Online undergraduate and graduate degree programs are available in accounting from many different institutions. Learn about considerations for choosing a school, degree options and a few schools that offer these programs.
How to Select an Online Accounting School
Both 2-year and 4-year schools may offer online degree programs in accounting. Students should weigh the award level and program delivery with their career goals.
Award Level and Career Goals
Online accounting degree programs can lead to associate's degrees in accounting or accounting technology, bachelor's degrees in accounting and master's degrees in accounting or financial management. Students should identify their desired career position and the education required prior to selecting an online accounting school.
Payroll clerks, accountants, tax preparers and Certified Public Accountants (CPA) have similar educational backgrounds in accounting, business administration or financial management. Associate's degree programs are suitable for payroll clerks and purchasing agents. Bachelor's and master's degree programs prepare students for directorial accounting positions as well as advanced certifications.
Content delivery systems also play an integral role in selecting an online accounting school. Students need to be aware whether the program is delivered entirely online or has hybrid components. Many programs even allow students to choose which delivery method is best for them, offering online or on-campus learning, or a combination of both.
Common Online Accounting Degree Programs
Associate's Degree in Accounting
Online associate's degree programs emphasize introductory accounting principles. Students learn how to process accounts receivable and accounts payable as well as navigate purchasing procedures. Access to instructors, fellow students, assignments and course downloads are achieved through schools' content delivery systems. Coursework includes:
- Financial accounting
- Business law
Bachelor's Degree in Accounting
Distance learning bachelor's degree programs in accounting are offered entirely online or in a hybrid format. Students in an online program upload assignments and interact with instructors and classmates via online course management systems, such as Blackboard. Required equipment usually includes Internet accessible computers with high-speed broadband or DSL connections, e-mail, video-conferencing and live chat features. Students also should be comfortable utilizing discussion boards, networking sites and online libraries. Students take courses in:
- Accounting information systems
- Principles of marketing
- Managerial accounting
Master's Degree in Accounting
Online accounting master's degree programs provide students with high-level accounting knowledge and skills. Some distance learning accounting graduate programs offer specializations in certified public accountancy, certified financial analysis and certified fraud examination.
Many programs also require a final thesis or capstone project, which requires students to demonstrate senior accounting leadership abilities with an existing business or financial department. Before selecting a program, students should identify who secures such placements - the programs or the students.
Technology requirements for online accounting graduate programs mirror undergraduate specifications. However, additional accounting information software may be utilized. Since much of the work is self-paced, students should be self-motivated and very comfortable working independently or with fellow graduate accounting students via content management systems. Coursework emphasizes:
- Cost accounting
- Mergers and acquisitions
- Personal and corporation taxation
- Advanced topics in financial reporting
Schools with Online Programs in Accounting
Southern New Hampshire University offers online certificates, associate's, bachelor's and master's programs in accounting. They even offer an accelerated Bachelor of Science to Master of Science program. This accelerated program meets the requirements for students to qualify to take their CPA exam faster than completing a separate bachelor's and master's program.
The University of Alabama at Birmingham has an online Bachelor of Science in Accounting and Master of Accounting program through their Collat School of Business. The master's program can be taken fully online, partially online or on-campus through evening classes. UAB also offers a fast-track Master of Accounting program for high-achieving students in the bachelor's program.
Washington State University provides students an online bachelor's program in accounting that consists of seven week long courses. Typically taken as a part-time program, students will study auditing, taxation, business strategy and more.
Online associate's, bachelor's and master's degree programs in accounting are readily available from several institutions across the country, and confer the same credentials earned through traditional, on-campus programs. Students considering these programs should keep in mind their career goals, as well as which format best suits their learning style.