Is a Masters Degree in Accounting worth it?
Masters in Accounting
Accountancy is a common language of business; along with the broader scope of finance, this field touches upon many aspects of business. Many organisations and companies increasingly rely on qualified finance personnel to interpret the nuances of financial success to help drive up profit margins. Obviously, the majority of such finance personnel would be drawn from an ever-widening pool of graduate accountants; what is even more noticeable in recent years is that many of these graduate accountants then go on to undertake Masters courses in Professional Accountancy or a Master of Management Accounting. This inevitably begs the question: is a Masters degree in Accounting worth it?
Evidently, one can gain practical, hands-on experience in Accountancy without pursuing a Masters in Accounting; however, it is an undeniably growing trend that most qualified, graduate accountants working in both private and public sectors have undertaken a Masters degree in Accountancy or Professional Accountancy. These individuals are the ones who have the ability to assist government sectors, for instance, with policies which affect the environment or which impact upon public taxes. It therefore seems to be the case that pursuing a Masters in Accounting enables one to refine one’s experience in accountancy or to progress further along the professional accountancy career-path. (In terms of alternative options, some accounting students used a business contest to diversify their skills.)
What Happens in a Masters of Accounting Programme
There are three ways a Masters in Accounting can be referred to:
1.Master of Accounting (MAcc or MAc)
2.Master of Professional Accountancy (MPAcy, MPA, MPAc or MPAcc)
3.Master of Science in Accounting (MSA).
Depending on the specialty you wish to focus on, you may also obtain a Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a focus on accounting. The term ‘accountancy’ is substituted with the word ‘accounting’ in some countries and institutions, so be sure to check the difference in terminology based on the institution you are applying to.
It usually takes one to two years to complete a Masters of Accounting programme. Students are expected to complete 30 to 36 credits per semester in order to qualify for their degree. These hours, coupled with 120 hours completed at the undergraduate level, means that students are eligible to take professional accountancy examinations in their respective countries.
A Masters in Accounting student will be taught through a combination of lectures, seminars, case studies, and project-based work, including a fair amount of independent research on a thesis that will end in a dissertation. Some students might also seek out internships with an external organisation to further round out their studies.
The Entry Requirements for a Masters in Accounting
The entry requirements for a Masters in Accounting is based on grades and professional accountancy experience. If you are an international student, additional requirements like language proficiency tests may be a factor too.
Overall, students are expected to be a graduate accountant with an accounting degree, or a degree in a related field such as computing, business, economics, commerce, or engineering. If an institution accepts students without an accounting degree, the candidate must prove their proficiency through demonstrating their numerical skills or perhaps through their professional accountancy experience. Indeed, there are many Master of Professional Accountancy programmes which are more geared towards students from a broader range of economics-based or statistically-focused backgrounds. Other institutions, on the other hand, only enroll qualified, graduate accountants into their Masters Accounting programme.
If your bachelor’s degree was not originally accounting based, you may need to take extra courses to strengthen your knowledge of finance or mathematics in general. Extra courses can be accomplished several ways, either through distance-learning or a summer school programme.
Be aware that you may have to take the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) or the Graduate Record Examinations test (GRE) and prove your proficiency in the language of teaching, if you are an international student.
Is a Masters degree in Accounting worth it?
Whether you are seeking a specialist masters course, like the Master of Management Accounting, to develop your existing knowledge base, or simply applying for a generalist professional accountancy course, it certainly seems to be the case that pursuing these sorts of masters degrees will equip you with skills that can benefit you across the whole spectrum of business-oriented areas. If you decide that you want to undertake an accounting masters course but are still not sure whether you want a purely accountancy-focused career, make sure that you peruse every prospectus closely and that you pick a programme which is more tailored towards training up broadly transferable skills.
Click here for more resources and insights into studying and thriving within the accounting field. In particular, the CIMA has updated its Professional Qualification Syllabus, which will take effect from January 2015.
Alternatively, if, having read the article above, you are still considering your future course of study, check out what other academic programmes are available here.