Accounting is the language of business, helping firms communicate with investors, regulators, and giving managers a picture of corporate health.
A typical MBA program with a focus in accounting will not only teach you the nuts and bolts of financial recordkeeping, it will also teach you how to best apply those technical skills in real world large-scale situations, while taking the overall business model of your company in mind.
With an MBA in accounting, you’ll be a stronger candidate for management and executive positions rather than being limited to number-crunching.
What kind of accounting degree should you get?
The MBA in accounting is one avenue for students who are interested in financial analysis – usually as it pertains to making management decisions in corporations. Students interested in practicing independently as a CPA may also consider pursuing a Master’s degree in Accounting degree, either in person or an online master’s in accounting. Students should consult their respective CPA State Licensing Board about the specific coursework that would make you eligible to sit for the CPA exam in your state.
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How much do people make with an MBA in accounting?
Depending on your employer and job description, you can expect a salary of $50,000 and up as an accountant with an MBA. According to Payscale.com, accountants with an MBA average $50-65,000 in compensation.
Those in executive positions are paid more. A corporate controller makes around $99,000 a year, while an accounting manager averages $74,000. Those working in consulting or investment firms may make much more, both as salary and in bonuses.
A key benefit of earning an MBA is the flexibility and relevancy it offers across industries – and an MBA specializing in accounting only emphasizes that flexibility with career opportunities in public, private and government roles offering a range of opportunities in many fields.
Whether your goal is to move into an accounting role or advance as a leader with accounting skills, the ability to analyze and interpret financial data is a sought-after skill and increasingly important as organizations expand across the globe.
What are the requirements for an MBA in accounting?
To apply for competitive MBA programs in accounting, you will need a bachelor’s degree with coursework that shows you’re well prepared for graduate work in business. You don’t necessarily have to major in business or economics as an undergraduate to be a competitive candidate.
You’ll also take the GRE or GMAT, depending on the requirements of each school. Finally, you’ll complete a personal essay and interview process to ensure you’re a good fit for the school.
We’ve ranked the top 15 accounting MBA programs that can help you become a leading candidate for an accounting or financial analysis position. Our rankings take into account factors including reputation, graduation rates, selectivity, and faculty resources. Some, but not all, are targeted towards management professionals already working in the field and require previous work experience for admission. Check those requirements carefully so you can find the program that best fits your needs.
Our top-ranked MBA program with an option to concentrate in accounting is at Harvard Business School, where decisive moments define each student’s education. Here, everything from section life to case studies, from field-based learning to international Immersions, culminates in one larger lesson—what it means to assume leadership. Through case method courses, FIELD projects, multimedia simulations, and more, you’ll exercise the leadership skills you will practice in business and beyond.
The Required Curriculum forms the first year of study and establishes a common foundation in the fundamental practices of business including finance, marketing, leadership, negotiation, operations, strategy, and more. All students participate in the same set of classes within their section of 90 colleagues, including FIELD, which complements case-method learning with smaller hands-on team projects, personal reflection, and global immersions. Students may take any combination of courses—up to five courses per semester—and also have the opportunity to cross-register for courses in other select graduate programs. Here are some options:
Business Analysis and Valuation Using Financial Statements
Managing with Data Science
Reimagining Capitalism: Business and Big Problems
Upon arrival at HBS, students are assigned to a specific “section”—a group of approximately 90 students with whom they will complete the Required Curriculum. Through FIELD projects and global immersions, first-year students enrich their section experiences by participating in small, cross-section teams that change throughout the year, connecting participants to the broader HBS community.
The MBA program at Stanford University is distinguished by its flexibility as well as the inclusion of global experience to the degree requirements. Regardless of your major, the first-year curriculum is shared among all students. In the General Management Perspectives core, you’ll dive into complex accounting issues. Your courses offer a menu of choices in each required discipline, calibrated to your skills, experience, and future goals.
In the second year of the MBA, you will likely be taking almost all electives, during which time you can focus on accounting principles and practice. These courses can help broaden your experience and perspective, or broaden your knowledge in a specific area. Recent electives in accounting include:
Alphanomics: Informational Arbitrage in Equity Markets
Analysis and Valuation for Event-Driven Investing
Mergers and Acquisitions: Accounting, Regulatory, and Governance Issues
Participating in a Global Experience is a noteworthy requirement — and a highlight — of the Stanford MBA Program. You’ll gain a rich perspective of global management issues, and experience life-changing insights, as you take part in these exciting global opportunities. You can choose an immersion experience, where you’ll spend at least four weeks during the summer working on projects for a sponsoring organization in an industry such as consumer products, international development, energy, finance, healthcare, media and entertainment, technology, and telecommunications.
The MIT Sloan MBA uses “Action Learning” as the centerpiece of your experience. To reinforce their developing knowledge, students at MIT Sloan exercise their leadership skills and apply classroom learning to management challenges in organizations around the world. MIT Sloan offers Action Learning labs focused on subject areas, like sustainability or analytics, or on geographic regions or type of company. During the first, or “Core,” semester, students are divided into six cohorts with nearly 70 students in each from a rich mix of backgrounds, interests, and experiences.
You’ll learn the principles of financial accounting, and how that information is used in making investment decisions, in corporate and managerial performance assessment, and in the valuation of firms. You’ll also learn how to perform economics-based analysis of accounting information from the viewpoint of senior managers. Due to MIT’s special expertise in the field, students who choose to study accounting often have an interest in advanced financial analytics. Courses in accounting include the following:
Corporate Financial Accounting
Taxes and Business Strategy
Security Design and Corporate Financing
In response to the growing demand from students to dive deeper into analytics and data science, MIT Sloan launched the Business Analytics certificate, available to all MIT graduate students enrolled in a degree-granting program. Students can select from a wide array of electives in their vertical of interest. The classes are completed over a 2-4 semester period, including a number of options for students to learn and practice using analytics techniques in operations, finance, marketing, human capital, healthcare and sustainability.
At Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Business, you will a gain firm grounding in the fundamentals through the Growth Core MBA curriculum. After you complete required courses, you’ll be able to explore a wide range of electives and 1,000+ experiential learning opportunities, to learn, test and build your skillset to meet your professional aspirations.
Kellogg’s rigorous core MBA curriculum provides you grounding in the fundamentals of growth and the foundation for advanced, specialized work in academic majors and professional fields. The core curriculum for the Two-Year Program consists of nine courses in fundamental areas, including accounting; management and organizations; marketing; finance; managerial economics; decision sciences; operations; and management and strategy. Then, there are two fundamental tracks for an accounting major:
Financial Accounting Track
Managerial Accounting Track
Upon graduation, few Kellogg School students go to work for accounting firms, but many find that accounting complements their second major. They find it easier, and more insightful, to learn accounting while at the Kellogg School rather than having to learn it haphazardly on the job. In addition, many consulting careers have a strong accounting component to them – consultants who evaluate the performance systems of their clients are performing accounting analyses. Even if you never plan to become a CPA, the Kellogg School can prepare you to use accounting information in a wide variety of business careers.
Columbia Business School’s MBA in accounting begins with a comprehensive core curriculum that builds the foundation necessary for success in any field. Versatile programs like Master Classes, the Individual, Business, and Society Curriculum, and Columbia CaseWorks all approach business education in new ways, and the school’s cluster system encourages students to learn not only with, but from, their peers.
All Columbia Business School students gain a foundational understanding of accounting principles through the core curriculum. Your classes will go beyond the basics. You’ll discuss whether corporate accounting promulgated by the regulators—the Financial Accounting Standards Board and the International Accounting Standards Board—is really up to the mark. Students interested in further refining their expertise in accounting may take electives offered by the Accounting Division, including:
Accounting for Value
Corporate Transactions and Financial Modeling
Earnings Quality and Fundamental Analysis
Economics of Strategic Behavior
Columbia’s program is noteworthy for its emphasis on community building. This process begins right at the start of the MBA program, as admitted students are assigned to clusters of 65 to 70 fellow students who take all of the first-year core classes together. As diverse as the class itself, each cluster is made up of people from all over the world, with a wealth of different skills, ideas, leadership styles, and backgrounds.
The Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago offers an MBA program tailored to prepare its students for business leadership at a new level. You’ll experience an academic program that features an emphasis on analyzing problems, generating key insights, and implementing creative solutions. The curriculum is noted for its flexibility, with only one required course. This gives you the ability to target the depth of knowledge and skills in accounting that a potential employer will value.
As the study of an organization’s financial information, accounting is often referred to as the language of business. In the accounting concentration, you’ll learn how an organization’s financial performance and health are reflected in its balance sheet and income statement. Accounting gives you a framework from which you can quantifiably evaluate how choices are affected by incentives and resources. You’ll have the option of taking courses that address your individual career choices, including:
Cost Analysis and Internal Controls
Accounting and Financial Analysis
Taxes and Business Strategy
Financial Statement Analysis
The program is noted for an emphasis on experiential learning, giving you the chance to strengthen the connection between theory and practice. Testing the skills and knowledge you’ve gained in a practical setting will stretch and prepare you for business leadership. You’ll also benefit from an academic connection with the University of Chicago, one of the leading research institutions in the world. Through a number of joint degree programs, you can increase the value of your MBA by combining it with a degree from one of the University’s other world-renowned programs.
The MBA in accounting at the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia begins with a required curriculum in the first year that provides you with an integrated perspective on general management. From finance and marketing to accounting and leadership, these required courses cover important business themes. Darden’s core curriculum is designed to give you both breadth and depth, while allowing you ample time for career discovery and preparation for first fear interviewing.
At Darden, all first year students take a core accounting course. Then, Darden offers many opportunities to expand your knowledge of accounting principles and practice, both inside and outside of the classroom, through elective courses and internship experience. You’ll learn how to navigate our society’s accounting and financial-reporting systems, and take an in-depth look at the numerous factors that managers and executives must consider as they confront complex and difficult financial accounting and reporting issues. Accounting electives available include:
Management Planning and Control Systems
Taxation and Management Decisions
Taxation of Mergers and Acquisitions
Financial Statement Analysis and Corporate Valuation
Darden offers students a number of global learning opportunities. One is the Global Client Course elective, where you and a small team of students provide consulting services to an international company or organization while working closely with a Darden faculty member over the course of a quarter or semester. At the beginning or end of each course, you will visit the company on location to build on-the-ground knowledge and experience the issue at hand.
As one of the leading schools of business in the U.S., the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania offers an MBA with an accounting major that helps students acquire the skills to measure and communicate an organization’s economic activities. In this major, you’ll learn the formal system of collecting, organizing, and reporting the financial data used to make economic decisions. You’ll also learn how to use this data shed to light on current financial status and liquidity, as well as past profitability and funds-generating capability.
The accounting major at the Wharton School focuses on the people who need, and use, accounting data. Most courses in the department stress concepts, procedures and applications with a view to helping the student understand how accounting information is generated, as well as its reliability in analysis. Most accounting majors are preparing for careers in which accounting data are used extensively. To complete the major, you’ll need to complete the equivalent of four credit units from the following:
Problems in Financial Reporting
Financial Statement and Disclosure Analysis
The department’s flexible curriculum also allows interested students to take the required courses toward certification as a CPA (certified public accountant) or CMA (chartered management accountant). As the specific course requirements for these certificates vary from state to state, and usually exceed the minimum requirements for a Wharton MBA major, students who seek professional certification should seek the advice of the Accounting Department adviser as early as possible to plan their programs.
The Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth offers an MBA that, among other options, allows students to concentrate in accounting and prepare for a career in the field. Every element in the academic experience at Tuck—from team-based project work and experiential and global learning opportunities to case-based courses, independent study, and small-scale Research-to-Practice Seminars—is designed to push students further than they thought possible with the goal of developing curious, creative leaders.
Tuck’s integrated core curriculum provides rigorous coverage of key functional areas and disciplines with courses that build on and complement each other: statistics and decision science, corporate finance and capital markets, managerial and global economics, marketing, organizational behavior and personal leadership, strategy, communications, and operations. Students who have extensive previous background in a particular discipline may exempt out of a course and take an elective course in its place. Courses in the accounting field include:
Financial Reporting and Statement Analysis
Financial Statement Interpretation and Analysis
Taxes and Business Strategy
Students participate in the Tuck First-Year Project (FYP), a required course in which teams of Tuck students apply learning from their entire first year at Tuck to complex, real-world issues of strategic importance for a variety of clients—multinational corporations, SMEs, nonprofit/nongovernmental entities, and early-stage startups from a wide range of industries. All projects include an immersive, full-time fieldwork component, typically outside of the U.S.
Michigan’s Ross MBA program will take you from the classroom into the field to tackle complex, unstructured problems. Analytic rigor is demanded throughout; you’ll learn to make evidence-based recommendations, have clear logic to defend your solutions, and expect others to have the same. The MAP project is a key part of this program, where first-year students immerse themselves in the business world for seven weeks as they work exclusively with a corporate, entrepreneurial, or non-profit organization to solve a pressing challenge.
Core courses establish a foundation you will build on throughout your Ross MBA experience. The Ross MBA Program allows you to explore a few electives while taking your first year core, and then completely customize your second year, to pursue your individual interests. There are also several focused learning opportunities offered including:
Fast Track in Finance
Real Estate Development Certificate
You’ve got 24 hours to save a company: What do you do? That’s what happens in another notable part of the MBA program at Michigan: the Sanger Leadership Center’s Crisis Challenge. This is an intensive experience where you and a team of your peers will assume the role of senior management facing a devastating crisis. After you find your solutions, you face a judging panel of faculty and members of the business community.
The MBA in accounting at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business prepares students to use a range of accounting knowledge in business decisions, strategy, litigation support, equity analysis, commercial banking, investment banking, or financial positions in corporations. The accounting courses will provide you a solid foundation for preparation of pro forma financial statements, reading and analyzing financial reports, analyzing of cost drivers and costs and valuation techniques.
At Duke, students study both financial accounting and managerial accounting. In financial accounting, you’ll learn to construct and interpret corporate financial reports, and gain a basic understanding of financial statements and the ability to use them for decision-making. Managerial Accounting, on the other hand, emphasizes the use of accounting information for internal purposes. Here, you’ll learn how to design management accounting systems for planning and controlling operations and for motivating personnel. You’ll integrate accounting with ideas from other sectors like:
An optional certificate allows you to branch out within the curriculum to further specialize in a particular area. Three certificates are offered within the program, in Finance, Health Sector Management, and Management Science/Technology Management. However, if you plan to work toward a certificate, you may pursue no more than one major concentration.
The MBA program at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley is anchored in the fundamentals of general management, including the latest theories of and best practices in business – from accounting and finance to marketing and strategy. You’ll learn to lead and manage an enterprise as a whole, gaining a basic framework of qualitative, quantitative, analytical, strategic, and problem solving skills. The core curriculum provides a solid foundation, rooted in business fundamentals, such as marketing, finance, accounting, and operations.
The MBA program requires a total of 51 semester units of coursework: 12 core courses, an applied innovation requirement, and elective courses. As part of the applied innovation requirement, students participate in a team performance module. You can take these courses as early as the spring of their first year. You’ll also select from hundreds of elective courses, both within and outside of the business school, to fulfill the remainder of the 51-unit requirement. Courses include:
Macroeconomics in the Global Economy
Data and Decisions
Economics for Business Decision Making
Student-initiated elective courses are a tradition at the Haas School of Business. Every semester, the Berkeley MBA Program offers several courses that are initiated and run by students with faculty guidance. As a Berkeley MBA student, you will enlarge your innovative leadership skills by taking a required applied innovation course that will enable you to hone your leadership skills in a real-life setting. The applied innovation course requirement is taken in conjunction with a teamwork module, designed to make the experience as meaningful as possible.
The MBA program at Cornell spans 21 months, including a summer internship between the two academic years. It begins in August, with two weeks of orientation activities that provide a foundation of concepts and skills, as well as a warm introduction to your classmates, faculty and staff. The Cornell MBA combines business fundamentals with a strong emphasis on applied learning, individually-focused study, leadership development, and valuable, usable knowledge to advance you in business and beyond.
You’ll complete the bulk of your core courses in the first semester, then start individual, career-focused study by the second semester. The program features a number of Second Year Concentrations that are optional, but provide depth and/or breadth to your experience, as well as marketability for you as you position yourself for employment. There are seven depth concentrations for MBA students. Some of them include:
Cornell’s MBA is notable for a number of international business learning opportunities offered to students. It offers a large number of international business courses, including many specialty courses that go well beyond the offerings at other premier graduate business schools. The Johnson Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise sponsors several courses that focus on the issue of global sustainability. In addition, the Johnson Emerging Markets Institute provides education and thought leadership on the role of emerging markets—and emerging market multinationals—in the global economy.
The MBA at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University is designed to help students reach their career goals through a two-year curriculum that lets each student tailor their education with leadership, global opportunities and teamwork built into the program. You’ll start with the Integrated Core your first semester, an intense 15-week program that gives you a strong, coordinated foundation in business fundamentals.
After you understand the basics of business, you’ll start to specialize, designing your own academic schedule of electives starting in the second semester of your first year—a huge advantage in your internship and career focus. In the accounting major, you’ll analyze financial reports and develop an understanding of where the numbers come from and how those numbers can improve operating, investing and financing decisions. Courses available in the accounting major include the following:
Taxes and Financial Statements
Financial Accounting Concepts
Introduction to Financial Statements Analysis and Valuation
Advanced Financial Statements Analysis and Valuation
IU offers a number of Academies that function as a bridge between what you learn in first-year coursework and how you’ll apply it in your field during your internship and post-MBA career. You might select an Academy closely related to your major, or you might choose to add a complementary industry focus. There are six career-focused first-year Academies designed to prepare you for a successful internship and long-term success.
The University of Southern California is California’s oldest private research university, founded by city leaders when Los Angeles was still considered a frontier town. USC Marshall sits at the heart of this, offering up a top-rated business education that is global in reach yet rooted in the entrepreneurial spirit of downtown Los Angeles. In the MBA program, first year students start with the Core – foundational business learning compressed into three terms – that covers the all-important basics: accounting concepts, data analysis and modeling, operations management, strategy, marketing, communications, and finance.
The Financial Reporting and Analysis concentration within the MBA serves two purposes. First, it provides a background in financial accounting and analysis for students aspiring to careers in corporate finance, financial consulting, investment banking or as corporate analysts. Second, it prepares students for careers in corporate accounting/controllership. Students may choose different emphases within this broad area of concentration through choice of elective courses, based on your specific career path. Accounting majors choose six units from the following options:
Fair Value Accounting: GAAP, IFRS and Emerging Issues
Management Control Systems
Advanced Accounting Valuation
Accounting and Corporate Governance in Global Business
The Financial Reporting and Analysis concentration can be combined with a concentration in Finance, especially for those students who aspire to careers in finance. A one-year Master of Accounting degree is also available from the Leventhal School of Accounting, located within the business school at USC.
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