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Master’s in Accounting (MAcc) vs. MBA: How to Choose the Right Graduate Program for You

A degree may open the door to a variety of opportunities and diverse career paths. The degree programs offered at CTU will not necessarily lead to the featured careers. This collection of articles is intended to help inform and guide you through the process of determining which level of degree and types of certifications align with your desired career path.

If you’re interested in advancing your skillset or seeking a new one in the financial industry, a graduate-level degree program like a master’s in accounting or MBA could help you develop relevant skills, enhance your expertise and even boost your credibility in the field. But which of these graduate degree programs is right for you? How do you decide between a master’s in accounting vs. an MBA program?

Because there is usually some overlap between master’s in accounting and MBA programs, choosing your best academic path forward can be difficult. Generally speaking, a Master of Business Administration degree program is a general business degree program that typically offers the ability to concentrate in a certain area, like accounting. A Master of Accounting program, in contrast, is specifically focused on accounting and the accounting profession.

With that in mind, let’s take a deeper dive and compare MAcc vs. MBA programs and the potential career paths that might be pursued with each type of degree.

What Is a Master of Accounting (MAcc)?

When it comes to master’s degrees in accounting, the specific type of degree conferred at graduation will vary by institution. Depending on the school, graduates may receive a Master of Accounting or Accountancy (MAcc), Master of Science in Accounting (MSAcc or MS in Accounting) or Master of Professional Accountancy (MPAcc).

What are MAcc degree programs all about? Put simply, master’s degree in accounting programs are designed to help students prepare to become Certified Public Accountants (CPAs). According to the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA), the academic work necessary to develop the technical competence and required skills of a CPA is best obtained at the graduate level.1

Pursuing an MS in Accounting (or MAcc or MPAcc) is also a great way to meet the 150-semester-hours-of-education requirement for obtaining a CPA license, though it’s not the only way. According to the AICPA, the 150hour requirement can be satisfied at the undergraduate level or by combining a bachelor’s degree with some graduate-level accounting courses. It’s also possible to:1

Also be sure to keep in mind that each state has its own CPA licensing requirements. For more information on your state’s requirements, you should visit the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) website.

What Is an MBA?

MBA stands for Master of Business Administration. MBA degree programs cover general business skills that are versatile and may be utilized in many industries.

What might you learn in an MBA program? MBA program curricula may include courses on economics, accounting, management and leadership, finance and marketing. Depending on where you attend, it may also be possible to pursue an MBA generalist track and choose your own electives. However, most MBA degree programs offer concentration options that include a predetermined set of elective courses focused on an area of interest.

If you’re interested in pursuing an accounting career path, an MBA program with a concentration in accounting might make sense. This type of MBA degree program will include a collection of accounting-specific courses designed to strengthen your specialized knowledge in the field. And like a master’s in accounting program, your time spent studying in an MBA degree program with a concentration in accounting could count toward the 150 semester-hour CPA requirement.1

MBA Career Paths vs. Master’s in Accounting Career Paths

What can you do with an MBA vs. a MAcc? Possible master’s in accounting career paths may include accountant or auditor, budget analyst, credit analyst, financial examiner, tax examiner or collector or revenue agent.2*

An MBA with a concentration in accounting, meanwhile, could help you work to gain accounting exposure and knowledge that may also count toward the 150 semester-hour CPA educational requirement. But given the MBA degree’s primary focus on general business, you could choose to apply your knowledge in fields other than accounting as well. Possible MBA career paths may include:*

  • General and Operations Managers
  • Sales Managers
  • Administrative Services Managers
  • Industrial Production Managers
  • Transportation, Storage and Distribution Managers
  • Social and Community Service Managers
  • Compensation and Benefits Managers
  • Human Resources Managers
  • Training and Development Managers
  • Cost Estimators
  • Project Management Specialists
  • Management Analysts

* CTU cannot guarantee employment, salary, or career advancement. The list of career paths related to these programs is based on a subset from the Bureau of Labor Statistics CIP to SOC Crosswalk. Some career paths listed above may require further education or job experience.

MS in Accounting Degree Requirements vs. MBA Degree Requirements

The admissions requirements for MBA programs vs. the admissions requirements for master’s in accounting programs may be somewhat different.

Although both types of graduate programs will most likely require applicants to hold a bachelor’s degree, MBA programs typically don’t require applicants to possess a bachelor’s degree in business. MAcc programs, on the other hand, often require that applicants possess a bachelor’s in accounting or related program (some schools might waive this requirement as long as you take any required undergraduate accounting courses prior to applying to the program). Always do your research to make sure you satisfy all admissions requirements.

Core MBA courses at Colorado Technical University may include:

  • Advanced Cost Accounting
  • Applied Managerial Economics
  • Strategic Management in Dynamic Environments
  • Applied Managerial Finance
  • Leadership and Ethical Decision-Making
  • Applied Managerial Decision-Making
  • Strategic Human Capital Management
  • Applied Managerial Marketing

MBA courses for the accounting concentration at CTU include:

  • Taxation and Business Decisions
  • Financial Reporting
  • Management Control and Auditing
  • MBA Accounting Capstone

Master’s in Accounting vs. MBA: How to Choose the Right Program for You

Whether you choose to pursue a MAcc vs. an MBA will ultimately depend on your academic goals and background. If you’re interested in becoming a CPA, both types of programs can theoretically help you get there—the MAcc will be more focused on depth of knowledge in the accounting field while the MBA will be focused on broader business knowledge with a less intense focus on accounting. But if you’re interested in developing foundational business knowledge that you can apply in various roles and industries, then an MBA program may be the right fit for you.

Learn more about CTU’s MBA degree program or explore our full range of master’s programs. Or, if you’re ready to fill out an MBA application, you can apply now.

1 American Institute of CPAs (AICPA), “150 Hour Requirement for Obtaining a CPA License,” (visited 4/24/2023).
2 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, “Business and Financial Occupations,” (visited 4/24/2023). This data represents national figures and is not based on school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary.

Colorado Technical University cannot guarantee employment, salary, or career advancement. Not all programs are available to residents of all states. REQ1929394 5/2023

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