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Is a Master's Degree in Accounting Worth It?

Is a Master's Degree in Accounting Worth It?
Rebecca Safier
Rebecca SafierUpdated January 18, 2023
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If you’re interested in accounting, you know it’s important to crunch the numbers before making an investment. Before you enroll in a Master’s of Accounting (MAcc) program, you want to make sure your time and financial commitment will be worth it. A Master’s degree in accounting can prepare you for a variety of positions with higher-than-average salaries, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the employment of accountants and auditors to grow 6% over the next decade. Training for a growth field can be a very good thing.Read on for a closer look at the costs and return on investment of a Master’s degree in accounting, including:
  • Is a Master’s in accounting worth it?
  • How long does it take to get a Master’s degree in accounting?
  • What are the pros and cons of getting a Master’s degree in accounting?
  • How much does it cost to get a Master’s degree in accounting?
  • What is a typical Master’s in accounting salary? 
  • What jobs can you get with a Master’s in accounting? 

Are Online Accounting Master's Degrees Worthwhile? 

When pursuing a Master’s in accounting, you could opt for a traditional on-campus experience or an online program. Online programs are often more affordable than on-campus ones, costing around $8,500 to $11,500 per year while on-campus programs may range from $30,000 up to $120,000 (more on that below). Plus, you won’t have to pay for travel costs or alternative housing arrangements with an online program, and you often have greater flexibility in your schedule. At the same time, it’s important to research an online program before you enroll to make sure it offers good outcomes for students. Track down some information on post-graduation employment and salaries, as well as attrition rates, to make sure it would be a good fit. If you opt to study online, you might also have to put in some extra effort to grow your network, since you won’t have the ease of meeting students and professors in person. Growing your network can be one of the most effective ways to land a job after graduation, so make sure that an online program would offer opportunities to collaborate and connect with others in your field. 

How Long Does It Take To Get a Master's Degree in Accounting?

Most Master’s of Accounting programs span two years, though some offer Master’s degrees after one year. If you find a one-year program, make sure that it will equip you with the skills and knowledge you need to move forward in your career. Check out the curriculum and course offerings, and review data on post-graduation outcomes. You might also find out if the school offers career fairs, counseling, or other resources to help you find a job after earning your degree. 

Doctorate in Accounting

A PhD is the highest degree you can earn in the field of accounting. It takes four to seven years to complete and typically requires you to complete a dissertation. Pursuing your doctorate in accounting may be a good fit if you wish to conduct accounting research in academic settings or become a college professor. Recommended: Should I Refinance My Student Loans? 

Accounting Master's Degree vs Accounting Certifications

A Master’s degree isn’t necessary to work in the field of accounting. You could also make yourself more qualified for job opportunities with an accounting certificate. An accounting certificate is less of a time commitment than a Master’s degree. You can usually earn one in less than a year. It will give you fundamental knowledge and skills for entry-level jobs in the field of accounting, such as bookkeeping or auditing clerks. A Master’s in accounting, on the other hand, typically involves a full-time, two-year program. It might open the door to a number of high-level positions, including investment manager, benefits manager, and financial advisor. The Master’s degree will likely require a higher initial investment than a certificate program. However, it could lead to a higher salary and more career opportunities, especially in leadership positions.As you explore opportunities for additional education in the field of accounting, consider how these two options stack up: 
Master’s degree in accountingCertification in accounting 
Time commitment2 yearsLess than a year 
CostHigher Lower
Job opportunitiesManagement and other leadership positionsEntry-level positions 

Benefits of Getting an Accounting Master's Degree

Before committing to a Master’s program, it’s worth considering both the pros and cons. Here are some benefits that could make the accounting degree worth it. 
  • Job opportunities. A Master’s can qualify you for a variety of accounting jobs, especially management positions. According to a 2022 Corporate Recruiters Survey from the Graduate Management Admission Council, 83% of corporate recruiters plan to hire Master's in Accounting grads in 2022. 
  • High salary. Accountants earn a median annual salary of $77,250, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That number could move into the six-figure range if you work in management. 
  • Knowledge and skills. With a Master’s program, you’ll go through a comprehensive curriculum on the theory and practice of accounting, as well as develop skills such as problem-solving and strategic decision-making. This experience can be personally fulfilling and help you achieve your career goals. 

Reasons for Not Getting a Master's in Accounting

At the same time, consider any reasons a Master’s in accounting might not be worth it for you before you enroll. Here are some that might apply: 
  • Additional years in school. If you’re ready to say goodbye to student life and enter the working world, you might not want to commit to an additional two years studying for your Master’s degree. 
  • Tuition and fees. Some programs cost upwards of $50,000 per year, which is a significant investment. 
  • Might need to borrow student loans. Depending on your financial situation, you might have to take on debt to pay for your degree. Combined with any student loans you already borrowed for your undergraduate education, you might find yourself paying off loans for years to come. 

Average Student Loan Debt of Graduates

The average student loan debt for graduates of an MAcc program is $28,341, according to the Education Data Initiative. This sum is well below the median salary for accountants ($77,250) and could be manageable, depending on your post-graduation income. Let’s say, for instance, that you graduate with $28,341 at a 7% interest rate. On a 10-year term, you’d make monthly payments of $329. If you wanted to pay off your loans in five years, you’d have to make monthly payments of $561. If your income increases, you could also make extra payments to get out of debt even faster. Before borrowing any loans for graduate school, use a student loan calculator to estimate your costs of borrowing. Make sure you’re prepared for student loan repayment so your debt doesn’t derail your other personal and financial goals. 

Cost of a Master's in Accounting

The cost of a Master’s in Accounting varies widely among schools. 

Public In-State Tuition

Prices vary greatly, but the average cost of a Master’s degree is $29,150 in a public school for state residents. Tuition can go much higher: For instance, the University of Michigan’s School of Business: Master of Accounting program, costs $50,906 per year for state residents, though that’s $5,000 less than what non-residents will pay.

Public Out-of-State Tuition

Tuition for out-of-state students at public universities is typically higher than what in-state residents pay. For example, at the University of Michigan, tuition and fees are $55,906 for non-residents per year.  

Private Tuition

The average private school tuition for a Master’s degree in accounting is $62,100.

Online Tuition

An online Master’s degree in accounting typically costs about $26,000 per year, though some can be found for around $10,000. 
Type of institutionCost of Master’s degree in accounting
Private university$62,100
Public university, in-state student$29,150
Public university, out-of-state studentIn-state costs + $5,000 or more per year
Online$10,000 per year and up
You might find grants, scholarships, and other types of financial aid (like FAFSA for grad students) that can reduce the price tag. If you get a work-study or other gig (say, an online remote job) while you study, you can also earn some money to offset your cost of attendance. 

Jobs That Require a Master's in Accounting

Earning a Master’s in accounting could lead to a number of job opportunities. These include: 
  • Auditor: You’ll inspect a company’s financial records and earn an average salary of $58,394.
  • Information and technology accountant: You’ll manage the technology systems your company uses to organize financial data and earn an average salary of $95,743.
  • Financial analyst: You’ll help guide investment decisions through data gathering, financial modeling, and forecasting and earn a median salary of $95,570.
  • Managerial accountant: You’ll plan and prepare financial reports for your company and earn an average salary of $62,221.
  • Chief Financial Officer (CFO): You’ll lead a company’s financial management and help make strategic business decisions while earning a median salary of $419,067.
Recommended: Advantages and Disadvantages of Student Loan Refinancing

The Takeaway

A Master’s degree in accounting could be worth the cost, as it opens the door to a variety of job opportunities with higher-than-average salaries. At the same time, MAcc programs can be costly, so think carefully about how much you’re willing to pay for your degree. An in-person program can provide networking opportunities with students and faculty, but if the price tag is burdensome, perhaps consider enrolling in a less expensive program online course. If the degree equips you with the skills and knowledge you need to achieve your career goals, you might be better off choosing an affordable program over one with sky-high tuition and fees.  Recommended: Best Cities for College Grads to Live 

3 Student Loan Refinancing Tips

  1. Refinancing your student loan can lower your monthly payments and help you adjust your loan term. Compare student loan refinancing rates to find a loan that works for you.
  2. Paying extra each month on your student loan can reduce the interest you pay and so lower your total loan cost over time. (The law prohibits prepayment penalties on federal or private student loans.)
  3. If you teach full-time for five complete and consecutive academic years in a low-income school, you may be eligible for federal student loan forgiveness.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is getting a Master’s in accounting hard?
Is a Master’s in accounting enough for a CPA?
Is it better to have an MBA or master’s in accounting?
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About the Author

Rebecca Safier

Rebecca Safier

Rebecca Safier has nearly a decade of experience writing about personal finance. Formerly a senior writer with LendingTree and Student Loan Hero, she specializes in student loans, financial aid, and personal loans. She is certified as a student loan counselor with the National Association of Certified Credit Counselors (NACCC).
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