For starters, having a master’s degree rather than a bachelor’s degree in accounting means that you acquire specialized skills. Examples of this might be getting a master’s degree in forensic accounting or taxation. Having a specialty in accounting improves your employability and could very well help you find employment much faster.
Furthermore, a master’s degree in accounting can help you advance your career. For example, while you don’t need a master’s degree to find good-paying jobs in accounting, many senior-level positions are reserved for accountants with a master’s degree.
This means that if you have aspirations to move up the career ladder, getting a master’s degree in accounting is virtually a must.
But there are other benefits to advancing your education, namely when it comes to finances.
It’s no secret that accountants with more education tend to make more money. This makes sense – an accountant with one year of experience and a master’s degree should make more money than an accountant with one year of experience and a bachelor’s degree.
Let’s take a closer look at the financial benefits of a master’s degree in accounting.
Employers Might Help You Pay for Graduate School
It is not uncommon for employers to encourage their employees to pursue higher education. In the case of accounting, some firms even offer to pay for their employees to get their master’s degree.
Typically, this means that the employer pays for tuition and fees while the employee foots the bill for things like books and supplies. However, some employers – large accounting firms, in particular – will sometimes pay for all the costs associated with getting a master’s degree.
This gives you a dual benefit. First, you get a free education. And second, you benefit down the road by having the knowledge and skills to get advanced credentials. And as noted above, you also qualify for upper-level jobs and can command a higher salary.
Get Job Offers Before You Graduate
Another of the primary benefits of getting a master’s degree in accounting is that you might find that you have job offers before you even get your diploma.
In fact, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), as of 2017, well over half of employers reported the need to hire master’s-level workers. Additionally, NACE noted that over half of employers expected a need to hire workers with accounting experience.
With that kind of demand, it’s no wonder that many graduates of master’s degree programs in accounting walk away from graduation with a job offer already in hand.
But the benefit of having job offers while you’re still in college isn’t just job security. A lot of accounting jobs for master’s-level applicants come with hefty incomes.
Incomes for Accountants With a Master’s Degree
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average annual salary for all accountants is $70,770. This figure takes all levels of education and experience into account.
But if you break it down by education level, you begin to see a trend in which accountants with a master’s degree can make significantly more money than the national average.
The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) notes that accountants with a master’s degree are offered salaries that are anywhere from 10-20 percent (or more) than applicants with a bachelor’s degree. Part of this disparity is due to the types of jobs for which you can apply with a master’s degree.
Looking at the 2017 data from the Robert Half Salary Guide for Accounting and Finance, you can see this disparity play out.
For example, a bachelor’s-level financial analyst might expect to make between $48,250 and $59,000 when they’re just starting out. But a senior-level financial analyst with a master’s degree might expect to earn a salary in the range of $73,750-$96,250.
As another example, a tax accountant with a bachelor’s degree might earn a starting salary of anywhere from $59,000 to $72,500 per year. By contrast, a tax accountant with a master’s degree that’s in a management position would be looking at an annual salary of $101,250 to $146,000.
It is important to note that part of the differences in these salary figures is due to the level of experience. However, many of these higher-paying accounting jobs aren’t available to applicants without a master’s degree in the first place. In other words, to achieve the higher end of the salary range in accounting – which the BLS estimates is $122,840 per year and above – you will almost assuredly need to get a master’s degree.
The income ceiling is higher for accountants with a master’s degree as well. So, not only do master’s-level accountants earn more money right out of the gate, but their incomes also have more room to increase over time than an accountant with only a bachelor’s degree.
Are the Financial Benefits Worth Getting a Master’s Degree?
On paper, it seems that getting a master’s degree is a no-brainer. With higher-paying jobs and more job prospects for master’s-level accountants, there are plenty of reasons to continue your education.
But everyone’s situation is different and unique. If your employer doesn’t offer assistance with paying for a master’s degree, it might not be something you can afford at the moment. Getting a master’s degree also requires a lot of time – something that most people seem to be short of these days.
Ultimately, while the financial benefits of getting a master’s degree in accounting are attractive, you have to decide if it’s the right decision for you at this time. If not, you can always go back to school at a later date and reap the rewards of having a master’s degree later in your career.
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