When choosing whether to pursue a Master of Accountancy or a master’s in business administration degree with an accounting concentration, students should consider what they want to do after they graduate.
Master’s degrees tend to focus on one particular discipline in depth, touching very little on other subjects. MBA degrees, on the other hand, are designed to impart a broad understanding of business in general while also focusing on a specific concentration.
Students interested in crunching numbers, preparing tax forms, and keeping books might do better to pursue an accounting master’s degree. Those who aspire to manage accountants and interact regularly with other business departments might find an accounting MBA a better fit. Because career paths and professional qualifications differ substantially between those who hold a Master of Accountancy vs. those with an MBA in Accounting, students should consider all of the variables before choosing a program.
Master of Accountancy
The primary goal of an accounting master’s degree program is to prepare students to take (and pass) the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam. Most firms require their accountants to have CPA licenses. The curriculum of an MS program typically involves a few general business courses followed by in-depth accounting practice coursework.
“Emphases are also frequently available to yet further deepen specific areas of accounting knowledge — taxation is a popular choice, as is reporting and assurance,” explains TopAccountingDegrees.org in “What is the Difference Between a Master’s of Accounting and an MBA in Accounting?”
“This means that those with such degrees will have a deeper and more thorough knowledge of accounting practice and theory than their MBA counterparts, making them better suited to accountancy work and better equipped to pursue doctoral coursework.”
Most CPAs work for accounting or business firms as bookkeepers, preparing tax documents for individuals, private companies, and corporations, according to Study.com’s “Certified Public Accountant: Career Info, Job Duties, and Employment Options.”
CPAs also tend to serve as consultants of sorts, offering advice on the financial issues that their clients face in their daily lives and business practices. CPAs who are also proficient in information technology and computers in general are often called upon to help with computerized accounting and bookkeeping software.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists accountants and auditors as having an average salary of almost $70,000 per year (2017 numbers), although those CPAs with only a bachelor’s degree can expect to earn less than that until they complete a master’s program. The highest paid sector in accounting is the finance and insurance sector (averaging at just shy of $75,000) and the lowest paid sector is government (at just over $67,000).
Master of Business Administration in Accounting
MBA degrees differ from traditional master’s degrees in that they are not research-based. Rather, MBA graduates are expected to have a working knowledge of all facets of business management with a slightly deeper understanding of one particular discipline. The thesis usually required in master’s programs is replaced by capstone coursework and internships under the guidance of veteran business administrators working in an industry related to an MBA candidate’s concentration.
“MBA accounting programs teach students the skills necessary to hold an upper-management accountant position with the expertise to manage certified accountants, utilize advanced software to track financial records and transactions and above all, make educated decisions that increase the bottom line,” according to “Master’s in Accounting (MACC) vs. MBA in Accounting” on GradSchools.com.
With the aim of applying accounting principles to big-picture business operations, MBA in accounting curriculum typically covers the conceptual framework of accounting, legal standards, special programs associated with revenue recognition, and reporting standards for stockholders’ equity. Advanced accounting principles, from accounting information systems to forensic accounting, are covered from the point of view of management. Those with an MBA in accounting can also pursue CPA licensure if they choose.
Those who hold an MBA in accounting can look forward to a lucrative career as a senior accountant, accounting manager, corporate controller, finance manager, and even chief financial officer (CFO) of a company. Payscale.com lists the average income for an accounting MBA at $88,000 (2018), considerably higher than the income potential for those with an MS in Accounting. MBA salaries range from the mid-$60,000 range at the low end to over $135,000 for higher-prestige positions (e.g., CFO).
Ohio University’s Master of Business Administration Degree
Recognized by U.S. News & World Report as a “Best Online MBA” program, Ohio University’s online master’s in business administration now offers a concentration in accounting designed to prepare graduates for positions in corporate financial management.
The program, which takes advantage of the latest in classroom technology, also offers concentrations in finance, healthcare, executive management, and business analytics. To learn more, call or contact Ohio University today.
Difference Between Master’s and MBA in Accounting – TopAccountingDegrees.org
CPA: Career Info – Study.com
Accountants and Auditors – Bureau of Labor Statistics
MACC vs. MBA in Accounting – GradSchools.com
MBA, Accounting & Finance Degree – Payscale.com