Study Accounting - Controllership: Master's, MBA & Online Degree Info

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What will you learn in an accounting or controllership degree program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of master's degree and Master of Business Administration (MBA) programs, and potential careers.
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Accounting and Controllership Master's Degree Programs at a Glance

A controller is a financial manager who prepares financial reports and oversees the budgeting department for an organization. While graduate programs with a specific concentration in controllership may not be particularly common, they do exist through some Master of Accountancy, Master of Science in Accountancy and Master of Business Administration programs. In many cases, these programs will prepare you to become a certified public accountant (CPA), though certain controllership-focused programs may not do this.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), controllers are expected to see a 9% employment increase from 2010-2020, which is slower than the average for all occupations. For this same time period, accountants were expected to see a 16% increase in employment. Although a master's degree is not absolutely required for financial managers or accountants, it may be preferred by some employers.

Master's Degree MBA
Who is this Degree For? Individuals interested in studying advanced accounting concepts and moving ahead in the field People who want to study management and business concepts in addition to accounting
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - Accountant ($70,000)*
- Controller/treasurer ($120,000)*
- Auditor ($70,000)*
- Financial manager (120,000)*
Time to Completion 1-2 years full-time, up to 4.5 years part-time 2 years full-time, 3 years part-time
Common Graduation Requirements - 30 credit hours
- Business core courses
- Accounting electives
- 37-63 credit hours
- MBA core courses
- Accounting coursework or separate accounting program
Prerequisites Bachelor's degree, may need to be in accounting Bachelor's degree
Online Availability Yes Yes

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures)

Master's Degree in Accounting and Controllership

Master's degree programs in accounting are available in Master of Accountancy and Master of Science in Accountancy formats, and may offer either controllership coursework or a controllership specialization. In addition to concentration options in controllership, accountancy programs commonly include specialization options in subjects like financial accounting, public accounting or corporate accounting. Business elective coursework is also common in these graduate accounting programs.

Pros and Cons of a Master's Degree in Accounting


  • You'll have the opportunity to study accounting more thoroughly than at the undergraduate level or through an MBA program
  • You'll typically be prepared for CPA certification in your state
  • You'll be prepared for multiple careers with above-average mean annual salaries


  • A specialization in controllership may not be widely available
  • A master's degree is not strictly necessary for accountant or controller positions, so you could be competing with bachelor's degree holders after graduation
  • Financial managers typically work more than 40 hours a week

Common Course Topics

Master's degree programs in accounting typically include a broad selection of coursework that will allow you to study general accounting and business principles, and they also include coursework that is meant to enhance your knowledge of a specific area in accounting. Areas of study in these programs commonly include subjects like:

  • Corporate taxation
  • Controllership
  • Financial accounting
  • Financial reporting
  • Management accounting
  • Income taxation

Online Degree Options

Because controllership specialization options within master's degree programs in accountancy may be rare, online options in this specific field of study may be even more rare. However, master's degree programs in accounting are commonly available online, and these programs typically cover controllership as a subject of study. Dual degree programs may also be available online, allowing you to earn a master's degree in accounting alongside a related field of study, such as a master's degree program in finance.

Stand Out with this Degree

Work experience in the field of accounting is typically preferred by employers, especially for management positions, so finding employment while enrolled in a master's degree program could be beneficial to finding work in the future. Additionally, work experience is commonly required for certification in this field. Accountants can become certified in a number of ways; they may obtain the CPA designation, and they may also become Certified Management Accountants (CMA) through The Institute of Management Accountants. To qualify for the CPA examination in almost all states, you'll need to complete at least 150 credit hours of postsecondary study, and The Institute of Management Accountants requires that applicants have completed two years of study before being qualified to sit for the CMA examination.

Degree Alternatives

If you're interested in becoming a professional controller, a degree in accounting is not the only educational path to that occupation. According to the BLS, financial managers commonly hold degrees in related areas, such as business administration, economics or finance. After completing a master's degree in one of these areas, you may be eligible for a broader variety of professional positions, including financial analyst or personal financial advisor. According to the BLS, financial analysts were expected to see a 23% growth in employment from 2010-2020, while personal financial advisors were expected to see a 32% growth, both of which are faster than the average for all occupations.. In May 2011, the BLS reported that personal financial advisors earned a mean annual salary of about $91,000, while financial analysts earned a mean annual salary of about $88,000.

MBA Degree in Accounting and Controllership

MBA programs are commonly structured to offer students a business core that can cover subjects like management information systems, human resource management, supply chain systems management and accounting. In some cases, controllership may be offered as a distinct concentration option, or it may be available as an area of study within an accounting specialization's curriculum. In other cases, an MBA may be offered alongside a separate accounting program, such as a certificate or diploma program in accounting.

Pros and Cons of an MBA in Accounting or Controllership


  • You can gain a solid foundation in business skills and management concepts
  • You may be qualified for a wider variety of professional opportunities than with a master's degree in only accounting
  • MBA programs are commonly offered in a variety of ways, including full-time, part-time, evening and executive formats


  • An MBA program may not qualify you to sit for the CPA examination
  • An MBA with an accounting specialization may not offer the in-depth study of controllership that an accounting program with a controllership specialization would
  • This program could take longer to complete than a master's degree program in accounting

Common Course Topics

MBA programs commonly include a core of business classes in addition to elective options. An MBA program in accounting or controllership will typically require you to complete the core curriculum throughout the first year before moving on to courses in your area of specialization. Common courses covered in an MBA program include:

  • Financial management
  • Operations analysis
  • Organizational behavior
  • Financial reporting
  • Economic analysis
  • Information systems

Online Degree Options

MBA programs are commonly available in distance learning formats, and can be completed fully online. This could be particularly advantageous to business professionals who are currently employed while completing their master's degree program. The coursework offered through an online program is typically very similar to the coursework offered in the on-campus format.

Standing Out with this Degree

Employers typically prefer to hire financial managers who have previous work experience, so obtaining work experience while completing an MBA program could be advantageous for future employment opportunities. Additionally, certification as either a CPA or CMA may be beneficial to accounting professionals. A financial manager may earn voluntary certification as a Certified Financial Analyst (CFA) through The CFA Institute. This certification requires at least a bachelor's degree and four years of experience. The Certified Treasury Professional credential is also available through the Association for Financial Professionals, which requires two years of experience in the field.

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