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The 10 Best Online Masters in Taxation

As the world of taxation becomes more and more complex and the demand for specialists is on the rise, specializing in tax issues seems to be a wise move in terms of career advancement. Moreover, simple tax services are being slowly outsourced, not only overseas but to automated software. In response to the challenge, tax professionals are looking to enhance their technical competencies as well as their analytical, communications, and interpretive skills by getting a Master’s in taxation. Tax consulting is one of the fastest-growing fields in the United States according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS estimates that as the population ages and life expectancies increase, the demand for professional tax experts will steadily grow nearly 14 percent through 2022.

Graduate tax programs prepare students to be professional tax advisers and consultants, tax executives in private and public enterprises, and generally to attain the highest levels of responsibility in their firms, businesses and organizations. More specifically, you will learn to research tax questions, develop tax planning strategies, ensure tax compliance, but also to understand the larger principles at work behind financial health and regulations. Although most programs evaluated below are for current CPAs in need of additional expertise in this area, some satisfy the 150-hour CPA examination requirement, while others allow students to get a J.D. along with a Master’s in taxation. Ultimately, taxes are unavoidable, and so are tax accountants, but to make the college search a little easier, we have compiled a list of the top 10 graduate tax programs in the country based on affordability, flexibility and prestige.

Methodology:

  • Selectivity (1/3): a ranking of the acceptance rate of the program relative to over 100 surveyed online accounting programs.
  • Reputation (1/3): how the parent institution of the online program performs in other prominent rankings, such as Forbes and US News.
  • Flexibility (1/3): a ranking of flexibility-enhancing elements particularly suited for working or adult students. Examples of flexibility-enhancing elements include accelerated courses, life experience credit, particularly generous transfer policies, and different specializations.

1.) Northeastern University


Northeastern University (NU), established in 1898, is a private research institution. The school sits on a very urban-contemporary, 73-acre campus in Boston, MA. Accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges–the regional authority on educational quality and institutional effectiveness–NU is currently ranked #39 Best National University by U.S. News & World Report. Northeastern University enrolls approximately 13,700 undergraduate and 6,300 graduate students, offers a student-faculty ratio of 14:1, and 65% of classes cater to fewer than 20 students.

Northeastern University’s online Master of Science in Taxation (MST) is an evening-only program designed for full-time professionals and has an estimated completion time of 16 months. The program promises flexibility with a very generous 9-credit transfer policy and 2 program start dates per academic semester. Moreover, the program is prestigious due to its accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)–something less than 5% of international business schools can claim. Notably, Northeastern’s Online Graduate Business programs are ranked 18th in the country by U.S. News & World Report.

The 30-credit-hour program requires 5 core and 5 elective courses chosen to essentially allow students to concentrate in either personal or corporate taxation.

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  • Tuition Per Credit Hour: $1476
  • Flexibility Enhancing Characteristics: 2 tracks and accelerated

2.) Carl H. Lindner College of Business, University of Cincinnati


The University of Cincinnati (UC), established in 1819, is a public research institution. The school sits on an urban-contemporary, 202-acre campus in Cincinnati, OH. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission–the accreditation arm of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools–UC is currently ranked #135 Best National University by U.S. News & World Report. The University of Cincinnati enrolls approximately 25,000 undergraduate students, offers a student-faculty ratio of 17:1, and 41% of classes cater to fewer than 20 students.

The University of Cincinnati’s online Master of Science in Taxation (MST) ranked as the #1 Public Online Graduate Tax Program in both 2015 and 2016 by U.S. News & World Report and has an estimated completion time of 24 months. The program does, however, offer a 12-month accelerated option. Moreover, the program is also AACSB-accredited. The 30-credit-hour program requires 16 core and 14 elective credit-hours along with a capstone to showcase students’ research and technical tax skills.

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  • Tuition Per Credit Hour: $1005
  • Flexibility Enhancing Characteristics: accelerated option

3.) University of Hartford Online


The University of Hartford (UH), established in 1877, is a private, co-ed institution. The school sits on a pastoral, 320-acre campus in suburban Hartford, CT–about 2 hours northeast of New York City. Also accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, UH is currently ranked #188 Best National University by U.S. News & World Report. The University of Hartford enrolls approximately 5,300 undergraduate students, offers a student-faculty ratio of 9:1, and 70.4% of classes cater to fewer than 20 students.

The University of Hartford’s online Master of Science in Accounting and Taxation (MSAT) offers a curriculum track in both assurance and taxation services and has an estimated completion time of 24 months. The program promises flexibility with a generous 6-credit transfer policy. Moreover, the program is also AACSB-accredited. Noteworthy, the program meets the 150-hour requirement for the CPA examination in the state of Connecticut. The 30-credit-hour program requires 5 core and 5 elective courses selected from any discipline within the business school to create a specialized academic background.

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  • Tuition Per Credit Hour: $670
  • Flexibility Enhancing Characteristics: 2 specializations

4.) University of Illinois


The University of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign (U of I), established in 1867, is a public research institution. The school sits on a rustic and lush, 1,783-acre campus in the twin cities of Urbana and Champaign, IL. Also accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, U of I is currently ranked #44 Best National University by U.S. News & World Report. The University of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign enrolls approximately 33,400 undergraduate students, offers a student-faculty ratio of 18:1, and 41% of classes cater to fewer than 20 students.

The University of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign’s online Master of Science in Taxation (MST) is the first top 5 nationally-ranked program to be offered 100% online and has an estimated completion time of 12 months. The program primarily can boast an extremely short completion time without sacrificing quality and rigor. Moreover, the program is also AACSB-accredited. The 36-credit-hour program requires 12 core and no elective courses as customizability is not possible with such an accelerated program.

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  • Tuition Per Credit Hour: $833
  • Flexibility Enhancing Characteristics: N/A

5.) University of Akron


The University of Akron (UA), established in 1870, is a public institution. The school sits on an urban 223-acre campus in Akron, OH. Also accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, UA is currently ranked #248 in Business Programs by U.S. News & World Report. The University of Akron enrolls approximately 19,000 undergraduate students, offers a student-faculty ratio of 19:1, and 43.4% of classes cater to fewer than 20 students.

The University of Akron’s online Master of Taxation (Mtax) is one of the most accelerated programs on the list and has an estimated completion time of 15 months. The program is one of the more affordable options on the list; 70% percent of full-time undergraduates receive some kind of need-based financial aid and the average award is $5,100. Moreover, the program is also AACSB-accredited. The 30-credit-hour program requires 8 core with a special emphasis on federal and state taxation, and 2 elective courses to be chosen from 9 course options to tailor students’ expertise.

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  • Tuition Per Credit Hour: $833
  • Flexibility Enhancing Characteristics: accelerated

6.) DePaul University


DePaul University (DPU), established in 1898, is a private, co-ed, Roman-Catholic institution. The school sits on a surprisingly verdant, 38-acre campus in the famous Loop of Chicago, IL–the other campus is right in the heart of downtown. Also accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, DPU is currently ranked #124 Best National University by U.S. News & World Report. DePaul University enrolls approximately 16,000 undergraduate students, offers a student-faculty ratio of 16:1, and 35.3% of classes cater to fewer than 20 students.

DePaul University’s online Master of Science in Taxation (MST) can boast a graduate employment rate of 91% and has an estimated completion time of 18 to 24 months. The program consistently ranks within the top 10 schools employers trust when hiring accountants and courses are self-paced. Moreover, the program is also AACSB-accredited. The 45-credit-hour program requires 6 core and 4 to 6 elective courses selected from 22 diverse course options.

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  • Tuition Per Credit Hour: $1040
  • Flexibility Enhancing Characteristics: accelerated option

7.) California State University-Northridge


California State University–Northridge (CSUN), established in 1958, is a public higher education institution. The school sits on an urban-contemporary, 353-acre campus in the Northridge neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA. Accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges–the regional authority on educational quality and institutional effectiveness–CSUN is currently ranked #20 Top Public School by U.S. News & World Report. California State University–Northridge enrolls approximately 37,000 undergraduate students, offers a student-faculty ratio of 27:1, and 11% of classes cater to fewer than 20 students.

California State University–Northridge’s online Master of Science in Taxation (MST) comes from one of Princeton Review’s consistently top-ranked business schools and has an estimated completion time of 18 months. The program is the most affordable on the list. Moreover, the program is also AACSB-accredited and meets California’s 150-hour requirement for CPA-licensure. The 30-credit-hour program requires 6 core and 3 elective courses, a tax planning course, and a community service-based tax project meant to round out the student’s education.

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  • Tuition Per Credit Hour: $765
  • Flexibility Enhancing Characteristics: N/A

8.) Villanova University


Villanova University (VU), established in 1842, is a private research institution. The school sits on a pastoral, colonial-style, 260-acre campus in suburban Radnor Township, PA–less than an hour from Philadelphia. Accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education–the regional authority on educational quality and institutional effectiveness–VU is currently ranked #50 Best National University by U.S. News & World Report. Villanova University enrolls approximately 7,000 undergraduate students, offers a student-faculty ratio of 12:1, and 42.6% of classes cater to fewer than 20 students.

Villanova University’s online Master of Taxation (MTax) emphasizes the role of law in taxation and has an estimated completion time of two years. The program is the most customizable on the list, offering students the ability to pursue a Master of Laws in Taxation (LLM), Master of Taxation (MT) for non-lawyers, or a JD/LLM in Taxation. Moreover, the program is also AACSB-accredited. The 30-credit-hour program requires 6 core and 6 elective courses chosen from 30 course options or internships including the IRS, PA Department of Revenue, or the Villanova Law School Federal Tax Clinic.

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  • Cost Per Credit Hour: $1450
  • Flexibility Enhancing: certificate in specialized area of taxation

9.) University of Denver


The University of Denver (DU), established in 1864, is a private, co-ed, nonsectarian institution. The school sits on an urban, 125-acre campus in Denver, CO–less than 2 hours from Rocky Mountain National Park. Also accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, DU is currently ranked #86 Best National University by U.S. News & World Report. University of Denver enrolls approximately 6,000 undergraduate and 6,000 graduate students, offers a student-faculty ratio of 11:1, and 53.2% of classes cater to fewer than 20 students.

The University of Denver’s online Graduate Tax Program (GTP) offers both a conventional Master of Taxation (MTax) or a Master of Laws in Taxation (LLM) and has an estimated completion time of 12 months. The program promises flexibility with quarterly start dates, and part-time or evening classes designed for working professionals. Moreover, the program is also AACSB-accredited. The 30-credit-hour program requires 8 core and 4 elective courses where all courses are recorded through a state-of-the-art platform for on-demand viewing at any time.

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  • Cost Per Credit Hour: $1258
  • Flexibility Enhancing : full-time and part-time options

10.) University of Southern California


The University of Southern California (USC), established in 1880, is a private research institution. The school sits on a densely-packed, urban, 308-acre campus in the University Park district of Los Angeles, CA–less than 2 miles from downtown. Also accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, USC is currently ranked #23 Best National University by U.S. News & World Report. The University of Southern California enrolls approximately 18,800 undergraduate students, offers a student-faculty ratio of 9:1, and 60.6% of classes cater to fewer than 20 students.

The University of Southern California’s online Master of Business Taxation (MBT) is a hybrid format designed for full-time working professionals and has an estimated completion time of 12 to 18 months. The program promises flexibility with self-paced online courses and a once-a-week evening class. Moreover, the program is also AACSB-accredited. The 30-credit-hour program requires 5 core and 5 elective courses selected from any discipline within the business school to match the student’s career needs.

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  • Cost Per Credit Hour: $3443
  • Flexibility Enhancing: N/A