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Online Degree in Accounting

Learn about online degrees in accounting and picking the right school.

Online degrees in accounting are available at a variety of online universities. [©Jupiter Images, 2010]
©Jupiter Images, 2010
Online degrees in accounting are available at a variety of online universities.

Students who are ready to attain their accounting degree, but are not able to do so at a regular university, should consider an online degree in accounting. An accounting degree that is earned online through an accredited university will open the same doors and provide the same career trajectory as one earned in the classroom. Students will receive the same level of training that their classroom-based counterparts get, but with a better ability to balance their lives.

Curriculum and Operations

Online accounting degrees are available at all levels, from certifications, all the way up to master's-level work.

For example, an accounting certificate can be earned from many community education or distance learning programs. However, the types of certificates vary. For example, a community college offering a certification in accounting on the way to an associate degree is likely preparing that student for lower level accounting jobs, such as a clerk or assistant position. However, some schools offer accounting certifications as a post-graduate option. They would require or strongly suggest a prerequisite four-year degree in a related field prior to taking a certification course, and often structure their course to meet continuing education requirements. One example of this is the accounting certificate offered by the UC Berkeley's Extension Program, which is entirely online, but aimed at mid-career professionals.

Other than certifications, potential accountants can find many types of degree programs online. Starting at the bachelor's degree level, example universities include some of the more well-known online universities such as Kaplan University, which offers a Bachelor of Science in accounting and Capella University, which offers a Bachelor of Science degree in business with an accounting specialization.

However, regular brick-and-mortar universities, both public and private, offer degrees that can be earned online, too. For example, the University of Massachusetts, which has physical campuses in Amherst, Boston, Dartmouth, Lowell and Worcester, has one of the widest varieties of online degrees available. UMass offers a bachelor's degree in business studies, wherein students can choose to focus on accountancy.

Obviously, both Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees are available in the accounting field. The difference between the two lies in the type and amount of courses required of the student. For example, a Bachelor of Science may focus more on the science and math aspects of accounting, and require less humanities credits overall. The University of Phoenix offers a Bachelor of Science in business with an accounting concentration.

Of course, online master's degrees are also widely available, and the accounting major is no exception. DeVry University's Keller School of Management is just one example of this higher achievement.

Of course, variations exist for those looking to specialize or study a very particular curriculum. For example, the University of Toledo has a program that focuses on types of accounting software and computer programs, as opposed to the principles of accounting. In addition, U.S. News & World Report named forensic accounting one of the 20 fastest-growing jobs in the U.S.

Curriculum requirements for online accounting degrees will vary based on their level. Bachelor's and master's candidates may be required to complete internships, capstone projects or similar offline requirements. In addition, those looking to attain certified public accountant (CPA) licensure will need to ascertain and complete state requirements, such as work-study hours or licensure tests.

Costs and Materials

Upon perusing the tuition page of a targeted online college, students will find that the cost of attending college online is likely similar, if not more, than the cost of attending a classroom-based university program. One exception is, of course, that meals and boarding are not included in pricing structures.

Student should also be conscious of additional costs needed to complete an online program, like high-speed internet access, books and other materials. Financial aid may be available for those seeking a degree.

Other Concerns

As with any online learning, choosing a school or agency can be very difficult. Web searches turn up thousands of schools boasting the best classes. Students need to be particularly wary in making their choice, and carefully research the credentials of the school.

For those students seeking a degree in accounting, a credentialed college is a must. Potential students should check with the admissions office, or with the U.S. Department of Educations Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions. This website also houses a valuable FAQ page on accreditation and degree mills, which are agencies that grant fake degrees for a price. Careful research is a must.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states a positive outlook for accounting and related positions. In addition, the University of Wyoming notes that the demand for accountants outpaces the supply, and cites that as one of its main reasons for creating its online accounting programs.

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