What Can I Do with a Master’s in Accounting?

If you’ve earned your bachelor’s degree and want to advance within or transition to a career in the field of accounting, then an online masters degree in accounting may be the next logical step. Most state boards of accountancy require a minimum of 150 hours of post-secondary education from a regionally accredited institution, which typically equates to a master’s degree.

Fortunately, for those who enter the accounting field, the career outlook is generally positive. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, accountants and auditors earned a median salary of $63,550 per year in 2012 and can expect 13 percent job growth between 2012 and 2022.

Here’s a look at potential career paths for people with a master’s in accounting. These are just a few of many different options, and some of these jobs may even overlap as you progress in your accounting career.

  1. Accountant: This is a broad term for someone who performs accounting tasks for a specific company (for instance, a staff accountant) or works at an accounting firm that provides external accounting services for individuals and businesses.
  2. Advisory Services Associate: Advisory services associates may work in different business lines such as litigation and fraud investigation, risk advisory services or business restructuring services. Their goal is to help minimize risk and solve risk-related problems for businesses.
  3. Assurance Associate: The job of an assurance associate is to ensure that the financial reports a client issues to the public are clear and accurate. This role may involve auditing benefit plans, analyzing financial statements and conducting compliance reviews.
  4. Audit Associate: Audit associates are responsible for reviewing transactions for irregularities and monitoring processes involving inventory, payroll, expenses and other areas of a company’s finances. They work with external clients to ensure that financial processes comply with regulatory requirements and best practices.
  5. Certified Public Accountant (CPA): The CPA designation indicates that the accountant has passed the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination and undertaken ongoing tests and requirements to continue CPA status. CPAs assist with financial statements, tax returns and other business documents. They may also advise clients on tax-minimization strategies.
  6. Controller: Controllers (or financial managers) oversee accounting procedures and reporting, accounts payable and receivable and payroll. They may also counsel management on financial processes and supervise employees who financial reporting, payroll and other tasks.
  7. Corporate Finance Management Associate: Corporate finance management associates assist businesses with analyzing business strategies, forecasting financial trends, preparing reports on financial information and guiding accounting policy issues.
  8. Financial Analyst: Financial analysts prepare reports and monitor developments in government regulations, economic factors and corporate news that could impact a company’s bottom line. They may also analyze financial information to prepare forecasts on likely business or economic conditions.
  9. Tax Associate: Tax associates may advise clients on long-term tax strategies and accounting systems, prepare or analyze accounting reports, and perform other related taxes. Over time, they may develop expertise in a specific area of taxation such as cross-border tax issues or mergers and acquisitions.
  10. Corporate Tax Associate: Similar to a tax consultant but focused on corporate tax issues, this role involves assisting business entities such as partnerships, C Corps and S Corps with tax filings and long-term strategies and staying current on new tax regulations that may affect clients.
  11. Tax Consultant: Tax season may come once a year but individuals and businesses need advice on tax planning year-round, so tax consultants monitor pending changes to tax laws at the local, state and federal level. They can advise clients on how these changes might impact them and offer tips on minimizing their tax liability.

Accounting can be a very rewarding career path — and it’s possible to advance your skills without giving up your current job. The Martin J. Whitman School of Management offers a Master of Science in Professional Accounting degree in a flexible online format. Accounting@Syracuse offers the same curriculum content as the Whitman School’s on-campus accounting program, from which alumni have gone on to work at top accounting firms like EY, KPMG, Deloitte and PWC.