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What Can You Do With a Master's in Accounting?
The accounting field is growing at a faster than average pace. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects jobs for accountants and auditors to grow by 7% by 2031. With that growth comes higher-paying job opportunities—especially if you have the right credentials.
While the CPA is the most recognized credential in the accounting field, it isn’t the only way to get ahead. A master’s degree in accounting can help you gain specialized expertise and in-demand skills that will set you apart in the eyes of the industry’s top employers.
Let’s look at how a master’s degree in accounting can impact salary expectation and accelerate your career advancement.
What Is A Good Starting Salary for a Master’s Degree in Accounting?
A master’s degree most likely won’t help you jump up the ranks if you have little in-field work experience. However, it can boost your entry-level earnings expectations.
According to leading labor market analytics firm EMSI, the median advertised salary for entry-level accountants and auditors (0-3 years of experience) with a master’s degree is $71,000, compared with $65,200 for bachelor’s degree holders.
While this may not seem like a big difference, remember, all future raises are based on that starting salary. Even a small difference in your initial earning compounds over time.
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What Are The Best Paying Jobs You Can Get with a Master’s Degree in Accounting?
For many professionals, a master’s degree is a way to break through promotion or earnings ceilings. A master’s degree in accounting can help you advance to the management level and beyond. If a higher salary is your ultimate goal, explore these 8 career paths for accounting professionals with a master’s degree and the salaries they command.
All salary figures are based on EMSI’s aggregated job posting data for accounting positions that require a master’s degree.
Median Advertised Salary: $95,000
Accounting managers oversee the accounting department with a focus on ensuring the timely and accurate delivery of financial statements and reporting. These professionals establish and enforce proper accounting methods, policies and principles as they lead a team of junior accountants.
Median Advertised Salary: $117,500
Tax managers are primarily responsible for accurately preparing and filing state and federal tax documents. In addition, tax managers develop tax strategies and policies that help a client or business maintain compliance with local and federal tax laws and regulations.
Compliance Risk Manager
Median Advertised Salary: $110,300
The responsibilities of a compliance risk manager include preserving a company’s legal and ethical integrity through policy development and enforcement, as well as addressing compliance issues as they arise.
Median Advertised Salary: $105,200
Corporate controllers supervise all accounting and financial functions at companies. Their responsibilities include creating and implementing financial policies, completing financial risk assessments, and preparing annual budgets and forecasts.
Director of Accounting
Median Advertised Salary: $114,400
The director of accounting typically provides consultant-level services to an organization’s controllers and finance personnel. Their goal is to help fulfill revenue objectives and adhere to accounting and reporting policies. Responsibilities include reviewing and analyzing finances, ensuring compliance with regulations and refining reporting documentation.
Median Advertised Salary: $100,100
Forensic accountants perform two broad functions: litigation support and investigation. Accountants who perform litigation support provide information regarding losses from civil wrongdoing, as well as potential judgments and awards from lawsuits. Forensic accountants who specialize in investigation audit books and financial records to locate evidence of fraud and other financial crimes.
Director of Finance and Accounting
Median Advertised Salary: $132,900
The director of finance and accounting reports directly to the chief financial officer. They oversee critical functions such as: budgeting, planning and forecasting; financial and regulatory reporting; internal controls and risk management. They also lead the accounting and finance teams and the hiring decisions associated with them.
Chief Financial Officer (CFO)
Median Advertised Salary: $140,200
A CFO's duties include monitoring cash flow and directing financial planning as well as analyzing an organization's financial strengths and weaknesses. They work closely with other executive team members to ensure the organization’s financial strategies align with overarching business goals.
How Much Do CPAs with a Master’s Degree Make?
A CPA is a certified public accountant who is licensed by a state board of accountancy. The CPA is considered by most to be the profession’s most distinguished designation. To earn a CPA license, you’re required to demonstrate knowledge and competence by meeting high educational standards, passing the CPA exam and completing a specific amount of general accounting experience. Specific standards vary by state.
So how does this prestige translate to your salary expectations as an accountant? The median advertised salary for accountants and auditors with a CPA license is $83,300. For accountants and auditors with a master’s degree and a CPA license, that figure increases to $85,400. However, the difference between these salaries widens when combined with years of experience. The median advertised salary for an accountant or auditor with 5+ years of experience, a CPA license and a master’s degree is $100,100 compared to $92,500 for a professional who only has a bachelor’s degree and a CPA.
Although a master’s degree in accounting isn’t always a prerequisite to a CPA, it is a valuable addition to a CPA license. If you haven’t earned your CPA, a master’s degree can also help you meet the credit hour requirements to sit for the CPA exam.
Find a Master’s Degree in Accounting Program to Help Advance Your Career
Salary is determined by a large number of factors, but there is a positive correlation between higher educational attainment and higher salaries. Employers are looking for accounting professionals with specialized expertise in areas such as data analysis, information systems and taxation that will help them stand out in a pool of applicants. If you’re a working professional looking for a leg up in your career, a master’s degree in accounting can help you achieve this type of expertise.
Franklin University offers a 100% online M.S. in Accounting degree program. This flexible program is designed for busy working professionals who want to deepen and specialize their accounting skillset. With focus areas offered in taxation and financial operations, Franklin’s M.S. in Accounting program can help you advance to leadership positions and boost your long-term salary expectations.
Get more details about Franklin’s M.S. in Accounting to see all the ways this program can help you advance your career.