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September 29, 2023

Sponsored: Should You Get a MAcc on Your Way to the CPA?

CPA at the end of your name? Powerful and sexy. MAcc? The verdict is still out.

It can be expensive and honestly, accounting firms don’t require a graduate degree to make partner. You might think, “What’s the point?” If you already scored a high paying first job out of undergraduate without a MAcc, is it a useless piece of paper?

Let’s go with every B-school graduate’s favorite answer, “It depends.” After all, the decision is personal and complex. One size fits all advice isn’t going to cut it. Let’s boil it down to facts and leave the rest to you.

Two birds, one stone

All 50 states require 150 credit hours to sit for the exam. Right now, the only exception is the US Virgin Islands and you have to take up residence for at least 30 days to apply for licensure,

Since 150 credit hours is not optional, why not spend the money to bump over 150 credits plus snag a diploma at the end?

Sure, there are a handful of ways to scrap together 150 hours. Why not just enroll in a few extra credit hours? That works, but earning a degree means more bang for your buck. It may be more challenging to pursue the whole degree, but studying for a MAcc makes taking the CPA easier and vice versa.

Valuable intangibles

A degree is more than just a piece of paper. In addition, you get:

  • Skills. If you are a freshly minted general business undergrad, it’s nearly impossible to land that first job without a technical, skill-focused master’s degree. Be prepared for rejection in your job search if you skip it and try to jump directly into the workforce.
  • A technical accounting foundation sets you up for long-term success in the profession.
  • Instant access to a network of professionals and ability to participate in school’s alumni association upon graduation.
  • Graduating sooner rather than later means you have fewer commitments in life overall and more time to devote your academic pursuits.
  • The ability to participate in on-campus recruiting events to help to land your first job in the profession.
  • Access to career center resources such as career counseling, resume help, and negotiation workshops.
  • A higher starting salary? Maybe, depending on the company. Big 4 accounting may offer a pay bump initially for the added credential but this typically is less pronounced after a couple of performance review and salary increase cycles.

CPA + MAcc = Power?

The debate is actually quite heated. If you are successful in the profession without it, great. If you credit your master’s for helping you land your dream job, that’s great too.

However, investing in yourself does have the potential to pay off. People who didn’t initially think the MAcc was worth the money find that the dots connect later in their career. For example, one GC commentator mentioned:

A master's degree will pay off later in life in surprising ways. There will be a time when you are competing for CFO level jobs and all your competitors will have advanced degrees. It also qualifies you to teach at the university level.

Master’s degrees set candidates apart, especially outside of public accounting. It’s safe to say public accounting isn’t for everyone and at some point you might decide to move on to an industry, nonprofit or government career.

The stuff they don’t tell you.

It’s true, MAcc degrees can be expensive, setting you back anywhere from $10,000 to $60,000 per year. However, if the prestige of the school isn’t as important and you're more interested in going easy on your bank account, the 30 Top Affordable Master’s in Accounting have an average net cost of approx. $15,000.

Not only does a MAcc dip into your piggy bank, it also gobbles up your time. Programs typically range from 1 to 2 years but could take longer if you decide to take only one class at a time. The opportunity cost of the time spent earning degree is hefty — especially as an experienced professional. Either forgo the $65,940 average salary or study in the evening and give up your social life for a while. But if you have studied for the CPA, you're used to the latter. University of Scranton Professor Doug Boyle encourages exploring online degree options as an alternative to a traditional program to help buy back some travel time and experience more flexibility:

Moving the curriculum online has enabled the busiest working professionals to enter our program. Particularly those who travel. These professionals have outstanding experience which they share with the class. This is a major asset of the program.

As with any big purchase, it’s key to weigh the cost versus the benefit.

Do you think a MAcc is worthwhile or simply a nice, but unnecessary, feather in your cap?

If you are ready to take the plunge, be sure to check out the Online Master of Accountancy program at University of Scranton. Just think, you could knock out the degree in less than a year. Not to mention, it’s ranked by U.S. News & World Report as a “best value” school so it won’t break the bank.

Image: iStockPhoto/Gizelka

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