Master of Science in Accountancy (MSA) Common Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Below is a list of the most common questions asked in regards to the Master of Science in Accounting (MSA) program.

I haven't completed the prerequisite coursework. Is there a list of recommended courses I can take to meet the program perquisites?

We offer online courses through Coursera to help prospective students satisfy the requirements. You will want to make sure that you earn a course completion certificate for each course so you can prove your successful completion of the courses.

Financial Accounting: The following three courses, in combination, will satisfy the principles of financial accounting prerequisite. 

Other Pre-Requisite Needs:

*Not required, but highly recommended: Finance & Statistics.

When do applications open?

Applications open on October 1.

When does the program start?

Our program begins in June each year, and many of our courses are semester specific and must be taken in sequence.

Why does the MSA program start in June?

There are basically two key reasons why the MSA program starts so early. First, by starting to take accounting classes during the summer, our students can become eligible to take the US CPA exam in the spring semester. We structure our MSA program to ensure that those students who want to take the US CPA exam can do so either while they are still in school, before they start working in the US or before they are required to return to their home country. If we started our program in the fall semester, it would be difficult to structure our program to allow students to start taking these exams during the spring or before they would start working.

Second, for accounting majors, the primary US recruiting takes place early the fall semester at all major US universities. This is when most, if not all, US jobs are filled. In addition, US recruiters focus almost all of their time assessing students’ soft skills. Thus, by starting in the summer, our MSA students can begin to focus on improving the soft skills they will need to compete for any job openings. The US job market is very competitive. That is why, at Illinois, we devote considerable attention to the development of our students’ personal and professional soft skills. The summer semester gives us an opportunity to do this before the recruiting process starts.

Do you require an undergraduate degree in accounting?

No, the MSA program is designed for students with a variety of different backgrounds. Students will be individually placed in courses based on their undergraduate coursework and be provided with the tools and knowledge to become successful in the business world.

Do I need to complete any prerequisite coursework?

The MSA program requires students to have completed an introductory Financial Accounting course along with a course in Business Management prior to admissions.

What type of student is the MSA Program looking for?

We are looking for well-rounded applicants that may have varying amounts of previous accounting coursework and/or experience. We expect you to have done well academically. We also want to know what other interests you have. The resume and personal statement is your opportunity to share with us something else about yourself and what your goals are so that we can get to know you better and be able to evaluate you not just on your grades and test scores when we make a decision. For example, what extracurricular activities are you involved in? Have you done volunteer work, been involved in clubs, student groups, or athletics? What leadership roles have you held? What did you learn from the work experiences you completed?

Is the GRE/GMAT required?

We require either the GMAT or GRE unless an applicant has completed all four years of undergraduate study at a US institution or completed a 2+ year US Master's Degree. We will also waive the GMAT/GRE for applicants with at least two years of work experience (internships are not included).

Can I submit required information after the application deadline?

An application file is considered incomplete until all required information is received by us. We will not initiate a review of an incomplete file. As we make admissions decisions on a rolling basis, it is very important that you get us all of the information we need as soon as possible. Any information that we request as part of the application process that is received after the March 15 deadline will still be reviewed by the admissions committee, as long as we still have space available in the program.

How will applications be evaluated?

We evaluate all aspects of your application. Each member of the admissions committee brings his or her own perspective and judgment to the process. Grades and test scores, the GMAT/GRE and the TOEFL or IELTS if required, are perhaps the most important part of the application. However, the committee also looks closely at the personal statement, your letters of reference and your resume.

What is the difference between the MSA program and the MAS program?

The MSA program is a one-year professional program in Accountancy for those students who did not receive a U.S. bachelor’s degree in Accounting. The MAS program is designed for students that have a bachelor’s degree in Accounting from an AACSB accredited U.S. Institution

Can I defer my admission?

The MSA program does not defer admission. If you were offered admission and cannot attend we can re-code your application for 1 year. You would go into the following year’s applicant pool. Please note that there is no guarantee of another offer of admission.

Where do I send my official transcripts?

Simple—You Don’t. The College does not require official transcripts unless you are admitted to our program. After being admitted, a student may bring or send their official transcripts to:

The Graduate College
507 East Green Street
Suite 101, MC-434
Champaign, IL 61820

My recommender cannot use the online system. What do I do?

The College prefers that the recommender submit their recommendation online. If he/she is unable to do so, please ask your recommender to send the letter directly to or mail to:

Business Graduate Programs - ATTN: MSA Program
Gies College of Business
3019 Business Instructional Facility
515 E. Gregory Dr.
Champaign, IL 61820

Can I study a PhD in Accountancy after the MSA?

In some cases graduates of our MSA program decide to pursue an academic career and continue on to a doctoral program in accounting. However, this is not the route we would recommend, as both programs have different goals. The MSA is a professional program focused on practitioners of accounting. Therefore, the curriculum emphasizes applications and practical approaches. Doctoral programs in accounting focus on research.

The PhD program at Gies is extremely competitive, admitting only 4 or 5 new students a year from several hundred applicants. For more information visit PhD in Accountancy.

Common Questions for International Students

Am I eligible to apply with a bachelors degree from a non US institution?

Please visit the University of Illinois Graduate College Admissions Requirements by Country to view country specific requirement. Please reach out to if you have additional questions.

Does a certification from The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) or a Master’s Degree count toward my eligibility if I have a 3-year undergraduate degree?

Yes, if you have passed all 3 levels of the ICAI certification or have a Master’s Degree (from India), the Graduate College will consider you eligible for limited status admission with a 3-year bachelor’s degree.

Is the TOFEL/IELTS required?

Yes, for applicants whose undergraduate degree is not from an institution or country where English is the official language. See the University of Illinois’ English Proficiency Requirements for more details.

Can I waive the TOFEL/IELTS?

Yes, we will waive this requirement if you meet any of the exemption criteria outlined by our Graduate College. See the University of Illinois’ English Proficiency Requirements for more details.

What is the minimum requirements for the TOFEL/IELTS?

The minimum score for the TOFEL is a 103 and the IELTS is a 7.5. See the University of Illinois’ English Proficiency Requirements for more details.

Can I be admitted with low TOFEL/IELTS scores?

Yes, you can be admitted on Limited Status with a low TOFEL and IELTS scores. If you are admitted, you’ll be required to sit for the English Placement Test (EPT). See the University of Illinois’ English Proficiency Requirements for more details.

Can I apply with an expired TOEFL score?

TOEFL and IELTS scores must be less than two years old from the first day of class at the proposed term of entry in order to be valid.

Can I send unofficial copies of my test scores?

Unofficial scores can be loaded into your application, but your official GMAT scores must be sent directly to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: Institution Code – 1836.

Can I submit my scores after I submit my application?

Yes you can submit your scores after you submit your application. However, your application can not be reviewed until we receive your official scores.

What is the institution code?

You can request your official test scores from the Educational Testing Service to be sent to the Institution Code: 1836. Department codes are not necessary at our university.

Do I need to upload financial documents at the time of application?

Financial documents are not required for admission. Admitted students requiring a visa will need to upload their proof of funding and passport in order to obtain their I-20.

Can I receive financial aid?

The MSA program cannot offer financial aid to international students. You should be prepared to verify and fully fund the cost of the program.

What are the job prospects for international students?

Our international students consistently seek job opportunities either in the U.S., in their home country, or in both places at the same time. Based on information that our students have provided us, job placement on a combined basis (i.e. globally, including the U.S.) is very high. When just considering employment in the U.S., job placement for international students who require a H1-B visa is still very challenging. Why is this?

To work in the U.S., an international student must obtain a H1-B visa from the U.S. Government. The number of available H1-B visas that can be granted in any year has been capped at 85,000 since 2004. Since 2004, the number of H1-B visa applications has exceeded this cap. For example, for the two most recent years, there were almost three times as many applications as the cap. Thus, two out of every 3 international employees could not get a H1-B visa and had to return to their home country.

Because of the likelihood that many H1-B visa applications will not be selected, U.S. employers are trying to balance the desire to diversify their workforce with the risk that losing key international employees could be disruptive to their business. As a result, many U.S. employers are reducing the number of U.S. employment opportunities they are willing to offer international students. In other words, this cap on H1-B visas and U.S. employers’ reactions to this are limiting the total number of job opportunities available in the U.S. for international students. This is true regardless of where you go to school or what program you choose to pursue.

Now the good news: there will be U.S. job opportunities available for international students. But they will be very competitive. If you have a strong desire to work in the U.S. it is very important that you are well prepared to compete. Recruiters focus most of their efforts on evaluating a student’s “soft skills,” including your English speaking proficiency. Those international students who have good language and conversational skills, have a variety of work and leadership experiences, and can exhibit a confident, enthusiastic and engaging personality are generally the strongest candidates. These soft skills can be learned and developed.

So if you really want to work in the U.S., it will be very important that you choose a graduate accounting program that is committed to developing these soft skills for you – where it is as much a priority as making sure you pursue academic excellence. That is why the Illinois MSA program is the right choice for you. Our Student Experience is geared to help you develop your personal and professional soft skills. Since our MSA program starts in June, we leverage this summer term to help you get ready for the competitive fall recruiting process. With our leading Business Career Services office, we work with you year-round as you pursue various U.S. job prospects.

Can I send unofficial copies of my test scores?

If you are a non-native English speaker, you’ll need to upload your unofficial TOEFL or IELTS scores directly to your application. For IELTS scores, you should upload a copy of your official score card. TOEFL scores of 103 or greater or IELTS scores of 7.5 or greater are required for full-status admission. Review the Graduate College’s English proficiency requirements for more details on full-status versus limited-status admission. Request your official TOEFL scores to be sent electronically to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (Institution Code – 1836).

What is your minimum GMAT/GRE requirement?

The MSA program seeks students with strong quantitative and qualitative skills, and the GMAT/GRE can be a good indicator of these skills. We do not have a minimum score requirement as all applicants are considered on a holistic basis.

Do you accept WES Evaluations?

No, we do not accept WES Evaluations.

Take the next step toward earning your MSA.