A master’s in accounting is a very interesting degree program, and one that can take you to many places. However, before you decide to make the significant investment, in terms of both time and money, into this degree, you may have a number of questions that you would like to have answered. Below are some of the most frequently asked questions about the MAcc (Master of Accounting) degree program.
What is the Difference between an MAcc and an MBA in Accounting?
Answer: There is often a lot of confusion between these two degree programs. While they have some significant similarities, they have some differences as well. Essentially, the MBA is a generalist degree that focuses first and foremost on running a business. Adding a specialization in accounting means that you learn some more in depth skills about that specific part of the business. Overall, however, those who hold an MBA will take on a management position, overseeing an accounting department. An MAcc by contrast, is a highly specialized degree that focuses specifically on accounting. With it being a graduate or MBA degree, you will usually take on a position of leadership and management but your overall focus will be on the process of accounting.
Will I Have to Complete an Internship?
Answer: While different schools have different requirements, it is usually required for you to complete some sort of internship. This is also because most companies that hire someone who holds an MAcc want to make sure you have real life experience. Real world experience demonstrates that you have taken the strategy and sustainability that you have learned about, and that you have applied this as well. This means you don’t just have knowledge, but that you can act as well. Internships usually last between 6 and 15 credit weeks. While the requirement to complete an internship can frustrate some people, having one on your resume will make you a much stronger candidate for many jobs. Furthermore, it shows others that you have a true dedication to the field itself. In a study published in the Journal of Accountancy, it was found that some 89% of businesses preferred graduates who had completed an internship.
Can I Complete the MAcc Degree Online?
Answer: Because more and more students try to manage personal and professional responsibilities with their academic dreams, many schools now offer programs online. Joining such a program, however, is a decision not to be taken lightly. A number of things to look for include:
- Regional and national accreditation. The highest accreditation is the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).
- Whether or not in state online programs exist, as this will make your tuition more affordable
- Whether the curriculum is relevant and of high quality
- Whether they offer a curriculum and specialization options that interest you
Can I Complete the MAcc Part Time?
Answer: A lot of people who enroll in the MAcc do so because they want to take the CPA (Certified Public Accountant) examination. This requires completion of 150 credit hours, which is more than a bachelor’s degree can offer. As a result, those who enroll in an MAcc are often employed and find it difficult to commit to full time education. Luckily, many programs are available on a part time basis as well, meaning classes are held during the evening and/or weekends.
Who Can Achieve an MAcc?
Answer. So long as you have the right entry requirements, you are able to obtain an MAcc. Common requirements include:
- A bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution in a relevant field
- The funds to pay for your degree
- Letters of recommendation
- A resume
- A minimum GPA
- Passing the GMAT or GRE
- Passing the TOEFL exam if English is not your first language
What Will the Coursework Be Like?
Answer: While each school is different, the average MAcc program takes 30 credits to complete, with or without an internship. This may be extended slightly if you don’t hold a bachelor’s degree, in which case you may have to complete some foundational courses. Some of the curriculum topics you can expect are:
- Managerial accounting
- Advanced financial accounting
- Introductory tax accounting
- Auditing theory and practice
- Corporate tax
- Tax research
- Business law
- Partnership tax
- Business information systems
- Accounting ethics
Additionally, it will be likely that you will have to complete courses that align with your chosen specialization.
Do I Have to Have an Accounting Background to Enroll in an MAcc?
Answer: Usually, it is not required for you to hold a bachelor’s degree in finance, accounting, business, or a related field. However, it is recommended. Without that degree, you are likely to have to complete a number of courses before you are able to truly enroll in the master’s degree program. If you do not have that bachelor’s degree, it will take substantially longer for you to complete it. Some schools do require students to have an accounting background, so make sure that you look into that.
Will the MAcc Prepare Me for the CPA Exam?
Answer: Yes. Almost every university intends for their graduates to pass the CPA exam. At the same time, however, only 50% of people who take it, actually pass it. This is why it is very important that you prepare yourself properly, above and beyond what the school teaches you about the examination itself. The examination is administered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). It is actually possible to take the CPA exam without holding an MAcc. However, you do need 150 credits, which in turn means that you will need to study beyond your bachelor’s degree. You also need a significant amount of work experience before you can take the CPA, which has been determined by the National Association of State Board of Accountancy (NASBA). While this may sound a bit daunting, the employment outlook for CPAs is incredibly good, as is their salary.
How Can I Get a Job at Ernst & Young, KPMG, Deloitte, or PWC?
Answer: The above organizations are like the Holy Grail for most people who work in accounting. It is incredibly difficult to get into those companies, not in the least because they virtually guarantee a job for life. However, there are a few things that you can do in order to improve your chances of getting to work there. These include:
- Be CPA certified
- Hold a master’s degree
- Complete an internship
What Is the Difference Between an Accountant and an Actuary?
Answer: Both of these fields are related strongly to numbers. However, they are not the same. Accountants are responsible for recording, analyzing, classifying, reporting, and summarizing financial data, meeting international and national standards. An actuary, by contrast, works with mathematical models and applies these to help businesses spot risks and opportunities. They have a strong advisory role, in other words. It is also important to understand that the job outlook in terms of growth and salary is very good for both. However, it is slightly better for actuaries.
What Accounting Certifications Are Available?
Answer: There are a number of certifications that you can choose if you have completed a master’s in accounting. These include:
- CPA – Certified Public Accountant
- CMA – Certified Management Accountant
- CFE – Certified Fraud Examiner
- CIA – Certified Internal Auditor
What Will an Employer Be Looking For?
Answer: Regardless of what job you apply for, and with whatever business, there are a number of things that will make you stand out to employers above anyone else. These things include:
- Your education and your certifications
- Your knowledge of ethical principles and GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles), and your knowledge and understanding of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act
- How proficient you are with technology
- What type of collaboration and business skills you have
What Sort of Extracurricular Activities Should I Engage in?
Answer: It is always a good idea to take part in extracurricular activities during your degree program. This will look really good on your academic record and resume. Additionally, it will help you to build a professional network that you can come to rely on later on in life. Some of the activities you may want to consider include:
- Professional accounting clubs
- Volunteer community service projects
- Intramural or intercollegiate athletics
What Kind of Job Outlook Can I Look Forward To?
Answer: The best place to look for the most updated job outlook is the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. They have released their latest version of the Occupational Outlook Handbook in 2014, projecting growth in demand from 2014 to 2024. However, the figures they provide are often very generalized and do not provide for the nuances that you would find depending on your level of education and experience, your geographical location, and the business you work for.
Other sources that you can use in order to improve your understanding of the job outlook include:
- Accounting Web.Com
- The U.S. News and World Report
Overall, the job outlook for those who hold master’s degrees is very good, with above average growth expected. You can, as well, do things to improve your own outlook, such as gaining a higher education and certification.
What About Women in Accounting?
Answer: Accounting is a very good profession for women to become involved in. In 1977, just 28% of accounting graduates were women. Today, this stands at around 53%. In the profession itself, the division is nearly at 50-50. There are also a number of organizations that focus specifically at empowering women in accounting. While the gender pay gap does still exist in the field of accounting, with women fairing slightly worse than men, this gap is closing very rapidly.
What Personal Qualities Do Good Accountants Have?
Answer: Some of the qualities you should have as an accountant include:
- Mathematical skills, which will enable you complete courses like macroeconomics, microeconomics, applied business or economics math, statistics, and financial accounting
- An eye for detail
- Excellent organizational skills
What Sort of Job Can I Have After I Complete the Degree?
Answer: There are thousands of different jobs available for someone who holds a master’s degree in accounting. These include:
- Senior auditor
- Forensic accountant
- Financial planner
- Financial manager
- Chief financial officer
How Do I Pick the MAcc Program That Is Right for Me?
Answer: Choosing the right school is an important and very difficult decision to make. Your own personal preference will go a long way towards making that decision. Accreditation is hugely important, as is the need for the curriculum to match your personal interests. The school must also offer a program delivery that is suitable to you. Tuition is important, but don’t let it be the deciding factor, as you may be able to apply for scholarships, financial aid, and sponsorships.
What Accounting Specializations Can I Choose From?
Answer: If you study towards an MAcc, you have already chosen a specialization – accounting. However, there are specializations within accounting as well. These include:
- Tax accounting
- Financial accounting
- Forensic accounting
- Managerial accounting
- Management accounting
What Are Some Key Statistics for Accounting?
- 48% are women, 52% are male.
- Salary ranges for women are between $44,442 and $78,123. For men, the range is $45,735 to $82,415.
- 8% of accountants have less than one year’s experience, 45% have between one and four years experience, 26% have between five and nine years experience, 16% have between 10 and 19 years experience, 5% have 20 years or more experience.
- The majority of people are extremely satisfied with their jobs.
- Best places to work are Chicago, IL, Atlanta, GA, New York, NY, Dallas, TX, Salt Lake City, UT.
- Most popular schools for highest salaries are Northern Illinois University, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Missouri – Columbia, University of Florida, University of Phoenix – Phoenix, AZ.
- Most popular companies to work for include Ernst & Young, KPMG, LLP, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte & Touche LLP and Deloitte.
Resources and References:
- Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) – Accrediting organization for business schools. (AACSB.edu)
- How to Prepare for the Uniform CPA Exam – Guidelines on how to prepare for the CPA exam. (AICPA.org)
- Becoming a CPA – How to become a CPA. (NASBA.org)