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Online Accounting Diploma, Certificate and Degree Program Overviews

Learn about online degree programs in accounting. Get an overview of the program types, requirements and course descriptions available for this field.

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Essential Information

Students looking to take accounting courses online have plenty of options. There are a number of online university degree programs in accounting, ranging from undergraduate certificates and associate's degrees for students who are new to the subject and professional certificates for accomplished accountants. These programs are available entirely online, although some master's programs may feature an on-campus requirement. Students will also be required to have speakers, a microphone, headset, and up-to-date operation system and browser.

Undergraduate Certificate and Diploma Programs

Online certificate or diploma programs in accounting are generally geared toward individuals looking to pursue entry-level careers as bookkeepers, accounting clerks, payroll clerks or tax preparers. These programs introduce the basic fundamentals and practices of the accounting field and are often comprised of a small number of lessons or courses. Students need a high school diploma or the equivalent in order to enroll in these programs, which often take under a year to complete.

Associate's Programs

Associate's degree programs require a high school diploma or the equivalent and generally take about two years to complete. These programs can equip students with the skills necessary to maintain financial records and create and analyze financial reports regarding:

  • Profit and loss
  • Assets and liabilities
  • Tax implications

Graduates may find jobs as bookkeepers, accounting clerks or auditing clerks.

Bachelor's Programs

Online bachelor's degree programs in accounting usually consist of about 120 credit hours and may take four years to complete. Depending on the school, students often need to complete a number of general education prerequisites prior to enrollment. These programs are generally aimed at those wishing to become accountants, auditors, taxation specialists, or financial advisors.

Master's Programs

Distance learning accounting programs on the master's degree level typically require applicants to possess a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field. These programs may be completed in less than two years and are usually geared toward working professionals looking to advance into executive or managerial accounting positions. Depending on the institution, some master's degree programs may have in-person requirements.

Professional Certificate Programs

A professional accountant who wishes to advance his or her management career may elect to study for the professional certified management accountant (CMA) qualification. An online professional certificate program reviews major components of the Institute of Management Accountants' (IMA) CMA exam and improves the likelihood of passing the exam. The four parts of the CMA exam include:

  • Business economics
  • Budget preparation
  • Strategic planning
  • Organizational management

Many schools have accounting programs that can be completed entirely online at the certificate, associate's, bachelor's and master's levels. Graduates of these programs may be qualified for a range of occupations in the financial field, including bookkeeping, entry-level accounting, auditing and financial advisement.

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