Accounting Degrees and Career Paths

As financial experts, accountants are an integral part of every business. Accountants work with private corporations, government agencies, and individuals to ensure that their financial records and documents are accurate. These professionals prepare tax returns and certify that their clients’ taxes are paid correctly and on time. They may also manage and maintain a company’s financial operations in order to help reduce costs and improve profits.

In 2015, accountants were bringing in an average of $67,190 per year, and job prospects for those in the field are only going to get better.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment among accountants is projected to grow by 11% between 2014 and 2024.

As the economy grows, the need for knowledgeable and qualified accountants does too—and this demand will only continue to rise as the financial sector incorporates tighter lending standards and increasingly complex tax and regulatory codes.

Today, more and more students are opting to pursue an accounting degree online to develop this specialized knowledge. An online accounting degree is an affordable alternative to on-campus learning, and is perfectly suited to students who want to improve their earning potential and grow their careers on a flexible schedule.

Did You Know?

Philip Knight was working full time as a certified public accountant when he co-founded the multi-billion dollar athletics giant Nike. Learn more about how an accounting degree can equip you with the invaluable skills needed to launch a career in dozens of fields.

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What Can You Do with a Degree in Accounting?

Certified Public Accountant

$60,978 Avg Annual Salary
Bachelor's Degree Required

Many accounting degree graduates go on to become Certified Public Accountants (CPAs). CPAs help companies and individuals manage their financial records, and help their clients maintain and prepare their tax documents, financial reports, and investments. CPAs also ensure that all of their clients’ financial records comply with government regulations. A CPA’s role may vary slightly depending on their clients’ needs. However, these professionals typically review and maintain a company’s financial records, stay up to date on government regulations, perform company audits, and prepare financial documents. CPAs may work for individuals, government agencies, or private corporations. Individuals and companies rely heavily on CPAs for their financial expertise, and accountants with a CPA license have the opportunity to earn a higher salary.

  • Degree: BA + 30 supplemental hours of graduate work, or MA
  • Licensure Required: Uniform CPA Examination from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants
  • Time Commitment: 150 hours
  • Median Annual Salary (Entry-Level): $52,908
  • Median Annual Salary (Mid-Career): $64,716
  • Median Annual Salary (Late-Career): $83,810

Certified Management Accountant

$59,319 Avg Annual Salary
Bachelor's Degree Required

Certified Management Accountants (CMAs) are accountants who have earned a specialized CMA certification by demonstrating a strong understanding of financial management and management accounting. These professionals are experts in financial planning and analysis. Accountants who earn their CMA credential are qualified to work in senior-level positions, such as the vice president of finance or the chief financial officer for a large corporation. CMAs have a deep and specialized knowledge of the accounting industry, and the CMA credential enhances and updates an accountant’s value, accountant salary, and higher-level job prospects.

  • Licensure Required: None
  • Time Commitment: 2 continuous years of professional experience & 4-part CMA exam
  • Median Annual Salary (Entry-Level): $59,319
  • Median Annual Salary (Mid-Career): $75,596
  • Median Annual Salary (Late-Career): $94,401

Auditor

$52,981 Avg Annual Salary
Bachelor's Degree Required

Auditing is another popular career choice among accounting graduates. Auditors review and assess the accuracy of financial records, and analyze financial documents to ensure that individuals and businesses are complying with relevant laws and regulations. Auditors work for individuals, private corporations, or government agencies. An auditor who works for an individual or a company is responsible for ensuring their clients’ legal compliance. Auditors also make suggestions to help their clients improve their financial systems and processes. If there is concern that a business or individual has been dishonest with their financial records, an auditor will review their financial documents and history. Auditors are responsible for certifying that all financial reports, tax documentation, and business records comply with tax codes and government regulations.

  • Licensure Required: None
  • Time Commitment: 5 continuous years of professional experience & CISA exam
  • Median Annual Salary (Entry-Level): $51,147
  • Median Annual Salary (Mid-Career): $67,052
  • Median Annual Salary (Late-Career): $69,444

Accounting Careers by the Numbers

The data below, collected by BLS, represents the top accounting careers in terms of income and job outlook. Accountants and auditors are among the top-paid in the field, with an annual average salary of $67,190. Overall, the employment of accountants and auditors is projected to grow by 11% between 2014 and 2024, making a cheap online accounting degree a smart career investment. Accountants and auditors with professional recognition, such as CPAs, have the greatest job prospects. The outlook is also good for graduates with a master’s degree in accounting or those with a master’s degree in business and a concentration in accounting.

Accounting professionals can work in a variety of industries. The second table provided below highlights the highest paying industries for accountants, and each sector’s average annual salary.

Top Accounting Careers by Income and Growth Rate
Career Salary Job Outlook
Accountants and auditors $67,190 + 11%
Financial specialists $67,740 + 10%
Total, all occupations $36,200 + 7%
BLS employment projections data, 2014-2024

Top Paying Industries For This Occupation


What Does it Take to Succeed as an Accountant?

Accountants must be proficient at reading and interpreting numerical facts and figures. It is also important for accountants to be able to communicate with clients clearly and effectively. The table below highlights some important skills that accountants use on a daily basis. While not exhaustive, the list will give you an idea of what types of skills are developed as a student completes an accounting degree program.

  • Attention to detail

    Being detail oriented is critical to keep accurate track of a business’s financial information.

  • Analytical Skills

    Accountants and auditors must be able to read financial documents closely and carefully. They are responsible for analyzing, identifying, and solving issues related to financial documentation.

  • Math Skills

    Although complex math skills are not necessary, accountants must be comfortable reading, analyzing, and interpreting financial facts and figures.

  • Organizational Skills

    Accountants typically work on a number of financial documents and reports at one time. As a result, they must be able to keep careful track of each document.

  • Communication Skills

    Accountants must be able to listen carefully to their clients’ needs and concerns. Accountants must also be able to discuss the results of their findings clearly and accurately.


Certificate in Accounting: An Overview

Who should pursue a certificate program in accounting?

Students interested in developing a solid understanding of basic accounting principles, including learning how to read and interpret financial statements, should pursue an online accounting certificate. Those interested in obtaining an entry-level accounting position will also need an accounting certificate.

How many years will it take to complete?

Online accounting certificates can typically be completed at your own pace, over six nine-week terms per year. Students are usually required to complete four degree courses and two electives. Individuals enrolled in an online accounting certificate program will typically have 24/7 access to coursework and can complete assignments at their convenience.

Is a thesis or capstone usually required?

Online accounting certificate programs do not usually require students to complete a thesis or capstone project.

What type of jobs does this degree prepare you for?

Students who earn an online accounting certificate will be prepared to work in entry-level accounting positions in a number of different fields and industries.

What's the average salary for someone who holds this degree?

The average starting salary for someone with a certificate in accounting is $33,584 per year.

Core Concepts

Online accounting certificate programs provide students with a general overview of accounting principles and practices. Students will develop a basic understanding of taxation, auditing, accounting, and financial management. In addition, students will learn how to read and interpret tax forms and financial reports. Students who earn an accounting certificate will be prepared for entry-level accounting positions.

  • Introduction to accounting and bookkeeping fundamentals: Students will learn the rules and regulations used to prepare financial documents. They will also learn how to accurately write financial reports and keep track of accounting information.
  • Analytical and critical thinking skills: Students will develop the skills necessary to accurately read and interpret financial documents. Additionally, they will learn how to examine financials documents for errors.
  • Basic accounting tools and software: Students will become familiar with accounting spreadsheets and databases. They will learn how to use common accounting tools to organize and prepare financial documents.

Course Highlights

Financial Accounting

Description Learn the rules and regulations of accounting to prepare financial information.
Job Skill Report on a business’s financial status.

Managerial Accounting

Description Learn how to assess a company’s accounting processes and systems in order to make improvements.
Job Skill Analyze a business’s financial documents.

Federal Taxation

Description Learn the theory and practice behind preparing federal income tax returns for individuals.
Job Skill Prepare an individual’s tax returns.

Computer Applications in Accounting

Description Learn how to use popular accounting software, including Peachtree and Excel.
Job Skill Manage, organize and maintain financial records.

Associate Degree in Accounting: An Overview

Who should pursue an associate degree in accounting?

Students interested in entering an accounting-related field or advancing their careers within the field of accounting should pursue an online associate degree in accounting.

How many years will it take to complete?

Online associate degree programs in accounting typically take around two years to complete. However, students are able to access coursework online and at their own convenience. Students will be required to complete approximately 65 credit hours of work.

Is a thesis or capstone usually required?

Students enrolled in an online associate degree in accounting are not usually required to complete a thesis or capstone project.

What type of jobs does this degree prepare you for?

An online associate degree in accounting prepares students for entry-level careers in an accounting-related field. With an online associate degree in accounting you can get a job as a bookkeeper, accounting assistant, accounts payable clerk, and payroll clerk.

What's the average salary for someone who holds this degree?

The average starting salary for someone with an online associate degree in accounting is approximately $45,254.

Core Concepts

Students who earn an online associate degree in accounting will be introduced to a wide range of accounting-related topics, such as taxation, auditing, spreadsheets, payroll accounting, and financial statement analysis. Students will learn how to read and track financial records and transactions, and will be prepared to handle the payroll and billing functions for private companies, government agencies, and individual clients.

  • Maintain financial records and statements: Students will learn how to read and interpret financial records and statements in order to effectively track and maintain their financial life cycle.
  • Analyze and communicate accounting information: Students will learn how to identify issues with financial records, and will develop the skills needed to clearly and effectively communicate these issues with clients, coworkers, and employers.
  • Accounting fundamentals and principles: Students will develop an understanding of the government rules and regulations that guide accounting systems and processes.
  • Spreadsheets as an accounting tool: Students will learn how to use common accounting software and spreadsheets to organize, manage, and track financial data.

Course Highlights

Cost Accounting

Description Learn the concepts and practices behind budgeting, classifying, and recording purchase orders.
Job Skill Manage an organization’s budgets, purchases, and general spending.

Accounting Theory and Applications

Description Learn the rules and regulations that guide accounting processes and financial decision-making.
Job Skill Understand the tax and regulatory codes that guide accounting systems and processes.

Tax Accounting

Description Learn the concepts, laws, and filing procedures behind tax law. Learn about the economic factors that influence tax law.
Job Skill Prepare tax documents for individuals, private companies, and government agencies.

Accounting Information Systems

Description Learn how to use accounting software to create, edit, and analyze financial records.
Job Skill Understand the best practices surrounding accounting software and databases.

Affordable Schools With Online Associate Programs

25 Most Affordable Online Associate Degrees in Accounting
Rank School Score Toggle Content
1

Laramie County Community College

Value Score 7.74
Average Tuition $1,992
Students Receiving Financial Aid 93%
Net Price $3,853
Graduation Rate 93%
Student to Faculty Ratio 14:1
Retention Rate 56%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 42%

Located in Cheyenne, Wyoming, Laramie County Community College was established in 1968 and today offers over 800 certificate and degree programs, many of which are accessible to distance learners. Among this catalog is an online associates degree in accounting, an academic and occupational program that prepares students for entry-level and managerial careers in private or government industries. LCCC’s associate of applied science in accounting totals 60 hours and consists of a combination of general education and major courses, ranging in topics from public speaking and lab science to cost accounting and the fundamentals of statistics. Students must also complete a number of elective hours, which they can use to personalize their degree.

State residents want to take advantage of LCCC’s transfer agreement with the University of Wyoming, which enables students to transfer their associate-level credits toward a four-year degree without repeating duplicate course requirements. The program's affordable tuition rate is priced per credit hour plus additional fees and the school makes a number of financial aid options available, including awards through the school and its related foundation.


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2

Albany Technical College

Value Score 7.30
Average Tuition $2,140
Students Receiving Financial Aid 99%
Net Price $738
Graduation Rate 99%
Student to Faculty Ratio 16:1
Retention Rate 55%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 58%

Created in 1961 through a merger between two vocational-technical schools, Albany Technical College is located in Georgia and offers over 30 distance learning options facilitated through Blackboard, including an associate accounting degree online program. Designed to prepare students for entry-level positions in the field or further education at the university level, ATC’s associate of applied science curriculum places emphasis in technology and workplace communication. Totaling 63 credit hours, the degree plan includes courses in the liberal arts/general education and major topics, including financial accounting, spreadsheet application, advanced word processing, and principles of marketing, to name a few.

ATC’s offers a comparably cheap tuition rate for Georgia residents, and those who pay the the out-of-state price will find that the cost is lower than many other technical and community colleges. The school provides a number of resources to help online students find and apply for federal aid and external scholarships.


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3

Hutchinson Community College

Value Score 7.27
Average Tuition $2,560
Students Receiving Financial Aid 90%
Net Price $5,459
Graduation Rate 90%
Student to Faculty Ratio 15:1
Retention Rate 63%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 37%

Hutchinson Community College, located in the Kansas city of the same name, was established in 1928 as a two-year co-educational institution dedicated to providing accessible, career-focused educational opportunities. Today, HCC offers over 250 courses online and students may even earn an associate of arts in accounting through the Canvas learning platform. In consultation with an academic advisors, students create a degree plan that satisfies state and institutional requirements. For this reason, HCC’s online accounting associate degree is particularly suited for learners interested in pursuing a bachelor’s degree because it enables students to personalize their curriculum to match the requirements of their prospective university.

Course offerings range from general education topics like composition and humanities to major classes in personal finance, business communications, and entrepreneurship. Though classes are presented asynchronously, and students may access lectures and assignments at their convenience, they are expected to earnestly participate in discussion with instructors and classmates. When compared to distance education programs in the United States, HCC boasts a notable cheap tuition rate for both Kansas residents and out-of-state students.


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4

Cowley County Community College

Value Score 7.13
Average Tuition $2,015
Students Receiving Financial Aid 90%
Net Price $7,558
Graduation Rate 90%
Student to Faculty Ratio 23:1
Retention Rate 57%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 56%

Located in Arkansas City, Kansas, Cowley County Community College was established in 1922 in the basement of a local high school only to soon outgrow the space. Today Cowley is a vibrant institution, offering career-focused certificates and two-year degrees, including an online associate accounting degree. Known as the “language of business,” accounting prepares students to prepare, analyze, and evaluate important financial information for businesses, government organizations, and individuals. Cowley’s associate of arts in accounting is a transfer program designed to fulfill all the basic requirements students need to transfer into a four-year degree program.

The curriculum totals 63 credit hours and includes general education courses and major classes in accounting principles, business communications, and micro- and macroeconomics. Students take 24 credits in electives and they may use these options to pursue their own academic interests or fulfill the distinct requirements of their prospective university. Cowley is authorized to offer online courses in all 50 states and the experience is facilitated through Blackboard.


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5

Atlanta Technical College

Value Score 6.91
Average Tuition $2,136
Students Receiving Financial Aid 96%
Net Price $2,844
Graduation Rate 96%
Student to Faculty Ratio 13:1
Retention Rate 55%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 45%

Established in 1945 as a vocational school to meet the needs for adult education following World War II, Atlanta Technical College now enrolls nearly 4,000 students annually. ATC offers a number of distance learning opportunities, including an associate of applied science in accounting. Designed to teach the professional and academic knowledge and skills needed for today’s technology-driven careers, ATC’s online associate degree in accounting consists of 67 credits, divided into 15 general education hours and 52 in occupational or major coursework. Topics include financial accounting, spreadsheet application, and document production.

Students also complete a capstone review of accounting principles, which focuses on developing accounting ethics and prepares them to take the ACAT Comprehensive Examination for Accreditation in Accountancy. The school administers courses through Blackboard and most students earn their degree in five semesters, or a little over two years. ATC offers a cheap tuition rate and students generally pay only $10,956 in total.


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Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting: An Overview

Who should pursue a bachelor's degree in accounting?

Students interested in completing a degree program that combines general education with specialized job training should pursue an online bachelor’s degree in accounting. Those interested in working as accountants should also pursue a bachelor’s degree program.

How many years will it take to complete?

An online bachelor’s in accounting typically take four years to complete.

Is a thesis or capstone usually required?

Students enrolled in an online bachelor’s degree in accounting program are not usually required to complete a thesis or capstone project.

What type of jobs does this degree prepare you for?

Graduates of this degree program commonly pursue careers as auditors, public accountants, tax examiners, and corporate accountants, among other career paths.

What's the average salary for someone who holds this degree?

The average starting salary for someone who holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting is approximately $48,993.

Core Concepts

Although concepts may vary between schools, online bachelor’s in accounting programs typically teach students how to write and analyze budgets, perform internal and external audits, and find and solve common issues in accounting. Students with a bachelor’s degree in accounting are able to pursue a variety of accounting jobs. This degree prepares them to work as public accountants, corporate accountants, and auditors. It will take students enrolled in a bachelor’s degree program four years to earn their degree and become an accountant.

  • Communication skills for accounting to stakeholders: Students will develop the interpersonal skills needed to communicate accounting issues and solutions with clients, companies, and employers.
  • Financial accounting: Students will learn how to analyze and interpret complex financial data, including a company’s quarterly and annual budget reports.
  • Ethical business practices: Students will learn the importance of ethical behavior within the field of accounting, common ethical dilemmas, and how to identify and solve unethical business practices.
  • Analysis and critical thinking: Students will learn how to analyze numerical facts and figures in order to find problems or make improvements.

Course Highlights

Auditing

Description Learn to review financial documents to ensure their compliance with internal policies and government regulations.
Job Skill Analyze and examine financial records for accounting issues.

Managerial Accounting

Description Learn how to use accounting information to improve business practices.
Job Skill Examine financial systems and make suggestions for improvement.

Business Law

Description Learn the fundamentals of the American legal system in order to understand the connection between the law and accounting processes.
Job Skill Understand the theory and practice behind accounting processes.

Business Math and Statistical Analysis

Description Learn the math skills needed to solve real-world financial problems.
Job Skill Read and analyze numerical data related to financial documentation.

Affordable Schools With Online Bachelor’s Programs

50 Most Affordable Online Bachelor's Degrees in Accounting
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1

Cleary University

Value Score 6.75
Average Tuition $20,000
Students Receiving Financial Aid 65%
Net Price $6,673
Graduation Rate 38%
Student to Faculty Ratio 11:1
Admissions Rate 72.31%
Enrollment Rate 63.12%
Retention Rate 63.12%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 100%
Number of Online Programs 8

Founded in 1883 as the Cleary School of Penmanship, Cleary University has now educated business leaders for more than a century. This Howell, Michigan, business school offers an online accounting degree that provides students with a well-rounded background in the field of accounting -- along with a strong foundation in broader business practices. This program is particularly recommended for future accountants, financial planners, controllers, entrepreneurs, and anyone interested in a managerial career in the world of business. The school's bachelor of business administration in accounting and finance program also readies students for the Certified Management Accountant (CPA) license and is endorsed by the Institute of Management Accountants.

Cleary's curriculum is cohort-based and takes a hands-on approach. Students learn real-world tools and practical application using case studies and project-based experiences. Receiving the university's bachelor's requires the completion of 120 credits and, when taking credits at a rate of 15 per semester, participants in the program typically graduate in four years. Cleary is known for its affordability and employs semester block pricing, allowing students to take more classes for the same lump sum.


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2

University of Memphis

Value Score 6.75
Average Tuition $7,320
Students Receiving Financial Aid 77%
Net Price $10,883
Graduation Rate 45%
Student to Faculty Ratio 14:1
Admissions Rate 39.78%
Enrollment Rate 31.74%
Retention Rate 31.74%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 31%
Number of Online Programs 17

Drawing from a history of innovation and boasting a growing presence on the worldwide web, the University of Memphis is a comprehensive public research institution located in Tennessee's largest city. The university's virtual campus -- UOFM Global -- offers more than a dozen affordable degree programs entirely via the web, including an accounting degree online program. The school's bachelor of business administration in accounting program provides students with a broad overview of accountancy in the world of modern business. Accredited by the prestigious Association for Advancement of Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), the program emphasizes technological competency, critical thinking, decision-making, and effective communication, all while providing students with the accounting tool set they need to succeed in the industry. Graduates also benefit from developing a solid foundation for approaching the Certified Public Accountants exam.

Students need to accrue 120 credits to graduate, and the school's accountancy degree program generally takes four years to complete when taken at a rate of 15 credits taken per semester. Most classes at UOFM Global are asynchronous, allowing students to log-on whenever it's convenient. Online tuition for undergraduates is the same as on-campus tuition.


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3

Northwestern State University of Louisiana

Value Score 6.65
Average Tuition $5,180
Students Receiving Financial Aid 72%
Net Price $8,632
Graduation Rate 39%
Student to Faculty Ratio 20:1
Admissions Rate 83.97%
Enrollment Rate 46.92%
Retention Rate 46.92%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 73%
Number of Online Programs 14

Northwestern State University of Louisiana is home to Louisiana's first and largest virtual campus. eNSU, the school's cyber division, hosts 39 affordable internet-based degree programs, including an accredited online accounting degree. The institution's bachelor of science in accounting program can be earned entirely via the web -- program participants never have to visit the NSU campus in Natchitoches.

Accredited by the standard-setting Association for Advancement of Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), this rigorous program includes coursework in managerial accounting, taxes, cost accounting, auditing, governmental accounting, and information systems. Students who complete all program requirements are prepared to sit for the Certified Public Accountant exam. Like most other baccalaureate programs, this degree program requires 120 credits and typically takes students four years to complete. In the fall and spring, courses are available in accelerated eight-week terms, allowing students to finish faster. Internet-only students pay a flat rate and no out-of-state fees. eNSU hosts an array of tutorials to help new learners get acquainted with web-based education.


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4

Dakota State University

Value Score 6.44
Average Tuition $4,170
Students Receiving Financial Aid 74%
Net Price $11,799
Graduation Rate 39%
Student to Faculty Ratio 18:1
Admissions Rate 81.25%
Enrollment Rate 46.69%
Retention Rate 46.69%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 57%
Number of Online Programs 11

Dakota State University considers itself one of the most technologically advanced universities in the Midwest. This Madison, South Dakota institution provides incoming freshmen with laptops, integrates technology into every degree program, and features a robust virtual campus known as Online@DSU. The school's accredited online accounting degree takes a tech approach to the field of accountancy, providing students with the usual background in financial accounting, cost accounting, income taxes, and auditing while also teaching them the technological framework underlying modern accounting. Program participants are encouraged to couple their online accounting degree with a tech-focused program to enhance their appeal in the job market.

The bachelor of business administration in accounting program is accredited by the elite ACBSP, and its 120 credits are spread across four years. Students benefit from small class sizes -- usually less than 17 per class -- and a great deal of personal interaction with faculty and classmates. Classes are taught both asynchronously and in real-time, and professors occasionally have online students collaborate with on-campus students. Dakota State also offers an online bachelor's in professional accountancy program designed to ready students to take the CPA exam. Tuition rates are the same for in-state and out-of-state students.


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5

Old Dominion University

Value Score 6.43
Average Tuition $6,175
Students Receiving Financial Aid 82%
Net Price $11,678
Graduation Rate 53%
Student to Faculty Ratio 19:1
Admissions Rate 83.11%
Enrollment Rate 37.4%
Retention Rate 37.4%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 38%
Number of Online Programs 17

Old Dominion University is a pioneer in distance learning. For more than 30 years, this venerable public research institution has provided degree programs to students located near and far from its campus in Norfolk, Virginia, and today it sponsors an extensive array of internet offerings. The school's affordable online accounting degree program is nationally ranked, and accredited by the elite AACSB. It promises to develop a student's analytical skills, enhance their technical knowledge of accounting systems, and ready them for management-level positions -- and all from the comfort of their own homes.

The school's bachelor of science in business administration: accounting program requires the completion of 120 credit hours, 30 of them in the major core. Program curriculum utilizes both asynchronous and real-time formats -- students occasionally have to “be in class” at certain times. Applicants need to first matriculate as ODU degree-seeking students, and then be accepted into the Strome School of Business, a two-step process. Tuition for online students is only slightly more than in-state fees.


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Master’s Degree in Accounting: An Overview

Who should pursue a master's degree in accounting?

Working professionals and students interested in receiving specialized training within a subset of the accounting field, such as auditing, forensic accounting, or taxation, should pursue an online accounting master’s degree.

How many years will it take to complete?

An online accounting master’s degree will typically take between 1-2 years to complete, depending on full-time attendance.

Is a thesis or capstone usually required?

Students enrolled in an online accounting master’s degree are usually required to complete either a thesis or capstone project. Projects may include applying coursework to a practical experience or real-world accounting problem.

What type of jobs does this degree prepare you for?

A master’s degree in accounting prepare students for mid- and senior-level management positions within accounting departments. This degree also prepares students to sit for the Certified Public Accountant and Certified Management Accountant exams.

What's the average salary for someone who holds this degree?

The average starting salary for someone with an online master’s degree in accounting is approximately $50,925 per year.

Core Concepts

Students who earn an online master’s degree in accounting will develop a deep understanding of public accounting, forensic accounting, tax and payroll accounting, and auditing. Although concepts may vary by school, master’s degree graduates will be prepared to sit for professional licensure exams. Graduates will also be prepared to work in senior-level management positions. It will take students enrolled in a master’s degree program 1-2 years to earn their degree and become a senior-level accountant.

  • Prepare to take professional exams (CPA/CMA): Students who earn a master’s degree in accounting will be eligible to sit for the Certified Public Accountant and Certified Management Accountant exams. The CPA and CMA designation are world-renowned accounting credentials that enhance an accountant’s value and job prospects.
  • Internal and external auditing: Students will not only learn how to perform internal and external audits, they will also learn ethical auditing behavior and how to effectively respond to dishonest financial documents.
  • Global financial accounting: Students will learn how to prepare and assess financial documents for multinational corporations and global financial exchanges.
  • Forensic Accounting: Students will learn how to identify and assess financial fraud in order to help resolve criminal and civil investigations.

Course Highlights

Fraud Examination

Description Learn to identify and respond to instances of fraud or tax evasion.
Job Skill Understand, analyze, and identify issues with financial reporting.

Multinational Corporate Management

Description Learn how to manage international operations and global financial activities.
Job Skill Report and track international spending and global investments.

Financial Reporting

Description Learn how to report a company’s financial status, particularly those involving partnerships, consolidations, and liquidations.
Job Skill Ethically and accurately prepare high-level financial statements and documents.

Quantitative Analysis for Decision-Making

Description Learn the statistical tools used to make informed financial decisions.
Job Skill Analyze and improve a corporation’s financial operations.

Affordable Schools With Online Master’s Programs

31 Most Affordable Online Master’s Degrees in Accounting
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1

Saint Joseph's College of Maine

Value Score 8.59
Average Tuition $8,246
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 100%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $458

Located in Standish, ME, Saint Joseph's was founded by the regional chapter of the Sisters of Mercy in 1912 and prides itself as a liberal college that nurtures intellectual, spiritual, and social growth for all students regardless of age or religious beliefs. Saint Joseph's offers a wide variety of remote graduate programs, including a master's degree in accounting online, facilitated through the Brightspace learning portal.

Courses in this 36-credit program are 10 weeks long and offered five times a year, offering flexibility during the application and schooling process. A Fast-Track option is also available, allowing students to use their undergraduate courses to fulfill graduate work, therefore condensing the program into one year. With an emphasis on tangible workplace application, the curriculum includes courses like taxation (business) and international accounting. Online students have access to a variety of school resources, including financial aid, personalized advising, and tutoring through the SMARTHINKING program.


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2

University of Maryland-University College

Value Score 8.35
Average Tuition $8,244
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 100%
Number of Online Programs 2
Part-time cost per credit hour $458

Founded in 1947, UMUC is located in Adelphi, a four-hour car ride from Baltimore. UMUC was the first American college to send faculty overseas to to educate active-military personnel and this tradition of service continues today; not only do military men and women receive reduced tuition, they also have the opportunity to get their fees completely covered through the Tuition Assistance program.

Among UMUC's many hybrid and fully-online graduate programs is the master of science in accounting (MSA) and financial management. The program's curriculum is centered on real-world problem-solving. Students will be asked to tackle current financial crises, analyze applicable data, and engage in projects for local and national companies. Students who received their bachelor's in accounting from UMUC can expedite their graduate work, reducing the 36-credit load by three. Online accounting master's degree students are encouraged to join campus organizations like the Accounting and Finance Forum and the Business and Management Club to gain further experience and build professional relationships.


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3

Southern Utah University

Value Score 8.24
Average Tuition $6,829
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 39%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $299

Located in Cedar City, SUU offers a large number of completely remote and hybrid graduate programs through the Canvas platform, including an accounting master's degree online. With courses in property transactions and auditing, the school's master of accountancy program provides both breadth and depth, allowing students to further develop their knowledge and skills and prepare for the professional world.

Over 18 years old, the program's track record is impressive, as nearly 100% of its graduates are placed in jobs with accounting firms and government agencies. This online accounting master's degree also satisfies Utah's 150-hour requirement, allowing students to take the Certified Public Accounting exam. State residents pay $2,887 per semester, while the tuition of non-residents is $9,527. However, this difference in price can be eliminated through the Non-Resident Student Waivers, making SUU's program one of the most affordable online master's degree in accounting available.


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4

Florida Atlantic University

Value Score 8.21
Average Tuition $5,467
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 33%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $370

Located in Boca Raton on what was originally an air base, FAU was established in 1964 and today houses over 180 degree programs. FAU's Accounting School offers several online master's accounting degree programs, including ones in forensic accounting and professional accounting. Around 75% of the student population has 3+ years of work experience in the field.

Both degrees are offered entirely online and take about two years to complete. Students in either program build upon their foundational knowledge of mathematics, business, and tax laws, but specialize in different areas. Professional accounting graduates work as CPAs for firms and government organizations, while those who pursue forensic accounting focus on fraud prevention, criminal investigations, and litigation. Financial aid is facilitated through FAFSA and tuition reimbursement is available.


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5

University of Alabama at Birmingham

Value Score 8.08
Average Tuition $7,090
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 44%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $370

Originally conceived in 1859 as a medical college, UAB now offers a full range of undergraduate and graduate degree programs for students interested in campus as well as remote studies. Among these eLearning options is an online accounting master's degree, which consists of 30 credit hours that can be completed in as few as five semesters. Courses like financial accounting and income taxation build on fundamentals, while more specialized classes like advanced auditing and attestation allow students to gain new knowledge and skills.

Tuition rates for out-of-state students average $1,000, while resident students pay roughly half that. Loans and grants include a host of options for active military personnel and veterans through programs like ThanksUSA and the Army Scholarship Foundation. Resources for online students include tutoring and internship and career advising through the Dragontail program. Due to UAB's accreditation system, some online programs are not offered to certain state residents. Check state authorization for more details.


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PhD in Accounting: An Overview

Who should pursue a PhD in accounting?

Students interested in performing high-level accounting research or students interested in working as university professors should pursue a PhD in accounting.

How many years will it take to complete?

An online PhD in accounting degree typically takes between 4-7 years to complete.

Is a thesis or capstone usually required?

Students who enroll in a PhD program will usually be required to complete a thesis or capstone project. Projects typically involve extensively researching a sub-topic or issue within the field of accounting.

What type of jobs does this degree prepare you for?

A PhD in accounting prepares students to become university professors, accounting consultants and analysts, or public policy researchers.

What's the average salary for someone who holds this degree?

The average starting salary for someone with a PhD in accounting is approximately $86,584 per year.

Core Concepts

Students who earn their PhD in accounting online will develop a solid understanding of accounting research methods. Although online PhD in accounting programs vary by school, the curriculum typically focuses on scholarly research and accounting theory. Students learn to investigate and solve broad issues within the field of accounting in order to create positive economic change. Students with a PhD in accounting will be prepared to teach at the university level or perform public policy research.

  • Economics in global environments: Students will learn to analyze and assess the impact of national accounting systems and processes on global markets.
  • Quantitative research methods: Students will learn how to apply microeconomic theory, econometrics, and statistical analysis to accounting research.
  • Probability: Students will use mathematical research methods to analyze and determine probable economic outcomes.

Course Highlights

Empirical Research in Financial Accounting

Description Learn a wide range of empirical research methods, and understand how they can be used to analyze accounting systems and processes.
Job Skill Analyze and interpret high-level accounting data.

Financial Theory

Description Learn the theories behind financial decision-making, such as valuation, asset selection, and general portfolio theory.
Job Skill Understand the social, political and economic implications behind financial decision-making.

Microeconomic Theory

Description Study the behavior of individuals or households, particularly as they relate to the consumption of goods.
Job Skill Understand the financial processes and behaviors that drive consumer decisions.

Econometrics

Description Learn to describe economic systems in mathematical terms.
Job Skill Use mathematical theories and principles to determine future economic outcomes.

Next Steps: Becoming a CPA

The Certified Public Accountant license is an important step in an accountant’s career. After earning an accounting degree, the CPA license confirms that you have the education, experience, and ethical background required to work as a highly qualified and trusted public accountant. Public accountants work in the public interest, and the CPA license certifies that they can be entrusted with making smart, thoughtful, and qualified financial decisions.

In order to sit for the CPA exam, you must either hold a master’s degree in accounting, or an accredited online accounting degree, and have 30 supplemental hours of graduate-level accounting instruction. However, requirements vary by state and it is important to research your state’s eligibility requirements. The CPA certification includes a four-part exam. Prometric, a subsidiary of Educational Testing Services (ETS), proctors the CPA exam. They offer testing during eight months of the year, four or five days per week. Testing is unavailable during March, June, September, and December. Once you register for the exam, you should review the Prometric testing schedule to schedule your exam dates. You can take each section in any sequence, but can only take one exam section per day.

The American Institute of CPAs has online resources to help you prepare for the exam. Through their website you can access study guides, which outline the technical content that will be tested. The CPA is a rigorous test of your accounting knowledge, and it is important to research and study exam content in advance.

  • CMA: The Certified Management Accountant is a world-renowned accounting credential. The CMA certifies that you have professional accounting expertise in the areas of financial planning, financial decision-making, analysis, and ethics. After earning an online accounting degree, the CMA adds to an accountant’s value by enhancing and updating their qualifications.
  • AIPB: The American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers is the national association for the bookkeeping profession. By becoming a member of the AIPB, you will have access to a community of bookkeepers eager to help you solve complex bookkeeping issues. Through the AIPB, members can sit for the Certified Bookkeeper credential. The CP designation is a four-part exam that certifies a bookkeeper’s professional status and enhances their job opportunities.
  • CISA: Becoming a Certified Information Systems Auditor is an important professional achievement for accountants who audit, control, and monitor business systems. Auditors with an online accounting degree who earn the CISA designation are recognized globally as security professionals. This designation also provides auditors with the credibility needed to advance their careers.
  • CFP: The Certified Financial Planner certification demonstrates that you have the expertise to help individuals solve financial problems and pull their finances together. The CFP certification provides accountants with an online accounting degree the credibility they need to build a solid client base and grow their careers. CFP certified accountants have demonstrated their ability to act as financial advisors capable of solving their client’s complex financial problems.
  • ACFE: The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners is an organization for accountants interested in fraud prevention and detection. To become a Certified Fraud Examiner you must be a member of the ACFE. After earning an accounting degree online, students interested in fraud prevention should consider sitting for the CFE exam. The CFE credential demonstrates your knowledge of fraud deterrence, fraud schemes, and the legal issues surrounding financial fraud.
  • IIA: The Institute of Internal Auditors is the professional organization for internal auditors. Through the IIA, it is possible to earn your Certified Internal Auditor credential. This certification demonstrates your knowledge of internal auditing, risk management, and internal control. Accountants who have earned an online accounting degree and the CIA credential have enhanced job opportunities and career growth potential.

Sites You May Also be Interested In

Accounting Job Boards

  • Accounting Jobs Today Accounting Jobs Today is a professional resource for accountants nationwide. In addition to their accounting job board, users can receive job alerts, resume writing support, and career advice. Accounting Jobs Today is a great resource for students who have earned their accounting degree online and are looking for full-time accounting work.
  • The CPA Job Finder
    The CPA Job Finder is the official job board of the American Institute of CPAs. Accountants can create a profile and search for jobs that match their skills and experience level. The CPA Job Finder also offers career coaching and professional services to help accountants build and grow their careers. The CPA Job Finder is a useful tool for accountants who have earned their accounting degree online and are beginning their accounting careers.
  • Accounting.com Job Board The accounting.com job board is a comprehensive resource for accountants nationwide. Job listings are updated regularly and include jobs in the private and public sectors, entry-level to senior-level positions, and full-time and part-time accounting opportunities. The accounting.com job board is a useful tool for accountants who have recently earned their accounting degree online.
  • The Bloomberg BNA Accounting Blog The Bloomberg BNA Accounting blog covers a broad range of accounting topics, including taxation, payroll, and legal issues in accounting. Over 2,500 reporters and experts contribute to the blog, making it one of the best sources of up-to-date accounting information for working professionals with an accredited online accounting degree.
  • Accounting Tomorrow The Accounting Tomorrow blog covers new developments in the field of accounting, including accounting technology, financial planning, and audits. The blog also offers informative slideshows, seminars, and educational videos. Accounting Tomorrow is a great source of information for working professionals with an online accounting degree who want to stay informed and up-to-date.
  • The Accounting Coach The Accounting Coach is a Q&A style blog with over 1,000 questions related to accounting. Users can search the blog by topic to find answers to all of their accounting questions. The Accounting Coach is a great source of information for students who have earned a degree in accounting and are beginning their accounting careers.

Accounting Blogs

  • The Bloomberg BNA Accounting Blog The Bloomberg BNA Accounting blog covers a broad range of accounting topics, including taxation, payroll, and legal issues in accounting. Over 2,500 reporters and experts contribute to the blog, making it one of the best sources of up-to-date accounting information for working professionals with an accredited online accounting degree.
  • Accounting Tomorrow The Accounting Tomorrow blog covers new developments in the field of accounting, including accounting technology, financial planning, and audits. The blog also offers informative slideshows, seminars, and educational videos. Accounting Tomorrow is a great source of information for working professionals with an online accounting degree who want to stay informed and up-to-date.
  • The Accounting Coach The Accounting Coach is a Q&A style blog with over 1,000 questions related to accounting. Users can search the blog by topic to find answers to all of their accounting questions. The Accounting Coach is a great source of information for students who have earned a degree in accounting and are beginning their accounting careers.

Professional Organizations

  • The American Institute of CPAs The American Institute of CPAs creates national standards and rules, which must be adhered to by all certified public accountants. The AICPA also advocates for the CPA profession, and offers its members relevant resources, tools, and professional training to help them grow and improve their careers. By offering business advice and professional networking resources, the AICPA is a highly beneficial professional organization for students who have earned their online degree in accounting.
  • The Accounting and Financial Women’s Alliance The Accounting and Financial Women’s Alliance empowers women to succeed within the field of accounting. The AFWA provides its members with a network of successful and influential professionals who understand the position of being a woman in accounting. The AFWA hosts leadership development and networking conferences to help women succeed within the accounting profession. The AFWA is a great network for women who have recently graduated from an online accounting degree program.
  • The Institute of Internal Auditors The Institute of Internal Auditors is the official organization for internal auditors. The IIA helps its members grow their network, connect with employers, and stay up-to-date on industry standards. The IIA is a useful resource for students who have recently graduated from an online accounting degree program and are interested in earning their professional auditor certification.
  • The Institute of Management Accountants The Institute of Management Accountants focuses on the intersection between managerial work and accounting services. Through the IMA, members can sit for the Certified Management Accountant credential. The IMA also offers its members professional tools and resources to help them grow and succeed as certified management accountants. Students who have graduated from an online accounting program and are interested in earning their CMA credential should consider joining the IMA network.

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