Management Accounting Degrees: Master's, PhD & Online Course Info

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Master's and PhD programs in management accounting can lead to careers in private business and academia. Get the truth about the requirements, courses and online options, and find out what you can do with your degree.
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Studying Management Accounting: Degrees at a Glance

While graduate degrees specific to management accounting are not available, you may consider both master's and PhD programs in accounting that include management courses or those that prepare you for the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) credential. As an accountant, you will manage financial records for individuals or companies. This may include assessing reports and ensuring that taxes are paid. With several years experience, you may become a management accountant.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities for accountants and auditors are projected to increase 16% from 2010-2020. Among the factors that may contribute to the anticipated growth are stricter government regulations and increased globalization. The BLS indicated that employment prospects were not as good for financial managers, with just nine percent growth expected over the same time period. However, the BLS also projected that employment opportunities for the self-employed financial manager will grow 20% from 2010-2020.

Master's PhD
Who is this Degree for? Individuals looking for career advancement or to qualify for certain professional credentials Individuals looking to perform research and teach at a university level
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary) -Accountant and auditor ($63,000)*
-Financial analyst ($76,000)*
-Financial manager** ($107,000)*
-Chief Executive** ($167,000)*
-Career paths available to master's degree holders
-Postsecondary business teacher ($75,000)*
Time to Completion 2 years full time 4-6 years beyond bachelor's, full time
Common Graduation Requirements Research project or coursework only -Qualifying examinations
-Student teaching
-Completion and defense of doctoral dissertation
Prerequisites -Bachelor's degree
-GRE or GMAT scores
-Bachelor's or master's degree
-GRE or GMAT scores
Online Availability Yes Yes, but only a few

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures),**Career typically requires experience in addition to degree.

Master's in Management Accounting

Many master's programs are designed to meet the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or CMA eligibility requirements of the state in which the school is located. These programs will train you in measuring and interpreting results, analyzing risk and managing teams. Some programs are available to individuals without an accounting background, although some prerequisite coursework maybe required.

Pros and Cons


  • Prepares you for CPA, CMA and other credentials
  • Programs may be offered on evenings and weekends to accommodate working professionals
  • Thesis may not be required for graduation
  • Accelerated programs are available


  • Experience may still be required for management positions
  • May require specific coursework in business and statistics for admission
  • Applicants with professional experience may be preferred over those without it

Courses and Requirements

Master's programs often have a core curriculum with some electives. While some programs may require the completion of a project, others may be offered as coursework only. Some of the courses may include:

  • Accounting information systems
  • Advanced managerial accounting
  • Federal taxation
  • Asset valuation
  • International accounting and taxation

Online Degree Options

Online programs are available that offer the same coursework as traditional programs. You may want to ensure that a program is accredited and that it will qualify you for professional certifications.

Stand Out with This Degree

You may consider earning a CPA or CMA credential, both of which require you to pass an exam. To be eligible for the CPA exam, most states require a bachelor's degree with a certain number of accounting courses and business-related subjects, an ethics course and some accounting experience. To be eligible for the CMA exam, you must have a bachelor's degree and two years of management accountant experience. Some master's programs include a course on the computerized processes and database management in accounting. If such a course isn't part of the curriculum, you may consider pursuing an elective in this area.

PhD Degrees in Management Accounting

PhD programs in accounting prepare you to perform advanced research and teach in business colleges. These programs include qualifying examinations and require the completion of a doctoral dissertation. You may also be required to serve as a student teacher. In addition to programs specific to accounting, PhD programs in business with an accounting concentration and Doctor of Business Administration are available.

Pros and Cons


  • Prepares you for university-level professor positions
  • Some programs allow you to select a minor
  • Offers advanced seminars on various business and accounting topics


  • Many career options are not different from those available to a master's degree holder
  • More geared toward research than the accounting practice
  • Only a few online programs available

Courses and Requirements

PhD programs include theoretical and analytical coursework. Most of the courses will be completed in your first three years so that you may focus on the completion of your doctoral dissertation. Additionally, you may have to pass qualifying examinations that cover topics in general accounting, as well as your concentration area. Possible course topics may include:

  • Research methods
  • Statistics and probability
  • Experimental design
  • Econometric methods

Online Degree Options

Only a few online PhD programs are available. These programs typically offer online coursework and networking seminars. Additionally, some weekend residency requirements may need to be met. These can be completed on the weekends.

Stand Out with This Degree

As a PhD student, you may pursue the same certifications available to master's degree students. For your research, you may focus on a topic that relates to many areas of business, such as the relationship between accounting and market behavior and the effects of regulation. You may also consider developing your technical expertise by taking an elective course in computer science or management science and engineering.

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