Guide to Master’s in Taxation in 2021

You may have interacted with a tax expert when it came time for you to file your tax returns. That person likely guided you through the process, asking careful questions pertaining to deductibles, exemptions, and more. The scope of work for tax professionals however goes beyond tax season.

In matters of sales taxes, business taxes, property taxes, and payroll, the tax expert leads the charge in solving any issues that may arise and making sure that all stakeholders comply with the Internal Revenue Service’s regulations.

When deciding whether to pursue your master’s in taxation or master’s in tax law, it’s important to not only consider job outlook, but also program cost, program requirements, study environment and earning potential. Each of these factors can help you determine if earning your advanced degree is an educational investment you want to make.

Sponsored Online Tax Programs

Washington University LLM Logo

Understand local, state and federal tax laws in one year from WashU’s Tax MLS for non-lawyer professionals or Tax LL.M. for lawyers.

Master of Legal Studies (MLS) in Taxation

  • MLS in Tax is for non-lawyer professionals
  • Complete in as little as one year
  • No GRE/LSAT score to apply
  • No J.D. required to apply

Master of Laws (LL.M.) in Taxation

  • Complete in as little as one year
  • Complete 100% online
  • J.D. required to apply

Understanding the ins and outs of tax laws is key to a profession in taxation, especially if you’re considering a career as a tax attorney. One way to acquire an in-depth understanding of those laws is to earn a master’s degree in taxation, although not often required. Through a comprehensive curriculum, you’ll build a foundation to launch a career in a high-demand accounting specialty: the U.S. is projected to add 4,900 financial examiner jobs between 2019 and 2029, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Many more accountants and auditors are expected to join the workforce during the same time period, precisely 125,700 each year.

Master of Laws (LL.M.) in Taxation

The Master of Laws or LL.M. in taxation is a rigorous academic program for students who have completed their Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree and want to specialize further. The more specific areas of study include estate planning, international taxation and state and local taxation. Acquiring this degree may offer you an edge in potential early-to-mid level career paths.

Typical Curriculum and Courses Outcomes

Think of this program as one that is designed to make you an expert in all things tax-law so you can interpret and properly enforce IRS standards. The curriculum typically covers general tax practice, business taxation and international taxation. Some programs offer courses in estate planning and policy as well. Depending on your specialization, you’ll have an array of electives to choose from like Advanced Income Tax and Personal Financial Planning, Partnership Taxation, and Private Wealth Planning.

With your degree, you can work in a variety of roles. Some of them are tax analyst, tax consultant, tax attorney, senior tax manager and more.

A Master of Legal Studies, or MLS, differs from an LL.M. in that it is not specifically meant for lawyers. The MLS is meant to prepare individuals who may work closely with other lawyers or the law itself to better understand it but does not qualify them to be a practicing attorney.

Typical Curriculum and Courses Outcomes

The curriculum for this program may be similar to other tax law degrees but tends to be more general covering subjects such as Introduction to United States Law and Methods, Federal Income Taxation, Corporate Taxation, Federal Taxation of Partnerships, Income Tax Accounting and more.

This educational path could potentially help practicing accountants or financial professionals to qualify for senior positions in their workplace or give them a leg up over other financial professionals. Jobs for an MLS in taxation graduate include senior compliance officer, senior contract negotiator, tax specialist, state and local tax professional or government contractor.

Master’s in Taxation Accounting

A Master of Science in Taxation or MST differs from other tax degrees. While an LL.M. and MLS prepare students for a career in the legal sector, this one prepares a student for a career in business and to take the Certified Public Accountant exam. Sometimes these degrees are offered through a college or university’s business school rather than law school.

Typical Curriculum and Courses Outcomes

Courses for an MST program focus less on government entities and more on tax research, practice, state and local entities, individual taxes and estate taxation. Your training will teach you how to apply advanced knowledge of accounting and taxation to organizational issues, implement ethical decision-making processes and manage teams and help them to reach set goals.

Job prospects include tax consultant, tax advisor and accounting roles where employers are looking for CPA holders to fill.

Online Master’s Degree in Taxation

Inside Higher Ed reports that online education is the main driver of growth in postsecondary enrollments. Legal education has been forced to adapt during the pandemic, and many law schools that never offered virtual classes before now have online offerings. That means more self-starters can learn from wherever they are in the world.

We’ve compiled a list of master’s in taxation online programs, including LL.M. and MLS programs, that may fit students from various backgrounds who are interested in tax law. All the online master’s in taxation programs listed below are offered by ABA-approved law schools.

Sponsored Online Tax Programs

Washington University LLM Logo

Understand local, state and federal tax laws in one year from WashU’s Tax MLS for non-lawyer professionals or Tax LL.M. for lawyers.

Master of Legal Studies (MLS) in Taxation

  • MLS in Tax is for non-lawyer professionals
  • Complete in as little as one year
  • No GRE/LSAT score to apply
  • No J.D. required to apply

Master of Laws (LL.M.) in Taxation

  • Complete in as little as one year
  • Complete 100% online
  • J.D. required to apply

The University of Alabama School of Law

  • University Location: Tuscaloosa, AL
  • Program Name: Online LL.M. Concentration in Taxation
  • Enrollment Options: Part-Time, Full-Time
  • Length of Program: 1-2 years
  • About the Program: This 24-semester-hour online LL.M. in taxation program at the University of Alabama includes 15 hours of courses on taxation subjects including personal income tax, capital transactions, corporate tax and tax procedure. Students may take electives in subjects such as income tax of estates and trusts, accounting for lawyers and international tax. There are also business transaction electives in subjects like securities regulation, mergers and acquisitions and business planning. 

University of Baltimore School of Law

  • University Location: Baltimore, MD
  • Program Names: Master of Laws in Taxation for Attorneys (LL.M. in Taxation), Master of Science (M.S.) in Taxation
  • Enrollment Options: Part-Time, Full-Time
  • Length of Program: 1-5 years
  • About the Program: Both the LL.M. in Taxation and M.S. in Taxation programs at University of Baltimore are 30 credits and cover federal tax law and tax statutes and regulations in courses like tax research and writing, corporate taxation and tax policy. LL.M. applicants may hold a J.D. or an equivalent professional law degree, while the M.S. in Taxation is for students without a law degree. The LL.M. program allows students to earn a concurrent Estate Planning certificate.

Boston University School of Law

  • University Location: Boston, MA
  • Program Names: Master in the Study of Tax Law, LLM in Taxation
  • Enrollment Options: Part-Time, Full-Time
  • Length of Program: 1-4 years
  • About the Program: Both online programs—Master in the Study of Tax Law and LLM in Taxation at Boston University—are 24 credits and provide foundational tax law education through courses like legal research in tax, estate planning and federal income taxation. The Master in the Study of Tax Law program is for auditors, accountants and business professionals. The LLM in Taxation is for students who are lawyers. Students in both programs can earn a concentration or certificate in Estate Planning.

University of Denver Sturm College of Law

  • University Location: Denver, CO
  • Program Names: Master of Taxation, Tax LLM
  • Enrollment Options: Part-Time, Full-Time
  • Length of Program: 1-4 years
  • About the Program: Both Master of Taxation and Tax LLM at University of Denver can be completed in 24-30 credits fully online or on-site and include tax courses that are taught using treasury regulations, the Internal Revenue Code and other related material. The Master of Taxation is for professionals with an accounting or financial background, while the Tax LLM is for current lawyers and JD students. Elective course subjects include international taxation, estate planning and natural resources taxation. 

Georgetown University Law Center

  • University Location: Washington, DC
  • Program Names: Taxation LL.M., Master of Studies in Law (MSL) in Taxation
  • Enrollment Options: Part-Time
  • Length of Program: 1-3 years
  • About the Program: Both the Taxation LL.M. and MSL in Taxation at Georgetown University consist of 24 academic credits and cover subjects including income tax accounting, federal income tax, research and writing and corporate income tax law. Students may also take specialty courses in a variety of tax subjects. The Taxation LL.M. program is for those with a JD, while the MSL in Taxation is a degree program for non-lawyers.

Golden Gate University School of Law

  • University Location: San Francisco, CA
  • Program Name: Master of Laws (LLM) in Taxation
  • Enrollment Options: Part-Time, Full-Time
  • Length of Program: 2-5 years
  • About the Program: Students in the LLM in Taxation at Golden Gate University complete 24 units of study, with courses in subjects such as tax research, advanced federal income taxation and property transactions. Elective courses are available in subjects including state and local tax courses, corporate courses, estate planning and international tax.

University of Houston

  • University Location: Houston, TX
  • Program Name: Tax Law LL.M.
  • Enrollment Options: Part-Time, Full-Time
  • Length of Program: 1-3 years
  • About the Program: This 24-credit Tax Law LL.M. program at University of Houston includes courses in subjects such as bankruptcy taxation, corporate taxation, estate planning, federal income tax, oil and gas tax and tax ethics. The program covers how the tax system affects individual, commercial, financial and nonprofit affairs. 

Loyola Law School, Los Angeles

  • University Location: Los Angeles, CA
  • Program Name: Online Master of Laws (Tax LLM)
  • Enrollment Options: Part-Time, Full-Time
  • Length of Program: 2 years
  • About the Program: The 24-credit online Tax LLM at Loyola Law School has 14 units of core coursework in corporate, income and partnership taxation and 10 units of specialized electives. Students can choose to study with an area of emphasis in business tax planning or high net worth/private clients.

New York University School of Law

  • University Location: New York, NY
  • Program Name: Executive LLM in Tax
  • Enrollment Options: Part-Time
  • Length of Program: 2-5 years
  • About the Program: This 24-credit program of Executive LLM in Tax at New York University for those who hold a law degree covers tax procedure, as well as advanced tax courses in subjects such as tax policy and taxation of mergers and acquisitions. The program’s history dates back to 1945, making it one of the oldest graduate tax programs in the country.

University of San Francisco School of Law

  • University Location: San Francisco, CA
  • Program Name: LLM in Taxation
  • Enrollment Options: Part-Time, Full-Time
  • Length of Program: Not available
  • About the Program: The LLM in Taxation at University of San Francisco covers subjects including federal tax accounting, corporate taxation, partnership taxation and tax research. Students can take concentration electives such as international taxation, wealth transfer and business taxation and other electives like federal tax crimes and penalties and accounting for lawyers.

Temple University Beasley School of Law

  • University Location: Philadelphia, PA
  • Program Names: Master of Science in Taxation (MST), LL.M. in Taxation
  • Enrollment Options: Part-Time, Full-Time
  • Length of Program: 1.5-5 years for MST, 1-4 years for LL.M. in Taxation
  • About the Program: The MST program at Temple University for accounting and financial professionals is a 30-credit program with courses including corporate taxation, accounting for income taxes and partnership taxation. The online LL.M. in Taxation program is a 24-credit tax law program for lawyers, with classes covering subjects including corporate taxation and partnership taxation.

Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law

  • University Location: Villanova, PA
  • Program Names: Master of Taxation (MT), Master of Laws (LLM) in Taxation
  • Enrollment Options: Part-Time
  • Length of Program: 2 years for MT program, less than 2 years for LLM in Taxation program
  • About the Program: The MT program at Villanova University is a 30-credit degree for those without a law degree, with six required courses and more than 45 electives to choose from. The LLM in Taxation is a 24-credit program for students with a J.D., with six required courses plus electives. Both programs are taught in an 8-week format, focusing on a single course at a time. Courses include survey of tax, professional practice and tax procedure and partnership taxation.

Washington University in St. Louis – Sponsored Program

Washington University’s online Tax LL.M. program prepares students to solve complex tax law issues.

  • University Location: St. Louis, Missouri
  • Program Name: Online Master of Laws in Taxation
  • Format: Online
  • Enrollment Options: Full Time or Part Time
  • Length of Program: Complete in as few as 12 months
  • About the Program: The online Master of Laws in Taxation from the top-201 ranked Washington University School of Law equips students with tax law expertise to solve complex tax issues and adapt to evolving legislation. Students attend live online classes led by the same faculty of tax law experts who teach on campus. The program can be completed in as little as one year.

  • Program Name: Master of Legal Studies (MLS) in Taxation
  • Format: Online
  • Enrollment Options: Full Time or Part Time
  • Length of Program: Complete in as few as 12 months
  • About the Program: At Washington University, non-lawyer professionals can earn their Master of Legal Studies in Taxation online if they’ve earned a bachelor’s degree, and lawyers can earn their Master of Laws in Taxation online if they’ve earned a Juris Doctor. No GRE/LSAT score required.

1U.S. News & World Report, Best Law Schools

Western Michigan University Cooley Law School

  • University Location: Lansing, MI
  • Program Name: Tax Law LL.M. (Online)
  • Enrollment Options: Part-Time, Full-Time
  • Length of Program: 1-3 years
  • About the Program: This 24-credit Tax Law LL.M. program at Western Michigan University for lawyers with a J.D. degree includes 12 credits in subjects including corporate taxation, income taxation, partnership taxation and tax practice and procedure, as well as elective courses.

Which Taxation Program Is Right for Me?

Comparing the many types of degree offerings, courses and career paths related to tax law can be overwhelming, especially when each path tends to take about 2 to 4 years from start to finish. But choosing the right program doesn’t have to be stressful. When you take a look at a program’s admissions requirements, your desired job title, whether you want to take your courses online or on-campus, your budget and perhaps how your previous education and work experience could help you in the classroom, you may find it easier to narrow down the path that’s right for you.

Perhaps you have a Juris Doctor and want to specialize in a single aspect of taxation to better serve their constituents. You might opt for an LL.M. in taxation. If you wish to obtain your CPA, then a master’s in taxation accounting offered by a business school could be the degree to aim for.

For working professionals or those hoping to switch career paths say from legislation representation to tax management, online programs can be a great fit. Some online programs are asynchronous, meaning they offer more flexibility when it comes to deadlines. Distance learning also gives students the chance to enroll in part-time study, but it is important to note that these types of programs require a self-starting attitude and the ability to learn independently.

Regardless of the degree you choose to get, closely inspect program details. Admissions can be particularly rigorous if the school you want to attend has a good reputation. Typically, schools will require the following:

  • A completed application form – This form is provided by the school and will require you to list personal details such as your date of birth.
  • Application fee – Prepare to budget anywhere from $35 upwards per application
  • Transcripts – Expect a small fee to have your alma mater send your transcripts to your preferred/safety programs. Your transcripts will show if you meet the program’s minimum GPA requirement.
  • GMAT or GRE test scores – This can sometimes be waived depending on previous experience or professional accomplishments in your field
  • Letters of Recommendation – Be sure to give a month notice in advance at least and send thank you notes once you those letters have been sent to you or the institution.
  • Subject prerequisites – Some programs require prerequisites other than a degree. For example, an MS in Taxation may ask that on top of your bachelor’s degree in business, accounting or administration, you have completed certain courses such as Intermediate Accounting and Business Finance
  • Personal Essay – Your essay or personal statement will tell the admissions team why you want to enroll in a program and what you bring to the table

Before sending your applications, check average acceptance rates to see how you measure up to program standards. Always have preferred schools and a few safety schools on your list to increase your chance of being accepted to a program you are comfortable with.

Lastly, be sure you apply to a program or school that is accredited. For those obtaining a law degree, the American Bar Association (ABA) is the accrediting board to look out for. If your degree is offered through a business school, it will either be accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) or Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP). Unsure of what type of accreditation your program has, regional or national? Use the Department of Education’s Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs to find out.

Salary Outlook with a Degree in Tax Law

Your degree in tax law may open up the door for you to work in a range of positions as previously discussed. Salary will not be the same across the board. Your location, years of experience, level of education, employer and specific job title could affect how much you earn.

In May 2020, the median annual salary for accountants and auditors was $73,560, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The top 10% of this working group earned more than $128,680. By contrast, median annual wages for financial examiners came to $81,430, still exceeding the national average for all occupations.

If you want to work as a tax attorney or lawyer, you should know how much lawyers are making. The median salary for lawyers in the U.S. is $126,930, according to May 2020 BLS data. The BLS also found that salary changes from industry to industry.

Median Annual Wage per Industry
Industry Median Annual Wage, May 2020
Federal Government $152,220
Legal Services $126,660
Local Government (excluding education and hospitals) $99,900
State Government (excluding education and hospitals) $91,450

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics – Lawyers

Frequently Asked Questions About Tax Law Degrees

Before you begin the journey of pursuing a master’s in taxation, make sure you have conducted extensive research not only on your desired program but also on the accounting and taxation fields. The following questions and answers can help you with this process.

How long does it take to complete an online master’s in taxation?

An online Master of Taxation tends to take anywhere from 1-4 years to complete depending on whether you are a full- or part-time student and how rigorous the program you choose is.

What background do I need to enroll in a master’s in tax law?

To obtain a master’s in tax law, or LL.M., you’ll need to have previously completed your Juris Doctor or J.D. from an ABA-accredited university. Another detail to keep in mind is that the U.S. Department of Education recognizes all regional accreditation but not all national.

Is a Master of Taxation degree in the arts or science?

A Master of Taxation degree is an MS or Master of Science. This program is generally offered through a college or a university’s business school, and it prepares students to take their Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam.

Is tax law a good career option?

As long as taxes exist, there will be a demand for financial professionals who can accurately explain and navigate tax laws. If you love problem-solving and being an expert in your field and are naturally curious, you may find a career as a tax lawyer rewarding. There are also plenty of other job options within taxation, though it is a specialty area in itself.

Your advanced degree in tax law may make you an attractive candidate to employers and increase your chances of career growth and earning potential.

How do I become a tax lawyer?

To become a tax lawyer, you must first complete a Juris Doctor program. Once you decide whether you prefer to take classes online or on-campus, you can begin to explore the different degree options. Each master’s program tends to take 2 to 4 years depending on your enrollment status and desired career path.

How much do tax lawyers make?

Because of the many types of jobs tax lawyers can do, salary can be hard to pinpoint. But according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual wage for lawyers in 2020 was $148,910.

Last updated: June 2021