Accounting is a valued and honored profession, and one that's been around for a long time. By all accounts and purposes, accounting is here to stay — even in the times of Bitcoin and electronic currencies, or perhaps even because of them. If you've worked in the profession and obtained an undergraduate degree in the field, you already know that you love what many others dread — numbers and making sense of them. But you're far from alone: According to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, during the 2017-2018 academic year, 207,806 people earned a bachelor's degree in accounting and 3,208 obtained a master's.

Whether it's keeping the books at a small, family-owned business or working in an accounting department at a large corporation with thousands of clients and hundreds of vendors across several continents, accounting can be a thrilling occupation for math lovers. Now, if you want more opportunities for advancement in your current position or want to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), you might want to consider getting an online master's in accounting. Read on to learn the necessary numbers and details on earning an advanced degree in the field.

Frequently Asked Questions

While some degrees may require that students attend classes on campus, accounting master's degree programs generally do not since they have no lab component. As a result, many programs can be completed entirely online, which is the perfect education solution if you're a busy professional juggling work and personal responsibilities with your education.

A master's degree in accounting can lead to numerous high-level jobs with healthy salaries, so it can be a good investment for professionals who want to move up the ladder of their careers and increase their earning potential. Additionally, the cost savings that can come with earning a degree online contribute to making a master's in accounting a worthwhile endeavor.

Online master's in accounting are accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) and the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).


Master's in Accounting Program Overview

From chief financial officers to fraud examiners to independent accountants, the field is full of professionals who use their knowledge and skills to play an integral role in the financial world. But in order to reach these levels of success, it takes more than job experience; it takes an advanced degree and prestigious credentials too.

This explains why many working professionals choose to pursue an online master's in accounting as they move up the ladder in the industry. In order to get the most out of your program, you can concentrate your studies on a specialized area within the accounting field, such as taxation, financial accounting, forensic accounting and auditing. In addition, schools may offer the choice of a master's in accounting or a master's in business administration with an accounting focus — which allows you to explore advanced accounting concepts as you sharpen your business acumen. No matter which path you choose, however, a graduate-level accounting degree can help you move further along in your chosen career path.

Earning an Online Master's Degree in Accounting

How long does an online accounting degree program take?

Depending on the program you enroll in, you may expect to dedicate anywhere from two to three years to earning an accounting master's degree. However, if you enroll in an online accounting degree on a part-time basis, it can take longer.

What are the requirements to start an online master's accounting degree?

Students who apply to an online master's in accounting degree program are expected to complete a bachelor's in accounting with a minimum 3.0 grade point average. Also, you may need to earn a high score on the GRE or GMAT and have an active CPA license. When you apply, you may be required to submit letters of recommendation, a personal statement explaining why you want to earn this degree and a resume.

Why earn a master's online accounting degree?

If you want to move forward in your career by landing higher-level positions, earning a higher salary or even beginning your own consulting business, then a master's online accounting degree can help you achieve your goals. These programs allow you to learn advanced accounting concepts and gain expertise in a specialization that can position you to get to where you want to go in your career.

Degree Timeline

Years one and two

During the first year of an accounting program, you take core classes designed to deepen your existing knowledge and elevate your skills. In the second year, you take coursework related to your area of concentration, as well as electives.

Choose a specialization and take elective courses:

When you choose a specialization, you take courses that build on your prior accounting knowledge so you can take a deep dive into the area you're interested in focusing on. In addition, you can take elective coursework that allows you to explore other accounting topics.

Concentrations Online Master's in Accounting

Masters in Accounting Concentrations

Earning a master's in accounting allows you to become more competitive in the workforce, making you more likely to get promotions and larger salaries. Part of what helps you do this is being able to choose a concentration that can make you an expert in a specialized area of the field. The following are examples of concentrations you may be able to enroll in.

Taxation. Whether accountants work with individuals, private companies or nonprofit organizations, a specialization in taxation can help them address numerous issues that arise when preparing clients' taxes. Students in this concentration learn about corporate tax strategies, international tax laws and forensic accounting.

Auditing. This concentration prepares students to assist their clients when they need an annual internal audit, which helps them make future business decisions. Coursework may cover accounting research, auditing practice techniques, information systems assurance and financial reporting.

Finance. If you're interested in the relationship between how accounting impacts an organization's finances, this specialization may be for you. In a finance concentration, you can take classes in valuation, financial modeling, asset pricing and financial statement analysis.

Risk management. If you want to help clients assess and mitigate financial risks, this specialization can give you expertise through courses in forensic accounting, controls for operational risk and advanced auditing.

Government accounting. This concentration provides an understanding of the latest tax research, which may include topics related to local, state and federal cases. Coursework may also focus on the latest treasury regulations and Internal Revenue Code.

MBA in Accounting

If you want to increase your business expertise to add more value to the services you offer, you may want to consider earning an MBA in accounting. In this program, you can gain expertise on management theory and best practices. Also, an accounting MBA program focuses on advanced principles related to pensions, stockholders' equity, financial reporting and income tax. In addition to coursework, your program may require a capstone project.

Career Outlook

What Can You Do with Master's in Accounting?

Financial Manager

These professionals are largely responsible for the financial health of the organization that employs them — be it a small business or a large corporation. Job duties include preparing financial statements and reports, analyzing market trends and oftentimes supervising employees. If you pursue this career, you can be required to have both financial and accounting knowledge, as well as the ability to conduct high-level analyses. Many employers in the field may prefer applicants with master's degrees in accounting or finance.

Financial Analyst

For both individual clients and companies, financial analysts perform essentially the same role — providing investment and financial advice. They do so by evaluating the client's current situation, studying the markets and developments and evaluating historical data. They are oftentimes called securities analysts and investment analysts and can be divided into buy-side and sell-side analysts. For advanced positions, it's oftentimes necessary to hold a master's degree.

Financial Examiner

These positions are usually part of the compliance department of corporations, government agencies or nonprofits. Financial examiners essentially ensure that the company is doing business in accordance with all applicable rules and regulations. They review financial statements and analyze them for accuracy while using their financial acumen to detect any inconsistencies. Most financial examiners hold a bachelor's degree, but a master's degree is typically required for advancement within the field.


As an auditor, you may work on an internal or external basis. Internal auditors are hired directly by an organization to identify waste and fraud that may be going on in the company. On the other hand, if you work as an external auditor, you can review financial statements on behalf of clients outside of an organization, such as a company's investors, to ensure that these documents are correct and complete.

Forensic Accountant

If you want to apply your accounting knowledge to legal cases, this is the career path for you. Forensic accountants review financial documents in order to determine if fraud has occurred, as well as identity theft and other crimes. In addition, these professionals testify in court to explain their findings to a judge and jury.

Accounting Salaries by State

State NameAverage SalaryAnnual Job OpeningsProjected Job Growth Potential
District of Columbia$103,9301,2306.6%
New York$98,65013,22016.1%
New Jersey$91,9604,0908.2%
Rhode Island$83,3405109%
Source: 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2018-28 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics,

Financial Aid for a Master's in Accounting

As you search for the right school to help you meet your career goals, you are probably thinking about how you can pay for your advanced education. Below you can find information about financial aid options you can explore to defray the cost of a master's in accounting.

Source: Scholarship directory data is copyrighted material which is reproduced on this website by permission of CollegeXpress, a division of Carnegie Dartlet. Copyright © 2020 by CollegeXpress.

Master's in Accounting Certifications

Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)

This highly-sought after credential provided by the CFA Institute is an international certification that demonstrates financial analysts work at the highest professional, ethical and educational standards in the industry.

Requirements: Candidates must have a bachelor's degree and at least four years of work experience.

Exam format: Three multiple choice and constructed response exams must be passed to receive this certification.

How long does the certification last? One year

Certified Internal Auditor (CIA)

This certification from The Institute of Internal Auditors is for professionals who want to prove their expertise in the International Standards for the Professional Practice of Internal Auditing.

Requirements: A bachelor's degree and at least two years of internal auditing experience

Exam format: 325 multiple choice questions

How long does the certification last? One year

Certified Forensic Accountant

This is for professionals who have comprehensive knowledge of forensic accounting topics, like cybersecurity, valuations, fraud, risk management and rules of evidence.

Requirements: Must have at least a bachelor's degree, as well as a CPA license and work experience.

Exam format: 200 multiple choice questions

How long does the certification last? Varies

Certified Quality Auditor

Those with expertise on auditing techniques — such as questioning, examining and evaluating — can qualify to earn this certification.

Requirements: Eight years of auditing experience, including three years in a decision-making role.

Exam format: 165 multiple choice questions

How long does the certification last? Three years

Associations for Master's in Accounting

With 85,000 members, the ACFE is the largest anti-fraud organization in the world. The association provides education resources — such as webinars, publications and videos — as well as networking events and a job board.

Since 2011, the Association of Certified Chief Financial Officers has been helping CFOs grow as leaders by offering training and networking opportunities.

The IIA has 159 chapters around the country dedicated to supporting the work of internal auditors. The association offers discounts on training programs, networking events and content to help members be successful in their work.

Auditors who work in the health care field can receive education, news and career assistance from this organization.