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Master’s in Accounting Versus MBA

March 20, 2021 | Staff Writers

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Both a master’s degree in accounting and a master’s degree in business administration prepares graduates for a rewarding career path in various fields. While these two programs offer skills and knowledge related to finance and the business world, many at times, the graduates end up working in various sectors. The choice on which one to go for usually depends on individual interest. In essence, they include varied majors that enlighten students in different fields and concentrations.

When it comes to an MBA degree, the requirements are the same as most other graduate degree. Crucial to note is that these programs vary greatly in structure so that the requirements may differ from different schools. Despite that significant difference, there are few general prerequisites that everyone who needs to apply for an MBA program must meet.

One of the common things is the need to have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. The good news about this is that the degree doesn’t have to be related to business administration. Another must requirement every institution will want to check on is the relevant work experience. MBA programs may ask for a resume or any other proof describing your work history. On top of that, applicants should take the Graduate Management Admission to be considered.

Anyone who graduates with a degree in MBA or master’s in accounting possesses an overwhelming level of knowledge and expertise. Such a graduate will highly likely have leadership, teamwork, communication, and problem-solving skills. In a modern-day work environment and any other professional engagement, these skills are the bare minimum requirements, which employers check on seriously.

Whether it is a master’s in accounting or business administration, someone with these skills can apply the knowledge and experience in varied fields. For instance, in the financial and accounting world, problem-solving skills are useful tools that can help address modern-day challenges. Alongside teamwork and leadership, a graduate in any of these programs will be instrumental in handling issues in various managerial positions.

Class Requirements for a Master’s in Accounting and an MBA

Are you looking forward to starting your graduate studies but are having trouble deciding whether to pursue a master’s in accounting or an MBA? Well, worry no more. This section clarifies each program’s requirements, alongside a rigorous comparison between the two programs to help you follow through on your dreams.

Before you decide whether to do it online, full-time or part-time, there are several entry requirements you have to meet to qualify for an MBA program. Here are the fundamental must-haves.

  • A four-year bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution
  •  A 3.6 GPA or higher
  • English proficiency-TOEFL tests
  • About two to three years of work experience
  • GMAT score above 600
  • GRE tests

However, it is imperative to note that some institutions can accept students who do not have prior work experience, but priority goes to those who do. Although not necessary, some institutions also require students who have related bachelor’s degrees.

If your career interest is solely in the accounting fields, then doing a master’s in accounting will prepare you for a career in that field. The program offers advanced coursework in accounting theory and practice. In general, you will take about 36 credit degrees in two years of studying full time and one year if you choose to do an online accounting degree.

Before filling the application forms for your master’s in accounting program, ensure that you meet the following qualifications;

  • Accounting or finance-related undergraduate degree or a related quantitative subject from an accredited institution.
  • GMAT and GRE tests
  • English proficiency

Having understood each program’s entry requirements, how then do you decide which master’s degree to go for as a person whose aim is to advance their career for future gains?  Let’s approach this by looking at the critical differences between the two programs.

The first key difference between an MBA and M.S in Accounting is what’s included in the curriculum. 

  • M.S. in Accounting- Geared towards making you an expert in the accounting and finance fields.
  • MBA-Tailored to deliver various management skills needed to overcome business challenges.

Also, depending on what your careers goals and aspirations are, an MBA program is right for you if:

  • You are seeking a flexible career path
  • You want to have skills that you can apply in many businesses
  • You have prior experience and want to advance into senior-level management

On the other hand, an M.S. in accounting is the appropriate choice for you if:

  • Your focus is getting a CPA for a career-specific in the accounting and finance fields.
  • You have little work experience and want to obtain the required course credits to qualify for your CPA exams.

Indeed, an MBA program requires that you must have work experience. In contrast, for M.S. in Accounting, you must have studied significant accounting courses on the undergraduate level to qualify for the program.

Moreover, depending on whether you study online or take full-time classes, one degree is faster than the other. On average, both programs will take two years for onsite studies. However, an MBA will take a shorter time than an M.S. in accounting when doing it online.

Both courses equip you with the skills and knowledge to take up significant roles in your organization. An M.S. in Accounting will make you a finance and accounting expert; an MBA, on the other hand, prepares you to take any top position in the business field. 

According to the bureau of labor statistics, in May 2018, the median wages for marketing managers was $134,290. Other hot top jobs for MBA graduates include business operations manager, financial manager, medical and health services manager, management analyst, and CEOs.

With an MBA, you can earn the required number of credits needed to sit for the CPA exams. To pass these exams, however, you will be required to put much more effort when compared to somebody who has done an M.S. in Accounting.

Both the MBA and M.S. in Accounting are excellent graduate degrees that can lead to the next step in your career. It is crucial to tailor either program to individual career goals. Now that you know what each program entails, yours is to choose the learning institution with the best curriculum for your selected program.

Typical Career Path of a Master’s in Accounting Program Graduate

Over the last few years, the number of individuals pursuing master’s in accounting programs has been increasing, which can be attributed to the fact that accounting master’s program graduates tend to get high-paying job opportunities. 

Listed below are some of the most common jobs master’s in accounting program graduates often get.

  • Financial Analyst: Accounting master’s program graduates are often brilliant financial analysts. Financial Analysts usually scrutinize an organization’s past and present financial records, business trends, and market position. Based on their analysis, they make recommendations proposed to improve the organization. As such, for a company to succeed, it must have top-notch financial analysts.
  • Auditor: It’s the auditor’s responsibility to ensure financial and accounting records are valid master’s in accounting program graduates are normally phenomenal auditors, it comes as no surprise that they are sought-after by numerous companies.
  • Management Accountant: One of the most common career paths masters in accounting program graduates choose to specialize in is management accountancy. Also referred to as cost, managerial, industrial, or corporate accountants, management accountants play vital roles in a company. Apart from preparing financial reports and documents for use within a company, they also offer company managers guidance on budgeting and investment decisions. 
  • Forensic Accountant: Forensic accounting refers to the practice of investigating fraud. To be an amazing forensic accountant, you must have exceptional accounting skills. Without these skills, fraud may go unnoticed. Given that master’s in accounting graduates possess exceptional accounting skills, they are often fantastic forensic accountants.

Career Path Options for a Master’s in Accounting Versus an MBA

The MBA is one of the most popular courses because it is almost guaranteed to advance your career. It is also popular as it allows for the development of both personal and professional relationships. However, in comparison to an accounting master’s program, it has some limitations. Here are some of the said limitations: 

  • More high-paying job opportunities: Although an MBA program leads to improved salary prospects, by choosing to pursue a master’s degree in accounting, you’re likely to get paid better than an MBA graduate.
  • More likely to get employed ahead: Companies tend to prefer accounting master’s degree graduates to MBA graduates as accounting master’s degree graduates are more specialized. That being the case, by choosing to pursue a master’s in accounting program instead of an MBA program, you’d be significantly increasing your chances of getting hired.
  • More specialized than MBA graduates: MBA programs are designed to train well-rounded business professionals. However, accounting master’s programs are designed to train specialized accountants. The more specialized an accountant is the higher his/her chances of securing employment.

Despite the few mentioned limitations, an MBA program is still a great option to pursue as it also has its strengths.

MBAs and master’s in accounting programs are some of the most skill-imparting courses in the world. Listed below are some of the key skills learned in these programs and how they translate to other fields.

  • Pressure Management: An MBA and a master’s in accounting teach about the importance of performing well even while under pressure. As a result, most MBA and master’s in accounting graduates often have excellent pressure management skills. Thus, by pursuing an MBA or master’s in accounting program, you’re bound to be exceptional under pressure in any career path you choose to follow.
  • Effective Communication Skills: No business can progress without communication. MBA and master’s in accounting students are taught about how essential communication is. As a result, they end up being pretty effective communicators. As effective communicators tend to thrive in any area they choose to major in, an MBA and master’s in accounting graduates usually thrive in their chosen professions.
  • Out-Side-The-Box Thinking: One of the most critical skills MBA and master’s in accounting students learn while in training is strategic thinking. The strategic thinking you’ll learn while you’re an MBA/master’s in accounting student will be applicable in the business world and across various areas of your life.
  • Networking: MBA and master’s in accounting graduates are known to be good networkers. As networking is essential in all sectors, you’ll benefit greatly by having an MBA or master’s in accounting certificate.

Salary Differences Between Someone with a Master’s in Accounting or an MBA

In today’s job market, your level of education plays a critical role in determining your earnings. Typically, someone holding a master’s degree will earn more than someone with a bachelor’s degree. Similarly, a bachelor’s degree holder is expected to earn more than an associate degree holder. In the business world, an MBA holder is set to earn different figures compared to the person holding a master’s in accounting.

Depending on the field you decide to venture into, more often than not, MBA holders will have a higher salary compared to someone who’s only got a Masters in Accounting.

The median salary for an MBA holder ranges between $118,000 and $122,000.  For a Master’s in Accounting holder, the median salary ranges from $66,000 and $70,000. These figures are dependent on the company as well as the level of experience.

So why do MBA holders earn more? Here are a few reasons that might explain the significant difference between the two graduates’ potential earnings.

  • MBA Is More Flexible: Compared to a master’s in accounting, an MBA will give you various options. Students pursuing an MBA have the liberty to choose from a variety of disciplines within and outside the financial industry. In contrast, a master’s in accounting student is limited to a few options. Since MBA students have more options, they have a higher chance of securing employment at the top level and thus will have a higher average salary.
  • An MBA Student Is Well Rounded: Since the MBA program is broad, graduates tend to be more rounded and hold various skills in different fields. Accounting graduates, on the other hand, have their skills limited to the accounting field. The fact that they can’t diversify limits how much they can earn.

The difference in salary between an MBA graduate and one with an accounting degree is affected by a variety of factors besides different academic qualifications. Most of the time, there are more MBA benefits due to the reasons stated earlier. Below are some of those factors.

  • Experience Level: The more experience you gain, the more you are set to earn. Depending on the field you choose to enter, you can double or even triple your entry salary, the more you climb up the experience ladder.
  • Field Chosen: Different fields are set to pay differently. Since an MBA gives you flexibility in options, you can choose whichever field you feel comfortable with. Certain fields like real estate, top-level management, and entrepreneurship are set to pay higher than accounting.
  • Concentration of The Field: Another factor that affects salary difference is the concentration of graduates in the respective fields. There are many people with accounting degrees compared to MBA holders, which means that the job market will have a higher supply than the accounting field’s demand. As a result, the labor price is lower, meaning salaries will be set at a lower level.

Once you’ve graduated either with an MBA or Master’s in Accounting, you will have a lot of employment opportunities. Employers tend to lean towards master’s graduates more than bachelor’s degree graduates meaning you’ve already got the edge. What are some of the highest paying jobs that one can secure after having graduated in either of these master’s programs? 

  • MBA: Most of the highest paying MBA related jobs majorly revolve around three fields; finance, management, and entrepreneurship. If you’re looking to venture into finance, investment banking has been ranked as one of the highest paying jobs for graduates with an MBA. A job as a financial analyst and financial advisor also comes close.

    If you’re leaning more towards management, there are plenty of options. With an MBA, you can become a product manager, management consultant, marketing manager, data analytics manager, and financial manager.

    Entrepreneurship is very fluid and relative. It all depends on what business you start and how far it can go.
  • Master’s in Accounting: For graduates with a Master’s in Accounting, some of the highest-paying jobs you can secure include an auditor, Forensic Accountant, and Information & Technology Accountant. In the latter stages of your career, you can be a Chief Financial Officer or Corporate controller.

 If you’re looking to further your career, an MBA or Master’s In accounting can play a huge role. Online MBA programs are an excellent and affordable way to get one, although you must make sure the program is accredited.

How to Determine Whether a Master’s in Accounting or an MBA is a Better Choice for You

Many undergraduate students and professionals that are looking to advance their careers opt to pursue a master’s degree. However, most of them don’t know where or which program to enroll. It is therefore important to do thorough research before getting admission to any university or college. For the professionals looking to advance their careers, taking a master’s degree in any management program might lead to earning you a managerial job and lucrative pay.

Here is are the factors that you should look at when choosing between an MBA or a master’s in accounting: 

  • Check the Institution’s Reputation: Every institution offers its MBA programs differently. Ensure that you review the school’s reputation. Check the acceptance requirements and admissions procedures, and evaluate if you qualify for admission. Also, check their fee structure and if they offer financial aid to students.
  • Research If the Course Is Accredited: Does the institution have accreditation from any reputable accreditation agencies? National accreditation enables you to acquire quality education. Look into the accreditation for a particular MBA program that you want to pursue. Quality programs have accreditation from business-related oversight institutions. Also, for you to get grants and scholarships from any foundation, your program needs to be accredited. 

An accounting program might open doors to a higher-level career, qualifying it as a prospective future investment. Students should evaluate their career objectives, learning period, and cost before considering an online accounting program. Those looking to pursue these programs might be undergraduate students, or accountants looking for career advancements and opportunities. 

Before enrolling for an accounting degree, study the curriculum and analyze it to make sure it offers the right programs for an accounting degree. Each program addresses different areas of accounting education. Some universities might offer many business classes, whereas others prioritize leadership and management. Most of them focus majorly on fundamental accounting principles. 

Here’s what you should do when choosing between an MBA or a master’s in accounting: 

  • Take Time to Analyze the Programs Before Enrolling: It would be best if you decided whether to take a break or continue with the master’s program immediately after your undergraduate degree. Pursuing a program that you don’t like for the sake of completing your education might be a daunting task. Many unnecessary mistakes might also occur in the process, making it a waste of time and resources since you might lead to dropping the program before graduation. That might ruin any chances of you getting student grants and scholarships in the future.
  • Evaluate the Time You Need to Study Before Enrolling: If you consider completing your studies quickly, you should enroll in a full-time program. However, many students take part-time classes to attend to other commitments at home or work. It can also help you reduce the cost of studying. 
  • Pick the Right institution: The common mistake most MBA students make is making quick decisions, settling for incorrect programs and institutions to avoid a break after completing their undergraduate course. Most students hurriedly make wrong choices because they don’t do thorough research on the institutions they choose to enroll. 
  • Prepare Well: MBA students should take their program seriously for them to pass their exams. Lack of seriousness might lead them to fail their exams, which would lead to repeating the whole program. Such instances result in extra costs and even jeopardize the student’s chances of getting grants and scholarships.

Making the right choice of program in your master’s degree may go a long way in earning you a good job. It may also help you improve your skills and expertise, which can earn you a huge salary. Similarly, choosing the right institution could save you money. Reputable and accredited institutions offer financial aid to students. 

Before enrolling for a Master’s in Accounting or MBA, take your time and do some extensive research on what is good for you. Nowadays, the internet has made everything easy. A quick search will enable you to make the right decision. Avoid making rushed decisions that may cost you in the long run. Always go for institutions that have a reputation for providing high-quality education. Check on how their alumni perform in the field to get a better idea of whether enrolling in their programs to help you in the real job market. Also, be wary of online higher institutions that don’t have much to show in terms of their competence in a real-world setup. You aim to get high-paying jobs, so go for the best. 

Final Words

Experts in any business or finance-related field are in high demand today. But between the two popular programs like MBA and Masters in Accounting, which one is more paying? This question is one that students often battle to answer, but it all narrows down to what the two programs offer at the end of it all.

Generally, an MBA creates holistic professionals in businesses that are expected to fill management and leadership positions. Additionally, these programs prepare the students heavily for economics, finance, and mathematics courses. On the other hand, a master’s in accounting works purely for undergraduates in a related field who want to dive deeper and concentrate on specified accounting fields.

Since these programs handle different issues and complexities, their salaries are drastically varied. According to PayScale, the median salary for someone with a master’s in accounting will be around $67,000. In contrast, someone with an MBA will earn an average of around $85,000.

The USA Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an immense growth in the accounting field. That is because there is an increased need for accountants by both governmental agencies and private businesses. In the next 5 years, the body has projected a 10% growth, and it only proves why more students are venturing into this side. 

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