In the world of finance, a bachelor’s degree will only get you so far; if you’re looking to move into a senior or upper-management position, it would be wise to pursue a master’s in accounting. In fact, in order to be eligible to sit for the CPA exam, a master’s degree is generally advised.
However, with most professionals juggling a work-life balance, the popularity of online degrees have skyrocketed. Without being tied to a set schedule or required to attend classes in a particular location, students have more flexibility, and also the ability to choose from some of the best schools, regardless of their location. To that end, we’ve assembled a list of the top 25 programs for earning a master’s in accounting online below.
Job Outlook and Salaries for Accounting
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that accountant and auditor professions are projected to grow 11% between 2014 and 2024 – faster than the average for most occupations.
Accountants who have earned professional recognition as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) have an especially promising outlook for jobs. Applicants with a master’s degree in accounting or business administration with a concentration in accounting also have a very strong advantage in the workforce.
There is significant demand for accountants, in both advanced and entry-level positions. However, competition is much stronger for senior positions and roles at prestigious accounting and business firms.
The median salary for accountants and auditors as of May 2016 was $68,150. Those working in finance and insurance earn an average salary on the higher end of the scale, at $72,920 per year, while the average of those working in government was closer to $65,820.
The lowest 10% of accountants and auditors earned less than $42,140, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $120,910.
According to Becker’s 2017 Salary Guide for finance and accounting, senior roles, for which a master’s of accounting would be required, earn significantly more.
- A financial reporting manager at a mid-sized company earns between $106,500 and $138,250.
- A cost accountant at a large company earns between $94,250 and $126,000.
- A forensic accountant earns between $77,250 and $121,000.
Job Options for Accounting
Like many jobs with unique day-to-day responsibilities, accountants manage a variety of tasks. From reporting during key periods like month- or year-end to analyzing numbers to meeting with clients, organizational teams, or superiors, accountants perform more than several major duties on the job. Many of an accountant’s typical responsibilities extend beyond excel sheets and Quickbooks to extensive client meetings and presentations.
Accountants require many skills that go beyond the obvious, such as mathematics, computer skills, analytical skills, and organization. Other skills crucial to accounting include:
Particularly in larger corporations, accountants will often work as part of a team, in which junior accountants prepare statements for senior accountants performing an audit.
Accountants are regularly required to communicate with colleagues, superiors, and clients – often those with no formal training in accounting or bookkeeping. Accountants need to be able to communicate clearly and simply surrounding finance and how it can impact a business.
Accountants are responsible for auditing, organizing, and managing a client or organization’s financial information. The ability to recognize when a task must be completed proactively separates a great accountant from an average one.
There are many areas of expertise within the field of accounting and finance. Some job options for those with an accounting degree or a master’s in accounting include:
- Accounting Assistant
- Accounting Clerk
- Accounting Manager
- Accounts Payable Clerk
- Accounts Receivable Clerk
- Budget Analyst
- Certified Internal Auditor
- Chief Financial Officer – CFO
- Forensic Accounting
- Government Accounting
- Payroll Clerk
- Staff Accountant
- Tax Accountant
The standard certification for an accountant is the CPA (Certified Public Accountant) credential.
The qualifications required to earn your CPA credential are determined by the Board of Accountancy, and vary from state to state. The state boards’ rules are slightly different, but almost all states and jurisdiction require at least a four-year bachelor’s degree with minimum accounting and business courses, as well as 150 credit hours—equivalent to a master’s degree—as a prerequisite for the exam.
If you live and work in the U.S., you should register in your resident state. If you fulfill the educational requirement of your state board, you are eligible to sit for the CPA exam. The exam itself is the same nationwide, officially called the “uniform CPA examination.”
The exam covers intermediate/advanced accounting and related fields, including business, law, and taxation. It consists of four parts, and you can take them one at a time and in any sequence:
- Auditing and Attestation (AUD) – four hours
- Business Environment and Concepts (BEC) – three hours
- Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) – four hours
- Regulation (REG) – three hours
There are several popular financial certifications one could pursue in addition to the previous, all of which are in demand, according to Becker’s 2017 Salary Guide for finance and accounting, including:
- CGMA (Chartered Global Management Accountant)
- CIA (Certified Internal Auditor)
- CISA (Certified Information Systems Auditor)
- CMA (Certified Management Accountant)
- CPP (Certified Payroll Professional)
Top 25 Online Master’s in Accounting Programs
The University of Scranton offers a master’s in accounting online, recognized as a top-10 ranked university offering master’s programs in the north by U.S. News & World Report. The program, offered by the university’s Kania School of Management, addresses practical staffing as a strategic component of organizational development, learning in the context of the workplace, and cultural diversity. The university also offers a MAcc bridge option, open to non-accounting majors, in which students who have a non-accounting bachelor’s degree study the necessary prerequisite courses online to provide the foundation needed for the master’s program.
Located in the Mile High City and with the Rocky Mountains as its backdrop, Regis University is one of 28 Jesuit colleges and universities in the United States. The university offers a recognized master’s of accounting online with a strong foundation in ethics, a subject in high demand by corporations and accounting licensing bodies. Regis University is consistently ranked among top universities, including recognition for 19 consecutive years by U.S. News & World Report as one of the best colleges and universities in the country.
The UNC MAC program offers a master’s of accounting in just one year of study. The program is offered through the prestigious university’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, which has an exceptional track record of 98% of students accepting an offer of employment within three months of graduation, most with the Big Four and middle-market accounting firms. These graduates typically start with salaries over $50K and top $100K just five years in.
The AACSB-accredited program at University of Massachusetts-Amherst offers a master’s in accounting that is efficient, flexible, and affordable, allowing students to quickly launch careers in accounting. Students gain both breadth and depth of knowledge in accounting and business. By earning an MSA at Isenberg School of Management, you fulfill the educational requirements to become CPA-certified and get a head start in the competitive job market. Even if your bachelor’s degree is in an unrelated field, you can earn your master’s degree in accounting at UMASS Amherst through an accounting transitions program – a certificate that can be completed in just one summer.
Saint Joseph’s College, located in Standish, Maine, offers a master’s in accounting online, as well as an MAcc Fast Track Option. Eligible students may be able to complete their master of accountancy degree in just one year. With a bachelor’s degree in accounting, applicants will be able to have up to six credits waived if they have earned at least a B in both intermediate accounting I & II during their undergraduate program. Undergraduate students and graduates from any institution who meet eligibility requirements for the waivers of six credits, have the opportunity to pursue the fast track into the master of accountancy program.
The objective of this unique curriculum, offered by Nova Southeastern University, is to enhance the knowledge and skills of accounting professionals and prepare entry-level students for a career in accounting. Meeting all CPA requirements, the master of accounting program prepares students to enter or advance in a career as a professional accountant.
This university offers an online accounting master’s of science MSA, via UMass Lowell’s Manning School of Business through the Division of Online and Continuing Education. The program offers students the opportunity for in-depth study on topics such as globalization, governmental and nonprofit accounting, forensic accounting, corporate finance, and advanced auditing.
Liberty University’s MS in accounting was recently listed as one of the top three online accounting programs by Online Education Database. The school also reports an impressive 88% of graduates securing a job within six months.
UConn’s online master of science program in accounting (MSA) is one of the most acclaimed accounting programs in the Northeast and the first online Master’s program at UConn. The school also offers an Accounting Certificate Program (ACP), a graduate-level certificate conducted online, which combines the material from six undergraduate accounting courses into a four-course graduate sequence.
Concordia University offers a master’s in accounting online, designed to serve students in their accounting career as a CPA. The MBA in accounting is led by a faculty of worldwide practitioners and has a 40% international student body. The Concordia School of Business does not require graduate students to take a CMAT or GRE or write a thesis as part of the admission process. Instead, a capstone course is required at the end of the program to prove skill level.
The MS in accounting from Indiana Wesleyan University-Marion ranges from an 18-26 month program. Indiana Wesleyan University is an evangelical Christian comprehensive university of The Wesleyan Church and the largest private college in Indiana, based on enrollment. Over 10,000 adult learners attend classes at education centers in Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio, as well as online. Indiana Wesleyan University is an energized academic community committed to changing the world.
The University of Alabama at Birmingham ranks No.22 among the U.S News & World Report‘s “best graduate programs” and the nation’s “best national universities.” The online accounting master’s degree from UAB’s Collat School of Business is designed to help expand analytical, business, and leadership skills that students can bring directly into the field.
George Mason University is Virginia’s largest public research university. The school has grown rapidly over the past fifty years, and is recognized for its innovation and entrepreneurship. It offers extensive online courses, which can be completed from home for working professionals or while traveling or stationed abroad. The online accounting master’s degree program sees 66% of graduates receive a signing bonus and nearly 86% secure a position related to their academic or career goals at graduation.
SUNY Polytechnic Institute is a cutting-edge institute that offers training for in-demand careers. This online accounting master’s degree is led by the same faculty as on-campus courses, and includes access to a personal tutor and classes formed around your schedule, ideal for professionals continuing their education.
The master of science degree from from California Baptist University is an online accounting master’s program that seeks to develop highly skilled and practical business leaders who are committed to making profitable and ethical contributions to the organizations in which they serve.
Bay Path University offers a master’s in accounting online with public, private, and forensic tracks. The program has a highly expedited option of eight months if you begin during an April or May start date.
Students enrolled in the master’s in accountancy program at Gardner-Webb University have the opportunity to take on-campus or online accounting classes. The graduate degree in accounting offers advanced training for careers that include financial management, budget analysis, financial planning, taxes, auditing, research, and record keeping. Graduates often work for accounting firms, the Internal Revenue Service and other federal agencies, businesses such as hospitals, public school systems, multinational corporations, and nonprofit organizations.
Edgewood College offers an MS Accountancy program designed to help students get the best job possible. From career coaching and on-campus career fairs to the student-run accounting club and network of unparalleled internships, this master’s degree in accounting online covers every aspect of making students industry-ready. Edgewood College has also been recognized by U.S. News & World Report as a “best national university,” among “America’s best colleges” by Forbes, and a “best in the Midwest college” by Princeton Review.
This MAcc – online master’s in accounting program from Auburn University is the same AACSB International accredited degree as delivered on campus. The program teaches students technical, research, and communication skills, as well as prepares them to pass the Uniform CPA Examination on their first try.
Georgia Southern University’s WebMAcc (master’s of accounting online) offers a program that mirrors on-campus curriculum and is taught by the same experienced faculty, but is available at a pace geared toward full-time professionals. Students take two classes during the spring and fall semesters and just one class during the summer, over the course of two years.
Saint Leo University offers both an online accounting master’s degree and an online MBA with an accounting concentration. The university has a rich history, originally founded in 1889, as the oldest Catholic higher education institute in Florida. The school has also been serving online learners since the 1990s.
The Friends University Professional MBA offers an accounting concentration, among other options. Within the program, students can choose to study on campus or learn through online accounting classes. Additionally, students who have a least two continuous years of professional experience in management accounting or financial management can also sit for the Certified Management Accounting (CMA) exam.
The M. E. Rinker, Sr. Institute of Tax and Accountancy at Stetson University offers an online master’s of accounting – MAcc – that is built on outstanding academics. Stetson is one of 180 elite business schools worldwide accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).
The Rider University online MAcc – Master of Accountancy is a strong choice for those looking to learn at their own pace. The flexible program allows you to begin online accounting classes in the fall, spring, or summer terms. Rider University’s program is AACSB Accounting Accredited which is a designation held by less than 3% of accounting programs worldwide. The program, which can be completed in 16 months, has both a concentration in forensic accounting and a CPA track.
The Southern New Hampshire MS in accounting offers an online accounting master’s that can be completed in as little as 15 months. There are four available areas of concentration: auditing, forensic accounting, management accounting, and taxation.
To determine the best online master’s programs in accounting, we looked at the most important factors prospective students, mainly common predictors of future success and a school’s commitment to online programs. This boils down to admissions rate, student loan default rate, retention rate, graduation rate, and the percent of students enrolled in online classes. All data points are taken from information provided by colleges and universities to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Each factor is weighted evenly in order to give an objective view and determine the 25 best online master’s programs in accounting. To calculate our rankings, we looked at a school’s ranking when organized by a single factor, and then averaged each category’s ranking to find an overall score: Admissions Rate (20%) + Default Rate (20%) + Retention Rate (20%) + Graduation Rate (20%) + Percent of Students Enrolled in Online Classes (20%) = Final score.