What Is the Highest Level of Study in Accounting?

A formal college education is a must for aspiring accountants. Though you can enter the field with just a bachelor’s degree, many students are more ambitious. They know that earning an advanced degree can enhance their future career prospects. There are various accounting degrees these students can earn beyond the undergraduate bachelor’s degree, including multiple degree paths at both the master’s and doctorate level.

Masters in Accounting

Many accounting students choose to obtain a master’s in accounting degree along with their bachelor’s degree as part of a five-year program, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s because students must complete 150 semester hours of study, about five years, to be eligible to take the examination to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). If you want to become a CPA and would like to make your extra year of study count for something beyond CPA credits, a combined masters in accounting program might be a good choice for you.

Master of Business Administration

A master of business administration (MBA) degree is a graduate-level degree with a wider focus than a master’s degree in accounting, business, finance or a related field. MBA degrees can prepare students for a variety of jobs ranging from finance to marketing and, yes, accounting. An MBA student may choose to pursue a concentration in accounting. A major difference between master’s degrees in accounting and MBAs is that the accounting degree will delve deeper into advanced studies in accounting specifically, while the MBA degree program will cover a broader range of material in less depth. In the past, the MBA has been seen as a pathway to a lucrative career, but the recent changes in the economy and an influx of new MBA graduates have made it harder for even MBA graduates to land their dream jobs, according to Businessweek.

Doctorate Degrees

There are two doctoral degrees that relate to the field of accounting: the Ph.D. in accounting and the Doctor of Business Administration. Both degree programs are research-based. A Ph.D. in accounting is an excellent choice for candidates who would ultimately like to become college accounting professors, according to Accounting Doctoral Scholars. The Doctor of Business Administration (DBA), like the Master of Business Administration degree, is less narrowly focused on accounting in particular and instead includes studies in the broader field of business administration.

Whether you should earn a doctoral degree in accounting or stop at the master’s degree level depends on your future career goals. Are you thinking of furthering your education in accounting to become part of the research and academic community, or simply to prepare yourself for management positions within the field of public or private accounting? Once you know your goals and which degree path you want to pursue, you can begin earning an advanced degree that can allow you to access new career opportunities, earn a higher salary and enjoy the prestige of working in a senior or management-level positions.

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