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University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Online Master's of Accounting (iMSA)

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign via Coursera


Become an analytics-minded professional with a fully online master’s from a top-ranked accounting powerhouse.

The University of Illinois’ Gies College of Business, consistently ranked among the nation's top three accounting programs, is a revered destination for accounting education globally.

The online Master of Science in Accounting (iMSA) provides students with skills in analytical thinking, data mining, and strategic accounting. The accounting degree is intentionally flexible to address the needs of today’s students: whether they seek to begin their career as an accountant, become a CPA, improve their standing in the accounting field and become a CFO, or want to leverage analytical skills in their existing non-accounting career.

Master's Degree in Accounting

The accounting industry is undergoing rapid change. New accountants need to become proficient in leading analytical techniques and tools; programming in Python and R, data mining, statistical analysis and regression. All of this on top of a traditional accounting education.

The iMSA meets these needs with instruction from some of the very best accounting faculty in the world. Graduates from our program are in high-demand because they possess the most sought-after skills. Our alumni have gone on to become world-renowned founders of businesses, CEOs, CFOs, accounting firm partners, entrepreneurs, and other business leaders.

The iMSA is flexibly designed to meet the needs of the modern day student; whether you want to transition into accounting, sit for the CPA exam, become a CFO, or apply leading analytics skills into your existing career.


The online MS in accounting program curriculum is designed to provide students with a relevant set of analytical skills and a consultancy mindset. Delivered by Gies’ top-ranked accounting faculty with decades of industry experience, the iMSA helps students learn to collect and process information and make high-impact strategic decisions for their organization. The iMSA is designed to be a versatile degree. It is equally feasible that a student can use this degree to prepare for the CPA exam as it is that a student can use this degree to fundamentally change how they collect, analyze, and interpret data in their professional lives.

The curriculum is divided between core accounting and analytics coursework and elective coursework. Learning takes place in several modalities: online self-paced lecture content, high-engagement live classes, and in practice through hands-on projects as well as in everyday job responsibilities at work.

Core MS in Accounting Curriculum

The iMSA was developed by top accounting faculty to build expertise in leading analytics methods, financial reporting, audit and control, and U.S. federal taxation. This degree helps prepare you to sit for the CPA exam.

The 20 accountancy hours required are ACCY 501 through ACCY 505 (each of the five courses awards 4 hours credit).

ACCY 501 Accounting Analysis I

This course is the first course in a two-course sequence (ACCY 501 and 502) that covers the collection, processing, and communication of accounting information (via financial reports) about economic entities to interested parties (i.e., managers and external stakeholders such as stockholders and creditors). This sequence focuses on accounting concepts, principles and theory with an emphasis on problems that arise in applying these concepts for external reporting purposes. Specific emphasis is placed on measurement of assets, liabilities, equities and income, as well as disclosure of additional information that may assist users in understanding the financial reports. Because this sequence is intended to assist you in professional preparation, you will be expected to develop analytical, problem-solving and technical skills used by accounting professionals. Total Credit Hours: 4

ACCY 502 Accounting Analysis II

ACCY 502 is a continuation of ACCY 501. This course begins with a discussion of current liabilities and contingencies, and continues with long-term debt and bonds. The course then explores accounting model for leases: both lessees and lessors, and a discussion on deferred tax assets and liabilities. Participants will learn the latest accounting standards including the new accounting model for leases effective for public companies in 2019 and private companies in 2020. The second half of the course begins with a discussion of pensions and retiree medical benefits, and continues with equity and share-based payments. It then explores earnings per share (EPS) and a discussion on accounting changes. The course will conclude with a discussion on the statement of cash flows. Total Credit Hours: 4

ACCY 503 Managerial Accounting

In this course, you will identify and analyze managerial accounting practices used inside organizations to facilitate and guide managers’ operational and strategic decisions. There are two important roles of managerial accounting information. First, managerial accounting has a decision-facilitating role, as it allows decision-makers within the company to adjust their beliefs, and thus affects their evaluations of and decisions surrounding the company’s strategies and operations. Second, managerial accounting has a decision-influencing role, as it can be used to evaluate performance, and align the incentives of the decision-maker with those of other stakeholders. This course will explore both roles of managerial accounting. Total Credit Hours: 4

ACCY 504 Auditing

This course provides an intensive conceptual and applied introduction to auditing in society. It focuses on concepts and applications related to financial-statement auditors’ professional responsibilities, as well as major facets of the audit process, including risk assessment and audit reporting. Total Credit Hours: 4

ACCY 505 Federal Taxation

The first half of the course examines the U.S. federal tax system as it relates to individuals, employees, and sole proprietors. Topics include the tax environment, sources of tax law, inclusions and exclusions to gross income, deductions, calculating the tax liability, employee and self-employed business expenses, and retirement plans. The second half of the course examines the U.S. federal tax system as it relates to property transactions of business owners and shareholders. Topics include cost recovery (e.g., depreciation, amortization, and depletion), realized versus recognized gains and losses, adjusted-basis considerations, non-taxable transactions (e.g., like-kind exchanges, involuntary conversions, and sale of primary residence), and the netting process for gains and losses. Total Credit Hours: 4

Accounting Electives

As an iMSA student you will be taking 12 semester credits in elective courses. At least 4 semester elective credits must be in non-accounting courses.

ACCY 506 Advanced Financial Reporting

Current authoritative accounting standards and applications to accounting practice. Topics do not represent the full range of financial reporting issues, but are selected based on relevance of the underlying business transaction, complexity of the topic, consistency of applicable standard with underlying reporting concepts, and transferability of the standard to other accounting issues. Total Credit Hours: 4

ACCY 507 Taxation of Business Entities

The first half of the course provides an introduction to the U.S. federal income taxation of corporations and their shareholders. The course focuses on the relevant provisions of Subchapter C of the Internal Revenue Code, as well as related Treasury Regulations and judicial opinions, governing corporate formation, operations, distributions, and liquidation. The second half of the course provides an introduction to the U.S. federal income taxation of pass-through business entities, including Subchapter S corporations, partnerships, and limited liability companies. It focuses on the relevant provisions of Subchapters S and K of the Internal Revenue Code, as well as related Treasury Regulations and judicial opinions, governing the formation, operation, and termination of pass-through entities. Practical in-class study problems facilitate self-discovery of technical tax knowledge along with the development of a variety of professional skills and attitudes. Total Credit Hours: 4

ACCY 516 Professional Responsibility and Ethics for Accountants

This course covers key principles of accountants’ professional responsibility in their jobs, organizations, and careers, and adopts both theoretical and practical perspectives of the role of ethics and morals within the accounting discipline. The course begins with a general overview of these key constructs and principles, including various philosophies from a variety of disciplines and cultures. Next, the course provides a historical perspective of major instances of accounting-related “failures” and “successes” in the area of professional responsibility and ethics. This historical perspective provides the underlying reasoning for many contemporary codes of conduct, ethics, and professional guidelines. A variety of experiential learning opportunities will help students explore and develop their own perspective on ethics and morals, and how these principles affect their professional roles, responsibilities, and choices. Total Credit Hours: 3

ACCY 569 Data Driven Decisions for Accounting

This course prepares students to use analytic software to explore, visualize, and statistically analyze accounting data. It first introduces students to the need for analytics in accounting by sampling problems from different accounting domains. Students then learn to frame problems in a way that can be answered by using data, and how to structure data so that it’s ready to be analyzed. Students create interactive visualizations in Excel and Tableau to examine data, identify patterns and relationships in the data, and then communicate the findings. This course also introduces students to statistical analyses (i.e. regression and clustering) for quantifying patterns and relationships that are observed in the data. Finally, this course introduces accounting students to programming via macros and the VisualBasic editor in Excel to automate data preparation and data analyses. Total Credit Hours: 2

ACCY 570 Data Analytics in Accounting

An introduction to all phases of the data analytics process with a specific focus on business applications. This course will first discuss acquiring, cleaning, archiving, and processing data. Next, students will learn to perform and evaluate the results of machine learning algorithms on these data. Topics to be covered include classification, regression, and clustering. Finally, students will gain practical experience in the application of these machine learning skills to numeric, image, text, and graph data sets. Total Credit Hours: 4

ACCY 593 Infonomics

This course introduces infonomics – a collective of concepts, principles, techniques, and models that lead managers to value, handle and deploy information as an actual enterprise asset. The course begins with an overview of information, its role in the firm, and its unique economic properties. Students will explore different ways to optimize the economic benefits from information, including monetizing information and using analytics to enhance information’s utility. Next, formal information asset management and valuation methods that leverage well-honed approaches from other asset disciplines will be discovered, developed and studied. The course covers a variety of interrelated principles and concerns, including information rights and privacy issues, the applicability of core microeconomics concepts, and emerging information-related roles and structures to help organizations become more data-driven. Total Credit Hours: 4

ACCY 593 Accounting Analytics Applications

ACCY 593-A allows students to use analytics-based tools in a performance-evaluation system context. Specifically, students will investigate and assess the strengths and weaknesses of a firm’s implementation of a new performance evaluation system. Total Credit Hours: 1

ACCY 593-B explores fraud analytics. Specifically, students will learn and apply fraud analytical techniques, with a special focus on the interaction between analytical tools and human judgment. Total Credit Hours: 1

In ACCY 593-1, students will complete an extensive case, in which they must analyze purchase transactions. Students will use both Excel and Python, and communicate the results of their analyses via data visualization techniques. Total Credit Hours: 1

In ACCY 593-2, students will use public data available from the City of Chicago to help taxicab companies – and individual drivers – maximize revenue. The focus of this course is on developing skills to use unstructured data. Total Credit Hours: 1

Non-Accounting Electives

Most non-accounting electives are eight-week, four-credit hour courses and can be taken year round (fall, spring, and summer semesters.) View a list of currently available elective courses.

Projects in the MS in Accounting Master's

Financial Reporting: Learners will assess the validity and completeness of a publicly-traded corporation’s financial statements and disclosures of key risks, and analyze the corporation’s potential for future financial success.

Managerial Accounting and Control: Learners will role-play as managers and identify relevant information, analyze costs and profits, and use information management tools to make a strategic business decision involving uncertainty.

Corporate Tax Strategy: Learners will identify a publicly-traded, global corporation and assess its organizational structure’s effectiveness in minimizing domestic and global tax obligations.

Business Analytics Learners will apply a multi-faceted analytics approach to assess a company’s strategic and operational risk, and identify, measure, and quantify the impact of instances of manager fraud.


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