The financial industry is a challenging, dynamic environment, offering a number of diverse and rewarding careers in accounting — from actuaries and auditors to forensic accountants and financial planners. A master’s degree in accounting is designed to help aspiring professionals enter and succeed in the demanding financial field by developing practical accounting skills, strategic business acumen and financial knowledge.

male accounting professional in meeting

Industries Hiring Master of Accounting graduates

Not surprisingly, the industry with the highest demand for master’s in accounting graduates is the financial services industry. However, most businesses and organizations will at some point require assistance with financial aspects and elements. This means there is high demand for accountants and other financial experts in virtually all industries, including:

  • Business finance
  • Private/individual finance
  • Insurance
  • Government
  • Industrial and commercial finance

Popular Careers for Master of Accounting Graduates

There are a wide variety of careers in accounting for graduates who hold a master’s degree, depending on where they want to focus their area of practice. The following are some of the fields that graduates may want to consider. It is important to note that while a master’s degree in accounting can help an aspiring finance professionals start down the path towards a career in finance, additional training and/or certifications may be required for employment.

Actuary

An actuary is responsible for assisting financial organizations with measuring and managing risk. Actuaries often work in the insurance industry, using their analytical skills to provide estimates about particular events and risks. For example, an actuary working for a property insurance firm would use mathematical and statistical modeling to determine the likelihood of a severe weather-related event. According to the latest reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), actuaries earn an average salary of $100,610. The demand for actuaries is expanding rapidly, with employment projected to grow 22 percent from 2016 to 2026.

Skills recommended to succeed:

  • Analytical aptitude
  • Statistics knowledge
  • Business acumen

Auditor

An auditor is responsible for preparing and examining financial records. They also ensure taxes are paid on time. In a company setting, auditors often assess financial operations. You may have heard of a company or organization being audited. This process includes ensuring the company’s financial records and accounting systems are in order and align with accepted accounting practices. Furthermore, an auditor checks for mismanagement of company funds and explains their findings. Auditors can be internal or external, meaning they will either report those findings to company executives or to external agencies such as regulatory bodies or the government. According to the BLS, auditors earn a median salary of $68,150. The demand for auditors and accountants is increasing slightly faster than the national average for other jobs, with an estimated 10 percent growth projected between 2016 and 2026.

Skills recommended to succeed:

  • Facility with numbers
  • Interpersonal communication
  • Analytical skills
  • Organization

Budget Analyst

A budget analyst helps organizations develop, manage and organize their finances. They often work for public institutions such as governments and universities, but also advise private businesses. They are responsible for developing and reviewing budget proposals, monitoring spending, and advising top executives concerning their organization’s proposed plans. Budget analysts who work in government are sometimes called upon to provide policy analysis and assist with legislation relating to budgeting. No matter where they work, budget analysts must be able to effectively communicate their findings and recommendations to an organization’s senior leadership, as decision-makers rely heavily on these analyses.

BLS reporting shows employment for budget analysts is expected to grow at an average rate of 7 percent between 2016 and 2026. In 2016, budget analysts made a median salary of $73,840.

Skills Recommended to Succeed:

  • Analytical skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Interpersonal communication
  • Writing ability

Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

While all CPAs are accountants, not all accountants are CPAs. Those who become CPAs are significantly more experienced and must also pass a challenging exam. CPAs help individuals, businesses and organizations plan and achieve their financial goals. They can assist with everything from saving for a new home to planning a significant company expansion. Having a CPA certification opens the door to many other careers in accounting, including positions related to financial planning, tax analysis, and business valuation.

According to BLS reports, accountants made a median annual salary of $68,150 in 2016. CPAs also usually experience yearly salary increases.

Recommended competencies for success:

  • Project management
  • Data analysis
  • General business acumen
  • Problem solving

Chief Financial Officer (CFO)

A particularly driven and successful accounting graduate may eventually rise to the rank of top executive at an organization. Those working as chief financial officers, or CFOs, usually oversee three central areas of their organization: controllership, treasury, and forecasting. Controllership duties include the preparation and presentation of historical financial information about the company, while treasury duties are related to the company’s current financial situation. Lastly, CFOs are responsible for economic strategy and forecasting, which involves identifying a company’s efficiencies and developing strategies to capitalize on those strengths. It’s a complex and demanding job that requires significant experience in the financial industry.

BLS reporting reveals the demand for top executives is expected to grow at an average pace of 8 percent between 2016 and 2026. Chief Financial Officers and similar top executives earned a median wage of $181,210 in 2016.

Skills Recommended to Succeed:

  • Leadership
  • Interpersonal communication
  • Management skills
  • Financial modeling experience
  • Data analytics knowledge

Financial Manager

A financial manager monitors and works toward improving an organization’s financial health. Typically, financial managers will be responsible for generating financial reports, overseeing investments and developing strategies for the organization’s long-term financial success. Succeeding in this field requires prior experience in accounting or another financial profession. A master’s degree in accounting usually greatly assists in gaining this experience.

Advances in technology mean it’s now much easier to generate financial reports than it was a decade ago. So, financial managers today are able to spend more time on strategy and data analysis than ever before. Financial managers can also have more specific titles, depending on the area or industry in which they work. Some titles include treasurer, risk manager and controller.

BLS reports show the demand for financial managers is expanding robustly, with the field expected to grow 19 percent from 2016 to 2026. The median wage for professionals in this field was $121,750 in 2016.

Skills recommended to succeed:

  • Time management
  • Data analytics knowledge
  • Strong math background
  • Organization
  • Interpersonal communication

Forensic Accountant

Careers in accounting can also be found in the world of crime solving and fraud detection. Forensic accountants are specialists who use their accounting, auditing and investigative skills to determine any wrongdoing in a financial setting. They are often called upon to serve as expert witnesses at trial, so their work and reporting is held to a high standard. Some of the areas in which forensic accountants may be involved include: professional negligence claims, recovering proceeds of crime, calculating losses and economic damages, and business valuation.

According to the online career aggregator, Indeed, forensic accountants make an average salary of $82,223 per year.

Skills recommended to succeed:

  • Strong research skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Ability to write clearly
  • Knowledge of financial and tax law

Personal Financial Advisor

Personal financial advisors work with individuals who need help with any or all aspects of their financial lives — investments, insurance, retirement, college savings, mortgages, taxes and beyond. Personal financial advisors are often self-employed, and meet one-on-one with clients to help them understand their financial situations, options and investments. They continuously monitor their clients’ accounts to ensure they are performing at optimal levels.

The BLS reports that demand for personal financial advisors is growing rapidly, with 15 percent growth projected between 2016 and 2026. Financial advisors made a median salary of $90,530 per year in 2016.

Skills recommended to succeed:

  • Analytical skills
  • Interpersonal communication
  • Facility with numbers
  • Self-marketing abilities for gathering clients
  • Empathy for clients’ financial struggles

Revenue Agent

A revenue agent works at the local, state or federal level, reviewing tax returns. They determine how much an individual or business owes to the government, conduct audits and collect overdue tax payments. Revenue agents typically work for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and equivalent state or municipal agencies. They are often responsible for handling more complicated tax returns.

BLS data notes that employment of revenue agents and tax examiners is projected to remain more or less the same from 2016 to 2026. In 2016, revenue agents made a median salary of $52,060 per year.

Skills recommended to succeed:

  • Knowledge of financial and tax laws
  • Analytical skills
  • Interpersonal communication
  • Attention to detail

If you are keen on exploring the world of accounting, a master’s degree in the field is a valuable achievement. From an earnings perspective alone, master’s-level accounting professionals earn an average of 37 percent more than those who hold bachelor’s degrees. Maryville’s online master’s degree in accounting is an excellent choice to prepare you for the fast-paced, constantly changing financial environment.

If careers in accounting interest you, learn more about what master’s in accounting programs entail.

Sources:

https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/financial-managers.htm#tab-4

https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/top-executives.htm#tab-4  

https://www.aicpa.org/becomeacpa/gettingstarted/frequentlyaskedquestions.html

https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/budget-analysts.htm#tab-4

https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/accountants-and-auditors.htm

https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/home.htm

https://www.fcpas.org/about-us/what-is-a-forensic-accountant/

https://www.indeed.com/salaries/Forensic-Accountant-Salaries

https://www.soa.org/future-actuaries/what-is-an-actuary/