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How a graduate degree in accounting really pays off

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You’ve decided that graduate school is the best way to move up the corporate ladder and find a career you enjoy. Now what? The list of potential graduate degrees can seem intimidating – MAC, MBA, JD, MS and more.

How do you find the degree that makes sense to you financially and offers the best chance at a rewarding career? A good first step is to look at the costs involved in going back to school, versus the rewards you’ll gain from the experience.

>> Download our ROI Analysis: Why the MAC Makes Sense for Working Professionals

Real savings

When determining the ROI of a graduate degree from a purely financial angle, one program stands out – the Master of Accounting. Most MAC degrees take just one or two years to complete, which means fewer credit hours to pay for than a longer program.

Some schools offer online and part-time programs, allowing you to keep your job while you study. Other master’s programs, such as law or business, can take two or three years, or even longer if you can’t attend full-time.

Accounting opens the doors to all kinds of organizations — nonprofits, law enforcement, big corporations, hot start-ups and more.

Many universities offer fellowships to help accounting graduate students pay for tuition. And numerous state and national scholarships are available from organizations like the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Also, some large accounting firms have begun to help employees pay back their student loans. For example, PwC will pay recent graduates $1,200 toward their loans each year for six years.

A Bank VP describes how her Master of Accounting degree will help her advance in her organization.

Increased opportunities for growth

Once you’ve earned your MAC degree, you’ll have another tough choice — which job to take. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that jobs for accountants at all degree levels will increase by 13 percent from 2012 to 2022.

And those jobs pay well, especially for MAC degree holders. The median salary for someone with a MAC degree is $91,000, according to Georgetown University research. That’s much higher than those with only bachelor’s degrees; their median salary is $69,000 —24 percent lower.

Salaries for accountants at larger companies often hit six figures after five years of work experience. In corporate accounting, for example, a vice president of finance earns an average of $200,000 to $390,000, according to 2016 Salary Guide: Accounting and Finance. A CFO in the same field earns between $300,000 and $480,000. How high can you go? According to Forbes magazine, the average total compensation for a Fortune 500 CEO in 2012 was $10.5 million!

At a Big Four firm, employees can work their way up to senior manager and ultimately to partner level. Average accounting firm partner salaries range from $177,000 to upwards of $400,000 depending on factors like profit-sharing and whether or not you’re an equity partner.

Even if you don’t do pure accounting every day, you’ll still have plenty of job options. Hiring managers are looking for professionals who can analyze information, come up with smart business strategies, identify trends and increase company efficiency — all within a MAC degree holder’s purview.

Accounting opens the doors to all kinds of organizations — nonprofits, law enforcement, big corporations, hot start-ups and more.

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Job satisfaction

It’s nice to earn a great paycheck, but most people consider more than just numbers when seeking a rewarding career.

People who work in accounting consistently rank higher in job satisfaction than other professions. According to a survey by recruiting firm Hudson Global Inc., 78 percent of the accounting and financial workers polled felt satisfied with their jobs. And a survey of 6,000 people found that accounting and finance professionals were among the most satisfied with their jobs — ranking No. 2 in the survey (only engineers ranked higher).

Some like the problem-solving and analytical aspects of the job, digging through records to discover the financial truth about a business, government agency or nonprofit. Others enjoy working in teams — from a group of 100 people engaged in an audit at a multi-national corporation to a pair of accountants teaming up on a project for their manager. 

Another part of the happiness equation is knowing your work counts.

The financial markets rely on accurate accounting to function properly, with investors and others making decisions based on financial statements that accountants develop and audit. Accounting isn’t just a job, it helps keep the wheels of the global economy turning.

Add it all up — the great pay and job opportunities, the nearly endless career options and high job satisfaction — and it’s clear the MAC has high ROI.

Take a closer look.
Interested in how the MAC stacks up to an MBA? We look at this topic, and several other factors, in our more detailed analysis: The ROI of the MAC: Why a Master of Accounting Degree Makes Sense for Working Professionals.