Graduate school is a big investment. If you’re going to put the time, effort and money into earning a master’s degree in accounting, you want to make sure that your hard work will pay off and that you can attain the career you want. Fortunately, there are plenty of great job prospects for graduates of master’s in accounting programs. A few of the most popular choices include tax accounting, auditing and business and management consulting, according to U.S. News & World Report. Spending a little more time in school can also help you achieve prestigious professional certifications or prepare for leadership roles in business and accounting.
It’s partly due to the increasing complexity of tax regulations that accountants need a more extensive education than they once did, the Association of International Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) reported. It makes sense, then, that so many accounting students are eyeing a career in tax accounting, and that going to graduate school for accounting can help them realize that goal.
Aspiring tax accountants should look for a master’s degree program that offers a specialization in taxation. Coursework in a graduate program in tax accounting may include tax research methodology, estate and gift taxation, federal income tax for corporations and partnerships, business law, advanced auditing, advanced financial reporting and special topics in taxation.
The idea that accountants will be replaced by robots or computers is among the biggest accounting myths. Jobs for accountants are growing at a faster than average rate of 10 percent, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Successful accountants have a detail-oriented nature and a good sense of numbers. If you have an especially good eye for spotting numerical inconsistencies and inaccuracies, then you might be especially skilled at the work of auditing. An auditor reviews financial reports and data to identify problems such as fraud or embezzlement, mismanagement of funds or wasted resources that could be used more efficiently.
Auditor is an in-demand job you can do with a master’s in accounting degree. Organizations hire their own auditors, called internal auditors, to help them make business decisions. You could also work as an external auditor, an auditing professional who is hired by another party, like the government or a group of investors, to examine the organization’s financial records.
Graduate coursework in auditing may include forensic accounting, fraud examination, advanced auditing, detection and prevention of fraudulent financial statements, audit and information assurance, audit of accounting information systems and advanced auditing.
Many accountants do far more than crunch numbers. They use their knowledge of the theories and practices of accounting and business and their interpretation of financial data to advise business leaders. If this big-picture perspective appeals to you, then your accounting career path could lead you to a role as consultant. Your input can help senior executives and managers solve problems, develop financial and business strategies and ultimately increase profits.
Management consultants and accounting consultants need both a breadth of business knowledge to handle generalist work and a depth of knowledge in in-demand topics that allow them to specialize. For aspiring consultants, a Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a concentration in accounting may be a better choice than a specialized master’s degree in accounting, since the curriculum is broader.
You don’t have to make the leap right from a traditional accounting role to a consulting role. Many public accountants do some consulting tasks, and some accounting firms have their own consulting arm, so you can see if the work of a consultant is right for you.
Advancing Your Career With a Master’s in Accounting Degree
A main reason why accounting professionals go to graduate school is to move up in their careers. Senior-level and management roles like controller, accounting manager, tax manager, audit manager, finance director, senior financial analyst and senior tax associate are among the best jobs you can do with an accounting degree. To be made partner at an accounting firm, you often needed additional education, experience or certifications, as well.
Earning your master’s degree in accounting can also help you attain impressive professional certifications that will improve your career prospects and earning potential. The additional knowledge and skills you gain as a graduate student can help you pass the challenging exams needed to become a certified public accountant (CPA), certified internal auditor (CIA), certified management accountant (CMA) or certified fraud examiner (CFE). In the case of the CPA credential, pursuing a master’s degree can do more than expand your skills. Going to graduate school can directly help students meet the 150-semester hour requirement so that they are eligible for CPA licensure.
There are many benefits of going to graduate school for accounting. Accountants with master’s degrees enjoy a wage premium, the BLS reported. A better job outlook is another advantage of having an advanced degree. As a whole, the field of accounting is a relatively stable career path, because businesses of all sizes and in all industries rely on accountants in both good and bad economic climates. However, going to graduate school can improve your job prospects considerably. Accountants with a master’s degree are “highly sought-after” candidates, particularly for opportunities in public accounting firms, according to Forbes.
Five-year dual degree programs that award both bachelor’s and master’s degrees are popular at many accounting schools, according to the BLS.
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