Top 10 Online Colleges for Accounting

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, accounting positions are expected to grow 11 percent over the next ten years, faster than positions in other industries, creating a need for individuals who have successfully completed programs at online colleges for accounting. The average median pay for an accountant in 2015 was $67,190 per year. Accountants prepare and examine financial records, ensuring that they are accurate and that taxes are paid properly. They also assess financial operations and help their company operate as efficiently as possible.

It is possible to obtain an accounting position without a degree, but very few companies will hire someone as an accountant without at least a bachelor’s degree. Any accountant who files a report with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) must be a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). A CPA must be licensed by the state Board of Accountancy. This means passing a state licensing examination and meeting other requirements that may be specific to the state where the accountant plans to practice. In order to sit for the examination in most states, an individual must have 150-credit hours of college study. Because most bachelor’s degree programs are only 120 hours, individuals must obtain an additional 30 hours of education in order to take the CPA examination. For this reason, many colleges offer a five-year combined bachelor and master’s degree program that meets the 150-hour requirement.

The top ten accounting degrees in the country offer degree programs that prepare students to sit for the CPA examination in their state. In addition, all schools are accredited, indicating that the programs meet or exceed criteria set forth by an accrediting agency that indicate excellence in education as well as a focus on improving any areas identified upon review. They have also been ranked highly by organizations like U.S. News and World Report, Best College Reviews, The Best Schools and Niche.

There are many variables that go into choosing a good accounting program. It is often best to choose schools with accounting concentrations. This allows students to gain insight into a particular aspect of the accounting industry, such as financial accounting, tax accounting or auditing. Because different accounting positions require different knowledge, concentrations include additional coursework that focuses on that particular type of accounting. Many times, this means additional electives or specific classes in that area of expertise.

Cost is also a factor in determining whether an accounting program ranks highly. Lower tuition costs allow students to complete their education with minimal debt. Another factor considered is whether the school offers any online classes that would make it easier for adult learners with work, family and social obligations to advance their current career or move into a new career in accounting. All of these colleges offer accounting programs that can be completed entirely online, something that is very beneficial for adult learners.

10. University of Minnesota Crookston

The University of Minnesota Crookston is a public co-educational institution and one of five campuses in the University of Minnesota system. There are more than 1,800 students in attendance with over half of them attending online programs. It has been named one of the top online colleges for accounting due to its small class sizes and flexibility. The program provides students with the fundamental techniques necessary to assist clients and firms with financial reports as well as advanced techniques in accounting practices. Courses outside of the major are also included that complement the accounting degree. Upon completion of the 120-credit hour program, students may take certification examinations through the campus to become a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Management Accountant or Certified Internal Auditor at a four-year university rather than completing a full master’s degree. Because some states require 150 credit hours to sit for the examination, students should check with their state licensing board to determine if they must take additional coursework to sit for the exam.

9. Northeastern University

Northeastern University has been one of the top online colleges since they began offering degrees as a forward-thinking process. They offer over 70 programs, degrees and certificates completely online, creating a path for adult learners to further their education. As a top online college for accounting, their program teaches students to understand the numbers behind business, helping companies achieve financial goals and allowing them to make important economic decisions. The college offers an online Bachelor of Science in Finance and accounting Management that is designed to help students leverage assets, manage budgets, achieve financial efficiency and maximize investments. The program is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.

Tuition for the program is $504 per credit hour with a total estimated cost of $60,480. Attending full-time, it is expected that the program takes four years to complete and approximately seven years if attending part-time. The program is only 120-credit hours so students may need to obtain a graduate degree in Finance or Taxation in order to sit for the CPA examination in their state.

8. University of Alabama Birmingham

The University of Alabama Birmingham has been rated a top online college for accounting as students are provided the complete university experience in a cutting-edge online format. The program is endorsed by the Institute of Management Accountants and enables students to pursue a Certified Management Accountant Credential. The university offers an online bachelor’s and master’s degree in accounting. Students may choose the fast-track option in order to complete both degrees in as little as five years in order to sit for the CPA examination in their state. The university is accredited by the Southern Association of College and Schools Commission on Colleges and the Collat School of Business is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.

Admission to the fast track program requires that students complete 15 hours at the University of Alabama Birmingham and be within 45 credit hours of graduation. Students must have a GPA of 3.4 or higher and have completed Financial Accounting I and II, as well as Accounting Information Systems, with a “B” or higher.

7. Penn State University World Campus

Penn State is a respected and recognized leader in higher education and students who earn degrees from the online world campus are attending one of the top online colleges. The accounting program offered online is the same rigorous curriculum that students who attend traditional classes at Penn state receive. Tuition is $542 per credit hour for the online accounting program. The program is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, one of only a few online programs accredited by the organization. The bachelor’s degree prepares students to sit for examinations for Certified Management Accountant, Certified Internal Auditor, Certified Fraud Examiner or Chartered Global Management Accountant. Because each state has education requirements for the Certified Public Accountant examination, some of which require 150-credit hours of higher education, students are encouraged to contact their state licensing board to determine if a bachelor’s degree satisfies the educational requirements.

6. Southern New Hampshire University

Southern New Hampshire University offers an accelerated track online accounting degree that provides graduates with the credits they need to sit for the CPA examination in any state. The program is a combination bachelor’s and master’s degree. By completing the fast track program, students can save tuition costs by completing both degrees in less time than it would take to complete them individually. Online tuition is $320 per credit hour for regular students and $225 per credit hour for active duty military and their spouses. The college is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges and the business college is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs.

5. Regis University

The Bachelor of Science in Accounting offered through the Regis University WorldClass allows students to earn their degree in an accelerated format. The classes are eight weeks and provide students with the same rigorous academics that students taking the traditional classroom program receive. Students develop analytical and quantitative skills, preparing students for careers in private business, government or non-profit agencies as well as public accounting firms. Students who plan to sit for the CPA are offered privileged access to Becker CPA Exam Review Courses through a $400 partner discount. In addition, students may work on both a bachelor’s and master’s degree through the combined degree program. This is designed for students who will require 150-credit hours in order to sit for the CPA examination in their state. The university is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Tuition is $1,066 per credit hour.  An internship may also be required to complete the accelerated program. Students should discuss all requirements with an admissions counselor.

4. University of Maryland University College

The University of Maryland University College offers a bachelor’s in accounting that is available completely online. The program combines theory and practice to prepare students for careers in the accounting industry, focusing on analysis and reporting economic activities. Students develop managerial accounting, budgeting, systems, internal controls and other skills related to the economics of businesses and individuals. The estimated cost to earn the degree without transfer credits is $34,080. It is a 120-hour program so students whose state requires 150-credit hours of higher education to sit for the CPA examination may need to complete additional courses in order to qualify. Students who are required to complete 150-credit hours to sit for the CPA examination can choose to continue their education online through the University of Maryland University College at the Master’s level. The estimated total cost to complete the program is $16,488.

Students must have completed 15 credits of undergraduate accounting with a grade of “C” or better in each course before enrolling in graduate courses. The undergraduate degree can be completed simultaneously with the graduate degree after the student has completed 15 undergraduate credits.

3. Clarion University

As one of the top online colleges for accounting, Clarion University allows students to fit higher education into their busy schedule. The university offers a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with an Accounting concentration as well as a Master of Science in Accounting that can be earned completely online. Full-time tuition for Pennsylvania residents is $3,619 and $3,909 for non-residents. The online accounting degrees prepare students to succeed in the accounting and finance industry with small class sizes and a rigorous curriculum. Students who advance to the master’s program are able to sit for the CPA examination in their state as it meets the 150-credit hour requirement.

In order to enroll in the graduate program, students must have completed Financial Accounting, Managerial Accounting, Intermediate Accounting, Federal Taxation and Auditing at the undergraduate level.

2. Old Dominion University

Old dominion University offers one of the top online accounting programs that is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. The program provides a broad business training as well as skills and knowledge in accounting. Residents pay $325 per credit hour while non-Virginia residents pay $355 per credit hour. The Bachelor of Arts program requires completion of 120-credit hours and at least 30 credit hours must be completed at Old Dominion University. Students who plan to sit for the CPA examination in their state may be required to complete an additional 30 credits beyond the bachelor’s degree. Those who complete the undergraduate program at Old Dominion may need to further their education with a graduate degree, but there is no online Master of Accountancy program offered at Old Dominion.

1. Colorado State University

The top online college for accounting in the country is at Colorado State University. Colorado State University offers a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration with an Accounting concentration. The program prepares students for employment in public, private or governmental accountants. Students develop an understanding of fundamental accounting concepts and principles. The undergraduate program prepares students to sit for the CPA examination in Colorado, but since each state has different requirements, students are encouraged to check with the licensing office in the state where they intend to practice. Tuition $444 per credit hour.

The top online colleges for accounting degrees provide the opportunity for individuals who have work, family or social obligations that prevent them from attending traditional classrooms to achieve their higher education goals, either to advance in a current career or to move into a new career.


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