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Accounting is an essential component of any business today, and an online master’s degree program in accounting could ready graduates for CPA licensure or unlock job opportunities for those accountants seeking to boost their careers. To help guide people seeking a flexible way to obtain this graduate degree, Fortune is launching its first-ever ranking of the 11 best online master’s degree programs in accounting.
How long it takes to complete an online master’s in accounting (MAcc) degree will depend on your flexibility and scheduling. Part-time programs will require more time for completion, whereas full-time options may allow students to finish the program in as little as a year. Purdue University’s online program can be completed in 1.5 years at full-time status and Auburn University’s program can be finished in as few as three semesters. Most MAcc programs require at least 30 credit hours to fulfill the required 150 hours needed to sit for the CPA exam, which can take between 12 to 24 months to complete.
Online master’s in accounting programs can vary in cost depending on the school, the total number of required credit hours, and a student’s residency status as in-state or out-of-state. For example, the MAcc program at Ohio University is $973 per credit, with a total estimated tuition cost of $29,190. Meanwhile, SUNY Polytechnic Institute’s cost per credit is $565. Among the schools on Fortune’s ranking, tuitions range from as low as $15,000 to as high as nearly $70,000.
The average annual salary for accountants and auditors is $77,250, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. A MAcc degree, often utilized to help obtain a CPA licensure, can expand job prospects and increase potential salaries. Those people who hold a MAcc degree are more likely to be promoted to senior manager and partner positions. People who hold a CPA, and who may have completed a master’s degree in accounting, are often able to enter C-suite roles, where salaries are well into the six figures.
There are many factors to consider when deciding whether a master’s degree in accounting is worthwhile. Completing a MAcc degree can open to the door to more job opportunities at higher salaries, especially when coupled with a CPA licensure. Some individuals choose to pursue a master’s degree in accounting in order to complete the necessary CPA exam hour requirements, while others are looking to build out their skillset in both accounting and other business related capacities.
The certified public accountant (CPA) licensure and a master’s degree in accounting are different—though often closely related. Master’s in accounting programs are often a means for graduates to obtain the necessary hours required to sit for the CPA exam. CPA hours can still be obtained without a degree program, and it is possible to obtain a CPA license without a master’s degree in accounting, though many individuals with a CPA also have a MAcc. However, MAcc programs can provide helpful insight, skills, and knowledge that may benefit a CPA test taker, and programs often have much higher CPA exam pass rates. Individuals with a CPA or MAcc (or both) are more likely to obtain higher paying jobs an advanced to senior management or partner positions than those without either qualification. One is not necessarily “better” than the other, as they both can boost salaries and opportunities, and they are closely tied.