Foundation or core courses for an MBA typically include subjects such as ethics, economics, management and finance. The concentration courses often cover accounting topics including taxation, accounting theory and practice. Such courses often cover subjective areas of financial analysis such as accounting for pensions, and valuation of intangible assets, and pro forma accounting. There is usually study of the various accounting standards and comparing tax issues for different types of organizations.
One of the great things about an MBA in accounting is the comprehensive business skills and leadership skills associated with an MBA transcend industries and is beneficial to any business or organization. Employers know you will have a well-rounded business education but also a keen understanding of accounting, which is essential working anywhere in a corporate finance department, even if you don’t end up working directly in accounting.
But the concentration in accounting also provides you the foundation necessary to pursue a career in accounting if that’s your goal. The MBA in Accounting may also count as education requirements to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). If you don’t have a bachelor’s degree in accounting, consider an MBA in Accounting which, depending on your state, may be adequate to satisfy the CPAs education requirement.2 Becoming a CPA can put accounting professionals on a higher career trajectory. CPAs signatures are required to submit SEC filings for public companies and are often recruited to serve on Audit Committees or Board of Directors as ‘financial experts’, a requirement of Sarbanes-Oxley.
What Kind of Jobs Can I Get with an MBA in Accounting?
An online MBA in Accounting is a great way to put your career in finance and accounting on an upward trajectory. It may also help you remain employed. The unemployment rate for accountants is just 3.6%, according to U.S. News.3
Specific jobs for professionals with accounting degrees include public and government accountants, auditors, tax examiners, loan officers, budget analysts, personal financial advisors and forensic accountants. Since online MBAs in accounting can often lead to managerial positions, these professionals may be on the path for Financial or Corporate Controller, Finance Director and potentially Chief Financial Officer (CFO) positions.
Many accountants work in the private sector for Big 4 accounting firms, commercial banks, corporations, governments, investment banks and thousands of privately-held accounting businesses. Accountants prepare and analyze financial statements and records for individuals, businesses and government agencies. Auditors make sure financial records and internal processes are correct and compliant. Tax examiners are similar to auditors but work for the government. Loan officers work for banks and coordinate the loan process for individuals and businesses. Budget analysts typically work in corporate finance departments and have capital budgeting responsibilities. Financial advisors handle financial concerns, including tax consequences, for individual investors. Forensic accountants examine financial records to detect, deter and stop fraud. They often work in the public sector for government agencies.
When the economy is strong, accountants are also needed when working on tax issues related to various types of mergers and acquisition (M&A) activity. As more transactions cross international borders, the complexities of tax and currency issues keep accountants and consultants quite busy. An increasing trend is U.S. companies merging with foreign companies and domiciling in the foreign nation for more advantageous tax purposes. Also, when companies divest, or get rid of, divisions or units the transactions can get quite complex with regards to tax.
But if the economy slows and access to credit becomes more difficult there may be increased demand for auditors and loan officers who will be scrutinizing individuals and businesses to assess creditworthiness.
The median pay for accountants and auditors is $63,550, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).4 But compensation for professionals with an MBA in Accounting and a CPA range from about $50,000 to $141,744, according to Payscale.5 As you can see, there is quite a higher ceiling when you add an advanced degree and/or a designation to your resume.
Despite the low unemployment rate for accountants, many lower end accounting positions are becoming more and more automated and that places a premium on the higher end positions. This is another reason to consider an online MBA in Accounting.
Keep in mind, one sector of accounting that may experience pressure on job growth is the public sector. Governments are one of the largest employers of accountants but budget cuts at the federal, state and local levels may curtail hiring and keep a lid on compensation going forward.
How do I Choose the Right Online MBA in Accounting program?
There are plenty of online MBAs with different concentrations for students to choose from today so you want to focus on the high quality programs. When researching programs research the school’s accreditations. See how long the college has been in in operation. Research the length of the program to see how well it fits into your current and future schedule. Compare the tuition with potential jobs, factor in any opportunity costs, and see if the return on investment makes sense.
Make sure the program you select offers a capstone class at the end of the program. This project provides valuable practical experience to the students who often consult with an area business on a project. It may also be an in depth case study of a contemporary accounting issue. Whatever the topic, it is a valuable way for students to gain real-world experience, work with a team on a project and present the findings to interested parties.
So if you’re looking for a career in finance, consider one that is expected to experience high future employment growth. With increased regulatory scrutiny and the globalization of business, accounting professionals enjoy good compensation, job security and a promising future.