By Thomas Graf
Ever thought about bookkeeping on your private household? How much money did come in last month, how much slipped away and for what? How much money that you have lent to someone else can you still expect to come back and when? How much money will you have to pay in the next months due to some purchases done already with your credit card?
Transfer this to the world of business and you get an idea of what accountancy is. It’s about collecting data on the financial situation of a firm and communicating this data to important stakeholders such as shareholders, managers, investors in general, business journalists, or governmental institutions.
Accountancy: a common language for stakeholders
In contrast to your private bookkeeping, however, accounting follows a common language - standardized rules that should help stakeholders understand financial statements internationally. Postgraduate programs in Accounting are designed to help you understand this language and to prepare you for auditing, tax preparation, preparing income statements, and for advising managers in how to optimize their balance sheets.
Masters in Accounting Programs: combining different areas
Postgraduate accounting programs usually combine courses in accounting with courses in taxation, finance, and general business and combine in-depth knowledge in the field of Accountancy with broader business knowledge. Depending on the focus, they may also be called MSc of Accounting & Finance or Msc of Accounting & Taxation. In addition to learning the accounting language, postgraduate programs in Accounting also prepare you for the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam. Some schools publish even the pass-rate on their website to express the quality of its program. The McCombs School of Business in the US for instance has a pass-rate of 77%.
Bachelor, Master of Science, MBA, or PhD
Postgraduate programs in accounting can be Masters of Science or MBA programs with a specialization in accounting. Accountancy itself, however, is also taught within undergraduate studies who lead to the Bachelor degree and they can also be the focus of a PhD program in Management.
MPA vs. M acc.
Another distinction is that between programs for students with an academic accounting background and those for students from other disciplines. In general, the Msc of Accounting (MPA) is open for graduates from all disciplines wheras the Msc of Accounting (M. acc.) requires a first academic degree in a related area. There may be exceptions from school to school but this is the rule of thumb.
Masters in Accounting Programs: Structure
About two thirds of the fulltime programs run for one year or less while one third take between one and two years. Part-time Masters , in contrast, allow you to keep on working simultaneously and may take up to several years depending on your own personal speed of study.
Rankings for Masters in Accounting Programs
- The Public Accounting Report – a semi-monthly newsletter from Wolters Kluwer - includes a ranking of the best accounting school in the US once a year. As an example, here is the Public Accounting Report from 2009.
- The U.S. News & World Report provides a ranking of top accounting schools in the US
- World’S Best published a ranking for the US http://www.uscollegeranking.org/business/top-accounting-graduate-school-rankings-in-2011.html
- Times Good University Guide publishes Rankings for the UK
As a MSc in Accounting is a postgraduate degree you need a first academic degree as a precondition. In addition, most programs require a Bachelor in Accounting or a related field, for example in Finance or Banking. In addition, you may need to proove your language skills by the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). In contrast, most postgraduate programs in Accounting do not require the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT).
Tuition fees differ from Business School to Business School. The MSc in Professional Accounting at McCombs School of Business, University of Texas at Austin Share (USA) for instance offers several program modes with a total of between 28,000 and 54,000 US $.In contrast, the MSc in Accounting and Finance of Manchester Business School (UK) takes between 21,000 and 40,000 EUR. Warwick Business School's Master in Accounting &Finance (UK) takes about 26,000 EUR and the MSc of Accounting at the University of Melbourne, Graduate School of Business and Economics (Australia) takes about 24,000 EUR.
Accountants usually have a good life, at least when speaking about money and when they have a professional certificate such as the CPA. The employment perspectives for accountants are favorable and the overall employment rate of accountants is expected to increase from about 1.3 million in 2008 to 1.57 million in 2018. Median annual wages for accountants and auditors were $59,430 in May 2008 with the middle half earning between $45,900 and $78,210 yearly (Source: Occupational Outlook Handbook).
MBA Programs with Accounting
MBA programs with specialization in Accounting can be an alternative to MSc's in Accounting. Originally, the purpose of a Master of Business Administration (MBA) is to provide knowledge in General Management. A specialization, hence, seems like a contradiction to the core idea of an MBA. Nevertheless, the market goes with the demand and innovative Business Schools seem to deviate from the extremes - General Management programs on the one side (for instance, MBA and Master in Management) and specialized Masters on the other (for instance the MSc in Accounting or Human Resources Management). As a consequence, General Management programs offer specialization and specialized programs also provide their students with some general management knowledge. Bottom line for you: Scrutinize your favorite program and its curriculum before you sign the contract - and make sure that you get enough of your favorite courses that you want. An MBA in Accounting, for example, may not prepare you for the CPA exam as a MSc in Accounting may do.
Certified Professional Accountant (CPA)
Many Business Schools also prepare their students for the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam as part of their Accounting programs. The CPA is the US-title for a professional accountant. Accordingly, the exam - Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination - for the CPA is only possible in the United States. It is set by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and administered by the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA). There are, however, also local CPA associations and exams outside of the US. The University of Melbourne Graduate School of Business and Economics for instance offers a MSc of Management with specialization in Accounting as a full-time and part-time program that is certified by the CPA Australia and the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia. Successful completion of the Master prepares students to apply for entry to the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Australia (ICAA) or the Certified Practising Accountant (CPA) professional studies program.
Master of Accountancy: Links
- Masters in Accounting Wikipedia article
- Related Links: the Master of Taxation
- Elsevier: Journal of Accounting Education
- AICPA: American Institute of CPAs
- Example: Manchester Business School: MSc of Accounting & Finance
- Example: Warwick Business School: MSc of Accounting & Finance
- Example: EADA Business School: International Master in Accounting and Finance
- Example: Aalto University School of Business: Master's Degree Programme in Accounting