Master of Science in Accounting Vs Master of Accountancy

Last Updated on May 26, 2024 by Team College Learners

Choosing between a master of science in accounting and master of accountancy will be a difficult task for you. Both degrees give you a comprehensive understanding of the field and feature flexibility. However, your choice will depend on your career goals. The master of science in accounting allows you to get involved in deeper studies in different areas, while the master of accountancy has stronger practical application, which makes it a viable option if you want to study something applied rather than theoretical.

When considering pursuing a graduate degree in accounting, students may come across the decision between a Master of Science (MS) in Accounting or a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Accounting program. While both degrees offer advanced education in accounting principles, the MS in Accounting tends to have a more specialized focus on accounting and taxation topics. This specialization allows students to delve deeper into subjects such as federal taxation, auditing, finance, business taxation, and forensic accounting. Understanding the differences between these programs is crucial in determining which path aligns best with your career goals and interests.

For admission into a Master of Science in Accounting program, applicants typically need to hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution in accounting, finance, or a related field. Some programs may also require a minimum GPA, letters of recommendation, a resume, and a statement of purpose outlining the applicant’s career goals and reasons for pursuing a graduate degree in accounting. In addition, standardized test scores such as the GMAT or GRE may be required for admission to some MS in Accounting programs.

The admission process for a Master of Science in Accounting program at a specific university will vary, but typically involves submitting an online application, along with all required documentation such as transcripts, letters of recommendation, and test scores. Once the application is complete, the university’s admissions committee will review each applicant’s materials to determine if they meet the program’s requirements and are a good fit for the program. Some universities may also require an interview as part of the admissions process to further assess an applicant’s qualifications and fit for the program.

master of accounting vs master of professional accounting

The first thing you should understand is that there are 2 degrees in accounting, but they are the same degrees. If you look at a degree on your school’s website or in an ad, there is no difference. They both say “MSA” or “MAcc.”

The only difference is what the degrees are called by the school, and sometimes even that is not true. For example, all of the AASCB Bachelors of Science degrees call themselves MSA degrees, even though they technically aren’t. They will be discussed separately here because of the importance to students deciding between getting their degree with one name versus another.



Item
Expanded Description
MSA
  • Master of Science in Accounting – A graduate level degree focused on accounting principles, theory, and practice
MAcc
  • Master of Accountancy – Another term used for the same degree, often interchangeable with MSA
AACSB
  • Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business – An accrediting body for business schools, ensures quality education and curriculum standards
Bachelors of Science degrees%
  • Undergraduate degrees that focus on accounting concepts, theories, and practices at a foundational level

Accounting vs. Finance: Which Master's Degree Is Right for You?

Accounting

If you’re an accounting professional looking to take the next step in your career, considering a master’s degree is a smart place to start. Those with a master’s degree can, in general, earn an average of $400,000 more over their lifetimes than those with just a bachelor’s degree. Additionally, having a master’s degree (especially in a competitive field such as accounting) can help you qualify for more jobs, particularly those with more seniority and higher pay. In fact, many of today’s upper-level accounting jobs require a master’s degree.

Beyond that, having a master’s degree is a necessity if you are planning on, or considering, sitting for the CPA exam. As of 2014, accounting students preparing for the CPA must earn 150 credit hours of education, which is 30 credit hours beyond a bachelor’s degree. Getting a master’s degree is the best way to not only further your accounting knowledge but also qualify you to sit for the exam, which will then allow you to practice public accounting.

When looking into graduate-level accounting programs, you have probably noticed that the majority fall into two categories: a master’s degree in accounting, or an MBA in accounting. While the differences between these two programs might not be immediately clear, there are actually some significant distinctions that are important to take into consideration when deciding which one is right for you. 

MBA in Accounting vs. Master’s in Accounting

Business Management vs. Accounting: Which Degree Is Right for You? |  Rasmussen University

To best understand the differences between these two types of programs, we’ll explore each of them in depth.

MBA in Accounting

An MBA is one of the most popular degrees in today’s higher education landscape and often incorporates basic accounting knowledge into the curriculum. As an accounting professional with advanced knowledge of the field, you might be wondering if this is applicable to you, and the answer is yes – if you pursue an MBA accounting concentration.

So what is an MBA in accounting? This program will deliver the technical skills and business concepts (and review the accounting essentials) you’d get in a traditional MBA, but adds an emphasis on leveraging financial analysis to help decision-making at a strategic level. You’ll get the name-recognition of an in-demand degree as well as a credential that highlights your accounting specialization – in short, you get both the breadth to build a well-rounded business skillset and the depth to truly become an accounting expert.

An MBA in Accounting program will help you develop the competencies required in today’s business professionals, including managing risk, leadership, understanding the impact of globalization, financial decision-making, business analysis and performance measurement, understanding customers and markets, and process integration and performance. From there, you’ll dive into your accounting-specific coursework, which will cover the essential accounting knowledge you’ll need as a professional in this field.

Master Of Science In Accounting Vs Master Of Accountancy

10 Best Master's Programs in Accounting

Master’s in Accounting

A Master’s in Accounting is a deep immersion into the field of accounting. You will complete many of the same core accounting courses that you would in an MBA in Accounting program, and then build on them with highly-focused courses that take your understanding of the field to the next level.

For example, in Champlain’s Master’s in Accounting program, you have the option to complete an embedded graduate certificate in the subject area of your choice, so you could obtain many of the same general business skills with an advanced management or business management graduate certificate. However, if you are interested in building skills in a different subject area, this would be a great option for you to pursue (for example, if you’ve always had an interest in conflict management, or you think that employment law sounds intriguing, you could pursue a certificate in one of those areas instead).

All in all, a Master’s in Accounting prepares students to meet the evolving needs of today’s businesses of all sizes, and they will emerge from the program able to address challenges in fast-paced, modern work environments using an integrated, financially-focused approach.

masters in accounting online

Now that we’ve highlighted some of the differences between the two programs, it’s important to highlight some of the similarities – namely, that both degrees will prepare you for success in the accounting field. Both degrees will equip you with the essential skills required of advanced accounting professionals today, including:

  • Business analysis using financial statements
  • Risk and performance management
  • The international dimensions of accounting
  • Advanced accounting information systems


You’ll leave the program able to communicate effectively, identify problems and formulate solutions with a systems thinking approach, evaluate risk in business scenarios, generate innovative approaches to leadership, balance quantitative analyses with qualitative factors, and create a strategic vision; in addition, you’ll be able to integrate financial information and a strategic perspective for decision-making, evaluate a complex accounting system, convey financial analysis and information to stakeholders, and evaluate an organization’s progress toward meeting goals.

When it comes to the value of each degree, both are well-respected by employers, and offer great job prospects to those looking to advance in their careers. In addition to being eligible to work in public accounting, graduates of either program could go on to work in roles such as financial analyst, senior accountant, chief financial officer, business manager, or director of operations and finance, among many others.

Additionally, both programs can typically be completed in the same time frame (between 10 months and two years, depending on course load).

How to Decide Between an MBA in Accounting and a Master’s in Accounting.

Ultimately, the choice between these two programs comes down to your goals and preferences. If you are looking for a more broadly-applicable degree, an MBA might be the way to go. If you are looking for a more focused experience, with the ability to gain skills in another subject area of your choosing, an M.S. in accounting might be the right choice.

One thing’s for certain – both would be an excellent way to take the next step toward advancement in your accounting career.

Interested in learning more about the differences between these two programs? Learn more about Champlain’s 100% online MBA in accounting and master’s in accounting – or contact us to have a conversation with an admissions representative about which program would be right for you!

What is the Difference Between a Master’s of Accounting and an MBA in Accounting?

There are a number of graduate degrees available for professional accountants, leading to the consideration of a Master’s of Accounting vs MBA in Accounting. Each has specific benefits, making both useful choices for business and financial professionals. Read on to learn more about the differences between these two degrees.

MBA in Accounting

The Master of Business Administration degree in Accounting is the typical and traditional route to graduate-level business education for accountants. As a graduate program, it typically requires that students hold a baccalaureate degree in a related field and that they complete coursework traditionally spread over two years of full-time instruction—although many programs offer flexible scheduling. Internships are often required, as are capstone courses that take the place of the thesis traditionally linked to master-level degrees; the MBA is viewed as a practical, professional degree rather than a research degree, after all. The MBA, even with a specialization, is most commonly a generalist degree, as a US News & World Report article notes, helping students to gain understanding of the whole of the business environment rather than deep knowledge of any one facet thereof. That breadth of understanding, likely coupled with the greater name recognition of the degree, leads to the MBA enjoying a typically higher salary than those who hold specialized degrees—if no other factors are involved than the degrees.

Master’s of Accounting

The Master’s of Accounting is related to many other specialized master’s degrees, such as the Master of Accountancy, Master of Professional Accountancy, or Master of Science in Accounting. Generally, a specialized graduate degree in accounting will include a few courses meant to offer a general perspective of the business environment, but it will focus much more narrowly on accounting. Emphases are also frequently available to yet further deepen specific areas of accounting knowledge—taxation is a popular choice, as is reporting and assurance. This means that those with such degrees will have a deeper and more thorough knowledge of accounting practice and theory than their MBA counterparts, making them better suited to accountancy work and better equipped to pursue doctoral coursework. A master’s of accounting also positions its holders well to sit for such exams as the Certified Public Accountant, Certified Management Accountant and Certified Fraud Examiner, since each is an exercise in accounting theory and practice. Holders of such credentials are positioned to demand more in terms of salary and benefits than their uncertified generalist colleagues, making a specialized master’s in accounting a viable professional choice.

When looking at a Master’s of Accounting vs MBA in Accounting, there are many benefits. Both will afford to those who pursue them diligently and sincerely substantial knowledge of the business environment and the accounting practices and theories that undergird it. Both will serve to position students to succeed professionally. The major difference between them is that of the generalist/specialist divide—and both are necessary, which is something to keep in mind when positioning a Master’s of Accounting vs MBA in Accounting.

There are many educational paths available to students who are looking to complete a master’s degree in a business-related field. There are specialized degrees in areas such as accounting, finance, management and even leadership. There is also the general and well-known Master of Business Administration (MBA). Students who have an interest in pursuing a career in the financial industry may wonder whether they should earn their master’s degree in accounting vs an MBA. Both programs focus heavily on financial knowledge and can lead to many similar careers, including roles in the C-suite. Accounting is a more specific degree, with a strong focus on preparing students for the CPA exam, where an MBA usually instead offers the choice of multiple different concentrations.

To better understand the differences between the MBA and master’s of accounting degree paths, the following is an outline of what each educational track covers. Also included is an overview of several common career choices, median salaries, and some of the main similarities and differences between finance and accounting careers.

accounting professional

master of science in accounting salary

Master of Accounting

A master’s degree in accounting helps students develop the practical and advanced accounting skills, business strategies and financial savvy required to succeed in their chosen accounting/financial career. This degree program focuses on preparing students for the CPA exam, in addition to providing some general industry knowledge in the areas of business law and economics.

What do master of accounting graduates do?

Most graduates will go on to become accountants or Certified Public Accountants (CPAs). Responsibilities of an accountant encompass the regular collection and review of clients’ financial records. They also estimate the costs of business operation and ensure that taxes are paid, processes are optimized and that an organization understands the impact of its financial transactions.

Types of careers: Accountant, auditor, budget analyst, revenue agent.

Median salary: $68,150 (accountant) • $181,210 (chief financial officer)

Master’s in Business Administration

A master’s in business administration can help to prepare students for a high-level career in a chosen business specialty. Common career concentrations for MBA students include accounting, financial services, information technology, management or human resources.

What do MBA graduates do?

Achieving an MBA opens the door to many careers in a variety of industries. The degree not only provides students with a broad perspective on the business world, but aids in internal career progression or transition into a new industry. MBA graduates often go on to become financial managers, top executives and operations managers.

Types of careers: Accountant, senior executive, investment banker, management consultant.

Median salary: $68,150 (accountant) • $181,210 (senior executive)

Master of Accounting versus MBA: Similarities*

Both degrees focus on finances and include a significant amount of learning about the financial industry, including accounting and statistics.
MBA degree holders and accountants can become Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) — professionals who can represent clients before the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and file audited financial reports with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that are required for every company.
Both degrees can lead to top executive-level jobs.

*These comparisons are meant to be a guide and are not universally applicable to, and uniform among, all jobs and regions.

Master of Accounting versus MBA: Differences*

An accounting degree focuses primarily on the field of accounting, while students in an MBA program can choose from a variety of concentrations within and outside of the financial industry.

Students without a professional accounting background can often enroll in a master of accounting program, while many MBA programs prefer applicants that have prior business experience. This difference means that students pursuing a master of accounting program can emerge with an advanced degree without having prior longtime work experience.

It may take less time to complete a master’s degree in accounting compared to an MBA.

An MBA program is designed to produce a more well-rounded business professional, which can lead to improved salary prospects and broader career options. However, gaining a master’s degree in accounting can significantly increase the chance of better pay within the accounting field. Accounting professionals in the field who hold a master’s degree earn an average of 37 percent more than their counterparts who have a bachelor’s degree.

A master’s degree in accounting is meant to prepare students for a higher-level or management position within accounting, while an MBA offers the same preparation for a variety of fields depending on a student’s chosen concentration.

*These comparisons are meant to be a guide and are not universally applicable to, and uniform among, all jobs and regions.

Students who are interested in pursuing a career in the financial industry have many educational options. Both an MBA and a master’s degree in accounting can provide aspiring professionals with a solid basis from which to develop their careers in finance.

If students are looking for broader career options that might extend beyond finance, an MBA may be a wise path to choose.

For those who want to focus their education more specifically on accounting and its related disciplines, a master’s degree in that field can help an aspiring professional gain a solid grasp of the concepts and skills needed to pursue an accounting career. For students who are interested in this career path, consider exploring Maryville’s online Master of Accounting degree or Maryville’s online Master of Business Administration degree.

Now that you more fully appreciate what distinguishes a master’s degree in accounting vs an MBA, you are better prepared to discover more of the career options available to accounting graduates.

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