Guide to Masters in Accounting Programs

MastersInAccounting.net is a site devoted to providing students with helpful guides on master’s degrees in accounting. Master’s in Accounting programs are typically composed of classes in business management and leadership as well as advanced classes in accounting. In many cases, becoming a Certified Public Accountant or CPA is the next step.

There are different types of graduate-level accounting degrees, but all of them serve the same basic purpose of providing students with the skills to do high-quality, meticulous financial accounting for a range of businesses; from small start-ups with relatively simple bookkeeping needs to massive investment banks with multi-dimensional financial instruments that need careful management.

Walden University MS - Accounting Walden University – Walden University has several different online master's degree programs for students interested in the field of accounting. Students can generally choose between MBA and MS in Accounting degrees as well as becoming certified or obtaining an international MBA. These programs explore advanced accounting principles to help students improve their analytical and financial decision-making skills. Additionally, students will be prepared for professional certification examinations.
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Southern New Hampshire MBA - Accounting MS - Accounting MS - Accounting: Taxation International MBA - Accounting MBA w/Cert - Accounting Southern New Hampshire – Southern New Hampshire University has a robust selection of accounting degrees available for students interested in taking their careers to the next level. The MBA program prepares students for advanced positions in the field as well as the CPA exam. The DBA in Accounting is the highest professional degree while the PhD program is more focused on research in the field and teaching.
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Liberty University MBA - Accounting DBA - Accounting Liberty University – Liberty University offers an online DBA in Accounting for students interested in further advancing their careers. For this program, students will master tax and auditing skills, accounting theory and accounting information systems. Students will also study accounting ethics and best practices both individually and as a part of a team.
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Keiser University MAcc - Forensic Accounting Keiser University – Keiser University offers an intensive graduate program with an online Master of Accountancy that educates students in both the theories and practices of the modern business world. Students need to complete courses covering a variety of related topics, including advanced financial reporting and accounting concepts, advanced auditing theory and applications, and special topics in taxation.
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Kaplan University MS - Accounting MS - Accounting: Tax MS - Accounting: Audit MS - Accounting: Govt Kaplan University – Kaplan University offers several accredited online MSA degrees with specializations in Taxation, Auditing, and Government Accounting. These degree programs are great for students who already have a bachelor's degree in business and are hoping to specialize in a particular field of accounting. Additionally, these courses help prepare students for the certified public accountant examination.
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Capella University MBA - Accounting PhD - Accounting DBA - Accounting Capella University – Capella University is a massive online school that has several master's degrees in accounting available. This ranges from the general MBA program to the Taxation and Public Accounting specializations. Classes train students on a range of relevant topics like organizational budgeting, accounting information systems, international accounting, data analyzing, and reporting financial results and problems.
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Strayer University MBA - Accounting MS - Accounting: Taxation MS - Accounting: Public Accounting Strayer University – Strayer University offers several different online master's degrees for accounting, including an MBA program and specializations in Taxation or Public Accounting. Any one of these degrees is a major step towards becoming a CPA, but the examination is taken separately from the degree curriculum. Coursework varies from program to program but all cover advanced accounting, business practices and ethics, and leadership development.
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University of Alabama at Birmingham MAcc - Accounting University of Alabama at Birmingham – The University of Alabama at Birmingham is a smaller college that can provide more professor-to-student interaction with its low student-to-teacher ratios. Many students have chosen to enroll in the Master of Accounting program entirely online due to scheduling flexibility and cost efficiency.
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Grand Canyon University MBA - Accounting MS - Accounting Grand Canyon University – Grand Canyon University offers online MS and MBA degrees in Accounting. The programs are designed to enhance theoretical and practical accounting skills for practitioners, researchers, and educators. The coursework focuses on advanced accounting, auditing and taxation practices while developing students’ leadership skills as well. Additionally, these programs prepare students for professional certification examinations.
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Northcentral University DBA - Advanced Accounting PhD - Business Admin: Advanced Accounting Northcentral University – While Northcentral University does not offer any master's degrees in accounting, it does have two doctorate level programs for those wanting to advance their careers in the field. The PhD program is a research-oriented degree focusing on forensic analysis, economic effects, and performance. The DBA program is professional degree designed to teach students technical skills and practical applications in accounting.
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What Do You Learn in A Master of Accounting Program?

Accounting programs cover a range of general and specific accounting knowledge, from basic double-entry bookkeeping, the industry standard, to complex financial analytics, budget planning strategies, and auditing techniques.

Accounting practices are intimately tied up with tax and securities law, and most Master of Accounting programs will cover the appropriate tax forms for different sizes and types of businesses. Accounting students should learn how to audit a company’s tax documents and keep track of income and payout receipts, exemptions and deductions, and other tax relevant numbers.

Math skills are crucial for an accountant. Being able to perform calculations correctly and consistently is a small but necessary part of the job, and understanding complex mathematical models and innovative metrics will help you grow a company and advance your role within it. Probability, statistics, and applied mathematical modeling are all part of the curriculum for accounting students.

CPAs, CFOs, The IRS and The SEC: Acronyms in Accounting and What They Mean

Like anything related to finance, the field of accounting is awash in acronyms that require further explanation to anyone outside the industry. Here are a few of the acronyms that accountants need to know, and explanations of what they mean:

  • Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC): The SEC is a federal agency that monitors and regulates the exchange of stocks and options (collectively dubbed “securities”) and the financial practices of companies in the U.S.A. Publicly traded companies submit quarterly financial reports to the SEC, and any accountant submitting these reports needs to be certified.
  • Certified Public Accountant (CPA): This is a big one. Any accountant submitting reports to the SEC must first pass the CPA exam. This is the primary credential for practicing accountants in the U.S., and rigorous study is required. 46 states require CPA candidates to be college graduates with at least 150 credit hours under their belts, and around half of CPA test takers fail at least one portion of the test on their first try. The CPA is a national credential, and many states require local certification for practicing accountants as well. Any aspiring accountant should be aware of the CPA before even entering a degree program.
  • The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is the governmental body that collects taxes and monitors individual and corporate tax activity within the U.S. Accountants have significant interaction with the IRS, and will become intimately aware of its workings throughout college.
  • Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) are the big picture money managers at companies. An accountant with business experience and skill can become the CFO at a company, which will allow them to manage a team of financial workers to ensure that the company stays within its budget, pays its taxes, and generally manages its money efficiently. The title of CFO is relatively prestigious, and usually comes with a fat paycheck and a lot of responsibility within the company.

Careers for Master of Accounting Degree Holders

There are two major sectors of accounting, public and private, and diverse career options within each. Accountants can perform a broad range of duties at a single company, including tax preparation, bookkeeping, internal auditing and budget analysis, or they can focus on a specific field like forensic accounting, where they use their skills to investigate financial crimes and settle contract disputes. The following list describes a few common roles filled by people with Master of Accounting Degrees.

  • Public Accountant: This is the most general category of accountants, and they do everything from corporate accounting to government consulting and non-profit work. Public accountants can work in the private sector as well. The “public” part of their name just refers to the necessary CPA licensure.
  • Auditor: An auditor can specialize in internal audits, making sure a company is complying with financial regulations and using money efficiently, or external auditors, examining the financial books of companies and individuals that may have incorrectly complied with taxation or other regulations.
  • Management Accountants: This position focuses more on strategy and innovation within a company. By developing new business models or metrics, a management accountant can increase the efficiency or output of a company, or help the company pivot and take its business in a new direction.
  • Accounting Consultant: Instead of working in a particular position in one company, many accountants start their own consulting businesses, and provide various suites of services, tailored to the individual needs of their clients. Accounting consultants can provide a range of services, from tax preparation for individuals to efficiency and budgeting advice for companies. The benefit of owning your own business is that you can choose your own hours and be selective about your clientele.
  • Actuaries: This career is heavily based on calculating the probability and economic effect of future events. Many actuaries work for insurance companies to calculate the risk of insuring people, houses, cars, possessions and even lives. Actuaries need strong math skills, especially the ability to use spreadsheets and do probability analyses. Actuarial licensure is different from that of public accountants, but a degree in accountancy can lead to a career as an actuary with additional training. Because of the difficult and technical nature of actuarial work it may take up to eight years of training to be a full actuary, but the pay is commensurate with the amount of required training. Accountants interested in actuarial work should focus heavily on the math side of the curriculum.

Accounting Careers and Earning Potential

The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides employment projections and median salaries for a range of accounting related careers. Employment of accountants and auditors is projected to grow 13 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Below is a mean annual wage report from the BLS for accountants and other similar occupations:

  • Accountants and Auditors: $71,040
  • Financial Managers: $109,740
  • Budget Analysts: $69,280
  • Personal Financial Advisors: $67,520
  • Cost Estimators: $58,860

A Master of Accounting degree is a solid choice for people with interest in mathematics and quantitative research as well as business, entrepreneurship, and the financial sector. With such a broad range of businesses existing, and new industries evolving rapidly, it won’t be hard to apply your accounting knowledge to problems you are passionate about.

Whether you want to participate in the coming energy revolution, or work with an Internet start-up, you’ll be qualified to do it with an advanced accounting degree. Check out the list of schools with strong online accounting programs below, and get in touch with them for more details about how to get started earning a Master of Accountancy or other post-baccalaureate accounting credential.

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