Is a Master of Accounting Worth It?

Shannon Cook

Shannon Cook - BusinessBecause

Shannon Cook is a Writer for BusinessBecause and GMAC Media.

Students Studying at Work Table

 You’ll often find accounting courses within the MBA and other business master’s programs. But if you want to gain an in-depth understanding of accountancy and qualify for top accounting jobs, the Master of Accounting, or MAcc, may be the perfect degree for you.

A Master of Accounting will provide you with a grounding in the specialist skills and knowledge, such as problem-solving and strategic decision-making, you’ll need to thrive in the accounting industry and eventually become a high-flying certified public accountant (CPA).

So, what jobs do Master of Accounting graduates get? How much does a Master of Accounting cost? And is a Master of Accounting worth it?

Who is a Master of Accounting for?

Master of Accounting programs are designed for those interested in pursuing a career within the top levels of the accounting industry, or for those who have no experience with accounting and want to build their knowledge of the profession.

Durham University Business School’s MSc Accounting program, for example, is a one-year, full-time, conversion-type master’s degree open to graduates of any subject or discipline.

“The program is primarily aimed at non-accounting graduates looking for a lead into accountancy as a career,” says Gavin D’Northwood, program director for the MSc Accounting at Durham.

It’s worth researching various Master of Accounting programs, as some may be better suited to your career goals and accounting experience level than others.

The two-year Cambridge Master of Accounting at the University of Cambridge Judge Business School has a more experienced cohort, with an average work experience of 10 years between them.

However, there’s no prerequisite in terms of professional training or background and the program does not require an accounting qualification like the ACA or CPA, nor a graduate degree. 

Types of Masters of Accounting

Master of Accounting

A Master of Accounting is typically a one or two-year full-time graduate degree program that teaches students the theory and practice of accounting, although the content of the course can vary by school.

Online Master of Accounting

An Online Master of Accounting is a flexible master’s degree program that can be studied virtually from the comfort of your home. You can continue to work and earn a salary while pursuing a master’s degree in accounting virtually.

Indiana University Kelley School of Business, American University Kogod School of Business, and the University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler School of Business all offer online Master of Accounting programs.

Other Accounting master’s

For those who want to combine their interests in accounting with other related subjects, there are joint degrees available such as the Master of Science in Accounting and Analytics offered by Rochester Institute of Technology.

For those interested in taxation and accounting, you can join a blended course like the Master of Science in Accounting and Taxation offered by Florida Gulf Coast University Lutgert College of Business.

If you’d prefer to focus more on tax and are interested in a career managing financial budgets, there’s also the Master of Taxation, offered by schools such as Bentley University Graduate School of Business.

Master of Accounting courses

The Master in Accounting curriculum covers both the theory and practice of accounting, with an emphasis on leadership skills.

Core courses typical of the master’s degree in accounting include:

  • Corporate governance
  • Financial reporting
  • Advanced management accounting
  • Research methods in accounting
  • Accounting practice and regulation

In addition, there are an array of elective courses to choose from, which you can tailor towards your career interests. You can take electives in subjects such as marketing and management.

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Ville Koikkalainen, a student on the two-year accounting master’s program at Aalto University School of Business in Helsinki, Finland, values the problem-solving skills he’s learned on the program.

“I've also learned how to run a business, how to formulate strategies, how reporting principles can be significant in bringing up companies' environmental responsibilities, and how data analytics tools can help future financial decision making,” he says.

Depending on your MAcc degree, you’ll be assessed through examinations, team projects, coursework, presentations and usually finish with a dissertation based upon a chosen topic.

Many Master of Accounting programs prepare you for taking the 16-hour Certified Public Accountancy (CPA) exam—a globally recognized license that allows you to practice accounting.

To become a licensed CPA in many US states, you’ll need to complete 150 hours of course credit. The time spent studying for a Master of Accounting can count towards, if not meet, these credit requirements.

Master of Accounting jobs & salary prospects

Jobs for accounting graduates

What can you do with a Master of Accounting degree? Despite the specific nature of the program, there’s a wide choice of career options available upon graduation across industries. Typical Master of Accounting jobs include:

  • Business consultant
  • Financial manager
  • General manager
  • Auditor
  • Business controller
  • Chief financial officer

Sofia Yasmin, program director for the one-year MSc in Accounting at Alliance Manchester Business School, says, “most of our graduates choose to join the accounting profession and work in the leading accounting and auditing firms globally. A number of our graduates have also entered the finance and banking fields to pursue highly rewarding careers in the city.”

Graduates who are already working as professional auditors and accountants before their Master of Accounting are likely to gain senior, executive-level jobs within their organizations. Top accounting firms include PwC, KPMG, and Deloitte.

“There’s no limit to what you can achieve or where you can go with this highly rewarding qualification,” says Sofia.

Fabian Delano Kurnia, an alumnus from the MSc in Accounting at Manchester Alliance, currently works as a cost analyst at an electronic parts manufacturing company, but his end goal is to start his own consulting firm. “Since I need a lot of experience and connections in the field, I would like to start working in a small consulting firm and work my way up to the big four,” he says.

Accounting salaries

Across the UK, salaries for trainee Chartered Certified Accountants (CCA) start at around US$35k, dependent on factors such as location, industry, and company size. Senior qualified accountants can earn around US$55k and, with the relevant experience, may land salaries of US$138k or more.

In the US, accountants and auditors make a median salary of around US$74k per year, but these salaries become higher as you progress to more senior roles, and master’s in accounting degree holders can expect to earn more.

The top 10 percent of accountants in the US earn around US$120k and accountants with master’s degrees and work experience can expect to be among this high-earning group.

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At Kogod School of Business in Washington DC, 60 percent of recent MSc Accounting graduates achieve salaries of US$50k-to-US$60k, while 40 percent earn more than US$60k.

Online Master of Accounting grads from the University of Maryland Global Campus make similar median salaries of around US$66k.

Applying for a Master of Accounting

Typical Master of Accounting admission requirements include:

  • Bachelor’s degree
  • GMAT exam score
  • Work experience
  • Recommendation letter
  • Personal statement

To undertake a master’s degree in accounting, you’ll typically need a bachelor’s degree, but depending on the program you select, this doesn’t necessarily have to be in accounting.

Some programs, such as Aalto University School of Business, may ask for a set number of credits in accounting or related courses. Others may ask for a minimum level of work experience.

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At schools like the University of Tampa, candidates without an accounting bachelor’s degree can be admitted to their MSc in Accounting but they will need to take prerequisite courses.

Other schools may require you to have a top-level grade in your undergraduate degree and you may need to submit a GMAT score.

Is a Master of Accounting worth it?

Cost

How much does a Master of Accounting cost? In the US and the UK, MAcc programs can cost around US$40k or more. In mainland Europe, you can find courses for around US$17k per academic year.

Online master's degrees tend to be more affordable, such as Florida International University’s Online Master of Accounting, which costs US$29k.

If you’re considering whether to study an MBA or a Master of Accounting, know that MAcc degrees are typically cheaper, and more focused on the accounting profession.

It’s also worth considering that some MAcc programs carry exemptions from the examinations of global professional bodies, such as the Association of Certified Chartered Accountants (ACCA), so you could avoid having to take exams in subjects you’ve already studied at business school.

ROI

When weighing up the return on investment (ROI) you can expect from your accounting degree, you should consider your cost of tuition compared with your expected salary post-graduation.

Since top level accountants can earn high salaries of up to US$120k or more in the US, tuition fees of around US$40k look like a worthwhile investment—not to mention the benefits of the added accounting knowledge, skills, and network you’ll gain.

“Applicants should carefully weigh up the costs and benefits of a master’s degree and consider how any potential return on investment applies to them based on their circumstances,” advises Gavin from Durham.

All things considered, a Master of Accounting appears more than worth it. With an accounting master’s degree, you’ll kick-start your career in accounting, earn more, and get access to jobs across industries.

A little expert advice can go a long way toward getting into your top choice Master of Accounting programs. Our free guide, Graduate Business School Application Guide for Undergrads, provides you with the information and guidance you need to craft business master’s or MBA applications that elevate your story and help you stand out from the pool of other qualified applicants, all tailored specifically for undergrads or recent graduates like you.

FREE GUIDE

Shannon Cook

Shannon Cook - BusinessBecause

Shannon Cook is a Writer for BusinessBecause and GMAC Media. She is responsible for writing and managing sponsored and non-sponsored editorial content relating to the business school journey, as well as covering the latest business news trends. She also heads up the video series, building brand awareness of BusinessBecause across social media channels and the website.

Shannon earned a BA in English Literature with Legal Studies from the University of Sussex and an MA in International Journalism from the University of Leeds.

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