A popular avenue to pursue higher education in accounting has been through business administration, but there is a more specialized curriculum through a Master of Science in Accounting (MSA). These take the courses emphasized in a business administration specialization and builds on them, creating a customized degree for professionals pursuing further career goals. Like the MBA programs, there are a number of flexible, online opportunities for those pursuing an MSA degree.
What is a Master in Professional Accounting?
Also known as the Master of Accountancy and Master of Science in Accounting, the degree is geared for professionals that have experience or are looking to make a career change into accounting. There are various levels of accounting available, be it in the public sector, government, or private company. Example positions that can be obtained with a Master's degree are higher-level auditors and accounting managers.
Another option with a Master's degree is to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). In order to be registered as a CPA in the United States, continuing professional education is required with a total of 150 collegiate credit hours and at least one year of professional accounting experience. Students must also pass an examination, which focuses on the following categories: auditing, business concepts, financial reporting, and regulation.
Benefits of Online Coursework
Nearly all colleges provide courses away from business hours to accommodate professionals. When pursuing a Master's degree on-campus or at a remote location, students can often take classes at night or on weekends. For even further flexibility, an online education eliminates the commute to a university and provides a larger selection of degree opportunities. Unique features to look for at a university is the potential for a hybrid format, where students can complete both versions of a course. Some online programs do require on-campus residencies for up to a week, generally for orientation purposes or to present a capstone project.
Courses will be offered in synchronous or asynchronous format, with coursework commonly done on the students' own time. In many situations, these are not fully self-paced courses and there will be assignment deadlines in order to show progress in the program. Online courses will typically have discussion boards to interact with faculty and other students, or there will be interactive features during lectures. Access to a webcam and microphone is recommended in virtual classrooms. Newer computer or laptop devices running Windows or Mac operating systems are generally required, but some lectures and coursework can be viewed and completed on mobile devices.
When comparing degrees, it is important to determine if the curriculum that is being taught will properly prepare for a career in accounting. Prospective students should look at the accreditation the school has received for their higher education program, and a summary or logo is typically found at the beginning of the program page, highlighting its significance. Holding a degree from a highly-touted curriculum can provide an advantage when seeking more experienced or senior roles in finance.
One of the most important accreditation organizations are the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). Just five percent of all business schools around the world have received this accreditation. Each program has strict admission standards and the curriculum and faculty are reviewed frequently to ensure that proper education and training is met. Other significant accreditation organizations are the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP), and the International Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE).
For those looking at a Master of Business Administration with a specialization in accounting, there is also regional accreditation throughout the United States, such as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (MSA), and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). This also provides assurance that the curriculum meets high standards for employment within business administration.
Typical Admission Requirements
Minimum requirements for admission into a Master of Accountancy are holding a Bachelor’s degree with at least a 3.0 GPA. Recent graduates with a degree in accounting or similar would be considered for admission. Students that have under a 3.0 GPA may still be able to pursue the degree under conditional settings, needing to meet specific academic achievement in order to continue with the program. In many cases, there are prerequisites that will need to be satisfied before fully entering the program, such as intermediate accounting, fundamentals of quantitative analysis, and cost management. If not met prior to taking the program, students usually must complete them within the first term.
GRE or GMAT scores will need to be submitted in most cases, unless the GPA score is high enough or a certain level of work experience is achieved. A general requirement is that test scores are up to date within the last five years. Other submissions that are typically needed to be considered are official transcripts, at least one letter of recommendation, current resume, personal statement, and an application with a fee.
Universities with Online Programs
George Mason University
The School of Business offers a Mater of Science in Accounting, which is accredited by the AACSB. The program is geared toward working professionals, meaning that students can take up to two courses in eight-week increments and can finish the 30-credit hour curriculum in approximately two years. One unique aspect of this program is taking a one-week international residency during the Global Accounting Environment course. This is a requirement, and prior hosting sites have been located in Prague and London.
While all required courses are taken online, some electives are only available on-campus. Most online courses will be distributed in an synchronous, live format, but coursework can typically be completed within a specific timeframe. The online program does not have an accelerated path and part-time admittance is only allowed. 86 percent of those that graduated with a degree found a career related to accounting.
University of Arizona
One of the quickest online programs for a Master of Science in Accounting is through the Eller College of Management at the University of Arizona. The 30-credit curriculum has six different admittance points during the calendar year, and it takes just over 12 months to finish the program. For those that fall under a 3.0 GPA requirement, or are looking for a truncated alternative, the school also offers a graduate certificate that requires between 9 and 18 credits to complete and at least a 2.75 GPA with a four-year undergraduate degree.
The curriculum is accredited by the AACSB. Prerequisites are needed in financial accounting and federal taxation before pursuing the degree. Along with the core curriculum, including subjects such as ethics, business law, and further federal taxation topics, students can customize their degree with the following elective categories: Economics, Entrepreneurship, Finance, Healthcare, Management Information Systems, and Marketing.
University of Texas-Dallas
Another online opportunity that is accredited by the AACSB is the 33-credit hour Master of Science in Accounting through the Satish and Yasmin Gupta College of Business at UT-Dallas. Up to two years is needed to complete the program, and like similar options, the curriculum is geared toward taking two courses each semester. There is no GRE or GMAT test score requirement for this particular program, and at least a 2.0 cumulative GPA is needed for admission consideration. Prerequisites needed are courses in cost accounting and financial accounting.
Discover and investigate potential fraudulent activity within the organization or outside factors that are contributing to various issues. Fundamental knowledge in engaging with interviews and how to properly diagnose fraudulent action are typical in this course, along with steps to take in order to avoid issues in the future.
Looking into the link between consumers and corporations and the potential problems that can develop, such as insider training, misleading product statements, and quality control. Find out how consumer movement decades ago prompted corporate change and how some business still retain a competitive nature despite having to change processes and beliefs over time.
Accounting Research Methods
Intensive coursework that involves looking at the development and evolution of general accepted accounting principles. Discover the impact of these decisions at both the organizational level and how they affect others across the economy. Students may also receive hands-on experience and learn to solve accounting problems in a real-world scenario.
Auditors review financial statements and determine that they are both balanced accurately and the organization is complying with various rules and restrictions. Based on the type of auditor, public accountants can report on any illegal activity that is revealed in the auditing process. Specifically, internal auditors observe the organization’s cash flow and determine ways to optimize it while removing any problematic issues that are involved or can arise. According to BLS.gov, job rate is expected to grow by six percent between 2018-28.
A managerial role that is held reliable on preparing and filing tax documents for the organization or clients they represent at the state and federal level. Typical duties include keeping the business within compliance of rules and regulations, and determining any problems that can be eliminated or finding as many deductions as possible in order to decrease taxes owed. According to PayScale, the average salary for a tax manager is nearly $97,000 across the United States.