Search Online Degree Programs in Accounting

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  • Search for and get information on both campus and online courses in accounting and related business fields. Search by college type, cost and state.
  • Read about online accounting degree programs, including what to consider before applying, common classes and certification options.
  • Find scholarships, internships and resources, and explore free open courses, professional associations and expert resources.

Students who wish to pursue an accounting degree have myriad distance learning options. Many traditional colleges and universities, for example, now offer many of their accounting courses and degree programs fully or partially online. Students use Blackboard systems and other tech resources to chat with professors, coordinate with peers, submit assignments and take exams. These institutions view their online programs as similar in quality to their classroom programs, and award the same diploma to online accounting degree recipients as they do to traditional accounting graduates. Fully online schools also provide a variety of accounting degree options, including real-time and self-paced opportunities.

Accounting is known as the language of business, and students enrolled in online accounting degree programs learn the fundamentals of business, finance, and analysis. A bachelor’s degree is the most common requirement for entry- and mid-level positions in accounting in both government and the private sector. There are three main types of undergraduate online accounting degrees:

  • Bachelor of Science in Accounting: Prepares graduates to become public, management or government accountants. Public accountants prepare tax returns and provide financial consulting. Management accountants are responsible for tracking a company’s finances and finding efficiencies. Government accountants work for government agencies.
  • Bachelor of Science in Finance: Prepares graduates for work in the financial sector, including investment banking, government auditing, and financial analysis.
  • Bachelor of Science in Auditing: Prepares graduates to examine the accuracy of financial records and review them for fraudulent activity or mismanagement, as well as make recommendations for improving financial performance. Auditors are generally classified as internal (work inside the organization) or external (conduct independent reviews for clients).

What Should You Look for in an Online Accounting Degree?

Although every accounting program is different, each one should have certain core elements. These are absolute musts for anyone serious about earning an accounting degree online, and then moving on to professional work in the field.

Accreditation

The school or online accounting program should be accredited by at least one of the following: Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), the Distance Education and Training Council (DECT), or one of the six regional accrediting agencies in the U.S. Accreditation means an independent agency has reviewed a school to ensure it meets quality academic standards on an ongoing basis and has the financial resources to meet these standards. Accredited online accounting programs have received an official stamp of approval that’s recognized by other schools, employers, and the government.

CPA Exam Prep

The program should prepare graduates to pass the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam. The CPA credential is a requirement for career advancement in the accounting field. It typically requires 150 hours of coursework, so someone with a bachelor’s online accounting degree will still need to complete an additional 30 hours of study. Nevertheless, an undergraduate accounting degree should serve as the foundation for passing the exam. The CPA exam pass rate for graduates of an online accounting degree program should be higher than or align with the national average of around 50%, as reported by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA).

Core Online Accounting Degree Courses

Specific online accounting degree curriculum requirements vary from program to program, but students should expect to complete courses in the following areas:

General business and management
Introductory, intermediate and advanced accounting
Financial accounting and financial management
Managerial accounting
Cost accounting and management
Taxation
Auditing
Economics
Accounting information systems
Business law and ethics

Online accounting students should graduate with the knowledge to take the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam and obtain entry-level positions in CPA firms, corporations, government, and the non-profit sector. They’ll work in areas that include auditing, financial accounting, management accounting, taxation, forensic accounting, and budget analysis. According to an AICPA study, accounting and auditing are the most common areas of assignment for new graduates at CPA firms. Of the graduates hired by CPA firms in 2012:

Accounting Certifications

The CPA credential is considered the highest standard of quality in the accounting profession, and is earned by meeting the “three E” requirements – education, examination, and experience. An online accounting degree should prepare graduates for the CPA exam, a 14-hour test that tests knowledge in four areas:

  • Auditing and Attestation
  • Business Environment and Concepts
  • Financial Accounting and Reporting
  • Regulation

As previously noted, almost all states require CPA candidates to complete 150 hours of coursework before they are qualified to take the CPA exam. Bachelor degree holders will need to complete an additional 30 hours of coursework through either a certificate or graduate program. Other CPA certification requirements can also differ by state. To learn about a particular state’s requirements, visit the state board of accountancy website. A list of links to state boards is available on the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy website.

Accountants commonly hold more than one certification. In addition to the CPA credential, an accountant may also be certified in any of the following:

  • Certified Internal Auditor (CIA)
  • Certified Management Accountant (CMA)
  • Certified Financial Manager (CFM)
  • Certified Financial Planner (CFP)
  • Certified Government Financial Manager (CFM)
  • Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)
  • Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)
  • Certified Payroll Professional (CPP)
  • Certified Bank Auditor (CBA)
  • Certified Professional Forensic Accountant (CPFAcct)
  • Certified Professional Internal Auditor (CPIA)
  • Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE)

Internships in Accounting

Practical experience is one of the major requirements for being able to take the CPA exam, as well as for landing an entry-level position. Students enrolled in online accounting programs are able to participate in a variety of internship programs that offer hands-on, real world experience. They may even be able to earn academic credit for their internship work.

A typical internship will require the student to work under the guidance of a manager and/or CPA. Interns generally analyze audit figures, post checks, prepare invoices, verify daily revenue, prepare balance sheets and perform other accounting duties. Many internship programs provide formal training opportunities, and some even allow interns to interact with clients.

Most accounting internships are paid, and are either offered during the summer or during the school year. Internship programs are available at CPA firms and corporate accounting or finance departments (see our Internships section). Employers prefer to hire interns with high grade point averages as well as excellent math, communication and computer skills.

Open Online Accounting Classes

An Introduction to Financial Accounting

University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School of Business

Taught by Brian J. Bushee, this accounting course is part of the Wharton Foundation Series. It's designed to improve fluency in financial accounting, the language of business. Students learn how to read, understand, and analyze most of the information provided by companies in their financial statements.

Accounting: The Language of Business

Emory University

This accounting course examines the underlying concepts, processes, and accountability functions of accounting and the scientific foundation for why accounting fulfills such an important role in both ancient and modern societies. It is taught by Susan Crosson and Greg Waymire.

Intro to Accounting

Brigham Young University, Hawaii

Professor Kevin Kimball teaches students how to prepare, interpret, and use financial data to make business and financial decisions. Emphasis is placed on mastering the expanded accounting equation, the full accounting cycle, preparing the financial statements, and understanding key financial ratios.

Accounting Cycle: The Foundation of Business Management and Reporting

Utah State University

Through this accounting course, Professor Larry Walther introduces the basic financial statements used by most businesses, as well as the essential tools used to prepare them. This course equips business students for success in university-level accounting classes, and serves as a refresher for upper division accounting students.

Financial Accounting and Reporting

Portland State University

Prof. Elizabeth Dreike Almer provides a comprehensive study of the principles, conventions and postulates of financial accounting. Appropriate preparation of GAAP financial statements and financial disclosures, including exposure to the judgment inherent in financial reporting, are covered. The course focuses on the responsibility of accountants for maintaining professional accountability to the public interest in the face of institutional pressures.

Managerial Accounting

Saylor.org

This accounting course explores the tools and methods managers use to make the best-informed decisions possible. It covers the various methods and theories that managers deploy when tracking costs and profits, as well as how managers report the overall performance of a firm or department for internal use. Upon completion, students will be better prepared to make informed decisions within a firm.

Internship Programs at “The Big Four” Firms:
  • PricewaterhouseCoopers

    PcW internships are designed to provide on-the-job experience. Interns are assigned a dedicated coaching team that guides them through the internship and provides training. Interns have the opportunity to work on real life client tasks, shadow PwC professionals, participate in community service projects, and network.

  • Ernst & Young

    Ernst & Young offers its 1,650 interns a variety of resources and programs to help them put their education to work. These resources include a hands-on orientation, opportunity to gain professional skills, and practice-oriented instruction. Summer interns often have the chance to attend an international conference.

  • Deloitte LLP

    According to Deloitte, “Our interns don’t sit in the back of the room. They work with client service teams on real business problems.” Internships begin with a formal orientation program and continue with specific functional and technical training.

  • KPMG LLP

    KPMG interns undergo a nationally developed training program to prepare them for real life experience working with clients in a number of industries. Interns interact with senior executives and work with KPMG International member firms. They have the opportunity to make contacts and form relationships that last a lifetime.

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