Advanced degrees in accounting prepare the graduate for many more career opportunities and provide the credit hours necessary to take certificate exams. A master’s in accounting is offered by many colleges and universities and helps the student prepare for specialized fields such as auditing, taxation, managerial accounting, financial statement analysis, and information technology. Admission criteria for a master’s program vary by school; however, most schools require a GMAT or GRE score. In many cases, a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution with a recorded minimum GPA is required.
The structure of a master’s program is more flexible than most other degrees, because it is designed to accommodate working professionals.
Although many business schools offer full-time programs during the day, others offer full- and part-time, night, weekend, and online classes. In most cases, the degree can be completed within one to two years. According to PayScale.com, a master’s degree in accounting does not necessarily mean a substantial increase in pay. It is recorded that the average starting salary of a graduate of a master’s program is only $5,000 more a year, above the national median salary of $59,000 for entry-level public accountants. It is estimated that the accounting major with a graduate degree would earn only $7,000-$11,000 more than his or her peers with a bachelor’s over a 5-11year timeframe. These statistics might not reflect graduate salaries from the top business schools nor payouts at the Big 4 accounting firms where compensation is said to be the highest. On average, graduates from the top five M.B.A. business schools make $200,000 in their fifth year. The field of accounting is ever changing, and most large firms respect the efforts of additional education. Many senior staff accountants, managers, and partners have a master’s degree. In addition, a master’s program provides coursework that is needed to prepare for certifications exams.
The primary goal of a master’s in accounting degree is to prepare the student to sit for the CPA, or Certified Public Accounting Exam, or other certifications such as the CMA (Certified Management Accountant) or CIA (certified internal auditor) Exam. In many cases, a bachelor’s degree is not sufficient education to take the exams, without at least two years’ work experience. A combination of a bachelor’s plus master’s degree courses would fulfill the one hundred and fifty course hours most states require to sit for the exam, should the student not have sufficient work experience. Another advantage is the respect that comes with an advanced degree and competitive edge in the marketplace. On the downside, an advanced degree in accounting does require time and expense, although many employer benefits offer tuition reimbursement toward job-related courses.