An accounting career is an appealing path for many because the field is stable and has a promising salary outlook of $71,500 per year, on average. Career opportunities for accountants are varied: they prepare and verify financial records and exchanges for individuals, businesses, companies, and organizations to ensure they are accurate. They also detect inefficiencies or procedures that could be updated to maximize revenue or reduce overhead costs. Accounting is an excellent career choice for those who are organized and like working with numbers.
2020 Best Online Colleges Offering Bachelor's in Accounting Degrees
Distance students seeking bachelor's degrees in accounting will find that these 25 colleges offer the best value based on affordability and alumni salaries. At #1, Marian University - Wisconsin charges $13,800 per year for their Bachelor of Business Administration - Accounting. At #2, the University of Massachusetts - Amherst charges only $11,700 per year and has a reported alumni salary of $109,000.
Alumni salaries were provided by PayScale. View our methodology for more details or learn more about OnlineU.
Marian University - Wisconsin offers a fully online Bachelor of Business Administration-Accounting degree. This program requires 30 credits in the liberal arts, 37 credits in core business education, and 18 to 21 credits in the accounting concentration. Students will learn the skills necessary for careers as accountants, auditors, and public or managerial accountants. Courses offered through this accounting program can be applied towards the 150-hour Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam requirement.
Online classes are offered in an asynchronous format and delivered through the MPath learning management platform. In addition to accounting, students will acquire skills in economics, finance, business law, management, marketing, and human resources. To earn their degree, students must complete a one-credit capstone portfolio course, which encourages them to reflect on the business skills they have built during the program. Online students can connect with academic advisors for support during the program.
The program features seven-week accelerated courses, allowing students to choose from six start dates each academic year. There is no fee to apply to Marian University - Wisconsin. Freshman applicants must submit high school transcripts and ACT/SAT scores. Transfer students must also submit transcripts from all previous colleges attended.
#2 University of Massachusetts - Amherst
Annual Tuition: $11,700
Median Salary: $109,000
Locations: Amherst (MA)
The Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting degree at the University of Massachusetts - Amherst is an entirely online program offered through the Isenberg School of Management. This degree completion program prepares students for careers in accounting, auditing, and tax and consulting. Students will also learn best practices in financial reporting, managerial accounting, taxation, and information system.
Classes are taught in an asynchronous format through an online platform that can be accessed remotely 24/7 (technical support is also available). The curriculum is comprised of 12 general education requirements, 11 business courses, nine accounting major courses, and 21 credits of non-business electives. Online students have full access to support services, like library resources and academic advising.
Applicants must have earned at least 27 college credits to be considered for this program. Candidates must submit college transcripts, a resume or CV, and a personal statement to apply.
#3 LeTourneau University
Annual Tuition: $14,250
Median Salary: $106,100
Locations: Longview (TX)
Accreditation: SACS COC
LeTourneau University offers an online Bachelor of Science in Accounting degree. The curriculum, which is deeply rooted in the school's Christian values, approaches business and accounting from a Biblical perspective. The program is designed to provide students with a strong business background, with a focus on ethics and integrity.
Students complete general education classes, 42 credits in the business core, 21 credits in accounting, 13 electives, and 12 credits in theology and vocation. Online students have the same access to services as on-campus students. The Student Success Center connects students to a variety of tools and resources, including academic advising and tutoring.
Prospective students must fill out an online application and submit official transcripts.
#4 Washington State University
Annual Tuition: $11,550
Median Salary: $104,900
Locations: Pullman (WA)
The Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration-Accounting degree at Washington State University is offered through the Carson College of Business. This online program has received the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) Accounting Accreditation. Students are equipped with the knowledge to pursue careers as controllers, consultants, managers, tax accountants, and auditors. Classes follow a flexible, 7-week accelerated format and require about 15-20 hours of work each week.
To graduate, students must complete the university core requirements (can be satisfied through transfer credits), accounting core requirements, accounting electives, and college of business requirements. Students can fulfill the mandatory international experience requirement by completing approved coursework, an international internship, or study abroad program. Distance learners have access to a wealth of services and resources, including academic and career advising, tutoring, electronic library databases, military and veteran services, and an online mentoring program.
The program offers start dates in fall, spring, and summer. Students enrolling directly from high school must submit test scores and their high school transcripts with their application. Transfer students must provide transcripts from all colleges attended. Students over the age of 25 and attending college for the first time must submit a resume and a personal statement with their application.
#5 Auburn University
Annual Tuition: $23,250
Median Salary: $109,000
Locations: Auburn (AL)
Accreditation: SACS COC
Auburn University offers an online Bachelor of Science in Business Administration - Accountancy degree. The program is suitable for adult learners seeking a second business degree or who need to complete the credits necessary for the CPA exam. The 30-credit program is offered in both full-time and part-time formats. Students working full-time can graduate in five semesters, with six credits per semester.
Coursework is delivered asynchronously through Canvas, where students can view recorded lectures with the option of streaming live lectures. The online semester calendar is the same as the on-campus program, and online students can expect the same level of academic rigor as in-person classes. Online students are paired with a Student Success Coordinator (SSC) from orientation through graduation. The SSC can answer students’ questions and concerns during the program, as well as connect them to a variety of other student services available, including academic advising and library resources.
Applicants to the program must have earned an accredited bachelor’s degree in business or an MBA, and meet specific business prerequisites. Prospective students should submit a completed application, official transcripts, and work experience to apply.
#6 Northern State University
Annual Tuition: $10,537
Median Salary: $96,600
Locations: Aberdeen (SD)
The School of Business at Northern State University offers an online Bachelor of Science in Accounting. The 120-credit program prepares students to sit for the following exams, Certified Bookkeeper (CB,) Certified Management Accountant (CMA), Certified Internal Auditor (CIA), and Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA). The curriculum covers topics in business statistics, ethics, micro and macroeconomics, accounting theory, and income tax.
Students can join the Accounting Club for opportunities to network with peers and participate in charitable work. Online learners can take advantage of several virtual resources, including academic advising, career services, and counseling.
To apply, prospective students must submit an online application along with official transcripts and ACT or SAT scores. Applicants should have a minimum high school GPA of 2.6.
#7 University of Arkansas
Annual Tuition: $10,065
Median Salary: $95,700
Locations: Fayetteville (AR)
The University of Arkansas offers a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in Accountingthrough the Sam M. Walton College of Business. This 120-credit degree program is specifically designed for students who want to take the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam. The university offers traditional 15-week semesters in the fall and spring, with five-week sessions in the summer term. Students are required to maintain a minimum overall GPA of 2.5 throughout the program.
Online courses are delivered through the Blackboard learning management system, where students can communicate with professors via email, chat, and one-on-one meetings. Students will are required to submit assignments and take exams based on weekly deadlines. Virtual learners have access to the Online Student Liaison Office.
To apply, students must submit an online application, ACT or SAT scores, and official high school transcripts.
#8 New England College
Annual Tuition: $12,150
Median Salary: $95,400
Locations: Henniker (NH)
New England College offers an online, 120-credit Bachelor of Science in Accounting program that prepares students to become a certified public accountant or a certified management accountant. The curriculum focuses on areas such as management accounting, auditing, business valuation, government accounting, and financial consulting.
Online courses are delivered asynchronously, and students are expected to meet weekly deadlines. Students engage in the coursework through viewing video lectures and podcasts and participating in interactive exercises, chat rooms, and class discussion boards. Online learners have access to technical support services, enrollment support, student services, career planning, the Danforth Library, and virtual tutoring.
Enrollment is available year-round, and there are seven program start dates each year. To be considered for admission, students must hold an accredited or state-approved high school diploma or GED and must submit an online application. Standardized test scores are not required.
#9 St. Peter's University
Annual Tuition: $14,850
Median Salary: $95,100
Locations: Jersey City (NJ)
St. Peter’s University offers an online Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in Accountancy through the School of Professional and Continuing Studies. The curriculum focuses on preparing students to take the CPA exam and explores topics in business finance, cost accounting, auditing principles, taxation, and business law and contracts.
Coursework is delivered in an asynchronous format, and students have access to course materials through the Blackboard learning management system. Online courses are offered in eight-week terms, and students can enroll in the fall, winter, or spring term.
To be considered for admission to the program, students must submit official transcripts from all previous educational institutions. Students are also required to submit official SAT or ACT scores, a personal statement, and two letters of recommendation (one from a teacher and one from a school counselor).
#10 Eastern New Mexico University-Main Campus
Annual Tuition: $7,492
Median Salary: $92,100
Locations: Portales (NM)
Eastern New Mexico University offers an online Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting degree. To graduate, students must maintain a C or better grade in required accounting courses. The 120-credit program can be completed either part-time or full-time. Online courses are offered in an eight-week, accelerated format.
Online classes combine both synchronous and asynchronous elements. Online coursework is delivered through the Blackboard learning management system, where students can access recorded lectures, live class discussions, readings, tests, projects, and writing assignments. Students can access the online writing center, electronic library services, free online tutoring, the school’s counseling program, and financial aid and enrollment services.
Applicants must submit an online application, official transcripts, an updated resume, and a letter of intent.
#11 Granite State College
Annual Tuition: $10,950
Median Salary: $91,100
Locations: Concord (NH)
Granite State College offers an online Bachelor of Science in Accounting and Finance to prepare students to become certified public accountants. Students are required to complete a minimum of 120 credits to graduate, and at least 30 of those credits must be taken at Granite State College. Those interested in accelerating their degree can take some courses in a six-week format.
Online courses are delivered asynchronously, and students are expected to participate in class discussions via online chat rooms and discussion boards. The curriculum covers topics in accounting, financial management, financial modeling, and taxation.
Admission occurs on a rolling basis so students can enroll at any time during the academic year. To be considered for admission, students must have a high school diploma or a high school equivalency credential (GED).
#12 Golden Gate University
Annual Tuition: $20,460
Median Salary: $94,400
Locations: San Francisco (CA)
Golden Gate University offers a fully-online Bachelor of Science in Accounting (BSA). The program requires students to complete 123 credits to graduate, including 39 general education units, 69 major units, and 15 elective units. BSA courses can qualify and prepare students to take the CPA, CMA, or CIA certification.
The BSA curriculum covers topics in accounting principles and theory, income tax, and auditing standards. Students can take advantage of several resources, including career counseling and online tutoring services.
To apply, students must submit an online application along with official academic transcripts. Though not required, SAT or ACT scores and a personal statement are recommended for students who do not meet all other program admission requirements.
#13 Nichols College
Annual Tuition: $9,900
Median Salary: $88,500
Locations: Dudley (MA)
Nichols College offers an online Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in Accounting. The 120-credit program includes required accounting concentration courses, foundation and business core classes, and electives. Students have the option to enroll full-time or part-time. Coursework focuses on computer information systems, economics, finance, management, marketing, federal taxes, cost accounting, and auditing. Online courses are offered in seven-week terms, with seven sessions per year.
Students can work closely with academic advisors to customize a degree completion plan that works best for their schedules. Online learners will be required to complete weekly assignments, take exams and quizzes, and interact with their classmates and professors regularly. Several resources are available to online students, including career services and the Academic Resource Center.
Applicants are required to submit official high school transcripts (or a GED certificate) and a completed undergraduate application.
#14 Temple University
Annual Tuition: $17,850
Median Salary: $91,400
Locations: Philadelphia (PA)
Temple University offers an online Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting through the Fox School of Business. This 124-credit degree program focuses on topics such as accounting information systems, auditing techniques, cost analysis and control, data analytics in accounting, financial accounting and reporting, and taxation. The program prepares students to sit for the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam.
Courses are delivered synchronously and use WebEx conferencing technology to connect students with their peers and instructors during live weekly sessions. Online students can enroll in the fall or spring semester and can choose from a traditional 15-week semester or dual, accelerated 6- or 7-week semesters.
In addition to an online application, applicants to the program must submit official transcripts, SAT or ACT scores, and a personal essay.
#15 Clarion University
Annual Tuition: $8,334
Median Salary: $86,100
Locations: Clarion (PA)
Clarion University offers an online Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (BSBA) with concentrations in CPA, Industry, and Internal Audit and Forensic Accounting. The CPA concentration is intended for students preparing to become certified public accountants. The industry concentration prepares students for careers in small organizations, nonprofits, or government entities. Students learn the skills necessary to become a certified internal auditor in the internal audit concentration.
When starting the degree program, online students attend an online orientation to learn about available support services and to get acquainted with the learning management system they will use to complete coursework. Students can complete the BSBA program in four academic years, but students also have the option to enroll part-time.
To apply, prospective students must fill out an online application, send in their official transcripts, and submit their SAT or ACT scores.
#16 Western Illinois University
Annual Tuition: $8,883
Median Salary: $86,200
Locations: Macomb (IL)
Western Illinois University offers an online Bachelor of Business in Accountancy degree through the Department of Accounting and Finance. The 120-credit degree program offers a concentration in management accounting and taxation and prepares students for the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) and the Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) exams. Students can complete the program on a part-time or full-time basis.
Online coursework is delivered through the uTech learning management platform. Students are expected to submit assignments according to weekly deadlines. The curriculum explores the principles of financial accounting, intermediate accounting, the principles of taxation, financial auditing, and more. Students can choose to join Beta Alpha Psi, a student organization that provides accounting students with opportunities to participate in professional networking, service learning, and outreach activities.
Applicants to the program must submit an online application along with official transcripts. Incoming first-year students have the option to self-report test scores, GPA, and grades. Students should have a high school GPA of 3.30 or higher.
Classes run for seven-and-a-half weeks, and there are two terms each semester. The degree can generally be completed in four academic years if students enroll full-time; however, part-time is also available.
Online coursework is delivered through the Canvas learning management platform. To graduate, students must complete 41 courses with topics in intermediate accounting for corporate accountants, management accounting, financial statement analysis, and more. Students will complete an online orientation where they will be introduced to online learning and connect with faculty and peers.
Start dates are available throughout the year. Applicants to the program must submit official transcripts along with official ACT or SAT scores. Applicants should have a minimum overall GPA of 3.0 or be in the top 25% of their high school graduating class.
#18 Southern Illinois University - Carbondale
Annual Tuition: $11,085
Median Salary: $85,600
Locations: Carbondale (IL)
Southern Illinois University – Carbondale offers an online Bachelor of Science in Accounting degree completion program through the College of Business and Analytics. The 60-credit program takes a minimum of 18 months to complete, and the average completion time is two years. Program courses are eight weeks long, and students typically take two classes at a time for a total of four courses per semester. Students are eligible to sit for the CPA exam once they graduate.
Online courses are delivered asynchronously in a modular format so students can study and complete assignments at their convenience; however, students are expected to meet regular deadlines. The curriculum includes courses in managerial accounting, cost accounting, taxation, auditing, computer information systems, business communication, and more. Online students have access to technical assistance, teaching assistants, and program staff.
Students can enroll during any semester throughout the year, and admission is granted on a rolling basis. Applicants should have 60 college-level credit hours to transfer from a prior institution with a minimum overall GPA of 2.0. To apply, students should submit an online application along with their official transcripts.
#19 Kean University
Annual Tuition: $9,935
Median Salary: $84,100
Locations: Union (NJ)
Kean University offers an online Bachelor of Science in Accounting. The program is offered jointly through the College of Business and Public Management and the School of Accounting and Finance. This 120-credit degree prepares students to sit for the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam. Course topics include financial ethical judgment, nonprofit and personal financial transactions, communication skills, and business expertise. Most students enroll full-time and complete the program in four years, but students also have the option to study part-time.
Online courses are delivered through the Blackboard learning management system. Students have access to virtual resources, including career services, the university library, and the tutoring and writing center. Online students can join the Accounting Club to connect and network with their peers.
Applicants are required to submit an online application and official transcripts. Students must also submit standardized test scores from the SAT or ACT.
#20 Northwestern Oklahoma State University
Annual Tuition: $18,280
Median Salary: $86,700
Locations: Alva (OK)
Northwestern Oklahoma State University offers an online Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting through the School of Professional Studies. Online courses follow the traditional 16-week semester schedule, with accelerated, 8-week classes available through the fall and spring terms. Summer courses typically run for 4-8 weeks.
Online courses are delivered through the Blackboard learning management system, where students can submit assignments, take exams, and interact with their professors and classmates. Most online courses are offered asynchronously, but some follow a synchronous schedule with regular meeting times. All new online students are required to take the Online Program Orientation, which is a non-credit course designed to address the basic needs of virtual learners.
Applicants must submit official high school or college transcripts along with their online application.
#21 Bemidji State University
Annual Tuition: $8,758
Median Salary: $82,600
Locations: Bemidji (MN)
Bemidji State University offers an online Bachelor of Science in Accounting degree completion program. This 71-credit program is intended for students with an associate degree or who have completed all undergraduate liberal arts requirements. At least 30 must be taken at Bemidji State University. Students can enroll in part-time or full-time study, and the degree can take two years to complete.
Online courses are delivered through the Brightspace learning management platform, where students can interact with peers and professors through group work and discussion boards. All virtual students will engage in an online orientation to get acquainted with the online learning environment. Students have access to technical support and digital library resources.
Start dates for the program are offered in the fall, spring, and summer semesters. To apply, prospective students must submit official transcripts along with their online application. Transfer students should have a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.0.
#22 Champlain College
Annual Tuition: $9,540
Median Salary: $82,100
Locations: Burlington (VT)
Champlain College offers an online Bachelor of Science in Accounting degree. The 120-credit program prepares students to sit for the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam. Online classes run for seven weeks, with two terms per semester and three semesters per year. Classes are offered in the fall, spring, and summer terms, and students can enroll full-time or part-time.
Online courses are delivered in an asynchronous format. The curriculum covers topics in financial accounting, managerial accounting, forensic accounting, auditing, business law, critical thinking, writing, and decision-making. Students have several resources available to them, including online tutoring, academic advising, and library support.
Applicants must have a minimum 2.5 GPA to be considered for admission. Prospective students should submit an online application, college or high school transcripts, a current resume, and answers to three to four essay questions. Proof of English language proficiency is also required.
#23 Southern Utah University
Annual Tuition: $6,006
Median Salary: $80,300
Locations: Cedar City (UT)
Southern Utah University offers an online Bachelor of Science in Accounting degree through the School of Business. The program is designed for students who want to pursue the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) credential. Students must complete 120 credit hours to satisfy the degree requirements, including upper-level accounting courses, general education requirements, and electives. The degree can be completed in four years on a full-time schedule, but students can also choose to enroll part-time.
Online courses are delivered asynchronously, with students having access to coursework 24/7. Online students have access to a team of student success advisors to help guide them through the program. Graduates can continue their education and complete a Master in Accountancy, which is an additional 30 credits.
To apply, students must submit an online application, official high school transcripts, and transcripts from any college coursework already completed.
#24 Florida Southern College
Annual Tuition: $10,106
Median Salary: $81,800
Locations: Lakeland (FL)
Accreditation: SACS COC
Florida Southern College offers an online Bachelor of Science in Accounting. This 124-credit degree program prepares students for careers as certified public accountants. Online courses are offered in accelerated, seven-week terms and have six start dates per year. Students can opt for full-time or part-time learning.
Online students can take advantage of academic advising to create a personalized education plan. Students also have access to the career center, technical support, and Roux Library catalog.
Applicants should complete an online application and submit official transcripts from all high school and college institutions they have attended. Applicants who have completed fewer than 25 credits of undergraduate coursework will need to submit official SAT or ACT test scores.
#25 Fitchburg State University
Annual Tuition: $9,240
Median Salary: $80,600
Locations: Fitchburg (MA)
Fitchburg State University offers an online Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in Accounting. This 120-credit program incorporates a liberal arts and science foundation and core accounting credits.
Online courses are delivered through the Blackboard learning management system, where students have access to collaboration tools and online chat rooms to connect to peers and instructors. Online students have access to career support and advising, tutoring center, writing center, math center, and student counseling and disability services.
Applicants must submit an online application along with their official high school transcripts or proof of a completed GED. Prospective students must also submit official SAT or ACT scores, a 250-word essay about educational goals, and a current resume. Letters of recommendation are not required but encouraged.
Online Accounting Degree Overview & Career Information
Undergraduate accounting certificates can lead to entry-level accounting positions. An online certificate program typically provides the basic skills and knowledge needed to work in accounting without going into any other subjects. Some schools offer graduate certificate programs in specialized areas, such as accounting for controllers or accounting for financial and business analysts. An associate degree program in accounting will also provide students with the basic skills and knowledge needed to work in the accounting field, with the addition of general education courses in the liberal arts.
Bachelor's degrees in accounting offer in-depth study in accounting principles, as well as additional general education classes and electives. Accounting courses may include federal tax, business law and math, and introductory and advanced accounting. Some bachelor's programs allow students to focus on a specific subspecialty, such as tax accountancy or auditing-forensic accountancy. Some programs may require that online students complete accounting internships or externships, while other degree programs may be completed exclusively online.
Master's degrees in accounting typically include management, leadership, and advanced accounting topics, such as managerial accounting, advanced tax for individuals and businesses, and advanced auditing theory. While most accounting positions require applicants to hold a bachelor’s degree and the CPA label, many employers seem to be showing preference to those who have a master’s degree in accounting. These graduate degrees provide students with the skills necessary for managerial accounting roles. Doctoral degrees typically involve a significant amount of research and the completion of a dissertation; they can help prepare graduates for careers in accounting research and academia.
Online Bachelor's Degrees in Accounting
The bachelor's degree in accounting provides students with in-depth training to prepare and analyze financial records. As with all bachelor's programs, applicants need a high school diploma or GED. High school coursework in math may also be required. The accounting bachelor's usually takes four years to complete and requires about 120 credit hours of work. Specialized programs designed to prepare graduates for the Uniform Certified Public Accountant exam may require 150 credit hours or more.
The core of the accounting major consists of courses in economics, math, and different accounting principles. Macro- and microeconomics classes teach students about the way the market system works at the individual and national level. Accounting courses cover financial, management, and cost accounting. Other common courses include auditing, budgeting, information systems for accountants, and taxation. Many accounting bachelor's programs also include courses in general business topics such as management, leadership, marketing, and finance, and general education topics in social science, humanities, and natural science areas.
Accounting graduates with bachelor's degrees can apply for a range of entry-level and intermediate accounting positions, depending on their work or internship experience. Accountants are employed by the government, businesses, and individuals. Corporate accountants work for particular businesses and help by planning budgets, keeping track of spending, filing taxes, and providing investment advice; auditors and accountants with government agencies may work on in-house accounting, or they may work as part of the Internal Revenue Service to ensure that citizens file their taxes appropriately.
Accountants with at least 150 credit hours of coursework can sit for the Uniform CPA examination to become a Certified Public Accountant. While the CPA exam is not required to become employed in most cases, the CPA credential helps accountants gain clients, improve their job prospects, and increase annual salary.
The Importance of Accreditation
When selecting a particular learning institution for an online accounting degree, it is best to select a program that is accredited. Accredited programs offer a host of benefits that non-accredited programs do not, and guarantee that the students will receive a quality education recognized virtually everywhere throughout the professional and educational fields. According to the US Department of Education, the goal of accreditation is to ensure that the academic programs provided by institutions of higher education meet acceptable levels of quality.
Accrediting agencies are either state, regional, or national in their focus. An entire school may be accredited for all of its programs, and specific programs within a certain institution may be accredited as well, which is referred to as specialized or programmatic accreditation. There are several different types of accreditation that may apply to an online accounting degree. However, for those who would like to become Certified Public Accountants (CPAs), it is highly recommended to complete a program with AACSB accreditation, as it is required to sit for the CPA exam in some states.
In order for an online accounting degree program to gain accreditation status, it must submit its curriculum and faculty to the particular accreditation agency’s evaluation to determine whether it meets its standards. This guarantees students and potential employers that the program meets the minimum requirements for an education in this field. Although the Department of Education doesn’t explicitly accredit programs itself, it provides a list of agencies determined to be reliable authorities as to the training and quality of education of various didactic programs.
Besides determining the quality of a degree, accreditation has other benefits within the sphere of education and professional accounting. Students must enroll in accredited programs to receive federal financial aid. Additionally, degrees from accredited programs are widely accepted in the accountant job market, while those from unaccredited schools may not be.
Becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
Becoming a CPA requires a significant amount of schooling followed by a passing score on the Uniform CPA Exam, which is administered by the American Institute of CPAs. To begin the exam process, accountants must first meet the eligibility requirements set by their particular exam jurisdiction, which include stipulations for education, work experience, and state residency. Applicants can locate their exam jurisdiction by contacting the board of accountancy for the state in which they live. Some states also require other exams in addition to the CPA exam, such as an ethics exam. Depending on location, the application will be submitted to either the state board of accountancy or another organization that represents the board. Pay close attention to specific fees that may apply, since fee schedules can also vary between jurisdictions.
In addition to filling out the application, you must also submit any academic documents, ID photos, or special credentials that may be required. If your accounting requirements were completed outside of the United States, you may be required to have your credentials evaluated by an approved agency. Once your application has been reviewed, you will receive a notice to schedule your examination from the proper testing location assigned to you.
Once you have completed the examination and it has been graded, you will receive a report indicating your score as well as any prior credits you may have in your name. If you received a passing score, you will then be considered a licensed CPA. If you failed any of the sections, check the testing schedule to see if you can retake any of the sections before your credits expire. Most states require CPAs to complete continuing education hours in order to maintain their licensure.
Becoming a Certified Management Accountant (CMA)
A Certified Management Accountant, or CMA, differs from a Certified Public Accountant in that CMAs rarely work with the public. CMAs work specifically with businesses and organizations to offer advice regarding financial concerns that may be affecting their potential for success. They serve as counsel on all financial matters, including corporate spending, taxation compliance, planning, and budgeting. With the increasing number of industries turning to CMAs for financial help, the earning potential and job prospects for CMAs are very promising.
The Institute of Management Accountants offers the CMA program and examination to candidates with an accredited bachelor's degree and at least two consecutive years of experience in a management accounting or financial management capacity. The CMA exam identifies professionals with above-average skills in risk analysis, financial decision making, and internal controls.
To take the exam, you will need to file a registration form and pay the necessary fees. Once your eligibility has been confirmed, you will receive an acknowledgment form with an authorization number, testing opportunity window, instructions, and access to exam support. The first part of the CMA exam deals with planning, control, and performance, and consists of two essays and 100 multiple-choice problems. The second part of the exam is about decision making regarding financial issues. You might register to take your first exam sometime in your first year of accessing the CMA program, and you will need to complete both sections within 36 months. Once certified, CMAs must meet continuing education requirements to stay apprised of any changes within the field and to prove that they are keeping their accounting skills current.
Other Accounting Certifications
There are many certifications available to help accounting professionals specialize their skills and demonstrate their competency to potential employers and clients. Here are just a few of the popular certifications that accounting professionals can earn.
Becoming a Certified Financial Planner (CFP)
Financial planners and advisers determine how to best manage the financial investments of their clients and offer consultation on new sources of income. The goal of financial planners is to maximize profits for clients by providing educated fiscal advice on stocks, tax laws, insurance, and other investment opportunities. In addition, financial planners meet with their clients to discuss their current financial status and determine what is required to meet future economic goals, such as investments or retirement.
Because they must be trusted with the proper investment of people's money, it is extremely important that clients have a means of assessing the professional standards of their prospective financial planners. To ensure the professionalism and overall competence of advisers, the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards bestows Certified Financial Planner (CFP) certification to those who meet the necessary demands.
Financial planners seeking CFP certification must have obtained at least a bachelor's degree or meet the CFP board's equivalent education credentials. They must also have at least three years (6,000 hours) of full-time work experience in financial planning. While the bachelor's degree does not have to be in any specific field, the CFP board does ask that applicants have a broad education in nearly 100 key subjects, such as retirement planning and estate planning. The degree and work requirements must be fulfilled within five years after passing the CFP examination, or applicants may no longer be considered eligible for certification.
Once an applicant has met the necessary educational requirements, they must pass the CFP certification examination. The CFP exam assesses individual understanding of realistic financial planning scenarios and contemporary tax laws. The test is multiple choice, but looks for the application of knowledge, rather than rote memorization. With the exception of military veterans, who can receive reimbursement, all applicants must pay a fee to take the exam. All applicants can retake the exam in the event of a failing grade, but no more than five times.
Once all other requirements have been met, applicants must agree to the CFP board's standards of professional conduct and disciplinary procedures. Furthermore, applicants are reviewed by the CFP board to ensure that they meet the fitness standards for candidates and registrants. Those who have, for instance, past felony convictions or personal bankruptcy claims can be denied certification unless they successfully petition the CFP board to reconsider.
Becoming an Internal Auditor
Internal auditors are hired by a range of corporations to examine companies' financial records in search of inconsistencies, inefficiencies, and fraud, and to recommend strategies for improving overall financial integrity. Internal auditors also provide oversight for managerial finance reports and inform company directors of any mismanagement.
Although there are no official regulating organizations for internal auditors, the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) offers the most widely recognized standards of practice as well as certification of excellence in the field. The Certified Internal Auditor credential (known as the CIA, though not to be confused with the Central Intelligence Agency) is awarded to those who can demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of internal auditing. The CIA lets both employers and clients know that they can rely upon the auditors that possess it, which thus creates an occupational advantage for those who manage to obtain CIA credentials. To receive the CIA, all applicants must complete the following objectives:
Auditors must have earned a postsecondary degree in any field from an accredited university in order to qualify for the CIA. To confirm that they do in fact possess a degree, applicants must send formal documentation of their college graduation to the IIA either in the form of a transcript, a letter from their respective school, or a letter from evaluation services.
At least two years of work experience as an internal auditor is also necessary in order to receive the CIA. Individuals in possession of a master's degree, however, are only required to have completed one year's work as an auditor. Once they have met the two-year work requirement, candidates can then submit a form verifying and detailing their time spent as an auditor to the IIA.
Before anyone can be granted CIA credentials, they are first required to submit a form corroborating their ethical integrity to the IIA. The form in question must be filled out either by an already certified auditor, an employer or supervisor, or a university professor. Following the submission of their college degree documentation, CIA candidates are permitted to take a test that examines their skills as an internal auditor. The CIA exam comes in four sections: the internal audit activity, audit engagements, business analysis and information technology, and business management.
Becoming an Enrolled Agent for the IRS
Enrolled agents are nongovernmental tax professionals who become licensed by the United States Department of the Treasury to represent taxpayers in cases brought before the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Similar to attorneys, enrolled agents appear before the IRS in place of their clients during audits, collections, and appeal procedures. Additionally, enrolled agents are not restricted with regard to whom they can represent and act as consultants for single individuals as well as large organizations.
A career as an enrolled agent demands an in-depth understanding of taxation, and agents must constantly stay up to date with the latest developments in tax laws. Individuals are eligible to apply for enrolled agent status following the successful completion of the following:
Before anyone can be registered as an enrolled agent, they must first file for a Preparer Tax Identification Number (provided either online or on paper by the IRS). Once an individual has obtained an Identification Number, they must take the Special Enrollment Examination (SEE), a lengthy test that covers a huge range of issues in modern tax regulations. The SEE is divided into three parts: Individuals; Businesses; and Representation, Practices, and Procedures.
As an alternative to passing the SEE, individuals who work at least five years as tax professionals within the IRS can also apply to become enrolled agents. Professions eligible for promotion to enrolled agent status must specialize in the daily use and interpretation of the US tax code (e.g., tax examiners, revenue agents, and collectors). The educational achievements needed to obtain a job as a tax specialist in the IRS depend largely on the particular career, specialty, and branch of employment. However, previous work experience in addition to a bachelor's degree in accounting, business administration, economics, or a similar field are frequently required for employment with the IRS.
Once applicants have successfully completed the SEE or five years of work as a tax professional, they have effectively met the requirements to become an enrolled agent. To apply, applicants must submit an Application for Enrollment to Practice form and a fee to the IRS. Before they can be approved to work, all prospective enrolled agents must undergo an extensive background check to ensure that they have not failed to make any tax returns and that there are no tax liabilities on their record. If any problems are discovered during the background check, an applicant may be denied the right to become an enrolled agent.
Becoming a Certified Governmental Financial Manager (CGFM)
Government budget analysts, accountants, and auditors interested in improving their job performance, overall salary, and chances for employment may be interested in becoming Certified Government Financial Managers (CGFMs). Provided by the Association of Government Accountants (AGA), the CGFM credential is not needed to work as a financial management professional, but individuals who do hold certification have a simple way of demonstrating to employers that they possess the professional expertise and training needed to excel in their careers. Therefore, those who have earned the CGFM may have a considerable edge in the job market compared to those who only possess a college degree.
A bachelor's degree in any subject plus 24 semester or 36 quarter credit hours in coursework from an accredited college are essential for earning the CGFM designation. Additionally, the completed coursework must be part of at least one of nine different fields specified by the AGA, such as accounting, public administration, or budgeting. After graduation (or one year prior to graduation), candidates must send an application form to the AGA along with a fee and transcripts documenting their academic accomplishments.
Potential CGFMs are also required to have spent two years or more working in government financial management. Like the college coursework requirements, the financial management experience must have been completed within at least 1 of 14 AGA designated fields, such as financial report design/preparation or audit of contract compliance/costs. Again, like the college coursework requirements, a full report of your employment experience must be sent to the AGA's Office of Professional Certification via a work verification form.
Once candidates have submitted their school transcripts and application form, they are able to schedule a time to take the CGFM examinations, a series of three multiple-choice exams that test their comprehension of government institutions, governmental accounting, and financial management. There is also a fee for all three tests, which must be paid to the AGA. Upon successful completion of the CGFM examinations, candidates will receive an official award letter and certificate from the AGA designating them as a Certified Government Financial Manager.
Becoming a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE)
A Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) is an accountant with specialized examination skills. Their job is part numbers, part investigation, and part criminology. With the growing amount of identity theft, fraud, and corporate scandals, the need for CFEs is growing. To become a CFE, you must be a member of the ACFE (Association of Certified Fraud Examiners) and pass the CFE Exam. The CFE Exam tests your expertise and knowledge in the four main areas of being a CFE: fraudulent financial transactions, investigation methods, legal elements of fraud, and fraud prevention and deterrence.
Once you are an established association member, you can submit an exam application along with proof of your education and any professional recommendations to the Certification Department at the association’s headquarters. You should do this at least one month before you will be ready to take the CFE Exam. A completed application with proper documentation is necessary to be able to take the exam. You will also be required to pay any necessary fees with your exam application.
After applying for the CFE Exam, you can prepare for it by making use of the online exam prep course, attending the exam review course in person, or studying on your own. A majority of the exam questions come from material that is in the Fraud Examiners Manual, and the rest is compiled from information from the Corporate Fraud Handbook. After taking and passing your exam, you will officially become a CFE.
Frequently Asked Questions About Accounting Degrees
Can you become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) with an online degree?
Yes, you can become a CPA with an online degree, but you also need real-world experience working under a licensed CPA. Typically, you must earn a bachelor’s degree, pass an exam, and have one to two years of experience before you can become a licensed CPA, although requirements may vary depending on what state you live in.
What are the four areas of accounting?
The four main areas of accounting are public, private, government, and accounting education. Many of the job functions are similar but are performed for organizations with different purposes, stakeholders, and reporting obligations. Employees in public accounting often work with clients on a contract basis, and may work for a dedicated accounting firm. Private accountants perform financial analysis for one company or business. Government accountants work for government agencies, and this section includes state auditors. Accountants who work in education teach, conduct research, and train students to become accountants.
What types of accountants make the most money?
According to data from Glassdoor, chief financial officers and controllers make the most money in accounting, with salaries ranging from $78,000 to $286,000 per year, on average. These are top positions that are responsible for overseeing financial aspects of an organization. Starting your own accounting firm can also be lucrative, depending on the number of clients you have, among other factors.
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