After getting a bachelor’s degree, many individuals are eager to enter the workforce. To these people, going back to school for a graduate degree may seem superfluous. Career changers or those looking to advance their careers may also wonder if a master’s in accounting is really worth the time and effort. In reality, there is no easy answer. A master’s degree may be more useful to some people than others. It depends on an individual’s circumstance, ambition, and long-term goals. Generally, those looking to advance far in their careers or obtain CPA status should strongly consider getting a graduate accounting degree. On the other hand, those who are content to remain closer to entry-level work may not wish to spend the extra time and money on a graduate degree.
The ultimate goal of many accountants is to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). The requirements for this vary by state, but most states require that students take the national CPA exam and complete 150 credits of college coursework. This is 30 credits more than is usually required to earn a 4-year bachelor’s degree. While some states allow experience in public accounting to substitute for a college degree, most states do not. Therefore, a bachelor’s in public accounting may or may not allow students to qualify to take the CPA exam, depending on their state.
Continuing With a Bachelor’s Degree
Most accounting jobs only require a bachelor’s degree. The advancement that would have been afforded by a master’s degree could be obtained through two or three years of on-the-job experience. For individuals who already have at least 150 credit hours of college work or who do not wish to pursue CPA certification, getting a master’s degree in accounting may be a waste of time and money better spent on gaining accounting experience.
Getting a Master’s Degree
For individuals who lack the requisite credit hours to become a CPA, a master’s degree is imperative. A master’s degree also has other perks for accountants. In a labor force teeming with B.S. in accounting applicants, an M.S. in accounting stands out. Many employers prefer applicants with a master’s degree, and the added qualification will impress clients and lend credibility. A master’s degree also qualifies applicants to do more analytical accounting work, which comes with more intellectual challenge on the job as well as a larger salary. Accountants with master’s degrees are more likely to advance to higher positions than their less-qualified peers. For example, accountants who hold master’s degrees may become supervisors, managers, controllers, chief financial officers or partners. They may also choose to open their own accounting firm after they’ve acquired enough experience. Accountants who hold bachelor’s degrees may also be able to advance to these positions, but it is typically easier and faster for more highly educated professionals to climb the corporate ladder. Therefore, individuals who plan to become CPAs or who wish to advance far in their careers should consider going back to school for a masters in accounting.
Accounting Degrees on About.com
How to Become an Accountant from the Bureau of Labor Statistics