Do I Need a Background in Accounting to Apply for a Master’s Degree in Accounting?

Do I Need a Background in Accounting to Apply for a Master's Degree in Accounting?

You may be interested in pursuing a master’s degree for a career in accounting, but are concerned because your bachelor’s degree is in an area of study other than accounting. While it is always best to have prior knowledge of the field in which you plan to work, if only to ensure that you are satisfied with and dedicated to the subject, you don’t necessarily need a background in accounting to apply for a master’s degree in accounting (MAcc). If you received your undergraduate education in a field other than accounting, the following information could help you with your decision to apply to a master’s program in accounting.

Having a Background in Accounting is Not Necessary for Acceptance into MAcc Programs, but it May be in Your Interest

In general, an accounting background is not required of those who wish to enter a master’s program in accounting. In fact, most MAcc programs will admit any candidate as long as he or she already has a bachelor’s degree in any area of study. You would only need to meet the prerequisites for the master’s program to qualify, which may include core accounting courses. According to Monster, it would be a good idea to complete a second bachelor’s degree in accounting, or at least take some undergraduate courses in accounting in order to develop a strong foundation for graduate school. Since the MAcc builds upon the knowledge that you would’ve learned in an undergraduate accounting program, it could be very difficult to keep up with the course load and in-class discussions without already knowing the basics.

However, an Accounting Background Might be Required by Certain Schools

While not every MAcc program requires applicants to have majored in accounting, some programs do reserve spots for accounting majors only. That’s because students with an accounting background have a much higher chance of succeeding in graduate school. MAcc students who drop out due to poor grades not only inconvenience themselves, they also inconvenience the school. As a drop-out, your spot could’ve been awarded to another student who might have been more suited for the MAcc program. The only way to find out which accounting master’s programs require a background in accounting is to contact the individual schools directly. The two-year master’s in accounting program at SUNY Albany is an example of a program that provides for students with no accounting background; other universities offer similar degree options. For more information about online accounting degrees, see 10 Best Online Accounting Schools.

Consider Obtaining Your CPA Instead of the MAcc

A master’s degree in accounting can be advantageous in several ways, but obtaining the CPA should really be your primary focus if you want a career in public accounting. The CPA certification is the most widely-recognized designation for a professional accountant. Having one is proof that you are experienced and competent. The MAcc, on the other hand, is rarely a requirement for employment at an accounting firm. While it may give you a slight edge over job applicants who only have a bachelor’s degree in accounting and have you starting at a slightly higher salary, its significance pales in comparison to the CPA certification. By going the CPA route, you’d be saving a lot of time and money as well. Sitting in on a series of very difficult exams is no walk in the park, but your time and money would probably be better spent on studying for and taking the exams as opposed to doing the MAcc program.

You won’t necessarily need to have a background in accounting in order to apply for and be accepted by a program for a master’s degree in accounting, but it would make getting through the schooling easier on you. If you decide to go for your CPA instead, the 150-hour requirement will generally be the wiser alternative. If you’re still asking, “do I need a background in accounting to get a master’s degree in accounting?” after all that, you’ve probably already made up your mind about doing the MAcc program.

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