What is an MBA in Accounting?

What is an MBA in AccountingAn MBA in Accounting is a professional graduate degree program. Unlike terminal master’s degree programs, MBA programs with a concentration in accounting are not entirely focused on the discipline. Instead, students will take advanced business courses to learn a variety of different skills and concentration courses that pertain specifically to principles that apply to the field. If you would like to continue your education, read on and decide if the MBA in Accounting is the right program.

What Will You Learn While Studying for an MBA with a Concentration in Accounting?

When you study for an MBA, you will take several different advanced courses in broad subject areas that are centered around business. If you decide to concentrate your degree in accounting, you will still take the broad core courses in areas of study like marketing, finance, and human resources, but you will also take accounting courses that will act as an addendum to the core requirements. If you were to study for a Master’s in Accounting, the core of the curriculum would be in accounting. Still, much of the coursework you complete is similar in nature. You can expect to take the following courses while studying for an accounting MBA degree:

  • Financial Accounting
  • Cost Accounting
  • Fundamentals in Managerial Accounting
  • Cost Management
  • Tax Planning
  • Auditing
  • Accounting in Acquisitions and Mergers
  • Problems in Financial Reporting
  • Business Strategy

A handful of business courses that may also be required in an MBA program include Managing Change, Pricing Strategy, Retailing, Sales Management, Behavioral Economics, Business Negotiation, and Global Strategy. MBA programs often offer students the option to take a few electives as part of their curriculum, but choosing a concentration in accounting usually means that the electives in the program are required in accounting courses.

Requirements to Enter Accounting MBA Programs

One of the things about MBA programs is that they have unique admissions requirements. Unlike a terminal graduate degree program, where you must have an undergraduate degree in a specific subject area, the major of your bachelor’s degree does not matter even when you want to pursue a concentration in accounting. This is because MBA programs encourage a diverse student base of professionals who have work experience and who want to network while they learn.

To get accepted to the most respected programs, you will need an accredited four-year degree and a certain level of professional experience. The level of experience varies from business school to business school, but a majority want to see that you have worked in business for two to three years before you apply to an MBA program.

For MBA in Accounting candidates who don’t have a business or accounting degree and need to take prerequisite classes to qualify for enrollment, some of the courses that the student may need to take are Introduction to Accounting, Managerial Accounting, Automated Accounting, Federal Income Tax, Corporate Taxation, and Tax Accounting.

In addition to classes in accounting, accounting MBA candidates who don’t have a business or accounting degree may need to take remedial or catch-up courses like Introduction to Business, Corporate Governance, Business Leadership, Business Law, Management, Entrepreneurship, and Corporate Finance. Students may also need to take classes like Principles of Economics, Introduction to Computers, and Business Communications.

Some accounting MBA programs may have specific requirements when it comes to previous classes. Other programs may only have an overall requirement for the number of credits earned in accounting, business, or both. It’s essential that MBA applications are submitted only after a student has confirmed he or she has taken all necessary classes to earn acceptance into the program.

In some cases, a student may be able to secure conditional acceptance where full entry into the program is offered only after the student has taken remedial or catch-up classes that satisfy the degree’s prerequisites. While it’s possible for students with any educational background and a bachelor’s degree to apply to an MBA program, many programs still have specific class requirements for their applicants.

Who Should Enroll in an Accounting MBA Program?

Accounting MBAThere are a variety of different types of prospective graduate students who can benefit from studying for their MBA with an Accounting concentration. One possible candidate is a student who has a bachelor’s degree in accounting and who wants to expand their knowledge and get more credits so that they can sit for the CPA exam. Another candidate is someone who has a degree in an unrelated area and who would like to switch to accounting without having to complete more undergraduate coursework. Business owners who have little accounting know-how may also want to consider developing their leadership skills and accounting skills by graduating with an MBA in Accounting.

There is no specific age requirement for MBA Accounting programs, but many degree-seekers have about five years of work experience, according to an article published by the Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt University. The average age of students in Vanderbilt’s MBA program is 28, and many programs tend to have the same or greater average age for their students.

Many programs request or even require that their students have about four or five years of work experience because that timeline usually hits at a point when the business professional is thinking about career advancement. Since an MBA also represents an excellent option for anyone interested in switching industries, the five-year mark is often when an industry change becomes most attractive.

While there is no single “best” candidate for an accounting MBA program, it may still behoove students to look at the typical student who applies to the program they want to enter. Some universities focus on students who have several years of work experience, and other programs often accept students who have just a modest amount of time in the workforce.

Length of College MBA Degree Programs

There are many ways to earn an accounting MBA with different program lengths that vary from 12 to 18 months for an accelerated program to around five years for a combination program that awards an MBA and another degree like a J.D. or a Master of Accountancy. Not only may the length of the program vary from one MBA to another, but the content of the curriculum may also vary from school to school.

For a traditional, full-time MBA, the expected completion time for most programs is two years. Enrolling in an accelerated MBA usually results in a completion time of 12 to 18 months. Applicants who are eligible for accelerated programs are usually students who have significant experience in the working world.

Enrolling in a part-time schedule is also popular, and a part-time MBA program will usually take around three years. Students can also expect to finish their weekend or evening MBA program in about two years, but some programs may take more than two years if the student only attends classes on the weekend. An executive MBA program may take anywhere from one to two years, and the same is true for most online MBA in accounting programs.

The Admissions Process for MBA Programs

Applying to business school often requires a fair number of documents, and students who apply may feel overwhelmed at the complexity of the application process versus what might have been required for undergraduate school. Like virtually all other degree programs, MBA Accounting programs will always require transcripts from the student’s undergraduate degree and any graduate-level work attempted.

Proof of having earned an undergraduate degree is also required, but colleges usually consider official transcripts as sufficient proof. Further, MBA programs may require that students prove they earned their bachelor’s degree in one of several approved subjects. Common subjects include business, accounting, finance, and related areas. MBA in accounting programs often require a Bachelor of Science in Accounting or a similar degree.

After completing the official application, submitting official transcripts, and paying a fee that may range from $50 to $200 per application, students will usually submit one or all of the following items.

  • Standardized test scores from the GMAT or GRE
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Resume or CV
  • Proof of English language proficiency for non-domestic students

For some of the nation’s most prestigious MBA programs, interviews may be required at some point in the process. Those interviews may take place on the university or college campus. Degree programs like those offered at Harvard University even require a post-interview reflection essay, which is where the candidate must write an essay within 24 hours that offers his or her thoughts about the interview.

Taking the GRE or GMAT for an MBA Program

MBA in AccountingConversations about standardized tests as an entry requirement for college degree programs have become a hot topic in higher education in the last few years. Currently, there are four standardized tests that a graduate school applicant may see on the requirements for entry into an MBA or MBA in Accounting program. Those tests include the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT).

Some graduate students may need to take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) or the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) if they’re entering a combination program that awards an MBA, as well as a law degree or a medical degree. In most circumstances, students will need to take the GRE or the GMAT, but some MBA programs don’t require any standardized test during the application process.

Prospective students of MBA programs should usually take the GRE or GMAT well in advance of completing the application process. Enrolling in a test prep course might help students who feel they aren’t the best at taking tests. An article from U.S. News & World Report actually recommends taking both exams, so students can submit the test score that is higher since many MBA programs accept scores from either test.

Are Online MBAs as Good as On-Campus MBAs?

Many of the most well-regarded schools in the United States offer degrees that may be earned completely online with zero or very little time spent in on-campus situations. The concept of an online MBA versus an on-campus MBA will likely become a less important topic as more and more schools begin to offer all students the choice of on-campus or off-campus enrollment.

The biggest consideration for MBA students in choosing an on-campus or online program will likely be in figuring out whether one program is more suited to the student’s personal needs. Some students may thrive in an online program because it gives them a chance to study at their own pace without the requirement of a daily class schedule. Online study is also an excellent option for students who enjoy the peace and quiet of an online class taken in the privacy of their home.

On the other hand, students who have trouble getting motivated to complete their assignments might fare best in an on-campus program where their presence is required on specific days. There are even hybrid program options that students may consider where some MBA classes are offered online, and others are held on campus. The good news is that it’s easy to find reputable and respected MBA programs whether the choice is made to attend an online MBA in Accounting program or an on-campus program.

An MBA in Finance Versus an MBA in Accounting

The decision to enroll in an accounting or finance MBA program is one that will usually come down to a student’s future career goals. An accounting program will usually delve deep into the world of corporate or business taxes, as well as financial reporting. Accounting programs commonly act as preparation for the CPA exam, and students may also have the opportunity to specialize in a specific area of accounting.

Some of the specializations that students might be able to pursue in an accounting program include taxation, financial accounting, and auditing. Meanwhile, students who pursue an MBA degree in finance may get to concentrate in an area like global finance, portfolio management, or mergers & acquisitions. There are similar careers available to students in finance and accounting programs, but the specifics of the program curriculums may lead students to choose one path or the other.

Choosing an MBA Program or a Master’s in Accounting Degree

Another consideration future graduate students must make is whether to enroll in an MBA program or pursue a Master’s in Accounting or Master of Accountancy degree. The primary difference in the two options is that an M.A. in Accounting will usually focus almost completely on the field of accounting, and an MBA program in accounting will deliver content on accounting, as well as business.

Related resource: Top 35 Online Master’s in Accounting Degree Programs

Is an Accounting MBA Good for a Future CPA?

Earning an MBA with a concentration in accounting isn’t the traditional way one might become a CPA. However, an MBA with an accounting focus is an excellent option for current CPAs who want to advance their careers into an area of upper management or who want to pursue a career change or become a Chief Financial Officer (CFO).

Students who want to become a CPA can often use their MBA as part of the 150 hours of required education, but it’s not an option in every state. It’s important to check with the state rules for taking the CPA exam before enrolling in an MBA program and having an end goal of becoming a CPA. The better choice might be a Master of Accountancy or a similar degree.

MBA/MS Accounting Dual Degrees

One of the ideal combinations of degrees that students may pursue when they have an interest in accounting is the MBA and Master of Science in Accounting combination option. These combination programs will often help students earn their degrees in fewer months than it might take to earn the degrees back-to-back or entirely separately.

A couple of examples of combination degrees include the MBA/MSBA from the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame, which only takes two years to complete, and the MBA/MSA from the Eller College of Management at the University of Arizona. The University of Delaware also has an MBA + M.S. in Accounting program, and Clark University offers an MBA/Masters in Accounting option.

Expected Salaries for MBA Accounting Jobs

According to numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), individuals who work as accountants and auditors can expect median pay of $71,550 per year, which translates to $34.40 per hour. The average accountant has a bachelor’s degree, which means earning an MBA in Accounting may help a graduate qualify for a better-paying occupation.

For example, a graduate with an advanced degree in accounting and business may eventually climb the corporate ladder to become a top executive or member of senior management. Executives often have bachelor’s degrees in an area like business, finance, or accounting, as well as a master’s degree in business administration and earn more than $100,000 each year when they’re initially hired.

Those with a keen interest in accounting jobs in upper management or the executive level may benefit from enrolling in an accounting MBA program. Executive pay may become available in businesses that offer finance and insurance services, as well as accounting and tax preparation services and within the government.

Where are the Most MBA Jobs in the United States?

The goal of many MBA in Accounting graduates is to find work as a general or operations manager or to earn a spot on the executive team at their company. Numbers compiled for the Occupational Employment Statistics section on general and operations managers from the BLS indicates that the states with the most jobs in this area are in California, Texas, and New York, but those figures are often just a reflection of the large populations of those states.

For states with the highest density of available jobs in business management, locations include the District of Columbia, Utah, and Massachusetts. MBA graduates seeking the highest wages will find the best options in states like New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. More specifically, the cities where individuals are employed at the highest possible wages include the Bridgeport, Connecticut area, the New York, New York area, and the San Jose, California area.

Related Degrees That Might Interest Accountants

Accounting students who decide that an MBA isn’t the right path have many alternatives available that may lead to employment in areas like finance, management, organizational leadership, or project management. Degrees a prospective graduate student might want to pursue are the Master of Finance, Master of Accountancy, or the J.D., which is a degree in law.

Is the Cost of an MBA Worth It in the Long Run?

Earning an MBA is a serious investment of time and money, and future MBA grads might wonder whether the time spent in school is worth the price. Is the cost of an MBA worth the effort and expense? The answer will usually become apparent only after several factors are considered.

For example, some MBA programs are very expensive but have the prestige to justify the price tag. Students who earn a Harvard MBA will end up paying more than $100,000 per year, but there are very few MBA programs on the planet that are more respected.

On the other hand, there are some MBA programs that don’t carry the same price tag or prestige, but that offer an excellent value due to the quality of the program compared to the cost. A list from U.S. News & World Report indicates that online MBA programs from Oklahoma State University and Sam Houston State University are both affordable, as well as highly ranked for the quality of their programs.

However, an essential factor in measuring the potential for future success is the student’s dedication to his or her career. An MBA from the best business school in the world won’t help a student who doesn’t have the drive to pursue their career goals with fervor and enthusiasm after he or she graduates. Success in the business world at the very top of the corporate ladder often requires years of dedication, intelligence, and drive to succeed.


Continuing education is always important in business. If you want to become a more marketable professional than you already are or you want to start a transition in your professional life, it is time to start planning. Compare the program offerings and decide if the MBA in Accounting will help you achieve your career goals.

Related Resources: