At Accounting Degrees Online, we have researched thousands of different accounting degrees. From Associates and Bachelors to Masters and terminal Doctorate degrees in Accounting. We have provided detail on the different types of accounting specialties (there are over 30). We have included over 9,000 accounting degree programs online and at campuses at different colleges around the United States. Here are some of the top accounting degrees that are available online (sorted by popularity):
|Type of Accounting Degree||Typical Length||Online Bachelor of Accounting||4 Years||Online Master of Accounting||2-3 Years||Online Masters in Finance||2-3 Years||Online Master in Professional Accounting||2-3 Years|
Still not sure? View all online accounting degrees.
Why a Career in Accounting?
Accounting as a career is a top choice for many business professionals looking for a steady income and career. Taxation and accounting has been an important part of business for hundreds of years. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (source) is expecting around 4% growth between now and 2029, with a median pay of around $71,500 per year.
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. 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 is: More time in school = Higher cost = More skills developed = More opportunity for advancement = Higher job status and pay.
What is the Difference Between General Accounting and CPA?
Jobs requiring CPA licensure are not interchangeable with general accounting positions. General accounting is related to tasks directly with the organization. This includes verifying legal activity and developing and preparing taxes that are later filed.
These positions will often require a Bachelor's degree in the field of business or accounting. Some may require little experience in the form of an internship, but no further education. This may change slightly based on the level of accounting or specific tasks, such as working with information systems.
Some tasks require holding a CPA licensure, such as actually filing the taxes from an organization. They perform auditing procedures when necessary to verify this information. Holding licensure eliminates conflicts with the professional filing taxes and the organization itself.
Holding a CPA also opens the door to external accounting opportunities. On a legal basis, CPAs have the ability to work with the state government and various regulators. With added responsibilities, professionals with a CPA also see higher salaries on average than general accountants.
Are There Online Accounting Programs Focusing on Earning the CPA?
Many universities gear their undergraduate and graduate accounting curriculum to meet CPA requirements. They often list CPA within the degree or business concentration for easy designation. With an average of 120 credit hours in a Bachelor's degree, students must find additional education that meets state requirements.
There are many ways to reach 150 total credit hours for state requirements. Students can pursue a Master's degree at 30 credit hours. As long as the proper amount of credit hours are geared toward accounting or business, it does not have to be in the same discipline.
Students without a background in business or accounting at the undergraduate level will likely need a Master's degree in this field. It can be accomplished by pursuing the accounting discipline or concentration within a Master of Business Administration. Some schools offer a quick five-year pathway to gain 150 total credit hours in the accounting discipline.
When looking at online programs, individuals should look at accounting accreditation. This can be regional accreditation that varies based on where the school is located. An example organization for industry-focused accreditation is the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).
The Top Types of Accounting Degrees
Number of Programs: 868 schools with Certificate Programs in Accounting in our online directory.
Generally, a high school diploma and some college training is enough to get a bookkeeping or clerical role. These roles focus on performing on-going transactional recording. Accounting 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, on-the-job training will be crucial. This teaches you about your specific firm's business environment and accounting procedures.
Number of Programs: 1,141 schools with Associates degrees in Accounting in our online directory.
An Associate’s Degree or Certificate program will offer you the opportunity to expand your accounting education beyond the basics. These programs usually last one to two years. They teach general accounting courses. This can improve your ability to learn your firm's business environment when you enter the workforce. It can also offer more specialized accounting courses.
An Associate's Degree or Certificate should decrease the amount of the on-the-job training you will need. This can increase the value you provide to firms on your first day of work. Most Associates in Accounting degrees are only a couple years long.
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. Courses include:
- Financial accounting (recording and reporting different types of economic transactions).
- 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).
- Auditing (how to statistically test accounting processes and financial statements for reliability and accuracy).
Some Accounting Bachelors Degree programs require core business courses in finance, economics, business law and management. This can prepare you to take more comprehensive roles in firms. You will interact more with workers and managers. You should be able to give a greater level of analysis and information processing. The Bachelors Degree in Accounting takes around 4 years to complete. With it, the right skills, effort and work experience you can expect advanced career opportunities, status and pay within your firm.
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.
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.
What Does an Accountant Do?
In a nutshell, accountants translate economic activity into dollars and cents. They identify, measure and communicate financial information about economic entities to interested parties. This means that accountants need to understand and influence the business operations that drive economic activity, the information environments that capture and report transactional and aggregated data and the end-users that demand financial information.
Workers need to perform work, make purchases and generate sales; managers need to motivate and measure performance and allocate resources; owners and creditors need to decide which firms offer the best value for their investments; and governments need to tax and provide public goods. For every type of specialized player and process in the economic supply chain, there is a specialized accountant. They might not assemble goods, directly interact with work teams, make strategic business decisions, hold investment assets or write laws and regulation (although there certainly are accountants who do each of these activities) but all accountants participate in the informational process which allows these activities to occur efficiently and effectively.
What Type of Education Is Needed?
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 is: More time in school = Higher cost = More skills developed = More opportunity for advancement = Higher job status and pay.
Accounting curricula span numerous branches:
- Financial: How to record and report transactions and account balances
- Managerial: How to promote and measure operational performance
- Information Systems: How to manage financial data and information
- Taxation: How to calculate and record tax obligations
- Auditing: How to test accounting systems and reports for accuracy
Accounting programs are offered at numerous levels, longer programs are able to cover more accounting branches in more depth:
- Certificate: Classes offered at or above the high school level
- Associate’s Degree: One to two year program after high school
- Bachelor’s Degree: Four year program after high school
- Master’s Degree: One to two year program after Bachelor’s Degree
- Doctorate Degree: Four to six year program after Bachelor’s Degree or Master’s Degree
What You Should Know About Accounting Careers
Since so much of what an accountant does is contingent on his/her firm’s specific business environment, an internship is an excellent way for you to find out what type of accounting and what type of firm is best for you. There are many paid and unpaid accounting and finance internships offered by public accounting firms, private companies and government agencies in which you can spend a summer or spring (tax season) learning about how accounting is performed at the specific organization.
Professional certifications also provide a gateway for accountants to increase their job responsibilities and paychecks. Usually, the certifying organizations require that you have achieved a specified level of education and have passed a qualifying exam to receive the certification and require that you earn CPE (Continuing Professional Education) credits every year to maintain your certification. A few of the best known certifications are the CPA (Certified Public Accountant), CMA (Certified Managerial Accountant), CIA (Certified Internal Auditor) and CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst). These special designations add prestige to an individual’s resume and may be desired, if not required, by employers. For example, the CPA designation is required to become a manager at most public accounting firms and the CMA designation, while not required, may be viewed as a substitute for a Master’s Degree to become a manager at a private company.
Many accountants also belong to professional organizations which signal their dedication to increasing their professional skills. Many of these organizations offer seminars and courses which satisfy certification boards’ CPE course requirements and publish periodicals to inform members of changes in laws, regulations, business procedures and research as well as other relevant business topics that help an accountant stay up-to-date with the latest developments and current events. A few such organizations are the AICPA (American Institute of Certified Public Accountants), IMA (Institute of Management Accountants, and the AAA (American Accounting Association).
Is Accounting a Worthwhile Field to Explore?
Absolutely! As laws change, corporate structures grow and business operations become more complex, accounting work only becomes more interesting. Gone are the days when accountants were needed as human calculators to “count beans.” Modern accountants bring process-oriented mindsets, analytical skills and business acumen to operate, improve and create organizations. They are clerks, analysts, auditors, managers, CFOs, CEOs and investors. They perform tasks in every step of the economic value chain. They own their own firms and run the largest organizations in the world. These individuals are highly sought after and are well paid for their work and expertise.
From the ancient Agricultural Age’s recording of farm production to the Industrial Age’s advanced product costing systems to the Information Age’s new revenue models, every economic advancement has been at least partly defined by the accounting advancements which accompanied it. Accountants have been and will continue to be a crucial part of the economy as long as the world of business continues to turn.
The Top Types of Accounting Specialty Degrees
Click on one of the below specialty programs to view colleges that have a degree in that accounting area.
- Accounting Administration
- Business Administration
- Business Finance
- Business Leadership
- Business Management
- Business Taxation
- Business Technology
- Computational Finance
- Computerized Accounting
- Corporate Accounting
- Corporate Finance and Investment
- Financial Accounting
- Financial Management
- Financial Services
- Forensic Accounting
- General Accounting
- Healthcare Administration
- Information Systems
- Insurance Services
- Managerial Accounting
- Professional Accounting
- Public Accounting
Accounting Degrees Online Guide
The Language of Business
“Accounting is the language of business” – This adage has graced many introductory accounting course notes and while it might seem like just a cute and contrite way to get a reader’s attention, it hints at the great variety of what accountants do.
Information is valuable. When one party in a relationship (i.e. investor-manager, manager-employee, government-company) has more information than the other party, there is the potential for that party to misrepresent reality in order to financially gain at the expense of others.
Over the past decade, there have been several major accounting scandals in the U.S. Not only have these scandals resulted in billions of dollars of lost income to investors, shareholders, bondholders, suppliers and government, they have cost countless people their jobs and retirement savings and have caused several corporations to shut their doors.
Choosing an Accounting School
Life is full of important decisions, and choosing the right accounting school is no exception. You may feel some anxiety as you consider your options, but life’s big questions can be made less daunting by mulling over a few smaller questions. If asking yourself “Which accounting school should I attend?” is too daunting, consider some smaller, more specific questions. Identify which questions are most important to you and let the answers to those questions guide you.
What is the Accounting Degree for Me?
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.
What is accounting?
In general terms, accounting is simply a method of keeping track of the financial transactions associated with any one entity and then reporting on the financial status of that entity to interested parties. A set of guidelines has evolved which establishes accepted protocol for the accounting process. This protocol is commonly known as Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP.)
GAAP rules require accountants to use a system known as double-entry accounting. In double-entry accounting, each debit that is recorded must be offset by recording a credit of equal value somewhere else on the ledger. This system helps to ensure the accuracy of accounting entries by making it easier to spot errors.
Debits are always recorded on the left side of the ledger and credits are recorded on the right. However, accountants follow a different set of rules for each category of transactions recorded. For example, when reporting an asset, an increase is recorded in the debit column and a decrease is recorded in the credit column. When reporting a liability the situation is reversed. There is a decrease to the debit column and an increase to the credit column.
As in any specialized profession, accounting practitioners must develop a specific vocabulary that is unique to their own line of work. Some of the basic terms associated with accounting are defined below.
- Revenue – revenue is any income earned by the business. Revenue is recorded with a decrease to the debit column and an increase to the credit column.
- Expenses – common expenses include salaries and wages, utilities, rent payments, interest payments, materials and supplies. Expenses are recorded as an increase in the debit column and a decrease in the credit column.
- Assets – assets are all the things owned by the company; such as inventory, buildings, trademarks, patents and accounts receivable. The value of assets is calculated as (assets = liabilities + equity).
- Liabilities – these are the obligations of the company, such as outstanding loans and accounts payable. For accounting purposes, liabilities are usually divided between short-term liabilities (generally those due to be paid within a year or less), and long-term liabilities (which will not become due for over one year).
- Balance sheet – this report shows all the assets and liabilities the company has accrued since its inception. It is helpful to think of the balance sheet as a snapshot of the company’s financial picture on a particular day.
- Income statement – this statement summarizes how much money has been made or lost by the company in a certain period of time. Income statements may cover any time period, but are typically produced monthly, quarterly and annually.
- Cash flow statement – the cash flow statement is used to track the timing of cash revenues coming into the business and cash payments going out of the business. A review of information in the cash flow statement is critical in determining if a business will be able to pay its bills on time.
- Owner’s equity – the term owner’s equity is another way of describing the owner’s claims to the assets of the company. Generally, an owner’s equity will increase as his liability decreases; for example when loans are paid off. The value of equity may be calculated as (equity = assets – liability).
These are just a few of the most common terms used in accountancy. Further exploration of this topic will reveal many additional unique terms and concepts used in advanced accounting.
Many people know exactly what they want to be when they grow up. Whether they are following a family member’s footsteps, were inspired by an experience, or simply made a decision and stuck with it, they know in which direction they’d like to take their career.
But for others, choosing a college major is difficult enough, let alone deciding what to do once they’ve earned their degree! If you’ve chosen accounting as your major, there are several career options to explore.
In the most general sense, a CPA, or Certified Public Accountant, is an individual who has met certain requirements in education, experience and examination. CPAs are certified to provide a broad range of financial advisory and external accounting services for their clients. Some services provided by public accountants include assurance (audit), tax compliance and advisory, mergers and acquisitions due diligence, and estate and financial planning.
Some people use the words bookkeeper and accountant interchangeably, but the functions of bookkeepers and accountants are distinct. Bookkeepers are typically responsible for keeping detailed records of the financial transactions for a business. While accountants are expected to establish and oversee systems the business can use to monitor its financial status and make strategic decisions.
Finding an Accounting Internship
Internships are a valuable source of training for Accounting majors. Many universities assist upperclassmen with placement in internships so they may gain the experience needed to obtain the career of their choice. However, smaller colleges may not have the resources available to offer this kind of assistance, so in those instances, it is up to each student to find an internship on his or her own. Feel free to view the student interviews section to see what it is like to be an accounting student.