Students who obtain accounting MBAs can emerge as leaders in the field. With the right education, graduates can increase their salaries and work in rewarding positions with high levels of responsibility. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects demand for accountants and auditors to increase by 6% from 2018-2028. The BLS also reports that these professionals earn median salaries of $70,500 per year.
This guide covers important information for prospective online MBA in accounting students, including how to choose the right accounting MBA program, common courses, and potential careers and salaries for graduates.
Careers in Accounting
Professionals in the accounting field oversee finances for companies or individuals and ensure their clients pay their taxes accurately and on time. In some cases, these professionals help clients save on taxes through tax credits and write-offs. Many accountants work for firms, while others become certified public accountants and open their own businesses.
Below, we've outlined five career options for accounting MBA graduates. Some of these positions pertain directly to accounting, while others relate to the finance field more broadly. Prospective learners should familiarize themselves with potential career outcomes and tailor their studies to their career aspirations.
Accountant or Auditor
Graduates with MBAs in accounting typically pursue jobs as accountants and auditors. These professionals examine and prepare financial records for tax and payroll purposes. They also oversee account books and look for ways to increase a company's profits. Accountants and auditors play valuable roles in their companies' financial health and success. They make recommendations to management, so they must possess excellent communication skills. The BLS reports that these professionals earn a median salary of $70,500 per year and projects these positions to grow by 6% from 2018-2028.
Budget analysts organize finances for public institutions, like government branches and colleges, and private institutions, like corporations. They work closely with project managers and department directors to create feasible budgets that allow room for change. These professionals also periodically examine budgets to prevent overspending. Budget analysts make predictions on their companies' future financial needs. The BLS reports these professionals earn a median salary of $76,220 per year and projects the career will grow by 4% from 2018-2028.
Cost estimators use data to estimate project costs. When determining budget recommendations, these professionals consider labor and material prices. They typically work in office settings, but occasionally they visit project sites to gather data. They also make adjustments to their estimates as they collect new information. Construction companies and factories typically hire cost estimators. The BLS reports these professionals earn a median salary of $64,040 per year and projects these occupations will grow by 9% from 2018-2028.
Financial analysts guide businesses and individuals on financial decisions, like investments. They evaluate current and historical financial data to provide educated recommendations. These professionals must familiarize themselves with current economic and business trends so they can serve their clients well. Many financial analysts work for agencies, while others work as self-employed contractors. The BLS reports these professionals earn $85,660 per year and projects the career will grow by 6% from 2018-2028.
Tax Examiner, Collector, or Revenue Agent
These professionals work for the government, collecting taxes from businesses and professionals and examining their financial records to identify the correct amount owed. Tax examiners, collectors, and revenue agents also conduct audits of income tax returns to verify tax liabilities. They contact taxpayers to request additional tax documents, as well. The BLS reports these professionals earn a median salary of $54,440 annually and projects these occupations will decrease by 2% from 2018-2028.
How to Choose a Program in Accounting
College applications take time to complete, and many require a fee. To save time and money, students should only apply to programs they truly want to attend. Prospective learners can narrow their options through research on factors such as delivery style, cost, accreditation status, and student outcomes. Learners can usually find this information on their prospective programs' websites. Otherwise, schools' admissions offices can assist.
Ask for information on how lessons are delivered in the program
When choosing a program, pay close attention to its delivery style. For example, those who learn best through auditory means should consider programs featuring lecture-based courses. Meanwhile, students who want to maintain full-time employment during their studies might pursue online MBAs in accounting with flexible, asynchronous course delivery. Students should also research any on-campus requirements, especially for schools located far from home.
Get details on what support is available to students
Some schools provide tutoring services, like on-campus writing centers, along with other support resources. Applicants should also consider each prospective school's professor-to-student ratio because professors with fewer students per course can generally provide more individualized attention. Additionally, prospective distance learners should research whether their institution offers 24-hour technical support.
Estimate your expected program costs
Before enrolling in a program, calculate its overall cost, factoring in living and learning material expenses in addition to tuition. Many schools offer tuition discounts to in-state students. However, some institutions allow all online students to pay reduced tuition regardless of residency.
Ensure the school's admission requirements align with your expectations
Colleges and universities set their own admission requirements, which can vary greatly. Applicants should make sure their GPAs, test scores, and resumes match each prospective school's requirements. Otherwise, learners can take additional undergraduate courses to improve their GPAs, retake entrance exams, or gather more experience on their resumes. They can also narrow their applications to schools with lower admission expectations. In some cases, an institution will make exceptions and waive certain requirements.
Compare student outcomes data
Many programs list student outcome data on their websites. Otherwise, students can contact admissions departments for this data. Quality programs produce successful graduates, so prospective learners should research how many students find employment within three years of graduation. Applicants should also consider degree-completion rate, which may indicate each program's difficulty level. They might also research common jobs for graduates, comparing them to their own aspirations.
Look for partnerships with local businesses and communities
Some schools partner with local businesses and large corporations to provide opportunities for students. These opportunities may include capstone projects, centered around real-world business issues and internships. These businesses may also provide informative guest lectures for students and job opportunities after graduation.
Make sure the program is accredited
When researching schools, pay attention to their accreditation status. Look for schools with regional accreditation from agencies like the Higher Learning Commission or the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Programs can earn accreditation, as well. The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business serves as one of the top accreditation agencies for accounting and other business-related majors.
Speak with current students and alumni
Getting a firsthand account can help applicants learn a lot about a program. Reach out to current students and alumni for information regarding student support, curriculum, and class formats. These individuals can provide an unbiased view on what their programs entailed, including their pros and the cons. If applicants need help contacting students and alumni, they can contact prospective schools' admissions offices to request contact information.
Class topics vary greatly between programs. Learners should research the curriculum of each prospective program to ensure it offers classes aligned with their interests and goals. Below, we outline several common courses found in online MBA in accounting programs.
- Financial Accounting
Financial accounting courses teach students about an economic entity's financial resources, responsibilities, and actions. Students learn to balance budgets and conduct employee payroll for businesses. This course also teaches students best practices for offering financial recommendations to clients. In a financial accounting course, students learn to apply theoretical accounting knowledge to their practice, as well. After completing this class, students should understand the basics of filing taxes and managing budgets for organizations.
In an auditing course, students learn about auditing terminology and how to successfully plan for and execute audits. They also study the connections between auditing and accounting. This course covers the auditing rules set by the International Financial Reporting Standards. Some auditing courses include guest speakers and case study discussions.
- Entity Taxation
An entity taxation course teaches students to prepare and file taxes on businesses' behalf. Learners discover how to use tax write-offs and proper documentation to avoid failed audits and undue taxes for clients. This course also covers proper communication skills for tax professionals, as these individuals must explain tax procedures to clients. Learners can typically prepare practice taxes for fictional businesses to perfect their skills.
Comparison of Accounting Degrees and Specializations
Colleges and universities offer various accounting-related degrees. These degrees remain similar in nature, but each can lead to its own career path. Students should choose programs that align with their career. The following table outlines common graduate accounting degrees and resulting career paths.
|Degree Type||Description||Potential Career Paths|
|Master of Business Administration in Accounting||An MBA teaches leadership and management skills, plus practical business competencies. An MBA with an accounting concentration trains students for accounting certifications, such as the certified public accountant credential. Students learn about capital budgeting, financial management, and budget analysis.||Chief Financial Officer, Financial Manager|
|Master of Science in Accounting||A master's degree in accounting prepares learners to take the CPA certification exam. Students learn foundational principles of accounting, like how to put together balance sheets and cash flow statements. Learners also study advanced accounting topics, like auditing, property transactions, international taxation, and business law.||Accountant|
|Master of Science in Taxation||This degree serves students who want to work as tax professionals. Graduates can work in the business, legal, and financial fields, guiding companies and individuals through complicated tax policies. Courses explore income tax at the local, state, and federal levels; ethical considerations; shareholder rules; and estates and gifts.||Tax Advisor|
Cost and Length of an Accounting Degree
Large student loan bills can significantly cut into students' disposable income upon graduation. However, applying for financial aid and choosing affordable programs can help ease the financial burden. Most schools offer reduced in-state tuition for state residents, but sometimes they extend this same rate to all online students regardless of residency.
When calculating program cost and determining budget, learners should factor in their living expenses and any other important school supplies, like books. Program length can also affect cost. For example, some schools raise tuition rates each year. In this case, the longer it takes to complete the program, the more money graduates might owe. Additionally, many schools charge per-credit tuition rates, so programs with more credit requirements can cost more.
Most online MBA in accounting degrees take 2-4 years to complete, requiring 55-70 credits. Students who want to graduate faster can look for accelerated programs.
- Can you be an accountant with an MBA?
- You can practice as an accountant with an accounting MBA. However, becoming a CPA creates even more professional opportunities. For example, only state-licensed CPAs can help clients attest audits. An MBA typically meets the credit requirements to sit for the CPA exam.
- How much does an accountant with an MBA make?
- According to the BLS, accountants and auditors earn a median salary of $70,500 per year. However, certain factors can influence this figure. For example, entry-level professionals tend to earn less than experienced professionals. Geographical location can also impact salary, as employers located in areas with high living costs tend to pay more.
- Which is better, an MBA or a master's in accounting?
- The right choice varies by personal interests and professional goals. For example, an MBA in accounting prepares students to work in financial leadership roles as chief financial officers or financial managers. MBAs cover multiple business subjects, while master's in accounting degrees focus solely on accounting. Professionals with master's in accounting degrees tend to work on teams as accountants.
American Institute of Certified Public Accountants Scholarship for Minority Accounting Students
This scholarship awards minority undergraduate and graduate students up to $5,000 each year. Interested students must demonstrate a minimum 3.0 GPA, plus 30 credits of coursework. Applications open on Dec. 1 and typically close in early March.
American Institute of Certified Public Accountants John L. Carey Scholarship
The John L. Carey Scholarship aids graduate students with little or no accounting experience, providing five students with $5,000 scholarships. Applicants must fill out the online application, which determines their eligibility. All U.S. citizens who have not yet begun their graduate studies may apply.
Financial Women of San Francisco Scholarship
Over the last 30 years, Financial Women of San Francisco has contributed over $2.6 million in scholarships to students. These awards go to undergraduate and graduate San Francisco Bay Area-women pursuing careers in finance. Graduate students receive a $15,000 grant. To apply, students must submit a current resume, a 750-word essay detailing their goals and aspirations, unofficial transcripts, a current photo, and two letters of recommendation.
Greater Washington Society of Certified Public Accountants Educational Fund Scholarships
Students earning bachelor's or graduate degrees in accounting at specific Washington, D.C.-area schools can apply. To qualify for the $4,000 scholarship, students must carry a minimum 3.2 GPA, pass at least nine accounting credits, and submit a recommendation letter and 500-word essay describing the importance of CPA licensure.
The Georgia Society of Certified Public Accountants Scholarships
The Georgia Society of CPAs offers several scholarships to Georgia accounting students. Each year, Georgian students receive thousands of dollars in scholarships and grants from this organization. Students can contact their local chapter to learn more.