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After the MBA: Accounting

Posted in Test Prep on January 28, 2011 by

This is another post in our “After the MBA” series, in which we chronicle a variety of post-MBA career opportunities to give you a sense of which might be the best fit for you. Whether you’re looking to make a career change or want to stay in your present field, this information will help guide you in your b-school decision-making process, as well as direct your studies once in school.



What It Is:

Accountants oversee the financial strategy of companies, organizations, or institutions to ensure that their financial records are well-kept, that they pay their taxes on time, and that they are fiscally robust. Many – though not all – accounting jobs require candidates to be CPAs (Certified Public Accountants). An MBA is not required to become a CPA – in most cases, only a four-year degree and in some cases, a certain amount of work experience, are needed; however, for senior positions, an MBA or M.Acc. (Masters of Accounting) is often required or strongly encouraged.

There are a variety of possible career paths within the accounting field. Public Auditors review the financials of a client company in order to ensure that there has been no financial misreporting or mismanagement, while internal auditors are hired by large companies to do the same thing on an internal level. Tax accountants and tax consultants work to prepare tax returns and/or advise companies on the tax implications of potential actions. Management accountants work in-house for companies to track the company’s finances in a variety of ways; responsibilities vary. Some management accountants might work as budget analysts or as controllers to plan the allocation of funds in the company.

Salary Range:

Accounting salaries for MBAs vary depending on a variety of factors, including job function, level of seniority, whether the work is in the public or private sector, and the size and location of the firm, among others. USC Marshall reported a median starting salary of $95,000 for 2010 MBA grads working in finance or accounting. This figure does not include bonuses and may be inflated by the salaries of graduates working in other finance-related fields. Kelley (Indiana University-Bloomington) reported a median base salary of $87,200 for 2010 grads working in finance and accounting.

Is Accounting Right For You?

As financial regulations become more stringent, more and more accountants are needed. Accounting requires knowledge of many rules and regulations, so if you’re interested in an accounting career, be sure that you are organized and good at following guidelines! Accounting jobs can be demanding, especially during “busy season” (a.k.a. tax season). In addition, accountants likely will not see much variation in their daily work routine; if you are a highly creative, idea-driven person, accounting might not be the place for you.

If you are interested in going to business school to improve your earning power or standing as an accountant, or want to change careers, getting an MBA in finance or accounting could help you gain a foothold in the industry or get a more senior position at a firm. Often, you will want to sit for the CPA test as well. (It is also possible to go back for a Master’s Degree in Accounting; however, depending on your interests, an MBA could open more doors and will likely ensure a higher salary.)

Accounting firms look for a variety of qualities in prospective hires, including analytical ability, attention to detail, computer literacy and tech skills, ability to work independently and in teams, and ability to multitask. Computer software is increasingly changing the landscape of accounting; many firms look for accountants with superior technology skills who are able to use and manipulate available software to meet their workplace’s needs.

Best Business Schools for Accounting:

According to U.S. News and World Report’s 2010 rankings, the best business schools for accounting include McCombs (University of Texas-Austin), Wharton (University of Pennsylvania), Booth (University of Chicago), University of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign, Ross (University of Michigan–Ann Arbor), Marshall (University of Southern California), Stanford, Stern (New York University), Marriott (Brigham Young University), Kelley (Indiana University-Bloomington), and Kenan-Flager (University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill).