A degree may open the door to a variety of opportunities and diverse career paths. The degree programs offered at AIU 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 enjoy balancing budgets and helping advise businesses or people on things like financial planning and saving for the future, you may have considered pursuing a master's degree in accounting at some point. However, accounting is more than adding and subtracting and balancing spreadsheets. It requires an understanding of tax law, the ability to effectively gauge financial risk and the desire to help others with complex and meaningful financial decisions. If you’re interested in identifying other ways to apply your knowledge and experience across a broader business setting, then pursuing a graduate degree may be an ideal choice for you.
Why Pursue a Master's in Accounting?
Those who wish to advance in their accounting careers may choose to pursue professional certifications specific to their positions and areas of expertise. For example, public accountants often choose to take the CPA exam to practice as a Certified Public Accountant, while those in management accounting may choose to become Certified Management Accountants. Other organizations offer certification programs for specific types of accountants, such as those offered for Certified Forensic Accountants, Certified Fraud Examiners and Certified Internal Auditors.
Some certifications may have education requirements, such as the 150 semester credit hours required to take the CPA exam. Completing a master's program may help you fulfill such requirements while also offering the added professional advantages of having an advanced degree.1
This may be a path worth pursuing, as the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment of accountant and auditors to grow 10% from 2016 through 2026.3
The following job opportunities may be available to pursue in this field:
Public accountants work in a variety of positions, from operating private accounting practices to occupying a wide range of roles within larger organizations. Public accountants may work with companies or people preparing taxes, recommend various financial planning decisions, and help with budget and revenue statements. CPAs who work for larger corporations may work to ensure all legally required tax forms are correct and follow federal and industry regulations. A CPA license is required for any accountant who is responsible for filing documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission in his or her state.1,2
Public accountants who want to become CPAs must pass the Certified Public Accountant exam and be licensed in the state in which they plan to practice.
Management accountants prepare financial documents and reports for internal use within a company. Sometimes called cost, managerial, industrial or corporate accountants, they help business managers plan for the company's financial future, and offer guidance on budgeting and investment decisions. Additionally, a management accountant's responsibilities may intersect or overlap with those of financial managers.2
The Institute of Management Accountants awards the CMA certification to candidates who meet their education and experience requirements and have passed the two-part CMA exam.
An auditor’s job is to make sure an organization's financial and accounting records are valid. This means verifying income and expenses, as well as other important financial documents, to make sure all financial activity is properly monitored and recorded. Some organizations have internal auditors who monitor financial records to check for fraud or errors, ensure budgets and profits are properly reported and applicable tax laws are followed. In other cases, external auditors from outside agencies are used to ensure all financial transactions are correctly documented and that all reporting is compliant with tax regulations.2
Several certifications for auditors are available depending on the type of auditing work. The Institute of Internal Auditors offers Certified Internal Auditor credentials, while the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA) offers several certifications for auditors specializing in information systems.
Tax Examiners and Revenue Agents
Tax examiners and revenue agents work for local, state and federal government agencies and are responsible for evaluating legally required tax forms for people and businesses. In addition to auditing tax forms to ensure compliance with federal and local regulations, they may also be tasked with collecting tax payments. Such agents understand how to identify if returns are error free, can collect unpaid or overdue taxes, and are skilled at tax law.4
While there are no major certifications for tax examiners, tax collectors, or revenue agents, the type of organization in which you hope to be employed (as well as the specific job title itself) may determine whether there are more experience requirements in addition to a bachelor’s degree.5
The BLS projects employment of tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents to show little or no change from 2016 through 2026.6
This type of accountant typically works for a public accounting firm's forensic accounting division, for consulting firms that specialize in fraud investigation or for law enforcement agencies. Forensic accountants use their knowledge of critical accounting principles to check financial documents to see if crimes have been committed and to spot irregularities. Lawyers may also hire forensic accountants to help analyze important financial paperwork and documents related to cases.7
The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners offers the Certified Fraud Examiner credential, and the American Board of Forensic Accounting offers the Certified Forensic Accountant credential.
While the BLS doesn't collect data specific to forensic accounting, the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners predicts increasing demand.7 Additionally, the BLS projects a 10% growth of employment of accountants and auditors from 2016 through 2026.3
Actuaries help businesses create specific policies to reduce risk within the organization. They may have in-depth knowledge of finance, business and statistics and they are skilled in creating and authenticating paperwork. Actuaries may work in health and life insurance, property and casualty insurance, or enterprise risk management.8
Actuaries must pass a series of exams before attaining professional status. Depending on the type of actuarial position pursued, looking into the licensing programs offered by the Casualty Actuarial Society or the Society of Actuaries may be necessary.9
The BLS projects the employment of actuaries to grow 22% from 2016 through 2026.10Are you interested in learning more about your options? Explore our master's degree programs at AIU.
1. “Accountants and Auditors: How to Become an Accountant or Auditor.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/accountants-and-auditors.htm#tab-4 (Visited 1/17/2019).
2. “Accountants and Auditors: What Accountants and Auditors Do.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/accountants-and-auditors.htm#tab-2 (Visited 1/17/2019).
3. “Accountants and Auditors: Job Outlook.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/accountants-and-auditors.htm#tab-6 (Visited 1/17/2019). Conditions in your area may vary.
4. “Tax Examiners and Collectors, and Revenue Agents: What Tax Examiners and Collectors, and Revenue Agents Do.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/tax-examiners-and-collectors-and-revenue-agents.htm#tab-2 (Visited 1/17/2019).
5. “Tax Examiners and Collectors, and Revenue Agents: How to Become a Tax Examiner or Collector, or Revenue Agent.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/tax-examiners-and-collectors-and-revenue-agents.htm#tab-4 (Visited 1/17/19).
6. “Tax Examiners and Collectors, and Revenue Agents: Job Outlook.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/tax-examiners-and-collectors-and-revenue-agents.htm#tab-6 (Visited 1/17/2019). Conditions in your area may vary.
7. “Career Path: Forensic Accountant.” Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. Retrieved from: http://www.acfe.com/career-path-forensic-accountant.aspx (Visited 1/17/2019).
8. “Actuaries: What Actuaries Do.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/math/actuaries.htm#tab-2 (Visited 1/17/2019).
9. “Actuaries: How to Become an Actuary.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/math/actuaries.htm#tab-4 (Visited 1/17/2019).
10. “Actuaries: Job Outlook.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/math/actuaries.htm#tab-6 (Visited 1/17/2019). Conditions in your area may vary.
American InterContinental University cannot guarantee employment or salary. For important information about the educational debt, earnings and completion rates of students who attended these programs, go to www.aiuniv.edu/disclosures.
Classes Start December 11, 2019