The 2021 Guide to Online Masters in Accounting Programs

Whether you are considering a career in accounting or a career change to accounting, earning your master’s in accounting, or MAcc, online may be a convenient option for you.

Today, there are many online accounting programs to choose from that will give you the skills you need to increase your worth and knowledge in the field. An online program offers many benefits, such as allowing you to work on your own schedule and providing you with a rigorous curriculum just as if you were in a physical classroom.

Types of Accounting Graduate Programs

To determine which online Master of Accountancy program works best for you, you should familiarize yourself with the different types of accounting degrees. Accounting degrees are offered at various levels. You can receive your associate, bachelor’s, master’s, Master of Business Administration (MBA) and even a doctoral degree in accounting.

When it comes to your master’s in accounting, there are concentrations that you can branch out into, such as:

  • Master of Professional Accounting
  • Master of Managerial Accounting
  • Master of Science in Accounting
  • MBA in Accounting (or Forensic Accounting)

Learn about some common accounting degrees below and what makes each of them different.

Master of Professional Accounting vs. Master of Accounting

The difference between a Master of Professional Accounting and a Master of Accounting is the prerequisite for admission into the program.

A bachelor’s in accounting is not required to obtain a Master of Professional Accounting, or MPA. Those who have bachelor’s degrees in other majors aside from accounting can be accepted into the program. But a Master of Accounting requires that you study accounting at the undergraduate level to be accepted into a graduate-level accounting program.

If you’re interested in a career in public accounting, an MPA program might be a good fit for you. The program will help to prepare you for the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam. You can complete your MPA program as a part-time or full-time student and participate in an internship if your program offers this option.

Master of Managerial Accounting vs. Master of Accounting

The difference between a Master of Managerial Accounting and a Master of Accounting is heavily dependent on the area of study.

A Master of Managerial Accounting, also known as a management accounting degree, focuses on providing you with the skills you need to make financial decisions that will improve business or organizational performance. These programs typically prepare you to sit for the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) exam.

A Master of Accounting, on the other hand, focuses on strengthening your knowledge of the main concepts and methods in accounting. You will acquire skills that will allow you to pursue both career paths like forensic accounting, public accounting, government accounting and more.

MBA in Accounting vs. Master of Accounting

The difference between an MBA in accounting and a Master of Accounting is that an MBA affords you the unique knowledge and training necessary for working in the business world.

In other words, an MBA in accounting will provide you with the range of skills you need to address business-related challenges with a financial mindset. These skills can be applied to different industries and allow you to have flexibility in your career path.

Earning your MAcc will allow you to develop a deep level of expertise in accounting that often applies to positions solely in accounting and finance.

Why Obtain Your Master’s in Accounting Online?

Earning your MAcc online has many benefits. This learning option can offer you flexibility in your schedule while still providing you with the same curriculum, discussions and lessons that would be offered in a physical classroom. This option is much more viable for those who are looking to study while still being able to work their professional jobs. Because there are so many online graduate programs, you’ll want to do careful research to find the best online master’s in accounting program for you.

Featured Online Accounting Program

Featured Online Accounting Program
School Name GMAT Requirement Program Length Accreditation Status
Syracuse University GMAT Waivers Available 24 - 36 months AACSB Accredited

Sponsored Programs

How to Get an Accounting Degree Online

If you have decided that you are interested in getting your accounting degree online, there are a few factors you should consider to help you find the best program for you.

Every online program is different. A great first step is to look at your intended program’s requirements, which of course can vary from school to school.

The quality of the degree you end up with is also important, so you may want to consider schools and programs with accreditation. There are a number of schools and programs that are accredited by associations such as the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). Accredited schools and programs follow regulations set by the accrediting bodies to ensure that the academic training they offer meets national standards.

Finding a program that offers part-time study could also be a deciding factor for you.

Online Master of Accounting Admissions Requirements

Most online program admission requirements include an undergraduate degree, your transcripts and test scores (which can be optional).

Depending on what graduate degree program you intend on completing, you may need your undergraduate degree in accounting. However, some degrees, such as a Master of Professional Accounting, do not typically require an undergraduate degree in accounting.

Online Master of Accounting Programs, GMAT May Not Be Required

To be considered for admission, you may be required to take the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT). The GMAT is an important component of the business school application process.

Today, however, you’ll find that some of the top online master’s programs are beginning to waive this requirement for candidates with a strong work or academic background.

Online Master’s in Accounting Curriculum

Just as admission requirements vary by online MAcc programs, the curriculum does as well.

You can expect to complete approximately 30-60 credit hours; however, factors such as experience in accounting or lack thereof can determine how many more or fewer classes you’ll have to take to complete your degree program. The time it takes to complete a program can also vary, depending on whether you choose to be a full-time or part-time student. Generally, it takes anywhere from one to three years to get your degree.

Typical graduate accounting courses cover the following subject areas, and more:

  • Accounting Theory and Institutions
  • Auditing
  • Business Law
  • Cost Accounting
  • Ethics for Professional Accountants

What Can You Do with a Master’s in Accounting?

Is a master’s in accounting worth it? When you earn your master’s in accounting, you are opening yourself up to a world of opportunities within the field. Some jobs for MAcc holders include:

  • Financial Analyst
  • Auditor
  • Forensic Accountant
  • Managerial Accountant
  • Certified Public Accountant

Accountants can work in a range of industries; some accountants are employed by local and state governments, while others find themselves at scientific and technical consulting companies.

Accountants and auditors make a median annual salary of $70,500, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Certified Public Accountant Careers: How to Become a CPA

One area of employment that you can go into with a master’s in accounting is certified public accounting. The main difference between an accountant and a certified public accountant is that the latter has met state licensing requirements, and the former does not require a license to practice. Another way to think of it is that not all accountants are CPAs, but all CPAs are accountants.

The first step to becoming a certified public accountant is to take and pass the CPA exam. After that, you may apply to obtain licensing. Many who obtain a MAcc often go on to pursue this professional credential, which indicates that they are among those accountants who have the highest level of knowledge and ethics in the field. In other words, if you’re looking to advance in your career as an accountant, a CPA license may help.

Each state has its own set of requirements for licensure. To learn more about what it takes to become a CPA in your state, refer to the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants' state- by- state list of licensing requirements.

Do You Need a Master’s Degree to Become a CPA?

While those who obtain their master’s degrees in accounting often go forward to pursue their CPA licenses, a master’s degree is not required to become a CPA, but a master's in accounting can help you prepare for the CPA exam.

Guide to the CPA Exam Requirements

At present, CPA requirements for all states and territories except the U.S. Virgin Islands include completion of at least 150 semester hours of education. If you choose to get your MAcc online from an AACSB-accredited school, the credit hours you complete can count toward the requirement of 150 hours. If you are an undergraduate non-accounting major, you can take accounting classes covering areas such as taxation and cost accounting upon graduation. Credit hours from these courses can help you meet the semester-hour requirement.

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants advises students to use any one of the following tracks to meet this specific requirement:

  • Combine an undergraduate degree in accounting with a master’s degree;
  • Combine an undergraduate degree in some other discipline with a master’s in accounting or an MBA with a concentration in accounting;
  • Enroll in a five-year professional accounting school or program leading to a master’s degree in accounting.

Work experience is also a plus that allows you to gain practical knowledge in the field if you do not have accounting experience.

CPA vs. Accountant Careers

While there may be some overlap in the services they offer, there are also some differences in the day-to-day duties of accountants and CPAs. For example, accountants can’t provide attestation services; a CPA license is required for that [PDF, 127 KB]. Another key difference between the two roles is that a CPA can sign tax returns and represent clients during tax audits before the IRS.

Certified public accountants tend to be held to a higher standard and generally earn more money. The top 10% of accountants and auditors earn more than $122,840 annually, according to 2018 Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

20 of the Best Online Accounting Programs to Consider in 2020

If you’re thinking of getting your master’s in accounting online, consider the list of schools below:

Upcoming Webinar Events
School Name GMAT Requirement Credits Required Accreditation Status
Syracuse University (sponsored) GMAT waivers available to qualified candidates 30 AACSB accredited
University of Southern California GMAT (or GRE) required 30-48 AACSB accredited
Indiana University GMAT required, except for students on the university’s Bloomington campus 24-30 AACSB accredited
Villanova University GMAT optional 30 AACSB accredited
University of Texas at Dallas GMAT (or GRE) required 36 AACSB accredited
Pennsylvania State University (World Campus) GMAT (or GRE) required 30 AACSB accredited
University of Connecticut GMAT required 30 AACSB accredited
Auburn University GMAT required 30 AACSB accredited
University of Alabama at Birmingham GMAT required 30 AACSB accredited
George Mason University GMAT waivers available to qualified candidates 30 AACSB accredited
St. John’s University GMAT waivers available to applicants with a cumulative 3.25 GPA or higher 30-33 AACSB accredited
University of Miami GMAT/GRE waivers available to qualified candidates 32 AACSB accredited
Rutgers University (New Brunswick and Newark) No GMAT required 30 AACSB accredited
American University GMAT (or GRE) required 30-37.5 AACSB accredited
University of Massachusetts Lowell GMAT waivers available to qualified candidates 30 AACSB accredited
West Virginia University GMAT waivers available to applicants with a cumulative 3.2 GPA or higher 30 AACSB accredited
Florida Atlantic University GMAT waivers may be available to Executive Accounting program applicants 30 AACSB accredited
University of North Dakota GMAT/GRE waivers available to qualified candidates 30-31 AACSB accredited

The online accounting program offered by Syracuse University is powered by 2U.