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Master’s in Accounting Grads Becoming More Popular With Employers

According to the latest AICPA Trends in the Supply of Accounting Graduates and the Demand for Public Accounting Recruits report (2013), demand for accounting grads is up. But we knew that. Also according to the report, demand for accounting grads with master's degrees is up. We knew that as well but did we know just how up it is?

Take a look at the data on new accounting grads hired by accounting firms. The report shows historical data going back to 1971 (when total demand was a whopping 8,800 graduates). Below, you'll see demand for bachelor's grads (B), master's grads (M) and total demand (T):

  • 2008: 19,110 (B), 6,378 (M), 25,488 (T)
  • 2010: 19,870 (B), 13,451 (M), 33,321 (T)
  • 2012: 23,793 (B), 16,557 (M), 40,350 (T)

As you can clearly see, demand for master's grads more than doubled from 2008 to 2010. Throughout the 80s and most of the 90s, that number was closer to an average of 2500 grads per reporting year. Note the report states 90% of new CPA firm master's hires are MAcc graduates. Meanwhile, Master's in Tax isn't as popular and the report calls the continuing decline "a concern."

Now… to the point (surely you knew I was going to make a point eventually?).

U.S. News loves to shill about opportunities in accounting almost as much as Yahoo!, and this latest article on "leveraging" (their word, not mine) job prospects with a master's in accounting is no exception. Let's take a peek:

Accounting has long been considered a reliable profession, but it's recently become something else: in-demand.

Out of 565 employers from around the world, 45 percent plan to hire master of accounting graduates this year, according to a survey from the Graduate Management Admission Council. In last year's survey, only 36 percent of employers planned to hire business school graduates with this degree.

Full-time master in accounting​ programs usually take one year to complete and accept students fresh out of undergrad. The job hunt for many of these students begins before they step foot on campus.

"We can connect with the students that have been accepted into the program – immediately – and start working with them and preparing them for fall recruiting," says Andy Rabitoy, director for undergraduate career services at the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington, which also works with students pursuing a master of professional accounting​. His office helps students with several job-related needs such as interview preparation and fine-tuning their resumes.

And this differs from bachelor's grads how, exactly? They get to go to recruiting events too.

The difference, according to Michael Akers, chairman of the accounting department at Marquette University, is that master's candidates are more well-rounded and well-spoken:

A master's program can help students meet the credit requirement and help students become familiar with material that will be on the tests. These programs are certainly not necessary for getting into accounting, experts say, but they offer benefits that students may not get with just a bachelor's degree.

"The learning experience is different at the undergraduate level," says Akers. "What graduate programs are trying to do are provide lifelong skills – whether it be more on writing, communicating, analytical reasoning – that will benefit them down the road."

Overall, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that employment of accountants and auditors is projected to grow 13 percent from 2012 to 2022. While the BLS doesn't lay out demand based on degree, it does say "some employers prefer to hire applicants who have a master’s degree, either in accounting or in business administration with a concentration in accounting."

So go ahead and keep leveraging that master's. Just make sure you do it for the right reasons and not because some shill article told you to.