As an ambitious professional, you’re eager to reach new heights in your career—and you believe that a business-related degree can grant you a much-needed edge in today’s competitive job market. Now, you need to decide: Should you pursue a Master of Science in Accounting or a Master of Business Administration?
There’s a lot to love about these respected programs. Both are rigorous and both provide graduates an exciting level of prestige. Unfortunately, these very qualities can make choosing between them difficult, particularly if you’ve yet to discern your precise career calling.
There is no clear-cut answer to the MSA vs MBA conundrum. Ultimately, it all comes down to your specific career ambitions. Keep reading to learn why these graduate programs are so valuable—and why their differences matter.
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How to Decide Between a Master’s in Accounting and an MBA
People often assume that by the time students reach graduate-level education, they know exactly what they want to study and how their advanced coursework will play into their career plans. In reality, however, many students remain as unsure of their path forward for grad school as they did while seeking their bachelor’s. This is particularly true of business-oriented students who enjoy a range of opportunities but must also deal with the challenge of narrowing down those options.
For many students, graduate program selection comes down to a simple, yet surprisingly complex decision: Which one? A Master of Science in Accounting or a Master of Business Administration? These programs are similarly challenging and prestigious, but beyond this, their differences are significant. Both provide excellent opportunities for gaining a competitive edge, but no one academic path is ideal for all students.
As an aspiring grad school student—and business or accounting professional—it’s important to understand how the MSA and MBA work, who they’re intended to benefit, and how they play into long-term career planning. As such, we’ve highlighted key similarities and differences below:
Master of Accounting vs MBA: Similarities
Before contrasting MSA and MBA programs, it’s important to understand what these graduate programs hold in common. You may be surprised by the extensive overlap between these degrees, which are built on many of the same concepts and classes:
- Strategic decision-making.The need for a strategic mindset is obvious in the business world, but it’s just as crucial for success in accounting. As such, both the Master of Accounting and the Master of Business Administration focus on developing problem-solving skills backed by analytical reasoning. With accounting, this skill plays into organizational planning, while the MBA encourages students to focus on analyses as they relate to the evolving global market.
- Innovation. Today’s rapidly changing business environment calls for innovative leaders who are capable of developing and promoting the next big concept, product, or service. Innovation is just as important in accounting, where the creative process allows for better outcomes at an organizational level. This quality is especially prized now that consulting plays a greater role in the modern accounting field. Accounting consultants may be called on to provide creative financial solutions for organizations facing a variety of challenges. They can draw on their experience with an MSA program to harness the power of innovation.
- Business process management.The ability to develop and analyze predictable business processes is essential among both accountants and management professionals. After all, chaotic processes can lead to a limited return on investment. Both MS in Accounting and MBA programs help students understand how business process management works and develop tailored skills associated with this core concept.
- Communication. All graduate programs emphasize effective oral and written communication. In MSA and MBA programs, these skills are developed through intensive coursework that involves thought-provoking discussions and written assignments. The principles of professional communication ring true in both accounting and business management, making this one of the most transferable skills gained in either graduate program.
- Capstone. Both the MSA and MBA often end with capstone courses that bring together the many skills and concepts covered throughout the respective graduate programs. While the focus of the capstone depends on the degree and concentration, this experience delivers focused, real-world applications that grad students need to confidently take the next step on the career ladder.
Master of Accounting vs. MBA: Differences
The similarities highlighted above can make both the MS in Accounting and MBA seem like compelling options. As you consider your preferred approach, however, you may choose to focus on the specific qualities that set these programs apart:
- Exam prep. Many students seek their MS in Accounting with the goal of becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or earning well-sought out accounting certifications like the Certified Management Accountant (CMA), Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) or Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE). Completing the MSA can also help the students meet the 150 educational credits required for licensure by most states. They can opt to extend their degree program with the CPA Track, which helps students prepare for the notoriously rigorous Uniform CPA Exam. An MBA program can lay the groundwork for several professional pursuits but, it likely does not provide a solid foundation for CPA licensure or other accounting related certifications.
- Concentrations. While the MS in Accounting provides an optional exam prep track, it otherwise consists of a single, cohesive program with a specific trajectory in accounting for public, private and nonprofit organizations, audit, taxation, and risk management for all enrolled students. Some grad students may prefer the comparative flexibility of the MBA, which includes several intriguing areas of concentration. From Finance to Corporate Innovation, Entrepreneurship, Marketing, Project Management, Leadership, and even Leadership in Healthcare Systems, these concentrations allow students to pursue specific academic and professional goals. If these options do not live up to their vision of the perfect degree program, students can choose the multi-disciplinary approach.
- Communication. Yes, communication represents both a key similarity and difference between accounting and business administration. While effective communication is crucial in both fields, how it is applied differs based on the area of study. In accounting, written communications must be prepared according to required standards and industry best practices. In business administration, interactions may be more fluid or dynamic. As such, MBA communications are largely approached from a marketing perspective, with concepts such as consumer behavior and sales promotion coming into greater play.
- Transferable skills. While MBA students enjoy the opportunity to pursue concentrations they find intriguing, the bulk of the program rests on the development of transferable skills. No matter which concentration they select, students will enjoy an impressive degree of career flexibility upon graduating. The MS in Accounting takes a more focused approach, providing a deep dive into accounting principles, governing standards, and best practices. Most MSA graduates will go on to pursue dedicated careers in accounting, while the MBA can prepare students for success in nearly any sector imaginable.
Regardless of your thoughts on business administration vs accounting, graduate-level coursework can prepare you for a bright future. Equipped with an MS in Accounting or an MBA, you will prove that you have what it takes to succeed in today’s competitive workforce.
Look to Post University to prepare you for a career you will love. Whether you hope to launch a startup, secure a high-level corporate position, or become a CPA, you will thrive once you’ve joined the Malcolm Baldrige School of Business. Our elite online programs include a Master of Science in Accounting and a Master of Business Administration. Contact us today to take the next step towards fulfilling your academic and professional goals.
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