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Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Masters in Accounting: Is It Worth It?

college-graduate-masters-accounting-degreeIt's graduation season for many of you and that means sending in CPA exam applications, starting CPA review, and preparing to begin your careers in public accounting this fall. But for some of you, getting your bachelor's degree is just the start and you'll be heading into Masters programs.

But is it worth it?

Many CPA exam candidates consider a Masters in Accountancy the best route to fulfill most states' 150 hour requirement but the usefulness of this degree depends on a lot of unforeseen factors such as the future job market, one's GPA throughout undergraduate school, and a candidate's career plans after passing the CPA exam. For some, a few years in public accounting is not a goal but merely a temporary, necessary move required for CPA licensure. For others, grades and skills matter.

In a tough economy, pursuing a Masters may be wise if you can afford it. For many recent graduates, additional education can fill the gap after graduation and set the candidate apart from other accounting students who stopped at a bachelor's degree fighting for a position in public accounting. Unless you managed high grades all throughout school, this may be the only way to get a qualified foot in the door when work is harder to find.

A Masters in accounting may or may not better prepare you for the CPA exam depending on your school's Masters coursework. For some candidates who simply want to get their CPA and move into something other public accounting for the remainder of their careers, it may be wiser to simply take additional undergrad units to meet the 150 hour requirement and find a good review course to do the CPA exam preparation for you.

We spoke to P.C. Haring, an accountant who went into an MBA program immediately after completing his undergrad and hasn't regretted it for a second. "It's hard to quantify, obviously, but from my own perspective I know that it's allowed me to earn more money in my current role, which is always nice," he told us. He insists that his MBA offers him a competitive edge in the job market without pigeon-holing him in only accounting, as might be the case with an MaCC.

Joe Kristan, a renowned tax technician and blogger for Roth & Company out of Des Moines, IA reminded us that in this job market, it helps to be as competitive as possible. "I think if you have good grades otherwise, a M.Acc can give you an edge in getting hired, especially with big firms. For me it gave me a huge edge - my M.Acc beats my B.A. in history with CPA firms everywhere."

In the end, it's up to you if you want to spend the time, money, and effort into getting a Masters. You can always go back to school later but remember, the longer you've been out of school, the harder it is to get back into the swing of studying.

9 comments:

Radu Prisacaru – UK Internet Marketer & Web Developer said...

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Anonymous said...

So we have a quote from a guy who said it's worth it and a guy who took the waffly approach and can't make up his mind if it's worth it or not. Why not have a quote from a fellow who decided a Master's was not worth it? For the sake of balance.

Roger CPA Review Staff Writers said...

Anon,

I actually couldn't find anyone with a Masters who felt it wasn't worth it for the article. If you know of someone please have them get in touch with us :)

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Anonymous said...

Personally I only have my bachelors degree accounting and met the hour requirement from a previous major change. I now have my CPA license and am practicing in public accounting. I have discussed with my employer the option of going back to school for my Masters and was told it wouldn't be worth it in the end. Now that I have several years experience and my CPA license, it seems that more than makes up for the lack of a Masters degree. Maybe it is different in other parts of the country who have been affected more by the economy, but here it doesn't seem to matter. And from a hiring perspective, we are not preferential to those with the Masters degree versus those with the Bachelors degree and meet the 150 hour requirement.

Anonymous said...

I believe it depends heavily on your education and experience. For someone with a business degree--accounting or otherwise--having a graduate accounting degree (MaCC or MBA w/ Acc concentration) but for someone like me, who has an English undergraduate degree and an MS information systems management (with not a lot of business courses) and who works in a field that is no requiring an MBA or other business degree, it might prove to be beneficial. Plus, as a CPA, if you can't find a job, you can always create one by launching your own CPA business, or other consultancy.

Anonymous said...

I know my MAcc was definitely worth it. I learned a lot, got a job, was challenged much moreso than in my undergraduate, and made lots of good connections with classmates who will be working in the accounting industry in my city.

Besides, if you need the credits to sit for the CPA exam, why would you do anything else (except to take the easy path)? Even discounting your increased accounting skills, might as well get a Masters degree on your resume for your troubles...

Anonymous said...

If oyu have the time, the money and none of the requirements a MAcc will help you get the requirements but you stillneed to pass the exam and work for a CPA before getting your license. I know a MAsters degree looks impressive in a resume but not everyone has the luxury to do that, in particualar y you have a full time job and need to support a family. In that case like mine, better to take the additional units at your own pace without getting into more debt. Once you get the CPA and you have the experience that is what is going to give you the advantage not just the piece of paper.

John Decker said...

This is a great article. I know a lot of young kids are taking the GPA exam early which is great. The increase in technology has improved the accounting industry and can also have an impact on the amount of people becoming CPA's. It seems like there are services now that focus on improving accountancy which are giving people more opportunities.