Insights from the Girard School of Business.
Earning a graduate accounting degree prepares accountants for the best jobs in the profession, including chief financial officer, strategic management accountant, and management analyst. In addition, an accounting degree can help you earn credits needed to become a certified public accountant. A Master’s Degree in Accounting can qualify you for many types of jobs. In some cases, a bachelor’s degree is all that is required to enter an accounting profession. However, a graduate accounting degree provides a competitive edge for candidates, especially when seeking higher-profile roles and jobs. All salary figures are from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Top Jobs for Graduates with Accounting Degrees
Chief Financial Officer
A chief financial officer (CFO) manages the financial activities of a company. They also ensure that the proper reports are filed both in-house with executives and with regulatory and tax agencies. Getting into the profession requires a bachelor’s degree. However, “many employers now seek candidates with a master’s degree, preferably in business administration, finance, accounting, or economics,” according to the BLS.
The mean annual salary for financial managers in May 2018 was $146,830, according to the BLS. In Massachusetts, that number was $148,300.
Strategic Management Accountant
This relatively new position pulls accountants into the process of creating business strategy. Accountants ensure that the financial expectations are reasonable and that current trends and predictive data are used correctly to vet potential strategies. The BLS does not yet track salaries for this position.
Sometimes referred to as a management consultant, accountants in this position help a company to develop ways of becoming more efficient and profitable. This can involve everything from changes in financial strategy and human resources to invest in technology. This is a high-level position that most companies prefer to fill with an accountant who holds a graduate accounting degree, according to the BLS.
Management analysts made a mean annual wage of $94,390 in May 2018, according to the BLS. Those in Massachusetts made $110,150.
A government accountant works primarily in two areas. In the first, they oversee accounting operations for public agencies, ensuring that tax dollars are spent appropriately. In the second, they routinely look at the finances of private companies who, by law, are subject to government regulation. They can work at the federal, state and local government level. The BLS reports that the median annual salary for government accountants reached $68,420 in May 2018.
As reported by the BLS, those who become financial managers have experience in accounting. Also, the federal agency reports that many employers prefer those with a master’s degree in accounting or a related field. Financial managers can vary depending on the position, but generally, they prepare financial statements, forecast revenue and expenses and seek ways to cut costs by reviewing company operations. The BLS reports that pay for financial managers reached $146,840 in May 2018. In Massachusetts, that number is $148,300.
Become a CPA
Earning a master’s degree will help you acquire the 150 credit hours needed to become a licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA). The graduate degree hours will be added to the 120 hours you likely earned through a bachelor’s degree, which is one of the reasons those who want to become a licensed CPA often pursue graduate school.
That begs the following question: is becoming a CPA worth it? About half of the 1.3 million accountants in the country are CPAs. The BLS does not track salaries for CPAs vs. accountants without CPAs, but Investopedia notes that “at the end of the day, companies value the higher standard to which CPAs are held.” They estimate that most CPAs earn in the upper range of BLS salary estimates for accountants, which is around $122,000.
Earning a graduate accounting degree prepares accountants for the top jobs in their profession, both in terms of responsibility and pay. For ambitious accountants who want to join the leadership ranks in their companies, earning a master’s degree can make the difference.