Master of Accountancy: Program Requirements and Careers

Program Overview

Woman drawing an accounting symbol
Getty Images/John Lund.

What Is a Master of Accountancy Program?

A Master of Accountancy (MAcc) is a specialty degree awarded to students who have completed a graduate-level degree program with a focus on accounting. Master of Accountancy programs may also be known as Master of Professional Accountancy (MPAc or MPAcy) or Master of Science in Accounting (MSA) programs.

Why Earn a Master of Accountancy

Many students earn a Master of Accountancy to get the credit hours needed to sit the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination, also known as the CPA exam.

Passage of this exam is required to earn a CPA license in every state. Some states have additional requirements, such as work experience.

States used to require only 120 credit hours of education to sit this exam, which meant that most people were able to meet requirements after earning just a bachelor's degree, but times have changed, and some states now require 150 credit hours. This means that most students have to earn a bachelor's degree and a master's degree or take one of the 150 credit hour accounting programs offered by some schools. 

The CPA credential is very valuable in the accounting field. This credential demonstrates in-depth knowledge of public accounting and means that the holder is well-versed in everything from tax preparation and auditing processes to accounting laws and regulations. In addition to preparing you for the CPA exam, a Master of Accountancy can prepare you for careers in auditing, taxation, forensic accounting, or management.

Read more about careers in the accounting field.

Admissions Requirements

The admission requirements for Master of Accountancy degree programs vary, but most schools require students to have a bachelor's degree or the equivalent prior to enrolling. However, there are a few schools that will let students transfer credits and finish up bachelor degree requirements while taking first-year courses in a Master of Accountancy program.

Program Length

The amount of time that it takes to earn a Master of Accountancy depends heavily upon the program. The average program lasts one to two years. However, there are some programs that allow students to earn their degree in as little as nine months.

Shorter programs are usually designed for students who have an undergraduate degree in accounting, while longer programs are often meant for non-accounting majors - of course this can vary by school as well. Students who enroll in a 150 credit hour accounting program will usually spend five years of full-time study earning their degree.

Many of the students who earn a Master of Accountancy study full-time, but part-time study options are available through some of the programs offered by some colleges, universities, and business schools.

Master of Accountancy Curriculum

As with program length, the exact curriculum will vary from program to program. Some of the specific topics that you can expect to study in most programs include:

  • Managerial finance
  • Managerial economics
  • Financial reporting
  • Cost accounting
  • Taxation (including business taxation)
  • Auditing theory
  • Auditing processes
  • Business or accounting ethics
  • Business law
  • Statistics

Choosing a Master of Accountancy Program

If you are thinking about earning a Master of Accountancy to meet CPA requirements, you should be especially carefully when choosing a school or program.

The CPA exam is notoriously difficult to pass. In fact, about 50 percent of people fail the test on their first try. (See CPA pass/fail rates.) The CPA is not an IQ test, but it requires a large and intricate well of knowledge to get a passing score. The people who pass do so because they are better prepared than the people who don't. For this reason alone, it is very important to choose a school that has a curriculum designed to prepare you for the exam.

In addition to level of preparation, you'll also want to look for a Master of Accountancy program that is accredited. This is especially important for anyone who wants an education that is recognized by certifying bodies, employers, and other education institutions. You may also want to check the school's ranking to gain an understanding of the program's reputation.

Other important considerations include location, tuition costs, and internship opportunities.