MS Accounting worth it for continued advancement mid to senior level FP&A?

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LBT - Certified Professional
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Quick background: I worked in middle market investment banking as an analyst -> associate after a undergrad finance major (I have no MBA). After that, for a lifestyle change I moved to corp dev roles at public companies and sponsor backed companies.

Due to an M&A slowdown at my current company, management said they are moving me up, but over to a sr. mgr corporate FP&A role supposedly with a path to director (to be defined). I am interested following this new career path for long-term stability and job opportunities...

...but here is my question to WSO: In FP&A related roles, like sr manager, director, and higher, would it make sense for me to pursue a PT MS-Accounting for continued career advancement in corporate finance/accounting roles in the long-run?

For me the concern is that I hit a ceiling of some kind around age 35 or 40, where a masters goes from 'preferred/nice to have' to mandatory. Is something like a Sr. Director or VP role going to be near impossible without a masters? Should I bite the tuition bullet and do the MSA or is it a major waste of time/money?

Comments (10)

Jun 20, 2016

Why not MBA? It seems like your career path will be a mix of accounting, finance, management and to some degree strategy. I think an MBA would do more for your in this regard, no? I mean, if you get an MS in accounting, you;re going to be surrounded by 22 year old, Chinese internationals looking to break into Big 4 Audit. How much value will this add?

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Jun 20, 2016
Esuric:

Why not MBA? It seems like your career path will be a mix of accounting, finance, management and to some degree strategy. I think an MBA would do more for your in this regard, no? I mean, if you get an MS in accounting, you;re going to be surrounded by 22 year old, Chinese internationals looking to break into Big 4 Audit. How much value will this add?

As someone who obtained a MS in Accounting, I have to (mostly) agree with Esuric. Don't think an MS in Accounting is going to add much, if any, value for you at that level. It tends to be geared towards those who are focusing on getting the needed credit hours for the CPA license or trying to break into public accounting from a different, unrelated background. Can't say whether or not an advanced degree will be needed (will leave that for those with more experience), but I'd say if you were set on pursuing another degree, I'd choose the MBA over the MSA. Either way, congrats on your new position, and best of luck to you with your decision.

Jun 20, 2016

When you say mostly agree... where did you take pause? The value I want is checking a box on an advanced degree in competition with others for a future corp finance job, while also adding useful knowledge. Not saying Esuric is wrong with his assertions, but to your question MBA vs. MSA/CPA, I personally am not looking at it from that angle. I am not shocked to hear recommendations for an MBA, but I wasn't really interested in getting into an MBA pros/cons or forced ranking.

Jun 21, 2016

I only took pause with the "Chinese Internationals" portion. While to some extent that is true (you do see a number of international students in the programs, not all Chinese), the image it gave was that these are the ONLY students in these programs. Obviously I know its an exaggeration on his part, but there's quite a diverse group, at least there was in my program. But, everything of substance in his post I agree with. Again, only my opinion, but if I were pursuing a degree solely for checking the box, I would probably pursue a part time MBA at the best local program available. I'd like to think that FP&A work is somewhat broader than Accounting, and an MSA tends to label you as an Accountant. You're going to be learning about proper accounting treatment and journal entries, but not much concerning other corporate finance functions. At least in an MBA, you'll get exposure to other classes and individuals outside of your immediate discipline (i.e. networking contacts). That being said, I can understand your hesitation regarding the costs, but I still think that, IF you're set on the advanced degree, an MBA is the way to go. Depending on your company, you may be able to convince them to cover a portion, if not all, of the costs. No guarantees of course, but worth a shot. Best of luck to you.

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Jun 22, 2016

He has a very strong profile. I don't see why he wouldn't be able to get into a top tier part time program for cheap, or even for free.

Jun 20, 2016

Get your MBA -- if you are concerned about cost, look to some local/evening options (and yes, I'm ready for the WSO flames for this one).

But in all honestly -- even the online MBAs from UNC or Syracuse would be a much better fit for an FP&A role than an Accounting masters.

Jun 20, 2016

yeah cost/time is a big factor in why I haven't pursued an MBA at this point. thanks for the comment

Jun 22, 2016

Masters of Accountancy degrees are created almost always for people to obtain the 150 credit hours to be CPA eligible.

So unless you wana be a CPA... It's unlikely to add a ton of a value for FP&A.

Jun 22, 2016

Why not an MSF with a concentration or focus on corporate finance/FP&A?

Jun 22, 2016