What Is a Master of Professional Accounting Degree?

When you begin researching graduate programs in the field of accounting, you may encounter a type of degree called the Master of Professional Accounting degree. These professional degrees, intended to prepare graduates for work in the occupation of accountant, are typically comparable to the average Master of Accountancy or Master of Science in Accounting degree. However, unlike some graduate and doctoral degree programs, a Master of Professional Accounting program focuses on developing the real-world skills accounting professionals need in their employment rather than on scholarly research.

Understanding Graduate Accounting Programs

Accounting degree programs at the master’s level go by a number of different names. As you continue your search for the right college, you’re likely to come across programs that award degrees such as:

  • The Master of Accountancy (M.Acc. or M.Acy.)
  • The Master of Science in Accountancy (M.S.Acy.)
  • The Master of Professional Accountancy (M.P.Acy.)
  • The Master of Professional Accounting (M.P.A.)

Any of these programs can prepare students for a successful accounting career. All of them can help students reach the required number of semester hours necessary to sit for the certified public accountant (CPA) exam. Though they go by different titles and acronyms, these degree programs have a lot in common. Often, they follow similar curricula and are different only in name.

Subjects of Study in a Master of Professional Accounting Degree Program

In many cases, the courses students take in any type of master’s-level accounting degree programs will be similar, regardless of the title of the degree earned. The courses taken in an online Master of Professional Accounting degree program often include advanced accounting and auditing classes, taxation, financial reporting, fraud examination, economics and assurance services, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Most graduate accounting degree programs, including the Master of Professional Accounting degree, focus on equipping students with the practical skills they need to work in the field of accounting. While students may take some fundamental courses in accounting theory, the goal of the program is often to prepare for a career rather than to conduct original research for the sake of scholarship.

Some master’s in accounting programs do include a research component – as do most doctoral accounting degree programs – but as the name implies, the Master of Professional Accounting degree is a professional educational path, not an academic one. Students pursuing this degree will focus more strongly on cultivating strong practical and technical accounting skills. Some M.P.A. programs, like the University of South Dakota’s Master of Professional Accountancy, focus specifically on subjects like preparing for the CPA exam and building broader business and finance skills in addition to accounting knowledge.

Don’t let the unfamiliar name of the degree deter you from choosing your desired program or college. Unless you’re looking for opportunities for scholarly research, a professional degree program like the Master of Professional Accounting degree is what’s most likely to help you reach your goals.

Related resource:

Top 10 Best Online Masters in Accounting Degree Programs 2014