Online MBA in Accounting vs. Online Master of Accounting

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National Median Annual Salary & Job Growth For Accounting

The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides the following data about job growth in the accounting industry, as well as national median salary data for several different careers in the field:

Job Title MBA/Accounting MAcc
Accountant $37,411 – $67,970 $36,767 – $64,565
Staff Accountant $36,685 – $59,061 $37,655 – $57,933
Senior Accountant $48,490 – $78-313 $51,078 – $77,748
Financial Controller $55,085 – $119,865 $50,615 – 108,992
Accounting Manager $52,099 – $93,152 $56,015 – 110,905

Accounting has always been looked at as a solid and dependable career choice, and that dependability seems to be trending into the future. Many colleges and universities are adding accounting master’s degree programs to give students greater flexibility and more options to choose from. This guide offers a comprehensive look into two online accounting graduate degree options: the Master of Accounting (MAcc) and the MBA with accounting concentration. Readers will learn about the similarities and differences between the two programs, as well as additional information to help them determine which one is better suited for their specific interests and career goals. If you are thinking about an online graduate degree in accounting, read on.

Which Degree Should I Get?

The choice between the MBA and MAcc depends on several factors, including an individual’s personal academic strengths and weaknesses, specific interests, and ultimate career goals. Other important considerations include the time and cost requirements for earning a degree online. Readers will find these topics discussed in the sub-sections below. Prospective students would be wise to weigh the pros and cons of each when deciding on the type of degree and specific degree program to pursue.

Undergraduate Education

When it comes to preparing for a master’s degree program in accounting, whether it’s an online MBA or MAcc, one thing is certain: you must have successfully earned a bachelor’s degree beforehand. The question is, “In what subject?” The answer depends on the specific online master’s program one wants to pursue. In many cases, particularly in regard to MBA programs, major isn’t that important. Most online accounting MBA programs will accept students with a bachelor’s degree in almost any field, as long as it was awarded by a fully-accredited, reputable college or university. On the other hand, a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a closely related field is more likely to be a prerequisite for a MAcc program, given the narrower subject matter of a typical MAcc curriculum. Whether an absolute requirement or not, a bachelor’s degree in accounting can be extremely helpful when taking on any type of accounting master’s program. In fact, by completing a bachelor’s degree program in accounting, a student may have satisfied all or most of the foundational course requirements for a MAcc or accounting MBA degree, depending on the specific degree program he or she attends.

In addition to separate bachelor’s and master’s degree programs, a number of schools offer combined Bachelor’s/MAcc and Bachelor’s/MBA or accelerated Bachelor’s to Master’s options. These programs allow students to complete both degrees in as little as five years of full-time study and fulfill all educational requirements to sit for most state CPA examinations.

Liberty University
  • Enrollment: 42,537
  • Tuition: $9,170
  • College Type: Private
  • State: Virginia
  • Master of Science in Accounting
  • Master of Of Business Administration - Accounting
University of Maryland
  • Enrollment: 20,021
  • Tuition: $8,514
  • College Type: Public
  • State: Maryland
  • Master of Science in Accounting And Information Systems
  • Master of Science in Accounting And Financial Management
Western Governors University
  • Enrollment: 14,731
  • Tuition: $6,790
  • College Type: Private
  • State: Utah
  • Master of Science in Accounting

Curriculum Focus: Breadth vs. Depth

The primary distinction between accounting MBA and MAcc degrees is often described as a difference of breadth vs. depth. That is, the subject matter of a MBA with a concentration in accounting is considered broader in range, encompassing a variety of business and administrative topics (thus the MBA designation). In contrast, the scope of the MAcc is narrower and focused more on specific accounting practices and hard skills. When deciding between an MBA and MAcc, students should examine their unique interests in accounting and pick the degree that offers curriculum that best suits those interests. The following is a detailed look at the similarities and differences between online MBA and MAcc curricula.

The Online MBA in Accounting Curriculum

The MBA in Accounting curriculum includes not only accounting courses but a broad range of business courses as well. In a two-year accounting MBA, for example, the first year will typically consist of core business-related courses in subjects such as marketing, finance, economics, management, and basic accounting. Year two will focus primarily on the student’s chosen concentration; in this case, accounting. The following is a small sampling of common courses in an online MBA with accounting concentration program:

Core Courses
Analytical Skills and Decision Making:

Teaches students practical skills in critical thinking to help in making evidence-based decisions. Topics include mathematical and statistical reasoning, descriptive statistics and modeling tools, hypothesis testing, data organization and regressive analysis.

Business Law:

Examines the legal and regulatory issues important for managers for identifying and controlling risk. Common topics include: contracts, governmental regulations, torts, real property, business entities and the Uniform Commercial Code.

Human Resource Management:

Provides students with the information and tools necessary for improving firm success through the management of employee resources. Topics include recruitment, assessment, professional development and motivation of talented employees.

Accounting and Elective Courses
Auditing Theory and Practice:

Addresses the concepts and procedures related to internal and external audits of business organizations. Topics covered include: reviews of internal controls; issuance of the audit report; forensic accounting; statistical sampling; auditing for fraud; and the ethical and professional standards that apply to auditors.

Corporate and Partnership Taxation:

Study of the federal tax structure, the use of tax services, the purposes of taxation and development of tax systems as they relate to corporations and partnerships. Covers tax issues regarding the formation, operation and dissolution of corporations and partnerships.

Financial Accounting:

A study of the concepts and issues in financial accounting such as business consolidations and combinations, international accounting, partnership accounting, capital asset pricing, capital budgeting techniques, risk and diversification and inter-company transactions.

The Online MAcc Curriculum

In contrast to the MBA, the Master of Accounting degree is strongly focused on specific accounting theory, skills, and practice. Students pursuing a MAcc will be taught highly technical competencies designed for careers in such fields as tax accounting, forensic accounting, international accounting, and internal auditing to name a few. MAcc degree programs often offer their own set of concentrations in areas such as internal auditing, forensic auditing, and taxation. Below are a few of the types of courses MAcc students should expect to encounter:

Core Courses
Federal Taxation:

Provides and introduction to the fundamentals of federal income tax laws for individuals and businesses as well as a framework for integrating income tax planning into the decision-making process.

Financial Accounting:

Focuses on the three fundamental financial accounting issues of recognitions, measurement/valuation and classification/disclosure. Students learn to effectively use financial reports, including their basic structure and contents as well as the processes by which they are prepared.

Forensic Accounting:

Offers an introduction to forensic and investigative accounting concepts and methods along with the underlying principles and practices used by CPAs, accountants, internal auditors and others to examine financial and related information.

Potential Electives
Accounting Controls in Information Technology:

Provide students with an understanding of the transaction processing cycles of accounting systems and the theory and practice of relational database management systems.

Estate and Gift Taxes:

Addresses the foundational issues regarding estate and gift taxation laws employed in shifting wealth from one person to another by way of death, gifts or the use of trusts. Topics covered include the definition of taxable gifts, timing of gifts, life insurance, gifts to minors, revocable transfers and many others.

Trends in Present Day Accounting:

Coverage of current topics and issues facing the accounting profession in such areas as financial management and reporting, taxation, forensics, international accounting, auditing and ethics.

Career Goals: Generalist or Specialist?

The most important question any prospective master’s accounting student must answer before deciding between an online MBA in Accounting and a MAcc is: “What is my ultimate career goal?” As with curriculum focus