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

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A smiling auditor in professional attire checks a folder of documentsStudents who are interested in building advanced accounting careers naturally want to know what kind of jobs you can get with a master’s in accounting. From auditor to forensic accountant and more, the choices are enticing.

Education places these exciting options within reach. Accounting professionals need at least a bachelor’s degree to pursue a career in their field. A master’s degree in accountancy can open up even more opportunities for advanced positions, higher salaries and certifications.

What Are the Benefits of Earning an Advanced Accounting Degree?

The advantages of earning a master’s in accountancy are many. Upon graduation, students have the educational requirements to take the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam given by their state’s Board of Accountancy. Most states require professionals to have 150 semester hours of education to sit for this exam. That’s 30 more hours than a regular bachelor’s degree program.

A CPA license can verify a professional’s ability to conduct audits and expose them to job prospects that may not be available to those with only an undergraduate degree. Accountants must also be a CPA to file reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). According to Investopedia, CPAs in non-management positions can earn up to 15% more than peers who don’t have the certification.

Skills and Knowledge Gained with a Master’s in Accounting

Earning a master’s degree in accounting offers individuals expertise in the following skills, which are fundamental for advanced accounting roles.

  • Analytical skills: Accountants must be able to analyze large quantities of financial data to help businesses and individuals prepare their tax returns, minimize risk and improve their financial standing.
  • Communication skills: Accountants must be able to communicate with clients to report their findings and translate complex financial information into understandable terms.
  • Organizational skills: Accountants must be highly organized as they manage a range of sensitive financial documents and reports that contain valuable information.

An advanced accounting degree can also help accounting professionals increase their ability to use technology, business intelligence and data analytics, which are essential components of the modern accountant’s role. Accountants use cloud computing, for example, to access and update data in real time. Many accounting firms also apply automation technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), to streamline data entry and perform predictive modeling.

What Careers Can You Pursue with an Advanced Accounting Degree?

To understand what kind of jobs you can get with a master’s in accounting, it’s important to research advanced accounting careers, including their responsibilities, required skills and median salary.

Financial Analyst

Financial analysts evaluate the financial portfolios of businesses and individuals to help them make investments, such as in stocks and bonds. These analysts work with a range of institutions, including banks, hedge funds and insurance providers. Financial analysts need a strong understanding of current economic and investment trends to best guide their clients’ decisions.

Financial analysts must possess analytical skills to understand and organize large quantities of financial data. They should have the decision-making skills to pinpoint opportunities for investment or divestment, such as buying or selling stocks at the right time. Communications skills are also important for relaying complex or sensitive financial information to clients.

According to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), financial analysts earned a median salary of $85,660 in 2018.

Auditor

Auditors work with businesses and individuals to manage financial records and prepare tax returns. This involves analyzing financial statements and accounts, ensuring financial operations are compliant with government regulations and finding ways to increase profits. Auditors might work for an organization internally to manage their records, or they might be employed by an external company, such as a tax firm.

Auditors must have strong mathematical and analytical skills to manage financial records and propose strategies for better managing funds and reducing financial risk. They should also have the communication skills to listen and understand clients’ needs, and discuss their findings with managers and executives.

Auditors and accountants earned a median salary of $71,550 in 2019, according to the BLS.

Controller

Controllers manage the financial operations in a company, including accounting, auditing, budgeting and payroll. They are responsible for preparing documents, such as balance sheets, budgeting schedules, income statements and expense reports. Controllers use these documents to identify financial trends within an organization, find deficiencies and create predictions for the future. These professionals are also in charge of securing licenses and permits for financial operation.

Controllers need critical-thinking and problem-solving skills to oversee the finances of a company, monitor trends over time and mine insights from financial data. They must also have strong attention to detail when working with documents such as financial reports and profit and loss statements.

According to the compensation website PayScale, controllers earn a median salary of $84,000.

Forensic Accountant

Forensic accountants analyze financial data to support the investigation of legal issues, such as financial fraud, contract disputes and bankruptcies. These professionals use scientific methods and processes to uncover the facts of an issue and provide unbiased, data-based conclusions. They are hired by businesses, individuals, government organizations and municipalities.

Forensic accountants should have organizational skills to gather and manage financial records and data. They should also have the analytical skills to mine the facts of their case and provide objective conclusions based on their findings. Since they must distill complex information into digestible reports for their clients, forensic accountants need strong written and verbal communication skills.

PayScale reports that forensic accountants earn a median salary of $68,000.

Chief Financial Officer

Chief financial officers (CFOs) are senior executives in a company who manage and oversee all financial operations. This includes tracking cash flow and investments, handling taxes, and building new strategies for budgeting and driving revenue. The CFO reports to the chief executive officer (CEO) to ensure financial planning aligns with the company’s overall goals.

CFOs must have the leadership and communication skills to manage multiple departments and make decisions that could impact the future of the company. They should also be able to strategize based on complex data and analytics to find opportunities for growth, risk management and cost reduction. CFOs today also need technological skills to use new tools and techniques for key processes, such as predictive modeling and data analysis.

The median salary of CFOs is $134,000, according to PayScale.

Pursue an Advanced Accounting Career

When considering what kind of jobs you can get with a master’s in accounting, it’s important to find the right degree program for your career goals. University of North Dakota’s online Master of Accountancy program is designed to prepare professionals with the knowledge and skills to pursue advanced accounting careers.

Students can choose from two study tracks. The fundamentals track is for those without an undergraduate accounting degree. The practitioner track is for those with an undergraduate degree who would like to take the next step in their careers.

Customize your academic experience to your needs and interests, and meet the growing need for skilled accountants across industries.

Recommended Readings

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Forensic Accounting

Accounting During and After a Pandemic

Data Analysis Tools, Tips and Resources for Finance Students and Professionals

Sources:

American Bar Association, What Is a Forensic Accountant?

American Institute of CPAs, 150 Hour Requirement for Obtain a CPA License

CFO, “The Expanding Role of the Modern CFO”

Deloitte, “Four Faces of the CFO”

Houston Chronicle, “Salaries for Accountants with a Master’s”

Investopedia, Controller

Investopedia, “How Much Do CPAs Make?”

Journal of Accountancy, “4 Steps to Prepare for the Future of Accounting”

Journal of Accountancy, “2020s Vision: Tech Transformation on Tap”

PayScale, Average Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Salary

PayScale, Average Financial Controller Salary

PayScale, Average Forensic Accountant Salary

Toptal, “The Role and Responsibilities of the Modern CFO – A Function in Transition”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Accountants and Auditors

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Financial Analysts

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Financial Managers

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Top Executives