Earning a master of accountancy (MAcc) will provide you with the skills and knowledge necessary to work as an accountant or auditor, and to provide expert tax and financial record services. Accountants with a master’s degree can eventually becoming Certified Public Accountants (CPAs), and earn a high salary and be in demand in many industries.
If you are going to spend the time and money to earn a master of accountancy, it is important to understand what salary you can anticipate after you have your accounting degree. This will vary depending upon these factors:
- The type of master’s degree in accounting you earn
- The exact accounting career path you choose (CPA etc.)
- Your level of work experience
- Where you live in the US
- The industry in which you work
Once you have analyzed this information, you will have a better idea of the salary you can earn with a master’s degree in accounting.
Type of Master’s Degree/Level of Degree
If you are deciding to earn your master’s degree in accounting, you probably already know that professionals with a master’s degree tend to earn higher salaries. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that workers with a bachelor’s degree earn a median wage of $56,000 and those with a master’s degree earn $68,000. So you can be confident that getting a master’s in accounting will result in a higher salary.
One of the most common reasons professionals earn a master of accountancy is that this level of education allows you to sit for the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) examination. Becoming a CPA is a very desirable option; all accountants who file reports with the SEC must be CPAs. Many accountants choose to get their master’s and sit for the CPA examination so that they can have better-paying career prospects in accounting.
To become a CPA, you need to complete 150 semester hours of college work in accounting. This is 30 hours more than a typical bachelor’s program. So, earning a master’s degree in accounting from an accredited program is typically sufficient to qualify to sit for the CPA exam. Many non-profit universities are known to have some of the best online masters in accounting degree programs in the country.
According to Payscale.com, the median salary for a CPA with a master of accountancy is $63,165, with a range between $45,100 and $102,524. Glassdoor.com reports the average base pay for CPAs is $73,825. Payscale.com also reports that the average salary for an accountant with a bachelor’s degree in accounting is $48,866 for a typical accountant position. That website also states that the average salary for an accountant with a master of accountancy is $51,389.
The data suggests that accountants who earn a MAcc degree and become a CPA will enjoy a higher salary than those with only a bachelor’s degree.
CPAs Say They Are Satisfied With Average Salaries in 2017
A 2017 survey determined that ⅔ of CPAs in the US are satisfied with their current salary, and more than 80% anticipate earning more within the next year. The survey was conducted by the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants.
The survey noted that 81% of 5,000 CPAs responded and stated that they will get a pay raise in the next year. The average increase anticipated was 5%. Most CPAs hold either a master of science in accounting or a master of accountancy degree.
The trend for CPA compensation shows that the profession is still in high demand as the US economy is truly starting to bounce back from the last recession. Wage growth in many professions has been stagnant in the last several years, but 80% of CPAs reported that they had seen a pay raise of approximately 4% in the last 12 months.
The survey also revealed that accounting overall is a lucrative profession in the US, with the average CPA salary reported at $119,000 per year, not including bonuses. New CPAs were reported to earn an average salary of $61,000 per year, and CPAs with over 20 years of experience earning $152,000 per year.
The base pay for CPAs was shown to be solid, but this does not tell the entire story, according to industry experts. Bonuses at the end of the year can play a major role in compensation as CPAs become more experienced. The survey showed that nearly 60% of CPAs are employed by companies that provide bonuses, with the average bonus in the 10% range of their annual salary.
Many companies that employ CPAs have reported it is difficult to find good quality people for these jobs. They also have difficulty getting experienced CPAs to leave their jobs and take a new one.
Type of Accountancy Career
Another major factor in your level of salary with a master of accountancy degree is the exact type of job that you take. Below are the most common types of jobs that these professionals get with this advanced degree.
Certified Public Accountant
As noted above, becoming a CPA is the most common job option for professionals with this master’s degree. CPAs perform a wide variety of auditing, accounting and tax activities. These highly paid accounting professionals ensure that companies, public firms and government organizations stay within state and federal law and report and pay taxes properly.
One of the most important duties of a CPA above and beyond the job of a standard accountant is to analyze the structure of a company and financial activities, and advise upper level management on the tax consequences of various business moves.
Another major duty of CPAs is to act as a consultant in business and finance areas such as employee benefits, compensation, data processing and protection of assets. CPAs also do a lot of work in budget development, strategic planning, fraud prevention, contract negotiation and tax preparation/filing.
BLS reports the median salary for all accountants is $68,150, with a range between $42,000 and $120,900. As noted earlier, CPAs can earn in the range of $65,000 to $120,000 per year, largely depending upon years of experience.
A public accountant performs a broad array of auditing, accounting, tax and consulting work. Their clients can include individuals, corporations and governments. Public accountants typically work a great deal with financial documents that clients must disclose by law. Some of these include federal and state tax forms, and balance sheet statements that firms that are publicly traded have to provide to possible investors.
For example, some public accountants may focus on tax issues and advise companies about the tax advantages of making certain business moves. Some public accountants are CPAs but not all are. They may work for themselves or work for a public accounting company.
Some public accountants may work in forensic accounting, and look into financial crimes that include embezzlement and securities fraud.
Payscale.com reports the median salary for public accountants is $62,410 per year.
This type of accountant may also be called managerial, cost, industrial, corporate or private accountants. They are responsible for recording and analyzing the financial information of the company that they work for. Information that management accountants prepare is designed to be only used for internal purposes by managers and not by the general public.
Many management accountants work on performance evaluation and budgeting. They also may assist companies to plan how to do business in a financially prudent manner. Some management accountants also work with financial managers to plan how to manage assets effectively.
Glassdoor.com reports the average salary for management accountants is $66,387 per year.
Certified Management Accountant (CMA)
Another option that fewer professionals know about is to become a CMA. This designation differs markedly from the CPA credential. A CPA is focused more on tax work, signing audits and representing companies during an IRS audit. On the other hand, a CMA focuses largely on cost accounting, management reporting, financial planning and analysis.
CMAs tend to have a job advantage in the manufacturing industry, such as in accounting positions in areas such as plant control and management accounting. However, if you are interested in financial reporting and corporate tax work, it is better to be a CPA.
To become a CMA, you need to only have a bachelor’s degree in accounting and two years of full time work experience in management accounting or financial management.
CMAs can earn a variety of salary levels depending upon the position. Payscale.com reports the median salary for a CFO with a CMA earns a salary of $135,600, and a financial controller earns a salary of $84,800.
Other potential jobs related to accountant include:
- Budget analyst: Help public and private organizations to better organize their finances. They also are responsible for preparing budget reports and monitoring institutional spending: $73,800.
- Financial analyst: Provide financial guidance to companies and people who are making critical investment decisions. They also are responsible for assessing the performance of stocks, bonds and other investments: $81,700.
- Financial manager: Responsible for the overall financial health of a company. They often make up financial reports and direct a variety of investment activities: $121,700.
- Tax examiner and collector: Determine the amount of taxes that are owed and then collect the required taxes from businesses and individuals, for federal, state and local governments: $52,000.
The number of years that you have worked as an accountant or CPA also will be a major factor in your salary level. For example, CPAs with the following levels of experience have these median salaries:
- Less than one year: $51,300
- One to four years: $53,849
- Five to nine years: $65,300
- 10 to 19 years: $77,800
- 20 or more years: $88,143
Tax accountant salaries also vary based upon years of experience:
- Less than one year: $49,600
- One to four years: $51,600
- Five to nine years: $60,700
- 10 to 19 years: $63,000
- 20 or more years: $62,500
Research also shows that where you live in the United States can influence your salary level. Payscale.com reports the following salary levels for CPAs in different cities in the country:
- New York: $74,400
- Chicago: $67,800
- Los Angeles: $68,200
- Houston: $61,300
- Dallas: $63,700
- San Francisco: $71,200
- Boston: $69,900
The area of the economy in which you work also will affect your salary with a master of accounting. Payscale.com reports the salaries below for CPAs by industry:
- Company: $62,700
- Private firm: $62,100
- Self employed: $65,600
- State or local government: 459,800
- Nonprofit: $60,300
- Hospital: $57,800
- Federal government: $86,800
- College: $67,200
- Foundation: $60,500
- School: $65,000
- Contract: $72,800
BLS also reports these salaries for accountants by industry:
- Finance and insurance: $72,900
- Management of companies and enterprises: $70,700
- Accounting, tax prep, bookkeeping, payroll services: $68,100
- Government: $65,800
Earning a master of accountancy degree is a ticket to a high paying accounting career. How high you can go salary-wise depends upon the factors above, but you should be able to earn good money and have your choice of jobs in many parts of the economy and country.
- Accountants and Auditors. (2015). Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/accountants-and-auditors.htm
- CPA or CMA. (2014). Retrieved from https://www.monster.com/career-advice/article/cpa-or-cma
- Should I Get a Master’s Degree? (2015). Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2015/article/should-i-get-a-masters-degree.htm
- CPA Average Salary. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.journalofaccountancy.com/news/2017/sep/cpa-average-salary-201717483.html
- Certified Public Accountant Career and Salary. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.floridatechonline.com/blog/accounting-finance/certified-public-accountant-career-and-salary-profile/