Finance vs. Accounting vs. Taxation Programs

Accounting, finance, or taxation? Candidates considering graduate study in one of these quantitative fields would be wise to study the chart below. The table compares key characteristics of specialized master’s degree programs in each of these three fields with a general MBA degree.

In general, the primary factor that distinguishes these programs from one another other is work experience. The best non-executive, leadership-oriented master of business administration (MBA) degree programs require three to four years of experience and the executive programs require a minimum of four, with most candidates averaging seven years and many having ten years or more. Schools frequently award GMAT and GRE waivers in exchange for work experience in some of these programs—especially in the blended and online programs where relatively few entrants provide scores.

By contrast, most of the shorter specialized master’s degree programs in accounting and finance are technical pre-experience degrees, meaning that they generally do not require experience but ask for GMAT or GRE scores instead. Exceptions exist, however, in that master’s programs in taxation can mandate some fairly strenuous requirements, both in work experience and prior accounting degrees or coursework. Some master’s degrees in accounting require undergraduate degrees in the subject, and others do not.

Either way, an MBA or a specialized master’s degree in one of these three disciplines will all advance one’s career. Although they share many similarities, they differ significantly in admissions requirements, coursework, and salary potential. Read on to learn the details of each degree program, and how they compare.

Douglas Mark
Douglas Mark

While a partner in a San Francisco marketing and design firm, for over 20 years Douglas Mark wrote online and print content for the world’s biggest brands, including United Airlines, Union Bank, Ziff Davis, Sebastiani and AT&T. Since his first magazine article appeared in MacUser in 1995, he’s also written on finance and graduate business education in addition to mobile online devices, apps, and technology. Doug graduated in the top 1 percent of his class with a business administration degree from the University of Illinois and studied computer science at Stanford University.