Master’s in Accounting Salary and Job Opportunities

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From independent accounting firms to the financial departments of major corporations, there will always be a need for people who fundamentally understand financial management and have a strong grasp of related strategies and technology. Obtaining a master’s degree in accounting demonstrates you are a professional in the industry. Accounting experts are in-demand and a value to companies, no matter how the overall economy is performing.

Enrolling in a MAc program may prove to be a savvy career move. Today’s online instruction model has made MAc courses accessible to professionals working full-time schedules, which represents an exciting opportunity.

Two accountants work with a calculator and a notepad.

Why Pursue a Master’s in Accounting?

A MAc degree is a way to deepen engagement with the thriving accounting field. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that 90,700 new jobs for accountants and auditors will open up between 2018 and 2028. This 6% growth is slightly ahead of the 5% average job growth for all professions in the U.S. during that period. Accountants with a master’s degree may find themselves better able to compete for top roles within accounting firms and financial departments.

When considering Certified Public Accounting, earning a MAc is an especially important step. The CPA exam comes with stringent education requirements for entrance, and the courses within a MAc program can prepare students for this test, as well as similar industry certifications. With corporate accounting departments and independent firms alike putting emphasis on CPA credentials, a wide variety of financial experts should consider certification.

What Can You Do with a Master’s in Accounting?

The job opportunities for professionals with a MAc cover a wide variety of different financial levels of authority. Key accounting skills don’t just relate to the financial planning and tax preparation most often associated with private accounting – this is just one of the many directions in which a MAc recipient can guide their career. The following are a few outcomes for graduates to consider:

Lead accountant: Corporate accountants work in teams to ensure their companies are compliant with all relevant regulations and that financial records are being kept accurately. These departments are tasked with the important work of keeping large organizations from incurring fines and other penalties and maintaining the financial health of the businesses. Lead accountants hold authority over these expert groups.

Auditing manager: This role is for people with analytical minds who are able to discern patterns in data to detect reporting mistakes, potential fraud and mismanagement. Auditing managers and their groups of auditors search for signs of problems, while forensic accounting teams find clues and build cases after malfeasance has occurred.

Financial analyst: A financial analyst takes an active role in financial decision-making. Depending on the type of clientele an analyst services, this could mean working with individual investors or corporate entities. Succeeding in analysis means using a variety of data sources to make accurate and actionable conclusions.

CPA at a private firm: An accounting firm can serve its customers’ needs in many ways, from giving financial planning advice to preparing financial reports and taxes or performing audits. An experienced CPA with a master’s degree may take on a senior role at one of these companies or open their own firm.

How Much Do People Make with a Master’s in Accounting?

There is no single salary figure for people who have earned a MAc, due to the wide variety of roles open to them. With that said, having a master’s degree is a potential pathway to more advanced job titles and the resulting salary increases across many branches of accounting. The BLS notes that in high-prestige and competitive accounting spaces, both CPA credentials and a master’s-level education can be valuable features on a resume.

The median salary for an accountant or auditor in the U.S. is $70,500, according to the BLS. The exact figure differs by specialty and years of experience. Finance and insurance sector jobs have the highest median pay, at $74,690. Across all verticals, the top 10% of accountants and auditors earn over $122,840 a year.

PayScale’s analysis of MAc holders indicated a few roles that lead to high average salaries. For instance, accounting managers make $78,000 a year. Climbing the corporate ladder is possible with a MAc. People who put in the time and effort to rise to consulting manager positions earn an average salary of $87,000. That figure rises to $95,000 for directors of operations, $132,000 for senior credit officers and $133,000 for chief financial officers.

According to PayScale, there are also some regions that offer particularly strong salaries for accountants. Los Angeles is the top city by pay, at 14% above the national average, followed by New York and Seattle. MAc holders taking on accounting roles in those cities can weigh the cost of living in such bustling cities with the increased salary potential present there.

How Much Better is it to Have a Master’s in Accounting than a Bachelor’s in Accounting?

A master’s degree in accounting represents a significant next step to elevate your career. For example, the BLS notes that in most situations, it’s not possible to meet the CPA exam’s education requirements with a bachelor’s degree alone. Most states call for 150 hours of coursework, which means even though a master’s degree is not explicitly listed as a prerequisite, students have to keep studying past the bachelor’s level. Due to the hiring and salary focus on CPA credentials, this is an important requirement.

The BLS added that even when not directly considering CPA status, some companies look for master’s degrees when hiring accountants. Competing for the most prestigious leadership roles related to accounting and financial management means comparing credentials with other experienced candidates – a MAc may prove its worth in these situations.

Can You Get a MAc Without Previously Studying Accounting?

An online MAc program can be a way to change career focus for professionals who did not study accounting at the bachelor’s level and decide to take on more financial duties. The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Collat School of Business offers an accounting bridge program designed to get these students up to speed quickly with foundation courses prior to starting the graduate program.

What Is the Next Step in Earning a MAc?

Professionals excited by the salary and advancement potential that can come from graduating with a MAc can earn their diplomas in as few as five semesters when they join the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s online MAc program. This online curriculum delivers up-to-date insights from full-time faculty members with deep connections to the world of accounting and financing, preparing students for what comes next.

Conducting classes 100% online means participants can join in wherever and whenever works for them, while keeping up with their full-time professional roles. Whether aiming for the CPA exam, a high-ranking finance department role or another promising career outcome, students can build their accounting expertise in this program.

If you think the online MAc may be right for you, check out the program page to learn more.

Recommended Readings:

The Company Controller: A Multifaceted Role

MBA vs. Master’s in Accounting: Which Degree Should You Pursue?


PayScale – Average Accountant Salary

PayScale – Master’s Degree (non-MBA), Accounting Degree

Bureau of Labor Statistics – Accountants and Auditors

American Institute of Certified Public Accountants – What does it take to become a CPA?