Accounting is a critical business function. The process allows businesses to assess their financial performance, build evidence-based strategies for economic growth and ensure timely tax payments. Without it, charting the course of a corporation or organization would be a guessing game. The fundamental role accounting plays in commerce also makes it one of the most stable careers to pursue. As long as there are businesses taking in money and paying bills, there will be a need for skilled accounting professionals to help guide them and keep records.
Getting involved in this field isn’t merely about discovering the path to becoming an accountant. Indeed, accountancy includes a broad spectrum of roles directly related to various accounting concepts. While there are several career paths that fall under the accountancy umbrella, each of these pathways has its own degree requirements, and there are several types of accounting degrees. It’s important for individuals to understand these requirements and degrees before they pursue a specific role.
Of course, an advanced degree such as a Master of Accountancy can prepare students for a range of careers in the accounting field. These programs focus on developing skilled financial practitioners who understand the intricacies of contemporary business and can advise executives in making strategic financial decisions for their companies.
What Is Accountancy?
Accountancy represents the various principles, techniques and conventions that govern the accounting process. These elements govern the framework that makes it possible to classify and explain accounting information to managers, C-suite executives and shareholders. This process is ultimately aimed at developing well-informed decisions and strategies for growth. Managers and executives rely on professionals with a thorough understanding of what accountancy is to help them develop business strategies and meet financial goals.
Accountancy can be split into three distinctive components.
This involves the recording of business transactions from different sources. Some of these sources include customer and supplier invoices, customer cash receipts and employee payroll. Recording commonly occurs in the form of journal entries.
This involves sorting and breaking down transactions into various categories for tracking efficiency. These categories can include product sales, debt, accounts receivable and depreciation expense.
This involves properly disseminating accounting information to the correct outlet. This concept can be split into financial accounting to keep track of business transactions, and management accounting to help develop growth and profitability strategies.
4 Types of Accounting Degrees
To understand what accountancy is, it’s important for potential students to learn the different types of accounting degrees available. A master’s degree in accountancy is generally the highest degree sought by those planning to pursue an accountancy career or become a certified public accountant (CPA).
There are four fundamental accounting degrees an individual can pursue. Each degree can help unlock specific career paths in accounting and, in turn, accumulate the work experience that can lead to more advanced accounting roles.
Associate Degree in Accounting
An associate degree in accounting is a two-year program that includes general college requirements that allow students to transfer from a community college to a four-year school. Coursework may include economics, business principles and statistics, along with bookkeeping. The degree can also qualify individuals to take on entry-level accounting roles, which can help them gain experience in the field.
Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting
A bachelor’s degree in accounting is an undergraduate degree that includes general education classes as well as basic and intermediate accounting coursework, finance, math and statistics. Programs may allow students to choose a specialization. The bachelor’s degree is also the minimum level required to take the Uniform CPA Examination, although officially reaching this level may require completing some graduate-level coursework.
Master’s Degree in Accounting
A master’s degree in accounting provides the most complete preparation for the CPA exam. The coursework includes advanced accounting methods and accounting theory. Some programs offer specializations as well as instruction in upper-level decision making. This advanced degree can open doors to management positions at CPA firms or in corporations or government agencies.
MBA in Accounting
A Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree with an accounting concentration prepares graduates for leadership positions in business. Its emphasis on advanced accounting and management concepts is geared toward executive roles linked to a company’s financial management and processes.
Master of Science in Accounting vs. Master of Accountancy
A Master of Accountancy generally doesn’t differ significantly from a Master of Science in Accounting degree. Both are designed to deepen an individual’s level of expertise in the fundamental principles of accounting and advanced accounting concepts. Individuals can also pursue a wide range of jobs with either a master’s in accounting or a master of accountancy.
Typically, these programs focus on the three following goals:
Preparing for the CPA Exam
The CPA exam is a challenging test, with a pass rate of about 50%. An advanced degree helps students cultivate the knowledge they’ll need to successfully pass the exam. Most states require applicants to complete at least 150 academic hours in accounting before sitting for the exam, which usually means at least 30 hours of graduate work.
Understanding Accounting Theory and Practical Skills
Graduates should have a thorough understanding of both foundational and advanced accounting concepts and the ability to apply them to day-to-day work. They also need to be familiar with information technology common to the field as well as the technical aspects of accounting.
Using Accounting to Make Business Decisions
Perhaps the most crucial skill for graduates is to extrapolate data derived from accounting so that company managers and executives can make financial decisions.
Qualifying for a Master of Accountancy program generally requires a bachelor’s degree. The degree doesn’t have to be in accounting, though students from other fields may need to complete prerequisites before starting the graduate-level classes.
Some accountancy courses that individuals can expect in a Master of Accountancy program are:
- Business Law for Accountants: Focuses on the legal mandates surrounding public accountancy; common concepts explored include contracts, ethics, negotiable instruments and legal representation in business
- Accounting Systems: Covers the various business controls and processes as they relate to enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems
- Taxation of Business: Examines how businesses undergo federal taxation
- Audit and Assurance Services: Focuses on the correlation between assurance services and the quality of information utilized for decision making
Master of Accountancy Salary
A Master of Accountancy degree and a CPA license can open doors to a variety of satisfying and well-paid accounting careers, including the ones listed here.
Accountants and auditors assemble and analyze a company’s financial records to ensure accuracy and legal compliance and identify potential risks. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states the 2021 median annual salary for accountants and auditors was $77,250, with projected job growth of 7% between 2020 and 2030.
Also known as financial examiners, bank examiners ensure legal compliance relating to monetary transactions. They also monitor the condition of financial institutions, review documents to verify a bank’s liabilities and assets, and define guidelines for policies and procedures for proper compliance. The BLS classifies the bank examiner role under the financial examiner profession. It reports the 2021 median annual salary for the role was $81,410 and projects a job growth of 18% between 2020 and 2030.
Financial managers oversee an organization’s financial vitality. They ensure legal requirements are met, develop cost-reduction strategies, analyze market trends, supervise employees in other accounting roles and assist in making high-level financial decisions. The 2021 median annual salary for financial managers was $131,710. The BLS also projects a 17% job growth between 2020 and 2030, according to the BLS.
Chief Financial Officer
Chief financial officers (CFOs) are C-suite executives who manage a company’s finances. Typical duties include tracking the cash flow, analyzing the financial infrastructure, proposing fixes to financial weaknesses, and developing and overseeing high-level financial planning strategies. The BLS includes CFOs in its chief executives classification, which reported a 2021 median annual salary of $179,520. The BLS also projects an 8% job growth between 2020 and 2030.
Pursue a Career that Promotes Growth
Since accounting will always be crucial to business and organizations of all types, there will always be a steady need for accounting professionals, from entry-level roles to C-suite professionals. The different types of accounting degrees can provide individuals with a series of steps as they progress in their careers. Ultimately, earning an advanced accounting degree can lead to rewarding careers with greater leadership responsibility and higher salaries, such as those listed above.
The University of North Dakota’s online Master of Accountancy (MAcc) program can prepare non-accounting majors and career-changers to take the CPA exam and pursue advanced careers in accounting. Our program immerses students in advanced accounting concepts such as contracts, negotiable instruments, ethics, business law, financial statement analysis, complex transactions and risk assessment. The program does not require prerequisite courses, allowing students with a bachelor’s degree in any field to pursue their master’s in accounting.
Learn how we can help you take your career to new heights.