Whether you’re still in school completing your undergraduate degree or are looking to change your career to accounting, many CPA Exam candidates have, at one time or another, thought about obtaining their Master’s degree in accounting. Also known as a MAcc. While continuing your education is great, and having a graduate degree is prestigious, obtaining your Masters is nonetheless time consuming and expensive. Therefore, if you’re considering going down this route, make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons.
Having additional prestige
If you want your MAcc degree just as another prestigious credential to put on your resume or to make yourself stand out among your competition, you may want to rethink this decision. If you’re going into public accounting, the only thing a majority of firms care about is whether or not you have your CPA license and the level of work experience you’ve acquired.
The only time your MAcc may be taken into consideration is when recruiters and hiring directors at a Big 4 or larger accounting firm are trying to make a decision between you and another candidate. However, the candidate with more professional and life experience is more likely to obtain the position. This is because 95% of what CPAs know about accounting, they learn on the job—something an advanced degree can’t substitute.
Meeting the 150 hour requirement
In order to become eligible to sit for the CPA Exam, most states today require that candidates have 150 semester hours of accounting, business, and general education under their belts. This is due to the increasing complexities of business methods and accounting/auditing pronouncements that require CPAs to have more knowledge to practice effectively.
Normally, a regular graduate degree in accounting will give you 120 semester hours, meaning you still have 30 semester hours to fulfill. You can obtain these hours either through a MAcc program or take additional classes at an accredited university.
Deciding which route to take depends heavily on your individual capacity, both time and money wise. If your employer is willing to pay for the additional education, and you know you’ll be able to keep up with the classes/coursework required to pass a MAcc program, this option could be doable for you.
On the other hand, if you will have to be paying out of pocket for the remaining 30 semester hours and your daily schedule is already hectic as it is, taking classes from an accredited university would the better option for you. You can take classes according to your schedule and it will be much cheaper than going through grad school.
Developing an area of expertise
There will be instances where having a MAcc will definitely benefit you going into a particular area of accounting. For example, being able to assist government sectors with policies that affect the environment or impact public taxes.
Of course, you can also further your career with a MAcc in any position, especially if it’s coupled with your CPA license and professional experience. Specialization opportunities include moving into positions such as financial vice president, treasurer, or controller from management accounting. You can also work with charitable organizations or healthcare services that MAcc programs can provide more focus on. Further educating yourself in an area you're passionate about can give you more opportunities as an expert in that particular field.
In the end, going into a MAcc program is obviously up to you, and the question of “is it really worth it” can only be answered by what you hope to do with this degree and where you want it to lead you. The most important factors to take into consideration when you’re making this decision once again lies in time and money. If you're still studying for the CPA Exam, have a full-time job, or have other commitments, you'll have to prioritize your goals. So no matter what your reasoning, make sure you get out of it what you invested into it.