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Accounting MBA vs. Master of Accounting: How They Differ

Learn about the differences between earning an accounting MBA specialization and earning a traditional Master of Accounting (MAcc) degree.

A bunch of papers stacked up with charts and graphs on them as if to show the workspace of an accountant who earned either an accounting MBA or a Master of Accounting (MAcc) degree

Earn your associate degree in accounting and you will gain the knowledge necessary to work in entry-level accounting roles such as bookkeeper, accounting clerk, and auditing clerk. Get your bachelor’s in accounting and you will be prepared to provide services as an accountant or auditor.

But what if you want to go further? What if you want to go back to school and earn a master’s-level degree in accounting?

In this case, you have two basic options. You can pursue an accounting MBA with a specialization in this particular discipline or a Master of Accounting (MAcc). What’s the difference between the two?

The Accounting MBA Specialization

MBA stands for Master of Business Administration. Therefore, an MBA in Accounting is essentially a master’s-level business degree with a concentration in accounting.

This is important to realize because it highlights the fact that the primary objective of this accounting MBA degree is to teach students more about business. Learning about accounting is the secondary objective. So, while you will learn the concepts and skills critical to accounting in an accounting MBA program, you will spend a majority of your classroom time learning how to build and run a profitable business.

That makes an MBA in Accounting a good option for students who want to own and operate their own accounting businesses in the future. This degree provides the foundation necessary to engage in successful business practices related to marketing, understanding industry trends, and more.

An accounting MBA concentration is also beneficial for students who would like to work for a company in the position of chief financial officer, or CFO. With a sense of both business and accounting, they are better able to help a company grow.

A Master of Accounting Degree

A Master of Accounting (MAcc) degree is different than an accounting MBA because this graduate program’s primary focus is on accounting principles and practices. Therefore, it is able to dive deeper into the field, helping students better understand financial data, what it means, where to find it, and how to accurately record and report it.

While only a bachelor’s degree is required to be an accountant or auditor, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that some employers prefer that applicants have a Master of Accounting degree instead. Obtaining this degree qualifies you to work for these companies.

Even if the company doesn’t require a master’s degree to apply, having this higher-level degree can put you ahead of other applicants that only have an associate or bachelor’s.

Earning your Master of Accounting also helps better prepare you for your certification exams. Certification exams are required to use titles such as certified public accountant (CPA), certified management accountant (CMA), or certified fraud examiner (CFE). Having a more in-depth education in accounting provides a stronger knowledge base in the areas tested on these exams.

Which Is Right for You – an Accounting MBA or Master of Accounting?

Still unsure which option is best for you given your career goals? One way to help you decide is to look at the two educational programs individually.

For example, Saint Leo University offers an MBA in Accounting. Accounting-related courses in this specialization include:

  • Advanced Cost Accounting
  • Law and the Accountant
  • Fund Accounting for Government and Not-For-Profit Accounting
  • Accounting Theory, and
  • Using Financial Accounting Information.

Saint Leo’s accounting MBA students are also required to take a variety of business-related courses. Human Resource in Management, Marketing, Global Business Management, and Strategic Management are just a few.

Compare this to Saint Leo’s Master of Accounting. This program has many of the same accounting courses as the MBA in Accounting (Advanced Cost Accounting, Law and the Accountant, Fund Accounting for Government and Not-For-Profit Accounting).

However, in place of the business classes, there are more specialized accounting classes. These deeper-dive accounting courses include:

  • Fraud Examination
  • Contemporary Issues in Auditing
  • Federal Taxation for Business Entities, and
  • Corporate Finance.

Looking at the examples of classes you’ll take in each program makes it easier to identify whether the MBA in Accounting will help you reach your career goals or if a master’s in accounting is the better option based on the type of role or position you want to hold.

Saint Leo University Is Here to Help

Deciding which educational path is the best for you is a big decision. Our professional and understanding staff is here to help you make the right one. Contact us today to request more information on one (or both) of these programs or to talk about which path can help you achieve your accounting career goals.

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