What is the difference between majoring in Accounting within an MBA program and a Master of Accounting?

Dec 19, 2011
Tags: B-School, Career, MBA, MBA, School Selection

Written by Robert Chabot, Director of Admissions, Specialized Masters Progams, The Ohio State University, Max M. Fisher College of Business

If you’re looking to pursue a graduate degree in business and concentrate in accounting, what should you consider: an MBA with a concentration in accounting or a MAcc? There are a lot of Master of Accounting (“MAcc”) degrees out there and even more MBA programs. And there are differences within each type without even considering the differences between each type. Because there are differences within each type, please know that the differences I list below are generalizations for full time programs and may not always be true in every single instance. 

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  • An MBA focuses on high level and broad topics, strategy being an example. In other words, MBA usually has, at its core, “business” as the principal area of study. The MBA is designed to be a general business graduate degree – the typical model is year 1 consists of core courses (marketing, accounting, finance, economics, etc.). In year 2, MBA students “major” or focus on a particular area (e.g. marketing, accounting, finance, etc.) General business is the focus in a traditional MBA with the accounting curriculum serving as an addendum to the core.
  • A MAcc usually has, at its core, accounting as the principal area of study. Other topics may be included in the curriculum (e.g. strategy, sustainability, etc.) but accounting is the core.
Work experience
  • Most MBA programs put emphasis on prior post-baccalaureate work experience as part of the admission decision.
  • Most MAcc programs see post-baccalaureate work experience as an added bonus if an applicant has it – but definitely not a detriment if s/he does not have it at time of application.
Prerequisite knowledge  
  • Most MBA programs do not have formal prerequisite knowledge required for successful applicants.
  • Many MAcc programs have varying levels of prerequisite accounting knowledge (in the form of accounting coursework) as prerequisite to successful applications.
There are exceptions to the differences outlined above. For example, some MAcc programs (including the one at Fisher/Ohio State) require some - but not a lot - of accounting coursework prior to admission whereas others will only review applications from undergraduate accounting majors. Some MAcc programs curricula may consist of 100% accounting courses whereas others will have a lower percentage. (For example, the Fisher/Ohio State allows its students to complete up to 50% of their curriculum in areas outside of accounting.) 

Just like the MBA is not the same as the MAcc, each MBA is not the same as another MBA and each MAcc is not the same as another MAcc. Do your due diligence and you will find the best program to suit your personal and professional goals.

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