How Do You Specialize a Master’s in Accounting?

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Updated August 4, 2020

Accounting students pursuing graduate degrees have many opportunities to specialize a Master's in Accounting. Accounting is known as the language of business, and it is used to track the financial health of nearly all organizations. However, numerous financial functions are incorporated into the accounting discipline, and a few of those functions are so prominent within the business environment that many accountants seek greater knowledge in those areas. Subsequently, many universities offer advanced degrees in accounting with concentration options in popular knowledge areas. Here are the top three graduate accounting degree concentration areas offered to today's students as well as the typical course topics that these concentration areas cover.


The old adage that one cannot manage those items that cannot be measured rings true for every company's internal control systems. These internal control systems help businesses to achieve their strategic goals by helping to identify and cut unnecessary costs and guard businesses against fraudulent activities that incur stiff penalties. The auditing process tests the reliability of company internal control systems. An independent or external audit is typically sponsored by a third party entity to determine the true state of a company's financial status in an unbiased way; their resulting reports are often made public. Internal audits prepare the company for external audits, and these types of audit reports are normally not made public. The Master's in Accounting with a specialization in Auditing covers topics concerning internal and independent auditing actions, the design and assessment procedures of internal control systems, managerial accounting, fraud examination and accounting information systems.

Taxation Regulation

Tax rules and regulations impact nearly every business and non profit entity, and accountants who specialize in this functional area are able to guide companies through the often complicated state and federal tax codes. Businesses that enlist the help of tax accountants gain all the credits that apply to them, a clearer knowledge of expenditures that are beneficial or detrimental to their strategic goals in the long term and a level of protection against inadvertent reporting mistakes that incur penalties. Since tax regulations are subject to changes, it is important for accounting graduate students to study taxation research methods. This knowledge gives them the tools to identify and apply updated tax codes to a variety of accounting scenarios. Some common course topics for the taxation regulation concentration area are taxation policy and research, estate and gift tax issues and corporate taxation. Many progressive programs also introduce students to international taxation issues. A student who enrolls in a Master's in Accounting program that has a concentration in taxation will be familiar with tax authorities, procedures and associated penalties by the completion of the program.

Forensic Accounting

Society and regulatory agencies have become increasingly inflexible about white collar, financial related crimes, and various agencies frequently request the help of trained forensic accountants to help shut down financial fraud, according to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. Forensic accountants help lawyers and government agencies to identify areas within financial reports that indicate potential misappropriation of assets, money laundering, securities fraud and embezzlement. Forensic accountants gain these skills through courses that cover fraud examination and criminology. They use a methodical approach to uncovering often well hidden financial schemes, and these investigative skills are honed in classes that cover fraud investigation techniques.

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The top described concentration areas also represent the primary content of the certified public accountant (CPA) Uniform Exam. Consequently, accounting students who enroll in graduate accounting degree programs to fulfill the educational requirements for CPA licensure are further inclined to specialize a Master's in Accounting with one of the CPA exam content areas like auditing and taxation regulation.

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