Postgraduate (MSc, MA, MBA and PhD) Programs in Accounting
Find postgraduate programs in ACCOUNTING
The field of accounting is generally divided into two halves: financial accounting and managerial accounting. Financial accounting covers the preparation of data and reports for use by those external to a firm, such as investors and tax authorities. Managerial accounting covers the preparation of data and reports for use by those inside a firm, such as operating managers.
This simple description, however, risks giving short shrift to the profession. Accountants, after all, are required to:
• analyse mergers and acquisitions
• help governments develop measures of efficiency
• measure and communicate financial results – for government departments, non-profit/not-for-profit and for-profit firms
• help minimise tax obligations of firms
• develop and implement managerial information systems
• develop and implement corporate control systems
• assess and help control risks.
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Numerous substantial trends continue to drive this field, including:
• The increasing complexity of financial transactions
• Greater difficulty in valuing assets, given that they are more likely to be intellectual property or human skills than physical goods
• The need for more complex and sophisticated managerial (including financial) controls due to the dispersion of operations across national and other boundaries
• Technological developments that mean lax controls can quickly be exploited by the unscrupulous
• The need to understand different national accounting systems, given the increase in international operations
• The increasing complexity of tax regimes
• Ethical tensions caused by the multiple roles accountants play, particularly those of auditor and managerial consultant
• The increased scrutiny of the profession caused by its high-profile lapses.
Choosing a masters
Given the wide range of positions that accountants fill, and the vast number of masters programs in accounting, it is unsurprising that many different approaches are on offer. Some courses, such as Lancaster University’s masters programs, cater to those looking to make the transition into accounting. These conversion programs generally integrate business and accounting courses to provide the broad set of skills an accountant now requires. Similarly, the University of Texas at Austin, traditionally the top-ranked school for accounting in the US, has a transition course for those with a first degree in (essentially) any subject. Its Master in Professional Accounting can be completed in one year, if students have a first degree in accounting or business – or fifteen months, for those without prior accounting and business coursework.
Many programs offer the opportunity to specialise, whether in such traditional fields as financial reporting and auditing, taxation, international, and the like, or developing fields such as forensic accounting and management information systems.
Note that the primary focus of a programme may be on the accounting rules applicable in its local market. American programs, in particular, follow this dictum; they tend to emphasise American reporting requirements (GAAP), sometimes with little or no attention given to accounting standards applicable elsewhere. For those looking to add knowledge of a second accounting system, or intending to practise where these rules apply, this will be good news. Others are advised to proceed with caution.
Some programs require an undergraduate degree in accounting. For others, an undergraduate degree in business, with a few accounting courses included, would suffice. For yet others, the actual undergraduate degree might not matter as long as you had taken some accounting courses and had a broad understanding of business.
True conversion courses, on the other hand, often accept any undergraduate degree or simply require that it have a quantitative component to it.
Many programs also look for:
• Computer spreadsheet (ie Excel) proficiency
• Communication skills
MBA in Accounting
An MBA in Accounting will train students in essential accounting skills and procedures, as well as proving them with a general overview and training in business management. While studying an MBA in Accounting students will learn about the inner workings of a business or company – and how the company’s purpose fits in with its everyday workings and how this can be related to the company’s future growth. So – despite popular belief – an MBA in Accountancy is not all about maths and number crunching. And although being numerate is certainly an advantage, it is also imperative that the student is able to consider the wider picture and plan for the future in the business world. It’s a great choice for professionals looking to expand their CV and move into a new role within their workplace by expanding both their managerial and their accounting skills.
MBA programs often offer accounting as a study option, however if you’re after something more specialised GISMA Business School in Hanover , Germany offers a dual MBA program which includes gaining a world-recognised accounting or finance qualification. The GISMA MBA Dual Program comes with an ACCA or CFA® qualification. This unique combination of MBA and Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) accreditation could be invaluable to your future career increasing your employability and enabling you to reach a much more senior level.
PhD in Accounting
As we have seen there is more to accounting than simply doing the maths! This is in fact a very interesting area of study and research, and there are a number of PhD programs available in the UK and Europe. Lancaster University offers a PhD in Accounting and Finance that takes three years to complete full time and involves carrying out research, directed study and completing a thesis. Areas of study include Research Methodology; Finance Theory; Accounting Theory; Quantitative Techniques; and Qualitative Research Methods. Meanwhile Kent Business School at the University of Kent offers a selection of business-related PhD programs including a PhD in Accounting where students carry out their research supported by two members of academic staff and also have monthly progress meetings.
Many accountants get their start by working for public accounting firms – those responsible for filing verified accounts of publicly held companies, etc. But it is by no means the case that most accountants continue to work for them (if they ever did). Businesses of every sort require in-house accountants to prepare their financial and management accounting reports, perform audits, work with their public auditors, and advise their finance, marketing, MIS, and other colleagues. Similarly, non-profit/not-for-profit and government organisations employ a large number of accountants for similar purposes (and, in the case of market regulators, to keep tabs on firms participating in their market). The range of jobs open to trained accountants is as great as the type of employers. Trained accountants increasingly enter consulting, corporate finance, and financial services (including investment banking) as well as public accounting. In whatever role they are playing, organisational leaders no longer look to accountants just to report on (and monitor) the organisation’s financial health and the appropriateness of its accounting and control systems. Instead, accountants are increasingly expected to take part in firm decision making.
Typical job titles
• Internal auditor
• Project analyst
• Management accountant
• Forensic accountant
• Financial planner
• (Certified) public accountant
• Tax accountant
• Assistant controller
• Budget analyst
Professional associations (UK and US)
• Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales
• Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland
• Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (UK)
• American Institute of Certified Public Accountants
• American Accounting Association
• Institute of Internal Auditors (US)
• Institute of Management Accountants (US)
A traditional means of preparing for financial accounting is Robert N Anthony and Leslie K Breitner’s classic self-teaching text, Essentials of Accounting (Prentice Hall). This book takes you by the hand through a series of exercises that will teach you the basic vocabulary and methods of accounting. A good alternative is Joseph Peter Simini’s Accounting Made Simple (Made Simple Books). Better yet, take an introductory accounting course at a local school. I suggest that you take the financial accounting course rather than the managerial one, or a class or course that combines the two fields.
Consider reading a book that shows some of the uses of financial accounting information. A particularly good possibility is Bob Vause’s Guide to Analysing Companies (Profile), which does a thorough job of explaining how a company’s economic health can be analysed, covering many important accounting and finance issues in the process. Reasonable alternatives to Vause are provided by James Bandler’s How to Use Financial Statements: A Guide to Understanding the Numbers (McGraw-Hill/Irwin) and Chuck Kremer et al’s Managing by the Numbers: A Complete Guide To Understanding And Using Your Company's Financials (Basic Books). Any of these would make a good companion to Anthony and Breitner or Simini.
The readings discussed above focus on financial accounting, which is geared toward the preparation of information for external users of the data, primarily investors and the government (especially the tax authorities). Managers, however, generally look at different data to help them manage the company’s operations. This data is the focus of managerial accounting. A very readable, albeit lengthy, treatment of the subject is offered by Michael W Maher et al’s Managerial Accounting: An Introduction to Concepts, Methods and Uses (South-Western College Publishing). If you lack the time to prepare fully for this subject, consider reading the book’s first three chapters, which offer a good overview.