Accounting Degrees

We profile over 40 accredited online colleges offering degree programs in accounting at every level – certificate, associates, bachelors, masters, and PhD.  Among those schools are 15 non-profit institutions and 7 colleges whose average annual tuition is less than $10,000 according to the government database.

Quick Facts

  • Accountants are financial recordkeepers. They calculate expenditures, receipts, accounts payable and receivable, profits and losses for companies.
  • In small businesses, an accountant may handle all monetary transactions, including preparing financial reports and bank deposits, verifying and balancing receipts, handling payroll and preparing invoices. In a large company, an accountant may be more specialized and focus on only one of these types of transactions.
  • Accountants are employed in nearly every industry and can count on many job openings, especially for temporary and part time work.
  • Individuals need at least an Associate’s Degree in accounting but a Bachelor’s Degree is required for many positions. Professional certification also provides a large advantage in the job market.
  • As of May 2010, $61,690 is the median annual wage with most accountants working full time (40 hours per week or more). Anyone with a graduate degree or professional certification can expect to earn at least 10% more than others.  In addition, accountants holding management level positions can expect to be on the higher end of expected salaries (BLS.gov).
  • The future of accounting is showing expected growth. Between 2010 and 2020, it is projected that accountants will experience a growth of 16%, as is average for most occupations. Those with Master’s degrees in accounting or business with an accounting focus can expect good prospects. However, those who are Certified Public Accountants (CPA) will be at the top of the list for hire (BLS.gov).

Types of Accounting Degrees

Certificate

Accounting is an extremely broad and diverse career field. Its reach extends far beyond the offices of public accounting firms and the Internal Revenue Service. Everybody needs accountants. From retail businesses to law firms, if it’s an organization that makes money, chances are it has an accounting department. If you’re interested in pursuing an accounting career, but don’t have time to complete a two- or four-year program, then maybe you should check out schools that offer certificates in accounting. Accounting certificates are meant to give the student a thorough grounding in the area of accounting and financial reporting. They come in two forms: introductory certificates and post-baccalaureate certificates.

Introductory certificates are aimed at those who are interested in accounting but don’t have the resources, time, or desire to pursue a longer degree program. These certificates provide a general overview of accounting practices and techniques, and prepare the student for entry-level jobs in the accounting sector. Possible jobs include working as an accounts receivable/payable clerk for a retail company, or as an auditing assistant with the Internal Revenue Service.

On average, most introductory certificate programs take about a year to complete as a full-time student and up to two years if you are pursuing it online or part time. These programs often consist of about 18 credit hours of class, and can cost from $1,500 to $5,000 depending on your school. In general, there are very few prerequisites for earning an introductory certificate, although a solid understanding of basic mathematical concepts, economics, and statistics is recommended.

Post-Baccalaureate Certificates

Post-baccalaureate accounting certificates are geared toward students who are either already in the accounting field and want to further their professional knowledge, or who possess a bachelor’s degree in another discipline and want to break into the accounting profession. Compared to the introductory certificate programs, the post-baccalaureate programs involve a more intense investigation into the concepts of accounting.

In order to enroll in a post-baccalaureate certificate program, most schools will require that you possess a bachelor’s degree, though not necessarily related to accounting. On average, most post-baccalaureate programs take about a year to complete, and consist of 27 credit hours of class (not including any prerequisites that may not have been fulfilled prior to enrollment).

Because these programs involve more credit hours than introductory programs, they tend to be more expensive. A typical one-year post-baccalaureate certificate program can cost from $4,000 to $8,000, depending on your school and the time of year.  Once finished, you will be well-prepared to enter the accounting field, and you will have either fulfilled or be close to fulfilling all of the requirements necessary to take the Certified Public Accountant Exam and become a CPA. Graduates from these programs can expect to work for such employers as large accounting firms, corporations, the Internal Revenue Service, and auditing agencies.

Online Associate Degree in Accounting

While a traditional bachelor’s degree in accounting can take up to five years to complete, at the cost of $20,000 to $40,000 per year, a student can earn an associate degree in less than half that time and for less money.  Associate degrees in accounting are designed to offer students a basic educational background combined with a specific investigation of modern accounting practices. When pursuing this degree, students can expect to take a variety of courses from English, science, and math to specific, advanced accounting classes.

One valuable characteristic of many accounting associate programs is the technical aspect. Modern accounting involves a plethora of specialized computer programs that are seldom used outside of the accounting world. In order to be successful in the modern accounting environment, professionals must have a concrete background in this technical side of the practice. Before enrolling in any institution in order to pursue an accounting associate degree, it’s a good idea to make sure that it has at least one or two courses designed specifically to deal with this issue.

A typical accounting associate degree program will take about one-and-a-half to two years to complete, and will require around 65 credit hours of work. Depending on location and the specific institution, the cost of enrolling in this type of course can range anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000, not including books and other fees. One thing to keep in mind: as with most university programs, online courses tend to be less expensive.

Accounting is one of the few sectors of the job market that has grown steadily throughout the recent recession, and is projected to continue growing at a solid clip in the future. For this reason, there is significant room for advancement compared to other lines of work. Plus, associate degrees in accounting are becoming more and more popular with professionals who are looking for a career change, but who don’t possess the economics and finance background required to attain their professional certificate.

Online Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting

The most popular form of higher education in the accounting field is the bachelor’s degree. There are a few reasons for this trend, the most obvious being that as higher education becomes more accessible, the job market becomes increasingly competitive. Twenty years ago any form of higher education was a guarantee for a well-paying job, but in the modern business world many career fields have raised educational standards, requiring bachelor’s degrees for jobs that previously would have required only a certificate or associate’s degree.

At most institutions, a bachelor’s in accounting is actually referred to as a bachelor’s of science in business with a focus or major in accounting. Not only do students take accounting-related classes, but they also study other areas, such as political science, history, and natural science. This is because bachelor’s degree programs are focused on creating well-rounded students who not only possess the technical skills to succeed in their chosen profession, but also possess knowledge from other disciplines that can be of use regardless of their occupation.

On average, it takes four years to complete a bachelor’s degree program that requires 120 to 130 semester credit hours. This timeline can increase or decrease depending on the school and the specific situation of the student. For example, a high school graduate with no prior college experience that takes courses full time (usually 12 or more credits per semester, or eight per quarter) will generally earn his or her bachelor’s degree in four years. However, if he or she fails multiple classes, or is only a part-time student, it will take longer. Or, if the student has college credits from high school or from previous college attendance, he or she might be able to complete the degree requirements in less time.

As with all higher education in the U.S., the cost of a bachelor’s degree tends to vary. One year of full time tuition for an in-state student at a public university can cost from $12,000 to $20,000 per year. Meanwhile, attendance at a private university can cost $20,000 to $45,000 per year.

Online Master’s Degree in Accounting

For those who have settled on accounting as their career path of choice, and who already hold a bachelor’s degree in a business-related field, the next rung on the educational ladder is a master’s of accounting (MAcc). Created for accounting professionals who want to expand their knowledge or advance into higher level positions, master’s programs delve into the more nuanced aspects of the accounting field that aren’t covered in most bachelor programs.

A master’s of accounting program is an excellent investment in oneself. As the accounting profession has continued to grow and become more technical over the past few decades, the need for knowledgeable, competent professionals has increased. Most MAcc programs focus their studies strictly on accounting courses, including:

  • Auditing
  • Corporate and individual taxation
  • Tax policy
  • Managerial accounting

Many programs also include a few management or communications courses in recognition of the fact that graduates from these programs will eventually hold supervisory and managerial roles.

Typical MAcc programs require between from 30 and 60 credits, and can be completed in one to one-and-a-half years if enrolled full time. If a student is only enrolled part time, it can take an extra six to 12 months.

Another factor to consider is whether or not the student has an undergraduate degree in accounting. To pursue a master’s in accounting, students are required to hold bachelor’s degrees. Recent graduates from a bachelor’s of accounting program will have completed as many as half of the required courses of the graduate program, depending on their school and the electives they chose during their undergraduate study. On average, these students will only need about 30 more credits to attain their master’s. Students who hold non-accounting undergraduate degrees majors, on the other hand, will need around 60 credits.

While graduate programs in accounting don’t take as much time to complete as undergraduate programs, they can be considerably harder on the wallet. Tuition at a public university, on average, runs between $20,000 and $30,000 per year, with private universities ranging from $25,000 to $40,000.

Accreditation

The main body that oversees the accreditation of business schools, and therefore accounting programs, is the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. This group accredits business schools and specific accounting programs.

If the school you are interested in attending claims to be accredited, make sure to investigate the supposed accrediting agency. There are a number of fake accrediting agencies that cover for diploma mills, which only serve to charge students for a lackluster education. Make sure that your institution is accredited by an organization that is recognized by either the Council of Higher Education Accreditationor the U.S. Department of Education. If an accrediting institution is not recognized by one of these departments, it should not be considered legitimate. 

Accounting Degrees at Most Popular Online Colleges

Anthem College

Degree: Associate of Science, Accounting Technology Concentration
Length: 80 weeks

Courses are specifically designed to help students use new technology in the accounting field. Other classes required for the degree include business, finance, economics, as well as a set of general education courses to ensure critical thinking and writing proficiency.

Ashford University

Degree: Bachelor of Arts in Accounting
Length: 120 credits
Cost: $372 per credit

Ashford University provides in depth courses related to many different types of accounting – including business law, federal income taxes, and auditing. General requirements also include business economics, entrepreneurship, finance, information systems, international management, operations management and public administration. Students will exit the program well-rounded with a diverse knowledge of finance.

Grand Canyon University

Degree: Bachelor of Science in Accounting
Length: 120 credits

Completing this Bachelor’s Degree will prepare students to sit for the Certified Management Accountant Exam and the Certified Public Accountant Exam. Grand Canyon University requires 34 general education credits which include courses on effective communication and global awareness.

Kaplan University

Degrees: Associate of Applied Science in Accounting, Bachelor of Science in Accounting, Master of Science in Accounting
Length: 90 credit hours for Associate’s degree, 180 for Bachelor’s degree, 52 for Master’s degree
Cost: $371 per credit hour for Associate’s and Bachelor’s degrees, $441 per credit hour for Master’s degree

Whatever your educational background, Kaplan University has a degree for you. Their degrees require fewer general education courses and more areas of accounting emphasis. All programs emphasize the ability of students to translate coursework into real world accounting practice.

Liberty University

Degree: Master of Business Administration – Accounting
Length: 45 credit hours
Cost: $400 per credit hour

Liberty University promises students that they will be ready for leadership positions in the corporate world. Students study accounting ethics, practice teamwork and explore ways to to integrate faith into a professional environment. Liberty presents a virtual online classroom where students may share experiences with each other.

University of Maryland University College

Degree: Master of Science in Accounting and Financial Management
Length: 36 credits / 11 courses

This Master’s program requires 15 hours of undergraduate coursework prior to entry. Courses required for this degree include Fraud Examination, Auditing Process, Federal Income Taxation, and Financial Decision Making for Managers. A Bachelor’s degree is required for entry.

University of Phoenix

Degrees: Bachelor of Science in Business / Accounting
Master of Business Administration, Accounting Concentration

The University of Phoenix prides itself on emphasizing teamwork as well as critical thinking skills and intends for students to be able to directly apply what they learn to the workplace. Students in the Master’s Program will enroll in classes which aid in preparation for the CPA exam such as “Audit and Attestation,” “Financial Accounting and Reporting, Regulation, and Business.”

Western Governors University

Degree: Bachelor of Science in Accounting
Length: 138 units / approximately 4 years
Cost: $2,890 per 6-month term

This program breaks courses into seven domains: accounting, liberal arts, business ethics and law, marketing and business communications, finance and information technology, organizational behavior and economics. In this program students will complete a professional portfolio.

Back to top

Article Resources:

“Accounting Accreditation,” The CPA Journal 
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 
Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) 
U.S. Department of Education 
Federal Student Aid

University of Washington: Accounting Certificate Program 
Oregon State University: Post-Baccalaureate Certificate Program 
UC Berkeley: Accounting Certificate Program 
University of Maryland University College: Certificate in Accounting 
Linfield College: Post-baccalaureate Accounting Certificate

“Where The Jobs Are: Accounting,” Forbes 
Ferris State University: Accounting Associate Degree 
Colorado Technical University: Accounting Associate Degree 
Florida Tech University Online: Associate of Arts in Accounting 
PayScale.com 
Central Pennsylvania College: Accounting Associate Degree 
Oakton Community College: Accounting Associate Degree

The University of Texas Arlington: Dept. of Accounting 
Capella University: Financial Aid 
Ball State University: Bachelor of Science in Accounting 
Western Governors University: Financial Aid 
University of Washington: Credit Definitions

Indiana University: Graduate Accounting Programs 
Portland State University: Master’s Degree in Accounting 
Washington State University in St. Louis 
NOVA Southeastern University 
University of Missouri – St. Louis 
Florida International University