MSA vs. MA from the Perspective of a Dual Degree Recipient

Marquis Pullen
Marquis Pullen

The Wake Forest University School of Business is committed to providing prospective students with graduate level programs that equip them with the technical, conceptual, and practical learning opportunities that will prepare them for the next step in their career journey.

Prospective students exploring pre-experience graduate opportunities at Wake Forest University may find themselves asking the question: Which program is for me? MSA vs. MA. In the spring of 2013, I was in a similar boat; I just could not make up my mind. Fortunately, I was presented with the opportunity to pursue both the MSA and MA degrees at Wake Forest University. So what are the similarities and differences between the programs from the vantage point of a student who enrolled in both?

Interdisciplinary Nature of the Coursework

One of the biggest differences, of course, between the two programs is the coursework. In the MA in Management Program, you are introduced to coursework that covers almost all of the core business functions: finance, accounting, IT management, marketing, strategy, and analytics. In the MSA Program you also get exposed to a variety of subject areas. However, the focus is on accounting-related topics: audit, tax compliance, tax provision, and corporate transactions.

There is also an emphasis upon graduates of all programs being ready, able, and honorable business leaders. Each program has a business law and ethical responsibility component. The purpose of these courses is to really push students to see what is expected of them as business leaders from a legal and government regulation standpoint and then to challenge them to aspire to embrace a higher code of ethics.

Experiential Learning Opportunities

Both the MA in Management Program and the MSA Program have structured, experience-based learning opportunities that encourage students to practically apply some of the theoretical and conceptual knowledge acquired in the classroom.

The principle experiential learning opportunity in the MA in Management Program is the Action Learning Projects (ALP), also referred to as Graduate Consulting Projects. My ALP team provided consulting services to a local healthcare organization. The project challenged us to integrate our knowledge from several courses to provide a set of recommendations related to operations, accounting information systems, and cost management. The final deliverable was an external memo and presentation before the client.

In the MSA Program, the “Winter Internship” is the main practical skills development experience for students. I recently completed a busy season internship with PwC in Charlotte, North Carolina. I worked in the tax line of service and with clients in the capital markets & banking and asset management industries. I found the experience to be rigorous, relevant, and rewarding.


Both the MA and MSA Program provide students with great career opportunities. Students in the MSA Program tend to gravitate towards tax and audit careers with public accounting firms; specifically, opportunities with “Big Four” accounting firms. These accounting firms are consistently ranked amongst the best employers to work for because of the investment that they make in training and developing employees. In the MA in Management Program, students pursue a more broad range of career opportunities upon graduation: consulting, marketing, sales, and corporate finance.

Both programs have historically high placement rates, with many graduates landing jobs with good starting salaries.


The philosophy of both programs are the same: attract the best and brightest students, challenge them with a rigorous curriculum and experiential learning opportunities, and provide them with the support that is necessary for them to secure a job and be successful at their post-graduation employers. I will make the obvious recommendation. The MA Program is for liberal arts and science majors looking to break into business and who are not quite certain as to what functional area they would like to pursue. The MSA Program can also meet the needs of liberal arts and science majors, in addition to accounting undergraduates, and is for those who are inclined to work in public accounting, or in the finance, accounting, and tax functions within a corporation. In both programs, you may just develop a network that will last a lifetime.


Marquis Pullen is a member of the Master of Arts in Management Program’s Class of 2014, where he was the Reynolds American Corporate Fellowship recipient and a Beta Gamma Sigma honors graduate. Marquis is enrolled in the Master of Science in Accountancy Program, where he is pursuing a dual concentration in Tax Consulting and Financial Transaction Services.