The Best Master’s in Accounting Programs

If you love solving intricate problems, working with team members, and taking on new challenges every day, a career in accounting may be ideal for you. 

In general, accounting involves the analysis of capital allocation and management by diverse organizations. Simply put, you cannot operate a successful business without excellent accounting support.

To be an excellent accountant, you’ll need to care about the details and the fine print. You’ll be curious about how different departments within a business interact and how social, political, and economic trends potentially impact a business. 

You’ll play a key role in helping businesses simultaneously increase revenue and lower costs, typically with a priority on sustainability.

It’s worth mentioning that accountants tend to earn attractive salaries. The position itself is anticipated to grow 10% from 2016 to 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and a 2017 Monster survey revealed that accounting and auditing professionals are some of the most satisfied workers across all disciplines.

The great thing about pursuing a master of accounting (MAC) degree is that it almost always provides an excellent return on investment. 

You’ll need to pass the CPA (Uniform Certified Public Accountant) exam to gain employment, and many of the featured graduate programs in accounting in the U.S. boast 100% pass rates for first-time test-takers.

Here are 10 of the best master’s in accounting programs in the U.S. These schools were selected because of their top ranking in major publications, such as U.S. News, Niche, College Factual, and College Rank.

University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School (Chapel Hill, NC)

UNC Kenan Flagler School of Business
Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons

UNC touts the top-ranked online master of accounting degree in the nation. Perfect for working professionals, travelers, military service members, or people raising a family, the online MAC offers four start dates throughout the year for students to commence 36-48 credits, depending on their prerequisites.

98% of UNC’s accounting graduates receive an offer of employment within three months of graduating, typically from some of the “Big 4” accounting firms – Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young, and KPMG, which manage over 78% of all public audits in the United States and 99% of all public company sales.

 Starting salaries approach $60k and tend to double within only five years!

An additional on-campus MAC is similarly accessible and renowned for excellent post-graduate employment rates, providing the added benefits of attending graduate school in one of the most beautiful and fastest-growing cities in the southeast: Chapel Hill. 

Many MAC students participate in global immersions to major international business destinations like Shanghai, Istanbul, and London, where they get to interact with business executives from companies like Google and Proctor & Gamble. Talk about excellent networking opportunities!

Texas A&M University Mays Business School (College Station, TX)

The Mays Business School offers two exciting tracks for candidates pursuing an MS in accounting: assurance services/information management and tax consulting/financial planning. The average incoming student has a proven track record of personal and professional leadership and a mean GRE of 302.

Within the assurance services/information management track, participants investigate business and accounting concepts from the lens of an assurance services professional. 

Out-of-the-box thinking and collaborative problem-solving are heavily emphasized, alongside impeccable written and oral communication skills.

Within the realm of tax consulting/financial planning, students immerse themselves in resolving real-world tax problems and using databases to research and interpret modern tax codes. 

Graduates differentiate taxing solutions for entities of various sizes and types, including partnerships, estates, corporations, and trusts. 

Regardless of which track candidates select, they will benefit from experiential learning opportunities led by reputable companies like Deloitte, Halliburton, and ExxonMobil.

University of Wisconsin-Madison Wisconsin School of Business (Madison, WI)

University of Wisconsin Madison Wisconsin School of Business
Michael Barera, University of Wisconsin–Madison August 2022 57 (Grainger Hall), CC BY-SA 4.0

Within just a year, ambitious graduate students can complete the MAC in one of the most beautiful capital cities in the nation – Madison, Wisconsin. 

The Wisconsin School of Business flaunts a 100% placement rate within three months of graduation and maintains a top ten position for CPA exam pass rates in the United States.

There are three paths to achieving a MAC at U Wisconsin-Madison – with completion dates ranging from one to two years – and each track connects participants to high-impact internships at major accounting firms. 

Degree candidates regularly participate in case competitions and benefit from support within accounting-related student organizations. Alumni play a significant role in mentoring accounting students, as well.

Successful graduates of Wisconsin’s MAC achieve leadership positions in top U.S. business hubs like Boston, Denver, and Nashville. From litigation consulting and governmental accounting to small business ownership and wealth management, graduates enjoy careers in a multitude of areas. 

For those inclined to settle in Madison, the Small Business Development Center is an excellent resource for gaining experience in assisting local clients with their new ventures. Perhaps your experience there will prepare you to launch your own start-up!

Vanderbilt University Owen Graduate School of Management (Nashville, TN)

Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management
Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons

At the Owen Graduate School of Management, master or accountancy candidates can pursue one of two one-year programs: the MAcc assurance or MAcc valuation. Each option maintains an intimate learning environment with cohorts including fewer than 50 graduate students.

MAcc assurance prepares students to succeed as global accounting firm auditors. From analyzing companies’ balance sheets, cash flows, and profit/loss statements, you’ll gain real-world experience in assisting clients via a collaborative approach. 

On the other hand, the MAcc valuation steeps participants in enduring questions relevant to any ambitious agency. 

Students determine the worth of a brand name, how much to pay to purchase a competitor, and how to determine the value of intellectual property.

The numbers at Vanderbilt don’t lie. Over the years, the school has formed 26 partnerships with Fortune 500 companies and graduated nearly 150k alumni. 

Opportunities like the Accelerator Summer Business Immersion provide career and leadership coaching to undergraduate and graduate students seeking to gain consulting experience.

New York University Stern School of Business (New York City, NY)

NYU Stern School of Business
Jess Hawsor, NYC, NYU Stern School of Business, CC BY-SA 4.0

Graduate students entering the Stern accounting program can become “CPA-ready” within a year. 

NYU Stern’s unique 4 + 1 program agreement with partner universities – like NYU Shanghai, NYU Abu Dhabi, and the University of Bozen-Bolzano – immerses junior and senior undergraduates in professional internships at Big 4 firms and then launches them in a one-year deferment to complete their MSA before attaining full-time employment with the same firm!

Those accepted to this competitive program are considered for $10k MSA merit-based scholarships and additional $5k scholarships. 

Other exciting opportunities include tackling a real-world business challenge for a semester- or year-long for-credit project. This endeavor offers lessons in building a brand, facilitating meetings, designing presentations, and acting as project supervisors.

Other facets of the one-year MSA include exciting courses in various topics like financial reporting and disclosure, advanced communication in accounting, and forensic accounting and financial statement fraud. 

Graduates will exit the program as well-rounded professionals eager to serve in fast-paced leadership roles across the globe.

University of Michigan Ross School of Business (Ann Arbor, MI)

University of Michigan Ross School of Business
Natecation, University of Michigan Central Campus-Ross School of Business, CC BY-SA 4.0

The Ross School of Business claims the rights to the nation’s #1 mid-sized MAcc program. The eight-month program is unique in its STEM designation, adding a competitive edge to graduates searching for jobs in the tech and engineering sectors. 

98% of graduates receive job offers within six months of graduation, and the Big 4 accounting firms hire 75% of graduates. A median base salary of $60k can also be expected to grow within years!

A MAcc pursuit commences with a journey to Washington, D.C. via the EY Accounting and Public Policy Symposium core course. This opportunity allows students to “learn the ropes” of how accounting policy can shape various businesses. 

Another cornerstone of the degree program is the Living Business Leadership Experience (LBLE), wherein graduate students collaborate with peers and other companies to launch new products, business lines, or units within actual enterprises. 

Past projects have included marketing projects for ESPN’s College Gameday show, water sustainability projects for Aquora Biosystems, and business plan development for augmented reality and digital healthcare tools for GoHealth Kids.

University of Pennsylvania Wharton School (Philadelphia, PA)

The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania
Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons

The Accounting Department at the Wharton School places heavy emphasis on active research, challenging students to pursue investigations in executive compensation contracts, the role of information in capital markets, and the economic impact of accounting policy.

Wharton offers some of the most intriguing courses on this list. In ACCT6130 Financial and Managerial Accounting, students gain experience in decision-making regarding product and service costing and cost/behavior analysis. 

Students will use these skills when they progress to consulting positions or even launch their own businesses.

A course like ACCT7640 Climate and Financial Markets is attractive for those interested in sustainability. In this class, students analyze firms’ disclosures and third-party information sources’ roles in mitigating (or exacerbating) climate risks. 

Particular focus is placed on transition risks and the effects of regulatory responses to climate change on the business structures of carbon-intensive energy organizations.

University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business (Austin, TX)

University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business
Larry D. Moore, Battle hall 2014, CC BY-SA 4.0

The master in professional accounting (MPA) program at UT Austin positions graduates to succeed as treasurers, risk managers, corporate controllers, and other challenging yet exciting leadership positions worldwide. 

There are three ways to earn the MPA within 9-13 months. The traditional MPA is a one-year program open to students with a bachelor’s degree in any major, while the integrated MPA is explicitly geared toward Texas McCombs undergraduate students. 

This group is eligible to earn a BBA in accounting plus an MPA within five years, saving students time and money. 

UT economics undergraduates may pursue the ECON-MPA, wherein they take graduate-level classes during their senior year to earn both a BA in economics and MPA degree. 

Understandably competitive, students admitted to this program will start taking ACC 381 in the second summer session of junior year and complete up to 12 credits of MPA coursework in their senior year.

Boston College Carroll School of Management (Boston, MA)

The MS in accounting program at Boston College boasts a first-time CPA exam pass rate that’s 30% higher than the national average! 

In only a year of study, graduate students can complete a dynamic curriculum that prepares students to understand how accounting impacts various types of organizations in society. 

Classes like taxes and management decisions, financial statement analyses, and assurance and consulting services challenge students to apply their knowledge in skills in authentic contexts. 

In ACCT6626 Taxes and Management Decisions, students gain experience in tax planning for mergers, divestitures, and acquisitions. They also understand the taxation of competing legal entities, tax arbitrage strategies, and employee compensation.

There’s no need to have a background in accounting to apply! 

The average applicant has at least a year of full-time work experience and a mean GRE score of 318. Suppose you have an interest in combining academic and philanthropic pursuits. 

In that case, you’ll be pleased to know that 43% of Carroll students participate in some type of community service during a typical school week.

Indiana University Kelley School of Business (Bloomington, IN)

Graduates of Indiana University’s three accounting programs enter exciting careers in treasury services, corporate accounting, and auditing and risk management, to name a few dynamic areas. 

Choose among a graduate certificate in accounting, an MSA in accounting, or a graduate certificate in internal auditing focusing on financial systems. We’ll elaborate on all three options below.

The graduate certificate in accounting will guide participants through 12 of the required 150 credits needed to ace the CPA exam. 

Course options are available in-person or online in tax research, advanced financial accounting, and professional and ethical responsibilities in accounting. 

The graduate internal auditing certificate focusing on financial systems also comprises 12 credit hours and is more focused on fraud, forensic accounting, and IT auditing. Students participate in a case study where they are prepared to audit any company’s financial systems.

For the most thorough and flexible option, look into the full-time or part-time MS in accounting, a 30-credit program spanning 18 months. 

Unlike the graduate certificate options, the MSA does require prerequisite courses. International students who enter the program will participate in Learning in a Professional Environment (LIPE), a three-hour required course that prepares students for successful internship placement.

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