The business world has undergone sizable changes in the past decade due to the ever-growing reliance on data and technology. While finance and accounting are more traditional, established career paths, career development opportunities across sectors, cutting-edge tech, and ROI make them as valuable as ever.
If you're looking for these benefits, a Master's in Accounting or Finance is a time-tested way to land a job and succeed in these fields.
Here are three reasons why a Master in Finance or Master in Accounting are still valuable:
1. You’ll gain a long lasting, sought-after skill set
A master's in accounting gives students a comprehensive, enduring skill set both in the technical specialist skills required to be an accountant and the strategic skills you'll need to succeed in the industry.
The curriculum in the University of California, Riverside's (UCR) Master of Professional Accountancy (MPAc) covers accounting theory and practice while emphasizing essential management and leadership skills. It prepares students with technical knowledge, judgment, evidential reasoning, ethical and interpersonal skills, and executive presence—skills key to any accounting career.
"This degree covers all areas of professional accountancy and requires students to work together on challenging projects, participate during class discussions, and often teaches students to ponder the question, “why”." Says Jack Adams, MPAC alum and audit associate at KPMG. "At first, I was nervous to start my career at a big four accounting firm. However, I quickly discovered that I was in the perfect shape to integrate as a new audit associate at KPMG thanks to the communication skills I acquired during my Masters in Professional Accountancy."
The MPAc is a STEM-designated program, which offers the flexibility of two tracks depending on experience. For those with accounting experience, you can complete track one in nine months; if you don't have an accounting background, track two will take 15 months.
Core courses include accounting ethics and professional responsibilities, advanced taxation, and information technology auditing and assurance, in which students gain both theoretical and practical skills.
"The core courses of the MPAC program cover not just theoretical concepts but also several real-life cases which provide insights into how theory is applied in practice. The experiential and practical insights gained through these cases provide the students with the necessary tools to better navigate the professional world," says Naman Desai Assistant Professor of Teaching in Accounting.
The diverse class includes 50% women and 42% underrepresented ethnic groups, which means you can complement your technically robust knowledge with cultural sensitivity, collaborative teamwork, and leadership acumen.
The MPAc is also closely aligned with the Certified Public Accountancy (CPA) exam. This exam takes 16 hours to complete, but when you pass, you will have a globally recognized certificate allowing you to practice accounting.
2. You’ll experience a curriculum that blends theory and real-world experience
The UCR Master of Finance, another STEM-designated program, emphasizes practical experience alongside theoretical knowledge. It helps students to build financial analysis skills that can be applied to national and international corporate finance, investment banking, and risk management careers.
The curriculum has a firm grounding in the essential skills that still underpin the finance sector, such as asset pricing, stock valuation, and capital budgeting, and includes modern elements such as Python.
"The required courses prepare students for the two main specialties, investments and corporate finance,” says Greg Richey, assistant professor of finance, “students need a good foundation in these skills to make themselves more hirable."
The Master of Finance emphasizes practical experience. In Greg's classes, he teaches a stock trading game, where students play at managing stocks of different companies.
Students can also deal with real money outside of the classroom.
At UCR, a team of students manage The Hylander Student Investment Fund (HSIF). The goal is to learn about managing a financial portfolio, emphasizing obtaining a good return without taking on unreasonable risk.
"Master in Finance students manage a portfolio of real money, and this is something they can put on their resume or their LinkedIn," Greg explains.
3. You can gain top career outcomes
The career outcomes are arguably at the top of the benefits of a Master in Finance or Master in Accounting. These business master’s degrees help to show employers the capability and expertise they can expect from any new hires.
The Career Development Center at UCR prepares graduate-level students for their intended careers, arranging career fairs, an executive mentor program, workshops, career panels, and peer-to-peer support.
"The Accounting Society, at least a couple of times a month will invite well known practitioners from surrounding areas to come and visit campus. Then there will be a small reception or an interaction session where the students can go up and talk to them," Naman says.
Typical career paths for those enrolling in the Master of Finance program include investment banking, corporate finance, asset management, and consulting.
Investment banks such as Goldman Sachs are top recruiters of Master in Finance grads, and graduates can get a weighty starting salary. In California, the average base salary for an investment banker is $150k. At the same time, Master’s level consultants earn base salaries of up to $105,000 at Deloitte Consulting and around $26,000 in performance bonuses.
Potential career paths for Master of Accounting graduates include senior accountants, auditors, financial managers, or even a chief financial officer (CFO).
"This degree demonstrates a professional’s commitment to understanding more about accounting than what is required to become a CPA certificate holder," Jack says.
As a senior accountant, the average US salary is around $80k, and a financial controller’s average salary is around $100k. At the Big Four accountancy firm PwC, senior accountants can expect to earn around $80k per year, while Google offers a salary of about $124k.
"Our Master of Finance and Master of Accountancy are professional degrees. These master’s degrees are preparing students for a mid-level management career, not an entry-level position," Greg explains.
For those looking at lucrative top companies, a Master in Finance or Master in Accounting can prove your commitment and capabilities to jobs within these areas, but be prepared to put in the effort to reap the rewards.
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