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Online degrees in accounting, even a Master's Degree in Accounting, are ideal for individuals seeking to continue their education beyond their undergraduate degree in accounting and acquire more knowledge in the field. In most states, they also help to satisfy the 150 semester hours required to sit for the CPA exam and apply to become a certified public accountant (CPA). Most every graduate from a college of business will have around 120 semester hours and a master's in accounting will put them over the standard 150 semester hour requirements that most accountancy boards have. There are many benefits for working professionals associated with an online graduate degree in accounting, including more opportunities, training and development. Masters of accountancy find that they receive higher pay and greater responsibilities. This is true no matter your accounting career goals, or even if you've passed all four parts of the CPA examination. With specializations, you can find yourself focusing your new accounting degree on financial accounting, public accounting, financial management or managerial accounting, forensic accounting, accounting information systems, risk management for corporations, becoming an internal auditor, offering advice on financial decision making, cost accounting, and more
Master's Degree Breakdown
Accounting master's programs vary from school to school in faculty and staff, policy, events, leadership, and the classes and unique opportunities for study and individual success they provide. However, most master's degree in accounting from a graduate school or business school generally consist of 30 to 60 credit hours. Full-time students can expect to complete their coursework in about two years, while part-time students will naturally take longer. However, a “fast track” accounting master's program may be available that can be completed in as little as a single year for full-time graduate students. This is especially true when you have a bachelor’s degree in accounting, as you already have a strong foundation. Some master’s degree level accounting coursework or admissions requirements may be waived and you'll be able to meet your career goals, pass the CPA exam and become a financial manager or gain CPA licensure in no time.
The cost of an accounting master’s degrees also varies drastically. Students can pay as little as $6,000 in tuition at a lesser-known graduate school or college of business, or as much as $25,000 at more prestigious institutions or for an MBA in accounting concentration rather than an accounting master's degree. It’s important to find a program that suits both your educational needs and your budget.
While most every college of business requires that candidates have a bachelor’s degree in accounting before granting admittance, some online universities and colleges admit students who agree to take additional prerequisite courses. This can increase the timeframe for completion, but does offer class options for those with unrelated bachelor’s degrees.
Individuals interested in enrolling in a master of accounting, a master of science, or a master of accountancy (MAcc) online degree program may also need to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and score above a certain threshold. This is a four-part, standardized test required by most graduate accountancy programs. If the GRE is not required, the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) may be. This exam focuses more on analytical writing, integrated reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and verbal reasoning. Always check your specific graduate school of business for program admission requirements, however, as the GRE or GMAT requirement can sometimes be waived for students with high undergraduate GPAs and/or years of work experience in accounting. A master of accounting from an executive graduate program may only require a resume or an accounting of your professional experience. Candidates who have already passed the CPA exam may also need to show their CPA license or CPA certificate.
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Reasons to Get Your Online Master’s in Accounting
Benefits of earning a master’s in accounting
Additionally, many states require CPA candidates to attain an accounting degree, as well as complete a minimum of 150 semester hours. Most bachelor's degree accountancy programs consist of only 120 semester hours, meaning that if you intend to become a licensed CPA you will need to take additional, higher-level accounting and businesses courses. Attending a master’s program for accounting will help to satisfy CPA certification requirements. Students should discuss this with an adviser from their school of business to ensure that they have the specific 150 semester hours required to sit for the CPA exam. Finally, a master's degree in accounting will not only satisfy academic requirements for most any board of accountancy, but the accounting coursework will surely provide preparation for the CPA examination.
Benefits of earning your master’s online
One of the biggest benefits of choosing to earn your master’s in accounting online, however, is the ability to access specialized accounting programs anywhere in the nation without relocating. You will have your pick of institutions, programs, and courses, making it easy for you to tailor your educational experience to your professional goals, whether that is accounting information systems, forensic accounting, or managerial accounting. The most important thing is that the graduate school of business have full accreditation. Most any state university will have at least regional accreditation that allows students to sit for the Uniform CPA examination. State Accountancy boards often examine transcripts and look for national accreditation. That is, the Board of Accountancy may not recognize regional accreditation from some other region, so make sure your credits will qualify you to sit for the CPA exam.
It’s also worth noting that some colleges and universities don’t differentiate between degrees earned traditionally and online. In cases like this, students can expect to receive the same accounting degree, regardless of the method by which they completed the coursework. Keep this in mind while selecting your school of business, as some potential employers may not immediately view an online degree in accounting as equally credible to traditional degrees. If you have a master's degree in accounting from a state university, chances are that most employers won't care how you attended class. Furthermore, if you can pass the CPA exam and qualify to become a licensed Certified Public Accountant, most any employer will be happy to have you on board.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, accountants and auditors can expect to see employment growth of 10 percent before 2026. This is faster than any other occupation, making it an optimal professional career choice. Job growth in this field is likely due to healthier economic conditions, more complex financial regulations, and business globalization. A licensed certified public accountant (CPA) and those who have attained a master’s degree in accounting or a master’s degree in business administration (MBA) with a concentration in accounting may be at an advantage as the job market continues to grow.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics also reported that most auditors and accountants hold full-time positions, with one out of five working more than 40 hours a week. Overtime is, however, most common during income tax season.
While almost every field has a need for financial specialists, the largest employers of accountants are accounting firms offering auditing, tax preparation, bookkeeping, and payroll services, as well as government, finance and insurance companies, and business management enterprises. Many accountants are also self-employed. Here are a few potential jobs that a master's in accounting will qualify you for:
Average Accountant Salary
According to the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook, accountants made a median annual salary of $69,350 in 2017. While 10% earned less than $43,020, top-tier accountants and auditors earned wages in excess of $122,220. Salary will vary drastically depending on job type, as well as professional and academic qualifications. Acquiring a master’s in accounting will qualify you for higher-level positions and, as a result, likely increase your annual take home pay.
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Average CPA Salary
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While every online graduate school of business and accounting degrees will differ, especially if you attend an MBA program or a business school at a state university, there are some general curriculum expectations you should be aware of. Commonly, accounting students will be expected to complete a certain number of foundational, core, and elective courses while they complete their academics for a master of accounting or undergraduate degree in accounting. Additionally, most any state university school of business offering an online master's degree in accounting will require certain coursework prior to enrollment. These classes usually consist of field basics, like introduction to accounting, financial accounting, taxation, microeconomics, macroeconomics, business law, and some level of mathematics. They may also require that you have a certain number of years of work experience. These days, a graduate school of business is likely to require not only undergraduate transcripts but a resume as well.
Common accounting concentrations
Those who intend to earn a master's degree in accounting from a reputable graduate college of business from a private or state university will likely have the opportunity to select a concentration, frequently made up of elective courses. Because the field is so multi-faceted, it can be beneficial to specialize in one or two sub-fields specifically geared to suit your preferred career path. Those who are in a master's in accounting may seek out courses that build softer skills, such as communications or general business coursework. While graduate business school concentrations vary between institutions, but may include:
Common accounting courses
While most any graduate business school that offers a master’s accounting program may offer courses with varying titles, much of the content will be the same. Most every school of business will offer common graduate accounting courses including:
Importance of Accreditation
When comparing online master's in accounting, one of the most important aspects to consider is the institution’s accreditation status. All colleges and universities can be accredited by regional, national, or specialized U.S. Department of Education agencies. Generally, you should give preference to institutions that are regionally accredited, as this accreditation process is much more extensive and rigorous. Some of the most reputable agencies include:
A school’s accreditation status will impact your ability to transfer credits and file for federal financial aid. Accreditation is also particularly important if you plan to apply for a CPA license or certificate.
While every state’s requirements to become a CPA are different, most accountancy boards only accept degrees accredited by certain organizations. When possible, it’s important that you review your state’s CPA expectations prior to selecting your master’s in accounting program. If your college or school of business isn’t accredited by one of your state’s pre-approved accreditation agencies, you may not qualify to become a licensed CPA. In some cases, state accountancy boards do allow credit equivalency assessments to verify your educational records meet or exceed their specific requirements.
Choosing an Online Master’s Accounting Program
Picking the right online MS in accounting program is important, especially if you plan to pursue licensure as a CPA. Don’t rush the decision; take all the time you need to assess which college or business school will match your educational background and future career plans. Factors you should consider are:
Questions to ask before enrolling
To ensure you enroll in an online institution that will meet your specific needs, ask yourself these questions: