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Sorting Out the Options in Accounting Education

Sorting Out the Options in Accounting Education

Dona DeZube, Monster Finance Careers Expert

September 03, 2009

BA Will Get You into Corporate Accounting

Most accountants end up working in management accounting, rather than public accounting, and a bachelor’s degree in accounting is the ticket to an entry-level position in that field, Lawson says. A four-year degree will also help qualify you for the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) designation.

However, if you wish to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), you’ll likely need a fifth year of school, because most states require 150 hours of education, and a bachelor’s typically requires only 120 hours. Some schools offer a five-year program combining a bachelor’s and master’s, while others clearly differentiate between graduate and undergraduate programs.

Two Kinds of Master’s

Schools offering master’s of accounting programs typically target one of two types of students: Those with accounting BAs and those who are new to the field.

Michigan State University’s MS in accounting program is typical of master’s programs targeting accounting undergraduates. “We provide the additional 30 credits in a one-year experience to fulfill the requirements for the 150 hours needed to sit for the CPA exam,” says the program’s director, Shannon Mulally.

“Most of our graduates go into public accounting in Michigan or the Midwest,” she adds. “The Big Four recruit heavily on our campus, as do the regional firms. We also have students who are in managerial accounting tracks and looking at becoming chief financial officers and CMAs or [Chartered Financial Analysts].”

While students can opt for part-time, the program is geared to full-time students who can attend weekday classes. For the 2007-08 academic year, tuition for 30 credit hours is just over $11,000 for in-state students and $24,000 for out-of-state students.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Master of Accounting (MAC) program, meanwhile, enrolls absolutely no accounting majors, explains Kathleen Lowman, director of MAC Career Services. “We like the liberal arts undergrad or the general business major,” she says.