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What Is the Difference Between a Master’s in Accounting and a Master’s in Taxation?

Master of AccountingIf you enjoy crunching numbers and have an affinity for math and finance, you may wonder about the difference between a Master’s in Accounting and a Master’s in Taxation. Both degrees deal with money and finance, but a master’s degree in taxation is more tightly focused on tax law while the accounting degree explores accounting theory, legal aspects of accounting and financial reporting. Here’s a closer look at the two degrees:

A Master’s Degree in Accounting

Master’s programs in accounting focus on all aspects of accounting and financial management. Core programs generally include classes on:

  • Business law
  • Financial reporting
  • Strategic accounting
  • Ethics in accounting
  • Tax planning

Master’s degree programs in accounting may include electives or specializations such as:

  • Accounting information systems
  • IT audit and risk management
  • Non-profit accounting
  • Advanced taxation
  • Fraud and forensic accounting

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, although any degree in accounting can prepare you for some work with taxes, even jobs with the IRS, a master’s in accounting includes education on a broader range of accounting topics.

A Master’s Degree in Taxation

Essentially, a master’s program in taxation is a specialized accounting program. Those following this course of study are not necessarily pursuing qualification as a CPA, although degree completion will prepare you to test for this certification. A Master’s in taxation will specifically prepare you for work as a comptroller or business consultant. Coursework for these types of programs includes many specialized tax classes. You’ll learn about:

  • Estate taxes
  • Gift taxes
  • Individual taxes
  • Corporate taxes
  • International taxes
  • Types of LLCs
  • Tax research

Rather than focusing on accounting practices in general, a Master’s in Taxation degree program focuses primarily on tax law. Upon completion of such a program, you should be able to assist a client with a tax audit, advise business owners on best practices resulting in maximum after-tax profit, provide individuals and companies with detailed and beneficial tax plans, and give ethical tax advice to many different types of clients.

Choosing a Degree Program

Which degree should you choose? First, consider what aspects of accounting interest you most. Could you enjoy working only with tax-related matters for the duration of your professional career? Although there are many different facets of tax law, you might prefer to work with other aspects of financial planning and assessment. In this case, you should choose a Master’s in Accounting. However, if you find tax law compelling, a Master’s in Taxation can help you work with businesses of any size to improve their bottom line using nothing but tax law.

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Careers in finance and accounting are numerous and varied. It may seem overwhelming to choose a specific career path. However, by exploring your options, you will be able to see which master’s program focuses on work that most interests you. Now that you have a clearer understanding of the difference between a Master’s in Accounting and a Master’s in Taxation, which do you think best fits your personal career goals?