Accounting and finance

Accounting Career Options: Master’s Degree or CPA?

But, what credential will you choose: a master’s degree or a CPA certification?

You have taken the first step toward securing a stable and successful career in accounting: You have an accounting bachelor’s degree. While you could enter industry today and begin building your professional experience, you might consider equipping your resume with one more attractive credential to qualify you for the most enviable positions in the field. But, what credential will you choose: a master’s degree or a CPA certification?

Master’s Degree

A master’s degree is a graduate degree acquired through the focused study of accounting theory and practices. Accountants most often pursue a master’s degree related to their field, of which there are several options:

Master of Accountancy (MAcc)

A MAcc degree program trains students in advanced knowledge and techniques for managing business funds. In addition to the networking opportunities provided through any master’s program, a MAcc degree is useful for separating oneself from the crowd of accounting job candidates. With a MAcc degree, you should qualify for some of the most enviable positions in accounting, to include roles within the Big 4. You should be able to complete an MAcc program in as little as 9 months, which means you could radically improve your career prospects in less than one year of study.

Master of Professional Accounting (MPAcc)

Frustrating and confusing, an MPAcc degree is usually identical to an MAcc degree. Some schools create unique names for their degree programs in attempts to differentiate themselves.

Master of Science in Accounting (MSA)

A program that is longer and more rigorous than MAcc and MPAcc programs, an MSA tends to offer many similar benefits to the above degrees with some additional training in advanced business concepts. Because students in MSA degree programs are expected to study for 18 months or longer, many choose to pursue a dual master’s degree in a related field, like finance, management information systems or business analytics. By no means easy or quick, this graduate degree is nonetheless valuable if you are exceedingly ambitious with your career goals.

Master of Business Administration (MBA) With a Specialization in Accounting

An MBA degree is one of the most popular business graduate degrees, for good reason. MBAs can catapult young professionals into manager positions because they provide education and experience professionals need to function effectively in leadership roles. A specialization in accounting will provide you with advanced understanding of accounting practices even as you prepare yourself for a move away from daily accounting responsibilities and toward management.

Master’s in Taxation

As the name suggests, a Master’s in Taxation is a degree that provides ample knowledge and skill in the field of taxes. Students in these programs will gain deeper understanding of tax policies and improve their ability to prepare tax statements and reports. You might only consider this master’s degree if you are committed to a career in tax accounting.

CPA Certification

While a master’s degree is a valuable credential that demonstrates an individual’s advanced knowledge and skill in the field of accounting, a CPA certification is a license issued by your state or territory, permitting your ability to practice as a CPA. To earn a CPA, you need a certain number of years of accounting experience, have 150 credit-hours of accounting education and pass the CPA exam, which is only offered four times per year.

Public accountants have slightly different responsibilities from private accountants; they are allowed to work with a wider range of clients and are trusted with preparing financial documents for public disclosure. In truth, most private accountants pursue CPA certification, even if they do not expect to work in the public sphere, because it broadens their opportunities and demonstrates their advanced skill to their employer and clients.

Why Not Both?

The choice between a master’s degree and CPA certification is a false one. Most ambitious accountants pursue both: First, they acquire a graduate-level education, and then, they obtain CPA licensure. If you have hopes of qualifying for the best accounting jobs available and rising swiftly through the ranks to high-level leadership, you might make space in your career plans for both a master’s degree and CPA certification. Then, you can become the super-accountant of your dreams.

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