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The Online Master’s in Taxation

Paying Dividends

If there is one constant in the tax profession, it is change. Tax codes seem to change on a daily basis, and accounting professionals are called upon to leverage their fundamental knowledge of core taxation concepts. In today’s globally competitive business and financial environment, tax professionals are relied upon to provide not only fundamental tax assistance and preparation, but assist with strategic planning, assume financial leadership responsibilities and drive business success.

Remaining relevant and competitive in this marketplace often requires additional professional development and education. For the financial or accounting professional, earning a graduate degree complements real world work experience, broadens knowledge of tax principles and allows for development of new areas of expertise, such as estate planning or corporation taxation.

Innovations in technology have fundamentally altered the higher education landscape for working professionals. Education is no longer campus-bound, instead moving to new, online learning formats. Graduate programs in taxation have joined the long list of specialized degrees being offered online.

For the accountant or financial professional considering a graduate education, selecting the right online master’s in taxation degree program is the most important step of the process. The following guide offers students a comprehensive overview of the online Master of Taxation degree, areas of specialization and information about the impact a graduate degree can have on career opportunities.

Practical & Career-Oriented: The Online Master’s in Taxation

The master’s in taxation is a program of study designed to at once broaden the graduate student’s knowledge of taxation, and hone their technical and professional skills. These curriculum rich programs offer students the opportunity to develop an advanced understanding of tax policy issues and tax principles that can be applied to a variety of financial settings and areas of tax practice. The hope is that graduates leave the program as enhanced practitioners, equipped to pursue careers in private practice, public accounting, corporate or commercial accounting and more.

Designed to match their on-campus counterparts, online master’s in taxation programs provide students with the same course materials and the same experienced faculty. Depending on the institution, the delivery format of the online program may vary.

Traditionally speaking, there are two central online formats: asynchronous and synchronous. Asynchronous graduate programs allow students to access course materials at any time and complete their coursework according to a schedule. On the other hand, synchronous programs require students to participate in regularly scheduled, live classroom sessions via online learning technologies (such as video conferencing).

Many programs provide students the opportunity to review live classroom recordings and presentations, the ability to submit their homework online, ask questions of professors via email or phone as well as access online discussions with classmates through chatboards or online class management systems.

For the prospective student, understanding their learning preferences is the first step in selecting a graduate program. Students should be comfortable with either learning format and be disciplined enough to take advantage of the inherent flexibility online programs in taxation offer.

Secondly, when reviewing individual master’s degrees, students should create a set of expectations around quality – specifically what the program has to offer. For example, here are some questions a student may want to ask of a graduate program director:

  • Does the program create networking opportunities for online students?
  • Does the program foster a positive, supportive online learning environment for students?
  • Does the program offer instruction from multiple taxation perspectives?
  • Does the program provide industry-specific taxation experience?

Beyond quality, prospective students should also paint a picture of the overall master’s in taxation program, from curriculum to cost, application requirements to faculty. Below are five factors students should take into consideration when reviewing a potential online program:

Diverse Curriculum

First, students should review the program’s curriculum to assess if the department provides students with not only a fundamental review of the core taxation concepts, but a diverse, thorough examination of industry-specific instruction, ranging from corporation tax to federal income tax – exposing students to the real-world subjects and issues they may encounter.

Industry-Ready Experience

Secondly, online taxation master’s programs should be experience driven, that is, offering students a real-world education that includes opportunities to apply theoretical concepts to industry applications. In turn, students are equipped with the specialized knowledge and expertise required to succeed as a tax professional.

Faculty with Industry Experience

Third, prospective students should get an understanding of the faculty that teach in the program. The program should offer a mix of instructors and professors with industry experience in both the private sector and in the various levels of government.

Program Flexibility

Online programs offer one significant advantage over campus-based programs: flexibility. When reviewing potential graduate schools, students should examine the convenience of the learning format. Does the program offer multiple start date options throughout the year? How long are courses (Do they run seven weeks each? Twelve weeks?). How many courses are students able to take at a time?

AACSB Accreditation

Students should check the accreditation status of the university, business school or department. The Association for the Advancement of Collegiate Business Schools provides globally recognized accreditation of business schools. AACSB accreditation attests to the quality of the university’s faculty, curriculum and the school’s ability to graduate highly trained, qualified students.

Specializations and Coursework

Whether the goal is to work for one of the “Big Four” public accounting firms – Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young or KPMB – earn a CPA or move into private practice, the master’s in taxation exposes students to a broad list of taxation subjects, including the following:

  • Estate planning
  • Federal income tax
  • Real estate taxation
  • S-corporations
  • Bankruptcy taxation
  • State and local taxation
  • Tax policies and procedures

Academic programs in taxation traditionally cover a comprehensive spectrum of taxation subjects, but allow graduate students to concentrate their electives around a singular topic. Below are example taxation areas of specialization available from some online master’s programs:

Audit & Assurance Services

The focus of this specialization is to prepare students for careers in internal auditing or public accounting. Through this program of study, students develop technical knowledge of internal control systems and accounting issues, honing their professional skills as financial auditors and regulators. Topics of study range from accounting theory to advanced auditing, managerial accounting to information systems risks and control.

Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

An advance practice professional, certified public accountants are licensed to provide public accounting services to clients – both individuals and businesses. Their role covers tax auditing, tax preparation and financial statement preparation, and they may represent clients before the Internal Revenue Service. CPAs work across industries, such as estate planning, venture capital, corporate finance, forensic accounting and income tax.

Staff Auditor

Staff auditors are entry-level positions that conduct a range of supervised auditing duties.

Senior Auditor

Working under the supervision of an audit manager, the senior auditor handles an array of auditing tasks, including assigning and managing audit field work, reviewing audit work of staff auditors, developing financial statements and completing corporate tax returns.

Audit Manager

A leadership-based position, the audit manager is responsible for staff management, personnel scheduling, managing the audit program, dealing directly with clients and staff training.

IRS Revenue Agent

The role of the revenue agent is to conduct tax audits on businesses, individuals, multinational corporations and nonprofit organizations. Some agents specialize in certain areas (e.g., multinational corporations) or hold a variety of titles, including employment tax specialist (ETS) or international examiners (IE).

Auditing

In this specialization, students receive instruction in financial reporting and auditing, preparing them to implement, manage, and maintain auditing systems in both public and private industry. Topics of study include auditing best practices, financial legislation (e.g., Sarbanes-Oxley), internal controls, corporate risk management and business income tax.

Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

An advance practice professional, certified public accountants are licensed to provide public accounting services to clients – both individuals and businesses. Their role covers tax auditing, tax preparation and financial statement preparation, and they may represent clients before the Internal Revenue Service. CPAs work across industries, such as estate planning, venture capital, corporate finance, forensic accounting and income tax.

Staff Auditor

Staff auditors are entry-level positions that conduct a range of supervised auditing duties.

Senior Auditor

Working under the supervision of an audit manager, the senior auditor handles an array of auditing tasks, including assigning and managing audit field work, reviewing audit work of staff auditors, developing financial statements and completing corporate tax returns.

Audit Manager

A leadership-based position, the audit manager is responsible for staff management, personnel scheduling, managing the audit program, dealing directly with clients and staff training.

IRS Revenue Agent

The role of the revenue agent is to conduct tax audits on businesses, individuals, multinational corporations and nonprofit organizations. Some agents specialize in certain areas (e.g., multinational corporations) or hold a variety of titles, including employment tax specialist (ETS) or international examiners (IE).

Estate Planning

This concentration develops a focused knowledge of estate law, including the financial aspects of estate planning. Subjects of study may include state and federal taxation of estates and trusts, wealth transfers and individual retirement plans.

Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

An advance practice professional, certified public accountants are licensed to provide public accounting services to clients – both individuals and businesses. Their role covers tax auditing, tax preparation and financial statement preparation, and they may represent clients before the Internal Revenue Service. CPAs work across industries, such as estate planning, venture capital, corporate finance, forensic accounting and income tax.

Senior Tax

In this role, the senior tax specialist may prepare individual tax returns, conduct research into tax law and policy and prepare tax-related financial plans.

Tax Manager

In this position, the tax manager directs the tax staff, provides consultation to both staff and clients, monitors and approves corporate tax returns and conducts research into tax policy and planning.

Financial Planner

Provide financial assessment and planning assistance to clients in areas ranging from investments to insurance, retirement to college savings. May specialize in areas such as tax planning and advice, risk management, retirement or investments.

Assurance Specialist

Provide customized, independent audit and professional tax opinions designed to mitigate risk.

Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

An advance practice professional, certified public accountants are licensed to provide public accounting services to clients – both individuals and businesses. Their role covers tax auditing, tax preparation and financial statement preparation, and they may represent clients before the Internal Revenue Service. CPAs work across industries, such as estate planning, venture capital, corporate finance, forensic accounting and income tax.

Staff Auditor

Staff auditors are entry-level positions that conduct a range of supervised auditing duties.

Senior Auditor

Working under the supervision of an audit manager, the senior auditor handles an array of auditing tasks, including assigning and managing audit field work, reviewing audit work of staff auditors, developing financial statements and completing corporate tax returns.

Audit Manager

A leadership-based position, the audit manager is responsible for staff management, personnel scheduling, managing the audit program, dealing directly with clients and staff training.

IRS Revenue Agent

The role of the revenue agent is to conduct tax audits on businesses, individuals, multinational corporations and nonprofit organizations. Some agents specialize in certain areas (e.g., multinational corporations) or hold a variety of titles, including employment tax specialist (ETS) or international examiners (IE).

Senior Tax

In this role, the senior tax specialist may prepare individual tax returns, conduct research into tax law and policy and prepare tax-related financial plans.

Tax Manager

In this position, the tax manager directs the tax staff, provides consultation to both staff and clients, monitors and approves corporate tax returns and conducts research into tax policy and planning.

Financial Planner

Provide financial assessment and planning assistance to clients in areas ranging from investments to insurance, retirement to college savings. May specialize in areas such as tax planning and advice, risk management, retirement or investments.

Assurance Specialist

Provide customized, independent audit and professional tax opinions designed to mitigate risk.

Coursework in taxation programs

Beyond concentrations, prospective students should also review the curriculum offered by a potential taxation program. Broad in scope, online master’s in taxation programs offer a variety of courses, and not all schools offer the same type of curriculum. Below is a list of real taxation courses available through online programs at universities across the country.

Federal Tax Procedure

This survey course covers the relationship and ruling procedures between the Internal Revenue Service and Department of Justice’s Tax Division. Students develop a working knowledge of federal tax practice, covering responsibilities, ethical obligations and duties of both the tax professional and client (individual or employer). Topics of study may include civil and criminal penalties, statute of limitations on tax collection and prosecutions, estate and gift taxes and IRS examinations and appeals.

Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

An advance practice professional, certified public accountants are licensed to provide public accounting services to clients – both individuals and businesses. Their role covers tax auditing, tax preparation and financial statement preparation, and they may represent clients before the Internal Revenue Service. CPAs work across industries, such as estate planning, venture capital, corporate finance, forensic accounting and income tax.

Staff Auditor

Staff auditors are entry-level positions that conduct a range of supervised auditing duties.

Senior Auditor

Working under the supervision of an audit manager, the senior auditor handles an array of auditing tasks, including assigning and managing audit field work, reviewing audit work of staff auditors, developing financial statements and completing corporate tax returns.

Senior Tax

In this role, the senior tax specialist may prepare individual tax returns, conduct research into tax law and policy and prepare tax-related financial plans.

Audit Manager

A leadership-based position, the audit manager is responsible for staff management, personnel scheduling, managing the audit program, dealing directly with clients and staff training.

Tax Manager

In this position, the tax manager directs the tax staff, provides consultation to both staff and clients, monitors and approves corporate tax returns and conducts research into tax policy and planning.

Financial Planner

Provide financial assessment and planning assistance to clients in areas ranging from investments to insurance, retirement to college savings. May specialize in areas such as tax planning and advice, risk management, retirement or investments.

Assurance Specialist

Provide customized, independent audit and professional tax opinions designed to mitigate risk.

IRS Revenue Agent

The role of the revenue agent is to conduct tax audits on businesses, individuals, multinational corporations and nonprofit organizations. Some agents specialize in certain areas (e.g., multinational corporations) or hold a variety of titles, including employment tax specialist (ETS) or international examiners (IE).

Tax and Financial Planning

This class provides students to an introduction of personal financial planning. Subjects of study range from budgeting to investment taxes, retirement planning to insurance coverage.

Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

An advance practice professional, certified public accountants are licensed to provide public accounting services to clients – both individuals and businesses. Their role covers tax auditing, tax preparation and financial statement preparation, and they may represent clients before the Internal Revenue Service. CPAs work across industries, such as estate planning, venture capital, corporate finance, forensic accounting and income tax.

Tax Manager

In this position, the tax manager directs the tax staff, provides consultation to both staff and clients, monitors and approves corporate tax returns and conducts research into tax policy and planning.

Financial Planner

Provide financial assessment and planning assistance to clients in areas ranging from investments to insurance, retirement to college savings. May specialize in areas such as tax planning and advice, risk management, retirement or investments.

Assurance Specialist

Provide customized, independent audit and professional tax opinions designed to mitigate risk.

Estate Planning

In this course students focus on estate analysis and its multiple components, including private annuities, life insurance, trust planning, retirement, business transfers, roles of estate professionals (e.g., tax attorney, CPA), cross purchase agreements and more.

Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

An advance practice professional, certified public accountants are licensed to provide public accounting services to clients – both individuals and businesses. Their role covers tax auditing, tax preparation and financial statement preparation, and they may represent clients before the Internal Revenue Service. CPAs work across industries, such as estate planning, venture capital, corporate finance, forensic accounting and income tax.

Senior Tax

In this role, the senior tax specialist may prepare individual tax returns, conduct research into tax law and policy and prepare tax-related financial plans.

Tax Manager

In this position, the tax manager directs the tax staff, provides consultation to both staff and clients, monitors and approves corporate tax returns and conducts research into tax policy and planning.

Financial Planner

Provide financial assessment and planning assistance to clients in areas ranging from investments to insurance, retirement to college savings. May specialize in areas such as tax planning and advice, risk management, retirement or investments.

Assurance Specialist

Provide customized, independent audit and professional tax opinions designed to mitigate risk.

Tax Research

This class allows students to conduct first-person research of income tax law and the Internal Revenue Code.

Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

An advance practice professional, certified public accountants are licensed to provide public accounting services to clients – both individuals and businesses. Their role covers tax auditing, tax preparation and financial statement preparation, and they may represent clients before the Internal Revenue Service. CPAs work across industries, such as estate planning, venture capital, corporate finance, forensic accounting and income tax.

Staff Auditor

Staff auditors are entry-level positions that conduct a range of supervised auditing duties.

Senior Auditor

Working under the supervision of an audit manager, the senior auditor handles an array of auditing tasks, including assigning and managing audit field work, reviewing audit work of staff auditors, developing financial statements and completing corporate tax returns.

Senior Tax

In this role, the senior tax specialist may prepare individual tax returns, conduct research into tax law and policy and prepare tax-related financial plans.

Audit Manager

A leadership-based position, the audit manager is responsible for staff management, personnel scheduling, managing the audit program, dealing directly with clients and staff training.

Tax Manager

In this position, the tax manager directs the tax staff, provides consultation to both staff and clients, monitors and approves corporate tax returns and conducts research into tax policy and planning.

Financial Planner

Provide financial assessment and planning assistance to clients in areas ranging from investments to insurance, retirement to college savings. May specialize in areas such as tax planning and advice, risk management, retirement or investments.

Assurance Specialist

Provide customized, independent audit and professional tax opinions designed to mitigate risk.

IRS Revenue Agent

The role of the revenue agent is to conduct tax audits on businesses, individuals, multinational corporations and nonprofit organizations. Some agents specialize in certain areas (e.g., multinational corporations) or hold a variety of titles, including employment tax specialist (ETS) or international examiners (IE).

Corporate Taxation

This course covers the federal income taxation at the corporate level, covering fundamentals in establishing the corporation, and introduction to capital structure, review of stock dividends, the purpose of personal holding companies, and more. Example subjects cover tax problems and planning, S-corporations, shareholder’s taxable income and special taxes for limited liability companies.

Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

An advance practice professional, certified public accountants are licensed to provide public accounting services to clients – both individuals and businesses. Their role covers tax auditing, tax preparation and financial statement preparation, and they may represent clients before the Internal Revenue Service. CPAs work across industries, such as estate planning, venture capital, corporate finance, forensic accounting and income tax.

Senior Tax

In this role, the senior tax specialist may prepare individual tax returns, conduct research into tax law and policy and prepare tax-related financial plans.

Tax Manager

In this position, the tax manager directs the tax staff, provides consultation to both staff and clients, monitors and approves corporate tax returns and conducts research into tax policy and planning.

Financial Planner

Provide financial assessment and planning assistance to clients in areas ranging from investments to insurance, retirement to college savings. May specialize in areas such as tax planning and advice, risk management, retirement or investments.

Assurance Specialist

Provide customized, independent audit and professional tax opinions designed to mitigate risk.

Introduction to Taxation

This class provides an overview of taxation, introducing students to the basics of federal income tax law, tax planning, and income taxation. Subjects of study include corporate taxation (e.g., limited liability companies), trusts, tax research, the Internal Revenue Code and tax case law.

Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

An advance practice professional, certified public accountants are licensed to provide public accounting services to clients – both individuals and businesses. Their role covers tax auditing, tax preparation and financial statement preparation, and they may represent clients before the Internal Revenue Service. CPAs work across industries, such as estate planning, venture capital, corporate finance, forensic accounting and income tax.

Staff Auditor

Staff auditors are entry-level positions that conduct a range of supervised auditing duties.

Senior Auditor

Working under the supervision of an audit manager, the senior auditor handles an array of auditing tasks, including assigning and managing audit field work, reviewing audit work of staff auditors, developing financial statements and completing corporate tax returns.

Senior Tax

In this role, the senior tax specialist may prepare individual tax returns, conduct research into tax law and policy and prepare tax-related financial plans.

Audit Manager

A leadership-based position, the audit manager is responsible for staff management, personnel scheduling, managing the audit program, dealing directly with clients and staff training.

Tax Manager

In this position, the tax manager directs the tax staff, provides consultation to both staff and clients, monitors and approves corporate tax returns and conducts research into tax policy and planning.

Financial Planner

Provide financial assessment and planning assistance to clients in areas ranging from investments to insurance, retirement to college savings. May specialize in areas such as tax planning and advice, risk management, retirement or investments.

Assurance Specialist

Provide customized, independent audit and professional tax opinions designed to mitigate risk.

IRS Revenue Agent

The role of the revenue agent is to conduct tax audits on businesses, individuals, multinational corporations and nonprofit organizations. Some agents specialize in certain areas (e.g., multinational corporations) or hold a variety of titles, including employment tax specialist (ETS) or international examiners (IE).

Bankruptcy Law

This class serves as an introduction to the Bankruptcy Code, state tax laws, the role of creditors and the rights of debtors.

Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

An advance practice professional, certified public accountants are licensed to provide public accounting services to clients – both individuals and businesses. Their role covers tax auditing, tax preparation and financial statement preparation, and they may represent clients before the Internal Revenue Service. CPAs work across industries, such as estate planning, venture capital, corporate finance, forensic accounting and income tax.

Senior Tax

In this role, the senior tax specialist may prepare individual tax returns, conduct research into tax law and policy and prepare tax-related financial plans.

Tax Manager

In this position, the tax manager directs the tax staff, provides consultation to both staff and clients, monitors and approves corporate tax returns and conducts research into tax policy and planning.

Financial Planner

Provide financial assessment and planning assistance to clients in areas ranging from investments to insurance, retirement to college savings. May specialize in areas such as tax planning and advice, risk management, retirement or investments.

Assurance Specialist

Provide customized, independent audit and professional tax opinions designed to mitigate risk.

International Tax

In this class students receive instruction in U.S. international taxation for both domestic and multinational businesses. Topics of study include branch profits tax, Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act of 1980 (FIRPTA), foreign tax credits, foreign loss taxation and conduit financing.

Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

An advance practice professional, certified public accountants are licensed to provide public accounting services to clients – both individuals and businesses. Their role covers tax auditing, tax preparation and financial statement preparation, and they may represent clients before the Internal Revenue Service. CPAs work across industries, such as estate planning, venture capital, corporate finance, forensic accounting and income tax.

Staff Auditor

Staff auditors are entry-level positions that conduct a range of supervised auditing duties.

Senior Auditor

Working under the supervision of an audit manager, the senior auditor handles an array of auditing tasks, including assigning and managing audit field work, reviewing audit work of staff auditors, developing financial statements and completing corporate tax returns.

Senior Tax

In this role, the senior tax specialist may prepare individual tax returns, conduct research into tax law and policy and prepare tax-related financial plans.

Audit Manager

A leadership-based position, the audit manager is responsible for staff management, personnel scheduling, managing the audit program, dealing directly with clients and staff training.

Tax Manager

In this position, the tax manager directs the tax staff, provides consultation to both staff and clients, monitors and approves corporate tax returns and conducts research into tax policy and planning.

Financial Planner

Provide financial assessment and planning assistance to clients in areas ranging from investments to insurance, retirement to college savings. May specialize in areas such as tax planning and advice, risk management, retirement or investments.

Assurance Specialist

Provide customized, independent audit and professional tax opinions designed to mitigate risk.

Employee Benefits

This course broadly covers the employee pensions and benefit plans in relationship both to labor law and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). Topics of study include reporting, profit sharing, stock bonus plans, various employee retirement plans and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.

Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

An advance practice professional, certified public accountants are licensed to provide public accounting services to clients – both individuals and businesses. Their role covers tax auditing, tax preparation and financial statement preparation, and they may represent clients before the Internal Revenue Service. CPAs work across industries, such as estate planning, venture capital, corporate finance, forensic accounting and income tax.

Senior Tax

In this role, the senior tax specialist may prepare individual tax returns, conduct research into tax law and policy and prepare tax-related financial plans.

Tax Manager

In this position, the tax manager directs the tax staff, provides consultation to both staff and clients, monitors and approves corporate tax returns and conducts research into tax policy and planning.

Financial Planner

Provide financial assessment and planning assistance to clients in areas ranging from investments to insurance, retirement to college savings. May specialize in areas such as tax planning and advice, risk management, retirement or investments.

Assurance Specialist

Provide customized, independent audit and professional tax opinions designed to mitigate risk.

Partnership Taxation

This course discusses the tax guidelines behind partnerships and partners, including the creation of a partnership, retirement and sale of a partnership. Issues to be studied include partnership liabilities, income assets, partnership allocations and partnership dissolution.

Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

An advance practice professional, certified public accountants are licensed to provide public accounting services to clients – both individuals and businesses. Their role covers tax auditing, tax preparation and financial statement preparation, and they may represent clients before the Internal Revenue Service. CPAs work across industries, such as estate planning, venture capital, corporate finance, forensic accounting and income tax.

Senior Tax

In this role, the senior tax specialist may prepare individual tax returns, conduct research into tax law and policy and prepare tax-related financial plans.

Tax Manager

In this position, the tax manager directs the tax staff, provides consultation to both staff and clients, monitors and approves corporate tax returns and conducts research into tax policy and planning.

Financial Planner

Provide financial assessment and planning assistance to clients in areas ranging from investments to insurance, retirement to college savings. May specialize in areas such as tax planning and advice, risk management, retirement or investments.

Assurance Specialist

Provide customized, independent audit and professional tax opinions designed to mitigate risk.

Professional Ethics and Responsibilities

In this class, students study the ethics and laws that govern the practice of tax professionals. From tax practice communication to discipline, students receive a wide ranging education in the day-to-day rules that guide their profession.

Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

An advance practice professional, certified public accountants are licensed to provide public accounting services to clients – both individuals and businesses. Their role covers tax auditing, tax preparation and financial statement preparation, and they may represent clients before the Internal Revenue Service. CPAs work across industries, such as estate planning, venture capital, corporate finance, forensic accounting and income tax.

Staff Auditor

Staff auditors are entry-level positions that conduct a range of supervised auditing duties.

Senior Auditor

Working under the supervision of an audit manager, the senior auditor handles an array of auditing tasks, including assigning and managing audit field work, reviewing audit work of staff auditors, developing financial statements and completing corporate tax returns.

Senior Tax

In this role, the senior tax specialist may prepare individual tax returns, conduct research into tax law and policy and prepare tax-related financial plans.

Audit Manager

A leadership-based position, the audit manager is responsible for staff management, personnel scheduling, managing the audit program, dealing directly with clients and staff training.

Tax Manager

In this position, the tax manager directs the tax staff, provides consultation to both staff and clients, monitors and approves corporate tax returns and conducts research into tax policy and planning.

Financial Planner

Provide financial assessment and planning assistance to clients in areas ranging from investments to insurance, retirement to college savings. May specialize in areas such as tax planning and advice, risk management, retirement or investments.

Assurance Specialist

Provide customized, independent audit and professional tax opinions designed to mitigate risk.

IRS Revenue Agent

The role of the revenue agent is to conduct tax audits on businesses, individuals, multinational corporations and nonprofit organizations. Some agents specialize in certain areas (e.g., multinational corporations) or hold a variety of titles, including employment tax specialist (ETS) or international examiners (IE).

Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

An advance practice professional, certified public accountants are licensed to provide public accounting services to clients – both individuals and businesses. Their role covers tax auditing, tax preparation and financial statement preparation, and they may represent clients before the Internal Revenue Service. CPAs work across industries, such as estate planning, venture capital, corporate finance, forensic accounting and income tax.

Staff Auditor

Staff auditors are entry-level positions that conduct a range of supervised auditing duties.

Senior Auditor

Working under the supervision of an audit manager, the senior auditor handles an array of auditing tasks, including assigning and managing audit field work, reviewing audit work of staff auditors, developing financial statements and completing corporate tax returns.

Senior Tax

In this role, the senior tax specialist may prepare individual tax returns, conduct research into tax law and policy and prepare tax-related financial plans.

Audit Manager

A leadership-based position, the audit manager is responsible for staff management, personnel scheduling, managing the audit program, dealing directly with clients and staff training.

Tax Manager

In this position, the tax manager directs the tax staff, provides consultation to both staff and clients, monitors and approves corporate tax returns and conducts research into tax policy and planning.

Financial Planner

Provide financial assessment and planning assistance to clients in areas ranging from investments to insurance, retirement to college savings. May specialize in areas such as tax planning and advice, risk management, retirement or investments.

Assurance Specialist

Provide customized, independent audit and professional tax opinions designed to mitigate risk.

IRS Revenue Agent

The role of the revenue agent is to conduct tax audits on businesses, individuals, multinational corporations and nonprofit organizations. Some agents specialize in certain areas (e.g., multinational corporations) or hold a variety of titles, including employment tax specialist (ETS) or international examiners (IE).

Other industries employing tax accountants:

  • Real estate
  • Hedge funds
  • Mergers and acquisitions
  • Tax technology
  • Investment funds

The Online Master of Taxation Timeline

The online master’s of science in taxation is traditionally a 30 to 36 credit-hour program that generally requires at least 24 months of study to complete. Dedicating two years to a graduate program is a significant investment to undertake, and prospective students benefit from understanding what those two years of study entail. Below is a hypothetical timeline that takes students through the 2-year process, starting with preparing the application to completing a capstone project in year two.

Preparing to Apply

Although online master’s in taxation programs are designed for the taxation professional, admission requirements traditionally vary from program to program. Because of this variety, students should have an understanding of what to expect during the application process. Below is a list of common admission requirements from different graduate schools offering an online master’s of taxation degree:

Passage of the CPA or CMA examination

Graduation from an institution accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business

Minimum GPA requirements in an undergraduate program of study

GMAT score of 500 or better

Work experience of five or more years

Interview

Official transcripts

Prerequisite coursework

Personal statement or writing samples

Resume

Application fees

Year 1
Foundational Courses

MS programs in taxation are divided into core curriculum and elective courses. During the first year of study, students take 15-16 credit-hours to satisfy the foundational curriculum in taxation. These foundational courses introduce students to topics related to core concepts in the field, such as corporate taxation, S-corporations and the federal tax system. By completing this list of classes, students develop a firm grasp of the basics of advanced taxation and are ready to move into a course track consisting of electives.

Year 2
Electives & Capstone *

Upon completing their core curriculum studies, students typically transition to electives, courses that cover specialized topics, such as estate planning and taxation, partnership taxation, IRS procedures and state-level taxation. In Year 2, students also begin research for a capstone project or series of capstone classes.

These courses are designed to enhance the research skills of the tax professional, providing graduate students an opportunity to display their technical skills and theoretical knowledge of taxation they developed during their classroom-based instruction.

Depending on the institution, students may be required to complete an in-person practicum or internship. Working with a site placement coordinator or advisor, students participate in a supervised period of hands-on practice in a business setting in their local area.

Crunching the Numbers: The Benefits of an Online Master’s in Taxation

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, more than 3,600 master’s in taxation degrees were granted to graduates in 2013. Of those universities granting taxation master’s degrees, the average in-state tuition for graduate students was $16,000, making the graduate program an affordable option for students.

Before enrolling in a graduate program, prospective students should survey the marketplace, and have an understanding of hiring demand and career potential after investing in their graduate education. According to a 2015 study from human resources consulting firm Robert Half, the outlook for trained, qualified and highly skilled accountants and financial professionals is positive, with an increasingly growing demand projected.

One of the largest drivers impacting the need for tax professionals and accountants is the increased pressures of the highly regulated financial environment. Robert Half notes that individuals with skills sets in compliance, internal auditing and risk are increasingly in demand. For those with both tax and industry-based experience in healthcare, energy and financial services, the outlook is especially strong.

Additionally, Robert Half projects an emerging talent shortage in accounting and auditing and compliance – which should be welcomed news for students considering a graduate degree in taxation. Below are targeted in-demand accounting careers identified by Robert Half:

  • Auditor
  • Cost Accountant
  • Controller
  • Senior Accountants
  • Staff Accountants

As an industry, accounting is projected to experience 13 percent national employment growth between 2012 and 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). For other accounting and tax-related positions, the BLS projects the following career increases between 2012 and 2022 nationally:

  • Personal Finance Advisors: 27 percent
  • Auditing Clerks: 11 percent
  • Financial Managers: 9 percent
  • Real Estate Assessor: 6 percent
  • Financial Analyst: 16 percent
Earning Potential for Online Master’s in Taxation

In light of the projected demand for accounting professionals in regulation and tax-related positions, completing a graduate degree in taxation makes professional sense for a few reasons. First, it improves the marketability of accountants and financial professionals in a competitive marketplace. Second, it positions graduates for additional certification from the AICPA. Third, it prepares graduates to pursue advanced or leadership-based positions an the industry that may require an advanced education for employment.

Data from the BLS shows the national median of salaries for accountants and auditors in 2013 was in the $65,000 range.

salaries for accountants stacked up
Top 10 % $40,370
Median (50%) $65,080
Bottom 10% $113,740

As discussed above, the financial investment for a 2-year graduate program in taxation could cost more than $32,000. Yet, the earning potential for accounting managers, directors and executives is strong, with salaries ranging between $75,000 and $191,000, according to Robert Half, which conducted a more focused, industry-specific survey of accounting and financial careers.

Robert Half divided salary projections into two categories: Corporate Accounting and Public Accounting. A review of earning data revealed that potential salaries increased by position, which is an indicator that experience and education attainment can impact future earnings. Completing an online master’s degree in taxation can open doors both to new career and advancement opportunities.

For accounting professionals unsure of which path to take – Corporate or Public Accounting – below are two tables with earnings data by position and sector.

Corporate Accounting 2015 Salary Range
Director of Accounting $85,500 – $116,750
Controller $79,500 – $106,000
Tax Director $114,500 – $176,250
Tax Manager $88,000 – $124,750
Compliance Director $140,000 – $191,750
Internal Auditor Manager $87,500 – $121,250
Financial Reporting Manager $97,250 – $127,500
Tax Accountant Manager $80,000 – $108,500
Treasury Analyst Manager $81,500 – $107,000
Public Accounting 2015 Salary Range
Tax Services Director $107,750 – $167,500
Tax Services Manager $88,750 – $123,250
Audit/Assurance Service Director $106,000 – $164,750
Audit/Assurance Service Manager $88,250 – $119,000

For additional insight into career opportunities, below is a list of national salary ranges from the BLS for potential employment paths for graduates of online master’s in taxation programs:

  • Revenue Agent: $30,700 to $92,750
  • Financial Analyst: $48,100 to $152,420
  • Personal Finance Planner: $33,190 to $124,680
  • Financial Manager: $61,320 to $153,970

Skills that Translate: Pursuing Other Careers with an Online Master’s in Taxation

Indeed, financial services and accounting are not industries for everyone. For individuals working in those industries, they may want to make a change in the future, and explore their interests outside the world of finance. Perhaps it is a lack of passion for accounting or a growingly competitive job market, or a desire to pursue a true calling of their life; whatever the reason, graduates of online master’s in taxation programs can parlay their skills and professional experiences into new career opportunities.

If a career in taxation or public accounting isn’t quite the right fit, or if there are questions about expanding skill sets to new professional arenas, here are three career areas where taxation skills can be put to good use:

  • Business Coach

    On the surface, business coaching and taxation may seem like dissimilar fields. In actuality, the skill sets are more closely aligned than at first glance. The goal of the business coach is based on productivity, and, more importantly, identifying how to improve productivity in employees and managers alike. The analytical and statistical approach of taxation specialists fits nicely with business coaching, as well as problem-solving and planning skills – skills that are honed in master’s programs in taxation.

  • Financial Recruiter

    A move to human services can be a seamless transition for the tax professional. Possessing an understanding of the financial services environment and having familiarity with the inner workings of business organizations positions tax professionals for success in this field. In this role, financial recruiters are responsible for identifying, screening, interviewing and making recommendations for potential employment candidates and conducting analytical analysis of staffing needs.

  • Business Teacher

    In a massive swing away from the spreadsheets, payroll and statistical software of the financial or accounting professional is education. For individuals seeking opportunities to apply their practical financial skills in a rewarding situation, then education might just be the ticket. Working in K-12 educational settings, business teachers provide instruction to students in areas ranging from economics to accounting, labor relations to business organizational structure.

In the end, on-the-job experience, blended with a graduate education prepares taxation master’s graduates with a broad foundation in the field, a foundation that allows them to apply their skills to numerous industries outside of accounting, taxation and finance.