online MBA in Accounting

Online MBA in Accounting

Accounting is one of the world’s most stable and trusted fields, and finding the right online MBA program in accounting can make all the difference in the pursuit of a career in that field. Accredited schools can help you prepare for work as a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Internal Auditor or Certified Management Accountant, just to name a few possibilities. If you’re considering an online MBA in Accounting and don’t know where to start, this page will provide you with resources to help you get started.

This page is broken out into six sections below covering everything from the definition of an online MBA in accounting to the coursework it involves, the kind of careers it can lead to and how it compares with other degrees.

What is an online MBA in Accounting?

An online MBA in accounting is specifically designed to prepare post-graduate students to take on high-level roles in accounting, auditing, or business and financial analysis. It not only teaches the principles of the accounting discipline, but also provides a substantial grounding in the skills and concentrations needed to apply those principles to the workplace. This makes an MBA in accounting ideal for those with specific career goals in tax auditing, accounting, or even managing the finances of a major corporation in a position such as a financial manager or chief financial officer.

Online MBA programs in accounting provide students with a solid foundation in business and finance. After completing the program, graduates are typically skilled in business management, as well as accounting procedures, tax law, financial reporting, and occupational and securities fraud.

When considering an MBA in accounting, students should strongly analyze their specific long-term career goals and weigh the pros and cons of obtaining this specific degree against those goals. It’s typically the right choice for anyone interested in a high-responsibility or specialized accounting, auditing, or a tax-related career.

Online MBA in Accounting Curriculum

The curriculum of an online MBA in accounting1,2,3 is typically focused on expanding and refining students’ skills in the management of information, people, resources, and operations in the context of a fast-paced modern marketplace. The primary aim is to build new generations of business leadership with an organization-wide perspective, equipped with a comprehensive grasp of corporate governance and financial management. Additional courses teach a variety of business skills including marketing, management, and ethics.

Some common topics covered in MBA accounting programs include:

  • Management and business accounting
  • International finance and accounting procedures
  • Ethics of accounting
  • Preparing financial reports
  • Detecting and preventing fraud in financial reports
  • Conducting financial research and analyzing financial statements
  • Financial management marketing

The topics of curriculum offerings focused specifically on business management usually include:

  • Business communication
  • Business law
  • Ethics
  • Statistics
  • Marketing
  • Accounting
  • Supply chain management

A more detailed look at some of the typical course offerings gives a strong sense of the kind of problem-solver that a dedicated graduate of an MBA program in accounting can become:

  • Financial Reporting: This course typically covers specific financial accounting theories and teaches students to be liable for their own accounting procedures through detailed reports and measurements.
  • Advanced Financial Reporting: Students learn how to apply their financial reporting skills to real-world scenarios such as income tax preparation, pension planning, and creating statements of changes.
  • Tax Planning: This course teaches students to consider specific tax laws when preparing budgets and financial plans for clients and businesses. It reviews current tax laws and provides students with the necessary skills to easily recognize issues that may arise while creating financial plans.

An MBA in accounting has some overlap with the curriculum of a master’s of accounting, but there are some important differences. Master’s of accounting programs vary widely from one institution to another, but their course offerings are generally focused on students who have recently completed an undergraduate accounting degree and are looking to pass the CPA exam. Typical subjects of study for master’s of accounting programs include (but are not limited to):

  • Financial statement analysis
  • External reporting
  • Public accounting practice
  • Business valuations
  • Tax policy
  • Computer-assisted audit techniques

What Unique Career Paths Can I Pursue with an online MBA Specializing in Accounting?

Students who graduate from MBA programs with an accounting specialization can obtain professional job roles across a variety of industries. Every type of business requires a financial expert to manage revenue (including profit and loss), prepare taxes, and oversee accounts payable and accounts receivable. This means there is a consistent demand for those with a sophisticated grasp of accounting procedures and principles. Having an MBA with a concentration in accounting makes you well-placed to compete for these prestigious and responsible positions.

While the career opportunities for those with an MBA in accounting are practically endless, some of the top jobs for graduates of these programs include:

C-Level Executive/Chief Financial Officer

C-level executives, such as chief financial officers4 (CFOs), are required to oversee all financial activities of the company they work for. A CFO is in a leadership role and empowered to make most financial decisions, provided they act within the guidelines of the company’s board of directors. C-level executives are typically employed across all industries and are at the top of all publicly traded companies and most private ones. While the daily tasks of a C-level finance executive vary depending on the company and industry, they may include:

  • Discussing business strategies with other executives and the board of directors
  • Auditing financial reports from all departments within the business
  • Detecting and investigating instances of financial fraud
  • Maintaining relationships with banks and investors

The salary for C-level finance executives varies depending on a variety of factors such as industry, geographic location, and the size of the company. The average salary earned by chief financial officers throughout the US as of May 2017 was $189,600, and California, followed by California, Illinois, New York, Florida and Massachusetts, are prime spots to find this type of job.5

Corporate Controller/Auditor

Corporate controllers and auditors are responsible for preparing, maintaining, and analyzing a company’s financial records. In some cases, they may be internal employees of major corporations while in others, they may be contracted by small- to mid-sized businesses to perform external audits. Their main purpose is to ensure that the financial records of a given business are complete and accurate. Typical daily tasks may include:

  • Reading and analyzing financial reports
  • Detecting fraud and bringing it to the attention of management or authorities
  • Preparing financial records or income tax statements

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that as of May 2018, the average annual salary for auditors was $74,690.2 Long-term occupational projections for this position predict a 10% increase in job opportunities by 2026.3

Financial Analyst

Financial analysts provide investment advice to businesses. Their job is primarily to analyze a company’s investments, determine how well they’re performing, and recommend the best course of action moving forward. Typical duties of a financial analyst include:

  • Evaluating business trends and investment reports
  • Determining the value of a company’s assets by reviewing financial statements
  • Providing advice on investments and financial planning
  • Preparing written statements and reports

Several types of financial analyst functions exist, and each one is responsible for a different scope of work. Portfolio and fund managers are responsible for investment strategies, while ratings and risk analysts focus on debt and loss. They are also responsible for evaluating a company’s ability to repay debt and helping to predict potential losses to better plan the company’s financial future.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for financial analysts was $84,300 as of May 2017.4 Long-term occupational projections for financial analysts predict a 10 percent increase in job opportunities by 2026.3

Tax Examiner/Revenue Agent

Tax examiners and revenue agents are government employees who review tax returns and perform audits. Their typical daily tasks may include:

  • Reviewing detailed tax returns
  • Conducting tax audits
  • Collecting overdue tax payments

The Bureau of Labor Statistics put the median annual salary for tax examiners and revenue agents at $54,440 as of May 2018.5 Long-term occupational projections for tax examiners predict a one percent decrease in job opportunities by 2026.3

Business Analyst

Business analysts are normally hired by companies to uncover opportunities or expose flaws in management processes and financial records. Reduced costs and increased revenue are typically a direct result of hiring a business analyst. Day-to-day duties for this position may include:

  • Meeting with upper-level management to provide insight into the company’s financial records and processes
  • Determining root causes of business challenges, including decreased profit and internal fraud
  • Developing strategic plans to increase efficiency and revenue
  • Building models using spreadsheets and advanced functions like macros and pivot tables

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, business (or management) analysts earned a median annual wage of $89,370 as of May 2018.6 Job growth opportunities for management analysts is expected to increase by 14% by 2026, which is above average when compared to other jobs throughout the US.3

Financial Manager

Financial managers are responsible for ensuring the financial health of an organization, and they are often positioned just below C-level executives. Their expertise is relied upon to ensure the company is achieving financial goals and maintaining a positive financial portfolio. Daily duties usually include:

  • Producing financial reports
  • Calculating and analyzing profit and loss
  • Detecting irregularities in financial reports from all departments to prevent fraud and theft
  • Developing strategies alongside other management professionals to meet long-term financial goals
  • Maintaining the company’s investment portfolio

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that financial managers earned a median annual salary of $151,610 as of May 2018.7 Job availability for financial managers is expected to increase by 19% by the year 2026, which is quite a bit faster than the average position.3

Affordable Online MBA in Accounting Programs

Using data from US News and directly from the schools, the following are the 10 most affordable online MBA programs in Accounting for 2019.

  • 100% Online
  • Fully Accredited
  • From Public or Non-Profit Institutions
RankSchoolStateAccred.Tuition
Per Credit
Avg. GPAAccept
Rate
Retention
Rate
1University of the CumberlandsKYIACBE$3153.191%90%
2Jacksonville State UniversityALAACSB$3823.475%83%
3University of North AlabamaALAACSB$425391%80%
4University of Southern IndianaINAACSB$4303.1100%75%
5Campbellsville UniversityKYIACBE$4793.338%88%
6Lindenwood UniversityMOACBSP$5003.252%78%
7Clarion University of PennsylvaniaPAAACSB$5573.397%96%
8Anderson UniversityINACBSP$56554%
9Texas A&M University-CommerceTXAACSB$6173.274%80%
10Park UniversityMOACBSP$62486%95%

Should I get an online MBA in Accounting?

If you’re considering an accredited MBA in accounting online, you should consider two things: whether you’re the kind of self-motivated learner that benefits from online classes, and what your career goals are. As mentioned earlier, this concentration is specifically tailored to meet the needs of individuals pursuing a career in accounting or auditing and is heavily focused on providing students with a vast knowledge of accounting and tax procedures. Consider some of the following questions before deciding whether to pursue an MBA in accounting:

Online MBA in Accounting vs. an online MBA in Finance

Finance and accounting are very distinct professions. Where accountants are tasked with reviewing and maintaining financial records, jobs in finance are about investment: recognizing opportunities, analyzing trends, forecasting, and dealing with the practical realities of managing an investment portfolio. Deciding between these different career paths (both of which offer strong prospects for job growth) is the natural first step in determining what kind of MBA you’ll pursue. If you’re pursuing a career as a Chartered Financial Analyst, an online MBA in Finance is certainly the better choice. (There are further differences between an MBA and a master’s in finance, but they’re outside the scope of this post.)

Online MBA in Accounting vs. an online Master’s in Accounting

Those pursuing a career as a CPA should consider a master’s in accounting as a worthwhile alternative to an MBA in accounting. A master’s in accounting program is specifically focused on providing students with a solid foundation in business law and economics, and on preparing them for the CPA exam. It may be the more efficient alternative if you’re working toward that specific goal. Graduates of the program will also acquire a deeper knowledge of major specializations like tax, assurance, performance management and finance. Furthermore, students in a master’s of accounting program don’t need prior business experience, which is often preferred of applicants into an MBA in accounting.

Are you willing to be held accountable for the financial investments and tax statements of other individuals and businesses?

Accountants and auditors are entrusted with access to financial records and accounts. As such, they’re required to act with the utmost integrity. In cases in which the numbers don’t add up, the accountability falls on the accountant or accounting department, and they may be subject to investigation if something is wrong. If you don’t work well under pressure, this career path might not be the right one for you.

Do you have a keen eye for detail?

Accountants spend most of their days staring at financial reports and analyzing numbers. Having an eye for detail is crucial when analyzing reports and attempting to detect miscalculations or fraud.

Are you pursuing a career path in accounting or auditing?

If your interests and goals lie specifically in accounting or auditing, and especially in pursuing related C-suite or specialist positions, an MBA in accounting is a great choice. If you’re pursuing a career as a CPA, a master’s of accounting might be a better option.

Can you commit to the heavy workload that’s required of an MBA student?

Studying to get an MBA is a commitment that takes time and dedication. If your schedule doesn’t permit several hours of focused study each week, this may not be the right time to dive in, especially if you are already employed in a full-time job. However, many MBA programs are specifically tailored to people who are already employed in the business sector full-time, so don’t be intimidated; it can be done.

Frequently Asked Questions

When applying to any kind of MBA program, it’s important to be fully-informed and ask the right questions to ensure you’re pursuing credentials that are targeted at what you truly need for the career you have in mind. Some of the most commonly-asked questions about MBA programs in accounting include:

Are online MBA programs always at accredited institutions?

DiscoverBusiness.us covers only programs that have regional accreditation with a CHEA-recognized body and national accreditation from the AACSB, ACBSP or IACBE. So while not all online MBA programs are created equal, you can be assured that the ones you find here are fully accredited.

How can having an MBA in accounting advance my career as an accountant?

If you’re already working as an accountant or auditor, you might wonder if obtaining an MBA in accounting is worth the investment of your money and time. If you’re interested in advancing your career and being promoted to a higher or top-level management position, the business skills and advanced accounting skills that you’ll take with you after graduating from an accredited MBA program in accounting are invaluable.

Is it better to obtain my MBA in a classroom setting instead of online?

Many students find themselves more committed and focused on learning when they attend a physical classroom on a regular schedule. For students with limited schedules, though, an online MBA program in accounting can be an excellent choice. Pursuing an MBA in accounting online requires self-discipline and motivation, as learning is self-guided and tasks are usually done on your own time. If these are among your strengths, an online MBA may be right for you.

How long does it take to earn an online MBA in accounting?

While online MBA courses provide students with greater flexibility than classroom courses, it’s best to aim to complete an MBA program in about two years. Of course, there are also many accelerated MBA programs available that can be completed in as little as six to eight weeks, but accelerated programs usually require a full-time commitment.


References:
1https://www.snhu.edu/online-degrees/masters/mba-online/mba-in-accounting
2https://elearning.scranton.edu/mba/accounting-specialization
3https://onlinebusiness.syr.edu/mba/specializations/accounting/
https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/top-executives.htm
https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Chief_Financial_Officer_(CFO)/Salary

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