Are you wondering whether to get a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) in accounting? If so, you’re likely also wondering how much you can make at a job afterward, and how it will increase your prospects down the road.
With all the talk about how degrees aren’t helping people get jobs these days, these are smart questions to ask. The economy, moreover, is still unforgiving of people who earn degrees without actual skills, and you don’t want to find yourself in that camp. Therefore, learning as much as possible about your salary and prospects is the right thing to do before applying to a program or signing up for classes.
Many factors go into whether or not a degree will increase your income and help you further your career. Below, we’ll talk about why you might go to school for your accounting MBA, what programs usually look like, what you can expect to earn before and after school, factors affecting salary and how the degree will affect your career prospects overall. Lastly, we’ll take a look at how salary should play into the job hunt.
Break out your notepad and let’s get started.
The main reasons to attend school for an MBA in accounting are
- Because you like the work and would like to qualify yourself for more challenging, more interesting work
- Because you want to earn a higher salary with more room for advancement
Naturally, plenty of people simply want to make more for their time, and that’s perfectly okay. However, an MBA in accounting can also prepare you for much more specialized work.
For instance, if you would like to become a CPA, or certified public accountant, earning your MBA in accounting can make earning this certification and passing the associated test, the CPA exam, much easier. Plus, if you want to become a manager in the accounting field, an MBA is almost a must.
We’ll talk more about specific jobs you might earn in the “Career Path” Section below. For now, let’s take a more specific look at program types.
MBA programs are typically 1-2 years. Sometimes they may just be a school year, from August or September to May or June, and sometimes they may be a full calendar year. Others may be in between, 15 to 18 months, depending on the country, school and program structure.
Typical classes include accounting basics, business ethics, financial reporting, fraud and auditing. You will learn the basics of balancing, budgeting, auditing and analyzing.
Salary Before and After
Forbes did a break-down of a study first published by the Michigan State University Collegiate Employment Research Institute (CERI) looking at the immediate return on investment for several popular degrees. And we say immediate return, because this was one of the first studies of its kind that looked at salaries being offered to new hires out the gate instead of just those long-term ROI calculations that show you in the black 20 years in the future.
You won’t be surprised to learn that graduate degrees in accounting and the MBA both made the top of the list, bringing in offers as high as $151,000 for MBAs and $144,000 for those holding MSAs or other graduate degrees in accounting. It’s telling that neither accounting or business made the Forbes list for the top starting salaries with a bachelor’s degree. It’s not exactly shocking to learn that business and accounting are areas where that coveted MBA or other graduate degree is the ticket to competing for high-paying jobs.
Compare those starting offers to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data from 2019 showing bachelor’s-prepared accountants and auditors earning an average of $71,550.
While it is hard to find exact figures for what you can expect to make if you earn an MBA in accounting, some general figures do point us in the right direction. What we know for sure is that average and median salary figures fall well short of what accountants with MBAs and other graduate degrees pull down – there is nothing average about a CPA or high-level management accountant, and their salaries reflect that fact.
The 90th percentile salaries the BLS publishes are more in line with what those types of credentialed accountants and business leaders can expect to earn, with the top 10 percent in the field overall pulling down $124,450 or more in 2019.
May 2019 Bureau of Labor Statistics data for Accountants and Auditors. Figures represent national data, not school specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed March 2021.
Factors Affecting Salary
Remember, the above numbers are an average. Your salary may differ depending on a variety of different factors, including:
- Where you go to school
- Where you choose to work
- Whether you’re in a city or rural area
- How much job experience you had before
- What accounting focus you chose
- What role you hope to fill
Do your research to figure out which emphases and areas will net you the highest salary beforehand so you aren’t surprised later.
An MBA in accounting prepares you for many jobs you might not otherwise be qualified for. These include:
- Financial analyst
- Budget analyst
- Financial planner
- Financial controller
- Corporate controller
- Investment banker
- Finance officer
- Accounting manager
- Staff accountant
… and more. Keep in mind that even if you do not get hired for one of the better-paying jobs right out of the gate (for instance, as an accounting manager or a finance officer), earning that MBA enables you to work toward that sort of role. Remember how above we said that salary prospects improve steadily the longer you work? The same is true of job prospects and positions for which you’re qualified, as in any field.
It’s important, therefore, to think of the MBA as your stepping stone to a higher-paying, more interesting job down the road, even if your initial career prospects seem less interesting than you might have hoped.
Job Hunting and Networking
This being the case, it’s very important to start looking for a job that you’re qualified for, ideally before you even finish your program. That way, you’ll not only know what you should be looking for, but you will be able to tell people about your hopes and needs when networking.
Many students discount the importance of networking, thinking that if they simply complete their degree with decent grades they’ll be made in the shade. This is not to say that it’s not “enough” to get your degree, but if you want to land that dream job and maximize your starting salary, here are several networking tips that can really help:
- Update your LinkedIn profile so that you have a professional picture, a fully fleshed-out summary, and up-to-date work experience. Use keywords throughout your profile, because these days many corporate recruiters and companies search via words related to your field. Don’t miss out.
- Start talking to professors and influencers in your field before you graduate. Ask their advice on additional skills you might pick up, such as speaking or tax preparation, that might help your candidacy. Ask nicely if they can think of anyone in the field you should be introduced to.
- Go to professional organization events, such as those put on by the National Society of Accountants. This is a great way to meet people who are looking for employees.
- Update your resume so that if reflects your current accomplishments, your LinkedIn profile URL and your schooling, even if you are not yet done with your program. If you do not have related work experience, volunteer for an organization while in school so you can put that on your resume to round it out.
Doing the above steps cannot guarantee you a job, but it will do a lot to help. Now let’s talk about the interview, one of the most important steps in landing a job and maximizing your salary.
Among the most common questions, people ask about job interviews is whether or not they should share their salary requirements, so let’s start there.
If you’re just graduating from school, you might feel shy demanding a certain amount of money, so it’s best to choose a range beforehand and stick to it. Keep the above numbers in mind, and consider using a tool such as Payscale to determine how much your desired position, in your area, with your amount of experience is worth. Then present this number to your prospective employers as a range. That way, as the hiring process develops, you can push your salary requirements up in response to new information or added responsibilities without making it seem as though you’re renegotiating.
When your interviewer asks you for questions, don’t hesitate to take them up on it. Asking the right questions can not only help you glean important information about whether or not this job is for you, it can show you’ve done your homework and make you a more impressive candidate. Typical questions to ask might include:
- What are the prospects for growth in this job?
- Why is the position open?
- What does a typical day look like at this job?
- What is the toughest part of this position?
- What kinds of perks do you offer employees?
- What else can I do to make myself a better candidate?
Keep in mind that asking a few targeted questions is a good idea, peppering the interviewer with endless queries is not. Do that, and they may start to wonder how effectively you would use your time and others’ if they brought you on. Keep it to 3-4 and call it good.
Other tips for making a good impression in an interview include dressing nicely, bringing important documents with you in a clean folder or clear cover, showing up on time (which actually means 5-10 minutes early) and smiling a lot. You should also shake hands, maintain eye contact where possible. Doing so will put you in the best position to win the job!
So Should You Go for an MBA?
Ultimately this question is up to you to answer, but if you read through the above information and liked what you saw, chances are good getting an MBA in accounting will lead to a higher salary, more job prospects and greater satisfaction in career and life. Get started and compare over 20+ Online Accounting MBA options from accredited schools.