There are many options available for individuals wanting to take an online program in preparation for becoming a certified public accountant. You will want to consider the award level, cost, and your career goals before choosing a program.
How to Select an Online Certified Public Accounting School
Online accounting programs are available at some public and private universities and colleges. When selecting an online accounting school, along with the award level, students should consider their career goals and the cost of the collegiate awards they seek.
Degree programs are offered online from the bachelor's through the master's level in the study of accounting, auditing and tax law. Potential students should consider their career specialization and select a school that provides the appropriate degree program. Master's degree programs allow for more specialization than undergraduate programs and can prepare individuals for more advanced positions.
Many online undergraduate accounting degree programs require fewer hours than the 150 needed for the CPA exam. To accommodate the 150-hour requirement, students can enroll in a master's degree program or supplement their undergraduate degree with additional semester work. The cost of these options varies, and completing a master's program is generally more costly than extra undergraduate hours (though each option has its benefits).
Many career paths are available to those with accounting degrees, and passing the Uniform Certified Public Accounting Examination provides the student with an essential credential for many workforces. Students often use the 150 hours of coursework to tailor their studies toward a particular accounting career.
If students want to focus or specialize in taxes, they might take a graduate degree program in taxation, supplementing their bachelor's degree with an MST. Upon graduation, these students could go to work for a large company in the corporate tax department or for a public accounting firm. Other students may want to supplement their undergraduate degree with a master's degree in business administration; this graduate degree program could lead to a career in public accounting or in the financial area of most corporations.
Find schools that offer these popular programs
- Accounting with Computers, General
- Financial Accounting
- Managerial Accounting
- Taxation, General
List of Online Degree Programs for Certified Public Accountants
Online Bachelor of Science in Accounting
An online Bachelor of Science in Accounting is offered as a full 4-year program or as a degree completion program for students who have already earned an associate's degree. The online learning process is interactive and participative; students sometimes work in small online learning teams with their classmates on special projects like investment team discussions or financial and economic modeling workshops. Students take core classes in:
- Federal tax
- Business management
- Business math and statistics
- Accounting and finance
Online Master of Business Administration - Accounting
The online master's degree program in accounting provides students with advanced instruction in accounting principles and theory. Managerial, tax, cost and financial accounting concepts are explored in detail. Student and instructor interaction, which includes lectures, class discussions and assignments involving current accounting pronouncements and codification standards, all takes place through online features like Web forums and chat programs. Other topics include:
- Audit and control of accounting information systems
- Integrated global marketing
- Data analysis for business decisions
- Budget planning and control
Online Master of Science in Taxation
The online Master of Science in Taxation (MST) program is often designed for current tax professionals who want to continue working full-time while pursuing a graduate degree. Students can focus on individual or corporate taxation areas of concentration. Topics of study include:
- Estate and gift taxation
- Tax research methodology
- Cost accounting
- Individual, corporation and partnership tax
Schools with Online Programs in Certified Public Accounting
Many schools offer online public accounting programs at levels from associate's to master's degrees. For instance, Kaplan University offers entirely online Associate, Bachelor, and Master of Science degrees in Accounting. In the Bachelor of Science in Accounting degree, there is the option to concentrate in managerial, auditing/forensic, public, or tax accountancy in this degree. You would also complete a capstone project in accounting to demonstrate your ability to apply theory in practice.
Southern New Hampshire University offers an online Master of Science in Accounting degree with the option to concentrate in one of several areas, including taxation, auditing, forensic accounting, and management accounting. These master's programs meet the 150-hour criteria to sit the Certified Public Accounting exam in most states. In some states, having a master's degree reduces the amount of supervised work time required before becoming certified. The prerequisite for enrolling in a master's degree is a bachelor's degree in a related field.
Accounting can also be taken as a specialization within business programs. For example, Capella University offers an online Bachelor of Science in Business with a Specialization in Accounting. There is the option to further specialize in a Certified Professional Accountant pathway within this program, which requires four additional courses. A capstone project, completed during a student's final quarter, is also required for bachelor's degrees. Prior work and educational experience in the field might also be applied in order to earn a degree in less time. Capella also offers a Master of Business Administration in Accounting. This program also offers students the option of applying for a graduate certificate in business management as they work towards their master's, which might be helpful when looking for employment.
There are a few factors to take into account when researching online programs in accounting, including education level, cost, specialization, and whether the program will prepare you to sit the Certified Public Accountant exam.