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Your Guide to an MBA in Accounting
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.
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.
While MBA programs include a broad curriculum, they generally offer concentrations so you can specialize.
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.
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.
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With professional insight from:
Senior Instructor of Accountancy, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign