Tax Specialist Degrees by Degree Program Level

Apr 24, 2020

Essential Information

Both associate's and bachelor's degree programs are usually in the broader area of accounting, but sometimes a taxation concentration is available. In addition to taxation, students learn about financial and managerial accounting, auditing and accounting systems.

Graduate students can pursue an accounting master's degree that has a taxation concentration. This type of program sometimes requires prerequisite undergraduate coursework in business and accounting. There's usually a narrower focus on tax research procedures, corporate and federal taxes and tax planning. After graduation, qualified individuals may sit for the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam.

Associate's Degree Programs for Tax Specialists

Associate's degree tax specialist programs provide the general accounting skills and knowledge of tax law necessary to prepare tax returns. Some programs include business courses designed to help students set up home-based tax preparation businesses.

Students in associate's level tax specialist programs study business topics, accounting, tax law and other related concepts. Course topics include:

  • Principles of accounting
  • Accounting systems
  • Auditing
  • Federal taxation
  • Tax returns
  • Financial accounting

Bachelor's Degree Programs for Tax Specialists

Programs for tax specialists at the bachelor's degree level are typically offered as accounting programs with areas of concentration on tax accountancy or taxation.

Students interested in becoming tax specialists should look for accounting programs that include coursework on topics such as tax law for various types of business entities, federal income taxation, and tax planning. Course topics common to many accounting programs include:

  • Financial accounting
  • Managerial accounting
  • Auditing
  • Payroll accounting
  • Business law

Master's Degree Programs for Tax Specialists

Master's degree programs in accounting may also be offered with a focus on tax issues, such as a Master of Science Degree in Taxation. These programs prepare students to become licensed CPAs with the knowledge to specialize in tax-related issues.

Students take courses in accounting and business practices in addition to tax-related courses. Topics may include:

  • Accounting systems
  • Tax research procedures
  • Corporate taxes
  • Natural resource taxes
  • Federal taxes
  • Tax planning

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS,, tax preparers earned a median annual salary of $43,080, as of May 2019. The majority of tax preparers worked for accounting, tax preparation or other related services.

Certification and Continuing Education

Individuals who complete an associate's degree program may be eligible for certain certifications, such as the Accredited Business Accountant certification granted by the Accreditation Council for Accountancy and Taxation. Associate's degree credits may transfer to 4-year schools for students wishing to pursue bachelor's degrees.

With additional hours of coursework, those with a bachelor's degree in accounting can take the exam to become a certified public accountant (CPA). Continuing education is necessary in order to maintain certification.

With a graduate degree, students generally have acquired enough credit hours to be eligible to sit for the CPA exam. Additional requirements for CPA certification may vary by state. Continuing education is necessary in order to maintain certification.

Tax specialist programs can be found at the graduate level, with certain undergraduate accounting programs featuring taxation concentration options. Depending on the level of degree achieved, graduates may be ready to sit for the CPA exam and attain professional certification.

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