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The Online MBA in Accounting Explained

AccountantBenjamin Franklin famously said that death and taxes are the only certainties in this world. That's good news for accountants because it means their skill set is often in demand. Still, there's plenty of competition. Since the law is constantly changing and most clients want professionals to help them save on their tax bill, accountants are always looking for ways to stay on top of their game. And one route they might take is an online MBA program in accounting.

"We prepare students for being more than an accountant," says John C. Draut, assistant professor and program director of the master of science in accountancy and master of science in taxation programs for Benedictine University. "That's what graduate school is all about."

Indeed, a good online MBA program in accounting can help students hone their number crunching while developing softer skills, such as leadership, team building, and communication. Accountants might be among the most underestimated employees at any organization. They help people and organizations pay a fair share (and not more than their share) of taxes, abide by the law, accumulate data that informs decision making, and avoid financial downfall.

What is an online MBA in accounting?

Much like traditional MBA programs, these feature a core curriculum that usually covers the basics of finance, strategy, operations, and more. There might also be elements of leadership and ethics, either woven into the curriculum in all courses or in separate ones.

Then, there is the specialization in accounting, which usually requires you take a certain number of electives related to the sector. For instance, students pursuing the online accounting MBA at Capella University can take advanced accounting, budget plan and control, auditing, and accounting information for decision making. A two-course capstone has students participating in both a business simulation and a project that could include a variety of experiences, like writing a comprehensive case study or tackling a business problem facing an organization.

"You need specificity, integration, and an understanding of how to apply what you learn," says Cheryl Bann, chair of MBA Programs at Capella.

Students at Benedictine must take three electives, and among their choices are two courses covering corporate account theory and practice, and another that focuses on the influence taxes have on hiring and strategy decisions in a company. Students are also required to participate in discussions. "We get a lot of information that is not in a textbook during discussions," says Draut.

Another assignment has students filling out corporate and personal tax returns based on a case they read. They might also work in teams to analyze publicly traded companies and recommend buying or selling of stock.

"We provide relevant, real-world application in our courses," adds Theresa Sak, an associate dean at Benedictine University's Moser College.

Institutions of higher learning employ learning management platforms, such as Blackboard, to deliver online programs. Here, students often find a variety of tools, such as video lectures, readings and case discussions, assignments, discussion forums, live streaming events, and conferencing capabilities.

Who is the right fit for this program?

Financial Advisor

Most students work full-time, and some have families, which is why they choose the online option. In fact, the convenience factor is so appealing that some of Benedictine's students live near the area and still choose to pursue the degree online, says Sak.

Those who are already in the field and looking to rise in the ranks, but do not want to interrupt their already burgeoning career, may consider an online MBA program in accounting. It allows them to keep their own schedule, work on coursework from just about anywhere with an Internet connection, and confront tax season with as much verve as always.

A number cruncher who is interested in taking on a management role and wants to acquaint himself with corporate governance and the basics of other functions, such as operations, might be a good match for an online MBA in accounting. For example, a variety of students with various kinds of work experience, including positions as financial planners and senior corporate accountants, who want to enhance their skill sets and apply what they learn to their job immediately, show interest in the Benedictine program, says Sak.

What are the admission requirements?

Admissions requirements vary by school. In general, these programs pretty much always require an application fee, undergraduate degree, transcripts, and a demonstration of work experience and leadership potential. Some programs also ask for letters of recommendation from supervisors or academics. Benedictine requires students to submit a GMAT score, which may be waived if the applicant has a 3.2 GPA or higher. Some, including Benedictine, require a minimum GPA of 2.75. Applicants to that program who have lower than a 2.75 may still get conditional admission, which means they must score a B or higher in their first three courses to move forward. On the other hand, while Capella has a minimum GPA requirement of 2.3 or higher, it does not ask for standardized test scores.

Of course, some programs want to know why you want to pursue an accounting MBA from their institution and ask you to explain in a brief written response. The fact is that many applicants want to make themselves more marketable and have learned that accounting is their passion, says Draut, who adds, "The world is changing out there."

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