Master’s Degree in Accounting – Everything You Need to Know


A Master’s degree in Accounting is a graduate-level 1-2 year program designed to deepen a student’s knowledge of accounting principles, financial analysis, auditing, and regulatory compliance. It prepares students for professional accounting careers and enhances their qualifications for leadership roles within the accounting industry. This degree is particularly valuable for meeting the 150 credit hour requirement for CPA licensure in many states, which often necessitates additional coursework beyond the typical bachelor’s degree.

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Why Get a Master’s in Accounting?

A Master’s in Accounting equips you with the advanced accounting knowledge, analytical skills, and strategic thinking highly sought after by employers in today’s complex business environment. The master’s program delves deeper into various accounting specializations like taxation, auditing, or forensic accounting, allowing you to tailor your studies to your career aspirations. This advanced degree opens doors to leadership and managerial roles in accounting, finance, and beyond.
Barbara Clark, CPA, CMA, CGMA, Executive Vice President at AICPA

Meeting the Educational Requirements for CPA Licensure

Most states require candidates to complete 150 credit hours to sit for the CPA exam, a standard that typically exceeds the credits earned through a bachelor’s degree alone. A Master’s in Accounting not only fulfills these credit requirements but also ensures a deeper and broader knowledge base, which is crucial for passing the CPA exam.

Enhanced Career Opportunities and Earnings Potential

A Master’s in Accounting opens doors to advanced career opportunities in accounting and finance, including senior and management positions that are often not accessible to those with only a bachelor’s degree.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, individuals with a master’s degree typically earn higher salaries compared to those with a bachelor’s degree. Specifically, weekly earnings are about 20% higher on average for master’s degree holders.

Networking and Professional Development Opportunities

A Master’s degree in Accounting provides significant opportunities to connect with peers, faculty, industry professionals, and alumni who can offer valuable insights, mentorship, and career opportunities. This network is pivotal for professional growth and job placement upon graduation.

According to a survey by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), more than 90% of alumni from graduate business programs, including Master’s in Accounting, reported that their education provided opportunities for quicker job placements and effectively expanded their professional networks. Additionally, alumni networks often play a crucial role in opening doors to job opportunities in prestigious firms and organizations across the globe.

What is Covered?

  1. Advanced Financial Accounting
    • Topics include complex accounting issues such as consolidations, partnerships, multinational corporations, and financial statement analysis.
  2. Auditing and Assurance
    • Focus on advanced auditing practices, standards, and ethics. Includes the study of internal controls, risk assessment, and the use of technology in auditing.
  3. Managerial Accounting
    • Examines cost behavior, budgeting, and management control systems. This course helps in making strategic decisions based on managerial accounting data.
  4. Corporate Finance
    • In-depth coverage of financial management, including capital structure, investment decisions, and financial markets.
  5. Taxation
    • Extensive study of tax law, planning, and compliance for individuals, corporations, and other entities. It may include international taxation, which covers tax issues related to cross-border transactions.
  6. Forensic Accounting and Fraud Examination
    • Focuses on detecting, investigating, and preventing fraud using accounting techniques. Often includes study of legal aspects of fraud.
  7. Information Systems
    • Covers the role of information systems in accounting, including how to use and audit information systems, and the implications of technology on accounting practices.

Students may also have the opportunity to take elective courses that allow them to specialize in areas of interest such as:

  • Nonprofit Accounting
  • Governmental Accounting
  • Environmental Accounting
  • Estate Planning
  • Financial Statement Analysis
  • Advanced Auditing Topics

Here is a sample curriculum:


Year 1

Fall Semester

  1. Advanced Financial Accounting
    • Study of complex accounting topics such as consolidations, foreign currency transactions, and financial reporting for multinational corporations.
  2. Managerial Accounting
    • Focus on cost behaviors, budgeting, and internal control mechanisms that managers use for making informed business decisions.
  3. Federal Taxation
    • Comprehensive review of tax codes applicable to individuals and businesses, focusing on tax planning and compliance strategies.
  4. Business Law for Accountants
    • Examination of legal issues related to corporate governance, contracts, securities regulation, and the legal responsibilities of accountants.

Spring Semester

  1. Auditing and Assurance Services
    • Detailed coverage of audit processes, methodologies, ethical standards, and current issues in the auditing field.
  2. Corporate Finance
    • Advanced concepts in capital budgeting, corporate valuation, capital structure, and financial risk management.
  3. Accounting Information Systems
    • Study of the design, implementation, and auditing of accounting information systems with an emphasis on data integrity and security.
  4. Elective: E.g., Nonprofit Accounting, International Finance, or Advanced Taxation

Year 2

Fall Semester

  1. Forensic Accounting and Fraud Examination
    • Techniques for detecting and investigating financial fraud, including legal aspects and the use of digital forensics.
  2. Government and Nonprofit Accounting
    • Focus on accounting principles and practices specific to governmental and nonprofit entities.
  3. Ethics in Accounting
    • Exploration of ethical issues in accounting practice, emphasizing professional conduct and regulatory compliance.
  4. Elective: E.g., Environmental Accounting, Estate Planning, or Financial Statement Analysis

Spring Semester

  1. Capstone Project or Thesis
    • Integration and application of accounting knowledge in a comprehensive project or research thesis that addresses a complex accounting issue.
  2. Seminar in Current Issues in Accounting
    • Discussion of contemporary challenges and emerging trends in the accounting profession, such as new regulatory frameworks or advances in accounting technology.
  3. Elective: E.g., Advanced Auditing Topics, Risk Management, or Corporate Governance

Entry Requirements

  • Bachelor’s Degree – Applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university. While a degree in accounting or a related field is often preferred, many programs accept candidates from diverse academic backgrounds.
  • Minimum GPA – Many programs require a minimum undergraduate GPA, typically around 3.0 on a 4.0 scale, although more competitive programs may require higher GPAs.
  • GMAT or GRE Scores – Most accounting master’s programs require scores from the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) or the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE). Some programs may waive this requirement for applicants with significant professional experience or an exceptionally high undergraduate GPA.
  • Prerequisite Courses – Some programs require completion of specific prerequisite courses in accounting, finance, and statistics, especially if the applicant’s undergraduate degree is not in accounting.
  • Letters of Recommendation – Typically, two or three letters of recommendation are required, ideally from academic professors or professional supervisors who can attest to the applicant’s potential for graduate study.
  • Statement of Purpose – A written statement detailing the applicant’s career objectives and motivation for pursuing a Master’s degree in accounting.
  • Professional Experience – Although not always mandatory, relevant work experience in accounting or finance can enhance an application, particularly for more competitive programs.
  • Resume – A current resume detailing educational background, work experience, and any relevant extracurricular activities or honors.

For international applicants from non-English speaking countries, proof of English proficiency through TOEFL or IELTS scores is usually required.


Some common questions our career advisors get asked:

What are the career benefits of earning a Master’s degree in Accounting?

A Master’s in Accounting significantly enhances your qualifications beyond the bachelor’s level, preparing you for senior roles such as financial controller, chief financial officer, or a partner in an accounting firm. The degree provides the advanced skills and knowledge required for expert practice in accounting and compliance, and often fulfills the educational requirements for professional certifications like the CPA.

Is a Master’s degree in Accounting worth it if I already have a CPA certification?

Yes, even with a CPA certification, a Master’s degree can be highly beneficial. The advanced coursework and specialized training can deepen your expertise in areas such as forensic accounting, taxation, or international accounting, making you more competitive for upper-level management and specialized advisory roles. Additionally, the networking opportunities and potential for academic engagement can open new professional avenues.

What should I look for when choosing a Master’s program in Accounting?

When selecting a Master’s program in Accounting, consider the accreditation of the program (AACSB, ACBSP, IACBE), the faculty’s expertise, the curriculum’s alignment with your career goals, the availability of concentrations or specializations that interest you, and the success of the program’s alumni. Also, evaluate practical aspects like program format (full-time, part-time, online), location, length, and the total cost including potential financial aid options.

How can I balance working full-time with pursuing a Master’s degree in Accounting?

Many programs offer part-time, evening, or online courses specifically designed for working professionals. These formats provide flexibility and allow you to apply what you learn directly to your current job. Time management will be crucial, so consider a program that offers asynchronous learning options or where classes are concentrated on certain days that fit your schedule.

What kind of financial aid is available for students in Master’s in Accounting programs?

Financial aid options for graduate students include federal student loans, private loans, scholarships, fellowships, and graduate assistantships. Many schools offer scholarships specifically for accounting students or those demonstrating academic excellence. Graduate assistantships can also provide tuition remission and a stipend in return for research or teaching assistance.


  • Public Institution: $12,410 – $29,931 per year
  • Private Institution: $26,597 – $59,320 per year
  • Online – $18,000-$44,000 total program cost

How Much Can You Earn?

Given the diverse career paths that individuals take both before obtaining their master’s degree and afterwards, it is hard to put a figure on likely earnings however here are the average annual salary figures for some of the common jobs. You can use the links to visit the salary guide for each job to get more insights.