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5 Key Courses in a Master’s in Accounting Program

Master’s in Accounting programs require students to complete several key courses, particularly if students aspire to become Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) or Internal Auditors (IAs). The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that CPAs are required to complete at least 150 hours of college coursework. Master degree programs teach students to work with profit/loss statements, tax preparation, financial statements and accountant systems. Below are 5 key courses students can expect to complete in this masters program. Most are available both on campus and online.

Resource: Top 10 Online Accounting Degree Programs

Business Ethics

Despite how we often think of large businesses as being unethical, ethics are very important in the world of business. This course teaches students how ethics play a big role in how successful a business can be as well as the importance of accurate record-keeping. Many schools are putting extra emphasis on this course because of its importance in the masters program. Students learn the importance of business ethics in the businesses of retail, marketing, human resource management and finance both in the domestic and international market. They also become familiar with regulations and statutes.


This course consists of discussions, lectures, homework, quizzes and exams. The auditing course provides students with an introduction to basic auditing. Some describe it as the most important class in the master degree program. It teaches students how to read and analyze a company’s balance sheet. They also learn about assets and liabilities; analyzing and interpreting data on financial statements; statutes and regulations; and verifying accuracy of data. The course also teaches students the various stages of an audit from beginning to end using standard procedures like detailed tests, analytical procedures and control tests.


This theory-based course is always a requirement of the master degree program. It teaches the student how companies make money and generate profits. It also provides information on how to expand a business to a higher level and make more income using basic financial calculations. Students learn about financial decision making in businesses, risk behavior of securities, corporate valuation, insurance, taxation and time value of money. It also focuses on the analytical skills and logical thought process needed to make correct financial decisions.


While taxing is not the only part of an accountant’s job, it plays a role in an accountant’s job. In addition to being a course in the masters program, it can also be chosen as a concentration for students interested in working as accountants in public or government jobs. The taxation course teaches students how to maximize tax benefits for a business. It also focuses on personal tax preparation. In addition to defining the definition of income, this course teaches students about income exclusions, computing tax liabilities, income assignment, capital gains/losses, computing taxable income and timing issues.

Cost Accounting

While this course is typically vital for those pursuing careers as cost accountants, it’s also vital in a Master’s in Accounting program. Students learn what it’s like to work in a large business office and out in the field where they deal with the manufacturing part of business and learn profit calculation. Other topics in this course include standard costing, process costing, manufacturing overhead, job costing, capital budget techniques, cost allocation, inventory valuation and setting prices for both customers and subsidiaries. Both the profit and non-profit sectors are of focus in this course.

Individuals who enjoy working with numbers often find accounting an exciting and fulfilling career. Forbes ranked Master’s in Accounting degrees third among the top masters degrees employers are most attracted to for 2017. Accountants are also expected to see positive job growth from 2014-2024, according to the BLS. These career facts make completing the key courses or pursuing a Master’s in Accounting degree very attractive.