Top Accounting Degrees Online

One of the great things about the field of accounting is that there is a job for every education level.  Each degree level and program offers its own curriculum so it is important to understand what courses and skills will be covered in a specific program before beginning your educational journey.

As you would expect, the general equation typically is:  More time in school = Higher cost = More skills developed = More opportunity for advancement = Higher job status and pay.

Accounting Certificate

Number of Programs: 868 schools with Certificate Programs in Accounting in our online directory.

Generally, a high school diploma and perhaps some college training is sufficient to get a bookkeeping or clerical role. These roles typically focus on performing on-going transactional recording so education programs at this level tend to focus on accounting fundamentals and basic administrative skills.  You will learn how to account for transactions in a structured business environment. As you transition to the workplace, then, on-the-job training will be crucial to teach you about your specific firm's business environment and accounting procedures.

Associates Degree in Accounting

Number of Programs: 1,141 schools with Associates degrees in Accounting in our online directory.

An Associate’s Degree or additional Certificate program will offer you the opportunity to expand your accounting education beyond the basics. These programs usually last one to two years and will either give you more general accounting courses, which will improve your ability to learn your firm's business environment when you enter the workforce, or will offer some specialist accounting courses, which can help you learn more detailed accounting procedures for a specialized function. 

In either case, an Associate's Degree or Certificate will decrease the amount of the on-the-job training you will need and will increase the value you provide to firms on your first day of work. Given the short duration of the Associate's Degree program, though, most students will not have time to pursue the broad business curriculum or analytical skills that most firms require for significant career advancement.

Bachelors Degree in Accounting

Number of Programs: 1,224 schools with Bachelors degrees in Accounting in our online directory.

If you pursue a Bachelor’s Degree you can expect to take between four and eight accounting courses over four years. The course load usually will include multiple classes on financial accounting (recording and reporting different types of economic transactions) and at least one class on managerial accounting (measuring operational costs, analyzing business performance, making business decisions), accounting information systems (using technology like enterprise resource planning systems and databases to manage financial data and generate usable information), taxation (how to calculate and account for taxes according to current statute) and auditing (how to statistically test accounting processes and financial statements for reliability and accuracy). 

By also requiring students to take core business courses in finance, economics, business law and management, an Accounting Bachelors Degree program will prepare you to take more comprehensive roles in firms: You will interact more with workers and managers and will be expected to provide a greater level of analysis and information processing, not just transactional recording.  Although the Bachelors Degree in Accounting takes significantly more time than an Associates Degree, with it, the right skills, effort and work experience you can expect advanced career opportunities, status and pay within your firm.

Masters Degree in Accounting

Number of Programs: 810 schools with Masters degrees in Accounting in our online directory.

A Master’s Degree is a one to two year program which will prepare you take on expanded responsibility in organizations. These programs focus on both refining the technical accounting skills developed in your Bachelors Degree program and developing general management skills.  In addition to specializing in a particular branch of accounting (i.e. financial, managerial, audit, information systems, taxation etc.) you will usually spend time studying business cases, working in teams, making presentations and, perhaps, assisting in research projects or teaching. 

A Masters Degree in Accounting can give you the skills to not only understand and perform in firms' business environments and accounting processes but to build and improve them. Your analytical and problem-solving skills and your ability to communicate to and work with others will make you a very valuable addition to a firm as a senior analyst or manager or to an educational institution as a lecturer in accounting.

Doctorate Degree in Accounting

Number of Programs: 138 schools with Doctorate degrees in Accounting in our online directory.

A Doctorate Degree program is a four to six year endeavor which will prepare you to perform research and teaching in high-level accounting. You will take advanced courses in accounting and economic theory, research methods and statistics and will need to perform independent research and teaching prior to graduation. Given the deep level of study in a doctorate program, you will need to specialize in a branch of accounting (i.e. financial, managerial, audit, information systems, taxation, etc.) and might also specialize in a particular research method (i.e. analytical modeling, archival, experimental, field, etc.). 

While you might decide to become a business consultant or corporate researcher after achieving your degree, the intent of most Doctorate Degree programs is for you to become a professor. This intent is significantly different from that of most Master's Degree programs so, accordingly,  many doctoral programs do not require you to first obtain a Master's Degree. By getting a Doctorate Degree you will learn how to educate future accountants and you will learn how to advance the study of accounting for the benefit of the field in general.