Accounting is more than crunching numbers and balancing books. Increasingly, business leaders are consulting with accountants on financial decisions to gain their expertise and insights.
If you already hold a bachelor’s degree in accounting, you have the skills and foundational understanding needed to navigate the industry. However, a master of accounting can provide additional knowledge and access to opportunities, especially if you are thinking about becoming a certified public accountant (CPA).
A master of accounting offers the chance to further develop your command of accounting practices, which can make you stand out in a sea of other job applicants who may only have bachelor’s degrees. If you want to pursue higher-level job roles within your company, a master’s degree is recommended.
Despite the benefits, obtaining an MS in accounting requires a great deal of commitment. So, is a master’s in accounting worth it? Read on to learn more about whether pursuing a master of accounting is the right path for you!
How to Decide Whether a Master's in Accounting Is Right for You
A master’s in accounting is a graduate level degree that typically requires one to two years of schooling to obtain.
From your current lifestyle and responsibilities to your long-term career goals, plenty of factors play into whether you should pursue a master of accounting. To make a well-informed decision, look at the choice from many angles—professionally, financially and personally.
Here are a few things to consider when asking if an accounting master’s is worth it:
1. Professional Goals
First and foremost, think about the future career you desire. For those with a deep interest in accounting and desire to reach senior-level positions in the field, a master of accounting offers technical knowledge. It also exposes you to the latest developments (new technology, trends, laws, etc.) in the realm of accounting.
However, if your career goals span outside the field of accounting, pursuing an MS in accounting may not be the right choice for you. If you desire to lead your organization and develop a broad knowledge of multiple business disciplines, pursuing an MBA could be an ideal course of action. If this is the case, an MBA with a concentration in accounting may be another option to consider.
2. Current Lifestyle
When asking yourself, “Is a master of accounting worth it?” think about your lifestyle and how it might shift in light of this new pursuit.
Are you working full time?
Do you see yourself returning to an academic setting?
Do you have the time to take classes and work as a full- or part-time student?
Will your current employer pay for your master of accounting?
Asking yourself these questions can help form a picture of what your life would look like in an accounting master’s program. Take into account your current commitments and determine what you would have to cut back on to pursue graduate school.
Because of the rise of online accounting master’s programs, the options for a more flexible path to a master of accounting are expanding. If you can’t commit to pursuing school full time or leaving your current job, consider pursuing a master of accounting online.
3. Program Requirements
Last but not least, understand what is required of you as you work toward a master of accounting. Whether you decide to take on graduate school as a full-time student or balance the load with a part-time approach, there are commitments you will have to make.
Keep reading for a look into what’s needed to pursue your master of accounting.
Admissions: To enter graduate school, you must complete the admissions requirements outlined by your school of choice. You will most likely have to take the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) or the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE). However, there are several accounting master’s programs that will waive the GRE/GMAT requirement based on a variety of factors, including job experience.
You might be wondering, “Can I get a master's degree in accounting without a bachelor's in accounting?” The answer is yes, but you may have to complete several prerequisite courses to be admitted. If you majored in accounting or business as an undergrad, you likely took these courses or similar ones. It is important to check with the particular graduate program to which you are applying to ensure these credits fulfill their specific requirements.
Time: Completing an accounting master’s degree program typically takes 12 to 18 months, depending on the program and your previous course record. The rigorous coursework and deep dive into technical skills may require you to set aside additional time for homework and studying.
Financial commitment: The price tag carried by MS in accounting programs varies greatly across schools. Price can depend on the number of credit hours you have to complete, your residency (in state vs. out of state) and other factors.
Remember that your options for financing this degree can include grants, employer support and scholarships.
How Much Could an Accounting Master's Increase Your Salary On Average?
Along with a master of accounting comes increased earning potential. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for accountants is $70,500. However, the top 10% of accountants earn $122,840. Accountants with master’s degrees and work experience are poised to enter this top-earning realm.
In a 2019 study, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants revealed projections that accountants with a master’s degree will earn 10% to 20% more (PDF, 2.5 MB) than those who only hold a bachelor’s degree. The managerial accounting skills developed in a master of accounting program can open the door for leadership positions, further accelerating earning potential.
What Are the Benefits of a Master of Accounting?
From increasing your understanding of accounting to distinguishing yourself in a competitive field, obtaining a master of accounting can have several benefits. Keep reading to learn about the ways this graduate degree can propel your career.
Throughout your time in grad school, you have access to accounting industry professionals who can aid in your career growth and development. Professors of accounting graduate programs offer a wealth of knowledge and real-world experience. This may benefit you during your time in graduate school as well as in post-grad networking situations.
A master of accounting sends a signal to employers about your dedication and abilities. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants spoke with a director of HR at BeachFleischman PC in Tucson, Arizona, about what her firm values when onboarding new talent. She revealed that candidates with advanced degrees are given preference in the hiring process:
“We know they come in ready to go straight to work and have more experience and education in tax and audit. They already meet upper-division requirements and are ready to take the CPA exam.”
All in all, a master of accounting can distinguish you from other accountants in this competitive field and better prepare you for managerial accounting positions and certifications like the CPA. The benefits move beyond sharpening your skills as you develop a network of other like-minded professionals.
How Does Life Change After an Accounting Master’s?
What can you expect after obtaining your master of accounting? The good news is you have many options for success with this degree under your belt.
One option is a career as a certified public accountant, since those with an accounting master’s may fulfill the required hours to sit for the exam. In general, CPAs make more than the average accountant and have more permissions.
For example, a CPA can file reports to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which not all accountants have the power to do. This increases their value in the eyes of employers.
Another option is to pursue roles that allow you to guide high-level financial strategy. Working as a financial manager, management analyst, or top executive can allow you to utilize decision-making and strategic planning skills. Those with master’s degrees may feel better equipped to land these challenging yet rewarding roles.
Alternatives to Accounting Master’s
Are you still wondering, “Should I get my master’s in accounting?” Keep reading to learn about accounting degree alternatives and determine if there is a better fit for your career goals.
A Master of Business Administration is one of the most sought-after graduate degrees. offers students a working knowledge of a broad range of business disciplines. You’ll learn about finance, marketing, operations and more while also gaining the leadership skills needed to serve in top roles. Depending on the school, you may even choose to pursue an MBA that specializes in accounting. Just as you can pursue a master of accounting online, you can get an MBA online as well.
2. CMA or CPA Credential
Becoming a certified management accountant (CMA) is another alternative to obtaining a master of accounting.
Consider pursuing a CMA credential if you would like to do industry work and see yourself in a management role. The certification equips you with the skills to manage and make financially strategic decisions.
A certified public accountant (CPA) deals with things like taxes, audits and other financial reporting. For those who would rather work in public accounting than industry and enjoy having the option to work with varying companies, the CPA certification is a good fit.
While you are not required to have a master of accounting degree in order to apply for the CMA or CPA credential, a master’s degree may help when you are preparing for the exams.
3. Chartered Financial Analyst
A chartered financial analyst (CFA) is another position within the field of finance. It signifies that one is a specialist in investment management. There are many requirements and tests one must complete in order to become a CFA. To pursue the CFA, you must have a bachelor’s degree and four years of financial work experience. Furthermore, there are three sequential exams one must pass to become a CFA.
To sum it up, a master of accounting can offer deep knowledge of accounting as well as help you develop skills in management and strategic problem-solving. Whether you are looking to stand out, earn more or obtain a CPA certification, a master of accounting is a helpful stepping stone to these advancements.
Obtaining a master of accounting requires substantial focus and commitment, but you must also weigh the potential rewards. The accounting profession can offer an array of job opportunities, depending on your area of specialization and whether your graduate degree provides additional assistance with your specific accounting career goals.