Guide to Accredited Online Accounting Colleges & Universities

Accounting is the language of financial transactions, as well as the proper recording and analysis of financial transactions. If you enter this field, be prepared to study mathematics, statistics, tax codes and business law. Accounting appeals to many students because it often leads to high-paying careers with job security. And, unlike many areas of business, entry-level positions in this field do not require graduate-level-level education. Although you will need to study accounting at the graduate level if you want to become a Certified Public Accountant. Read More

CMost accounting skills are computer-based, so pursuing an online accounting bachelor’s degree is a good option for some students. If you plan to sit for the CPA exam, make sure to check with your state’s accountancy board, as some states do not accept online credit. Check the Guide to Accreditation in Higher Education to learn more about accreditation and how to determine if the program you select meets the necessary standards.

In addition, when you are looking for an accounting school, you should ask to see the program’s recent pass rates on the CPA exam. High-quality programs will provide students with an in-depth knowledge of the functions of accounting. No matter how good a program is you will most likely need to take a review course before sitting for the CPA exam. These reviews courses prepare students to pass the exam.


Certificate in Accounting

Many schools offer certificate programs in accounting at the undergraduate and graduate levels. An undergraduate certificate is ideal for individuals who do their own accounting and want a formal introduction to the field, like small business owners. On the other hand, you can use a graduate certificate to fulfill the 150 credit hours that you need to take the CPA exam.

Undergraduate Certificate

An undergraduate certificate in accounting introduces the field but does not qualify you to be a professional accountant. This is a good choice if you want to improve your personal accounting skills.

  • Credit hours/length of study: 1 year (18-24 credits)
  • Coursework:  financial accounting, managerial accounting, auditing, business law, federal income tax concepts
  • Employment prospects: entry-level bookkeeping, accounting clerk positions in small businesses

General Graduate Certificate

A graduate certificate in accounting offers advanced accounting classes. This option is best if you need to complete additional credit hours so that you are eligible to take the CPA exam.You need a bachelor’s degree to enroll in a graduate certificate program. In many schools, the bachelor’s degree must be in accounting or a similar business field.

  • Credit hours/length of study: 6-12 months (15-30 credits)
  • Coursework: financial accounting, managerial accounting, business law, federal income tax concepts, internal and external auditing, accounting information systems
  • Employment prospects: accountant, auditor, certified tax preparer, budget analyst or, if you pass the exam, Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

Associate Degree in Accounting

An Associate of Arts (AA) in Accounting has more liberal arts classes and is the best option if you plan to transfer to another school to obtain a bachelor’s degree.

An Associate of Science (AS) in Accounting has more mathematics courses and is also a good choice if you continue on to a bachelor’s degree program.

An Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Accounting teaches the most practical aspects of the career and is designed for people who plan to enter the workforce directly after they graduate.

  • Credit hours/length of study: 2 years (60 to 65 credit hours)
  • Coursework: financial accounting, managerial accounting, accounting theory, auditing, business law, cost management, fraud examination and federal income tax concepts
  • Employment prospects: entry-level positions as an accounting clerk, bookkeeper, certified tax preparer (with additional courses)

Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting

The majority of accounting students choose to earn a bachelor’s degree, which you need for most jobs in the field. If you plan to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), a bachelor’s degree will provide you with most of the 150 credit hours that are required to take the CPA exam.

Bachelor of Arts (BA)  in Accounting has more humanities classes and is a good choice if you want to go to graduate school or find an accounting job.

Bachelor of Science (BS) in Accounting has more technical classes, so you will study the sciences along with accounting. The BS is a good option if you want to start working as an accountant as soon as you graduate.

Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) in Accounting offers classes that focus on business theories and leadership skills and is preferable if you want to pursue accounting or financial management.

combined bachelor’s and master’s degree* in accounting is an accelerated program that lets you earn a bachelor’s and master’s degree at once. This option is best if you want to quickly fulfill all of the 150 credit hours that are required to take the CPA exam.

  • Credit hours/length of study:  4 years (120-130 credit hours); *combined bachelor’s and master’s degree:s 5 years (150 credit hours)
  • Coursework: business law, marketing, economics and operations management. In addition, you will take financial, managerial and government accounting, auditing,fraud examination
  • Employment prospects:  accountant, business analyst, auditor, budget analyst, billing specialist,payroll coordinator

 Master’s Degree in Accounting

A master’s degree in accounting will increase your job prospects and qualify you to take the CPA exam.

Master of Accountancy (MAcc) teach you advanced accounting skills and theory and is a good choice if you need to gain additional credit hours in order to take the CPA exam. Some schools call this degree a Master of Science (MS) in accounting.

Master of Business Administration (MBA) in accounting offers a standard business curriculum with an emphasis on accounting and is best for people who want to take up executive or managerial positions in business.

  • Credit hours/length of study: 2-3 years (30 to 45 credit hours)
  • Coursework: MAcc courses include  advanced accounting theory and principles; contemporary accounting issues; financial, managerial and international accounting, modeling information systems, budget control, advanced auditing and fraud detection. MBA in accounting courses include core business classes, advanced accounting curriculum, business law and ethics, managerial accounting and leadership skills
  • Employment prospects:  manage an accounting or auditing staff, budget analyst, Chief Financial Officer for a corporation, Certified Public Accountant (if you pass the exam)

Doctoral Degree in Accounting

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Accounting has advanced courses in accounting methods and theory along with a significant research component and is best for people who want to become university-level professors.

Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) in Accounting offers an advanced business curriculum where you can choose to focus on accounting. The DBA is a good choice if you want to conduct applied research or teach accounting at a university.

  • Credit hours/length of study: 4-7 years (72 to 90 credit hours)
  • Coursework: advanced courses in accounting theory, financial theory, economics and statistics; mathematics classes that discuss topics like regression and correlation
  • Employment prospects: university professor or researcher


Use this directory to find Accounting programs

Advanced Search
Programs by Location
Programs by Degree Level
Search for School Name
School Type
School Features
Tuition & Fees
Additional Resources

Forensic Accounting

Forensic simply means anything that is used in a legal case. Unlike a regular accountant, a forensic accountant is a financial detective who investigates possible fraud. Corporate fraud can take many forms, from putting fake people on the payroll to leaving important information off of financial statements. If you choose to study forensic accounting, expect to spend many hours looking for the one transaction that stands out in some way and might be evidence of a possible financial crime.

To become a forensic accountant, a bachelor’s degree in general accountancy or forensic accounting is required. Most forensic accountants also earn a master’s degree or a graduate certificate in forensic accounting.

Licensing and Certification

Accountants must pass a rigorous exam to become CPAs. Almost all states require CPA candidates to complete 150 hours of coursework before they are qualified to take the CPA exam. Normally, a bachelor’s degree requires about 120 credit hours, so CPA candidates must complete approximately 30 hours of graduate coursework through a graduate certificate or masters degree program before they can take the exam. Keep in mind that some states have additional requirements, so you should research the CPA exam prerequisites of your state through your State Board of Accountancy.

Accountants and auditors can seek certification in dozens of specialized areas through a variety of professional associations. It is not necessary to do so, but many accountants and auditors choose to become certified because it enhances their job qualifications. These certificates can give you an advantage in the job market because they demonstrate specific skills. Some accounting and auditing certifications include:

  • Certified Bank Auditor
  • Certified Financial Planner
  • Certified Forensic Accountant
  • Certified Fraud Examiner
  • Certified Information Systems Auditor
  • Certified Internal Auditor
  • Certified Managerial Accountant
  • Certified Public Accountant
  • Certified Tax Preparer

Although it is not necessary to be licensed as a CPA in order to work as a forensic accountant, it is a helpful credential to have. In fact, many employers require forensic accountants to be CPAs. Surveys by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) have shown that 94 percent of forensic accounting experts hired over a two-year period were CPAs.


Some careers available with an accounting degree include:

  • Accounting Clerk
  • Bookkeeper
  • Certified Tax Preparer (CTP)
  • Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
  • Forensic Accountant
  • Auditor
  • Budget Analyst
  • Accounting Manager
  • Chief Financial Officer (CFO)