An online master’s degree in accounting can help students meet a number of career goals, whether they want to work their way up to a Chief Financial Officer or Controller position at a company, begin their own accountancy practice or become a more specialized practitioner like a forensic accountant. Learn about the types of courses students in these programs complete, the skills they gain during their time in school and the best online master’s in accounting programs.
Deciding which college to go to is no easy task, so ACO evaluated more than 3,500 colleges to give you the information you need to make the search more manageable. Our 2018 college rankings are based on statistical data from trusted sources, eligibility criteria and various ranking factors
Each college must be located in a state (US territories and Washington DC were excluded)
Each college must have at least one online program 1
Several individual data points were objectively evaluated to calculate a score for each ranking factor listed above. For affordability, the most impactful data points were tuition2 and grants; for quality, graduation and acceptance rates; for flexibility, part-time enrollment options; and for program, degrees granted in that specific program area. Each score was then weighted, with affordability being the most highly weighted factor for all ACO rankings.
1 Best Vocational Programs included data for both online and campus programs.
2 Both in-state and out-of-state tuition rates were used in our methodology; however, our rankings tool currently only displays in-state rates.
A dash in our Rankings Tool indicates IPEDS data was not available.
Tuition displayed in in-state and per year unless stated otherwise.
Students who enroll in online master’s degree programs in accounting are serious about building strong careers, as well as gaining a deep understanding of a specific area of the field. Prospective accounting graduate students must weigh their options carefully when considering what school to attend. We help you do that with our rankings below, which were created using information provided by schools, the U.S. Department of Education and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). All schools included in this list are fully accredited.
What Can I Learn in an Online Master’s in Accounting Program?
Students who enroll in an online master’s degree program in accounting get the advanced knowledge and skills they need to progress in their careers and increase their earning potential. Some of the skills that students can learn in these programs include how to:
understand business research that they can apply to accounting situations
appreciate cultural differences in order to think of accounting principles from a global perspective
communicate accounting principles effectively in writing and verbally
evaluate accounting problems and solve them
In addition, students gain expertise in the legal, ethical and business tenets that accountants are expected to adhere to throughout their careers.
What’s the difference between a master’s in accounting and an MBA in accounting?
While both a master’s in accounting and an MBA in accounting help students sharpen their skills to move up the career ladder, there are fundamental differences between the two programs. Those who enroll in an MBA in accounting take in-depth business courses, which allow them to gain skills that can be applied to many careers, while taking accounting classes that are more fundamental in nature. Accounting master’s students receive an exhaustive accounting education that gives them a thorough understanding of theories and practices, as well as expertise in a specific subsection of the accounting discipline.
What common courses are offered in a master’s in accounting program?
Although the specific curriculum differs from school to school, generally students who enroll in a master’s in accounting program complete the following coursework.
This class provides students with an understanding of financial statement interpretation, liability accounts, pension plans, income tax allocation and revenues and expenses.
This class covers the unique accounting issues that arise in governmental settings on the local, state and federal levels. Students may learn how accountants work with government clients in terms of budgeting, financial statement preparation and auditing.
Income tax courses cover how taxation should be handled in different settings, from the individual who is filing their annual taxes to the corporation that has several business investments. Specific topics addressed in the class may include liquidation of assets, gifts, standard deductions and tax research.
Students who want to work at multinational corporations can take an international accounting class in order to learn the financial regulations of different countries. The course may cover financial reporting standards, taxation and portfolio management.
Organizational leaders make vital decisions that impact the entire company, and accountants play an important role in how those decisions are made. Managerial accounting classes prepare professionals for this important position by teaching students how to measure a company’s performance, review pricing and do accurate business forecasting.
What exams or projects should I expect?
The exams and projects that students in graduate accounting programs are expected to complete depend on what their specific program requires. In some programs, students are required to pass a comprehensive exam to demonstrate their understanding of the curriculum, particularly in the students’ area of concentration. In other programs, students are required to complete a master’s thesis, which examines a specific accounting topic under the supervision of a graduate advisor. Students may also have to complete a research project, which entails assisting a professor with an original study. There are also programs that may require a combination of these activities in order to determine the competency of its students.
What specializations are available in a master’s in accounting program?
One of the benefits of enrolling in a master’s in accounting program is the ability for students to get a comprehensive understanding of a specific area of the field. The following are some of the concentrations that can be found in accounting programs.
Whether students are interested in becoming government auditors or in-house auditors at private companies, this specialization provides the tools they need. Students who enroll in this concentration take courses on control issues, cash-flow estimation, and capital budgeting.
Forensic accountants are charged with investigating financial transactions to determine if a crime has been committed. Students in this specialization take classes that cover how to detect money laundering, assist with the computer discovery process, create reports about the findings of an investigation, and testify in court.
Professionals can choose this concentration to train for a career at government agencies, as well as nonprofit organizations. People learn how to create, implement, and maintain accounting information systems within this professional environment.
This specialization prepares students to apply accounting concepts on a global scale. Coursework may address international trade laws, accounting principles and procedures used in foreign countries, and setting up company subsidiaries overseas.
Accountants who want to specialize in taxation muse have a deep understanding of how income is taxed on a federal, state, and local level. Students who pursue this concentration study the Internal Revenue Code, international taxation methods, treasury regulations, and gift taxes.
What Can I do with a Master’s in Accounting Degree?
Although all accountants work with numbers, there are different areas of the field where professionals can apply their knowledge of industry principles. The following are some of the careers that accountants can pursue.
Organizations hire internal auditors to ensure their financial records are complete and in order. The job duties of auditors include organizing and maintaining the books of a company, compiling information that can be used in annual reports, detecting internal fraud within and organization, and recommending how companies can improve their financial operations. External auditors, on the other hand, examine the finances of an organization on behalf of the government to find out if there are fraudulent activities taking place.
Certified Public Accountant
Certified public accountants work with individuals and organizations to help them meet their financial goals. Although much of the work that these professionals perform on behalf of their clients is related to taxes, CPAs also provide advice on other financial matters, such as retirement planning. Specific duties of these professionals include preparing financial reports, organizing and maintaining financial records, advising clients on how to reduce costs, and staying up-to-date on industry trends.
When people commit financial fraud, they leave behind clues that can be uncovered by forensic accountants. These professionals reconstruct destroyed financial records, analyze financial evidence, draft reports about investigation findings, and assist with legal proceedings. Forensic accountants may use their expertise to assist the government with white collar crime cases involving embezzlement, securities fraud, and bankruptcy. They may also work on civil matters, like divorces.
Management accountants help companies maintain their financial fitness by helping them with budgeting, risk management, and transaction monitoring. Also, these professionals make forecasts about what will happen in a company’s financial future based on their current and past activities.
A project accountant is responsible for managing the financial aspects of a specific project within an organization. These workers maintain project records, review and approve invoices from suppliers, create budgets, and ensure a project complies with applicable regulations. They may work on a product launch or a construction project, for example.
As accountants grow in their careers, it’s important for them to keep abreast of changes in the industry. One way they can do this is by becoming active in professional organizations, which also allow them to network with their peers. The following are examples of organizations that accountants can join.
Certified public accountants who join this organization can participate in webcasts, meetings, and conferences. Members can also take advantage of tools to help them with their daily practice, a career center, and discounts on business services. In addition, the organization acts as a voice for accounting professionals by communicating the needs of the industry to lawmakers.
This association provides anti-fraud training and education to professionals around the globe. In addition to offering certifications, the organization has career support services, networking events, and seminars.
This organization has focused on the needs of management accounting professionals since it was founded in 1919. With 300 chapters in 140 countries, the association focuses on strengthening the careers of members around the world by providing certifications, continuing education, career management tools, and professional publications.
Since 1945, this organization has been dedicated to helping accountants by promoting education and high ethical standards within the industry. It offers webinars, exam preparation courses, continuing education, and publications that provide accounting news and tips for managing a practice. Also, the group organizes an annual convention where accountants can get leadership training, network with other professionals, and take seminars featuring the latest industry information.
This organization is dedicated to providing industry research, professional development, advocacy services, and certification programs. The association covers topics such as cybersecurity, leadership development, artificial intelligence, and financial risk.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment outlook for people in the accounting field is going to grow faster than the average overall job growth rate. Between 2016 and 2026, accountants will on average experience ten percent growth in job opportunities. This is because of several factors, including the increased need for companies to get the advice and analysis of accountants as they automate tasks like data entry. In addition, growth in the overall economy will increase the demand for accountants to prepare and review financial records.
Other changes in organizations will also impact the number of jobs for accountants. For example, as more companies go public, these professionals will be required to prepare their financial documentation. In addition, companies that decide to increase their global presence will require accountants to advise them on how to handle international trade and mergers.
Not only do master’s programs in accounting help to prepare students for the advanced work and specializations professionals will need to keep up with the growth trends, they also increase their earning potential. The Center on Education and the Workforce reports that accountants who have a bachelor’s degree make a median income of $69,000, compared to $91,000 for those with a graduate degree.
Online Master’s in Accounting Program Accreditation
There are a variety of ways to pay for a master’s in accounting degree. Here are some options to help students pay for their degree:
Federal Financial Aid
Just as they would have done in the undergraduate years, students who enroll in online master’s degrees in accounting can begin their search for financial aid by filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This helps to determine how much students are eligible to receive in federal loans and grants, as well as whether they can participate in a graduate assistantship at their school—which would allow them to work on research studies or help with teaching undergraduate courses, under the supervision of a professor.