In his 10 years teaching at Bentley, Professor Scott Thomas has seen all kinds of students complete the master’s in taxation program—everyone from recent college graduates who know they want to work in the field, to people who are already deeply entrenched in their tax career, to career-changers (including, once, a police officer). In recent years, more students than ever are entering the program, for a variety of reasons.
Thomas welcomes them all and says the renewed interest in tax is due, at least in part, to the fact that the tax world is changing. What used to be staples of the job—like turning financial statements into tax statements and inserting numbers into forms—are now sidelined, having been replaced by mechanical computer processes. While there is still some of that, he admits, (and yes, the Internal Revenue Code still plays a big role in the job), tax is now more of an analytical field than it used to be. Tax practitioners are valued for their ability to help with acquisitions, save companies money, and strategize for global expansion. In many ways, they are now more of a business partner than they ever were before.
But is it really necessary to get a master’s degree in taxation? According to Thomas, the answer is yes. As a 28-year veteran of the tax industry, he sees the benefits his students are afforded as a result of their degree—and knows just how valuable the master’s in taxation is in the current job market.
What Can I Do With A Master’s In Taxation?
The biggest employers for students of taxation are the “Big Four” international accounting firms, Deloitte LLP, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young, and KPMG, followed by smaller international firms (“midtier” accounting firms). Typically, says Thomas, employees of very large offices tend to have a narrow job focus. They may be placed in one of the several groups that handle only one type of client—for instance, a group that works solely with financial institutions (like banks and insurance companies), manufacturing/retail businesses, or high-net-worth individuals. That’s because specific tax issues apply to each area; the larger the client, the higher the demand for a certain level of expertise in their business. Sometimes employees are grouped by technical expertise as well. For instance, there may be people who specialize in state and local taxes or taxation of international transactions.
Many students also find jobs in corporate tax departments, where interest in hiring seems to have peaked recently. In a corporate tax department, students might be doing a little bit of everything—more so than in a Big Four accounting firm. In other words, they would likely handle all tax matters rather than just those that fall within their particular area of expertise.
For new hires, much of the initial work may be menial, but over time and with experience, the amount of supervision lessens, client contact increases, and more time is devoted to planning over compliance. Those with a master’s degree in taxation, Thomas says, will progress faster.
Here’s why: An MS in taxation requires, in most cases, 10 tax courses and involves heavy emphasis on research skills; in contrast, those with only an undergraduate degree may have completed just one basic tax course. MS graduates already know how to spot issues and address them, giving them a better chance of being awarded more substantial projects at work. And, as Thomas notes from his experience, the better you are, the busier you will be. The end result is a faster rate of advancement.
There’s also an overabundance of jobs—Thomas says that the demand for new tax practitioners regularly exceeds the number of students available for placement, particularly for the Big Four, where there simply aren’t enough tax people to go around. It’s now reached a point where the largest firms are asking for input on how to increase interest in tax among more students.
Fulfill CPA Exam Requirements With A Master’s In Taxation
Thirty credits: That’s the number of additional credits required beyond the standard undergraduate degree before you can qualify to take the CPA exam; it’s also the number of credits in a typical master’s in taxation program
The additional credit requirement for CPA exam prep was originally intended to help undergraduates gain more tax- or accounting-related knowledge, improving themselves from an accounting or tax perspective. Unfortunately, says Thomas, some students fulfill the credit requirement by taking classes unrelated to tax or accounting, missing out on a terrific opportunity to not only learn more about what they plan to do for a living, but also the opportunity to help themselves get ahead faster in their career. A master of science in taxation program checks off both boxes—it gives you the necessary 30 credits for the CPA exam and the foundation for a successful career.
Bentley’s Master’s In Taxation Program
At Bentley, students in the graduate taxation program take 10 courses at three credits each. There are five required courses:
- Professional Tax Practice
- Federal Taxation Of Income
- Corporations & Shareholders
- Multi-Jurisdictional Taxation
Electives are designed to let students explore the field. Tax-specific options include classes on trusts and estates, mergers and acquisitions, intellectual property, international tax, and state and local tax, among others. Students may also fulfill their electives requirement with courses outside of taxation—what we call “crossing over” into financial planning, for example, or management or accounting.
Students may also choose to do an internship in tax practice for credit. Internships are readily available, and usually, last eight or 10 weeks during either the busy spring tax season or the summer (when corporate tax returns are being done).
Many part-time students in the tax program take advantage of its unique online hybrid format. If you can’t attend class in person, you may participate live on your computer from home, the office, or wherever you happen to be. You can see the professor in real time, access class materials, and even raise your hand to participate and ask questions. This option gives working students the flexibility they need to balance their degree with work and family.
Interested in Bentley’s master of science in taxation program?
Bentley’s MS in taxation program is the largest graduate tax program in New England and one of the largest in the country. It’s also one of the most respected, due in large part to a faculty that consists of highly experienced tax practitioners who bring a rare depth and breadth of real-world knowledge to the classroom.
Whether you’re preparing for the CPA exam, starting a new career, or hoping to get ahead in your current career, Bentley’s master of science in taxation program will give you the skills you need to succeed. To find out more about our program, visit our website or contact our graduate school admissions department.