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What is an MBA in accounting?

An accounting MBA may open doors to managerial and executive business careers and can help you qualify for certified public accounting credentials.
Written by Maura Deering, Contributor
Asian woman working at a desk in front of a computer and calculator
Kiyoshi Hijiki/Getty Images

Ready to advance your accounting career or polish your accounting skills, but don't want another bachelor's degree? Consider an accounting MBA.

Here, you'll find the information you need when considering an accounting MBA. We cover what the degree is, who should apply, costs and learning formats, skills learned, and what to look for in an accounting MBA program. 

We also discuss return on investment and potential flexibility of different on-campus and online options. 

Who is a good fit for an accounting MBA program?

Wondering what to expect in business school? A typical MBA in accounting program includes general business coursework, along with accounting-focused instruction, to build a broad-based management-level educational experience. 

MBA program scheduling is often flexible to meet the needs of learners with full-time jobs. Evening, weekend, online, and hybrid options exist for on-campus and remote learning. Depending on the program, online classes may be asynchronous, synchronous, or both.

Accounting MBA applicants do not typically need management experience or even an undergraduate degree in accounting. Admission requirements usually include a bachelor's degree in any field and at least two years of business experience. 

What is an accounting MBA?

Accounting is a master of business administration concentration area that focuses on managerial-level accounting skills including:

  • Auditing
  • Business taxation
  • Capital budgeting
  • Financial reporting
  • Public accounting

Graduates may work in positions like accounting director and chief financial officer. 

An accounting MBA concentration dives into taxation and financial reports. Accounting MBA students are interested in careers as chief financial officers, certified public accountants (CPAs), management analysts, and personal financial advisors. 

SEE: What MBA should I get?

Debating between an on-campus and an online accounting MBA? Online study offers flexibility and can be more affordable. However, interaction and networking are virtual and distance learning takes self-discipline. 

How much time and money does it take to earn an accounting MBA?

MBAs traditionally take two years of full-time study to complete and costs can be high. 

However, some colleges offer self-paced online programs, allowing you to take courses as your schedule and budget allow.

Employers may cover some or all of your program's tuition and fees if earning an MBA in accounting benefits their business. 

For a top-rated online MBA program, you can expect to pay $300-$1,300 per credit or an average of $4,500-$47,000 per year. On-campus MBAs can cost $14,000 to more than $100,000 per year.

Electives in an accounting MBA program

Accounting MBA curricula include core MBA courses like business ethics, finance, managerial communication, organizational leadership, and marketing. Expect to take these classes during your first year.

The second year offers opportunities for completing MBA internships and capstone projects. You'll also focus on accounting electives, which prepare you to take the CPA exam and explore accounting specializations.

Electives may include:

  • Auditing
  • Federal taxation and business strategy
  • Financial statement analysis and reporting
  • Forensic accounting 
  • Tax strategy for businesses 

Hard skills you'll learn

  • Budgeting
  • Data analysis
  • Financial planning
  • Industry technology
  • Reconciling balance statements
  • Taxation

People skills you'll learn

  • Attention to detail
  • Communication
  • Focus
  • Performance under pressure
  • Problem recognition and solving
  • Trustworthiness

Why get an accounting MBA?

An accounting MBA may lead to executive- and managerial-level accounting positions, a CPA license, or success in your own business. Flexible programs can fit in with your lifestyle and teach skills valued by hiring managers. 

  • Return on investment: PayScale data from June 2022 lists the average accounting and finance MBA-holder's salary at $97,000 a year. Accounting managers make an average of $75,982 and CFOs, $140,445. 
  • Expertise: You'll acquire in-demand accounting skills like auditing, taxation, and financial advising.
  • Flexibility: Part-time or online study allows you to work, meet other obligations, and participate in internships. 
  • Broad education: You'll gain valuable business knowledge in finance, leadership, management, and marketing. 

What to expect in an accounting MBA program

In general, MBA course loads can be rigorous. An accounting concentration requires the ability to conduct detailed data analyses.

If full-time, on-campus study seems overwhelming, consider taking classes part-time or through a remote learning program that allows you to work at your own pace.

Handling project deadlines and reading loads can be challenging for some. Finding time to study and complete internships may be hard for others. 

Online study, in particular, pushes some students' organizational and time management skills to the limit. Networking can prove daunting, especially for introverts. Distance learning means that interaction takes place via video conferencing, which doesn't work for everyone.

Making a list of your strengths and potential problem areas can help you find an accounting MBA program in which you'll succeed. 

What to look for when choosing an accounting MBA program

Quality accounting MBA programs hold accreditation and offer student resources. Other things to consider are cost, location, and program length.


Make sure that the programs you're interested in hold both school-wide and programmatic accreditation, which signifies adherence to standards set for high-quality instruction. 

You can confirm on-campus and online business school accreditation on accrediting organizations' websites. 


Even if you're studying online, school location matters. Programs may require on-campus intensives, and the tuition may vary by location. 

If you're planning to take the CPA exam, check your state's rules to see if the program complies with educational requirements.

University resources

If you're interested in career services, an alumni network, internship placement assistance, and MBA scholarship opportunities, make sure the school offers them. 

Online programs should provide access to remote library resources, academic counseling, and advising.

Program length

Full-time accounting MBA programs usually take two years to finish, but part-time study can add a year or so to the timeline. In a hurry? Accelerated MBA programs take 12-18 months. 


Accounting MBAs can carry heavy costs, but there are ways you can shrink them. Consider including attending a public university versus a private college, studying remotely to minimize commuting and parking expenses, and applying for grants and scholarships. 

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