After graduating with your B.S. in Accounting you are probably asking yourself, “What next?” You can go into the job market right away or you can obtain an advanced degree in accounting. The choice ultimately depends on your career goals, but there are are some pros and cons you should keep in mind before making your final decision. Plus, you will want to know what types of graduate accounting programs are out there in case you do decide to go to graduate school.
Types of programs
There are three main Masters in Accounting programs:
- Master of Accounting (MAcc)
- Master of Professional Accounting (MPA)
- Master of Science in Accounting (MSA)
Each has their own set of pros and cons and should be considered before beginning a specific program. You can also obtain a Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a focus on accounting if you plan to work in business.
Focusing your expertise
Along with the type of program, you can also choose a specialty, which varies depending on the graduate school you attend. Some of these programs include: taxation, forensics, risk management, finance, and auditing. There are many specialties and you should consider what industry you want to be in before choosing. Many of the specialties can be applied to different industries as well, for example, private, public, business, and government taxation.
Pro: Priority selection on applications
Getting a graduate degree in accounting no matter what specialty you choose will make you more competitive in job market. Masters degrees are always more valuable than bachelor degree, and this is even more true for the accounting field. Though on-job experience is typically more valuable than schooling, employers will usually give you priority over an applicant who has an equal amount of professional experience as you would in academic experience. This isn’t always the case, but employers certainly value the work that applicants put into getting an advanced degree.
Pro: Pay is higher
Again, more education is always better than less, and those with a graduate degree should expect to get paid higher than those without. The pay, however, might not be enough to justify the cost to complete your degree, especially if you plan to take out a bunch of student loans.
Pro: Some accounting firms require an advanced degree
More and more the reality is becoming such that employers require an advance degree to even be considered a qualified applicant, not just in the accounting field. In the accounting field, employers can be even more pickier when choosing applicants since their industry requires a high level of expertise and knowledge to effectively do their jobs. Especially at large accounting firms, you might even be required to have a graduate degree in a specialized field in order to apply. Where you want to work after you graduate should be high on your things to consider.
Pro: Meet the 150 hours for CPA exam
In order to take the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam, you will have to have 150 credit hours from qualified institutions. Typically and depending on which university you attend and program you are going into, you will be provided with this opportunity to fulfill the 150 hours. These credit hours are usually done on top of the hours required to complete your degree, but nonetheless, the opportunity to do so during your degree program means you won’t have to work while getting your CPA license.
Con: Cost of attendance
Cost of attendance will obviously vary, but this is something to keep in mind as well. Graduate programs can cost anywhere from $25,000 to $120,000 depending on the quality and prestige of the school. This doesn’t always mean that the most expensive program is the best, but it should factor into your final decision. Consider how much the cost of attendance will be and how much you can make after graduation. Your return on investment (ROI) might be worth it and it might not.
Another thing to consider if you want to go to graduate school but are either currently working or want to get on-job experience is that your employer might pay for your entire degree program. Especially for those who have proven themselves to their employers, you should take advantage of this opportunity. Working and going to school is tough, but it will pay off in the end.
Con: More schooling less on-job experience
Simply put, if you are going to school you aren’t getting on-job experience. Most graduate programs in account will take 1-3 years depending on your track, which means you could be working at an accounting firm during this time and learning just as much, if not more, than you would in school. The credentials do matter, however, but it could be a good opportunity for you to understand if the industry is right for you before spending multiple years and tens of thousands of dollars on a degree to work in a field you don’t like. And again, your employer may pay for your school so that you can do both.
In the end, the decision is up to you. There certainly seems to be more reasons to get an advanced degree in account than not, but what matters is your career goals and how you want to obtain those goals.