Getting an online master’s in taxation can help advance an existing career or take you in a whole new direction. This guide is here to help you decide if you want to get such a degree, and how to do that. You’ll find information on common courses, career paths, and specializations to help you make sense of this interesting, ever in-demand degree.
Whether you’re looking to advance your career or start a new one, taxation is and always will be an issue with which people need the help of trained professionals. Between running your own firm, working with an established tax preparation company, or helping nonprofits assist people in need with their taxes, there are plenty of opportunities to put an online master’s in taxation to work.
A master’s degree in taxation has long been accessible as an exclusively online option, and today the offerings have expanded to include a number of respected colleges and universities. Aspiring students trying to determine which school is the best fit can narrow the field by looking at reputable rankings that take into account the finer points of pursuing this degree.
An online master’s in taxation teaches you how to navigate taxes and tax codes for yourself and on behalf of others. You’ll learn to make sense of the complicated, often confusing process of filing taxes in various contexts, like corporate or personal income taxes. You’ll also capably explain these issues to clients or employers, and even use this knowledge to make arguments about potential tax models. You can also specialize on one aspect of taxation to become even more of an expert in that area.
You can expect to spend between one and two years on your degree, though many online programs can be completed faster with intensive or accelerated courses. Most master’s degrees require between 36 and 54 credits, though this can vary by school, especially if your school does not use traditional semesters.
The main difference between these degrees is the level of specialization. While an MBA with a concentration in taxation prepares you for a job in the field, getting an online master’s in taxation forgoes many of the broader business aspects of the MBA. A master’s in taxation can better prepare you for a career in tax preparation or related fields. Here, you do not choose a concentration in taxation and study it broadly, but can also choose to focus on something more specific, like income tax or estate planning, allowing you to move directly into a preferred career.
Every program offers different courses, with variations on the same general subjects. Because this degree requires familiarity with specific knowledge, you’ll see similar courses in most programs, albeit with different names. Those courses might come at the material from different angles as well, but they cover it nonetheless.
Property is a complex issue, especially where taxes are involved, and can cause a great deal of stress for the citizens owning it. Here, you’ll discuss those issues and how to help clients navigate them to ensure property taxes are properly filed.
You’ll discuss the broad procedures involved in taxation, exploring how and why these procedures exist and how to navigate them to ensure they are followed. Courses like this might approach these procedures from the taxpayer’s point of view, the government’s, or both.
Paying taxes on time is an important part of handling them properly. Here, you’ll discuss the timing of types of taxation, how to prepare for and properly file taxes to meet these deadlines, and what kinds of penalties are involved when someone fails to do so.
While federal income tax is the most notable, there are forms of taxation which citizens deal with at state and local levels, the details of which can vary greatly. Here, you’ll discuss everything from state income taxes to local sales taxes and how to deal with each.
You’ll discuss how tax programs in other countries impact citizens as they travel, work, ship, or buy within the international context. Such courses are generally taught from the point of view of American citizens dealing with other countries, though other options are possible.
There is no standard for exams, thesis, or research projects for this degree, so you’ll want to contact the department to ask directly if this is a concern. For many of the careers, a master’s in taxation prepares you for, you must be a certified public accountant (CPA). While every state has different CPA requirements, they are pretty standardized, and your program should prepare you for that exam. If you’re already a CPA when you start your master’s program, you should go right into the workforce from graduation.
There is a good chance your online master’s in taxation involves some specialization, allowing you to become an expert on one aspect of the field. Not all programs offer them and they can vary, but here are three common specializations.
Students learn the details of financial reporting and auditing. This allows them to work for various employers, or independently, helping to make sure businesses or individuals are adhering to the tax requirements that most apply to them.Estate Planning
Students learn the details of estate and other taxes related to inheritance, retirement, and investment. This is a very common subject people need assistance with, so this specialization is frequently offered, allowing students to qualify for a growing job field.Corporate Taxes
Corporations follow a set of rules and guidelines often quite different than individuals or even small businesses follow. This specialization prepares students to work with these rules to ensure they are being followed properly in a competitive but lucrative field.
There are many career paths where a master’s in taxation can be helpful, if not required. While these positions are often related to accounting, they can be found in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. Taxes are dealt with by every individual and company in the country, and so a multitude of employers and industries have uses for people with this degree. The careers discussed below are examples of paths you might follow after graduation, though this list is by no means exhaustive, and your own career could follow numerous other paths, including a combination of two or more roles.
These professionals prepare or examine financial records, whether for individuals, companies, or other organizations. There can be significant crossover between the two roles. Accountants work within organizations to ensure financial information is correctly recorded and prepared, while auditors work externally checking to make sure financial information is accurately reported. These professionals may work for the IRS or other government agencies, private firms, or independently.
These professionals determine how much an individual or organization owes in taxes, and ensures the correct amount is collected. They may also work to ensure accurate refunds are issued to people who have earned them. While there can be significant overlap between these roles, organizations like the IRS, which employ more of these professionals than elsewhere, are large enough to divide these roles among multiple people, allowing for various careers even within this path.
These professionals work to aid individuals or businesses on investments and other financial matters. As tax laws can be confusing for many people, a focus on taxation is especially helpful to many clients and customers. Analysts might work for a company offering these services like investment firms or banks, or may work within a company to focus on the financial health of that organization.
These professionals work with individuals to ensure their clients’ financial health. They might help prepare taxes, handling personal accounts, or simply provide investment and other financial advice. They might work for investment firms or banks, or might work independently as contractors or within the nonprofit field to offer their skills to people who might not otherwise afford such services.
These professionals work within organizations to help ensure budgets take multiple costs into consideration and that those budgets are being followed. A focus on taxation can be very helpful; taxes are easy to forget about as they are a less obvious cost than materials or labor. Budget analysts can also be found working in outside firms or contracting their services to companies that do not need or cannot afford to have an analyst on staff.
Professional organizations, like those listed below, can be a huge help in starting or advancing your career, even before you finish your degree. These groups can offer networking and professional development opportunities, job placement, and even financial aid or funding for research. Finding the right group or groups for you is an important step in becoming a professional.
Since its founding in 1887, the American Institute of CPAs has been working on ways to better serve the public, and today is the largest group representing the accounting profession.
The more than 23,000 members of the National Association of Tax Professionals work to ensure they do their work with integrity and ethics to best serve the public.
For over 35 years the National Conference of CPA Practitioners has worked to ensure communities are supported by the best trained and most knowledgeable CPAs possible.
The National Association of Enrolled Agents began in 1972 to further the professional development and education of a position that had been serving the public and government since 1884.
The National Society of Accountants represents professionals across the field and supports professional development, ethical standards, and practice rights by connecting members with each other and with the newest technology and research.
Your online master’s in taxation an help you get, or advance in, many careers. We’ve listed five of them here to give you an idea of the kind of salaries you can expect and how much these jobs are expected to grow by 2026. Having this degree does not guarantee you’ll be eligible for any of these careers by itself, and you may require pursuing additional licensing or certification.
|Job Title||Lowest 10% Earned Annually||Median Annual Salary||Highest 10% Earned Annually||Job Growth 2016-2026|
|Accountant or Auditor||Less than $43,020||$69,350||More than $122,220||+10%|
|Tax Examiner, Collector, or Revenue Agent||Less than $31,730||$53,130||More than $99,990||-1% (little or no change)|
|Financial Analyst||Less than $51,780||$84,300||More than $165,580||+11%|
|Personal Financial Advisor||Less than $40,800||$90,640||More than $208,000||+15%|
|Budget Analyst||Less than $49,540||$75,240||More than $113,740||+7%|
Source: BLS 2018
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is a fair amount of growth expected in careers associated with a master’s in taxation. You can see from the chart above this can vary significantly, but the general trend is toward more positions, especially as investment firms and related industries push for wider audiences who have largely been unfamiliar with these kinds of professionals.
Earning a master’s degree, even if you already have an established career, can lead to an increase in salary. Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce does not have data for the master’s in taxation because this is such a new degree type, but does have data for accounting degrees. According to the Center, the median income for accounts with a bachelor’s is $69,000 per year, while those with a master’s have a median yearly salary of $91,000.
When you choose where to get your online master’s in taxation, you’ll want to pay attention to the school’s accreditation. This is the process by which a school is allowed to grant degrees; every school must be accredited by either a regional or national board to do so. A school without one of these accreditations cannot grant a real degree.
Some professional organizations also accredit specific programs or departments, and programs with such accreditation are especially good choices. Keep an eye out for programs accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), as these programs hold themselves to a higher standard than most. This does not mean you cannot get a good education elsewhere, but these schools might look better on a resume or a transcript, which can go a long way toward advancing your career.
Paying for an online master’s in taxation can be tricky, but luckily there are options out there. Financial aid, independent scholarships, and work-study programs are the most common options. Here are four options to get you started on funding your new degree.
The first step toward funding your degree should be filing a Free Application for Federal Student Aid to qualify for federal aid. You are not required to take any aid offered, but you must have applied to get certain grants and to qualify for some scholarships.
This award is designed to help students or early professionals pay to attend the annual Tax Technology Association conference. It helps to cover transportation costs to attend and is geared toward those who have or are trying to integrate new technology into tax preparation.
The AICPA offers several scholarships geared toward helping students of accounting or accounting-related fields, at the undergraduate and graduate level. The awards range from $5,000 to $12,000 per year, depending on the individual scholarship program. They also offer some scholarships through partner organizations.
The National Association of Black Accountants offers several scholarships each year to members who meet certain qualifications and are working towards accounting or accounting-related degrees. They have awarded $11 million since the group was founded in 1969, and offer an average of 50 scholarships each year with individual awards ranging between $1,200 and $5,000.