The accounting profession has several academic routes to numerous specialized, challenging and rewarding careers. Many professionals choose to advance their careers by earning a Master of Accounting (MAcc) degree or a Master of Business Administration (MBA) with an accounting emphasis. A flexible education option like the online MBA with a Concentration in Accounting program from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi (TAMU-CC) can work particularly well for busy working professionals focused on the strategic business management side of the evolving field.

Four Factors to Consider

There are many things to consider when deciding on an educational path, depending on one’s goals, experience and circumstances. The following are four factors of particular importance:

1. Career Objectives

The MBA option is for candidates who want to become well-rounded business professionals, with versatile accounting skill sets suitable to diverse roles in many organizations. Accounting professionals who choose the corporate training of an MBA often choose this path in order to learn the language of business, close communication gaps between functional departments and become stronger players in areas of business strategy. This can be particularly beneficial given the increasing level of AI-driven task automation in accounting, a development that will shift accountants’ duties to be more analytical, advisory and strategic, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Some candidates choose the MBA to expand their business and accounting knowledge while accumulating the required credits to sit for the CPA exam. Professionals who want to change careers and work in accounting often choose a specialized MBA instead of completing more undergraduate work. An MBA enhances a career changer’s professional profile and earnings potential. Plus, the broad business knowledge gained through core MBA coursework provides graduates with transferable skills and knowledge, facilitating career versatility.

Accounting is the core area of study in MAcc programs, many of which offer few business courses outside of accounting. MAcc programs provide a tight focus on accounting roles, including Certified Public Accountant (CPA), internal and external auditors, and government accountants. Many MAcc candidates choose the degree to help themselves prepare for the CPA exam or pursue a specific role in accounting.

2. Professional Qualifications

MAcc degree programs do not typically require professional work experience. Accomplishments in the field and clearly articulated career goals are not usually strong factors in admissions decisions. MBA programs may emphasize professional experience as part of the admissions process, though program requirements vary widely.

3. Prerequisite Expertise

Most MBA programs do not test for prerequisite accounting knowledge or previous accounting coursework as an admissions requirement. Often, MAcc programs have varying levels of accounting knowledge expectations for candidates. Both types of programs typically require a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university. Some MBA programs also require leveling or foundational courses for students whose undergraduate degrees are not in a business-related field.

4. Income potential

Unsurprisingly, many prospective graduate students will consider the possible boost in income a particular program offers. Both an MBA and an MAcc can prepare students for accounting careers with solid salaries. The MAcc focuses specifically on the accounting field, which has opportunities for upward mobility. However, the versatility, managerial expertise and leadership potential developed through an MBA program specifically prepares graduates for high-earning, upper-level management and executive positions. At the same time, the well-rounded MBA can expand a graduate’s employment opportunities beyond the traditional accounting career funnel.

Taken together, this may afford the MBA graduate a higher income potential, on average. According to GMAC’s 2023 Corporate Recruiters Survey, MBA graduates are more in demand than MAcc graduates, globally. Further, surveyed recruiters planned on offering new MBA grads a median salary of $125,000 in 2023, compared to $75,000 for MAcc grads.

A Broad Level MBA With a “Major”

Like a general MBA, an MBA in accounting is a professional graduate degree program that centers on business as the principal area of study. For example, TAMU-CC’s high-level business curriculum comprises core courses in marketing, finance, economics, business technology, strategy, organizational behavior and operations, preparing students for diverse roles in business.

The skills these courses develop are necessary to perform competently in management and executive-level positions. Companies of all sizes seek professionals with this type of comprehensive skill set and knowledgebase. The broad MBA curriculum is just as vital for entrepreneurial-minded candidates who need well-rounded business skills.

The MBA in accounting adds a focused accounting addendum to the core business courses. Much of the coursework in accounting is similar to the MAcc, and programs vary — often in accordance with regional employment needs or emerging specialized roles. TAMU-CC’s online MBA in Accounting includes the following accounting concentration courses:

  • Taxes & Business Strategy provides a framework to analyze how tax rules affect decision-making. Cases in tax planning reveal how changes in tax rules influence the behavior of various constituents in the broad business and regulatory environment.
  • Advanced Auditing & Assurance Services covers fraud and operational auditing, assurance services for IT and e-commerce, auditor ethics, legal liability and risk assessment.
  • Forensic Accounting covers the concepts and skills in forensic accounting investigations, including the use of technological tools, witness interviewing techniques and report writing.
  • Oil, Gas & Energy Accounting includes upstream oil and gas operations, successful efforts accounting, international operations, oil and gas taxation, and analysis of oil and gas financial statements.

In any accounting field, continuing education is the key to becoming more knowledgeable and marketable. Whether a professional is a candidate for an MBA or an MAcc, they can feel confident either path will help enhance career prospects.

Learn more about TAMU-CC’s online MBA in Accounting program.