What Is an Online Master’s in Accounting for Non-Accounting Majors?

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An accountant prepares a spreadsheet using a computer and a calculator.Master’s degrees can lead to career advancement and increased earnings, and accounting is an enduringly in-demand field with positive job growth projections. Unsurprisingly, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) lists accounting among the most popular master’s degrees.

But what if someone who wants to pursue this master’s degree holds a bachelor’s degree in a discipline other than accounting? After all, shifts in career path are common, with nearly half of employees surveyed for a 2019 Indeed report indicating they had changed their career plans.

An online master’s degree in accounting for non-accounting majors can be a great option for students and professionals looking for a career change or pursuing leadership roles in accounting after earning a bachelor’s degree in another field.

Benefits of a Master’s in Accounting

Master’s degree holders typically out earn employees whose highest level of education is a bachelor’s degree, and a master’s in accounting is likely to give job candidates a leg up on the competition. Earning a master’s in accounting online can offer additional benefits for working professionals eager to capitalize on the convenience and flexibility an online program can provide.

The following are among the potential benefits of an earning a master’s in accounting degree online.

Expanding Job Opportunities

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates the unemployment rate for professionals with a master’s degree was 3.1% in 2020, compared with 5.5% for those whose highest level of education was a bachelor’s degree.

For accountants and auditors, the BLS projects an average of 125,700 job openings each year from 2019 to 2029. It notes, however, that competition can be stiff for roles at the most prestigious accounting firms. Applicants with an advanced degree such as a master’s in accounting and certified public accountant (CPA) license may have an advantage when seeking those opportunities.

Preparing for the CPA Exam

A master’s in accounting program can help students prepare and qualify for the CPA exam. Education requirements to earn this certification vary, according to the AICPA, but most states require 150 semester hours of education — more than the typical undergraduate degree. With their focus on accounting, business and general education, master’s in accounting programs can serve as a solid foundation to prepare for CPA licensure.

Earning a Higher Salary

Accounting can be a well-paying career, and advanced education and certification can lead to significantly increased earnings. According to the BLS, the median annual salary for all accountants and auditors in May 2020 was $73,560. The median annual salary for CPAs in 2019, according to the Association of International Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), was $122,000.

Climbing the Career Ladder

Indeed lists career advancement as a key benefit to earning a master’s degree. That’s especially true in a field such as accounting, where additional education and certification can help professionals stay abreast of ever-changing regulatory, oversight and technological demands. Often, an advanced degree can put an employee at the front of the pack to earn promotions and fill senior positions.

Students in master’s programs also can forge relationships with faculty members and fellow students that lead to additional career opportunities, as well as take advantage of networking opportunities with potential employers that many institutions host.

Getting a Quality Education on a Flexible Schedule

Online master’s programs — including an online master’s in accounting for non-accounting majors — can offer the benefits of a quality education with the convenience and flexibility that working professionals often need.

Online master’s students can complete coursework anywhere, skipping the commute to campus and fitting their study time around other commitments. A 2020 report from Wiley Education Services and EducationDynamics showed that more than three-fourths of students who had taken both in-person and online courses believed online instruction was as good as or better than on-campus programming.

Pursuing a Master’s in Accounting Without a Bachelor’s in Accounting

In Indeed’s 2019 survey, 65% of those who hadn’t yet made a shift in career plans had considered or were considering doing so. But for non-accounting majors, is a Master of Accountancy (MAcc) the right degree to pursue? Considering the job skills and other requirements for accounting roles can help in that decision.

Skills and Aptitudes for Accounting Professionals

Accountants need skills that help them collect, organize and track a company’s financial information. Professionals in this field prepare reports on revenue, expenses, assets and liabilities and ensure that an organization is in line with regulatory requirements. They must be eager to learn and adapt to changes in regulations and technology that dictate how they perform their jobs. Among the skills of a successful accountant are:

  • Math skills, from subjects such as calculus and statistical analysis, aid in compiling and analyzing figures.
  • Analytical and critical-thinking skills assist in evaluating data, identifying any issues with the information and developing solutions.
  • Attention to detail is important for examining financial data and noting whether it’s in compliance with legal and organizational policies.
  • Communication skills are critical when listening to and discussing information with clients and colleagues, as well as when providing input verbally and in writing.
  • Organization is helpful when tracking materials from a variety of clients or departments.

Path to Pursuing a Master’s in Accounting

A background that includes accounting, economics, finance, math and computer science courses is helpful for students planning to study accounting. For those without a bachelor’s in accounting who are interested in pursuing a master’s in that field, programs are available that include a focus on both the fundamentals of accounting and advanced concepts.

Components of a Master’s in Accounting Program for Non-Accounting Major

Master’s in accounting programs for non-accounting majors typically cover foundational topics, such as the systems of accounting and auditing, in addition to featuring advanced accounting courses. The areas of focus often include:

  • Accounting ethics
  • Business law
  • Strategic management
  • Financial statement analysis
  • Taxation
  • Information technology governance and auditing
  • Accounting for governmental and nonprofit organizations
  • Business intelligence

An online master’s in accounting for non-accounting majors program can provide flexibility in speed of completion, often with self-paced scheduling that students can finish at a faster — or slower — rate than on-campus programs would allow.

Discover How a Master’s in Accounting Can Lead You to a New Career

If you’re ready to pursue a new career path that includes a master’s in accounting, explore the University of North Dakota’s online Master of Accountancy. The program offers a Fundamentals track tailored to the needs of students whose bachelor’s degree is in another discipline, highlighting basic accounting concepts in addition to advanced training — and unlike most other programs designed for non-accounting majors, UND does not require any experience, bridge or prerequisite courses.

UND’s online program is an ideal option for those who are interested in working toward CPA certification or leadership roles in the ever-changing field of accounting. You’ll get a high-quality education that features the flexibility and convenience of three start dates and fully online learning with asynchronous coursework. Additionally, UND prides itself on its industry connections and hosts several accounting-specific networking events each year for online students.

Learn more about how UND’s online Master of Accountancy program can help you reach your professional goals.


Recommended Readings

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Networking for Accountants

What Kind of Jobs Can You Get with a Master’s in Accounting?


Association of International Certified Public Accountants, 150 Hour Requirement for Obtaining a CPA License

Association of International Certified Public Accountants, Salary Insights 2019

The Balance Careers, Accounting Major The Balance Careers, “Important Accounting Skills for Workplace Success”

Becker, “What Qualities Make a Good Accountant?”

CareerAddict, “10 Key Benefits of Completing a Master’s Degree”

Indeed, “Career Change Report: An Inside Look at Why Workers Shift Gears”

Indeed Career Guide, “Master’s Degree Guide: Definitions, Elements and Benefits”

National Association of Colleges and Employers, Winter 2020 Salary Survey ThoughtCo., “10 Reasons to Choose Online Education to Earn Your Degree” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Accountants and Auditors

Wiley Education Services and EducationDynamics, “Online College Students 2020”