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

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 M.Acc., Mac or MAcy. It can also be referred to as a Master of 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 M.Acc. 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 M.Acc. 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 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 M.Acc. prepares you to practice in a recession-resistant industry at the highest level.

Return on your investment

M.Acc. 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.

How do I choose a Master of 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.
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 M.Acc. 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 Master of 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 M.Acc. is also designed to prepare students for the CPA exams, as well as the CMA and CFE (Certified Fraud Examiner) exams.

What format will the Master of Accounting take?

As a M.Acc. 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.

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 a Master of 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 Master of 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.

Master of Science in Accounting Career Advancement

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]

  • Advisory will become more important as compliance functions become more automated.
  • Accounting practices will migrate away from desktops and into the cloud.
  • 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.
Careers in the Field

The obvious career choices are accountancy and audit, but there are many other roles that graduates pursue, including: [32]

  • 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)
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.

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]

How does the Master of 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]

Salary expectations

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


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.


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]
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?

Here are some common roles M.Acc. graduates pursue:

  • Accountant — $68,150 median salary. Accountants prepare corporate financial records, ensuring they are kept correctly and that taxes are paid on time. [35]
  • Personal financial advisor — $90,530 median salary. Personal financial advisors help individuals to invest, buy the right financial products, pay tax efficiently, and make sound financial decisions. [18]
  • Financial manager — $121,750 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. [14]

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

What roles require an M.Acc. 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 of 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 of Accounting degree?

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

Master of Science in Accounting Curriculum

Master of 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 M.Acc.?

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.

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 M.Acc. 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.

Typical electives

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

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

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

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

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

Choosing a concentration

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.

Can I do multiple specializations for my Master of 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.

Specializations 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

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.


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.

Some institutions offering the M.Acc. 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 M.Acc. 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.

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.

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.

Master of Science in Accounting Program Length

The length of an online master’s degree program can depend on a number of variables, perhaps the most prominent of which is the pace at which you choose to study. You can finish a typical master’s degree program in about two to three years if you choose to study full-time, although some accelerated programs may be able to help you finish more quickly.

Online master’s degree programs tend to offer flexibility suitable for students who choose to study part-time. This option will likely extend your time to completion, but it can allow you to study while fulfilling your familial, social, and professional obligations.

You can find more information on this topic at our program length overview page.

Master of Science in Accounting Admissions Requirements

While each program will set its admission requirements based on its own criteria, many requirements are universal across all programs. No matter where you apply, you can expect to provide items like transcripts from previous degrees or coursework; standardized test scores; a personal statement or essay; letters of recommendation; and an overview of relevant work experience.

In certain cases, some of these requirements may be waived.

For more information about admissions, please visit our admissions requirements page.

Master of Science in Accounting Alternative Degrees/Fields of Study
Are there alternative degree options to the Master of Accounting?

Yes, some students take the Master of Business Administration 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.

Master of Science in Accounting Accreditation

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

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]

Accreditation 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

Regional accreditation is the most prestigious type of accreditation that an online or traditional college or university can receive. It is granted only after careful consideration by private, not-for-profit organizations tasked with evaluating educational quality.

Regional accreditation is particularly important if you anticipate that you might want to transfer credits from one online degree program to another or use those credits to pursue another degree. Most regionally accredited schools will only accept credits from other regionally accredited institutions of higher learning.

You can learn more on this topic at our regional accreditation page.

Accreditation and your choice of an Accounting program

Some institutions offer their M.Acc. 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 M.Acc. It satisfies the highest requirements of CPA licensure. [43]

What Master of 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.

M.Acc.s 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
Master of Science in Accounting Licensure and Certification
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 Master of 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.

Master of Science in Accounting Tuition and Fees
There are a number of factors that can greatly affect how much your education will cost. These include whether you attend a public or private institution; whether you attend as an in-state or out-of-state student; and whether you qualify for financial aid like grants or scholarships. For a more detailed breakdown of tuition, fees, and other financial issues, please visit our tuition and fees page.
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:

  • he 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.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

The Master of Accounting is a professional graduate degree that prepares graduates to compete and gain certification in various accounting roles.

A Master of Accounting degree is designed for those who want to specialize in accounting at a graduate level and to prepare for a career in public accounting, industry, or government. Graduates can gain strong analytical, business, and leadership skills.

Key attributes include concentration options, faculty, delivery method, program length, cost, curriculum, rankings, and accreditations.

The program typically lasts one to two years. It will contain 10-12 semester credit courses that will total 30-36 semester credit hours. Full-time students can usually complete the program in as few as 12-15 months, and part-time students may take two years complete.

Online programs can be completed at their own pace. Depending on the program, full-time students may finish in as few as one or two years, but you can study part-time to fit your schedule better.

The cost of tuition ranges greatly across institutions. It is recommended that you check with your specific institution for exact tuition information. Additional fees to consider are application, books, and fees for professional exams you take during or immediately following your graduation for certification.

Generally there are supplementary costs apart from tuition. The tuition does not usually include the cost of books or additional fees. These additional costs will vary from program to program.

The largest provider of student financial aid in the nation is the Federal Student Aid office in the U.S. Department of Education. It supplies college-level or career school students with loans, grants, and work-study funds, as needed. You can apply for federal financial aid through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly known as FAFSA.

There are numerous other scholarships available, but you will need to research which opportunities you’re qualified to pursue. Many states, associations, websites, and businesses award scholarships based on specific criteria. Be sure to do your research and apply for any scholarships you’re qualified to be awarded.

Start with a cost-benefit analysis based on the price of the degree and the potential ROI. Weigh the full cost against the positive outcomes you expect as a graduate, which may include a boost in earning potential, upward mobility, or job satisfaction.

It can be more expensive to carry out your Master of Accounting beyond the standard year. Aside from 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 Master of Accounting from the institution in question.

Different schools will have their own entry requirements, based around grades, professional experience, and language proficiency, among any other criteria specific to the institution. Some providers will make decisions on applications using a holistic, individualized approach. Students will typically be expected to have a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related subject such as commerce, IT, economics, business studies, finance, or engineering.

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

Other requirements may include the Graduate Record Examinations Test (GRE) or the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT). International candidates who aren’t native English-speakers may also need to provide scores from Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS).

Some institutions will have stricter criteria and only accept qualified accountants into the Master of Accounting and will define the accreditations that they will accept. 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 of Accounting.

For career changers, it is useful to know that some programs are leaning away from test scores and considering work experience in their place. However, if you do not have a bachelor’s in accounting or a related degree, you may be required to take additional courses.

While requirements vary by university, most accounting degrees require a cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher.

The Master of Accounting 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.

Instead of a personal interview, some institutions will require you to complete a personal statement. The purpose of a personal statement is for the admissions committee to get to know you, your interests, and readiness for graduate studies in accounting.

This is where your research is key. Take a structured approach to measuring courses and institutions against each other. You might consider factors such as:

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

Remember, what is important to you may differ from another student, so do your own background and research work to make the right decision. You can use our comparison tool to help you find the right program for your goals.

SARA (State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement) applies only to distance education programs in the United States that crosses state lines. This agreement is made between member states and establishes comparable postsecondary national standards for distance education courses. [45]

Not every state is a SARA member. Through SARA, member states only have to receive authorization in their home state. Without SARA, non-member states would have to receive authorization in their home state and the state of each of their online students. Not impossible, but not as simple. [45]

Every school has a department or team responsible for online education. This department will be able to answer questions regarding compliance for your home state. Additionally, you can locate the school through SARA (if it is a SARA institution) to confirm compliance. [45] [44]

Core courses will typically center around theory and practice within the accounting field. This includes courses on law, taxation, statement analysis, auditing, research and compliance, information systems, managerial and cost accounting, and business ethics.

Students pursuing their Master of Accounting can develop advanced knowledge of:

  • Accounting and auditing
  • Taxation
  • Ethical principles and professional standards
  • Forensic accounting
  • Critical thinking and problem solving

Depending on the course and your familiarity with the subject or topic, it is recommend that you commit 20-25 hours per week toward academics.

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.

Accreditations are a strong indication of quality, but are also a requirement for students who plan to apply for federal financial aid. Accreditation ensures that your degree is recognized by employers, professional associations, and other accredited institutions of higher education.

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

Master’s in accounting degrees are usually accredited through the following — and may hold more than one:

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

Industry associations bring academics, employers, and other individuals involved in the field together for career, education, professional development, and networking opportunities. Institutions associated with these organizations may be attractive to students because they can rely on the course content being relevant and up-to-date with trends. Some of these associations are:

  • American Institute of CPA [50]
  • Institute of Internal Auditors [51]
  • American Woman’s Society of Certified Public Accountants [52]
  • National Association of State Boards of Accountancy [53]
  • The National Association of Black Accountants Inc. [54]
  • National Association of Certified Public Accountants in Education [55]

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

  • Master of Accountancy or Master of Accounting (M.Acc.)
  • Master of Science in Accounting (MS)
  • Master of Business Administration in Accounting (MBA)
  • Master of Professional Accountancy or Accounting (MPA, M.P.Ac., M.P.Acc.)
  • Master of Finance
  • Master of Science in Accountancy

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 a Ph.D. if they want to teach accountancy in academic institutions and become faculty members.

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) is the national professional organization for Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) in the United States. The AICPA is the world’s largest association for accountants and sets ethical guidelines for the U.S. auditing standards for private companies, nonprofit organizations, federal, state, and local governments. [46]

The CPA Examination must be passed to qualify students to become licensed U.S. Certified Public Accountants (CPAs). The exam consist of four sections, including:

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

The Master of Accounting degree usually consists of 30 credit hours that can be completed in a year or less. Programs are designed to meet the 30 credit gap most students have after leaving their undergraduate courses. Students can take the Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) exam once they have 150 credits.

Students who are changing careers may be admitted to the Master of Accounting program without a bachelor’s in accounting, but they will have to take additional courses to earn the degree.

Yes, typically schools follow the same curriculum for their online programs as they do for their campus based programs.

Online and on-campus degrees typically look identical. Most institutions do not indicate on the degree that it was earned online.

Some schools offer concentrations with a Master of Accounting, but the majority do not, as this graduate degree is highly specialized. You can check with specific schools and see if they offer a concentration in taxation or another specialty.

If a concentration or specialization is offered, it is an excellent way for accounting students to customize their studies toward their personal and professional goals. By choosing a concentration relative to your career path, you can develop deepened knowledge within your industry or topic of choice.

The demand for graduates of a Master of Accounting is up year over year. According to the Graduate Management Admission Council, 45% of employers said that they planned to hire recent graduates in 2014, which is up from 36% the previous year. [49]

Graduates of a Master of Accounting degree and those who have passed the CPA exam have a variety of options for careers. Having these two credentials allows you stand out in this very competitive field. Graduates can choose to work with private companies, nonprofit organizations, federal, state, and local governments.

Common job titles for graduates include:

  • Auditor
  • Forensic and Investigative Accountant
  • Personal Financial Planner
  • Financial Manager
  • Controller
  • Budget Analyst
  • Cost Accountant
  • Accounts Receivable/ Payable Manager
  • Tax Planner

While there are a wide variety of careers one can pursue with a Master of Accounting degree, below are the average annual salaries in 2016 of a few common occupations in the field of accounting (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics): [48]

  • Financial Managers: $121,750
  • Personal Financial Advisors: $90,530
  • Budget Analysts: $73, 840
  • Management Analysts: $81,330
  • Tax Examiners and Collectors, and Revenue Agents: $52,060


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