Is a master’s in accounting worth it? It would seem so. For one, a degree like that can pave the way to a career path as an accountant. And becoming an accountant tends to be a stable and well-paying career path that remains in steady demand. If you have a good grasp of numbers, strong financial literacy, and an excellent eye for detail, you may well be a great candidate for a career in accounting.
There are multiple paths an accountant can go in the field, and most of the best positions will require a professional certification. The CPA (Certified Public Accountant) is the most widely known of these and is the one to pursue if you’re planning to go into general public accounting. There are several other certifications for other career paths, as well.
It is possible to take the CPA exam without a master’s in accounting. Though some additional study will be required, graduates who hold a Bachelor of Science in Accounting may take the CPA exam and sit for CPA licensure as long as they have 150 total credit hours of study. Which, for some, brings us back to the question: Is a master’s in accounting worth it?
Let’s explore the reasons why the reason, especially for those pursuing a career in accounting, the answer is yes!
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Benefits of Getting a Masters in Accounting
Here at Post University, we offer a Master of Science in Accounting that’s available via 100% online instruction. Why pursue a master’s in accounting? There are many benefits to earning such a degree. While not every CPA earns a master’s in accounting, doing so is a great step for many accountants.
Below, we’ll explore six of the benefits you may enjoy by getting a master’s in accounting.
1. Job Outlook
Accountancy is a profession that has long been viewed as a stable, “safe” career path for those with the skills necessary to succeed. Unemployment rates for those in this career field have historically run much lower than the general population, and this trend appears to have continued throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts consistent growth in the career field, about 4% over the coming decade.
There are sensible reasons for a low unemployment rate among accountants. No matter how a company is doing financially, it needs competent staff to handle the financials as long as it remains in business. A struggling company may shed sales or support staff, but it will always need accounting capability.
Earning a master’s in accounting isn’t the only step to becoming an accountant and gaining this kind of job outlook, but it can be a crucial one.
2. Career Growth
Not only is accounting a fairly stable career path, but there’s also the opportunity for substantial career growth. A typical master’s in accounting salary generally starts off at an impressive level, even for those who haven’t yet earned their CPA. Across all industries, graduates who complete a master’s program tend to earn more than those who don’t.
Some students pursue the master’s in accounting primarily as a tool to prepare for the CPA exam. There’s certainly nothing wrong with this approach. Many CPAs excel in general public accounting, becoming masters of audit procedures. There’s potential for career growth in that arena, certainly.
That said, other career paths with growth potential are available to graduates of master’s-level accounting programs as well. Over the course of your studies and career, you might move into positions such as IT accountant, financial analyst, controller, or managerial accountant, to name a few. Additionally, many if not most CFOs have a finance or accounting background.
As you ask yourself if a master’s in accounting is worth it, consider your desired career path and the potential career growth that this degree could enable.
3. Salary Potential
The salary potential for accountants is substantial. The BLS reports that the median pay for accountants and auditors in 2019 was $71,550 annually. This figure includes all accountants and auditors: those with only a bachelor’s degree, those with a master’s in accounting, and those with and without the CPA certification. A good rule of thumb is the more credentials you hold, the better your earnings potential.
Earning a master’s in accounting can also pave the way for senior or more advanced roles within the accounting world. Internal auditors, compliance analysts, and controllers tend to have significantly higher starting and median salaries.
In summary, the salary range for those holding a master’s in accounting can vary widely. Still, nearly any position could net a solid salary in the upper five figures—and maybe even into the six-figure range.
4. Online Options for School
If you’re already working in the accounting field with a bachelor’s degree (or a bachelor’s plus CPA certification), you might feel a bit stuck. You want to further enhance your career prospects and earning potential by earning a master’s degree, but you don’t want to put your career on pause to do it.
Many universities now offer online options for completing master’s level accounting programs. Whether 100% online or hybrid, these programs are designed with the working accountant in mind and can generally be completed without interfering with normal work hours.
Some schools require a short residency period for their online programs, while others are 100% online. Here at Post University, our online Master of Science in Accounting can be earned 100% online with no residency requirement.
5. Helps Prepare You for the CPA Exam
While it is possible to land a position related to accounting without holding CPA certification, a great many positions and companies do require it. In some cases (such as with a large public accounting firm), a junior accountant may be hired upon graduation with a bachelor’s degree (and after a successful internship). But there is usually an expectation that the new hire work toward qualifying for and passing the CPA exam in the first few years.
The CPA exam is not exactly known for being easy. It’s a challenging exam that can, in some cases, define the trajectory of your career.
Also, before you can take the CPA exam, you must complete 150 semester hours of study, which is significantly more than a standard bachelor’s degree.
There are CPA prep courses out there, and these can be helpful to a point. But another approach is to use a master’s in accounting program as an extended, in-depth preparation for the CPA exam. Some universities even offer a CPA track within their Master of Science in Accounting degree programs.
Post University offers an online Master of Science in Accounting with a CPA track. This specialized program includes six study labs to help prepare you for the CPA exam, plus pre-tests to identify areas of focus and an individualized plan of study to enable you to prepare for and ultimately pass the CPA exam.
6. Flexibility in Work Settings
Historically, accounting has been viewed as an extremely stable and safe profession, one with a very traditional hiring structure and clearly defined career paths. And these aspects are all still accurate if you want to pursue those sorts of roles. If you’re looking for a predictable and stable 9-to-5 occupation (with occasional intense bursts, if you choose general or public accounting or audits), there are plenty of accounting positions that fit this bill.
However, that’s not the only path available to you. A master’s in accounting equips you with business skills that are widely applicable and can prepare you well for a career as a business-minded entrepreneur. You could take your accounting skills to an exciting startup or to a trailblazing nonprofit.
There’s also nothing saying you have to work for someone else at all. As a financially savvy entrepreneur, you could even start your own boutique accounting firm or financial consulting business.
Again, we ask the question: Is a master’s in accounting worth it? Thanks to the flexibility the degree brings, the answer is “yes” for many business-minded students. Some want the security that comes with a traditional accounting role, while others prefer the flexibility that comes with working on their own terms. Whatever your motivations, the right master’s program can help you achieve your goals.
Post’s Online Master of Science in Accounting
In summary, why pursue a master’s in accounting? The improved job outlook, prospects for career growth, and excellent salary potential are three primary reasons. For some, however, preparation for the CPA exam and the additional career flexibility are the real draw.
If you’re considering an online Master of Science in Accounting, Post University’s program is compelling. You’ll learn from faculty practitioners who have a wealth of real-world experience, and you can complete your entire degree program online. Click to learn more about Post’s online Master of Science in Accounting.
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Please note jobs, career outcomes, and/or salaries highlighted in this blog do not reflect jobs, career outcomes, and/or salaries expected from any Post University program. To learn more about Post University’s program and their outcomes, please fill out a form to speak with an admissions representative.