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Online Post-Baccalaureate Accounting Programs

Learn about online post-baccalaureate accounting programs including enrollment and courses offered. Find out about career options after completing the degree and salary data for those positions.

What Post-Baccalaureate Programs Are Available in Accounting?

You can earn an online graduate certificate or a Master of Science (M.S.) degree in accounting. A few schools also offer accounting concentrations within their Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree programs. Most certificate programs take 20-30 credit hours, while master's degree programs require completion of approximately 45 credit hours.

Course content differs between schools and degree levels. Typical online post-baccalaureate accounting certificate courses include advanced and intermediate accounting, cost analysis, foundations of auditing, managerial accounting, financial reporting and federal taxation.

Online master's degree programs, which can lead to careers as federal auditors or Certified Public Accountants (CPAs), provide a more in-depth education. Most online master's programs last about two academic years. They begin with foundational courses in economics, statistics and accounting ethics. Most online curricula also cover financial accounting, taxation for entrepreneurs, capital marketing, quality assurance, investment analysis and business law.

Program Types Graduate certificate, Master of Science degree, Master of Business Administration degree
Admissions Requirements Bachelor's degree
Online Aspects Online lectures, comments through discussion forums, e-mail communication
Certification Exam given through the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants
Job Growth (2016-2026)139,900 new accountant jobs
Job Outlook (2016-2026)10% growth (for accountants and auditors)*
Median Salary (2018)$70,500 (for accountants and auditors)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are the Prerequisites for an Online Post-Baccalaureate Accounting Program?

To get into an online accounting certificate or master's degree program, you need a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university. Most schools don't require that the bachelor's degree be in accounting. Completing several undergraduate courses in accounting is usually sufficient. If your bachelor's degree is in a different subject, you may need to take a standardized test proving proficiency in accounting.

How Do Online Programs Work?

By enrolling in a distance learning program, you can earn a master's degree in accounting without leaving home. All you need is a computer with a reliable Internet connection. Exact online program features depend on the schools to which you apply. Most programs are run through online teaching and learning systems like WebCT or Blackboard Vista.

An online program gives you the same education, knowledge and degree that you'd earn in a physical college classroom. Each online class has a professor who leads lectures and assigns readings, papers and tests. Professors post course materials online, such as lecture notes and class discussion topics, on which students usually must comment. You may communicate with your instructor or fellow students through e-mail or the course's online bulletin board.

Does Completing These Programs Make Me Eligible to be a CPA?

If you're pursuing a post-baccalaureate education in accounting, you may want to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that all accountants reporting to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) are required to be licensed CPAs. The Uniform CPA exam, which was developed by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), is used as the official licensing exam in all 50 states.

Although many graduates of post-baccalaureate programs become CPAs, possession of an advanced degree in accounting doesn't automatically qualify you to take the CPA exam. Requirements are determined by individual states, not the AICPA. As of 2009, 46 states and Washington, D.C. required completion of 150 credit hours of college accounting coursework in order to take the exam, noted the BLS.

In most cases, the 150 required hours can be fulfilled by completing both undergraduate and graduate programs in accounting. Bachelor's and master's degree studies combined are usually sufficient, since the former requires about 120 credit hours and the latter at least 30. However, some graduate certificate programs require fewer than 30 hours of study. If you've completed such a program, you may need to take some additional accounting courses to reach the required 150 hours of instruction and qualify to take the CPA exam. Several states also require some experience working in accounting. Check requirements for the state where you want to work before making plans to take the exam.

What Can Graduates Expect on the Job Front?

According to the BLS, graduates of online post-baccalaureate programs in accounting can look forward to a strong accounting employment market. The Bureau's predictions for 2016 indicated that the accounting industry was poised to experience great growth through the year 2026. Specifically, the BLS projected that the number of accountant positions would grow by nearly 139,900 over this time (www.bls.gov).

Graduate education in accounting is likely to give you an advantage in the job market over applicants who only have bachelor's degrees. Job prospects will also be stronger for certified CPAs than for accountants without certification. Not only does CPA certification improve job prospects, it can also increase pay. The salary information website PayScale.com reported that CPAs earn yearly salaries from $47,000 to $108,000 as of August 2019. In contrast, the site's general reported salary range for accountants as of July 2019 was $39,000 to $71,000 per year.