What Can I Expect from an Online Master’s in Accounting Program?

Online master’s in accounting programs offer convenience and flexibility to students without sacrificing the quality of education provided at traditional brick-and-mortar university campuses. By eliminating the need to commute to campus, online programs make it easier for students to continue working within their industry while they further their education. With so many different online offerings available, research all your options to find the best program for your specific situation.

Available concentrations

If you’re interested in a particular aspect of accounting, you should look for programs that allow you to focus your studies on that area of concentration. Some of the most common concentration options for master’s in accounting programs include:

  • Taxation: Explores the federal income tax system, giving students the tools they need to determine individual income tax and intelligently analyze a variety of tax accounting, planning, and auditing situations.
  • Corporate Accounting: Covers corporate accounting standards and how to apply them to business transactions and practices. Corporate taxation regulations, investor and creditor dynamics, different asset valuation approaches, and capital budgeting techniques are also reviewed.
  • Forensic Accounting: Prepares graduates for a career in fraud, embezzlement, and theft investigation. Students will hone their investigative skills, learning how to prevent fraud, detect ongoing criminal activity, and aid in prosecuting cases involving financial crimes.
  • International Accounting: Teaches students how financial concepts relevant to international markets differ from the generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) of the United States and the regulations and requirements regarding international tax compliance.
  • Public Accounting: Prepares students to help businesses and individuals make ethically and fiscally responsible financial decisions. Coursework covers business law, tax compliance, and accounting concepts.
  • Auditing: Addresses the ethical standards of the financial industry, the computer technology used for auditing purposes, and various reporting options used in the auditing process.

Common degree curriculum

The curriculum offered in online master’s in accounting programs will differ between schools, as many factors can affect coursework. Some programs may require on-campus classes, accelerated programs may offer less variety, and any specialty you choose will also affect your curriculum.

Although the curriculum varies, some core courses are found in most programs, including:

  • Accounting Information Systems: Examine the best practices for creating, implementing, and managing manual and computerized accounting systems.
  • Business Law and Ethics: Review the framework provided under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act that helps ensure you meet legal and ethical obligations to clients and stakeholders.
  • Financial Research and Compliance: Learn more about GAAP, international accounting standards (IAS), and international financial reporting standards (IFRS).
  • Advanced Audit: Delve into advanced auditing concepts and practices.
  • Advanced Taxation: Expand your understanding of the theory and practices of tax accounting.

Certification and license preparation

In addition to your master’s in accounting, you may need to earn more credentials to advance in this field. Some of the most valuable certification and licensure programs for accountants include:

  • Certified Public Accountant: An online master’s in accounting program can prepare you for the CPA exam. This certification identifies accountants as highly qualified financial professionals and allows them to sign client tax returns and represent them to the IRS in the event of an audit.
  • Certified Management Accountant: Completing an online master’s in accounting program gives you the knowledge to sit for the CMA exam offered by the Institute of Management Accountants. The CMA designation demonstrates that you have the unique expertise and skills required to manage company accounting, allowing you to pursue executive-level accounting positions.
  • Certified Internal Auditor: A master’s in accounting with a concentration in auditing should prepare you to pass the Institute of Internal Auditors’s CIA exam. This credential is globally recognized and demonstrates an auditor knows how to perform competent internal audits anywhere in the world.
  • Enrolled Agent: Completing a master’s in accounting program with a taxation concentration lays a solid foundation to complete the Enrolled Agent exam offered by the IRS. This tax-specific test complements the CPA exam and gives accountants the additional in-depth knowledge needed to work for or with the IRS.

Program accreditation

Only apply to schools approved by a DOE-recognized regional accrediting organization, such as the New England Commission of Higher Education or Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. If your school doesn’t have regional accreditation, you may be unable to access financial aid or transfer credits to another institution if needed. Ideally, your school’s accounting program will also be approved by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs.

Program completion timeframe

The length of time required to complete your online master’s in accounting degree depends on the type of program you choose. 

Generally, these degree programs are designed to be completed in two to four years. Typical coursework requirements range from 30 to 45 credit hours. Full-time students may be able to meet these requirements in one year, while part-time students will need multiple years. Accelerated programs, which allow students to earn their degree faster by taking on a particularly heavy courseload, are also available. Some schools offer programs that students can finish in just eight months.

Employment Outlook for Master’s in Accounting Graduates

While only a bachelor’s degree is required for most entry-level positions in the accounting field, earning a master’s still offers career benefits. Generally, workers with a master’s degree earn an average salary of $1,661 per week, while those with a bachelor’s earn $1,432. Over a year, that’s a difference of nearly $12,000.

This industry offers the potential to earn an exceptionally high income. For example, the top 10% of accountants and auditors make over $132,690, and the top 10% of financial managers make over $239,200.

Earning a master’s in accounting should also provide strong job security. The number of jobs in the United States is projected to increase by 3% over the next decade, and accounting occupations are expected to grow by at least this rate. Some positions related to accounting are even expected to grow at a double-digit rate, which means there will be plenty of job opportunities available once you graduate. 

Job Title Job Description Median Yearly Salary Projected Growth Rate (2022 – 2032)

Accountants and Auditors

Accountants oversee financial records, prepare tax filings, and ensure clients comply with applicable financial regulations. Auditors are trained to spot discrepancies in financial paperwork, potential fraudulent financial activity, and noncompliance with internal protocol or external regulations.

$78,000

4%

Financial Advisers

Financial advisers assist individuals with managing personal finances, including investing, saving, retirement, taxes, estate planning, loans, and insurance options.

$95,390

13%

Financial Managers

Financial managers oversee the financial health of their employer and create strategies to help the organization reach its financial goals through investment direction and careful monitoring of assets, revenue, and expenses.

$139,790 

16%

Professional organizations

Accountants will often generate business leads through their daily connections, and professional organizations are a great way to increase their client pool and connect with peers in the industry. These organizations can also offer opportunities for continuing education credits and staying current on the latest industry news. Some of the most popular organizations for accountants include:

Financing Your Online Master’s in Accounting Degree

Even with the savings online programs can provide, you may still need help paying for your master’s in accounting program. The first step to accessing assistance is filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which opens the door to grants and loans funded by the federal government. Private scholarships are also an option for aspiring accountants.

Student Finance Resources and Guides

Each financial aid program has its own eligibility requirements and application deadlines — it can be challenging to sort through all this information and figure out your options. The resources listed below will help you understand your financial aid situation and save as much money as possible.

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Interested in a degree?

Learn more about online degrees, their start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.