Guide to Online Accounting Degrees

More than just learning how to balance budgets, students with an accounting background learn how businesses operate, track spending, and manage expenses in the most efficient way possible. Accounting remains one of the most sought-after degrees. Take advantage of our list of some of the top online accounting schools and programs below.

Kaplan University – Students enrolled in Kaplan's business programs including: AAS in Accounting, BS in Accounting, and MS in Accounting will find courses of interest that will help further one's educational pursuits in the areas economics, finance, management, law, information systems, quantitative methods, and taxation. Graduates will attain a broader understanding of accounting and its real-world application.
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University of Phoenix – University of Phoenix offers many degree programs for accountants looking to further their education including: AA in Accounting; BS in Accounting; BS in Business Accounting; MBA in Accounting; MS in Accountancy. Graduates of these respective degree programs will hone their critical thinking skills, and proficiently apply business theories in management, organizational behavior, economics, statistics and finance.
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Devry University – With campus across the nation, DeVry University has quickly become one of the most popular and largest schools in higher education. However, you do not have to be near a campus in order to take advantage of its online programs. These programs can be completed from your home PC with no special software required to complete and turn in assignments. DeVry offers online programs for a Bachelors and Associates in Accounting.
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Post University – Post University has two accredited online programs for accounting. The first is an associates in accounting and can be completed in less than two years. The second program is a bachelors in accounting which is designed for students who want an in-depth looking behind budgeting, business operation, expense management, and several other elements of financial planning. The online courses focus on hands-on exercises and peer interaction for learning as well as industry-driven curriculum.
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Colorado Technical University – Colorado Technical University's offers several accounting degree programs: AS in Accounting; BS in Accounting; MBA in Accounting degree. The accounting courses cover a variety of topics ranging from taxation, financial reporting, and auditing to accounting information systems, and management skills needed for its graduates to become successful in a contemporary business environment.
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Rasmussen College – Rasmussen's College offers multiple accounting and finance degree programs such as: AAS in Accounting; AAS in Banking; AAS in Financial Accounting; AAS in Financial Investigation; BS in Accounting. The college curriculum focuses on teaching strategies and training necessary to give its graduates a leg up on the competition and the software training to read upcoming trends in accounting, banking and financial industries.
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Everest University – Everest University's accounting programs teaches its students a wide range of skills including how to manage, quantitative methodology, economics, accounting, policy making, human resourcing, marketing and much more. The university's various leveled degree programs that include an Associates in Accounting, Bachelor's in Accounting, and a Master's in Accounting.
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Strayer University – Strayer University provides the following accounting programs: AA in Accounting; BS in Accounting; MBA in Accounting; MS in Public Accounting. Each program designed to help its prospective graduates attain or advance their professional positions as accountants, and expand their knowledge in the areas of accounting information systems, controllership, public accounting and taxation.
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Liberty University – Students enrolled in any Liberty University's accounting degree programs including AA in Accounting, BS in Accounting, MS in Accounting or an MBA in Accounting will find that they are well prepared for any future real-world accounting jobs. Graduates will learn valuable tax and auditing skills, accounting theory, and accounting information systems.
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Baker College – Baker College offers competitive accounting program such as: ABA in Accounting; ABA in Accounting Management; BBA in Accounting; MBA in Accounting. Enrollees will learn how to apply their skills theoretically and in real-world situations, while developing the necessary problem-solving and leadership skills needed to compete in a global market.
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Any business that is moving serious money needs an accountant, and in spite of its dry reputation, the field of accounting holds diverse career options and learning opportunities. Accountants can balance the books at small businesses, manage accounts for Wall Street hedge funds, or keep track of donations at a non-profit organization. A degree in accounting can be the key to a secure a lucrative career.

How Long Does It Take to Complete an Accounting Degree

There are several degrees that qualify you to practice accounting, some of which are more business management and administration oriented, and some of which focus entirely on accounting. A typical bachelor’s in accountancy or business with an emphasis on accounting is 120 credit hours, which will take three to four years, depending on how many classes you can take per term.

  • An Associate of Applied Sciences Degree in accounting is the quickest way to earn an accounting credential. This degree can be completed in two years of full time classes, and requires between 60-70 credit hours. This degree will likely only prepare you for entry-level accounting jobs such as a bookkeeper or an accounting clerk, but the credits may transfer to a Bachelor of Accountancy program if you want to go back to school later.
  • A Bachelor of Accountancy degree focuses entirely on accounting, and will prepare you for many types of accounting career. With a Bachelor of Accountancy you can be a bookkeeper, auditor, financial analyst, or tax specialist, among other options.
  • A Bachelor of Business Accounting (B.B.A.) is a more general degree that incorporates business practice and management classes as well as accounting classes. A B.B.A. can prepare you to take on diverse roles in management, budgeting, and bookkeeping in small, new companies or huge corporations. A B.B.A. could prepare you to start and manage your own business as well.
  • A Bachelor of Commerce (B.Com.) offers similar preparation to the B.B.A. You can choose to focus on accounting or other aspects of business. If you wish to enter accounting at a higher level, you can pursue an advanced accounting degree after finishing your B.Com.

After getting a degree, most accountants need to pass a licensure test to become a Certified Public Accountant. This is a national standard for public accountants, and many states require local certification as well. In spite of their designation, Certified Public Accountants can also be hired in the private sector. Maintaining your accounting credentials may require taking continuing education classes and being re-tested every three years.

What Are Some Career Options for Accountants

The basic traits required for being a good accountant include: detail orientation, focus, and the ability to make sense of large amounts of data at once. These skills are widely applicable in the world of business. The type of organization you work in will also affect the type of work you do, and whether you are strictly an accountant, or a manager with accounting duties, or the chief financial officer of your own company.

  • Bookkeeper: This job will require you to keep track of all the money that goes in and out of your company. From employee paychecks to the gas bill for the company jet, you’ll keep track of every cent, and your attention to detail is crucial. One mistake will have ripple effects throughout the company budget. This is an entry-level position, and if you handle it well you will likely move up in the company.
  • Clerk: This job is similar to a bookkeeper, but a little less exciting. Balancing the books and preparing financial presentations will be your main duties, but again, this position likely has room for growth for the right candidate.
  • Auditor: Most companies need their finances to be audited every year or every two years, either because of regulations or just to make sure that everything is running smoothly. An auditor casts fresh eyes on the accounting records and checks that necessary accounting practices are being implemented, regulations followed, and safeguards against financial mismanagement are in place. All types of financial records need to be audited sometimes, from individual tax papers to huge investment banks’ records. Companies often maintain internal auditors, so that when the IRS or other regulatory agency comes knocking, they can rest easy knowing their books are in order.
  • Chief Financial Officer (CFO): This is the top of the finance pyramid at a given organization. The CFO manages all financial aspects of a company, and is in charge of the accountants and other financial workers in the organization. CFOs manage financial risk and make strategic decisions regarding the company’s investments. CFOs are typically well paid, and may have to work long hours and be deeply involved in the operation of a company.

The many job titles available to accountants can have different implications depending on the type of company they work at. The CFO at a non-profit will likely have different duties than the CFO at an investment bank or a chain of retail stores.

Job Market for Accountants

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics asserts that “[e]mployment of accountants and auditors is expected to grow by 22 percent between 2008 and 2018, which is much faster than the average for all occupations.”

In a time when job growth is stagnant or even negative in most quarters, a degree in a field that the U.S. government predicts will grow rapidly can offer rare peace of mind. The incomes for various segments of the accountant population are encouraging as well. The median annual salary of accountants and auditors was $59,430 in May, 2008. Bachelor’s degree candidates in accounting in July, 2009 were offered an average $48,993 per year salary.

Entry level accounting jobs offer slightly less tantalizing salaries, but since these jobs are typically a foot in the door, which can lead to a higher-level position, don’t let the lesser salaries turn you off. In May 2008 the median annual wages of bookkeepers, accounting clerks, and auditing clerks were $32,510.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Learning Accounting Online

Accounting is data-centric and most of the required duties for accountants are done on a computer, so online universities provide a fairly comprehensive education in this field. However, having your work carefully checked is crucial. There is little room for personal expression. There is a right way to do the work, and there is a wrong way. For some students, not having a professor present to answer questions about the minute details of an assignment may make it harder to absorb the important parts.

Accounting requires intense record keeping skills, so the nature of online classes may actually benefit accounting students. Since everything you submit is automatically archived, whether in your email or through class management software like Coursekit or Moodle, it is easy to go back and double check your work, review class materials, or even review a chat you had with your professor. People with a knack for accounting may appreciate the automatic archiving of all electronic communication that is such an integral part of online education.

More Resources for Accounting Info

There is a wealth of information about accounting on the Internet for people just getting started in the field and veterans looking to learn new technology or just amp up their skills.

  • Accountants World: This is an online community for accountants that features new accounting software, articles about how to improve your workflow, and a blog with news, tips, and a comments section about everything accounting related. This company offers both free and paid content and their own cloud-based software for improving accounting ability.
  • Accounting Web: This site features a huge catalog of articles about everything from accounting education and scholarships to how to stay fit at your desk. Free e-newsletters, financial news and tips, technology how-to guides and other handy info for accountants is available for free. It is worth it to scroll past the barrage of advertising to get to the juicy center of this accountant’s resource.
  • Bloomberg: This is an excellent resource for general financial news and a snapshot of the state of the economy. Their personal finance section may be of more interest to aspiring accountants, but the whole site is a trove of useful information for anyone interested in other people’s money and their own.
  • From the outside, it is hard to see how varied and fulfilling a degree and career in accounting can be, but with excellent job growth projections and desirable paychecks, the field of accounting is worth a second look for anyone who is interested.

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