What is the Difference Between a Master’s of Accounting and an MBA in Accounting?

There are a number of graduate degrees available for professional accountants, leading to the consideration of a Master’s of Accounting vs MBA in Accounting. Each has specific benefits, making both useful choices for business and financial professionals. Read on to learn more about the differences between these two degrees.

MBA in Accounting

The Master of Business Administration degree in Accounting is the typical and traditional route to graduate-level business education for accountants. As a graduate program, it typically requires that students hold a baccalaureate degree in a related field and that they complete coursework traditionally spread over two years of full-time instruction—although many programs offer flexible scheduling. Internships are often required, as are capstone courses that take the place of the thesis traditionally linked to master-level degrees; the MBA is viewed as a practical, professional degree rather than a research degree, after all. The MBA, even with a specialization, is most commonly a generalist degree, as a US News & World Report article notes, helping students to gain understanding of the whole of the business environment rather than deep knowledge of any one facet thereof. That breadth of understanding, likely coupled with the greater name recognition of the degree, leads to the MBA enjoying a typically higher salary than those who hold specialized degrees—if no other factors are involved than the degrees.

Master’s of Accounting

The Master’s of Accounting is related to many other specialized master’s degrees, such as the Master of Accountancy, Master of Professional Accountancy, or Master of Science in Accounting. Generally, a specialized graduate degree in accounting will include a few courses meant to offer a general perspective of the business environment, but it will focus much more narrowly on accounting. Emphases are also frequently available to yet further deepen specific areas of accounting knowledge—taxation is a popular choice, as is reporting and assurance. This means that those with such degrees will have a deeper and more thorough knowledge of accounting practice and theory than their MBA counterparts, making them better suited to accountancy work and better equipped to pursue doctoral coursework. A master’s of accounting also positions its holders well to sit for such exams as the Certified Public Accountant, Certified Management Accountant and Certified Fraud Examiner, since each is an exercise in accounting theory and practice. Holders of such credentials are positioned to demand more in terms of salary and benefits than their uncertified generalist colleagues, making a specialized master’s in accounting a viable professional choice.

When looking at a Master’s of Accounting vs MBA in Accounting, there are many benefits. Both will afford to those who pursue them diligently and sincerely substantial knowledge of the business environment and the accounting practices and theories that undergird it. Both will serve to position students to succeed professionally. The major difference between them is that of the generalist/specialist divide—and both are necessary, which is something to keep in mind when positioning a Master’s of Accounting vs MBA in Accounting.

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