A Master of Science in Accounting (MSA) greatly increases the chances of success for accountants who want to attain the most challenging and rewarding jobs in the field. The benefits of earning an MSA degree include enhanced career opportunities, the development of specialized skills, and preparation for the CPA exam.
An MSA degree program attracts those who have earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting, business degrees in other fields, and those from other specialties with an interest in accounting. All can benefit from the skills and knowledge acquired in a graduate-level accounting degree program.
Benefits of Earning an MSA Degree
While those with a bachelor’s degree can practice accounting, there are clear advantages to earning a Master of Science in Accounting. They include the following.
Enhanced Career Opportunities
Earning a master’s degree makes candidates attractive to employers and qualifies them for some of the top jobs in accounting. At a minimum, employers in the industry are requiring a bachelor’s degree. However, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) some of the best jobs are allocated for those with a graduate accounting degree. The opportunities include:
- Financial Manager
- Management analyst
- Chief financial officer
- Strategic management consultant
- Government accountant
Salaries also increase for those with an advanced degree. According to Payscale.com, accountants with a master’s degree earned an average salary of $71,748 nationwide, while those with a bachelor’s degree earned $64,352.
Developing Specialized Skills
Students in the Merrimack College MSA degree program benefit from a curriculum designed with input and feedback from industry professionals. The program features a combination of accounting, analytical, and strategic planning skills, concentrating on tools and emerging technology, accounting data interpretation, strategic planning, and financial budgeting and modeling.
Students develop specialized skills in three main areas: technical, environment, and knowledge application. The Merrimack College curriculum focuses on giving accountants the skills needed to leverage innovative technology in the accounting profession. The online program helps graduates stand out from the competition for new jobs and promotions through applied theory and practical skills
Preparation for the CPA
Earning an MSA degree also prepares accountants for the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination, commonly referred to as the CPA exam. Each state board of accountancy may have different rules governing eligibility to sit for the CPA exam. In Massachusetts, becoming eligible to sit for the exam requires that candidates obtain a bachelor’s degree earning a minimum of 120 semester hours.
Depending on your undergraduate major, specific accounting and business courses must be integrated into your curriculum. The 120 semester hours only provide the opportunity to sit for the exam. To become a licensed CPA, you must earn 30 additional credits, which is the equivalent of a graduate degree. Virtually every state has adopted the 150-semester hour requirement, making it important to plan out not only your bachelor’s degree but your plans post bachelor’s degree.
The CPA exam structure involves four sections. Accountants take one section at a time over the course of 18 months. They include Audit and Attestation, Financial Accounting and Reporting, Regulation, and Business Environment & Concepts. However, in 2024 changes to the CPA examination are going to be integrated that will involve the need for heightened exposure to analytics, increased knowledge of taxation, and additional insight into Auditing and Financial Reporting. Earning an MSA degree will not only help prepare students for each section of the CPA exam as it is currently written, but it also provides the knowledge needed for the new exam being rolled out in the future.
In a time where economic uncertainty has shaken many careers, accounting remains a steady and reliable choice. And for accountants who aspire to the top spots within the field, earning an MSA is an important step in the right direction.