What Is a Master's in Taxation Degree?
Those interested in working in tax-related careers may decide to pursue a master's degree in taxation to gain advanced knowledge and skills in the field. Several of these master's programs are specifically designed to prepare students for the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) licensure exam in their state. Students interested in earning a master's in taxation can commonly choose from a Master of Taxation (MT) or a Master of Science (MS) in Taxation degree. However, there are several other degree options available, including an MS in Accounting with a concentration in taxation. There are many online master's in taxation programs available, as well as hybrid programs and other formats for flexibility, such as evening courses, to allow students to work while earning their degree.
Common Undergraduate Degrees for Taxation
Applicants to master's programs in taxation do not usually need to have a degree in any particular field. However, it may be more common for applicants to have a background in accounting or another business-related field, as they already have an interest or some knowledge of taxes. Students with a background in accounting or business could be at a slight advantage in these master's programs, as an additional prerequisite course may be required for those who have not taken an undergraduate or graduate course in a specific subject, such as financial reporting.
Admissions Requirements for Taxation Master's Programs
Standards for admission vary amongst different institutions, but in general, master's programs in taxation require applicants to have at least a bachelor's degree, usually in any field. Several master's programs in taxation do not require applicants to have GRE or GMAT test scores, but some suggest students who have a GPA below a specific threshold to take the GMAT to boost their consideration for admission.
The admissions process can look different at different schools. Some prefer students to contact an admissions counselor to walk through the process with, while others allow students to apply online. Typically, students will need to submit their transcripts with their application, as well as extra materials like recommendations, a resume, and a goal statement.
Why Should I Get a Taxation Master's Degree?
Earning a master's degree in taxation prepares students for professional credentials in the field and helps them advance their career and knowledge. However, students may struggle when determining whether a master's degree in taxation is the right kind of degree and should consider their ultimate career goals.
For instance, students may be trying to decide between a Master of Taxation vs. a Master of Accounting. A Master of Accounting generally includes broader, additional knowledge of the field of accounting, while taxation programs are more specific to careers working with only taxes.
Students may also choose a master's in taxation over a Master of Business Administration (MBA) if they do not want the broader, business administration-based knowledge the MBA offers.
Students interested in combining their interest in law may consider a Master of Laws (LLM) in Taxation vs. a master's in taxation to get more detailed law knowledge.
How to Choose a Master's in Taxation Program
Once students have determined that a master's degree in taxation is the right degree for them, they should begin to compare programs. The format could be a deciding factor and students should consider whether full- or part-time formats meets their scheduling needs. Flexible learning options, such as online or hybrid, allows students to work and take classes when they can.
Program length may be a factor as well, and students should judge whether a program fits into their personal schedule and goals, as they can range from 9 to 24 months. Finally, students need to think about any unique learning opportunities, such as project-based courses or capstone experiences, as well as financial aid options or other learning resources.
Master's in Taxation Program Accreditation
In addition to usually being offered from regionally accredited institutions, master's programs in taxation often have program accreditation from business-related organizations. This industry-specific accreditation can be preferred by employers, as it indicates that the program has met academic standards that are business-related.
Taxation master's programs are commonly accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) or the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP). In addition to this program-level accreditation, some programs align their curriculum with standards from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and/or specifically design their curriculum to prepare students for their state's CPA exam.
Taxation Master's Degree Courses
Master's programs in taxation can range from 30 to 36 credits of coursework. Some of these programs can be completed in as little as 9 months, but usually full-time students can finish in 1 to 1.5 years, while part-time students take closer to 2 years to finish. Students typically take core courses and elective courses in the field of taxation. Depending on the program, some conclude with a culminating experience to help students apply what they have learned. Read on to explore different course topics for these programs.
Taxation Foundational Courses
Students may take between 6 and 8 core courses in taxation to learn main concepts and foundational skills in the field. These courses generally explore different types of taxes and give students an overview of what is included, laws and policies concerning the tax area, and how to report and handle these different taxes from an accounting perspective. Although it is not overly common, some master's programs in taxation conclude with a final capstone course that summarizes the content learned throughout the program and allows students to apply the skills they have acquired. Course titles are unique to the school, but students in master's programs in taxation are likely to take courses in topics such as:
- Individual tax
- Corporate taxation
- Partnership taxation
- Tax procedure
- Federal tax research
- Estate, trusts, and planning
Taxation Specialist & Elective Courses
Many master's programs in taxation allow students to round out their degree with some elective courses. Students can usually choose electives from an approved list that are designed to explore additional types of taxes or other areas of interest within the field. Some examples of possible elective courses for these programs include:
- Charitable gift planning
- State and local tax
- Consolidated tax returns
- Accounting for income taxes
- Estate and gift taxation
- Problems in taxation
- International taxation
Licensure & Certification in Taxation
Licensure and certification requirements for graduates with a master's in taxation varies by the position and what type of career a student wants. Some graduates will go on to take the CPA exam offered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). This is a 4-part exam that students must complete within 18 months of taking the first part of the exam.
Although requirements to take the exam vary by state, all states require that students have at least 150 hours of college coursework. Once students have earned their CPA license, they must complete continuing education to maintain it. CPAs can also pursue additional credentials that are specific to their area of work, such as the Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) certification.
Post-Graduate Options After Master's in Taxation
Typically, students who would like to continue their education beyond a master's degree will not find many doctoral degree programs specifically in taxation. However, there are many doctoral degree programs available in accounting. Some of these are offered as Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) programs and can take between 4 and 5 years to complete. Students in these programs gain advanced accounting knowledge and conduct research projects in the field. Graduates can take on positions in academia, research, or advanced leadership and management.
What Can I Do with a Taxation Master's Degree?
Career choices usually do not change too much with the different types of taxation master's degrees. For instance, Master of Science in Taxation jobs are essentially the same as MT jobs. Most often, graduates work in a tax- or accounting-related career.
Students can work for local, state, or the federal government, public or private organizations, and more. It is common for careers in this field to be busy at different points of the year, especially during tax season. Typically, students working in these areas work full-time and need to be organized and detail-oriented as they work with various tax and financial forms. These professionals also need to have great communication, math, and analytical skills. Some potential job titles include:
- Tax examiner and collector
- Revenue agent
- Tax manager
- Tax advisor
- Tax law advisor
- Financial investigator
Job Outlook for a Master's in Taxation
The job prospects for graduates with a master's degree in taxation varies by position. Graduates of these programs have very specific skill sets in the field of taxation and could have trouble finding a career that perfectly matches their personal interests. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), some careers for taxation graduates have a positive outlook, while other positions are in decline.
For example, the job outlook for accountants and auditors was 4% from 2019 to 2029, while the job outlook for tax examiners, collectors, and revenue agents was -4% over the same time period. Four percent is the average growth for careers, and CPAs likely have the best job prospects. Competition for tax examiners, collectors, and revenue agents is fierce, but jobs are more stable at the state and local levels.
How to Become a Tax Examiner, Collector, and Revenue Agent
Education requirements vary by employer and position, but in general, tax examiners, collectors, and revenue agents need to have at least a bachelor's degree, commonly in accounting or another business-related field. Most of these positions also need to have some prior work experience and/or specialized experience in the field.
For instance, tax examiners usually need some experience in tax compliance, auditing, or accounting. Tax examiners working for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) need to have at least 1 year of this specialized experience. It is also very common for these professionals to complete some formal and/or on-the-job training to learn the ins and outs of their specific position.
Tax examiners typically handle individual tax returns, while revenue agents handle for larger businesses and corporations. Revenue agents usually work for the government and check returns for accuracy. Collectors work to settle the debt of any overdue tax accounts. They work closely with the taxpayer to determine a method of settling the debt, such as a payment plan. As of 2019, the BLS reported that tax examiners, collectors, and revenue agents made a median annual salary of $54,890.
How to Become an Accountant and Auditor
A bachelor's degree is also typically the minimum requirement for accountants and auditors, but master's degrees are sometimes preferred by employers. These professionals usually hold a degree in various areas of accounting, such as tax accounting or forensic accounting, or another closely related field, like business administration. Internship experiences are common in the field to help students gain practical experience with public accounting firms or other organizations. In addition to the CPA credential, other professional credentials are available for these professionals, such as the Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) credential or the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) credential.
There are several different types of accountants and auditors, including public accountants, management accountants, internal auditors, and information technology auditors. The job duties vary for these different positions, but in general, accountants and auditors are responsible for carefully evaluating financial records to check for accuracy and efficiency. Accountants and auditors may also provide solutions to problems and ways to increase efficiency, ensure that taxes are paid and comply with regulations, and maintain financial records. According to the BLS, accountants and auditors made a median annual salary of $71,550.
Master's in Taxation Program Financial Aid & Scholarship Resources
For students who need help paying for their master's degree in taxation, there are several different forms of financial aid available. Students can check their eligibility for state and federal loans and grants through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Scholarships and grants are often preferred, as scholarships do not need to be repaid. Grants and scholarship awards are available from schools, organizations specific to the subject matter, and other outside organizations. Qualifications and award amounts vary greatly, so students will need to do their research. In the case of master's students wishing to study taxation, there are some schools that offer scholarships for the field, including:
- California State University, Northridge- Students in CSUN's MS in Taxation program may earn one of several partial scholarships for the program that are awarded based on students' academic excellence. The school also provides students with links to a range of other accounting-related scholarships that are available.
- Villanova University- As of Fall 2021, Villanova is offering scholarships to students entering the on-campus Master of Taxation program. Students apply for the awards along with their admissions application.