recession-resistant industry at the highest level.
  • Return on your investment. MAcc degrees can be particularly valuable due to high demand for CPAs and higher than average starting salaries. This means your educational investment is less risky than many others and is likely to lead to many career opportunities.

What salary can I expect as a qualified CPA?

Salaries are determined by factors that include the following [7]:

Experience — this provides contextual knowledge alongside technical expertise, making you a better accountant and a more well-rounded professional. For this reason, you may want to seek a program that offers an internship or opportunity to gain work experience if you are new to the field.

CPA certification — this demonstrates your professional achievement and positions you for high-level accountancy roles, helping you stand out in the job market and progress to higher positions.

Geography — different states and cities offer different salaries. For example, San Francisco has accountancy salaries that are typically 29% above average. [8]

Company size — A larger company, such as a global multinational, may offer a more generous salary than a smaller company owing to a bigger market share.

  • At the junior level (0-3 years experience), salaries typically range from $45,000 to $83,250.
  • At the senior level (4-6 years of experience), the range is $57,500 to $106,500.
  • Juniors with a CPA license when they start their career will typically attract a salary premium of 10-15%. [9]

As well as excellent job security, pay progression over time is very strong.

  • A chief financial officer can expect to earn from $68,667 to $218,315, with the potential for additional commission and bonuses.
  • A corporate controller can earn from $61,508 to $136,889, again with the opportunity for commission and bonuses.
  • A tax manager can earn from $68,201 to $125,217. [10]

How do I choose a Master’s in Accounting degree program?

There are a range of primary and secondary factors to consider when selecting your Master of Accounting program. Prospective students cite the following as key influencers:

  • Program accreditation (including AACSB, ACBSP and IACB) — Accreditation demonstrates that minimum standards have been met and is an important sign of quality.
  • Admissions requirements — Requirements vary widely between institutions and some will take a more holistic and flexible view than others.
  • The curriculum (particularly if you wish to specialize in a certain field) — You will want to identify a program that includes topics that align with your intended career path.
  • The program delivery method — For example, career changers often value distance/online accounting program options for flexible learning. You may also be looking for a hybrid model or a specific delivery option such as evening classes.
  • Faculty — Check on the education of a program’s professors, and any publications they have contributed to or honors they have received.
  • The reputation of the school or the program — School and department ranking are a sign of respect in the industry and may be based on teaching quality and research expertise.
  • Program duration — A shorter program might appeal if you want to study intensively and full time. A longer, more flexible online or part-time program might appeal if you are looking to learn at a slower pace, around other responsibilities.
  • Program cost — Tuition and the costs of accommodation, transportation, and residency are key factors for most students.
  • Graduates’ success rates — This can give an indication of how well the school prepares its students for employment.
  • Program structure — This could relate to mode of learning delivery, core courses, electives, etc. Seek a structure that suits your circumstances and preferences.
  • Alumni networks — Valuable for professional networking, these can offer support and advice during study and when you are looking for employment.
  • Employer partnerships — Some institutions have connections with large employers, facilitating post-graduate employment opportunities at attractive firms.
Featured Degrees
University of Alabama at Birmingham – Master of Accounting

Want to Earn Your MS in Accounting? Learn All You Need to Know Here.

Maryville University – Master of Science in Accounting

Find a Degree Designed for Financial Expertise. Find Your MAcc Now.

Exploring the Master’s in Accounting Degree

What is an accountant?

An accountant keeps or inspects financial accounts for an individual, organization, or company. Common titles include bookkeeper, certified public accountant (CPA), or comptroller.

How does the Master’s in Accounting degree fit into the professional world?

Accounting lies at the heart of business, and accountants perform a vital business function that allows corporate financial decisions to be made. [11] Research by Intuit found that when small firms hire an accountant, their success rate increases by 89%. [12]

Wherever money changes hands in a professional capacity — whether the organization is for-profit or nonprofit — an accountant keeps track. Professionals in these roles work at all levels — from serving individuals (including contractors, sole operators, and entrepreneurs) to small organizations, nonprofits, government agencies, and global firms. The common objective across all organization types is to keep finances in order and in line with regulatory requirements. [13]

What can I learn with a Master of Accounting?

The accounting master’s program covers core graduate accounting courses and specialist electives such as tax, graduate management, leadership, and business. This is because the program has a broader objective than simply to prepare students to take the CPA examination. It aims to provide a strong body of knowledge of business applications alongside accounting principles. This ensures graduates are strongly positioned for employment.

What are the differences between a MAcc and an MBA?

The MBA is a generalist degree. It gives students a broad understanding of business foundations, theory, and strategies, rather than focusing on one area of business.

The MS in Accounting is focused more narrowly on accounting, with options to specialize in concentrations such as taxation, assurance, and reporting. This can provide an edge in gaining specific accountancy roles or preparing for doctoral studies. The MAcc is also designed to prepare students for the CPA exams, as well as the CMA and CFE (Certified Fraud Examiner) exams.

Studies suggest that more accounting students are opting for the specialized post-graduate programs such as the master’s in accounting, rather than choosing the more generalized MBA route. [14]

What are typical career progressions?

CPAs can work in a generalized capacity or in highly specialized roles. Some manage financial records and track expenses and revenue. Others specialize in tax consultancy or financial risk management. Many may take on advisory roles for businesses wanting to minimize their operating costs.

CPAs also work independently through their own practices, whether they are advising businesses on their taxes or helping organizations to implement better accounting practices. Some may join aligned industries, such as accounting software implementation and consultancy. [15]

Research found that:

  • There are expected to be an 11% growth in accountancy jobs from 2014 to 2024.
  • Most areas of accounting specialization within the private sector have relatively high median salaries and growth rates. These salaries are linked to the growth of the economy overall.
  • 100,000 new jobs are expected to be created across core accounting professions from 2014 to 2024. [16]
  • For MBA students, accountancy and finance professions are the tied as the 12th highest-paid career choices. [17]

What are the different areas of practice/types of careers?

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

  • Accountant — $67,190 median salary. Accountants prepare corporate financial records, ensuring they are kept correctly and that taxes are paid on time.
  • Personal financial advisor — $89,160 median salary. Personal financial advisors help individuals to invest, buy the right financial products, pay tax efficiently, and make sound financial decisions.
  • Auditor — $67,000 median salary. Auditors review and assess financial records to ensure that they — and the processes used to keep them — are compliant and in line with legislation and good business practices.
  • Financial manager — $117,990 median salary. The duties of financial managers vary, but most are responsible for teams of financial controllers, accountants, and finance assistants, and ensure processes, systems, and financial controls are being used appropriately.

Other roles include tax specialists, financial advisors, business executives, researchers, and teachers.

Where do accounting professionals work?

MAcc graduates work in a range of settings, including:

  • Top 100 companies
  • Human resources
  • Consulting
  • Law firms
  • Government
  • Nonprofits

What roles require an MAcc degree?

Earning a bachelor’s degree is the first step to becoming an accountant, but to meet the most senior accountancy roles, CPA certification is required. The master’s degree is generally recommended to meet CPA eligibility requirements. The Master’s in Accounting coursework fulfills one of the two years of experience that the CPA requires to sit for the test.

What qualifications do I need to earn a Master’s in Accounting degree?

Master’s in Accounting programs accept students with undergraduate degrees in accounting. Some will also accept related degrees such as statistics, management economics, and financial management.

Curriculum for Master’s in Accounting

What is the curriculum for the Masters in Accounting?

Master’s in Accounting programs require students to complete core courses on the theory and practice of accounting, including:

  • Law
  • Taxation
  • Advanced accounting/financial statement analysis
  • Auditing
  • Financial research and compliance
  • Accounting information systems
  • Advanced managerial and cost accounting
  • Business ethics for accounting

Other complementary business courses may also be taken in economics, leadership, and business communications. One key focus will be the changing regulatory field, particularly in relation to the Securities and Exchange Commission and policies set by Congress. This is because the world of accounting is becoming ever more tightly controlled and regulated, requiring trained accountancy professionals who have the skills and knowledge to enforce these legal requirements and ensure that companies are compliant.

What skills can I develop during the MAcc?

Students can develop advanced knowledge of:

  • Accounting and auditing — including financial and management accounting, financial reporting, forensic accounting, nonprofit accounting, corporation accounting, government accounting, auditing, financial statement analysis, and strategic cost management.
  • Taxation — including individual, corporate, and nonprofit taxation, plus international aspects of taxation, and implications for U.S. businesses.
  • Ethical principles and professional standards — to prepare students for complex business environments with competing priorities.
  • Critical thinking and problem solving — to enable students to operate across a range of complex environments and in advanced roles.

Is there a prerequisite to the Master of Accounting program?

Typically, students will have a bachelor’s degree in accounting, but this isn’t always the case. Online degree programs are often more flexible when it comes to admissions and can offer additional coursework which can be taken as part of the bridge process. These might include undergraduate-level courses such as Economics, Statistics, Finance, Financial Accounting, Introduction to Management Accounting, and Intermediate Financial Accounting. The GMAT and GRE exams may also be required.

Must I have a bachelor’s degree to enter the master’s program?

In most cases, yes. Many students start after earning a bachelor’s degree in accounting or in a relevant field of study, such as business, engineering, IT, or economics.

Students without a bachelor’s degree will need to complete additional credit hours and courses. These are called bridge or alternative path programs and are ideal for career changers. Typically, the admissions requirements for these bridge courses is a degree in a related business field, although some institutions may accept alternative qualifications and/or substantial experience in the field.

What are the requirements for an online accounting master’s degree?

Typically, if students do not have an undergraduate accounting degree, online master’s programs in accounting will require them to complete coursework before they enroll or to demonstrate significant experience in the field. Coursework includes classes such as taxation, management accounting, financial accounting, and auditing. There may also be admissions exams. [18]

Is an online accounting program the same as campus-based programs at most universities?

The course content will be largely the same, but the delivery method will be different. Some programs are hybrids, blending online learning with in-person practical experiences. Others are fully online. In place of attending traditional seminars in person, students access all course materials online. This can provide more flexibility.

Are there hybrid online/campus-based program options?

Yes, some institutions will offer programs that blend elements of both on-campus learning with online delivery. An example of this might be a predominantly online course with residencies, internships, or labs that allow students to gain guided practical experience, network, and meet faculty.

Does the accounting master’s degree require a thesis or capstone?

Most MAcc programs will require a capstone project to examine a certain element of theory in a more experiential manner. The capstone project gives the student a chance to demonstrate advanced theoretical knowledge applied to a specific problem or question of their choice. The duration varies by school and program, but in general, a capstone project can be completed in 10 weeks to two semesters.

Does a Master’s in Accounting need to be taken on campus?

No. There are various online degrees available that lead to the same degree.

Electives and Specializations of the MAcc

What electives are there for MAcc programs?

Some programs give students the chance to specialize by taking electives.

Your choice of concentration can position you more strongly for certain careers. MAcc concentrations include:

  • Forensic accounting
  • Taxation
  • Audit
  • Finance
  • Corporate governance
  • Global accounting
  • Partnership taxation
  • Public sector accounting (advanced)
  • Estate and gift taxation/planning
  • Multijurisdictional taxation

Remember, your choice of specialization will map to your career goal and can help to increase your starting salary and number of job opportunities.

How do I choose a concentration for the Master’s in Accounting degree?

As well as considering your career goal, consider your prior job experience and primary skill sets. A concentration is designed to give you in-depth knowledge of a specific area, and it will be a valuable asset on your resume when it comes to applying for certain jobs.

How do electives work?

An elective gives you the chance to study an accounting topic at a deeper level or to take a related topic in classes within complementary programs such as law or business. Electives include:

  • Mergers and acquisitions
  • International accounting
  • Energy accounting
  • Partnership and corporation taxation
  • Inheritance tax and wealth preservation

Can I do multiple specializations for my MS in Accounting?

Some programs offer the chance to take multiple tracks in different areas of emphasis. These might include subjects such as tax research, energy financial modeling, or individual income taxation.

What specializations are in high demand?

The following areas of accounting specialization are highly in demand by employers seeking CPA-qualified accountants: [19]

  • Audit — this is because of increasingly stringent financial reporting demands and a correspondingly stronger culture of control.
  • Information Technology — this is imperative as accountancy becomes increasingly automated and tech-driven.
  • Financial Forensics — this field combines accounting with criminal investigation in cases which involve financial fraud or other financial crime.
  • Business Valuation — for example, to prepare businesses for flotation.
  • Personal Financial Planning — to help individual customers to plan their finances, from investing to efficient tax management and asset disposal or will planning.
  • Management — this field is anticipated to grow along with the broader economy.
  • Tax — always highly in demand, taxation specialists are increasingly required by individuals, businesses, and nonprofits as taxation rules become more complex, increasingly globalized, and rigorously enforced.

What other certifications might I pursue with the Master of Accounting?

Graduates who are entering consulting or corporate accounting functions often pursue other certifications. These include the Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) or the Certified Management Accountant. [21]

Experiential Learning, Internships, and Field Placements for those with a Master of Accounting

What is experiential learning?

Experiential learning give students insight into the working world by placing them in actual work settings. This can help you to decide what specific branch of accounting you might want to work in and help bring your study topics to life.

What are internships?

Where an internship is required, it offers you a period of employment in an organization. This might include working in a junior accountancy role, although other finance, taxation, or accountancy roles (perhaps chosen according to an elective) may be available. You may or may not receive remuneration for the internship.

Will I need to do an internship to complete my Master’s in Accounting degree?

Some institutions offering the MAcc program may require their students to complete an internship for graduation, including online course programs. However, this isn’t an across-the-board requirement, and other programs exclude it completely or offer alternatives such as extra coursework.

How long do MAcc internships last?

To receive credit, an internship for your accounting master’s program will usually last for 6 to 15 weeks.

Will I get help in organizing any required internship or field placement?

Schools typically have specialist departments that exist to help match students with the right opportunities.

How can these opportunities help with your career?

Internships give you the chance to gain real-world context, add to your resume, develop work skills, demonstrate your commitment to an employer, and potentially even line up a job after you graduate.

How will the school track my progress during an internship?

Each program will vary in its internship requirements. Typically, employers report student progress and achievement through structured feedback. There may be visits from faculty and assessors as part of on the job assessment.

What if I cannot take part in an internship but want to take the program?

Contact the admissions office of your desired school to discuss your individual situation, as there may be flexibility or alternative routes to gain the credits you need.

Where do internships or field placements take place?

They can take place at any organization or business that uses accountants — from small startups to government bodies and global corporations. Accounting internships are widely available and your institution will often help you secure one.

Will I get paid for doing an internship?

Research suggests that 88% of accounting internships are paid by the hour. The average hourly stipend for an accounting intern is $17.04 — compared to $12.38 an hour for average interns across all fields. [22]

Can I do an internship at my current workplace?

Some institutions might allow this, but typically they will require you to undertake an internship elsewhere to broaden your knowledge, experience, and contacts within the industry.

Featured Degrees
University of Alabama at Birmingham – Master of Accounting

Want to Earn Your MS in Accounting? Learn All You Need to Know Here.

Maryville University – Master of Science in Accounting

Find a Degree Designed for Financial Expertise. Find Your MAcc Now.

Licensure and Certification of the MAcc

Do I need my CPA to practice as an accountant?

No. It is possible to secure an accountancy role without your CPA, but it is harder to advance in your career without your license. Additionally, if you want to work in a role that involves filing reports with the SEC, you must hold your CPA. It is worth noting that most employers now prefer candidates with either a CPA or CMA certification. [23]

Why should I want to be eligible to earn my CPA?

CPAs perform in a range of highly specialized services, including business and management consulting, auditing, IT (for financial components of software development, training, implementation, etc), international financial reporting, tax advisory services, or more. Most organizations need the services of a CPA at some point. [24]

The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics reports that the best opportunities will lie in accountancy and audit roles where candidates have both an accounting degree and their CPA license. [25] Other benefits of becoming a CPA include:

Respect and prestige: CPAs are viewed as being among the professional elite. The CPA exam is rigorous and requires a solid academic foundation. Once certified, the CPA is further tested for aptitude, professionalism, and ethical standards during extensive in-role training.

Access to leadership positions: Becoming a licensed CPA can help you advance or gain a desired promotion.

Travel opportunities: Globalization means that CPAs have opportunities to travel — especially as the U.S. prepares for the International Financial Reporting Standards.

Increased job security: CPAs are more in demand than ever. There is also a wave of retiring CPAs creating vacancies where replacements will be needed. By 2024 it is anticipated that 1,475,100 accountants and auditors will be needed in the U.S. alone. [26]

Higher earnings: CPAs earn from 5-15% more than accountants who are non-licensed. The salary gap can widen over time to as much as $50,000. [27]

Are there other routes to taking the CPA?

The Master of Accounting is the common graduate-level program to prepare for the CPA exam, but some students will take the Master of Science in Taxation to focus on technical accounting skills, or an MBA with an accounting concentration. [28]

What do I need to know about the CPA exam?

The CPA is a challenging four-part exam that tests advanced accounting theoretical knowledge, skills, and application at the highest level. It is offered by the Board of Accountancy in each state and is written by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Applicants do not need to take and pass each of the exam parts at the same time, but it is necessary in many states to take any outstanding exams within 18 months of the first being successfully completed.

What does the CPA exam involve?

The CPA exam comprises one of the three elements of licensure requirements in the U.S., the other two being education and experience. All 55 jurisdictions require students to pass the Uniform CPA exam to gain their license. Requirements for experience and education vary by state, and some jurisdictions also require an ethics exam.

The exam itself is 14 hours long. It is taken via computer and delivered in four sections:

  • Auditing and Attestation (AUD)
  • Business Environment and Concepts (BEC)
  • Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR)
  • Regulation (REG)

A different range of question formats are used — including essays, multiple choice, and simulations that replicate workplace situations and require thorough application of skills and knowledge to reach the right solutions. [29]

Do I have to maintain my license?

Accountants are required to complete continuing education to maintain certifications. Graduates will have opportunities to consistently expand their knowledge, skills, and expertise in the field. [30]

Can I complete secondary certifications with the MS in Accounting?

Yes, there are additional secondary certifications that you can complete to demonstrate your expertise and maximize your career outcomes. These include:

  • Certified Management Accountant (CMA)
  • Certified Internal Auditor (CIA)
  • Financial Services Auditor (CFSA)
  • Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)

Are there other specialist qualifications to take after the CPA?

The CPA is increasingly the most in-demand qualification, but there are other specialized qualifications that you can take to further develop your career, including:

  • The Institute of Management Accountants’ Certified Management Accountant (CMA)
  • Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA)
  • Association of Chartered Accountants (ACA)
  • The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants’ Certificate in Business Accounting (CIMA Cert BA)
  • Certified Internal Auditor (CIA)
  • Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE)
  • Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)
  • Certified Treasury Professional (CTP
  • Certified Payroll Professional (CPP)
  • Certified Bank Auditor (CBA)
  • Accredited Senior Appraiser (ASA)
  • Certificate in Loan Review.

Some of these are for certain career paths only. They may be taken later in your career or as part of professional development.

Careers and Advancement for graduates with a Master’s of Accounting

How is the accounting function evolving?

It is an exciting time to work in accounting, and the industry is constantly changing. For example, these are three key trends anticipated for 2017 onwards. [31]

  1. Advisory will become more important as compliance functions become more automated.
  2. Accounting practices will migrate away from desktops and into the cloud.
  3. Accountants will migrate away from acting as ‘technicians’ to developing leadership and CEO-level strategic skills, such as pricing, new market development, deal making and staff development.

What careers are available in this field?

The obvious career choices are accountancy and audit, but there are many other roles that graduates pursue, including:

  • Specialist fields (such as environmental accounting)
  • Tax advice
  • Financial analysis and management
  • Financial consulting
  • Management analysis
  • Teaching
  • Government revenue agent and examiner
  • Business executive (many corporate CEOs have accounting backgrounds.) [32]

What sort of daily tasks happen in an accounting department?

These vary according to the needs of the organization, but typically include:

  • Balancing the books
  • Handling tax payments for personnel
  • Managing payroll
  • Reporting on company, department, and project-level finances

How would a junior CPA role differ from a senior CPA role?

A junior accountant would be more likely to handle daily accounting tasks, such as balancing books, processing payment queries, managing payroll, and producing reports. A senior CPA would get more heavily involved in supporting the leadership team with corporate financial decision-making.

Is there just one type of CPA?

No, the roles available vary. For example, you might become a CPA who deals with accounting technology implementations, or an auditor who checks for regulatory compliance. There are also CPAs who advise on price setting for products and services, or calculate the value of companies.

Is there a sustainable demand for new accountants?

Figures from the BLS anticipate an 11% growth in accountancy and auditor job vacancies from 2014 to 2024. The market for accountancy professionals is set to grow as business does; more businesses means more accountants. Tighter regulatory control and increased need for audit and scrutiny will be another driving factor, along with an increasingly globalized economy, which will require CPAs who can operate across complex and international accounting practices and develop specialties in mergers and acquisitions. [33]

AICPA has also found that demand for accounting graduates has grown by 7% since 2012, even though the supply of graduates has remained steady. A final driver will be the age of existing accountants, who are edging towards retirement in large numbers and will need replacing. [34]

Program Details 

What format will the MS in Accounting take?

As a MAcc student, you can expect a mix of lectures, seminars, projects, and case studies, with a large element of independent research that concludes with a dissertation. You may also undertake a work placement or a project for an external organization. If you are doing an online accounting program, learning will be largely delivered online.

Why might I consider an on-campus program?

This traditional approach will give students face-to-face interaction with instructors and fellow students, along with seminars, lectures, alumni, and employer networking. There are benefits to learning in this way, but to succeed you will need to attend regularly and participate.

Online programs

Online programs are helpful for students with hectic work schedules and existing commitments. They allow classwork to be completed at a distance and on a flexible basis. Students need to be organized and self-motivated and manage their time well. Students will also need to effectively use the necessary online technologies to be able to engage and communicate with their instructors and fellow learners.

Online programs can also be less costly and are sometimes more flexible in terms of entrance criteria.

How long does it take to complete the Master of Accounting program?

The program typically lasts for one to two years. It will contain 10-12 semester credit courses that will total 30-36 hours. Full-time students can usually complete the program in 12-15 months and distance or part-time students may take two years. Students can take the CPA exam once they have 150 credits.

Do I have to complete my online accounting program in a year?

Online programs can be followed at their own pace.

What are the financial aid implications to completing at a ‘slower’ pace?

It can be more expensive to carry out your MS in Accounting beyond the standard year. As well as tuition and other fees, there may also be lost earnings to consider. Be sure to get a detailed breakdown of how the costs will be calculated if you extend the duration of your MAcc from the institution in question. [35]

How do I know if one program is better than another?

This is where your research is key. Take a structured approach to measuring courses and institutions against each other, weighing up:

  • Graduation rates
  • Employment rates
  • Accreditations, awards, professional memberships, etc.
  • Recommendations
  • Faculty
  • Costs
  • Flexibility of program
  • Entry requirements

What is important to you may differ from another student, so do your own research to make the right decision.

What are the tuition ranges for an MS in Accounting?

Tuition fees will vary significantly depending on the institution and the track you choose to pursue. According to, the average cost of a master’s degree is between $30,000 and $120,000. This will depend entirely on the institution and the program itself.

One key influencer of cost is the type of school. A public university with in-state tuition will cost less than a private university and/or out-of-state tuition. Online MS in Accounting programs tend to be more affordable, but be sure to pursue a quality, accredited course that will prepare you for the CPA.

Return on investment

Remember that graduates with a master’s degree typically earn more than those with a bachelor’s degree, and once you have your CPA, you will be able to apply for more senior roles in accountancy and position yourself for high-paying future roles. It is worth weighing return on investment as well as simple cost.

What additional costs can I expect?

All degree programs come with additional costs relating to areas such as field studies, technology, and course materials. Some fees will also be one-time costs, such as out-of-pocket travel for residencies or workshops.

What financial aid might I be eligible for?

Research by the College Board found that undergraduate students received more than $126 billion from the federal government in 2016 for financial aid. Sixty-six percent of full-time students pay for their college degrees using financial aid of some kind.

It is important to research available student loans — typically, federal loans and private loans. Federal loans offer fixed interest rates and can qualify for loan forgiveness if you work in the public sector after graduation. Private loans have fluctuating interest rates and will need to be repaid immediately, but you may be able to borrow more.

How does the EFC affect my eligibility?

Every institution will calculate aid eligibility using the EFC, or expected family contribution. This can vary greatly by institution. You can calculate yours at or

Loan Forgiveness Opportunities

There are some instances where loan forgiveness is possible — such as the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which applies if you work full-time for a qualifying public employer and have made 120 qualifying payments according to your agreed repayment plan. [36]


There are various scholarships that you can apply for depending on your circumstances. These include:

  • The AICPA Minority Scholarship [37]
  • The NSA Scholarship Foundation [38]
  • Surety Industry Scholarship Program for Minority Students [39]
  • Frank L. Greathouse Government Accounting Scholarship [40]
  • TACTYC/AICPA Scholarship [41]

Different institutions have their own scholarship and fellowship programs for applicants with particularly strong academic credentials. Some also offer graduate assistantships which will combine tuition waivers with cash payments in return for work on campus as a teaching assistant or graduate researcher.

What are the entry requirements for an MS in Accounting?

Schools have their own entry requirements, based around grades, professional experience, and language proficiency, among other criteria specific to the institution.

Students will typically be expected to have a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related subject. Some institutions only accept qualified accountants.

Depending on your background, you may be required to take additional courses to bolster your knowledge and skills in accounting, finance, or mathematics before you start your Master’s in Accounting.

Other requirements may include the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT). Overseas candidates may also need to prove they are proficient in the English language.

For career changers, some programs are considering work experience. However, if you do not have a bachelor’s degree in accounting, you will be required to take additional courses.

GPA requirements

Applicants must typically have achieved a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or more.

Will I need to take the GMAT?

Some programs require standardized test scores alongside other requirements. The GMAT is widely required as an indicator of business aptitude, and the scores are valid for five years. If you have taken the GMAT more than once, your highest score can be used.

Why do some programs require work experience?

The MAcc is an advanced degree that positions students for a career in accounting and related fields. This requires contextual and real-world knowledge of accounting practices, settings, and corporate frameworks gained in firsthand experiences. Not all programs require work experience, but it is a good way to stand out from the competition.

Why do some programs require the GRE?

The GRE is one way to assess suitability and eligibility for the MAcc, especially when competition for places is high. However, an increasing number of graduate programs no longer require it. Instead, institutions may look for field experience, a high GPA from an undergraduate degree, or an advanced degree in another field.

Featured Degrees
University of Alabama at Birmingham – Master of Accounting

Want to Earn Your MS in Accounting? Learn All You Need to Know Here.

Maryville University – Master of Science in Accounting

Find a Degree Designed for Financial Expertise. Find Your MAcc Now.

MAcc Accreditation

Accreditation and its role in education

There are different types of accreditation in education, including regional, national, and field-specific.

What is accreditation?

Accreditation is the process by which academic programs and the higher education bodies that deliver them are assessed and evaluated. The accreditation is carried out by an independent organization, reviewing a set of criteria against fixed standards that measure the curriculum, qualifications of the faculty, financial resources, student support, student achievement, resources, and academic services.

There are two types of accreditation — regional and specialized. Regional accreditation confirms that the provider has met and maintained adherence to a minimum set of academic standards. Schools often apply to gain specialized accreditation for specific areas of study, departments, or degree programs. [42]

Why is accreditation important?

It is key if you want to:

  • Transfer your credit, as most schools will only accept transfer credits from accredited institutions
  • Apply for financial aid, as federal aid is only granted to students who are studying at recognized accredited institutions.
  • Become a CPA

Accreditation and your choice of MS in Accounting program

Some institutions offer their MAcc program with on-campus or online learning options, or a hybrid program that blends elements of both. Because accounting curriculum standards are uniform, all accredited programs should have equal validity, regardless of their method of delivery.

Accredited status means that your master’s program has a certain quality level. However, individual programs and institutions offer different teaching styles, formats, and faculty, so it is essential to consider different programs carefully to assess which might be the best for your needs.

The importance of AACSB accreditation

The AACSB is the highest level of accreditation for a business school or institution offering the MAcc. It satisfies the highest requirements of CPA licensure. [43]

What MS in Accounting accreditation do I need to check for?

Check for both national and regional accreditation at your university of interest. You may also find that your degree program or academic department of interest has additional and specialized accreditations.

MAccs are usually accredited through the following – and may hold more than one:

  • AACSB – Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business
  • ACBSP – Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs
  • IACBE – International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education

What should I know about industry associations?

Industry associations bring academics, employers, and other individuals involved in the field together for education, professional development, and networking opportunities. An institution with links to these organizations may be attractive to students. Some of these associations are

  • American Institute of CPAs
  • Institute of Internal Auditors
  • American Woman’s Society of Certified Public Accountants
  • National Association of State Boards of Accountancy

Are there alternative degree options to the MS in Accounting?

Yes, some students take the MBA route, which gives an in-depth, but more generalist advanced program within the context of business administration.

Should I consider a doctorate?

An advanced graduate degree isn’t generally required for accounting roles, but it can be valuable if you are considering a career In research. Students may progress to Ph.D. level if they want to teach accountancy in academic institutions.
































[31] Five Trends for the Modern Accountant in 2017 (pages 28 & 29)