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Top 25 Programs for a Master’s in Accounting Online

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.

What Are The Best Online Master’s in Accounting Programs?

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.

For example:

  • 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:

Teamwork

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.

Communication

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.

Initiative

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:

  • Accountant
  • Accounting Assistant
  • Accounting Clerk
  • Accounting Manager
  • Accounts Payable Clerk
  • Accounts Receivable Clerk
  • Bookkeeping
  • Budget Analyst
  • Certified Internal Auditor
  • Chief Financial Officer – CFO
  • Comptroller/Controller
  • CPA
  • Forensic Accounting
  • Government Accounting
  • Payroll Clerk
  • Staff Accountant
  • Tax Accountant

Accounting Certification

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)

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.