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Best Accounting Schools in Massachusetts in 2021

October 4, 2021 | Staff Writers

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Benefits of earning your accounting degree at a school in Massachusetts

Earning an accounting degree in Massachusetts allows students to enter some of the most lucrative and sought-after job roles on the market, with a qualification potentially earned at one of the most highly respected colleges in the world.

It’s not just record-breaking schools like Harvard and MIT that give this economically buoyant state its excellent reputation for accountancy students. Boston University and Boston College also have exceptional reputations, along with many other schools in the state. While lots of them cost a substantial amount of money in tuition fees, the job prospects of qualified accountants mean students can quickly make back what they spend within a few years of full-time employment.

Read on to find out how much accounting graduates can earn in Massachusetts, discover a full breakdown of the career opportunities open to accounting professionals, and check out a list of the best degree programs. But first, let’s take a look at some of the most enticing reasons to study accounting in the Old Bay State.  

Benefits of studying in MA

  • World-beating schools: There are tons of world-famous universities in Massachusetts, including some of the most respected in the field of business and finance. At the end of this article, you’ll be able to see a list of the most popular schools for accounting majors in the state.
  • Booming economy: Not only does the state boast one of the highest proportion of degree holders in the U.S., but it’s also known for being a hub for tech and finance firms, with Boston City attracting some of the best corporate entities in the nation and from around the world. Job prospects are excellent, and graduates have access to a diverse range of employment opportunities, from huge corporations to start-ups.
  • Sports: It doesn’t matter if you’re an athlete or more of a spectator; MA is a great place for sports lovers. Baseball, ice hockey, football, soccer, and basketball fans will have plenty of games to watch, while sports are always on the schedule during winter, including snowboarding, ice skating, and skiing. Blue Hills, Wachusett, and Jiminy Peak are just a few hotspots to check out.
  • Food: Hardworking accountancy students need to make sure they’re well-nourished to perform at their best, and the delicious seafood and shellfish available in this coastal state are a healthy and tasty way to fuel yourself while you study.

The top cities for accounting students in Massachusetts

Here’s a quick explanation of some of the most popular cities in Massachusetts to study accounting. 

Boston

Lovingly referred to as the Cradle of Liberty due to its instrumental role in the American Revolution, Boston is the state capital. It has a culture all of its own, with friendly, brash locals and a fascinating history. There’s plenty to do for everyone, including museums, nightlife, festivals, shopping, and plenty of creative outlets. 

Worcester 

Worcester costs a little less to live in than Boston, but still has all the features students would want from a large, cosmopolitan city. Recent commercial investment in the downtown area means it’s becoming an attractive place for businesses, meaning the job prospects for accountants are likely to continue to grow.

Cambridge

Home to two of the best colleges in the world, Cambridge has a small town feel but still retains a fun, vibrant feel. It’s close to Boston, so you can easily go for a trip into down to see a live event or visit a museum, but has enough of a community feel that you always have somewhere to be locally.

Job prospects and earning potential for Massachusetts accountants 

When it comes to job prospects, there aren’t many parts of the United States that are more attractive to up and coming accountants. According to the Bureau for Labor Statistics, the annual mean wage for accountants and auditors is $88,830, making it the fourth highest paying state in the country in the field.

The Boston-Cambridge-Nashua area also has the seventh highest employment level for accountants nationally, and accounting professionals can expect to earn more than they would in any of the surrounding states aside from New York, including New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Earning a master’s degree is usually sufficient to make it into the highest paying accountancy roles, but some people go the extra mile and earn a doctorate.

Even with an undergraduate qualification, accounting graduates can get secure, high-paying jobs in careers in the finance and business sectors.

Top careers for accountancy graduates

The higher level of degree program you achieve, the further up the career ladder you’ll be able to climb. That said, not everybody wants the stress and responsibility of the top jobs, and there are plenty of less demanding roles for accounting professionals. Here are some of the most popular careers for graduates in Massachusetts, along with average salary expectations for each role.  

Chief financial officer

The CFO is the most senior accountant in a corporate environment, and their role is to report directly to the board members and chief executive about financial matters.

Applicants often have years’ worth of experience in the field, at least a master’s degree, and extensive knowledge of financial accounting, modern accounting issues, information systems, basic business proficiency, finance operations, taxes, and investment strategies. As this is one of the top jobs for an accounting graduate, salaries can range from between around $100,000 to $200,000 and higher, depending on the size and scope of the company.

Bookkeeper

A high school diploma is usually enough to secure a job as a bookkeeper, although applicants could obtain a two-year associate degree if they want to stand out above the competition. Once you’ve obtained two years’ experience, you can apply to become a certified bookkeeper, which could bump your salary from around $23,000 at entry level, to approximately $42,000.  

Bookkeepers manage a company or department’s day-to-day financial transactions using online databases, software, and spreadsheets. An eye for detail and passion for accuracy are essential in this role.

Budget analyst

In many cases, bachelor’s graduates can get into a career as a budget analyst, but some firms prefer a master’s level qualification. This role involves working closely with managers to develop budgets that realistically outline costs and carve a pathway to profitability. Jobs are available within the private sector, but there’s also significant demand for budget analysts in local and federal government, where you could help contribute to the running of the economy.

Salaries range from between approximately $50,000 and $100,000, depending on the company and qualification level of the applicants.

Certified internal auditor

Internal auditors are essential for the smooth running of the economy, providing an additional layer of protection to ensure the accuracy and legality of financial documents. Entry level auditors in Massachusetts can command salaries of $70,000 and higher, reaching upwards of $120,000 once you’re fully qualified. Internal auditors don’t usually sit the CPA exam, instead qualifying as a CIA with the Institute of Internal Auditors.   

Certified public accountant

Becoming a CPA is the most popular route for accountants in Massachusetts, and it’s a job that offers plenty of variety to those who get into the field. They work with financial planning services, businesses, and individuals, helping with tax planning services, risk assessment, internal financial reviews, asset management, and public accounting. There are specific requirements for Massachusetts CPAs, which we’ll explore in detail later on.

Forensic accountant

Forensic accountants are responsible for detecting and preventing white-collar crime, such as insurance fraud, corporate theft, and extortion. Many forensic accountants work for government agencies to ensure that private businesses are compliant with local, state, and federal laws. The amount you can earn as a forensic accountant in MA varies depending on your experience level and who you work for, with an average salary of around $70,000.

Staff accountant

Staff accountants often hold bachelor’s degrees, and work within corporations, government bodies, and financial service companies. While a CPA isn’t always a pre-requisite for securing a position, it can help you stand out from competitors. The average wage for an accountant Massachusetts is $88,830, but experienced accountants can go on to earn more.

What to expect during an accounting degree program in Massachusetts

Massachusetts is a hub for education in the United States, and known throughout the world for its high-ranking universities. Let’s take a quick look at what the accounting schools in the state have to offer and explore the requirements for becoming a qualified CPA. 

What you need to know about accounting colleges in Massachusetts

  • There are more than 45 schools offering accounting and finance degrees
  • You can choose from 21 colleges to obtain a master’s degree
  • Three schools make the top three of the global ranking lists from Forbes, The Times, and U.S. News and World Report
  • 11 colleges have association to advance collegiate schools of business accreditation

How long does it take to get qualified as an accountant?

The amount of time it takes students to get qualified depends on an array of factors. A career as a clerk or bookkeeper doesn’t require a college education, while many careers such as financial analyst, auditor, CPA, and tax accountant require at least a bachelor’s degree.

In most cases, students must complete five years instead of the usual four to get an undergraduate qualification. This is because a bachelor’s program is usually worth 120 semester hours, and you need 150 credits to get licensure as a CPA. Some master’s degrees might take two years, bringing the total study time for many MBA qualified accountants up to six years. Doctorate degrees potentially take the longest, with students spending between four and seven years to complete a Ph.D.

CPA requirements in Massachusetts

To become a CPA in Massachusetts, take the following steps:

Complete a bachelor’s degree at an AACSB accredited school — this is usually worth 120 credit hours

Finish an additional 30 credits of advanced coursework — students often pursue an MBA or an MSA

  • Demonstrate evidence of 9 hours in business courses, such as information systems, finance, and business law
  • Achieve an additional 21 units in accounting-specific courses, including auditing, cost accounting, taxation, and financial accounting

Sit the uniform CPA examination  

Find out more at the Board of Public Accountancy website

The job role you get depends heavily on the qualification you earn at school — particularly at entry-level. As you climb up the career ladder and earn experience, school becomes less of big deal, but in your early career, it’s essential. Also, in a job market as competitive as Massachusetts, you could find yourself hitting a plateau in your career, which reaching the next level of certification could help you overcome.

Read on to find out about the different types of accountancy degree, and the most popular certifications for bachelor’s graduates.

Types of accounting degree in Massachusetts

Associate degree

This is a two-year course that can open up doors into entry level positions in accounting, such as bookkeeper or payroll clerk, or serve as a foundation to further studies in finance or business. There are usually 60 credit hours of coursework, including a mixture of general knowledge and basic accountancy. Students gain insight into the generally accepted accounting principles and cover the following:

  • Introduction to economics
  • Introduction to business
  • Foundation of accounting
  • Invoicing
  • Payroll
  • Accounts payable and receivable 

Bachelor’s degree

By the end of a bachelor’s degree, learners should fully grasp the GAAPs, and have a broad understanding of the key methods, processes, ethics, and principles in accountancy. The 120-hour program usually consists of a mixture of core concepts in subjects such as English, social sciences, history, and your chosen electives — as well as core classes in business and accounting. Some of the specializations accounting majors can choose from are:

  • Statistics
  • Financial accounting
  • Accounting software
  • Economics

As you progress through the curriculum, you’ll move into advanced courses, such as information systems, ethics in accounting, auditing, and taxation. The program usually takes four years to complete for a full-time learner, but some schools offer more flexibility for those who want to fast-track or study part-time. Some of the job roles open to accountancy bachelor’s degree holders include:

  • Financial analyst
  • Tax advisor
  • Credit controller
  • Accountant

Master’s degree

A lot of people seek a career in accounting because it comes with the potential for a high salary. However, the competitive nature of the industry means a master’s degree is often necessary for those looking to land the best roles. Most schools require a bachelor’s degree foundation, and in many cases, it doesn’t have to be in business or accounting. The school might require that you sit a GRE or GMAT exam to ensure proficiency. 

A full-time master of business administration, master of professional accountancy, master of science in accountancy, or master of accountancy program lasts for one to two years. Once you complete your studies, you’ll be ready for your CPA exam, and have an in-depth understanding of accounting theory and practical applications of the knowledge you’ve gained. Courses usually deliver the extra 30 hours required for licensure, and some of the options you might choose from include:

  • Financial statement analysis
  • Federal taxation
  • Contemporary issues in accounting
  • Applied statistics 
  • Corporate financial reporting

If you’ve got a burning ambition to reach the highest career heights and become a director or CFO, a master’s degree will help you along your way. Even if you don’t intend on pursuing a career as an executive, this type of qualification can significantly boost your earning potential. Some of the job roles master’s students in Massachusetts enter include:

  • Risk assessor
  • Actuary
  • Financial advisor
  • Forensic accountant
  • Internal auditor
  • External auditor
  • Tax examiner

Doctoral degree

While it’s not the most popular route for accounting students due to its length and complexity, it can lead to one of the most in-demand job roles in the industry: Professor. Graduate teachers are in short-supply, and this qualification is the preferred route into a career in university lecturing or research. The primary aim is to produce a dissertation that offers a meaningful contribution to the global field if accountancy. Courses you might study at this level include:

  • Microeconomic theory
  • Managerial accounting
  • Empirical methods in corporate finance
  • Auditing
  • Accounting software and information systems

The most sought-after accounting certifications

In many cases, a typical four-year undergraduate program doesn’t provide sufficient semester hours to obtain a license. There are plenty of routes accounting majors can take, depending on their preferences and career goals:

Certified public accountant

There’s a certain amount of prestige associated with becoming a CPA, which is one of the most respected accounting certifications in the United States. It places students in an advanced position in the field of finance due to the strictly regulated program you learn from. It lets you perform duties such as representing clients to the IRS, signing tax returns, and working with publically traded companies.  

Certified management accountant

A CMA can work for practically any company, usually in the capacity of a CFO or manager. Students with a passion for business leadership and entrepreneurial skills are drawn to this certificate, which requires that you have at least a bachelor’s degree and two years’ worth of industry experience. Workplace duties include writing reports and compiling financial documents and systems relating to tax, investment, and auditing. 

Chartered global management accountant

CGMA certificate holders are interested in high-level operations within large companies, with a focus on strategy and leadership. The knowledge you’ll gain along the way to this certificate includes external financial influences, performance management, and financial accounting.  

Chartered financial analyst

While seeking a CFA certification involves passing tricky three exams and joining the CFA Institute, it’s one of the best ways to show employers that you have what it takes as an analyst. 

Certified fraud examiner

CFEs play an important role in ensuring the compliance of financial service companies, corporate entities, and individuals. The exam includes the following sections: Fraud prevention, investigative methodologies, fraud laws, and resolutions. In your career, you’ll help detect incidences of fraud and design and implement systems to prevent future occurrences.

Certified internal auditor

CIA certification is usually required for individuals who work as compliance or auditing professionals. One of the primary focuses of this type of program is on ethical practices, and those who pursue this type of career often take great pride in being highly principled. 

CPA certification following on from a bachelor’s degree is the most popular career route for accounting graduates in Massachusetts. However, the various types of master’s degrees are also popular among students looking to earn more money and land job roles in top companies. 

Best schools in Massachusetts with accounting degree programs

Top undergraduate degrees in Massachusetts

Harvard University 

Harvard is an Ivy League university, the oldest college in the U.S., and one of the most famous schools in the world for academic performance. With an acceptance rate of 5%, only the top performing students get a place, but out of those who do, a staggering 97% graduate. While costs are high at over $70,000 before financial aid, the college offers grants and scholarships to students with excellent academic records.  

Massachusetts Institute of Technology 

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology makes it onto every respected list that ranks the top universities in the nation. With graduation and acceptance rates of 93% and 7% respectively, it’s easy to understand why. The class sizes are small, and the overall student population is below 12,000 students. It’s an expensive college, costing around $73,000, but it’s a great choice for accountancy students who are interested in pursuing a career in the tech world. 

Bentley University

Bentley University is another top-rated school in Massachusetts, and has had a specific focus on finance and accounting since it opened in 1917. The acceptance rate is 47% and the graduation rate is 89%, making it easier than many other local schools to get into, but still with an impressive reputation for successful alumni. 

Students can tackle a bachelor’s in accountancy, which provides 122 credits. You have the option to enter a year-long master’s program to prepare you for the CPA examination, or include the additional credits in your undergraduate studies.  

Boston College

Boston College is a prestigious school that costs around $75,000 for tuition and has a graduation rate of 93%, with an acceptance rate of 27%. The management school is AACSB accredited, and regularly makes it into rankings of the top American colleges for accounting. You can earn a bachelor’s of administration with an accounting focus that aims to prepare students directly for the workplace, in roles such as staff accountant or finance manager.

Boston University

Boston University is another school in Massachusetts with an exceptional reputation for academic performance, with a graduation rate of 87%. The school lets in around 19% of application, so students must have a strong background to get into a program here. Undergraduate students can select an accounting concentration from the AACSB accredited school of business, which takes 129 credit hours to complete. 

College of the Holy Cross

College of the Holy Cross requires that accounting majors complete 128 semester hours, including courses in cost accounting concepts, federal taxation rules, auditing procedures, and financial accounting. It’s a small school with a favorable student to teacher ratio, and costs are around $71,000. The acceptance rate is 34% and the graduation rate is 89%. 

University of Massachusetts Amherst

The University of Massachusetts Amherst is one of the more affordable schools in Massachusetts, which can be very expensive when it comes to getting a degree at any level. Bachelor’s students can expect to pay around $31,000 per year for tuition, and the acceptance rate is 64%. The graduation rate is an excellent 76% and the school has links to the big four accounting firms, as well as businesses like IBM, General Electric, and Aetna. Students can pursue their CPA from start to finish by getting a BBA in accounting and staying on to complete an MSA.

Northeastern University

Northeastern University is a private research school with an AACSB accredited business school where you can earn a bachelor’s degree in business administration, with a specialization in accounting. The school costs a similar amount to many of the local educational institutions, and has an acceptance rate of 18% and a graduation rate of 84%. 

Suffolk University

Suffolk University is a small school that costs a little less than the Massachusetts average, at $61,216. It has an acceptance rate of 84%, making it one of the easiest to get into, and a graduation rate of 59%. Accountancy majors are required to take courses in auditing and assurance, accounting information systems, cost accounting, and federal taxation.  

Assumption College

Assumption College is a private university that costs around $58,000 per year. It has an acceptance rate of 81% and a graduation rate that isn’t far behind, at 74%. Accounting students benefit from the variety and breadth of courses offered in finance and business, and have the chance to enter a combined accounting bachelor’s and MBA program that lasts five years instead of the usual six.

Not everyone will be able to get into colleges like Harvard and MIT, but there are still plenty of excellent schools to choose from with less stringent entry requirements. You can visit each college’s website for an in-depth look at the courses available and information about how to apply to the college of your dreams in Massachusetts.

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