Best Online Accounting Degrees
Employment rates for accountants are among the highest of any profession and are expected to grow by 11 percent by 2024. Many educational institutions offer online accounting programs to make the process of earning your degree easier and more affordable.
Online bachelor’s degrees in accounting typically take 3-5 years to earn for those with no prior college experience and can cost between $20,000 and $100,000. Be sure to choose a reputable institution before enrolling in an online accounting program.
Compare Reviews for Top Online Accounting Degrees
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Offers associate to doctoral-level programs in areas including business, criminal justice, education and health care. Focuses on one class at a time with five- to six-week courses. Accepts military and college transfer credits.
|University of Phoenix BS in Accounting|
Read 15 Reviews
The University of Phoenix is an American for-profit institution. Its online Bachelor of Science in Accounting offers general business and specialized accounting courses. It takes 204 weeks to complete and costs just over $67,000.
|DeVry University Accounting|
Read 13 Reviews
DeVry University is a for-profit online university accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. It offers both an online bachelor’s and master’s degree in Accounting, which prepares students for careers in finance and economics.
|Capella Accounting Specialization|
Read 12 Reviews
Capella University is an online for-profit educational institution offering programs for adult learners. It offers a Bachelor of Science in Business with an Accounting or Accounting CPA Pathway specialization.
|Strayer BS in Accounting|
Read 7 Reviews
Strayer University is a private, for-profit online university. Its Bachelor of Science in Accounting degree emphasizes business finance, auditing and accountancy and is designed to take four years for a cost of around $60,000.
|American InterContinental University Accounting||Read Expert Review|
American InterContinental University is a for-profit education institution with two campuses and an extensive distance learning program. Its Bachelor of Accounting degree option takes 36-48 months and costs around $54,000.
|Colorado State University Global Campus BS in Accounting||Read Expert Review|
Colorado State University-Global Campus is an online, not-for-profit public university. Its Bachelor in Accounting degree is designed for adult learners and offers the option to specialize in one of 17 areas.
|Colorado Technical University BS in Accounting||Read Expert Review|
Colorado Technical University is a for-profit university with three campuses and a large distance learning program. It offers an online Bachelor of Science in Accounting program that fulfills requirements to sit for the CPA exam.
|Western Governors University BS in Accounting||Read Expert Review|
Western Governors University is an online, nonprofit university headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah. Its Bachelor of Science in Accounting program takes four to five years to complete and costs between $23,120 and $28,900.
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What to consider when choosing an online accounting program
What is the program’s reputation?
Before you enroll in an online college or university, be sure the program is reputable. A degree from a little-known or ill-regarded institution is unlikely to help and may even hinder your job prospects.
- Admissions requirements: In general, most reputable schools have requirements for admissions beyond a high school diploma. For example, you may have to submit standardized test scores, provide proof of high school grade point average, complete an entrance essay or otherwise prove that you are a good fit for their rigorous program.
- Well known for accounting: Some institutions have acceptable reputations but may be unknown in the accounting or finance world, which might not be helpful when you try to find a job after graduation. When you’ve settled on a few options for online degree programs, try to find a professional mentor who works in accounting to ask about how those in the industry are likely to view a degree from the schools on your list.
- Type of school: Generally, an institution’s reputation is related to the type of school that it is. Well-established, brick-and-mortar schools are best known because they’ve been around longest, and many of them now offer online degree programs. Some people are skeptical of online-only schools, especially for-profit schools, although there are many such schools that offer high-quality degrees.
What is the cost?
The cost of an online degree program can vary widely, with some four-year programs starting around $20,000 and others exceeding $100,000. In addition to ensuring that the program itself is reputable, consider how it will fit into your budget and whether there are opportunities for financial aid.
- Tuition and fees: Most institutions charge tuition per credit hour, per course or per semester. You can often save money at schools that charge per semester if you are able to take more than a standard course load. Be sure to check the program’s website for updated tuition information, since it often changes annually.
- Financial aid: Every degree-granting institution that is accredited by an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education is able to accept federal student loans and grants. Fill out the Free Application for Student Financial Aid (FAFSA), available online, to see if you qualify for federal aid. Additionally, many institutions offer private scholarships, grants and tuition waivers, especially to highly qualified students, students from low-income families, military members, veterans and those from underrepresented backgrounds.
- Financing and payment plans: Think about if you are realistically able to afford regular tuition payments, especially if tuition is due in one lump sum at the start of every term or school year. If not, find out if the school offers payment plans or financing, and if so, what the interest rates are. Ideally, the interest rates should be similar to the current rates on federal student loans (3.76 percent as of 2017). High interest rates can dramatically increase the cost of your degree.
Is the program accredited?
Accreditation refers to a process whereby an outside agency reviews the curriculum and practices at a college or university to ensure its programs meet certain standards. Degree-granting institutions must be accredited in order to receive federal funding and the endorsement of the U.S. Department of Education. Unaccredited programs have not been vetted to ensure that the degree is legitimate.
- Regional accreditation: Online bachelor’s degrees in accounting should be regionally accredited by an agency that oversees colleges and universities in their particular region of the country.
- Accounting-specific accreditations: Many quality institutions have a more specific accreditation for their business schools or accounting programs in addition to regional accreditation. The most well known is the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).
- International accreditation: Be wary of schools that claim an international accreditation but no regional or national U.S. accreditation. The U.S. Department of Education does not recognize any international accrediting agencies, and degrees from these institutions may not help you learn the skills you need to get a job; in some cases, these programs may be scams.
Is the program flexible?
Many different types of people take classes online, but they generally have one thing in common: the desire for a flexible program that can fit into their already busy lives. Be sure your online program offers a flexible plan that will work with your schedule and commitments.
- Synchronous versus asynchronous programs: Synchronous courses require you to be online at a set time for a live virtual presentation from an instructor or a real-time discussion chat group. Asynchronous courses can be completed at any time because you watch pre-recorded modules or read materials and complete assessments via the school’s website. Synchronous courses provide more hands-on instruction, opportunity for collaboration and interaction with your instructor and peers, but asynchronous courses are more flexible with your schedule.
- Time commitment: The time commitment for online Bachelor in Accounting programs typically falls between 15 and 20 hours a week. Find out how many hours of virtual classes, reading and homework are expected each week.
- Time to completion: Traditional bachelor’s degree programs take four years, but if you can’t commit to 15-20 hours of school work per week, it may take you longer. Find out how much more it will cost you if you take longer than the planned amount of time to graduate. If you have more time to give and want to expedite the process, find out if the school will allow you to take more than a standard course load per term. Some students can finish a four-year degree in three years or fewer.
- Experience as credit: Many institutions allow you to earn credit for prior college courses or job experience that relates to your degree program. Check with an admissions counselor to see whether this is an option for you.
What are the curriculum requirements?
An online degree in accounting should prepare you for many careers in finance and economics. Think about your career plans and whether the institution’s courses will be relevant to the skills you’ll need. Be sure the curriculum is rigorous and comparable to other reputable institutions.
- Introductory courses and general education requirements: Online bachelor’s degrees generally must require the same types of courses that traditional, offline degrees require in order to be fully accredited. That means you’ll have to take basic courses in science, math, writing and other electives. You’ll also have to take basic courses such as Introduction to Business and Introductory Accounting. If you have any prior college experience or the equivalent (such as Advanced Placement high school courses) you may be able to test out of some of the basic requirements.
- Advanced accounting curriculum: An accounting curriculum should familiarize you with laws, processes and procedures necessary to be successful in a finance career. The curriculum should be heavy on mathematics, finance, organizational structure and law. Look for a vigorous, diverse course list including topics like Auditing, Business Law, Business Ethics, Micro- and Macro-Economics and advanced courses in accounting and finance.
- CPA requirements: If you plan to become a Certified Public Accountant after graduating, check your state’s CPA licensure requirements. Most require 150 credit hours to be eligible to sit for the CPA exam, and generally require 30 or more credit hours in courses specific to accounting not including introductory accounting courses. Since most online accounting degrees don’t fulfill the 150 credit requirement, you may need to also earn a master’s degree in accounting to become a CPA.
What resources are offered to students?
Once you begin an online degree program, your success will depend in large part on the support and resources the institution offers. Ideally, an online school should offer access to similar resources as traditional residential schools, such as access to a library or conferences with instructors.
- Supportive faculty and staff: Students benefit from dedicated instructors who hold regular virtual office hours and offer many methods of contact, such as email, teleconference or phone. Ideally, each student should have a dedicated counselor who helps them choose courses and track their progress throughout the program.
- Campus or virtual resources: Traditional schools often offer access to campus resources to students who take classes online, so if you live near the campus you may be able to use the library, gym, computer lab and more. For those attending online-only schools, check whether you’ll have access to resources like library holdings, interlibrary loans and email.
- Job fairs and career services: A college or university’s career services department can make a big difference in your ability to find a gratifying job after graduation. Check to be sure that your institution has resources to help with job placement, including virtual job fairs, career counseling, aptitude testing and more.
What types of schools offer online accounting degrees?
Traditional colleges or universities
Many established public and private universities offer distance learning in addition to residential degree programs. Virtual courses from these established schools usually have the same curriculum and instructors as physical classes, and degrees from these schools tend to have the best job placement rates compared to other online schools. Because they tend to have rigorous admissions requirements and higher tuition rates, they are not ideal for all students.
Non- and not-for-profit online universities
There are several nonprofit or not-for-profit online colleges and universities that offer accounting degrees. Nonprofit and not-for-profit means the institution is dedicated to educational goals rather than building profits. These colleges and universities are tax-exempt, often receive federal or endowment funding and are legally required to invest any profits back into the school rather than distribute it to stakeholders. They tend to offer lower tuition than for-profit online colleges or traditional colleges or universities.
For-profit educational institutions
Many for-profit educational groups offer online accounting degrees that can make earning a degree more convenient, especially for working adults. Barriers to entry are typically lower than other types of online degree programs. Because there are many organizations like these, the quality of the programs is increasing as institutions compete for students. Be sure that these organizations are accredited and reputable in your industry.
Who should consider an online accounting degree?
Working professionals looking to advance their careers
Even if you have experience working in accounting or bookkeeping, you may need a Bachelor of Science in Accounting degree in order to advance your career at your current company or seek opportunities elsewhere.
Those looking to change careers
An online degree in accounting can be ideal if you want to broaden your scope of career options in the future but can’t afford or don’t want to quit working and attend a physical school full time.
Those with some college experience
Most online degree programs allow students to transfer credits from other accredited institutions, so if you have prior college credit but an unfinished degree, you may be able to put those towards an online accounting degree.
Working adults who have 15 or more hours a week
Online bachelor’s degrees in accounting are typically four-year commitments and tend to require around 15 to 20 hours a week. It may be possible to finish the degree faster if you can devote more time to your studies and assessments each week.
Online accounting program expert reviews
The University of Phoenix is a for-profit American educational institution. It has 91 campuses and extensive online learning programs, with many degree programs entirely online. Its online Bachelor of Science in Accounting program, called the BSACC, is designed to take 204 weeks to complete at a cost of just over $67,000 for tuition and fees.
Western Governors University is an American nonprofit, private online university based in Salt Lake City, Utah. Its online Bachelor of Science in Accounting program focuses on financial and cost accounting, auditing, tax accounting and other areas of accountancy. It takes four to five years for students with no prior college experience and about two years for those with an associate degree.
- Credit requirements: Western Governors’ Accounting degree program requires 121 competency units (CUs), WGU’s equivalent of credit hours. A full course load is considered 12 CUs per six-month term. If you are interested in becoming a Certified Public Accountant, you can also complete WGU’s Master in Accounting to meet the credit requirements to sit for the CPA exam.
- Flat rate terms: Instead of charging per course or per credit hour, Western Governors charges a flat rate per six-month term. Business undergraduate students pay $2,890 per term. Because you work at your own pace, the more courses you complete in one term, the more affordable your degree will be. You must also pay a one-time $65 application fee and a $145 resource fee per term. Most textbooks are provided electronically and do not have separate fees.
- Competency-based program: Students at WGU can receive credit for prior experience by demonstrating competence in areas they’ve already mastered. This can help students expedite their degree and make use of existing knowledge.
- Accounting curriculum: WGU’s Accounting program requires courses including Business, Composition, Spreadsheets, Algebra, Communication, Natural Science, Accounting, Business Communication, Macro and Microeconomics, Global Business, Ethics, Taxation, Business Law and more.
- Accreditation: Western Governors is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. It is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and accepts federal student aid and veterans’ benefits.
- Best for: professionals who want to move up in their company or field and have at least 15 hours per week to study and those who are motivated to complete a degree program quickly.
DeVry University is an American for-profit educational company owned by DeVry Educational Group. It offers many associate's, bachelor’s and master’s degree programs, including both a Bachelor and Master in Accounting.
Colorado Technical University is a for-profit university located in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Founded in 1965, CTU offers many degree programs in business, management and technology, with three physical campuses and over 90 percent of its students taking courses completely online. CTU’s Bachelor of Science in Accounting program was voted among the Best Online Bachelor’s Programs by U.S. News and World Report in 2016.
- Program requirements: Students at CTU must complete 183 credits to earn a Bachelor’s of Science in Accounting, which fulfills the requirements for students who plan to sit for the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam.
- Cost: The cost for a CTU Bachelor degree in Accounting is around $60,000 plus fees.
- Length: The program is designed to take 48 months. About 79 percent of students complete their degrees within that time.
- Preparation for several career paths: CTU’s Accounting degree is designed to prepare students for careers in many fields related to accounting and finance, including accountant, tax manager, credit analyst, auditor and budget analyst.
- Accreditation: CTU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. CTU’s business programs, including its accounting degree, are further accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP).
- Best for: professionals who have at least 15 hours per week for their studies and those who want to sit for the CPA exam.
Capella University is an online for-profit educational institution headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota and operated by the Capella Education Company. It was founded in 1993 and offers 142 undergraduate and graduate degree programs with 25 certificate options, including several that focus on accounting. Capella offers a traditional enrollment plan or a faster FlexPath route to create a self-paced education. A bachelor’s degree at Capella is designed to take between 36 and 48 months to complete and costs around $24,000 to $43,500 for students completing on schedule.
Strayer University is a private, for-profit higher education institution. It has several physical campuses across the United States and an extensive online distance-learning program. It offers many degree programs, including a Bachelor of Science in Accounting.
Founded in 1970, American InterContinential University is a for-profit educational institution originally founded in Switzerland and with current campuses in Atlanta, Georgia and Houston, Texas. AIU also has an extensive online learning program, including a Bachelor of Accounting degree that is designed to take 48 months at a cost of about $54,000.
- Focused program: The Bachelor of Accounting program provides fundamental and specialized knowledge in accounting, ethics, taxation, organizational management and more. It is rigorous and highly specialized, preparing students for several career paths in accountancy or finance.
- Curriculum requirements: AIU’s Accounting degree requires 180 total credits, which means that students who finish the program are eligible to sit for the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam.
- Prior learning and transfer credits: AIU offers a high transfer credit acceptance rate, allowing students to transfer up to 75 percent of qualifying credits needed for a degree. Additionally, students can receive credits for military service and work experience that is relevant to their degree.
- Financial aid: AIU offers several ways to save money on your education. Students may qualify for federal grants and loans. AIU offers institutional scholarships and grants to eligible and highly qualified students. Active military members receive a 45 percent discount on undergraduate tuition.
- Accreditation: American InterContinental University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Its business programs are additionally accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP).
- Best for: adult learners, especially those with transfer credits.
Colorado State University is a not-for-profit, public state university system, and Global Campus is its online campus. CSU-Global is designed for adult learners and offers degree programs in many fields, including a Bachelor of Science in Accounting.
- Set tuition: Undergraduate tuition costs around $8,400 per semester, for a total cost of about $67,000. Online students pay no student fees, and the tuition rate is guaranteed as long as students remain in good academic standing.
- Curriculum: The Bachelor of Science in Accounting requires 120 credit hours, divided into 17 three-credit core courses plus electives and general education requirements. Courses include Leadership, Ethics, Private Sector Finance, Quantitative Analysis, Business Taxation and more.
- Options for specialization: CSU-Global’s Accounting program offers a unique option to specialize in one of 17 areas, such as Data Management and Analysis, Project Management, Marketing or Strategic Communications. A specialization requires five additional upper-division courses (15 credit hours) and allows you to tailor your education to your career goals.
- Financial aid: CSU-Global students are entitled to the same financial aid opportunities as Colorado State’s residential students. You can apply for federal grants and loans, scholarships and military discounts.
- Transfer credits accepted: Many CSU-Global students have associate’s degrees or other prior college experience. CSU-Global accepts qualified transfer credits toward your degree, which can shorten your time to degree completion and decrease the cost of your education.
- Best for: adult learners who want a specialized accounting degree.
Information in this guide is general in nature and is intended for informational purposes only; it is not legal, health, investment or tax advice. ConsumerAffairs.com makes no representation as to the accuracy of the information provided and assumes no liability for any damages or loss arising from its use.
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