Best Online Accounting Degrees 2021

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Accounting professionals record, analyze, and report financial data to help employers and clients make informed business decisions. One of the key business functions in all economic sectors, accounting attracts organized, analytical individuals.

Accountants and auditors need advanced proficiency in mathematics, including experience with calculus and statistics. A detail-oriented outlook also helps avoid the potentially costly consequences of accounting errors. These professionals also need strong communication skills, as they must explain their reports to individuals who may be unfamiliar with financial concepts and vocabulary.

Although their responsibilities and competencies frequently overlap, accounting specialists differ from other finance professionals, such as bookkeepers. Bookkeeping focuses on recording financial data, while accounting’s broader scope encompasses synthesis and interpretation. Budget analysts and financial analysts may use reports accountants generate to develop budgets, give investment advice, and plan organizational strategies.

This guide ranks the best online degrees in accounting. It also covers important information for prospective students, such as common courses, scholarships for accounting students, and career and salary information.

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Top 10 Best Online Accounting Degrees

Rank School Location
1 Pennsylvania State University World Campus University Park, PA
2 Colorado State University Global Aurora, CO
3 Florida Institute of Technology Melbourne, FL
4 Regis University Denver, CO
5 California Baptist University Riverside, CA
6 Washington State University Pullman, WA
7 Saint Leo University Saint Leo, FL
8 Liberty University Lynchburg, VA
9 University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth Dartmouth, MA
10 Misericordia University Dallas, PA

FAQ


  • What is accounting?

    Accounting involves measuring, recording, and interpreting financial information. Accountants generate reports used to assess financial status and ensure compliance with laws and regulations.

  • Can I study accounting online?

    Many colleges and universities deliver associate, bachelor’s, and master’s programs in accounting online.

  • What is the difference between accounting and economics?

    As an applied profession, accounting encompasses everyday business transactions. Economics, an academic discipline and branch of social science, studies how individuals and societies interact with commerce.

  • What is the difference between accounting and finance?

    Both key business fields, accounting and finance differ in their goals. Accounting focuses on organizing and communicating fiscal information, while finance uses that information to guide financial strategy.


Best Online Accounting Degrees 2021



See our rankings methodology page.

  1. Pennsylvania State University World Campus
    Location

    University Park, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Penn State’s World Campus offers an online accounting degree that prepares students to sit for the Certified Public Accountant exam. The program’s curriculum takes a survey approach to the discipline, covering a wide range of topics that includes federal income taxes, financial accounting, auditing, and accounting information system. The curriculum includes 120 credits and requires approximately four years to complete. Aiming for convenience, the program delivers all online coursework asynchronously and eliminates in-person requirements. The program also boasts accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, a distinction that less than five percent of business schools worldwide earn.

  2. Colorado State University Global
    Location

    Aurora, CO

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    CSU-Global’s online bachelor’s degree in accounting opts for a survey approach to the discipline, covering a wide range of topics that includes compliance, ethics, finance, marketing, economics, and leadership in addition to the basics of accounting. The program also strives for flexibility, delivering all coursework asynchronously, eliminating in-person requirements, and allowing students to choose between 20 different specializations. Specialization options include public relations, nonprofit management, marketing, and computer programming, among others. No matter the specialization, the program’s curriculum consists of 120 credits, usually takes four years to complete, and includes courses such as federal taxation, intermediate accounting, and a capstone in accounting research and analysis.

  3. Florida Institute of Technology
    Location

    Melbourne, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Florida Tech’s online accounting degree — which aims to prepare graduates for Certified Public Accountant or Certified Management Accountant certification — prizes flexibility above all, delivering all coursework asynchronously and eliminating all in-person requirements. The program blends a foundational liberal arts general education curriculum with professionally-focused courses such as auditing, compensation and benefits, and cost accounting. The program’s 121-credit curriculum, which usually takes four years of full-time study to complete, also includes foundational business coursework in economics, human resources, and marketing. The curriculum does not include a capstone or a thesis.

  4. Regis University
    Location

    Denver, CO

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Regis offers an online bachelor’s degree in accounting that allows students to choose between regular and accelerated tracks. In the accelerated track, each course lasts for eight weeks, allowing students to earn their degrees more quickly. In each case, the program’s curriculum consists of 120 credits, and Regis delivers all program coursework asynchronously and without in-person requirements. Core courses include income tax accounting, business finance, business law, and accounting ethics. All applicants to the accounting program must possess at least some previous work experience and at least some previous college credit.

  5. California Baptist University
    Location

    Riverside, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    CBU maintains an extensive distance learning presence, including an online bachelor’s degree in accounting. The accounting program offers a curriculum with the goal of preparing graduates to sit for the Certified Public Accountant exam. The program’s major curriculum consists of 69 credits and includes upper-division coursework in federal income taxation, cost accounting, and governmental and nonprofit accounting. As CBU maintains an affiliation with the California Southern Baptist Convention, all students must also complete an overview course about the Bible before they graduate. Students can generally earn their accounting degrees in three years at CBU.

  6. Washington State University
    Location

    Pullman, WA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Washington State’s online accounting degree offers flexibility, allowing students to attend asynchronous online courses either full-time or part-time. The curriculum includes both general education courses — which generally last 16 weeks each — and foundational, accelerated business courses, which last seven weeks each. Accounting coursework includes cost accounting, auditing, and introduction to taxation. None of these courses include in-person or on-campus requirements. Washington State’s program boasts separate accounting accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, which awards accounting accreditation to only 165 schools nationwide.

  7. Saint Leo University
    Location

    Saint Leo, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A Roman Catholic-affiliated liberal arts college based in Florida, Saint Leo also offers several distance learning degrees, including an online bachelor’s degree in accounting. The accounting program’s curriculum includes studies in financial statement analysis, cost accounting, auditing, and accounting information systems, among other areas. Full-time students generally finish the program within four years. The program’s faculty members offer each student one-on-one mentoring, advising, and coaching, leading to the program’s strong placement rate with the Big Four accounting firms. In total, the program’s curriculum consists of 120 credits and includes a recommended — but not required — internship in the field.

  8. Liberty University
    Location

    Lynchburg, VA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    One of the largest universities in the world, Liberty enrolls over 100,000 students, many of whom classify as online or military students. The university offers an online bachelor’s degree in accounting that requires students to complete 120 credits, a process that usually takes three and a half years. Liberty aims for flexibility in its online offerings, delivering all eight-week online courses asynchronously and without in-person or on-campus requirements. The accounting program’s curriculum includes coursework in financial and managerial accounting in addition to taxation, business law, and auditing. All applicants must submit evidence of a minimum high school GPA of 2.0 in order to earn admission on good standing.

  9. University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth
    Location

    Dartmouth, MA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    UMass Dartmouth offers an online accounting degree completion program with a generous transfer policy, allowing students to bring up to 75 previously earned credits with them. The entire accounting curriculum consists of 120 credits and includes coursework in foundational areas such as cost accounting, organizational behavior, strategic management, and marketing. Students can also complete an additional 30 credits to earn their Certified Public Accountant status. The program caters to many working professionals, so it delivers coursework asynchronously and eliminates in-person requirements in order to best fit into a wide variety of schedules.

  10. Misericordia University
    Location

    Dallas, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A Catholic-affiliated liberal arts school based near Wilkes-Barre and Scranton, Pennsylvania, Misericordia excels in distance learning, offering an accelerated online accounting degree that allows students to graduate in 20 months. Students can complete up to 12 credits each semester through asynchronous, online courses that last for seven weeks each. The 121-credit curriculum includes foundational coursework in business policy, intermediate accounting, taxation, and auditing. All students must also complete six credits worth of internships. All applicants must possess a high school GPA of at least 2.5 or a top 50% class rank and an SAT score of at least 930.

Accreditation for Accounting Degrees

Accreditation indicates that a school meets high standards with respect to faculty qualifications, student learning outcomes, and academic rigor. Schools may receive regional or national accreditation, with regional accreditation considered the more prestigious of the two.

Programs within a school may also receive accreditation. Business schools that offer online degrees in accounting may receive accreditation from the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) or the International Accreditation Council for Business Education. The ACBSP also offers accounting-specific accreditation.

Career and Salary Outlook for Accounting

Earning an online degree in accounting can lead to a lucrative career. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports a median annual salary of over $71,000 for accountants and auditors. The BLS also projects jobs for these professionals to grow 4% between 2019-2029.

Accountants and auditors work in accounting firms, independent practice, government agencies, and corporate finance departments. Internal and external auditors examine financial records to ensure accuracy and efficiency, detect waste or error, and satisfy laws and regulations. They present their findings to company management, shareholders, boards, and regulatory entities. Accountants’ duties include preparing tax documents and generating financial reports. They may also manage payroll, billing, and inventory.

Most entry-level accounting positions require a bachelor’s degree, and many also require certified public accountant status. Accounting professionals often specialize in the needs of specific industries, such as healthcare. Other areas of specialization include risk management, forensic accountancy, and taxation. Individuals with an accounting background may also work as bank managers, financial controllers, or budget analysts.

Career Lowest 10% Median Annual Salary Highest 10%
Accountants and Auditors Less than $44,480 $71,550 More than $124,450

Source: BLS

Courses in an Accounting Degree Program

Online degrees in accounting impart the theoretical knowledge and practical skills needed for careers in the field. Associate programs focus on foundational business and accounting principles. Bachelor’s and master’s programs explore intermediate and advanced accounting and auditing practices.

Accounting degree candidates gain familiarity with field-specific information systems. They also master core competencies such as financial statement analysis. Undergraduate courses in calculus and statistics hone computational and analytical proficiency. Specialized subjects, including taxation and fraud examination, appear in both bachelor’s- and master’s-level curricula.

Although offerings vary by program, learners pursuing an online degree in accounting may encounter many of the following courses.


  • Principles of Accounting

    Associate and bachelor’s in accounting programs often include introductory courses that impart a broad understanding of accounting fundamentals. Principles of accounting courses familiarize students with financial and managerial accounting. Students learn industry standards for recording and reporting financial information. They also analyze how businesses use accounting data to make decisions.


  • Federal Income Tax Concepts

    This course examines federal tax laws and principles with an emphasis on individual taxation. Students learn how to conduct tax law research and prepare returns using current software. They explore topics such as income determination, deductions, credits, and capital gains. Featured in many bachelor’s-level curricula, the course may also introduce principles of corporate taxation.


  • Auditing

    Auditing courses survey the roles of external and internal auditors. Coursework covers professional responsibilities, ethical considerations, scope of practice, and standard procedures. Using case studies and simulations, students learn how to design auditing and assurance engagements, gather evidence, and report findings.


  • Professional Career Management

    This course exposes students to the diverse career paths, specializations, and certifications available within the accounting field. Learners develop strategies for securing internships and entry-level positions, practice interviewing skills, and learn how accounting professionals advance in their field. The course may also examine professional norms, expectations, and ethics.


  • Government and Nonprofit Accounting

    Learners in this course study accounting procedures for governmental institutions and nonprofits. The curriculum covers specialized software, as well as accounting, reporting, and auditing issues unique to this sector. Both bachelor’s and master’s programs feature this specialized course.


Scholarships for Accounting

Many individuals earning an online degree in accounting receive financial aid. Some forms of aid, such as loans, require repayment, but others, such as scholarships, grants, and fellowships, do not. Graduate and undergraduate students in all majors may qualify for scholarships based on various factors, including major, academic achievement, and extracurricular activities. The following list outlines several scholarship opportunities for students earning a degree in accounting.


  • EFWA Scholarships

    Who Can Apply: The Educational Foundation for Women in Accounting sponsors multiple scholarships for women enrolled in graduate and undergraduate accounting programs. Eligibility criteria vary by scholarship.

    Amount: $1,000 - $16,000



  • Legacy Scholarships

    Who Can Apply: These scholarships, administered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, benefit accounting majors at all levels. Individual awards cater to women, minorities, transfer students, and master's candidates with non-business backgrounds.

    Amount: $3,000 - $10,000



  • SILA Postsecondary College Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: The Securities and Insurance Licensing Association Foundation offers this scholarship to learners studying accounting, business administration, marketing, or a related field. Applicants must hold a minimum 3.0 GPA and submit transcripts and a reference letter.

    Amount: $1,000



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