Accounting attracts people with math and technical skills, as well as those with a desire to play a key role in maintaining accurate financial records for both organizations and individuals. It’s a steady career with good pay and job growth opportunities. An Accounting Master’s Degree Program attracts a different kind of accountant. If you find yourself interested in pursuing a master’s degree in Accounting it is likely that you have core accounting skills and abilities, and also have the ambition to reach leadership positions in the field and play a significant role in driving business strategy.

But what will you learn in a graduate accounting program? The following offers an overview of one MS in Accounting program. But first, a look at the job demand in the accounting field.

Job Opportunities for Accountants

Demand for accountants is always steady and sometimes quite high. Projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) see a strong trend for the next decade both nationwide and in Massachusetts. Pay for accountants has also continued to improve over the years.

The following numbers come from the BLS and from Projections Central, a BLS-powered site that offers career numbers at the state level. Job growth percentages are projected through 2026. Salary numbers are as of May 2017.

  • Nationwide, the number of jobs for accountants will increase 10 percent (faster than the national average for all occupations)
  • Nationwide, the mean annual wage for accountants is $77,920
  • In Massachusetts, the number of jobs for accountants will increase 8.5 percent
  • In Massachusetts, the mean annual wage for accountants is $80,280

Keep in mind that the salary numbers for accountants are for all accountants, including those with undergraduate degrees and those who have not become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Those who earn a master’s degree and CPA licensure position themselves for some of the best jobs in the field.

For example, the top 10 percent of accountants nationwide – those with the most challenging and rewarding jobs – earned a median salary of $122,220, according to the BLS.

What You Learn in an Accounting Master’s Degree Program

Accountants work in all industries. Every type of organization – private, public and nonprofit – needs qualified accountants to balance the books. Accountants are also increasingly asked to play a larger role in developing business strategy.

Some accountants work for firms – or run one of their own – in which they offer accounting services to individuals or act as consultants to businesses. Despite this wide range of career opportunities, accountants at the graduate level are expected to master certain skills. To offer a look into what you learn at the graduate level, the following is taken from coursework and student outcomes in the Merrimack College Master of Science in Accounting program.

It’s worth noting that the program does not require prospective students to take the GMAT and is offered both on the ground and 100% online.

Student Outcomes

The program focuses on three primary areas for students:

Technical skills. This includes the use of software to deal with large datasets, spreadsheet analysis, and taxes.

Environment. Understanding professional ethics and laws governing accounting, assessing the inherent risks in different situations, and understanding the controls needed to manage them.

Knowledge application. Applying what is learned to identify and solve problems and promote better decision-making, as well as developing the skills for in-depth analysis of data.

Within these areas, students will learn how to use the latest technology tools required in the profession, how to interpret and use data, how to develop innovative approaches to business strategy and will acquire the communication skills needed for effective leadership and management.

Core Courses

Drilling down further, the Accounting Master’s Degree program offers a core curriculum that develops students’ knowledge and skills in key areas of accounting. Note that at the graduate level, coursework moves into areas of leadership, management and driving innovative business strategy.

  • Financial Reporting and Statement Analysis
  • Professional Ethics
  • Professional Skills
  • Marketing Analysis and Decision Making
  • Assurance Services
  • Taxation of Business Entities
  • Effective Managerial Communication
  • Competition, Innovation, and Strategic Advantage

Elective Courses

A student can also choose from a number of elective courses to complete their degree program. Each elective covers in more detail concepts related to specific and focused areas of accounting. They include:

  • Accounting Information Systems
  • Business Law
  • Forensics Accounting
  • Not-For-Profit and Government Accounting

The courses and the expected student outcomes from the Merrimack College Master of Science in Accounting program offer insight into what is learned as you seek a graduate degree. It takes a commitment of time and energy. However, the return on investment can prove high for those who put in the effort.