If you’re comparing the value of graduate school accounting specializations versus generalist accounting, you’ll find that there are there many specializations to consider, according to the American Institute of CPAs. Whether you envision yourself as independent accountant or the owner of a firm, when you specialize you’ll be able to narrow your marketing efforts to those clients who need your expertise. At some point in your education, the area of specialization that appeals to you most will guide you in selecting your electives. No matter what area you’re drawn to, you’ll still perform the basic accounting tasks of preparing and verifying financial documents.
1. Tax Accounting
If tax accounting appeals to your need for organization and accuracy, look for a master’s program that includes a tax concentration. Only CPAs are qualified to file reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which is part of a tax accountant’s job, so be prepared for additional semester hours to become licensed. You’ll also need to study tax law and how to use accounting software.
The duties of a tax accountant include preparation of local, state, and federal tax returns. It is the responsibility and expectation that they will stay current on government regulations and tax law changes. They are directly involved in audits and are responsible for compliance with agency regulations.
2. Forensic Accounting
If the mix of accounting, investigation, and law attracts you, a master of science in forensic accounting will get you there. In addition to the accounting basics, you’ll study legal procedure, investigation, law, how to manage evidence, and internal auditing.
With a master’s in forensic accounting, you can look forward to a career as an internal or external auditor or a government investigator. You could even be called as an expert witness in cases of illegal accounting practices. In the current climate of fraud investigations, you could find yourself tackling healthcare fraud, organized crime, and even terrorism.
3. Financial Accounting
In the competitive career field of financial accounting, a master’s degree can make you more marketable. A specialized graduate program should focus on financial management, international accounting, and advanced accounting. You’ll study how to document corporate expenses and profits and the federal regulations that apply.
As a financial accountant, you’ll be held to the common financial accounting rules known as “generally accepted accounting principles” (GAAP). If you end up working for a publicly traded company, you’ll need to comply with the SEC regulations as well.
4. Economics and Finance
If you’re going on to graduate school to specialize in economics and finance, you’ll study quantitative methodologies, economic theory, and international financial markets. You’ll receive advanced training in portfolio management, risk management and the pricing of derivatives.
With this specialization you can expect to find a position as an analyst and financial adviser usually at a bank, investment firm or as a private consultant. While it’s unlikely you’ll walk into a Director of Finance position, your degree will set you on that path if that’s where you want to go.
5. Manufacturing Cost Accounting
If your accounting specialization is in manufacturing cost accounting, an MBA with an emphasis in accounting will serve you well. There are some quality online schools that offer a master’s degree in accounting as well. A cost accountant is responsible for manufacturing activities including inventory valuation, cost of goods sold valuation, constraint analysis, margin analysis, variance analysis, and budgeting.
Related Resource: Top 20 Master of Accounting Online Degree Programs 2015
No matter which accounting specialization you choose, you’ll still need the basics of accounting. You’ll also need to be certified. You might find some other graduate school accounting specialization degree programs that speak to you.