If you’re an accountant eyeing a promotion to management, either in the near or distant future, you might be wondering if a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in accounting degree is right for you. MBA degrees are the traditional degree of choice for aspiring business leaders. When paired with an accounting concentration, the MBA degree allows for accounting professionals to broaden their business skills, prepare for management roles or for entrepreneurship, transition to new careers in the financial sector and increase earning potential. If you choose to earn your MBA in accounting, you should expect to take a breadth of graduate-level business courses plus plenty of additional accounting courses to add to your existing knowledge of the field.
Differences Between MBA and M.Acc. Degrees
Before they choose a school or degree program, prospective graduate students should understand the types of master’s degrees available in accounting and how they differ. The MBA in accounting degree is not the same as a Master of Accountancy (M.Acc.) degree, Master of Science in Accountancy (M.S.Acy.) or Master of Professional Accountancy (M.P.Acy.) degree, each of which are specialized programs that focus more narrowly on accounting.
Generally, MBA degree programs a broader programs of study. They focus more on developing leadership and administration skills and on understanding the principles and practices of management. Some of the jobs you can do with your MBA in accounting include Financial Manager, Business Development Manager, Revenue Manager, Technical Account Manager, Business Consultant and Management Analyst. With your MBA in accounting and a great deal of work experience, you might be able to rise to executive leadership positions, such as Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Chief Financial Officer (CFO) or Chief Operating Officer (COO).
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Master of Accountancy and similar graduate programs typically include few general business courses, since students would have already completed core business requirements during their undergraduate studies. These degree programs may involve some study into the intersection between accounting and business, particularly in highly specialized programs such as managerial accounting. However, there is typically less focus in a Master of Accountancy program on building leadership skills and more on developing a depth of specialized accounting knowledge and technical skills. Master of Accountancy programs may have more focus on preparation for the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam, since many graduates go on to become CPAs.
Both educational paths have their advantages, and there is often a lot of overlap between them in terms of their courses and career outcomes. However, given how big an investment graduate school is, students should think carefully about their interests and goals when weighing their degree options.
Naturally, MBA in accounting programs still require rigorous graduate-level accounting studies. However, the accounting coursework in MBA degree programs tends to revolve around the broader perspective of how accounting skills fit into business operations.
Graduate Business Courses
MBA students often must complete the same core business requirements regardless of their concentration. Your graduate business classes might include studies in data analysis, decision making, business analysis, organizational leadership, communications, ethics in management, business planning, strategic management, entrepreneurship, corporate culture, marketing and strategy, finance and economics and technological innovations for businesses.
An MBA in accounting program might include an optional or required experience component that you gain through an internship, industry project or capstone project. While some MBA programs require students to write a thesis in order to graduate, many MBA programs offer non-thesis options.
To better accommodate working professionals, many business schools now offer online or hybrid MBA degree programs or face-to-face programs that meet at nontraditional times, such as weekends.
Accounting Coursework for Master’s Degrees
Though your general graduate-level business studies are important in your MBA in accounting program, so are your accounting courses. You might take courses in financial accounting theory, advanced accounting problems and financial reporting at increasing levels of difficulty. Other courses might focus on more specialized topics, such as tax factors in business decisions, forensic accounting, government and nonprofit accounting, accounting for entrepreneurs, advanced auditing and accounting information systems. Often, MBA students have some choice in their accounting courses, with electives they can use to pursue the concentration courses that sound most relevant and interesting to them.
If you’re having trouble choosing between a Master of Accountancy and a Master of Business Administration degree, you could look for a business school that offers a dual degree option.