1. Home
  2. »
  3. Degrees
  4. »
  5. Accounting Degree Program

Best Online Accounting Degrees & Programs

Identifying online accounting programs with the cost and quality elements you need takes research, know-how and some good old-fashioned elbow grease. But with the right tools and information, students can find the right online program and make the initial steps toward a successful college and professional career. This page is designed to help aspiring online accounting degree holders in two complementary ways. First, it breaks down the top colleges in the U.S. for online accounting degrees. Next, it offers an in-depth guide to online learning in accounting, with sharp focus on how they work and who benefits. Find programs and read expert-driven information about online degrees.

A Complete Guide Online Accounting Degrees

Alice Scarlett Baker

Dual degree Master in Accounting/B.S. candidate at the University of the Pacific- Eberhardt Business School, class of 2016. She is an accountant and industrials analyst for ESB Investment Fund.

My advice for accounting students is very simple. Journal entries are your friend.

Accountants serve as the gatekeepers of financial records. They examine records for accuracy, processes for efficiency, and practices for compliance with state and federal laws. Types of accountants include public, management, government and internal (Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Accountants and Auditors). Becoming an accountant, no matter which type you choose, requires at least a bachelor’s degree in the field, although some begin with an associate degree and/or move on to advanced study – usually a master’s. Let’s start by taking a closer look at the most common online accounting degrees and how they fit into an overall higher educational timeline.

The Online Accounting Degree Timeline

Every educational path is unique. Students make degree choices based on where they currently reside in their careers and where they eventually want to be. This means different starting points, different ending points and different in-betweens. To understand their choices, it’s important to examine the full accounting degree spectrum, from the earliest potential starting point to the last possible end. The following timeline details how one student might go from associate degree through doctorate, and discusses the various decisions he or she may need to make along the way.

Associate Degree Online – Two Years

An online associate degree in accounting often serves one of three distinct purposes. The first and most common is the acquisition of basic knowledge and skills needed to transition to an entry-level accounting career. Coursework focuses on general college requirements, but also includes a healthy dose of accounting and finance basics, business law and legal concepts, taxation 101, accounting systems and more. These introductory courses also apply to the second reason for earning an associate degree in the field: transfer. Earning the two-year degree first provides a cost-effective way to complete the initial stage of a full bachelor’s program. Before going this route, however, students should visit with academic counselors at the two-year college and target four-year college to ensure all credits will transfer successfully.

Some associate degrees, albeit relatively few in accounting, allow students to hone in on a certain program or skill. For example, a set of courses might concentrate on managerial accounting only, which could help entry-to-mid level professionals move into a more supervisory role – either with a current employer or with a new one.

Miami Dade College
  • Enrollment: 99,253
  • Tuition: $3,366
  • College Type: Public
  • State: Florida
  • Associate in Accounting Technology
Broward College
  • Enrollment: 61,784
  • Tuition: $2,494
  • College Type: Public
  • State: Florida
  • Associate of Science in Accounting Technology

Bachelor’s Degree Online – Four Years

The online bachelor’s degree in accounting remains the educational benchmark for a successful career in the field. In addition to the core elements learned at the two-year level, the four-year degree dives deeper into critical concepts, expands the knowledge base and skill set, and helps further define the professional path. At this point, students should have at least a rough idea of the type of accounting that interests them, and in which environments (public, private, nonprofit) they’d like to work. Key coursework in years three and four of an online bachelor’s program include:

Financial accounting: Focuses on accounting as a support for economic decision-making. Students learn about and complete basic financial analyses, collect and examine data to make organizational decisions, and learn how to finances work within various public and private entities.

Ledger applications: Introduces students to spreadsheet software and teaches how to complete basic accounting and bookkeeping tasks. This includes entering transactions into organized systems, understanding entries and adjustments, and preparation of official financial statements.

Federal income taxes: In addition to basics of federal income taxes, students get a more detailed understanding of the system and its complexities. Some of the course concentrates on how certain tax decisions affect monetary outcomes.

Accounting information systems: The application of software and other technology to information gathering and record keeping. Focuses on best practices, case studies and sometimes how to develop custom applications to meet specific accounting needs.

Other primary courses:

  • Auditing
  • Business law
  • Cost accounting
  • Macroeconomics
  • Managerial accounting
  • Principles of finance
  • Principles of management

Applying to a Bachelor’s Program

The application process can differ by school and level of degree being sought, but online accounting programs usually ask for five individual sets of materials:

  1. Formal application. Filled out on paper or online, the formal application is designed to learn about a student and his or her family, including where they attended high school, their GPA, extracurricular activities and other important personal and academic information. If applying to an accounting department directly, they may look more intensely at strong courses and grades in math and business.
  2. Academic transcripts. Official transcripts must be delivered to a college in a sealed envelope, and include a list of courses and grades from all years in attendance – both for high school and any previous college.
  3. Test scores. Many colleges still ask for test scores, such as the SAT or ACT. Yet some don’t, opting to place more emphasis on GPA, course rigor and community service. For students looking to earn a bachelor’s degree in accounting – either on campus or online – taking the SAT isn’t a bad idea.
  4. Statement of purpose. Why do you want to go to college? And this college? Why do you want to earn an online degree in accounting? Colleges and accounting departments may ask these questions before enrolling or declaring your major.
  5. Essay. Essays may be one of the most underrated elements of a college or program application. Admissions officers and department heads want to hear how the topic connects with you personally.

In addition to these basic elements, online accounting degree programs and the institutions that offer them may require additional materials from applicants. For example, a school may require – or at least strongly suggest – that students take and pass an online learning suitability test. This quiz assesses a student’s likely ability to earn a degree remotely. It looks at self-determination, independence, technical savvy and other traits that successful online students typically possess.

Liberty University
  • Enrollment: 63,128
  • Tuition: $19,968
  • College Type: Private
  • State: Virginia
  • Bachelor of Science in Accounting
University of Minnesota
  • Enrollment: 44,332
  • Tuition: $13,459
  • College Type: Public
  • State: Minnesota
  • Bachelor of Science in Accounting

Master’s in Accounting Online (MACC) – Six Years

Earning an accounting degree online at the master’s level generally takes two years, although some accelerated programs may take one. Coursework dives deeper into accounting principles but can also follow certain tracks depending on student interest. For instance, some master’s programs offer a management track, complete with courses on business decision making and advanced principles of accounting management. Read our guide dedicated to online master’s degrees in accounting to see what it really takes to find the right school, gain admission, graduate, and find a solid career after college.

Doctoral Degree in Accounting Online – Eight Years +

In accounting, the doctorate degree prepares students for work in research and teaching. Most doctoral students who take the research path investigate financial or managerial accounting issues, or conduct behavior analyses of auditors and other professionals using statistics, psychology and social sciences. Coursework for the doctorate include topics such as social science research methods, statistical models, econometrics, game theory and qualitative metrics, depending on their focus. In addition to courses, doctoral candidates need to fulfill pre-set research requirements and eventually prepare and defend a dissertation. The teaching track may seem similar, but include courses in accounting instruction and communication and fewer on methods and metrics. Candidates usually need to teach an undergraduate course in accounting.

Capella University
  • Enrollment: 40,539
  • Tuition: $13,338
  • College Type: Private
  • State: Minnesota
  • Doctor of Business Administration in Accounting
Trident University International
  • Enrollment: 5,867
  • Tuition: $3,600
  • College Type: Private
  • State: California
  • Doctor of Philosophy in Business Administration (Ph.D. Ba) - Accounting / Finance

Signs of a Strong Online Accounting Program

Online accounting programs come in all shapes and sizes, and come from a variety of different institutions: junior colleges, state colleges, private universities and for-profit schools. No matter which type of online college, those with quality programs share certain characteristics. Let’s examine four signs of a strong online degree program.

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 (DETC), or one of the six regional accrediting agencies endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education. 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.

Student Support

All colleges and programs should support their students, so this shouldn’t be a shocker. However, when considering online accounting programs, certain metrics can help you determine if the institution and its accounting department or faculty has what it takes to help you succeed. For example, what percentage of students sit for and pass the CPA exam? A high success rate could be an indicator of curriculum rigor and active test prep. Furthermore, how many companies hire graduates of the program? High placement rates mean that companies and other hiring entities take a degree from the school (and the program) seriously.

Resources

For online accounting programs, resources come in two distinct forms. First, does the school have solid tools and tech that make their online programs stand out? It’s important to have communication technology, support, digital libraries and other platforms and materials available 24/7. One major benefit of distance learning is flexibility, and every program should have it. Second, does the school have a faculty with documented professional credentials in both accounting and online learning? Many programs have professors with experience in the field, but they should also have experience teaching students online.

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).

Best Online Accounting Degrees: 2018

Online accounting degree programs are a great fit for distance learners since they allow students to learn from home while gaining technological experience in the field. Good online accounting degree programs will have proportional class sizes along with high graduation rates, financial aid opportunities, and affordable tuition rates. Using our comprehensive methodology, we have found programs that meet these standards along with other criteria. Check out the best online accounting degrees for 2018 below.

badge
Methodology
  • Accredited public or private not-for-profit institution

  • At least 1 online associate degree or certificate program in subject area (2-year schools)

  • At least 1 online bachelor’s or master’s degree in subject area (4-year schools)

  • Annual in-state tuition below $5,000 (2-year schools)

  • Annual in-state tuition below $25,000 (4-year schools)

Colleges receive a total score based on performance in the following categories:

  • Average in-state net price for first-time/full-time undergraduates

  • Count and breadth of online programs available

  • Student-teacher ratio

  • 6-year graduation rate (4-year schools only)

  • % of beginning, full-time undergrads receiving scholarship/grant aid from the college

  • Average $ of financial aid students receive directly from the college

  • Availability of academic/career counseling services

  • Availability of job placement services for students and graduates

  • 3-year loan default rate

  • AC Online Peer-Based Value (PBV)*

*PBV is a proprietary metric that compares the cost of a program to the cost of other programs with the same (or a similar) qualitative score. It also compares the qualitative score of the program to the score of other programs with the same (or similar) cost. In short, the PBV calculation denotes the overall value – or ‘bang for your buck’ – of an online degree.

Our college rankings are backed by data collected and analyzed from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, a program managed by the National Center for Education Statistics. Surveying over 7,500 colleges annually, it is among the most longstanding and trusted providers of U.S. postsecondary information.

  • Most recent “Final Release” data available as of October 2017

Rank University Location Score Annual Tuition # of Online Programs Financial Aid % Student-Teacher Ratio Grad Rate Credit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Information

Best 2-Year Online Accounting Degrees

Rank University Location Score Annual Tuition # of Online Programs Financial Aid % Student-Teacher Ratio Credit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Information

Find Online Accounting Programs

Find online accounting programs with the accreditation and affordability you need with our complete database of schools.