Best Online Master's in Accounting Degree Programs
Learn about online master's programs in accounting, including the different kinds of programs, specialization areas, and common coursework. Also, learn what careers, such as a certified accountant, you could pursue with a graduate accounting degree.
Best Online Master's Degree Programs in Accounting
When deciding on the best online degree program for your needs and career goals, be sure to take into account affordability, program length, accreditation, and if the coursework prepares you for the CPA exam. Below are the top schools that offer online accounting master's degree programs.
1. Auburn University
|Location||Graduate Tuition & Fees (in-state)|
Auburn University offers an online Master of Accountancy (MAcc) degree program that features the same coursework, lectures, faculty, and exams as the on-campus option. This Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) International-accredited program can be completed in 1 year if you are not a working professional, or in 2 years if you work full-time. The coursework in this online program fully prepares you for the CPA Exam, and students in the 2019 class averaged a pass rate of 94%. In addition, a 3-day on-campus residency is designed to improve your leadership skills.
2. University of Alabama at Birmingham
|Location||Graduate Tuition & Fees (in-state)|
The University of Alabama at Birmingham has two online AACSB-accredited Master's in Accounting program options, including one for those with a bachelor's in the accounting field and a bridge program for those with a degree in a non-accounting field. The online bridge program requires foundational coursework in accounting and taxation and quickly helps you get up to speed. Both program options feature 100% online coursework and prepare you for the CPA exam and other professional certification exams. Most students complete their online accounting degree in about 5 semesters, but a flexible policy for transfer credits could help you finish quicker.
3. George Mason University
|Location||Graduate Tuition & Fees (in-state)|
George Mason University's online AACSB International-accredited Master of Science in Accounting (MSA) degree program is designed for working professionals and can be completed in 2 years. In this online cohort program, asynchronous courses last 8 weeks, and you can take 2 courses at a time. You are also required to participate in a 1-week global residency or an international study tour; past residencies have taken students to London and Prague.
4. Maryville University of Saint Louis
|Location||Graduate Tuition & Fees (in-state)|
|Saint Louis, MO||$15,646|
Maryville University of Saint Louis offers an online Master of Science in Accounting degree program that can be completed 100% online with no on-campus residency or internship requirements. This online program is for both those with and without an accounting bachelor's degree. The bridge option covers the basics of accounting, economics, and financial reporting, while the core program allows you to dive right into advanced accounting topics. The accounting courses at Maryville University of Saint Louis incorporate Becker CPA exam preparation courses into the curriculum so that you can prepare for the CPA exam and save money on exam-prep courses.
5. Fitchburg State University
|Location||Graduate Tuition & Fees (in-state)|
Fitchburg State University has an online 30-credit, IACBE-accredited Master of Business Administration in Accounting degree program that can be completed in as little as 1 year. At Fitchburg State University, your online classes are collaborative, allowing you to interact with your peers, and are taught by on-campus faculty. Your classes feature an accelerated model, and there are multiple start dates throughout the year so that you can jump right into your online degree program.
|Rank||School Name||Location||Graduate Tuition & Fees (in-state)|
|6||University of Missouri-Columbia||Columbia, MO||$10,017|
|7||University of Arizona||Tucson, AZ||$13,044|
|8||University of South Dakota||Vermillion, SD||$6,835|
|9||University of Oklahoma-Norman Campus||Norman, OK||$8,577|
|10||University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign||Champaign, IL||$18,126|
|11||University of North Dakota||Grand Forks, ND||$9,697|
|12||University of Massachusetts-Amherst||Amherst, MA||$15,782|
|13||Emporia State University||Emporia, KS||$8,464|
|14||Southern Utah University||Cedar City, UT||$8,338|
|15||Plymouth State University||Plymouth, NH||$10,134|
|16||University of Massachusetts-Lowell||Lowell, MA||$15,060|
|17||Davenport University||Grand Rapids, MI||$15,126|
|18||The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley||Edinburg, TX||$6,889|
|19||University of Connecticut||Storrs, CT||$17,660|
|20||Madonna University||Livonia, MI||$15,030|
|21||Saint Mary's University of Minnesota||Winona, MN||$9,000|
|22||Utica College||Utica, N,||$12,668|
|23||Southern New Hampshire University||Manchester, NH||$18,810|
|24||University of South Alabama||Mobile, AL||$8,156|
|25||SUNY Polytechnic Institute||Utica, NY||$12,668|
|26||Rutgers University-Newark||Newark, NJ||$19,401|
|27||Georgia Southern University||Statesboro, GA||$8,728|
|28||Saint Joseph's College of Maine||Standish, ME||8,982$|
|29||Saint Joseph's University||Philadelphia, PA||$16,992|
|30||Cairn University-Langhorne||Langhorne, PA||$12,384|
|31||University of Scranton||Scranton, PA||$ 11,630|
|32||Oral Roberts University||Tulsa, OK||$13,988|
|33||Western New England University||Springfield, MA||$24,318|
|34||California State University-Sacramento||Sacramento, CA||$8,744|
|35||Edgewood College||Madison, WI||$17,856|
All statistics provided by the National Center for Education Statistics, tuition based on 2018-2019 school year
Learn.org's school ranking methodology categorizes and assesses data from schools and other reliable sources, such as the U.S. Department of Education, and weighs the information based on quality, cost, value and other factors critical to students' academic decisions.
Overview of Online Accounting Degree Programs
Online master's programs in accounting come in a range of formats, including full-time programs and part-time programs that allow you to work and earn your master's at the same time.
Those with a bachelor's degree in the field of accounting can attend an accelerated master's program in accounting. These programs can be completed in as little as one year with about 30 credits required.
If you don't have a background in accounting and hold a bachelor's degree in an area that is outside of accounting or finance, you can still attend an accounting master's program. Bridge or transition accounting programs require that you complete prerequisite coursework in the basics of accounting and finance before moving onto advanced accounting coursework. These online bridge programs do require more credits than programs for those with a bachelor's in accounting. You could need to earn 15-30 credits more than a traditional program. As such, bridge programs take a couple more semesters to complete.
CPA Exam Preparation
Many online accounting master's programs prepare you to take the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam. To be eligible to take the CPA exam, you must complete 150 hours of education, which means you usually need to complete a bachelor's degree and an advanced degree. Master's programs in accounting are usually designed to help you meet this educational requirement through coursework.
Although these accounting master's programs consist of online coursework, many have real-world requirements. Some programs may require you to come to campus for a few days where you participate in workshops, seminars, and networking events. Other programs feature a global residency trip where you gain international accounting and business experience. You may get to choose to participate in an optional or non-optional internship that places you in a local business to gain accounting experience.
Some online accounting programs could offer optional concentration areas, including:
- Forensic accounting
- Business analytics
Concentrations require that you take specific coursework within your focus area along with your core coursework and they may help you find more specialized careers in accounting.
How to Choose an Online Accounting Program
To find the right online accounting program, you should look at the specializations the program offers, the program's format, and whether the program is accredited.
Whether or not a program offers specializations should factor into your choice of accounting program. If you have a specific career in mind, then you want to attend a program that offers the specialization that matches your career goals. For example, if you want to work to discover fraud or abuse, then choose an online accounting program that offers forensic accounting.
Online Format and Real-World Requirements
As the format of online account master's programs varies widely, you want to make sure that you are able to complete all your program's requirements. For example, if you are not able or willing to travel to campus for multiple days or take an international trip, you want to choose a program that is 100% online with no real-world requirements. On the other hand, if you want to gain real work experience in the accounting field, then you may want to choose a program that helps you complete an internship.
You should consider whether the programs you are applying to are accredited. One type of accreditation comes from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). This accreditation assures you that your accounting program has met external high standards in terms of curriculum, learning outcomes, faculty credentials, and professional and academic engagement and development.
What You'll Learn in an Online Accounting Degree Program
Online accounting programs consist of coursework that ranges from accounting concepts to financial topics. While your required core and elective courses vary based on your program, below you can explore some common subjects that you may study in an accounting master's program.
A class on auditing explores the job duties of auditors, ethical rules and responsibilities, and how to perform an audit by analyzing financial statements. You might also learn about the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB), which is a board that governs and sets the standards for audits in regards to public companies. This course may cover how to identify fraud through the auditing process.
A managerial accounting class teaches you how to use financial data and information to make business decisions and create a business strategy. This class covers various budgeting techniques, cost methods, performance measurement tools, and pricing strategies that are used to analyze data and optimize business operations.
Business law is a course that teaches you foundational knowledge about business-related legal concepts regarding contracts, torts, sales, and business legal rights. In addition, this course covers the legal structures of different businesses, such as corporations and partnerships.
Accounting master's programs usually include classes on both individual taxation and the taxation of corporate entities. In individual tax courses, you study the federal tax system, including tax liability issues, income, and how deductions work. Other courses on taxation focus on tax planning and federal taxation of a variety of different businesses, including S corporations, partnerships, and limited liability companies. The taxation of trusts and estates might be covered as well.
Courses on financial reporting teach you everything you need to know about how to use financial information for accounting purposes. In a course like this one, you may learn the different reporting requirements for every financial aspect of a business, including cash, inventory, property, equipment, intangible assets, and liabilities. Other topics might include reporting requirements for investments, leases, pensions, and income taxes.
Classes on fraud generally teach you how to detect and prevent fraud. You learn about the different forms of financial fraud, including money laundering, tax fraud, insurance fraud, and e-commerce fraud. You might also learn about the process and aspects of fraud investigations.
What You Can Do with an Online Accounting Degree
With a master's degree in accounting, you can pursue a career as a certified accountant or could advance your career beyond an entry-level position. Below, you can explore the job duties and salary information for the accountant profession and careers in finance.
Accountant and Auditor
Accountants and auditors perform a range of duties related to financial matters, including:
- Preparing taxes for a business or individual
- Reviewing financial statements for accuracy
- Maintaining different financial records
- Enacting accounting systems and procedures
As an accountant or auditor, your job duties are usually determined by where you work and what kind of accounting professional you are. For example, as an internal auditor, you work within organizations to identify fraud, waste, and any financial mismanagement. As a public accountant, you could work for yourself or for a company where you could specialize in a specific area, such as taxation or forensic accounting.
While most accountant and auditor jobs only require a bachelor's degree, a master's degree in accounting is sometimes preferred by employers and can help you specialize in the field.
Accountants and auditors earned a median salary of $70,500, and the number of jobs is expected to increase by 6% from 2018-2028.
Personal Financial Advisor
Personal financial advisors help their clients manage, save, and invest their money. Typically, your job duties also include meeting with clients to explain different financial services, investment options, and risks that come with those things. You might help clients plan for big life decisions, including buying insurance, saving for college, or planning for retirement. Some personal financial advisors also sell certain financial products, including bonds, stocks, or insurance.
Usually, personal financial need a bachelor's degree with coursework in accounting, finance, and economics; however, a master's degree can help you achieve a higher-level position.
Personal financial advisors earned a median salary of $88,890, and the number of jobs are expected to increase by 7% from 2018-2028.
Financial managers oversee all aspects of the financial health and strategy of an organization. Their job duties could include preparing reports, forecasts, and financial statements, analyzing data to make financial decisions and reduce overhead costs, and managing employees.
There are several types of financial managers, including controllers who are in charge of auditing, budgeting, and accounting and risk managers who determine financial risk and work to offset any losses.
Financial managers are expected to have a graduate degree in accounting, economics, or finance.
Financial managers earned a median salary of $127,990, and the number of jobs are expected to increase by 16% from 2018-2028.
Salary and job growth information provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018
License Requirements for Accountants and Financial Professionals
Licensing and certification for the financial industry varies by profession and is often optional. However, becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or earning a certification credential can improve your career prospects.
Certified Public Accountant
Although it is not required to become certified, if an accountant files reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), they must be certified by law. Accountants also become certified as some employers require it and certification can boost your job prospects; it shows you have the right educational credentials and have specialized accounting skills.
Certification is done through your state's Board of Accountancy. Although requirements vary by state, you usually must complete 150 hours of college-level coursework and must pass the CPA Exam, which is administered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA).
The CPA Exam consists of 4 testing subject areas:
- Auditing and Attestation
- Business Environment and Concepts
- Financial Accounting and Reporting
While you do not have to pass all 4 parts in a single test-taking session, you must pass all 4 parts within 18 months after passing a single part.
Certified Financial Planner (CFP)
One optional certification for personal financial advisors is the Certified Financial Planner (CFP), which is administered by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards. To earn this credential, you must meet the following requirements:
- Hold a bachelor's degree
- Have 3 years of professional experience
- Pass the CFP exam
- Follow a code of ethics
Earning this credential can help you gain and keep clients by assuring them you are a professional in the field. If you sell any financial products (insurance, bonds, or stocks) or manage investments, then you need a state or federal license for each type of product.
Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)
Certification for financial managers is optional. However, to show their skills and professionalism, some financial managers earn the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) credential, which comes from the CFA Institute. To earn this credential, you must hold a bachelor's degree, have 4 years of professional experience, and pass 3 exams.
Resources for Accounting and Financial Professionals
There are several organizations that offer accountants and financial professionals a wealth of resources, including certification and other member benefits.
American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA)
AICPA is the world's largest accounting organization. Along with upholding licensing and certification standards and administering the CPA Exam, AICPA also advocates for the profession, promotes awareness of CPAs to the public, and helps develop accounting educational programs.
In addition to the Certified Public Accountant credential, AICPA offers the following certifications:
- Accredited in Business Valuation (ABV)
- Certified in Financial Forensics (CFF)
- Credential Personal Financial Specialist (PFS)
- Certified Information Technology Professional (CITP)
- Certified in Entity and Intangible Valuation (CEIV)
- Certified in the Valuation of Financial Instruments (CVFI)
As a member of AICPA, you get discounts on insurance, travel, supplies, and more, get access to newsletters and magazines, and get access to professional development resources.
The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards (CFP Board)
The CFP Board works to set the standards for the personal financial planning profession through setting guidelines for certification, education, and ethics. They offer the CFP credential and administer the CFP Exam. This exam consists of multiple-choice questions, stand-alone questions, and questions that include case histories or short scenarios. The CFP Board offers continuing education and conducts public awareness campaigns.
The CFA Institute promotes ethical, educational, and professional standards in the financial management profession. This organization administers the CFA charter exam, which consists of a multiple-choice test, a vignette-supported multiple-choice test, and a vignette-supported response and a multiple-choice test. By becoming a member of the CFA Institute, you gain access to career resources, marketing materials, and continuing education resources.