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For individuals who want to advance into leadership positions in accounting or pivot to the field after earning a bachelor’s in another subject, an online master’s in accounting degree can be a convenient, cost-effective way to get the education they need.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the average annual tuition for graduate programs in the 2021-22 academic year was $20,513. However, many factors influence how much an individual student will pay for a master’s in accounting degree. Intelligent.com compiled this list of the most affordable master’s in accounting programs to help students find a program that fits their budgets. This article also includes a detailed cost breakdown, financial aid guidance, and essential tips to help you select the ideal program for your professional goals.

Cost Breakdown for an Online Master’s in Accounting Program

Pursuing a master’s in accounting involves its own set of related expenses — by understanding these, you can make an informed decision about your career goals and associated costs.

  • Tuition: Tuition is often charged on a per-credit or per-term basis. Per-credit tuition calculates costs based on the number of credits each semester. In contrast, per-term tuition offers a flat rate for a specific number of credits taken during the semester.
  • Fees: Online students typically encounter various costs related to virtual education. These may include technology fees to support online infrastructure, library fees associated with accessing digital resources and academic databases, and academic support fees covering services like tutoring and advising.
  • Personal technology: Investing in personal technology such as a reliable computer, high-speed internet connection, and necessary software is essential. Online courses demand consistent access to these resources to engage in lectures, participate in discussions, and submit assignments without disruptions.
  • Books and other learning materials: While some online programs offer digital textbooks and resources, students may still need to purchase specific books, software licenses, or supplementary materials.

Students should also know that attending an online degree program may help them save money. Distance learning means students can choose to live anywhere, including in an area with a lower cost of living than where their school is located. It also eliminates transportation costs, such as gas, parking, and public transit fees. Students may have more flexibility to work full- or part-time, enabling them to earn a steady income while earning their degree.

Factors Influencing the Cost of an Online Master’s in Accounting Program

Various factors, ranging from institutional type to individual student status, can affect the cost of a graduate program in accounting. Below is a breakdown highlighting the elements that most commonly influence the overall expense of such programs.

  • Public vs. private institution: Public universities typically receive state funding, leading to potentially lower tuition rates for in-state residents. In contrast, private institutions often have higher tuition due to fewer subsidies and varied funding sources.
  • Nonprofit vs. for-profit: Nonprofit institutions prioritize education and often reinvest profits into academic resources, leading to more competitive tuition rates. On the other hand, for-profit institutions are designed to generate revenue, causing higher tuition costs.
  • Student residency status: Public institutions typically offer reduced tuition rates for in-state residents due to state subsidies, while out-of-state students may face higher costs.
  • Student military status: Some institutions offer tuition discounts or specialized programs for active-duty service members, veterans, or their families, acknowledging their service contributions.

Most Affordable 50 Online Master’s in Accounting Programs

MOST AFFORDABLE ONLINE MASTER’S IN ACCOUNTING PROGRAMS
01

Western Governors University
01

University of South Dakota
01

Emporia State University
01

Liberty University
01

Colorado State University Global
01

Indiana Wesleyan University
01

Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota
01

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
01

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
01

California State University, Sacramento
01

University of Alabama at Birmingham
01

Saint Leo University
01

FAU College of Business
01

University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign
01

Southern New Hampshire University
01

University of Maryland Global Campus
01

Union College
01

Texas A&M University - Commerce
01

Southern Utah University
01

The University of Texas at Dallas
01

California Baptist University
01

SUNY Polytechnic Institute
01

Athens State University
01

Northeastern State University
01

University of West Florida
01

Davenport University
01

Plymouth State University
01

Texas A&M University at Texarkana
01

Regis University
01

Bellevue University
01

Eastern Washington University
01

Franklin University
01

Marshall University
01

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
01

Auburn University
01

The University of Texas Permian Basin
01

New England College
01

University of Houston - Victoria
01

Southern Illinois University at Carbondale
01

National University
01

Northern State University

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How we rank schools

This list features some of the most affordable online master’s in accounting programs in the U.S. All are offered at nonprofit, accredited institutions, either public or private, with a high standard of academic quality for post-secondary institutions.

We evaluated each degree program on tuition costs, admission, retention and graduation rates, faculty, reputation, and student resources. Then, we calculated the Intelligent Score on a scale of 0 to 100. Read more about our ranking methodology.

Next, we compared our picks to a list of aggregated college rankings from reputable publications like the U.S. News & World Report, among others, to simplify a student’s college search. We pored through these rankings so students don’t have to.

How to Pay for an Online Master’s in Accounting Degree

Out-of-pocket

Paying tuition out of pocket can provide financial independence and reduce any long-term debt burdens. Many institutions offer flexible payment plans, allowing students to spread out their tuition payments over several months rather than paying a lump sum upfront. By opting for this approach, you can avoid accruing interest on loans and maintain control over your financial obligations, ensuring you can pursue your education without mounting debt pressures.

Federal student loans

With lower interest rates than private loans and flexible repayment options, federal student loans are often a preferable way to finance your education. However, it’s crucial to exercise caution and avoid overborrowing. You can minimize debt accumulation and future financial strain by only borrowing what’s essential for educational expenses.

Private education loans

Private education loans are an alternative option for financing your degree but are often viewed as a last resort due to their less favorable terms. Unlike federal loans, private loans usually have higher interest rates and less flexible repayment terms, potentially leading to increased financial strain post-graduation. Prioritizing other financial aid options can help reduce reliance on private loans, making for a more management and cost-efficient educational journey.

Scholarships

Unlike loans, scholarships provide funds that do not require repayment, significantly reducing long-term financial obligations. For your graduate degree in accounting, you can find scholarship opportunities through your institution, professional accounting organizations, corporate sponsorships, and foundations dedicated to education. Additionally, online platforms, financial aid offices, and dedicated scholarship databases cater specifically to graduate students, offering resources and opportunities to offset tuition costs effectively.

Grants

Similar to scholarships, grants are a highly preferable form of financial aid as they don’t require repayment. While more commonly associated with undergraduate studies, graduate students can access grants by submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Other organizations, institutions, and foundations may also offer grants tailored to specific fields, including accounting.

Work-study

Work-study programs provide a valuable way for students to fund their education by combining employment with academic commitments. These programs allow students to work part-time positions, often on-campus, facilitating a balance between earning income and pursuing their education.

Typically, accessing these opportunities involves completing the FAFSA, which determines eligibility based on financial need. Integrating work-study into your education can alleviate tuition costs and gain practical experience, boosting your professional growth.

Employer tuition assistance

If you’re currently employed, you can leverage employer tuition assistance to offset educational costs. These programs, offered by many companies, reimburse employees for tuition expenses related to job-relevant courses or degrees. By tapping into these benefits, you can further your education without bearing the entire financial burden.

Scholarship Database

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"A Helping Hand" Scholarship

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"Tuition Solution" Scholarship for STEM Students

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$25k "Be Bold" No-Essay Scholarship

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Applying for Financial Aid

Most students begin searching for financial aid by submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This form assesses eligibility for federal grants, loans, and work-study programs based on financial need.

The FAFSA is readily available online, making it accessible and efficient for applicants. Be sure to adhere to deadlines, as the timely submission allows you to maximize your financial aid opportunities.

Learn more about the FAFSA

Our Ultimate FAFSA Guide offers a detailed breakdown of available aid types, ensuring you understand every opportunity. With a step-by-step walkthrough for FAFSA completion and tips on answering questions about household size, immigration status, and more, the guide offers all you need to know to confidently secure the aid you require for your education.

Student loan forgiveness and repayment

Student loan forgiveness remains uncertain in the United States, so creating a repayment plan early on is crucial to avoid accumulating excessive debt. For many students, this proactive approach might entail making early payments during their college years. “Most people think you need to wait until after you’ve graduated, or even six months after you’ve graduated, but that isn’t true,” says college counselor Dana Marvin. “You can begin paying off your loans once they have been taken out.”

While this might seem difficult, Marvin breaks it down further by saying, “Let’s say you make a few extra hundred dollars during a summer job, or your parents get a big bonus from work. You can use that money to start paying off your loans while still in school.” By adopting this repayment strategy, you can make a significant difference in your loan amounts after graduation.

What Can You Do With an Online Master’s in Accounting Degree?

While a bachelor’s degree in accounting is the minimum education level required for most entry-level accounting jobs, having a master’s degree in the field can open up opportunities for leadership and management positions with higher earning potential.

This degree can provide the necessary preparation for becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), which can lead to more job opportunities working on audition, tax preparation, and financial consulting for a wide variety of clients, including individuals and companies. Other certifications that students can pursue with a master’s in accounting include the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) and Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) credentials.

A master’s degree can also qualify individuals to teach at the post-secondary level. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the demand for post-secondary instructors in business and finance is expected to increase by 7% through 2032.

Other job opportunities that graduates with this degree can explore are management accountant, financial analyst, internal auditor, forensic accountant, controller, and tax specialist. Individuals with accounting backgrounds can be found in all industries, as any company that brings in revenue needs accountants and auditors to ensure that money and transactions are being handled properly.

Career Outlook

  • Accountants — Prepare and examine financial records to ensure accuracy, identify potential areas of opportunity and risk, provide solutions for businesses and individuals, and confirm that taxes are paid properly.
    • Median annual salary: $79,880
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 4%
    • New jobs projected: 126,500 per year
  • Budget analysts Advise organizations about the details of their finances, prepare annual and special reports, evaluate budget proposals, and analyze data to determine the costs and benefits of various programs.
    • Median annual salary: $84,940
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 3%
    • New jobs projected: 3,600 per year
  • Executive finance officers — Manages all aspects of financial and cash flow planning for a company, as well as analyzes its financial position.
    • Median annual salary: $206,680
    • Project employment growth (through 2032): 3%
    • New jobs projected: 311,600 per year

How to Choose the Online College or University that’s Right for You

Step 1: Clarify what you want

The first step in selecting the right online institution for your Master’s in Accounting revolves around clarifying your objectives for the program. Accounting offers several specializations — financial, forensic, tax, and managerial accounting — each providing distinct career pathways and opportunities.

Once you identify your intended specialization, prioritize selecting a program delivery format and schedule that fits your lifestyle and learning preferences. For example, asynchronous part-time programs offer flexibility, ideal for working professionals seeking self-paced learning. In contrast, synchronous full-time programs with set class times are designed for students seeking structured, real-time interaction and engagement.

Step 2: Research schools and programs

Once you’ve clarified your goals for your graduate accounting degree, conducting thorough research on the schools and programs that can help you meet your educational aspirations is essential.

Stary by verifying each institution’s accreditation status to ensure academic quality and recognition. To further refine your search, consider asking the following questions:

  • Is the program entirely online, or are there on-campus requirements?
  • What is the average class size for online courses?
  • How does the faculty facilitate student engagement in a virtual setting?
  • Are there opportunities for networking with peers and industry professionals online?
  • What technological platforms does the program utilize for course delivery?

You can find this information by visiting university websites, attending virtual open houses, or speaking with admissions counselors.

Step 3: Prepare for applications and tests

After narrowing down your school choices, you can prepare for applications and required tests. For graduate programs in accounting, standard application materials typically include:

  • Transcripts from previous academic institutions
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Statement of purpose
  • Resume detailing relevant work experience

While some institutions have adopted test-optional policies, many accounting programs still mandate standardized test scores. Depending on the school, these may include GRE or GMAT scores. To boost your preparedness, consider enrolling in a test prep program.

Step 4: Select your program

You may receive multiple acceptance letters if you submit multiple applications.

To select your program, begin by revisiting the initial factors from your research, like the availability of your chosen specialization, preferred delivery format, and schedule flexibility to inform your decision. Additionally, reassess each program’s accreditation status, faculty credentials, alumni network, and financial considerations to ensure alignment with your academic goals and lifestyle.

Step 5: Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

To determine the optimal financing route for your degree, prioritize seeking scholarships and grants as they don’t require repayment. Remember that federal loans can be helpful to bridge financial gaps, but it’s important not to rely on them too heavily to avoid overborrowing. Consider work-study opportunities for part-time employment to offset costs, especially beneficial for gaining experience. Additionally, if you’re currently employed, see if your employer offers a tuition reimbursement program.

It’s important to note that financial aid offerings can vary by institution; consult with a financial aid counselor at your school to see what may be available for you.


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