An online accounting degree can prepare you for a high-paying career while allowing you to maintain control of your schedule.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for accountants and auditors in 2021 was $77,250, and about 136,400 openings are projected each year over the next decade.
It is important to understand what type of jobs you can obtain with an accounting degree, how online programs work, how to finance your education, and how to find the best program for you before choosing a program.
Below, you will find all the information you need about online accounting degrees.
What Can You Do With an Accounting Degree?
Getting an accounting degree online can open up a range of career opportunities. With an accounting degree, you can pursue a career as a:
- Certified public accountant (CPA)
- Financial analyst
- Tax specialist
- Financial manager
- Budget analyst
- Investment banker
- Personal financial advisor
These positions can be found in both the private and public sectors and can provide you with a stable and rewarding career path.
Many of these positions only require a bachelor’s degree, but you can increase your earnings potential by pursuing a master’s degree or by completing additional certifications.
Accounting Degree Specializations
A degree in accounting online allows you to choose from a variety of specializations. However, specialization options will vary depending on your chosen school and program, making it important to compare programs carefully before choosing one.
Common areas of specialization include tax accounting, auditing, financial management, forensic accounting, government accounting, and corporate finance. Getting specialized in a field of study allows you to hone your skills and establish yourself as an expert in that field.
Specializations are typically only necessary if you have a specific career goal in mind. However, even without choosing a field, an accounting degree will still prepare you for a variety of possible career paths.
Do You Need a License to Be an Accountant?
In most states, you need to have a license to practice as an accountant. You must pass the Uniform CPA Exam, administered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), to get a license.
While, in some cases, you won’t be required to hold a CPA to be eligible for specific jobs, you’ll be at a massive disadvantage as most candidates will be certified public accountants. The CPA certification demonstrates your expertise and credibility, making it indispensable even when the law does not require it.
How Do Online Programs Work?
Online accounting programs are designed to give you the same knowledge and skills as a traditional accounting program but with the convenience of studying from home. Most programs are asynchronous, meaning you can complete coursework and assignments on your schedule. You will still be required to meet deadlines and participate in online course discussions, but you’ll be able to do so while balancing work and other responsibilities.
Some courses are synchronous, meaning you’ll be expected to attend live virtual lectures and complete exams and quizzes at specific times. These programs are more rigid than asynchronous programs but offer more flexibility than traditional ones.
Most online programs use platforms like Blackboard to let students access coursework and lectures. With platforms like these, you’ll be able to download and turn in coursework, complete online exams, and interact with your classmates and instructors.
It’s important to note that some online programs may require students to complete in-person courses or attend residences. You should take the time to review your program’s requirements to understand whether or not you can complete your degree entirely online.
The courses you take in an online accounting program will depend on the school and specialization you choose.
In general, you can expect to take courses such as:
- Financial Accounting
- Cost Accounting
- Financial Management
- Business Law
- Principles of Accounting
As an undergraduate, you’ll also complete coursework that isn’t directly related to accounting but is meant to give you a well-rounded education. This includes classes in subjects like math, English, science, and the arts. Depending on your interests, you can personalize your program by choosing electives that appeal to you and fulfill program requirements.
How Much Does an Online Accounting Degree Cost?
The cost of an online accounting degree depends on the school and the program you choose.
The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) found that the average annual cost of tuition and fees for bachelor’s students at in-state public institutions was $9,377 for the 2020-2021 school year, compared to $37,641 for private institutions. This doesn’t include living expenses, books and supplies, and other miscellaneous costs you might incur during the year.
While these stats aren’t specifically for online programs, tuition rates for online and in-person programs are typically very similar. After considering living expenses and other costs, you can expect to pay anywhere from $40,000 to $100,000 for a four-year online accounting degree.
How to Pay for an Online Accounting Degree
Given a degree’s cost, most students need help to cover their expenses.
To be eligible for federal financial aid, you’ll need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This will help you find out what federal student loans and grants you are eligible for. You will need to renew your application every year to remain eligible for aid. It’s important to fill out your application as soon as possible every year since federal financial aid funds are limited.
You can also apply for scholarships through your school and local organizations. Many schools offer both merit-based and need-based scholarships to admitted students.
Some students can take advantage of employer reimbursement programs. Many companies are willing to subsidize their employees’ education costs if it is related to their jobs.
Lastly, while not an ideal option, private student loans can help you pay for school. However, remember that private student loans often have higher interest rates than federal loans, so this is usually a last resort for students who aren’t eligible for other forms of aid.
Application Requirements for Online Accounting Programs
The application process for an online accounting program will vary from school to school, but in most cases, you’ll need to submit the same materials.
Submit an application
Most schools require you to complete an online application and submit it for a fee. You can apply through your school’s website, or if applicable, you can use the Common App to apply to multiple schools while only filling out a single application.
You may need to submit standardized test scores, such as the SAT or ACT, as part of your application. It’s becoming more common for schools to make test scores optional. In these cases, you should still submit your scores if you did well on your tests. However, if your scores are less than ideal, withholding them may improve your chances.
Letters of recommendation
Many schools require applicants to submit letters of recommendation with their applications. Letters of recommendation may come from high school teachers, college professors, or employers.
Essays are often one of the most important aspects of your application, so be sure to take your time when writing yours. Typically, you’ll be given a prompt or several prompts to choose from. Essays are often based on your personal experiences and give you the opportunity to stand out from other applicants.
If you’re a first-year student, you’ll need to submit your high school transcripts with your application. If you’re a transfer student, you must provide official transcripts from any colleges or universities you have attended.
How to Find the Best Online Accounting Program
When looking for the best online accounting program, it’s important to consider factors such as the program’s accreditation, the types of courses offered, the availability of financial aid, and the school’s reputation. You should also make sure that the program you choose is the right fit for your career goals and budget.