Career Outlook for Masters Degrees

Every level of business, no matter how small or large, needs accountants. From small businesses to medium-sized businesses to the largest multinational corporations, every dollar matters and keeping appropriate track of money flows is critical. The same is true of governments. The smallest village or town needs a knowledgeable expert to manage the local taxpayers’ coffers with as much expertise as the accounting staff for large cities, states, and national governments.

The banking industry reflects the same small-to-large scale, too, and is an industry that draws significant attention from graduates of accounting programs. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics, a division of the US Department of Labor, updates its Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) every year. All details supplied in this article are derived from the OOH. As of this writing, data for 2014-15 is used. The banking industry is now one of the most globalized industries on the planet, making it ever more important for accountants holding a master’s degree to understand how money is used, valued, and exchanged by governments around the world.

The business of financial management, in all its guises, is one of strict regulation. Earning a master’s degree in accounting is an ideal way to jump start a lucrative career, but an accounting graduate is almost guaranteed to face more exams after graduation. Each specialty in the financial management industry requires licensing or certification unique to the specialty. The education does not stop with graduation but, in most cases, the paychecks begin to look highly attractive.

Because the need for effective and profitable money management is universal, so are the job opportunities for graduates of accounting. According to the OOH, the rate of job growth across the entire spectrum of financial management careers is growing at about the same rate as the average for all occupations, with a continued growth of 7% projected well into 2024.1 Even with an expanding job market, competition is described as intense, given the industry’s above-average rate of pay, job security, outstanding benefits, and comfortable working environment. The career outlook for accountants holding a master’s degree is said to be the best in the financial industry although not without intense competition. The OOH indicates there were 1,332,700 accountants and auditors employed in the US in 2014.2 That number is expected to jump 11% by 2024, to 1,475,100 accountants and auditors on the job in the US.2

The OOH breaks down accounting and auditing positions as seen in the table below. Please note the salary data reflects the median annual wage for industries that employ the largest number of accountants and auditors. The median annual wage for accountants and auditors in the US in 2015 was $67,190.2

Finance and insurance: $71,760
Management of companies and enterprises: $69,560
Manufacturing: $68,020
Accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping, and payroll services: $67,440
Government: $65,180

The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) is an outstanding interactive resource for students in all fields and at all levels or the education or career ladders to find out the going rate of pay, local trends, conferences, and professional development opportunities are available in a given area. The NACE salary calculator pinpoints the right salary offer from both the employer and the employee perspectives for more than 1,000 occupations spanning more that 560 individual regions across the US.

A salary survey conducted by NACE in 2015 indicates the average salary offered to graduates with a bachelor’s degree was $51,310.3 Those holding a master’s degree in accounting were offered the average annual salary of $56,377.3

For detailed salary information, job growth projections, typical work conditions, educational and training requirements, specialties within the field, and many other details of the life of an accountant, please see:

US Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH), 2015 Edition.
The list of potential employers below illustrates just how diverse the job prospects are for a graduate holding a master’s in accounting:

The Four Largest Accounting Firms in the World

  1. Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited
  2. PricewaterhouseCoopers
  3. Ernst & Young
  4. KPMG

Careers Pages of Other Major Employers of Accountants

More Accounting Outlook Resources

1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, Financial Managers: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/financial-managers.htm
2. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, Accountants and Auditors: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/accountants-and-auditors.htm
3. NACE Salary Survey, Fall 2015: https://www.naceweb.org/uploadedfiles/content/static-assets/downloads/executive-summary/2015-fall-salary-survey-executive-summary.pdf