Earning a Master’s in Accounting Online

What You’ll Learn & What You Can Do After Graduation

Should I Pursue a Master's in Accounting Online?

After completing an undergraduate degree in accounting or another business discipline, many students pursue a master's in accounting online. A graduate education allows students to complete the 150 required credit hours to sit for the certified public accountant (CPA) exam and prepare for high-level positions. Graduates of online master's in accounting programs often work in corporate auditing, forensic accounting, and financial analysis.

Pursuing a master's degree in accounting online offers convenience and flexibility. Many schools offer flexible start dates and asynchronous delivery methods. Students of online programs also save money on commuting costs, and many online schools offer the same tuition rates to residents and nonresidents.

Employment Outlook for Master's in Accounting Graduates

Master's in Accounting Salary

Earning potential and employment opportunities for graduates of top master's in accounting online programs vary by location and experience. The tables below provide a summary of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and PayScale on average earnings and employment figures for accountants. Average salaries in New York, New Jersey, Virgina, California, and the District of Columbia rank significantly above the national mean for accountants and auditors. Average salaries for CPAs range from $56,000, at the entry level, to $93,00 in late career stages.

Top Paying States for Accountants and Auditors

State Employment Annual Mean Wage
New York 108,800 $93,280
District of Columbia 11,080 $93,210
New Jersey 36,640 $88,940
Virginia 40,220 $83,380
California 147,320 $82,620
United States 1,246,540 $76,730

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Pay by Experience Level for Certified Public Accountants

  • Entry-Level (0-5 Years):
    $56,000
  • Mid-Career (5-10 Years):
    $70,000
  • Experienced (10-20 Years):
    $81,000
  • Late-Career (20+ Years):
    $93,000

Source: PayScale

Master's in Accounting Careers

As trusted advisers to individuals, businesses, and government entities, accountants possess analytical and problem-solving skills applicable to many career paths. Accountants with master's degrees and exceptional communication skills often advance into middle or senior management roles. Popular specialties for graduates of online master's in accounting programs include public accounting, internal auditing, and tax advisory services. Accountants who specialize in analytics often work closely with data scientists and provide investment or budgeting advice to management.

Accountant or Auditor

Annual Median Salary: $69,350

Projected Growth Rate: 10%

Accountants and auditors record, analyze, audit, and present financial information. Their job duties include preparing financial statements and tax documents, verifying the accuracy of transactions, conducting budget reviews, and providing financial advisory services to businesses and individuals. Accounting professionals with advanced degrees often advance into senior managerial or independent consultancy roles.

Budget Analyst

Annual Median Salary: $75,240

Projected Growth Rate: 7%

Budget analysts conduct budget reviews, identify patterns, and provide advice on appropriate allocation of funds. They help organizations increase profitability through efficient use of funds. Their job duties include conducting cost-benefit analyses, reviewing budget proposals, and forecasting future financial trends. Budget analysts with advanced degrees often occupy supervisory roles.

Financial Analyst

Annual Median Salary: $84,300

Projected Growth Rate: 11%

Financial analysts gather and coordinate information on investments such as securities. They assemble information on value and economic performance for decision-making guidance. They review investment proposals, evaluate performance measures, and forecast future trends. A master's degree opens the door for advancement into supervisory roles in portfolio management.

Financial Manager

Annual Median Salary: $125,080

Projected Growth Rate: 19%

Financial managers plan, oversee, implement, and coordinate the long-term financial goals and reporting processes of businesses. Their responsibilities include developing strategic planning objectives and handling risk management to ensure proper cash flow. They also handle commercial and real estate loans and lines of credit. Employers often favor candidates with master's degrees.

Personal Financial Adviser

Annual Median Salary: $90,640

Projected Growth Rate: 15%

Personal financial advisers provide goal-setting guidance and investment strategy advice to individual clients and groups. They recommend actions to meet financial objectives for savings, insurance, taxes, retirement, and estate planning. A master's degree provides a competitive edge for graduates to work for internationally renowned firms and high-end clientele.

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statstics / PayScale

What Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Accounting Program?

While course titles, areas of emphasis, and graduation requirements vary among programs, the general subject matter for master's-level accounting programs is typically similar across schools. The list below features descriptions of five advanced courses found in a typical master's in accounting online program.

Curriculum for an Online Master’s Degree in Accounting

Forensic Accounting and Fraud

This course examines prevention and detection of civil and criminal financial statement fraud, preparing students for careers in litigation advisory and support services. Topics include investigation techniques, asset recovery, valuation models, and the use of information technology in forensic accounting.

Advanced Taxation

This course advances understanding of tax law sources, tax research methods, and tax-related complexities in strategic business decisions. Students prepare for tax advisory careers and strengthen analytical skills through comparison of tax structures. The course primarily focuses on tax theory and professional tax responsibilities as they pertain to corporations, estates, and trusts.

Advanced Auditing

Through audit case studies, this course examines advanced internal and external auditing theory and reporting. Students review current research on risk assessment, the regulatory environment, and analytical procedures, with emphasis on professional ethics and conduct. Topics include internal controls, materiality, sampling, and evidential matter.

Advanced Managerial Accounting

This course provides detailed study of complex managerial accounting information with emphasis on supporting strategic planning and control activities. Students prepare for management advisory careers in using and interpreting accounting information to enhance managerial operations and decision-making. Topics include profitability analysis, performance evaluation, capital budgeting, and product costing.

Business Law and Ethics

Using case studies and business law principles, this course surveys legal issues and situational ethics in organizational decision-making. The course covers contracts, employment law, Sarbanes-Oxley compliance, and ethical obligations to stakeholders. Students examine the impact of theories of ethics and justice on strategic legal decision-making in business accounting contexts.

Certifications and Licenses a Master’s in Accounting Prepares For

  • Certified Public Accountant: The CPA credential qualifies accountants for professional public and private practice, including auditing, reporting, and tax advising roles for businesses and individuals. While states' requirements vary, most candidates must earn 150 credits to sit for the CPA exam and possess at least one year of approved accounting work experience.
  • Certified Management Accountant: Offered by the Institute of Management Accountants, the CMA credential qualifies accountants for career advancement into top-level roles in management accounting. Candidates must pass two CMA exams within a three-year period and possess two years of work experience. Credential holders must also complete 30 annual hours of continuing professional education.