150 Hours or a Masters Degree… I’ve Changed My Mind!

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MBA or 150 hours

Many, many times over the last several years I’ve been asked this question, “Should I get a Masters degree in order to qualify to take the CPA exam, or just get the additional college credit needed without the Masters?” And for years my answer has been, “It depends.”

I’ve always felt like you should get the Masters degree just in case you don’t successfully complete the CPA certification, but that it didn’t actually matter much after becoming a CPA. This is only anecdotal evidence, but after working over 20 years in the accounting employment industry, I had never seen the addition of an MBA to a CPA certification make much difference, either in who got the job or in what their compensation ended up being.  Simply having the CPA certification was substantial enough.  The MBA on top of the certification didn’t seem to make much of a difference.  Therefore, my answer was always “it depends”.

However, I’ve recently changed my mind because of changes in the marketplace…

As the accounting profession is becoming more and more dependent on technology, and that technology is automating many of the repetitive functions that accountants traditionally performed, there has been much more discussion about the importance of analytical skills.  The more time that passes by, the more imperative it is for an accountant to be able to be a strong advisor, not just a reporter of the information.  This is the reason for reconsidering my position on the question of whether or not to pursue a full Masters degree.

Many if not most of the CFO’s I’ve asked over the years have credited their graduate education (Master’s degree) as the initial source of their analytical skills. While I’m sure much of it was developed on the job as well, almost without exception I’ll also hear that they learned much about analysis through their Master’s program at a university.  Since I don’t personally have a Master’s degree due to graduating prior to the 150-hour requirement in Texas, it’s hard for me to identify exactly which portion of the programs may lead specifically to the development of those skills, but it definitely seems to be how many financial professionals start to develop their advanced analytical ability.

For this reason, while I still feel like from a job search standpoint I’m not sure the Master’s degree is too beneficial in addition to a CPA certification at the moment, it makes even more sense to go ahead and complete the graduate degree even though it means a few extra college courses. Since 1) it’s possible life could get in the way and you may not complete the CPA exam, and 2) you will learn key analytical skills that will ultimately make you a better advisor and therefore likely take you farther in your career later on, it just makes doubly-more sense to go ahead and put in that extra investment in your education.  As difficult as it is for me to say given the additional money and time that it takes to complete a Master’s degree, it truly does seem like the right investment to make in your future.

I hope this article is beneficial to you if you are considering whether or not to pursue the additional hours yourself. Based on the direction of the marketplace, it just seems to make sense to make this additional investment in your future.

Also, I would LOVE to hear any additional discussion on the matter – in agreement or not in agreement either way. We all grow through intelligent discussion of such topics.

Until next time, I wish you the best in your career endeavors.

Mark Goldman CPA