Is a Master of Science in Accounting Worth Your Time?

Is a Masters in Accounting Worth Your Time
A lucrative and highly rewarding career, accounting appeals to driven individuals with an eye for detail. Like any career, however, it’s not a perfect fit for everybody. A thorough understanding of the pros and cons surrounding accounting is essential prior to entering a Master of Science in Accounting program.

It takes hard work and sacrifice to earn an MSA, and the challenges are far from over after graduation. Read on to learn more about the benefits of pursuing a career in accounting and the potential pitfalls.

THE PROS

If, as you search for the ideal career path, you find yourself primarily gravitating towards stable fields with plenty of job opportunities, you’ll appreciate the security of working in accounting. Whether you desire 9-to-5 work or entrepreneurial adventures, an exciting and prosperous career path awaits.

Low Unemployment Rate

Job opportunities are abundant for those with accounting skills and experience. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a job growth outlook of 10 percent between 2016 and 2026 — an improvement over the projected 7 percent outlook across all industries. Upper-level positions enjoy even greater opportunities; for example, the BLS indicates a job outlook of 19 percent for financial managers. While this outlook applies to accountants, auditors, and financial managers with their bachelor’s degree, graduate-level credentials make accounting professionals that much more hireable, thereby improving their chances in an already promising job-hunting process.

Job stability is likely even in economic downturns, especially as businesses and individuals strive to reduce spending waste. Not many jobs can be deemed recession-proof, but accountants can take solace in knowing that their skills will remain in demand no matter the state of the economy.

High Wages

As of 2016, the BLS reported median pay of $68,150 per year for accountants and auditors. By comparison, the median annual wage for all employees was $37,040 in May of 2016. The median accounting wage estimated by the BLS is likely a lowball estimate for Master’s program graduates, especially as the highest 10 percent of accountants earn over $120,910. Often, accounting students become financial analysts — a particularly lucrative career track. In 2016, financial analysts earned median annual wages of $81,760. Other opportunities such as financial management could lead to virtually guaranteed six-figure incomes.

Flexibility in Work Settings

Do you desire a stable 9-to-5 position? Or does the freelancing lifestyle appeal to you? No matter your favored work setup, you can pursue it as a Master of Science in Accounting graduate. If you hold entrepreneurial ambition, your degree can equip you with the skills and connections you need to excel with running your own accounting firm or consulting business.

THE CONS

There is a lot to love about accounting, but it’s not all roses. A few notable downsides accompany the many benefits highlighted above. Every industry has its problems, however, and many accountants are willing to put up with the unique complications of their industry in order to earn the impressive wages that accompany a Master of Science in Accounting.

Education Doesn’t End with Your Master’s

A rapidly evolving field, accounting requires a firm grasp of the latest tools, technologies, and methodologies. Take even a few years off and your knowledge may prove out of date. Expect to continue taking classes and attending seminars in the interest of shoring up your skills and proving to employers and clients that you’re at the forefront of your industry.

Busy Periods Can Be Stressful

Graduate coursework can be incredibly challenging, and at times, stressful. This provides excellent preparation for what could also be a stressful career. Accountants enjoy stable careers and impressive incomes, but they work hard for those rewards.

If you work as an accountant — and especially if you choose to run your own firm — expect work to arrive in waves. Work might be slow during some months, but others will be incredibly busy — and you’ll be stressed as a result. Many accountants appreciate the ebb and flow of their profession, but others wish that the workload was a bit more constant. Wavering work levels are especially prevalent in tax accounting, with professionals experiencing the greatest load in February, March, and the first two weeks of April.

Unfortunately, in some positions, the stress never goes away; it just gets worse during the busy season. A notable Chartered Accountants’ Benevolent Association study found that the majority of accountants experienced stress due to their job, with 77 percent citing long hours as their primary concern.

There is no one career field that appeals to all professionals. Accounting can be a dream career path or a waste of time, depending on your personal skills and ambitions. Think carefully before you select a graduate program so that you’re prepared not only for the rigors of your academic journey, but also years of challenges (and rewards) in the accounting field.

This is part of a series of informational articles for working adults who are considering a master’s degree. We kicked things off last week with MBA and will follow with articles about master’s in accounting, education, public administration, higher education administration, and counseling & human services. Next week’s article is 5 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Becoming a CPA  

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