While a bachelor's degree may be the typical minimum education requirement for accountants, many students don't stop there. A master's degree in accounting can help students enhance both their skill set and employment opportunities.
Since most states require 150 hours of semester coursework to become a CPA, some schools offer a combined bachelor's and master's program to help students meet the hour requirement. Other schools offer a separate Master of Accountancy degree. Yet another option for students pursuing a graduate-level accounting education is a Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a concentration in accounting.
Coursework and program details
Specific coursework that students take depends on both their specialization and the type of program they pursue. Common coursework offered at the master's degree level may include the following classes:
- Accounting for managers
- Tax research and planning
- Uniform Commercial Code
- Advanced cost accounting
- E-commerce and internet security
Students can also select electives according to their intended concentration and may need to complete a capstone project or senior seminar before graduating. Throughout the above and other courses, students gain in-depth knowledge of various accounting concepts. Below are some examples of topics that master's degree courses may cover:
- Fund accounting for various sectors such as government and non-profit organizations
- Business law and ethics
- Fraud examination and accounting forensics
- Cost accounting
Career opportunities and outlook for master's degree graduates
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 13 percent national growth rate for accountants and auditors. Individuals with a master's degree may have a competitive edge when applying to jobs. Potential contributors to growth in accounting jobs include the following:
- Overall economic growth
- Increased globalization (particularly beneficial for professionals with international merger, acquisition, and trade skills)
- More stringent financial regulations
- Stricter lending standards (particularly beneficial for auditors)
Professionals filing a report with the Securities and Exchange Commission must become certified as a public accountant. Prospective CPAs must pass a national exam and complete the educational and other requirements set by their state.
There are many other career options beyond working as a public accountant for those with a master's accounting degree. The following are a few examples of jobs in which a master's in accounting or an MBA may benefit candidates:
- Personal financial advisor
- Budget analyst
- Financial manager
A master's degree in accounting is the final step in the education of many accounting professionals. Although not necessarily required by employers, having a master's accounting degree can both expand job opportunities and help individuals strengthen and specialize their accounting skills.
Accountants and Auditors, Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/accountants-and-auditors.htm
Budget Analysts, Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/budget-analysts.htm
Financial Managers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/financial-managers.htm
Personal Financial Advisors, Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/personal-financial-advisors.htm