Online Accounting Degrees

Accountants are responsible for maintaining financial records and ensuring that an organization’s bottom line is reflected in the numbers. Because of the crucial role they play in a firm’s financial viability, demand for accredited accounting professionals is consistently high, and the job outlook in the field is projected to grow 11% between 2014 and 2024.

Most accountants hold at least a bachelor’s degree, but due to increased competition in the field, many professionals seek out master’s degrees to get an edge in the job market. Graduates can further boost their job prospects with certifications in specific fields of accounting. Becoming a certified public accountant (CPA), for example, can open the door to more job opportunities and higher salaries.

Many individuals in this field work as tax accountants, public accountants, or bookkeepers while earning an advanced degree that will lead to high salary careers, such as budget analysts, auditors, or forensic accountants. An increasing number of busy professionals choose to pursue an accounting degree online as a flexible alternative to traditional classroom learning.

Online Accounting Degree Overview

Degree Avg Degree Cost Avg Loan Default Rate Time Commitment Early Career Pay Mid-Career Pay Unemployment Rate
Associate $13,412 15.75% 2 years $33,700 $46,700 8.2%
Bachelor's $18,435 11.76% 4+ years $49,050 $80,500 4.6%
Master's $19,748 9.01% 1+ years $55,600 $92,600 3.1%
Whether you are new to the field, or looking to advance in your current career, you should weigh the costs and time of getting a new degree against its benefits. There is no one-size-fits-all degree. The best choice for you will depend on your current educational background, financial standing, employment history, and area of interest. For instance, those with no experience may want to consider an associate degree, due to its shorter time commitment and lower cost. If finances are tight for you, then you should prioritize the student loan debt and default categories, as you will want to choose a degree that offers you the best chance of improving your financial standing with minimal risk. If your employer or someone else is paying for your education, then you might want to consider the degree that will offer you the highest salary. All salary information is sourced from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and/or PayScale

An accredited online accounting degree covers skills for a variety of professional roles, including budget analysis, risk assessment, regulatory compliance, auditing, tax accounting, and payroll management. While any candidate for an accounting job will have at least an associate degree, a bachelor’s degree or higher will increase both salary expectations and employment prospects.

Choosing Your Accounting Career

Average Accounting Salaries

$102,750
$65,940
$78,620
$36,430
$36,260

Management Accountant

Salary: $102,750
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
6% 2,467,500 Bachelor's MBA / CPA / MAcc / CMA recommended; not required

A management accountant is a high-level position in a business or professional organization, responsible for overseeing and managing a wide range of financial activities. They are expected to monitor spending, explain financial outlooks, cut unnecessary expenses, and even formulate growth strategies. Because management accountants are expected to fill a variety of roles, they are usually equipped with several licenses, certifications, and online accounting degrees. Many will be Certified Public Accountants (CPA) and have a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree. Some earn their accounting degree online while working.

Certified Public Accountant

Salary: $65,940
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
11% 1,332,700 Bachelor's CPA Exam

A Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is an accredited title given to professionals who have completed the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination. This authorizes accounting professionals to prepare, evaluate, and consent to the viability of financial statements. CPAs are also certified for the process of auditing clients’ financial statements. Many accountants strive to become CPAs to improve their employment prospects and diversify their skillsets. They are usually required to complete a five-year degree program, which may be obtained through an online accounting degree.

Financial Analyst

Salary: $78,620
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
12% 227,600 Bachelor's FINRA often required, most employers will sponsor licensure

Financial analysts provide insight on matters related to investment activity. They assess the performance of stocks, bonds, acquisitions, and other ventures, and offer financial guidance to managers and executives. They may work independently on a contract basis, or as salaried employees of a large corporation. Financial analysts are usually required to be certified by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) to work with securities, although many employers will sponsor the licensing process. Online accounting degrees help working financial analysts advance their professional standing and salary expectations.

Accounting Clerk

Salary: $36,430
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
-8% 1,760,300 Bachelor's None

Accounting clerks typically specialize in one area of the accounting department, such as billing, payroll, or compliance. Successful accounting clerks will have at least a bachelor’s, master’s, or other accredited online accounting degree. While the growth rate for accounting clerks is expected to decline in coming years, many in this job position set their sights on a more general professional accounting role, such as a bookkeeper.

Billing Clerk

Salary: $36,260
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
6% 1,426,500 High School Diploma or Equivalent None

Billing clerks create and send invoices to clients and customers. They are also expected to calculate and keep records of any data related to billing and invoicing. Billing clerks are not always required to have an accounting degree, but a higher degree typically results in a higher salary.

Online Accounting Degrees

Associate

An associate degree in accounting provides students with a skillset to pursue entry-level accounting jobs. While it is the lowest level of postsecondary degrees, it is sufficient for a number of professional roles, including bookkeeper, payroll clerk, accounting assistant, billing clerk, and even managerial training. Many professionals work towards an associate accounting degree online, which can be finished in less than two years for an average cost of $13,412.00.

Sample Courses
Federal Taxation, Statistical Analysis, Managerial Accounting, Systems Analysis, and Marketing
Common Majors
Payroll Accounting, Cost Accounting, and Taxation
Potential Jobs
Tax Accountant, Payroll Clerk, Bookkeeper, Financial Controller, and Public Accountant
Average Income
$33,700
Employment Prospects
6% growth (2014-2024)

Bachelor’s

A bachelor's online accounting degree typically takes four years to complete and provides graduates with a firm footing for a career in accounting. Professionals who have obtained a bachelor's degree in accounting often work as staff accountants, financial analysts, tax specialists, and even Certified Public Accountants (once they've completed the CPA exam). The average cost for an accredited online accounting degree is $18,435.00.

Sample Courses
Macroeconomics, Business Finance, Corporate Taxation, Auditing, Marketing, and Statistics
Common Majors
Accounting, Taxation, and Information Systems
Potential Jobs
Public Accountant, Management Accountant, Financial Analyst, Internal Auditor, Government Accountant, Budget Analyst, and Purchasing Manager
Average Income
$49,050
Employment Prospects
12% growth (2014-2024)

The Top 5 Online Bachelor's Degrees in Accounting

Rank School Name School Logo City Cost
1

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities

Minneapolis
  • in-state tuition: $13,555
  • out-of-state tuition: $19,805
2

East Carolina University

Greenville
  • in-state tuition: $6,143
  • out-of-state tuition: $20,256
3

Pennsylvania State University - Main Campus

University Park
  • in-state tuition: $16,992
  • out-of-state tuition: $29,566
4

University of Arkansas

  • in-state tuition: $7,818
  • out-of-state tuition: $19,074
5

Indiana Wesleyan University

Marion
  • annually: $23,628

See full rankings

Master’s

A master's degree in accounting ensures a higher level of speciality in the field, and can equip candidates for careers in corporate accounting, financial analysis, tax examination, and even business management. Professionals with a master's degree in accounting typically pursue CPA (Certified Public Accountant) or CMA (Certified Management Accountant) licenses. Online accounting degrees are available at the master's level and can be completed in less than two years. The average cost for a master's online accounting degree is $19,748.

Sample Courses
Auditing, Business Law, Corporate Management, Quantitative Analysis, and Financial Reporting
Common Majors
Financial Accounting, Management, Corporate Strategy, and Auditing
Potential Jobs
Compliance Manager, Budget Analyst, Treasurer, Tax Examiner, Actuary, and Auditor
Average Income
$55,600
Employment Prospects
3% growth (2014-2024)

The Top 5 Online Master's Degrees in Accounting

Rank School Name School Logo City Cost
1

University of Connecticut

Storrs
  • in-state tuition: $12,022
  • out-of-state tuition: $30,970
2

Florida Atlantic University

Boca Raton
  • in-state tuition: $4,790
  • out-of-state tuition: $17,234
3

Nova Southeastern University

Fort Lauderdale
  • annually: $25,430
4

Syracuse University

Syracuse
  • annually: $40,458
5

Liberty University

Lynchburg
  • annually: $20,768

See full rankings

Doctorate

A doctorate in accounting is the terminal degree for the field. Doctorate degree-holders stand out among their peers as exceptionally skilled finance and accounting experts. A doctorate online accounting degree is also an ideal objective for professionals wishing to teach or enter the world of academia. These programs are usually completed in four years.

Sample Courses
Global Economics, Quantitative Research, Data Mining, Linear Algebra, Empirical Research, and Mathematical Statistics
Common Majors
Accounting Theory, Auditing, and Accounting Research
Potential Jobs
Forensic Accountant, Chief Financial Officer, Business Researcher, and Consultant
Average Income
N/A
Employment Prospects
N/A

Professional Requirements

CPA Exam

The Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination (CPA Exam) is taken by accounting professionals who wish to become certified public accountants in the U.S. CPA-certified workers are equipped with a range of accounting skills, including technical know-how, commitment to procedure, analytical skills, and communications. The exam is divided into four sections: business law and professional responsibilities; auditing; accounting and reporting (taxation, managerial, and governmental and nonprofit organizations); and financial accounting and reporting (business enterprises). Some states require CPAs to maintain and improve their skills through continuing education and professional development courses.

Is it required?

Varies by state

How long will it take?

2 days

CMA Exam

The Certified Management Accountant is taken by professionals who are seeking accreditation for financial and accounting management skills. Those who are qualified to sit the exam have experience in financial planning, business decisions, analytics, and control. The exam itself emphasizes financial planning, analysis, control, and decision support. CMA candidates must complete a number of educational and professional experiences, including a bachelor’s degree, two years of continuous professional/workplace experience, and 30 hours of Continuing Professional Education (CPE) credits.

Is it required?

No

How long will it take?

Two 4-hour sections

CIA Exam

The Certified Professional Auditor (CIA) is the professional designation administered by the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA), and is taken by accountants who plan to specialize in the field of internal auditing. CIAs are required to take continuing education courses to maintain their IIA certification.

Is it required?

No

How long will it take?

3 parts totaling 6.5 hours

CFE Exam

The Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) Exam is taken by accounting professionals looking to specialize in the field of fraud prevention, detection, and investigation. It is administered by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. CFEs demonstrate a wide professional skillset relating to fraud, including deterrence, scheming, investigation, and law. Those wishing to take the CFE Exam must be ACFE members and have approved CFE Exam applications on file.

Is it required?

No

How long will it take?

Four sections totalling 500 questions

Enrolled Agent

Enrolled Agents (EA) are federally licensed tax practitioners who are authorized to represent taxpayers at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). EAs advise, represent, and prepare tax returns for individuals and organizations. Enrolled Agents must pass the Enrolled Agent Exam, which assesses the candidate’s knowledge of all areas of U.S. tax code, or they must have worked at the IRS for at least five years in a position heavily involved in tax code application and regulation. To renew their licence, EAs must complete 72 continuing education (CE) credit hours over the three-year renewal period.

Is it required?

No

How long will it take?

1 day (three parts)

Certified Government Financial Manager

Certified Government Financial Managers (CGFM) are accounting professionals who have been accredited by the Association of Government Accountants (AGA). These professionals have experience in government accounting and financial management. CGFMs must pass three examinations: Governmental Environment, Governmental Accounting, Financial Reporting and Budgeting, and Governmental Financial Management and Control. To maintain their certification, CGFMs must renew annually and complete 80 continuing professional education credits every two years.

Is it required?

No

How long will it take?

Three parts (2 hours, 15 minutes each)

Certified Financial Planner

Certified Financial Planners (CFP) are granted their certifications by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards. Those who pass demonstrate for employers that they are equipped to practice as independent financial planners. To maintain their certification, CFPs must complete 30 credit hours of continuing education every two years. This process also involves a renewal application and fee.

Is it required?

No

How long will it take?

1 day (170 multiple-choice questions)