Auditing Master's Degrees: At a Glance
A bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field is sufficient to begin a career in auditing. However, if you want to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) you will likely need an extra year of education. As a result, many schools offer a 'fifth year' master's program (to be completed immediately after a bachelor's degree in accounting is obtained), in which students can learn advanced accounting skills and acquire specializations in their field.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimated that employment of accountants and auditors would grow 16% from 2010 to 2020, due to an increased business need to comply with new financial regulations. Applicants with advanced degrees and CPA certification typically have improved job prospects, according to the BLS. However, competition remains strong for employment with prestigious accounting and business firms.
|Who is this degree for?||- Bachelor's degree holders who want to sit for the Certified Public Accounting (CPA) or Certified Management Accounting (CMA) exam |
- Experienced professionals who want to advance their careers
|Common Career Paths (with approximate annual salary)||- Accountants and auditors ($70,000 - may vary with experience)*|
|Time to Completion||Typically two semesters for students with a bachelor's degree in a related field (full-time)|
|Common Graduation Requirements||- Maintain GPA standards|
- Complete coursework
|Prerequisites||- Transcripts from all undergraduate/graduate programs|
- Meet GPA requirements
- GMAT results
- Letters of recommendation
- Interview, if applicable
- Prerequisite courses in accounting may apply for students who do not possess a bachelor's degree in accounting or related major
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 mean figures).
Auditing Master's Degrees
As a student in a typical master's degree program, you will learn advanced accounting skills, which will prepare you for taking the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or Certified Management Accountant (CMA) exam. Students should note that it may be challenging to find master's degrees in auditing; however, accounting master's degree programs provide similar curricula and are widely available. Degree programs may vary with each school, but they are generally formatted as a 30-credit Master of Science (MS) in Accounting (or similar title).
Pros and Cons
- To sit for the CPA exam, you will likely need 150 hours of college-level coursework, which is more than a typical bachelor's degree program. As a result, many students go on to complete a one-year master's program.
- According to the BLS, job applicants with master's degrees may have an edge over individuals with bachelor's degrees.
- Some schools offer graduate assistantships, which can include tuition benefits or a small salary. Keep in mind that these opportunities may be competitive.
- Professional experience is important in this industry, so you will likely need relevant work experience in addition to your master's degree.
- In this field, it is common to work long hours at certain times throughout the year (particularly at the end of the budget year or during tax season).
- If your undergraduate degree is not in accounting or a related field, you will likely need to complete prerequisite courses.
Common Courses and Requirements
To obtain a degree, you will need to complete coursework and maintain a satisfactory grade point average. You will likely study courses on the following topics:
- Accounting and information systems
- Financial statement analysis
- Business law
- Advanced auditing
- International accounting
If you do not have a prior bachelor's degree in accounting (or in a related major), you will most likely need to complete prerequisite courses before you can begin your master's program. Typical prerequisite courses may include financial accounting, managerial accounting and financial reporting.
Online Degree Options
Like traditional on-campus programs, online auditing degrees may be hard to find, but similar accounting programs are widely available. Typically, admission and curriculum requirements are the same as on-campus programs. As a master's candidate in an online accounting program, you will likely devote several hours to independent study each week.
Getting Ahead with This Degree
Graduates of accounting master's degree programs are qualified to sit for the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam. Accountants and auditors with a CPA and several years of relevant experience are eligible to join professional organizations, such as the American Institute of CPAs, through which they can obtain additional credentials like the Certified Information Technology Professional (CITP). The Certified Internal Auditor credential is another popular certification for auditors. Most certifications require several years of professional experience in addition to education requirements.
Students who are interested in financial and business topics may want to consider an alternate degree: the Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a concentration in accounting. MBA programs train future business leaders to manage projects, staff and budgets. MBA programs typically last two years and may include an internship component that provides practical professional experience.