Potential graduate students should choose between a Master of Professional Accountancy (MPA) degree program and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree program based on their personal interests and career goals in the field of business. Despite having some overlap in common coursework, these degree programs are very different and prepare students for different types of careers. Here we discuss each degree program and their admissions requirements.
Comparing an MPA to an MBA
Master of Professional Accountancy
Master of Professional Accountancy degree programs are specifically designed for students wishing to work in public accounting and help prepare them for the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam. These programs can typically be completed in roughly 1 year and are available online or on-campus and in full- or part-time formats. Some MPA programs offer internship opportunities, additional graduate certificates and even specializations, such as audit data analytics or financial reporting. Elective courses may vary by program, but most MPA programs require similar core courses that cover topics in accounting ethics, tax reporting, accounting theory and accounting analysis. Most graduates of an MPA program do pursue careers as professional accountants and go on to earn their CPA credential to work for the government or other organizations in a variety of industries.
Master of Business Administration
Master of Business Administration degree programs are much broader programs in the field of business that allow students to specialize in a variety of areas to more closely match their interests and career goals. Most MBA programs can be completed in 1 to 2 years and are available in full- and part-time formats online and on-campus, often with flexible evening and weekend courses for working professionals. Many MBA programs require students to complete a capstone project and/or an internship for hands-on learning experience. They also commonly offer offer a wide range of concentrations, including finance, marketing, accounting, human resources, supply chain management, information systems, organizational leadership and much more.
Much of the program's coursework depends on students' chosen concentration, but some common core courses cover topics in financial accounting, statistics, organizational behavior, ethics, economics, information management and project management. Graduates of an MBA program may have a competitive edge and are qualified to work a wide range of administrative and business-related careers in the government, private and public sectors. They could land positions as business managers and analysts, or they may use their knowledge to start their own business if they would like.
Common Entrance Requirements
Both the MPA and MBA programs typically require applicants to fill out graduate admissions applications and then submit the necessary fees, official undergraduate transcripts, GRE or GMAT scores, letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose and/or a resume. MPA programs may require applicants to have prior coursework in relevant subjects including business law, financial accounting and/or managerial accounting. These programs could waive GMAT/GRE scores if students have a high GPA (usually above 3.0). MBA degree programs often require applicants to have work experience and may ask students to highlight any business, leadership and/or managerial experience in their resumes. Some of these programs may have a minimum GPA as low as a 2.0 for applicants, but this varies widely by institution.
Although they are both in the field of business, an MPA degree program is more specific to students wishing to work as accountants while an MBA is a broader degree program that allows students to specialize in a particular area of business to prepare for their managerial careers. Both of these degree programs offer coursework in finance and accounting, but they differ in their available concentrations and some admissions requirements.