MBA vs. Master’s in Accounting Programs

Successful businesses need strong leaders and strong math. That’s why they hire graduates of master’s of business administration (MBA) and master’s in accounting programs. Both degrees provide critical knowledge and skills for operating a business successfully. However, they operate with different perspectives. Simply put, the MBA is broad, while the master’s in accounting is deep.

An MBA is a generalist degree that teaches a business skill set with a leadership focus. The core curriculum typically focuses on business fundamentals, which include accounting, but in a way that prioritizes breadth over depth. Many MBA programs offer specializations in various fields of study, but these electives make up a small portion of the overall curriculum. MBA graduates may not be experts in a specific subcategory, but they can go on to take leadership positions at companies operating in a wide variety of industries.

A master’s in accounting is a targeted degree that provides an in-depth study of accounting and prepares students to pass the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam and advance their career. Focusing on both technical and analytical accounting skills, students take courses in taxation, fraud detection and prevention, forensic accounting, and international accounting. The depth of these programs prepares graduates to become experts in their field. Those with a master’s in accounting can go on to become corporate auditors, public accountants, and financial analysts.

Both an MBA and a master’s in accounting can advance one’s career in the world of business. While they share many similarities, they do diverge significantly in admissions requirements, coursework, and salary potential. Read on to learn the details of each degree program, and how they compare.

Matt Zbrog
Matt Zbrog

Matt Zbrog is a writer and researcher from Southern California. Since 2018, he’s written extensively about how new and aspiring business school students can best plan their education and careers. In the Two Views series, he conducts detailed interviews with recent business school alumni, with a particular focus on the choice between in-person, online, and hybrid learning models. His Femme-BA series highlights business schools that not only excel academically but also take unique and robust steps to support a diverse and inclusive learning environment for women.