Students are flocking to online schools by the millions, and accounting students are at the head of the pack. They know that accountants are handsomely rewarded for their work: according to government figures, accountants’ median income in 2008 was more than $65,000. The job market is also attractive: in the wake of recent corporate financial scandals, companies are especially in need of well-trained accountants who can ensure compliance with government regulations.
How can you get in on the action? Read through our frequently asked questions for basic information about earning an accounting degree online. Elsewhere on our site, you can read about some top online accounting programs and career options.
FAQ about Online Accounting Degrees
People sometimes confuse accounting with bookkeeping and other business-related jobs. Basically, an accountant is responsible not only for accomplishing bookkeeping tasks – e.g., keeping track of accounts receivable and accounts payable – but also for monitoring the overall bookkeeping system. Therefore, a typical accounting job would involve setting up a records system, supervising a team of bookkeepers, interpreting reports, and analyzing the overall bookkeeping system.
The combination of an associate’s degree in bookkeeping and a bookkeeping certification is often sufficient for entry-level work in the accounting field. Ultimately, however, a bookkeeper might want to apply his or her associate degree credits towards a bachelor’s in accounting. This would lead to more job possibilities and significantly higher pay.
Most accountants in the United States have earned at least a bachelor’s degree. Graduates are known as Public Accountants. After earning a bachelor’s, some accountants earn an additional 30 credits to become Certified Public Accountants, or CPAs. This certification gives accountants an extra competitive edge in most U.S. states, which only permit CPAs to provide public attestations on financial statements.
As for graduate degrees, some accountants continue schooling and earn an MBA (Master of Business Administration) degree. Many online MBA programs offer concentrations in accounting. It’s also possible to earn a doctorate in accounting. This degree is designed for careers in research and teaching.
Business schools have invested heavily in their online programs. In several important ways, online accounting programs are indistinguishable from their campus-based counterparts. At the same time, of course, online learning is distinguished by its convenience.
In many cases, online students and on-campus students are taught by the same professors, use the same textbooks, and take the same tests. Consequently, some universities do not even feel the need to denote “online learning” on student transcripts.
The most convenient form of online learning is referred to as “asynchronous”, which means students and the professor need not be online at the same time. This allows students the flexibility to access accounting lectures at any time of day or night. “Synchronous learning”, on the other hand, requires specific log-in times.
If aspects of both online and on-campus learning appeal to you, then you might seek out “blended” or “hybrid” accounting programs. Programs with these formats let students take some classes on campus and some classes online.
Prospective students should be wary of diploma mills, which are low-quality schools that sell rather worthless degrees. However, many reputable universities and community colleges offer online accounting programs. To ensure that a program is accredited, verify that it’s listed in the Council on Higher Education Accreditation’s database. Additionally, business schools that are endorsed by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) are well-respected within the accounting community.
See our article about top online accounting schools to get started on your search!