If you’re considering going to graduate school for accounting, you’re right to think about your job prospects first. The field of accounting as a whole has an excellent job outlook. Candidates with a master’s degree, in particular, are in high demand and are qualified for management and senior-level roles. The demand for an accounting degree, especially a master’s degree in accounting, is so strong that many students are recruited by accounting and business firms before they even graduate.
Job Outlook for Accountants
In both good and bad economic times, companies, individuals and government entities need accountants to handle financial reporting tasks. As a result, accountants tend to have a positive job outlook even when many other occupations do not. Currently, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is predicting a 10 percent job growth rate for accountants and auditors over a decade. This double-digit growth rate is faster than average, with the BLS predicting just seven percent job growth for all occupations. A difference of three percent might not sound like much, but in a large occupation like accounting, it translates to an additional 41,931 jobs.
Clearly, even without a graduate degree, the demand for an accounting background is good. Earning that advanced degree, however, can offer you job prospects that you wouldn’t have with just a bachelor’s degree. Even decades of work experience in accounting cannot take the place of further education. A master’s in accounting program will provide you with the advanced accounting skills you will only learn in graduate school as well as the additional semester hours that can help you earn your Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license.
In a span of 10 years, the BLS expects to see nearly 140,000 new jobs for accountants and auditors.
What Can You Do With a Master’s Degree in Accounting?
A graduate degree isn’t a requirement for having a profitable and fulfilling career in accounting. You can get your first accounting job, move into higher level staff accounting roles and even attain many professional certifications all with your bachelor’s degree. However, a master’s degree can be valuable – and depending on your goals, essential – to advancing your career.
If you want to move into a senior-level role, like partner of an accounting firm, having a master’s degree can help you in more ways than one. Not only can your advanced knowledge and skills help you impress your employer, but completing your master’s degree also gives you enough college semester hours to attain your CPA license. A CPA license is a requirement to become a partner in many accounting firms. Other senior-level accounting roles you can attain with a master’s degree include senior financial analyst and senior tax associate.
Having a master’s degree is also important if you want to move into management roles. Some accountants choose to go to graduate school to earn a specialized accounting degree, like a Master of Accountancy or Master of Science in Accountancy, while others pursue a more general business degree like a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree. Leadership roles in accounting include accounting manager, audit manager, tax manager, finance director, controller and business development manager. With a great deal of experience, an accountant with a graduate degree and professional certifications may even move into executive leadership roles, including chief operating officer (COO), chief financial officer (CFO) or even chief executive officer (CEO).
You don’t necessarily need a master’s degree to get your CPA license, but in most states, you do need an additional year of study on top of your bachelor’s degree requirements.
Is a Master’s in Accounting Degree Worth the Investment?
Going to graduate school is a significant investment. You have to put in a great deal of time, hard work and tuition dollars to get your master’s degree in accounting. However, the payoff can be substantial, especially for students who aspire to work in leadership roles or attain CPA licensure one day.
How can you make sure your master’s degree program gives you the career boost you’re seeking? For one thing, you can look for a program that you can complete in just one year, rather than the two years it traditionally takes to earn a master’s degree. This option saves you time and money and allows you to get out into – or get back into – the workforce more quickly. You should also look for a program that has specializations that fit your career needs, whether that includes a concentration in forensic accounting or emphasis on CPA exam preparation.
Finally, taking advantage of career and recruiting services offered by your graduate school can be hugely beneficial. Often, students in a master’s degree program can get free help with writing resumés and cover letters and may even get matched with companies who are hiring accounting graduates as early as their first weeks on campus.
Many colleges now offer a five-year accelerated program that awards both an undergraduate and a graduate degree upon completion, the BLS reported.