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Pros & Cons of a Master's in Accounting

Accounting degrees can lead to some well-paying careers. If you'd like to find out whether or not advancing your accounting degree to a graduate level would benefit you, read on.

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There are many good reasons to earn a master's degree in accounting. If you would like to compare the good with the bad, we've compiled some facts, here, for you.

Cons of Earning a Master's in Accounting

Earning a master's degree in accounting can bring some pros and cons to your future. Let's take a look at some of the negatives to pursuing this degree to get those out of the way, before we jump into some of the positive reasons for earning the degree.

No Pay Difference Between Degree Levels

While you may be more competitive for jobs and find better advancement opportunities with a master's in accounting, you're likely to see similar entry-level salaries. According to Payscale.com, the 2018 average salary for those with a bachelor's degree in accounting was $67,000. The master's degree in accounting provided the same number, $67,000.

May Over-Qualify You

If we check out some of the job opportunities through the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for accounting students, we can find that many do not require a master's degree or have any specific reason for earning one. For instance, financial examiners typically have a bachelor's degree with at least six credit hours of accounting. A master's degree would more than cover the skills needed for this job.

Costs

Since there is no real entry-level pay increase between the two degrees and entry positions can be started with a bachelor's degree, not continuing into a master's program could save you some money in tuition and school loans. A master's degree can add another 1-3 years onto your education. With graduate tuition, books, and fees, these costs can add up very quickly. Typically, students will use student loans to cover these additional costs, causing increased future debt.

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Pros of Earning a Master's in Accounting

The reason we looked at the negatives first was so that you could understand that there are positives even among the negatives. Here, we'll look at the ways that a master's degree in accounting can benefit you.

Become an Accountant or Auditor

The BLS states that at least a bachelor's degree is required to pursue a career as an accountant or auditor. In addition, some of those employers prefer to hire those with a master's degree in the field. In fact, the CPA certification to become a Certified Public Accountant requires at least 150 hours of college credits. This is above a typical 4-year bachelor's degree. These credits can be earned during your master's degree program to meet the minimum requirements.

Good Job Outlook

In general, the BLS predicts a 10% job increase between 2016 and 2026 for accountants and auditors at all degree levels. The BLS also says that applicants for these openings who are licensed CPAs should have the best chances of employment and that those with a master's degree in accounting or business administration will have an advantage over those with just a bachelor's degree.

Good Pay

Whether you have a bachelor's or a master's degree in accounting, the pay may not differ much at an entry level. However, it is still important to note that a master's degree in accounting, especially if that includes the CPA certification, can make you the most competitive for many positions. According to the BLS, the average salary for all occupations in the U.S. in 2017 was $50,620. Many of the professions in which accounting graduates with master's degrees can typically find advancement opportunities may pay well above the average, as shown in the table that follows.

Position Average Salary (2017)*
Financial Manager $143,530
Accountant or Auditor $77,920
Personal Financial Advisor $124,140
Financial Examiner $91,780

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

When deciding whether a master's degree in accounting is for you, it is important to consider several questions. Is it important that a master's degree does not necessarily mean an instant entry-level salary increase? Or, do you value the idea that you can have excellent pay in your position, with the increased possibility of career advancement?

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