Home » Accounting » Accounting MBA

Your Guide to an MBA in Accounting

a leader talking with his team at a table in a conference room
a leader talking with his team at a table in a conference room

A Master of Business Administration (MBA) with an accounting emphasis combines a variety of business topics with a series of advanced accounting courses. The degree helps prepare you for the next step in your career, particularly in management positions.

In this Article

MBA in Accounting

MBA programs are typically 18 months to two years, although there are accelerated programs that you can complete in less time. Online programs and in-person night programs can help you earn a graduate degree on a flexible schedule. 

"I think an MBA is really good when you pair it up after you've had some experience in your career because then you can see the human things that go wrong and you learn more out of your classes," says Angel Chatterton, Senior Instructor of Accountancy at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Prerequisites


There are several accounting degrees, ranging from an associate degree to a doctoral degree. To be accepted into an MBA program, you will need a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field from an accredited school. Most schools will want an undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0. Many schools may also expect you to have a few years of work experience.

To be accepted into an MBA program, you will need a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field from an accredited school.

Some schools will require a GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) score or a GRE (Graduate Record Examination) score. However, many schools don't require either, particularly if you have a strong GPA in your undergraduate degree.

Curriculum


While MBA programs include a broad curriculum, they generally offer concentrations so you can specialize. These focus areas offer a mix of courses that include general business administration and more in-depth accountancy.

Here are some of the classes often included in an accounting MBA curriculum:

While MBA programs include a broad curriculum, they generally offer concentrations so you can specialize.

Internship/Capstone Project


Internships may be available and are a great way to gain valuable skills and work experience, but they are rarely required for an MBA. Some programs will require a capstone project, however.

In a capstone project, you use what you have learned to find solutions to a real-life business problem. This can involve working with an existing client or a business startup. Projects often involve a written report and also a presentation. Capstone projects are generally completed in your final semester as you conclude your studies.

MBA in Accounting vs Master's in Accounting

Is a master's in accounting or an MBA right for you? There are some important distinctions between the two degrees. Consider this: Are you interested in drilling deep or going wide?

A master's degree in accounting focuses on in-depth accounting knowledge and prepares you for the certified public accountant (CPA) exam and related credentials such as a Certified Internal Auditor (CIA).

An MBA, on the other hand, is "more related to a general master's in business rather than just an accounting focus," says Chatterton.

MBAs are designed to promote leadership skills so it can be a good choice for someone who wants to pursue management. Often an MBA in accounting will offer enough credit hours to take the CPA exam, but the coursework for these programs is generally broader.

While it will include some accounting coursework, it will also cover topics such as marketing, management, finance, and business operations. This multi-disciplinary approach can prepare you for a variety of managerial and leadership roles closely related to accounting, including finance and administration.

Whichever degree is right for you, you'll be prepared to advance your career and boost your salary.

Certifications

Accountants with a master's degree generally are CPAs. But there are other certifications that are also prestigious and can be useful for career advancement, depending on your area of interest. Some examples:

Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA): shows expertise in information systems, including security, auditing, and control.

Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA): demonstrates skills in management accounting and strategy development for business and government clients.

Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA): shows expertise in investment consulting, risk analysis, and management of financial portfolios for individuals and businesses.


Written and reported by:

M.J. Grenzow
Contributing Writer

With professional insight from:

Angel Chatterton
Senior Instructor of Accountancy, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign