It’s been said that money makes the world go ’round. While we might like to believe that’s not true, the reality is that every business, organization, government office, family and individual will at one time or another need to consult with an accounting professional.
For people who have attained a high level of education in the field, the options are virtually limitless for the types of jobs and industries that become available after completing a master’s degree in accounting. That’s because in addition to an education in the foundational principles of accounting, including mathematics and finance, a master’s degree typically allows a person to hone in on the specialties they care most about.
Jobs you can get after a master’s degree in accounting could land you in a company’s C-suite or they could have you digging through offshore accounts of people attempting to avoid their tax obligations.
The job outlook for financial specialists, accountants, and auditors is only slightly better than for all occupations across the economy, with a 6% accounting degree salary growth rate projected through 2028 (compared to 5% for all jobs). This could mean that a master’s degree is a necessary tool for helping an accountant or financial specialist to develop a specialty and make them a more attractive candidate.
Either way, let’s take a look at the 12 best things you can do with a master’s degree in accounting, whether you’re eager to get your hands dirty or want to take on upper-level management roles.
Certified Public Accountant
While not all accountants are CPAs, any accountant whose job includes filing reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) must become a Certified Public Accountant. Others will choose to earn the certification to enhance their credentials, and some employers may pay for employees to take the exam. Depending on their employer or area of focus, CPAs are likely to perform a range of accounting, consulting and auditing tasks, including examining financial statements, organizing records, assessing operations and explaining their findings and recommendations. The CPA designation is incredibly versatile, allowing an individual to open their own firm, join an existing firm and more.
Salary range: $65,000-$118,000
A comptroller is a senior-level manager who is responsible for overseeing all functions related to accounting and financial reporting, ensuring quality and compliance in the preparation of financial reports, income statements, balance sheets and more. They generally work within government agencies or for states or municipalities, though jobs may be available in very large corporate organizations or nonprofits. The prevalence of these jobs within government requires a thorough understanding of all applicable federal, state and local laws, as well as establishing accounting or financial management policies that may apply. Depending on the agency, the comptroller themselves may personally prepare reports and statements, while other roles may be more managerial in nature.
Salary range: $67,000-$104,000
Chief Financial Officer
As one of the most senior people within a company, a CFO oversees and directs all functions related to the financial activities of a corporation, nonprofit or agency, including the preparation of financial reports and forecasts, planning and development of strategic initiatives, and implementing or enhancing policies and procedures relating to financial systems. Their duties include tracking cash flow, building long-term relationships with financial partners and advising leadership on the financial merits of any potential contracts or decisions the company may make. While they may find the highest number of opportunities in the private sector, CFO jobs also are available both within the nonprofit space and for local, state and federal governments, though those roles are likely to be a bit less lucrative.
Salary range: $125,000-$250,000
Often working within or in consultation with law enforcement and criminal justice offices, forensic accountants provide the analysis necessary to trace the financial activities of individuals or companies suspected or accused of crimes. Using their knowledge of accounting and finance, as well as laws regarding banking, securities and taxes, they work with other investigators to trace transactions, identify defendants and victims and make recommendations with regard to a defendant’s ability to make restitution to victims. In many cases, they will need to provide testimony or sworn statements to the court, and they likely will need to prepare detailed reports and exhibits that will be entered as evidence in criminal, civil or tax proceedings.
Salary range: $50,000-$110,000
International Tax Manager
International tax managers work with companies, usually large corporations, to ensure compliance with all applicable national laws regarding taxes. Depending on the job, this could include overseeing or participating in the preparation of business tax returns, researching tax regulations or proposed new laws that could impact their clients and assisting with communication between clients and local or national government agencies. They will find the largest number of openings with major accounting firms or within the business itself, and fluency in multiple languages will help candidates stand out.
Salary range: $95,000-$150,000
Senior Financial Analyst
Senior financial analysts study investment opportunities and make recommendations to their clients about which opportunities may be most lucrative. These professionals must be skilled not only in accounting practices but in statistical modeling and analysis, as they must conduct a thorough analysis of past financial events and historic data to develop intelligence related to the potential risk and reward of a variety of investments. Some senior financial analysts may serve in managerial roles, and depending on the size of the company, they may be very senior members of the staff, and their duties may include ensuring adherence to best practices related to accounting and financial analysis.
Salary range: $90,000-$150,000
Compliance managers are responsible for ensuring that all laws, regulations and established practices are being followed with regard to accounting, financial planning, accounts payable and other finance-related matters. The compliance manager oversees these functions, and depending on the size of the company, they may be in charge of a department of compliance officers who conduct hands-on work related to compliance. The compliance manager also will be consulted in or lead efforts to update policies when necessary because of legal changes or when desired by management.
Salary range: $80,000-$120,000
Anti-Money Laundering Officer
Anti-money laundering officers are responsible for assessing and identifying suspicious financial activity within banks and other financial institutions, and they may also work within investigatory bodies like the FBI. These investigators will analyze transactions for irregularities that may signal an attempt at money laundering or other financial fraud. They must remain well-educated on trends related to money laundering and fraud so they can identify new and emerging schemes, and they need to have knowledge of federal and international laws and regulations related to money laundering and the required reporting of suspicious activity.
Salary range: $90,000-$105,000
A treasury analyst serves as the keeper of the cash of an organization, monitoring a business, nonprofit or other agency’s supply of money. This means keeping detailed financial records of all incoming or outgoing cash transactions, reviewing bank statements, tracking investment income and performing wire transfers. In senior positions, treasury analysts will be trusted with researching historic data and making recommendations on company financial strategies, including expansions, hiring and more. They are responsible for making sure their employer’s immediate financial picture is a good one, and they will mostly find jobs in the private sector, though openings exist in a variety of industries.
Salary range: $75,000-$100,000
Private bankers, sometimes referred to as wealth managers, work exclusively with high-income or high-net-worth clients, managing their financial accounts, which could include tracking and protecting investments, processing transactions like real estate purchases, doing estate planning and more. They may be tasked with coordinating services with clients’ other financial professionals, such as attorneys or fund managers, but they most often will serve as their clients’ central point of contact for all wealth management needs. Private bankers typically work in banks that cater to wealthy individuals, though they may work in more traditional banking settings as well, and they are likely to provide services to several clients at once, though this depends on the size of each client’s portfolio.
Salary range: $75,000-$150,000
Everyone dreads an audit, and tax accountants are there to help make sure that doesn’t happen, whether to private individuals or to corporations, nonprofits or government bodies. Tax accountants work to help their clients devise strategies for legally reducing their tax burdens, they advise their clients on the implications of tax law, and, of course, they prepare and submit tax documents on behalf of their clients. While tax accountants certainly have busy seasons around tax-filing deadlines, the truth is that this is a year-round job, as it involves helping advise clients on strategies they’ll need to apply 12 months out of the year.
Salary range: $50,000-$80,000
Budget analysts work within or in consultancy with organizations like universities, hospitals, nonprofits, businesses or government agencies, advising them on how to organize and manage their finances. Depending on the organization and how robust their finance departments are, budget analysts may be tasked with developing the organization’s annual budget, monitoring spending to ensure it follows the budget plan and estimating potential future financial needs based on forecasting or strategic planning. They may be asked to analyze departments, personnel and other areas and recommend ways to cut spending across the organization.
Salary range: $50,000-$100,000
A master’s degree in accounting opens up not only a new level of earnings potential but depending on the individual learner’s educational path, it could take them into the upper echelons of the corporate world, into the fast-paced world of criminal investigations and much more.
- Salary information was gathered from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Payscale.com and Indeed.com.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Accountants and Auditors. (2019.) Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/accountants-and-auditors.htm