After completing a master’s degree in accounting, graduate students will be ready to maximize their professional potential in their field. While nothing prevents someone with a master’s degree in accounting from working as a bookkeeper or auditing clerk, the main reason someone will attend a master’s program in accounting is to become a CPA.
The curriculum of most master’s accounting programs is specifically tailored to prepare students to take and pass the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination (CPA Exam). This exam consists of four sections that can be completed over two days. However, students may take only one section at a time as long as they complete and pass all four sections within an 18-month period.
Beyond passage of the CPA Exam, each state may have its own requirements. For example, most states require CPAs to have taken at least 150 credit hours of college courses. And once a person becomes a CPA, they must meet their states’ continuing education requirements to maintain their CPA license.
Beyond the CPA designation, accountants and auditors may obtain additional certifications, offered by professional organizations such as the Institute of Internal Auditors, ISACA, Institute of Management Accountants and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
After earning the CPA credential, individuals will be able to maximize their ability to work as a public accountant or internal auditor. For example, it’s common for graduates to work at one of the “Big Four” accounting firms: PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young, Deloitte or KPMG. One of the more notable services these companies provide is the auditing of financial statements prepared internally by major public corporations. To do much of this work, individuals are legally required to be a CPA.
Another popular career path is to become a financial examiner. These professionals review an organization’s finances to ensure they are following applicable laws and regulations. They may also evaluate credit risks and make other financial assessments.
The growth and earnings potential for accountants, auditors and financial examiners is very good. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that accountants and auditors make a median salary of $70,500 with a projected 2016-2026 growth rate of 6 percent. As for financial examiners, their growth rate is projected to be 7 percent with a median salary of $81,180.