You are a driven professional, an analytical thinker, and a passionate individual with a desire to make a difference. All these qualities make you an excellent candidate for an enriching accounting career. First, however, you will need in-depth training from a respected accountancy program.
Your bachelor’s degree can provide a strong foundation, but the next rung on the career ladder may remain out of reach until you earn your Master of Accountancy (MAcc). This powerful degree could prepare you for some of today’s most lucrative and impactful accounting positions.
Accounting master’s programs aren’t suitable for everyone, so it’s important to understand when they’re required and what they involve. To that end, we’ve highlighted everything you need to know about master’s in accounting programs: which courses you can expect to take, how you’ll prepare for licensing, and which job opportunities may become available once you graduate.
What Is a MAcc?
A Master of Accountancy (MAcc) is a graduate-level degree designed to prepare students for upper-level accounting positions. Through targeted yet comprehensive coursework, MAcc students gain a detailed understanding of accounting as it applies to data analytics, corporate taxation, and information systems.
The MAcc also delves into emerging technical concerns, encouraging students to achieve an in-depth understanding through research and practical application. What’s more, this degree track emphasizes many core competencies of the accounting profession, such as communication, creativity, and collaboration. An MAcc can provide thorough preparation to pass the Uniform CPA exam (or Certified Public Accountant exam), obtain other relevant credentials, and, ultimately, take on a variety of niche or leadership accounting roles.
The Rise in Demand for Advanced Accounting Skills
Skilled accountants have long been in high demand. They are an irreplaceable asset for large corporations, small businesses, and nonprofits alike. This is particularly true of professionals with skills in both accounting and management, which, together, allow them to drive positive long-term financial outcomes while also ensuring legal compliance.
This demand has only accelerated in recent years, as evidenced by data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Financial managers, for example, have a faster-than-average career outlook of 17% between 2021 and 2031, compared to 6% for accountants and auditors—and 5% across all professions. The future is similarly bright for personal financial advisors and financial analysts—career tracks that, while technically available to professionals with their bachelor’s, produce far better opportunities and pay upon achieving a Master of Accountancy.
Many skills emphasized in MAcc online programs align closely with those in high demand among today’s top employers. For example, American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) Vice President of Small Firms Carl Peterson believes that “data analytics is perhaps the most important skill set for firms of the future.” Meanwhile, AICPA Vice President of Firm Services Lisa Simpson explains that “firm leaders expect to see technology and data analysis-related skills become more embedded into the DNA of the modern firm.” Predictive analytics and data mining, in particular, will be vital moving forward.
Similarly, “success skills”—such as problem-solving and decision-making—are invaluable at the upper levels of this career track but take extensive effort to develop. AICPA’s Simpson highlights the need to invest in the ‘human skills’ of leadership and communications because public accounting continues to be a people business.
How a Master’s in Accounting Is Different From Other Business Degrees
Accounting is typically categorized as a business-oriented degree. However, the scope of the program differs considerably from that of a Master of Business Administration (MBA) and other more general business degrees. While an MBA may touch on accounting, it also covers a broad range of other topics like finance, human resources, or marketing.
A MAcc focuses almost exclusively on accounting. Yes, other subjects come into play, but only as they relate to accounting principles and practices. While both programs can lead to a wide array of career opportunities, the MAcc will be your preferred option if you are confident you want to work (or continue to work) in accounting, taxation, or auditing.
Exploring Master of Accountancy Programs
Well-rounded yet highly targeted, MAcc programs offer a valuable blend between critical accounting concepts and practices as well as niche topics that spark passion. Take a close look at the curriculum before you embark on this academic journey—you will want to feel confident that coursework will address current skills gaps while ensuring you are properly prepared to tackle challenging classes. It’s also worthwhile to examine scholarship and internship opportunities.
Core Curriculum and Coursework
The road to an MAcc begins well before reaching the graduate level. First, it’s important to demonstrate proficiency in beginning and intermediate accounting concepts as well as other background courses at the undergraduate level, such as Managerial Cost Accounting, Federal Tax Accounting, Auditing, and Accounting Information Systems to name a few. This foundation provides thorough preparation for core classes at the graduate level, including:
This essential course largely centers around transactions known as business combinations but also delves into the foreign currency translation process. This provides a solid foundation for the remainder of the MAcc program.
Accounting Data Analytics
Emphasizing analytic techniques and decision-making strategies, this class offers numerous opportunities to develop and apply data analytics skills such as modeling and visualization.
Taxation of Corporations and Partnerships
This course covers federal income tax laws underscoring the formation and reorganization of partnerships and corporations. This is explored from the perspective of both the entity and the owner.
Financial Accounting Theory and Issues
Highlighting contemporary topics as they relate to statements of cash flow and financial positions, this fascinating course will get you thinking critically about a variety of relevant concerns that you’ll almost certainly encounter in your accounting career.
If you are passionate about a particular accounting niche or career track, consider pursuing a degree specialization that prepares you for that field. A forensic data analytics concentration, for example, provides a thorough overview of the various techniques required for detecting and resolving financial fraud. Accounting itself can function as a specialization, too, if you ultimately opt to pursue your MBA.
Industry Certification Preparation
The Uniform CPA exam represents a key barrier to entry for many top accounting jobs and can also be an excellent source of credibility for accountants at all stages of their careers. The MAcc provides a solid blueprint to help aspiring leaders in accountancy pass this challenging exam and achieve Certified Public Accountant (CPA) status.
In addition to well-rounded preparation for the Uniform CPA exam, an MAcc can provide a framework as you study for other respected exams and credentials, such as:
- Certified Management Accountant (CMA) – Available through the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA), this credential indicates mastery of topics that lie at the intersection of accounting and finance. The two-part exam required to obtain this certificate touches on financial planning, analytics, risk management, and more.
- Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) – Offered by the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA), the CISA is viewed as the “standard of achievement” for the growing number of professionals involved in auditing and monitoring IT systems.
- Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) – As the premier designation from the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA), the CIA designation is conferred to those who pass a rigorous three-part exam. This credential is widely regarded as the gold standard for professionalism in internal auditing.
MAcc Degree Career Opportunities After Graduation
Upon graduating with your MAcc, you should be prepared to enter some of the field’s most exciting career paths. Opportunities that call for advanced accountancy training include:
Generally concerning nuanced, data-backed budgeting and forecasting, corporate finance is an exciting and often lucrative field encompassing the range of strategies that help organizations grow and thrive. MAcc graduates should be well-equipped to work as corporate controllers or to take on senior positions such as director of finance or even chief financial officer.
A variety of industries and businesses require oversight from senior or lead accounting professionals, who are often referred to as financial controllers. These positions focus on day-to-day operations and appeal greatly to management-minded accountants with exceptional attention to detail.
Centered around investigations that delve into suspected fraud and other financial crimes, forensic accounting is a compelling specialty that calls for highly developed auditing and investigative skills. A bachelor’s and CPA credential should be sufficient to secure entry-level work in forensic accounting, but leadership roles may be available to MAcc graduates after gaining a few years of experience in this important niche.
Nonprofits and Government Agencies
Although many forensic accountants work for government entities, this is by no means the only exciting opportunity within the public sector. Effective accounting is crucial across all areas of the public sector, where professionals must ensure that potentially limited funds are used responsibly. Similarly, nonprofits require accounting leadership, which can help organizations make the most of grants and donations to promote important causes and make a difference in the community.
Choosing the Right MAcc Program for You
If you hope to rise through the ranks to achieve a leadership role in accounting, an MAcc is all but non-negotiable. The next important decision will address where and how to obtain this essential degree. If you are already employed—and eager to continue working as you seek your graduate degree—an online MAcc program may be your best bet. Flexible solutions allow you to balance a full workload with the rigors of academic life. Other considerations to keep in mind include:
Highly Regarded Instructors
Take a close look at the faculty for your preferred MAcc programs. What can you glean about their accounting backgrounds? Ideally, they have extensive experience in both accounting and management, plus a clear passion for helping develop the next generation of accounting leaders.
If you are eager to streamline your path to getting both your undergraduate and graduate degrees, look for integrated accounting programs that allow you to obtain your bachelor’s and master’s from the same college.
Scholarships and Financial Aid
While the return on investment for MAcc online programs can be considerable, you’ll still want to feel confident about your funds as you proceed. Look for accounting-oriented scholarship opportunities and other valuable sources of financial aid.
Applied learning is crucial in accounting, so be mindful of whether any master’s in accountancy programs you’re considering offer a hands-on approach to learning. Supervised work experiences like internships can be especially valuable, as these provide ample opportunities to apply technical skills and accounting principles—not to mention, they look great on a resume and can help kickstart professional networking. When possible, opt for a college that encourages these opportunities and provides support as you seek them out.
UTC’s Online MAcc Program
Looking to take the next step in your professional journey? The Master of Accountancy at UTC’s Gary W. Rollins College of Business could be an excellent option for advancing your career. This program is uniquely well-suited to the modern working student. Reach out today to learn more.