What’s the Difference between a Master’s Degree in Accounting and an MBA?

Although you can become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) with only a bachelor’s degree in accounting, most states require candidates to have five years of formal college education to sit for the CPA exam. Since they must complete an extra year of study anyway, the question for many aspiring accountants isn’t whether to pursue a master’s-level degree, but which degree to pursue: a master’s of science in accounting or a master of business administration (MBA).

Master’s Degrees in Accounting

A master’s degree in accounting delves deep into graduate-level accounting studies. Specialized business school degrees, like the Master of Science in accounting, are becoming increasingly popular, according to U.S. News & World Report. A master’s degree in accounting is a good choice for students who know for sure that accounting is their intended career path, and who want the opportunity to get to know the field better.

Master of Business Administration Degrees

Unlike a Master of Science degree in accounting, an MBA exposes students to the theory and application of business concepts and practices across disciplines. Instead of focusing narrowly on accounting, students in these degree programs will study everything from finance to human resources and marketing to taxation. In the past, an MBA was seen as rare and valuable credential that set candidates on the fast-track to success. While an MBA from a prestigious business school can still be an asset, experts now fear that the once sought-after degree has become too common, according to CBS News.

Choosing Which Is Right for You

A number of considerations factor into deciding which degree program is right for you. For example, you should consider your current level of work experience. If you are fresh out of college, then earning a master’s degree in accounting may make more sense for you than earning an MBA, because you don’t yet have the extensive professional experience in the business world that will enrich your MBA studies. It probably would be more valuable to you to learn the field of accounting in more detail at this point in your life. You should also consider your goals. If you are only interested in increasing your earning potential, an MBA will help you boost your salary more than a master of science in accounting, though both should improve the perception of value that prospective employers have of you.

Both a master’s degree in accounting and an MBA can help you pursue your dream career, but which one makes the most sense for you depend on your desired career path. If you know for sure that you are interested in a career in accounting, then pursuing an MBA might be a waste of time, since you will spend so much of your education studying other areas of business. On the other hand, if you are unsure what facet of business most interests you, your studies in an MBA program can help you gain a broader knowledge base.

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