15 Best Schools With Online Accounting Courses for CPA Credit 2021

Ranked among the top 10 business jobs by U.S. News & World Report, accounting offers excellent job security, competitive pay, and employment options for every education level. These characteristics are especially valuable in today's volatile job market.

Accounting offers many career and degree options, and obtaining work as a certified public accountant (CPA) remains one of the most popular career paths. Prospective CPAs must complete their state's education, experience, and examination requirements to earn the designation.

Accountants make a median annual salary of $71,550, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, but many CPAs can expect to earn even more. A 2017 survey from the Association of International CPAs revealed the average salary for a U.S.-based CPA was $119,000.

This guide explores the benefits of becoming a CPA and the various ways to earn this coveted certification. We update the following ranking of top online accounting programs every year to reflect the rapidly evolving field.

Recommended Online Accounting Programs

2021's Top 10 Online Schools for CPA Credit

Rank School Location
1 Seminole State College of Florida Sanford, FL
2 Southwestern Community College Sylva, NC
3 Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College Rice Lake, WI
4 Montgomery County Community College Blue Bell, PA
5 Georgia Piedmont Technical College Clarkston, GA
6 Georgia Northwestern Technical College Rome, GA
7 Southwest Wisconsin Technical College Fennimore, WI
8 Moraine Park Technical College Fond du Lac, WI
9 University of Alaska Fairbanks Fairbanks, AK
10 St. Petersburg College St. Petersburg, FL
See Detailed Rankings

What is CPA Certification?

CPA certification is a designation issued by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). Not every accounting career requires CPA certification, but accountants who want to practice as CPAs must successfully pass the AICPA's Uniform CPA Examination.

As the name suggests, the exam's content is the same for all test-takers. It comprises four sections: auditing and attestation, business environment and concepts, financial accounting and reporting, and regulation. Students have four hours to complete each section and must pass all sections within an 18-month period.

The computer-based exam is designed to test the minimum knowledge and skills required of CPAs. It features multiple-choice questions, task-based simulations, written communication tasks, and research-oriented questions. Test-takers must pay application fees, examination fees, and registration fees — the cost of which vary by jurisdiction.

Each state also sets its own experience and education requirements for CPA certification and licensure.

Meeting the CPA Exam Education Requirement

In most states, students need to earn at least 150 college credits in order to meet the education requirements for CPA certification. Some state Boards of Accountancy further break down these 150 credits into subject-specific requirements. For example, in California candidates must satisfy the following:

  • At least 24 credits focused on accounting subjects
  • At least 24 credits focused on business related subjects
  • At least 20 credits of accounting study
  • At least 10 credits of ethics study

To help fulfill these credit requirements, states require CPA candidates to hold a bachelor's degree, totalling around 120 credits. Most states do not specify a required major, but studying accounting or finance is likely your best bet.

After their bachelor's, it's up to the student to determine the best way to complete the additional 30-credit requirement. Common options include a master's in accounting, a post-baccalaureate certificate specifically designed for CPA preparation, and other types of online accounting courses.

The Best Online Courses for CPA Certification in 2021

The following list ranks the top schools offering accounting classes online in 2021. These institutions provide certificates and diplomas that aspiring CPAs can use to complement their undergraduate education and prepare for their exams.

Our Ranking Methodology

Seminole State College of Florida

Public university in Sanford, FL, accredited by SACSCOC

The eighth-largest member institution in the Florida College System, Seminole State serves more than 32,000 students from its main campus in Sanford, Florida. The school offers about 40 online programs for nontraditional learning.

Accounting Specialist Technical Certificate

Seminole State's accounting specialist technical certificate provides 12 semester hours of undergraduate credit. Students can apply that credit toward an associate degree or a bachelor's degree at Seminole State or another accredited institution. Alternatively, aspiring CPAs who already hold a bachelor's degree may count these 12 credits toward the academic requirements for their certification.

This program consists of four courses: business mathematics, business communication, office accounting I, and keyboarding and document processing. These courses include practical hands-on learning experiences to help learners advance in their careers. After earning a certificate, students can start working as accounting assistants or clerks while continuing their education.

Applying to Seminole State

Applicants first complete an online or paper application and then provide their academic transcripts and proof of residency status. Once accepted, students may need to take a placement test and submit financial aid applications.

Program at a Glance

  • Tuition: $1,253 total
  • Required Credits: 12 credits
  • Program Length: 1 semester
  • Delivery Format: On campus, hybrid, and online

Southwestern Community College

Public college in Sylva, NC, accredited by SACSCOC

Part of the North Carolina Community College System, SCC serves more than 7,500 students in a variety of academic and career training programs. The school distinguished itself by creating the Oconaluftee Institute for Cultural Arts in partnership with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

Accounting and Finance Certificate

SCC offers four accounting and finance certificates to prepare students for employment and growth in the industry. In addition to a general certificate, learners can choose a program in bookkeeping, tax, or payroll. Courses in the program include individual income taxes, principles of managerial accounting, and accounting software applications.

Students may transfer certificate credits into SCC's associate degree or diploma program in accounting and finance. Aspiring CPAs who hold a degree but need additional credits to qualify for the exam can also benefit from this certificate. Graduates qualify for careers in entry-level accounting positions across a variety of industries.

Applying to SCC

Prospective students fill out an application, which triggers a match with an advisor. Applicants then submit official transcripts and take a placement test. This program does not qualify for financial aid, so applicants do not need to submit financial aid documents.

Program at a Glance

  • Tuition: $76/credit (in state); $268/credit (out of state)
  • Required Credits: 16 credits
  • Program Length: 1 term
  • Delivery Format: Online, on campus

Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College

Public college in Rice Lake, WI, accredited by the HLC

Founded in 1912, WITC now serves one in 16 people in the community. The school offers more than 100 programs, and approximately 92% of WITC graduates secure employment within six months of graduation.

Accounting Assistant Technical Diploma

Students in WITC's accounting assistant program can earn 30 credits to transfer toward a degree, launch a career, or count toward the CPA certification's educational requirement. This program teaches enrollees to use current technology and software and employs case studies to teach real-world business problem-solving.

Courses in WITC's accounting diploma include payroll systems and financial accounting along with software classes in Excel, Word, and Access. Graduates who choose to enter a career may pursue jobs as accounting clerks or tax preparer assistants. Those who plan to pursue additional education can seamlessly transfer into any of Wisconsin's public institutions.

Applying to WITC

Prospective students can complete the application process in a single visit. After submitting an application and a $30 fee, applicants can schedule a meeting with an admissions counselor to discuss enrollment and career paths.

Program at a Glance

  • Tuition: $4,529 total
  • Required Credits: 30 credits
  • Program Length: 1 year
  • Delivery Format: Online or hybrid

Montgomery County Community College

Public college in Blue Bell, PA, accredited by MSCHE

Founded in 1964, MCCC serves more than 12,000 students in a variety of academic and career preparation programs. The school maintains a municipal police academy and a culinary arts institute along with many traditional educational divisions.

Accounting Certificate

MCCC's accounting certificate equips students to become bookkeepers or payroll clerks. Graduates can also transfer into a two- or four-year academic program. The 31-credit certificate provides half the semester hours needed for an associate degree.

Courses include payroll accounting, business software essentials, and strategic analytics for leaders. Learners can add on certificates in payroll accounting, bookkeeping, and QuickBooks.

In this program, students learn to report accounting information, prepare written financial documents, and create financial statements. Coursework also covers application of the principles of internal control to basic business processes. Graduates should know how to support data-driven management in the companies where they serve.

Applying to MCCC

It takes just 15 minutes to apply to MCCC. Prospective students complete the free online application and press submit. Upon acceptance, enrollees can use MCCC's step-by-step guide to keep track of their admissions process.

Program at a Glance

  • Tuition: $144/credit (county residents); $288/credit (out of county); $432/credit (out of state)
  • Required Credits: 31 credits
  • Program Length: 1 year
  • Delivery Format: Online or on campus

Georgia Piedmont Technical College

Public college in Clarkston, GA, accredited by SACSCOC

Georgia Piedmont Tech began in 1961 with 18 students, all studying electronics technology. Today, the institution enrolls about 8,000 degree-seekers and 9,000 other learners. Georgia Piedmont Tech resides in the greater Atlanta area.

Accounting Diploma

Students in Georgia Piedmont Tech's accounting diploma program prepare for accounting careers in technology-driven firms. The school's 42-credit program emphasizes both accounting theory and real-world application. Students learn about banking techniques, data interpretation, recordkeeping, and income tax preparation.

GPTC's diploma includes eight credits of basic skills, 28 credits of required major courses, and three credits each of accounting electives and general electives. Accounting courses include business tax accounting, principles of fraud examination, an accounting internship, and an accounting simulation.

Upon graduation, students can pursue entry-level accounting jobs or transfer into a higher-level education program. They can also apply their credits toward the education requirement for the CPA exam.

Applying to Georgia Piedmont Tech

Prospective students can apply online, in person, or through email. Applicants must provide high school transcripts or GRE scores, college transcripts, and college placement test results. The school sometimes suspends its normal $25 nonrefundable application fee.

Program at a Glance

  • Tuition: $100/credit (in state); $200/credit (out of state); $400/credit (international)
  • Required Credits: 42 credits
  • Delivery Format: Online or on campus

Georgia Northwestern Technical College

Public college in Rome, GA, accredited by SACSCOC

A technical college that serves students in nine counties across northwest Georgia, GNTC emerged from the 2009 merger of two institutions, Coosa Valley Technical College and Northwestern Technical College. The school now operates several educational centers.

Accounting (AC12) Diploma

GNTC's 42-credit diploma equips students for accounting careers in the technology-driven workplaces of the 21st century. The school's curriculum blends general education coursework with occupational studies.

GNTC's occupational courses include payroll accounting, spreadsheet applications, computerized accounting, and individual tax accounting. Students must earn a grade of C or higher in each occupational course in order to graduate.

Degree-seekers can apply this diploma's 42 credits toward the 64 semester hours required to earn an associate in accounting at GNTC. Students can apply the credits toward other degrees also, such as the associate in business technology. These credits also count toward the CPA exam's education requirement.

Applying to GNTC

Applicants fill out the online application form and pay the $25 nonrefundable application fee. Prospective students must also submit high school transcripts or proof of earning the GED certificate before attending new student orientation.

Program at a Glance

  • Tuition: $100/credit (in state); $200/credit (out of state); $400/credit (international)
  • Required Credits: 42 credits
  • Delivery Format: Online or on campus

Southwest Wisconsin Technical College

A public college in Fennimore, WI, accredited by the HLC

Founded in 1967, Southwest Tech originally offered a single educational program called Farm Training. Today, the school serves an area composed of 30 school districts and provides an array of technical training and educational programs.

Accounting Assistant Technical Diploma

Created to help energetic, detail-oriented people enter the accounting profession, Southwest Tech's diploma requires one year to complete. The curriculum consists of 34 credits, including courses in accounting, software, and general education. Coursework includes taxes 1, Microsoft PowerPoint, Sage 50, and career planning in business. New students can begin in August or January.

Upon graduation, learners should be able to process transactions, analyze financial statements, and perform payroll operations. Graduates can seek employment as bookkeepers, tax accountants, or payroll clerks. Degree-seekers who add another year of study may earn their associate degree in accounting.

Applying to Southwest Tech

Applicants must submit an application along with a $30 fee. The school encourages prospective students to send transcripts, Accuplacer scores, and previous GPA so they can find the right class fit. The program also encourages applicants to submit financial aid applications.

Program at a Glance

  • Tuition: $5,170/diploma
  • Required Credits: 34 credits
  • Program Length: 2 semesters
  • Delivery Format: Online or on campus

Moraine Park Technical College

Public college in Fond du Lac, WI, accredited by the HLC

Educating more than 17,000 students, MPTC offers over 100 academic programs including associate degrees, diplomas, and certificates. The school maintains three campuses, two regional centers, and several satellite locations along with an online presence.

Accounting Assistant

This 35-credit, one-year diploma blends hands-on technical learning with classroom instruction to equip students for entry-level careers in the financial industry. Learners investigate concepts and principles of accounting and learn to use modern accounting software.

Courses include payroll accounting; applied accounting; and data management, reporting, and analysis. Equipped with the ability to analyze transactions, perform payroll, and report financial information, graduates can pursue careers as payroll specialists, income tax preparers, or accounts payable and receivable specialists.

Graduates can transfer seamlessly into MPTC's associate degree in accounting. The college's credits also transfer automatically to any Wisconsin public college or one of 16 private colleges in the state.

Applying to MPTC

Prospective students complete the online application, send transcripts, and pay a one-time nonrefundable fee of $30. Applicants should then wait for further instructions, as the school may require additional steps. Accepted students must take the Accuplacer test.

Program at a Glance

  • Tuition: $138.90/credit (in state); $204.75/credit (out of state)
  • Required Credits: 35 credits
  • Program Length: 1 year
  • Delivery Format: Online or on campus

University of Alaska Fairbanks

Public university in Fairbanks, AK, accredited by the NWCCU

Founded in 1917, UAF is the flagship campus of the University of Alaska system. The school serves more than 8,000 students on six rural or urban campuses and online.

Accounting Technician Certificate

UAF's certificate prepares students for careers as bookkeepers, payroll accountants, or clerks in accounts receivable or payable. The program's 30 credits include online accounting courses such as principles of accounting, income tax, microcomputer accounting, and accounting for nonprofits. Students conclude their academic experience with a capstone.

The university requires a grade of C- or better in all courses in order to graduate, and transfer students must earn at least 15 credits at UAF. Graduates can pursue careers or go straight into UAF's associate of applied science in applied accounting. The certificate also counts toward the education required to sit for the CPA exam.

Applying to UAF

Prior to applying, prospective students should possess basic computer skills, be at least 18 years old, and hold a high school diploma or a GED certificate. Applicants to the certificate program do not need to submit ACT or SAT scores.

Program at a Glance

  • Tuition: $7,644/program
  • Required Credits: 30 credits
  • Delivery Format: Online

St. Petersburg College

Public college in St. Petersburg, FL, accredited by SACSCOC

Enrolling about 29,000 students, SPC is recognized for offering more bachelor's programs than most two-year colleges. SPC's mascot, Titus the Titan, represents the school's many athletic teams.

Accounting Technology Operations Certificate

SPC's online accounting certificate prepares learners to pursue jobs in financial recordkeeping and reporting. Students learn to maintain and organize business records and prepare financial documents.

Online accounting courses in the program include financial accounting, managerial accounting, introduction to business, and accounting software applications. Students also complete an internship consisting of 60 hours in a real-world business setting.

Graduates qualify to sit for the QuickBooks Certification Exam, and the program's credits can apply toward the educational requirements for earning a CPA. Alternatively, graduates may move directly into careers as bookkeepers, accounting clerks, or small business accounts professionals.

Applying to SPC

It takes about 10 minutes to complete the online application and send the $40 application fee. Applicants must then send high school transcripts or GED certificate scores along with test scores, college transcripts, and proof of residence if applicable.

Program at a Glance

  • Tuition: $111.75/credit (in state); $386.90/credit (out of state)
  • Required Credits: 18 credits
  • Program Length: 1 year or less
  • Delivery Format: Online

Champlain College

Private college in Burlington, VT, accredited by the NECHE

Founded in 1878, Champlain now serves more than 2,200 graduate and undergraduate students and offers about 60 online programs. The school's distinctive mascot, Chauncey T. Beaver, first appeared in 1960.

Certificate in Accounting

Online accounting students can complete Champlain's undergraduate certificate with just 16 credits. Each course requires about 10-17 hours of work per week. During the seven-week course term, learners enjoy 24/7 access to coursework. Classes in the program include financial accounting, managerial accounting, federal taxes I, and integrated learning through practice.

Upon graduation, students should possess the skills to do bookkeeping, file federal tax returns, and interpret financial information. Graduates wishing to become CPAs should find the accounting certificate helps prepare them for the accounting portions of their exam. Champlain students can take advantage of a career add-on bundle for an additional fee.

Applying to Champlain

The school prefers applicants with a minimum GPA of 2.5. A resume, application, and answers to 3-4 short essay questions complete the admissions process for most aspiring students.

Program at a Glance

  • Tuition: $318/credit
  • Required Credits: 16 credits
  • Delivery Format: Online

Pitt Community College

Public college in Winterville, NC, accredited by SACSCOC

More than 9,000 undergraduate students along with thousands of other learners seek an education at PCC. In addition to its campus-based programs, the school offers more than 3,000 online courses and nearly 500 hybrid courses.

Accounting and Finance Certificates

PCC offers three accounting and finance certificates. The basic accounting certificate includes courses such as introduction to business and principles of managerial accounting. The accounting productivity software certificate requires courses in accounting software applications and data spreadsheet analysis. The managerial/small business accounting certificate includes coursework in payroll accounting and individual income taxes.

Along with specialized program knowledge, enrollees learn to prepare, present, and interpret financial documents. Graduates of all programs can seek immediate employment, transfer their credits toward an associate or bachelor's degree, or apply their credits toward qualifying for the CPA exam.

Applying to PCC

Applicants first submit a residency determination to ascertain which tuition rate applies. They then send an application and transcripts. Homeschooled students and other nontraditional applicants may need to submit additional material.

Program at a Glance

  • Tuition: $76/credit (in state, online); $268/credit (out of state)
  • Required Credits: 15-18 credits
  • Program Length: 2 semesters
  • Delivery Format: Online

Southeastern Illinois College

Public college in Harrisburg, IL, accredited by the HLC

Founded in 1960, SIC now serves about 5,000 enrollees each year according to its mission of promoting lifelong learning. The school's mascot, the falcon, honors SIC's athletic teams and well-known forensics team.

Business Certificates

SIC offers many business-related degrees and certificates, including a certificate in accounting. Courses in this program include financial accounting, business law, and computerized accounting. Enrollees must earn a minimum 2.0 GPA to graduate from SIC with this certificate.

Business students can participate in Phi Beta Lambda, a national business student organization that helps members prepare and network for careers and further education. After completing the certificate, graduates may get started in a career right away or transfer their credits to an associate or bachelor's program. Aspiring CPAs may find the certificate helpful in preparing for the CPA exam.

Applying to SIC

Prospective students should fill out an application, provide proof of residency, and send copies of their high school transcripts or GED certificate scores. Applicants must also take a placement test before registering for classes.

Program at a Glance

  • Tuition: $106/credit (in district); $172/credit (out of district); $180/credit (out of state); $110/credit (remote)
  • Required Credits: 19 credits
  • Program Length: 2 semesters
  • Delivery Format: Online or on campus

North Hennepin Community College

Public college in Brooklyn Park, MN, accredited by the HLCC

Founded in 1966 with an enrollment of 425 students, NHCC now boasts a student body of almost 10,000 learners. In addition to associate and certificate programs, the school collaborates with universities across Minnesota to offer 13 bachelor's programs.

Accounting Skills Certificate

NHCC's accounting skills certificate equips learners with basic computer, accounting, and business communication skills. The five-course curriculum includes financial accounting, computerized accounting with QuickBooks, business computer systems, decision-making with Excel, and business communications and technology. Students must earn all their credits at NHCC to graduate from the certificate program.

Accounting graduates leave NHCC with a strong sense of business and technology ethics, effective communication skills, and the ability to analyze financial information for decision-makers. Certificate credits can transfer toward an accounting technology associate degree or a bachelor's program. Aspiring CPAs can use the credits and knowledge gained in this certificate to qualify for the CPA exam.

Applying to NHCC

Applicants should submit an online application, standardized test scores, and transcripts or GED certificate scores. Prospective students who have not taken a placement test can complete the AccuPlacer through NHCC. At that point, students can apply for financial aid.

Program at a Glance

  • Tuition: $191.53/credit (on campus, hybrid); $201.21/credit (online)
  • Required Credits: 16 credits
  • Delivery Format: Online or on campus

Western Iowa Tech Community College

Public college in Sioux Falls, IA, accredited by the HLC

From its five campuses in northwest Iowa, WITCC serves almost 7,000 full-time and part-time learners. The school offers about 170 certificates, diplomas, and associate programs. A technologically innovative institution, WITCC is recognized as an Apple Distinguished School.

Accounting Diploma

Aspiring accountants and financial services professionals can get started in their careers with WITCC's accounting diploma. This program requires 14 courses including payroll accounting, income tax accounting, and office procedures. Learners who are unfamiliar with computers should also take introduction to computers before beginning the program. Students must earn a grade of C or better in all required online accounting courses in order to graduate.

WITCC students may participate in the college's accounting club. Members hear guest speakers, network with real-world accounting professionals, conduct mock interviews, and prepare for career success. Accounting graduates may apply their coursework toward the education credits required to take the CPA exam.

Applying to WITCC

Prospective students complete the free online application on WITCC's website. Once admitted, new enrollees receive a login to the student portal. There, they can apply for financial aid and register for classes.

Program at a Glance

  • Tuition: $158/credit hour (in state); $159/credit hour (out of state); $195/credit hour (online)
  • Required Credits: 39 credits
  • Program Length: 11 months
  • Delivery Format: Online

What the Best Certificates Toward CPA Credit Have in Common

Schools vary in emphasis, structure, and quality, and each student's college experience is a little different. Still, many of the top accounting schools share similar characteristics.

  • They Are Accredited. In the U.S., accreditation is a formal, voluntary process by which colleges and universities demonstrate their academic, financial, and organizational strength and credibility. Of the various types of accreditation, regional garners the most respect. To maximize the value of their education and earn credits that count toward CPA requirements, accounting students should only consider regionally accredited schools. Regional accrediting agencies include the following:

    • - Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
    • - Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
    • - New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
    • - Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
    • - Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
    • - WASC Senior College and University Commission

  • They Offer Academic Excellence. What makes a CPA school excellent academically? Our rankings use criteria such as the graduation rate, full-time faculty, student retention rate, and student-to-faculty ratio to measure excellence. The best accounting schools provide focused, supportive instruction that helps learners graduate on time. Some schools, such as Western Iowa Tech Community College, offer accounting clubs for students to gain real-world experience and academic mastery.

  • They Are Reputable, Yet Affordable. Most prospective students want to earn a strong return on their investment in higher education. Our rankings measure affordability using net price, default loan rate, and average aid awarded. Some schools, such as Southwestern Community College in Sylva, North Carolina, offer steep in-state tuition discounts to improve affordability. A school's reputation is measured by admission yield, percentage of applicants admitted, and how much graduates earn six years after graduation.

  • They Have Strong Accounting Programs. A college's overall reputation may not reflect its distinctive strength in accounting. To evaluate schools’ reputations, we consider the percentage of degrees offered and awarded at the relevant level, focus, and discipline. Schools such as Montgomery County Community College offer a large array of business degrees, certificates, and noncredit training in business. The institution's sizable investment in business education indicates that the school maintains a strong accounting program.

Why Become a CPA?

Obtaining CPA certification and licensure is no easy task. Before earning the right to practice, aspiring professionals must complete several years of education, pass a rigorous examination, and, in many states, accrue work experience under the supervision of a licensed CPA.

The perks for CPAs who fulfill these requirements include better pay, advanced job opportunities, and increased job security. Compared to the median $41,230 brought home by entry-level bookkeeping, auditing, and accounting clerks, accountants earn a median $71,550 salary. CPAs frequently earn more than uncertified accountants because companies value their advanced knowledge and abilities.

CPAs commonly work in public accounting firms or operate their own small businesses. They also find employment opportunities in government, finance, insurance, and private enterprises. Opportunities are available at small and large businesses in both rural and urban locations.

Accounting Degree Levels

Though CPA requirements dictate 150 hours of required college credits, students can choose from a number of higher education options in pursuit of this career. Below, we discuss each accounting degree level — certificate, associate, bachelor's, and master's.

Accounting Certificates

Certificates are the quickest path to a college-level education.

These nondegree programs typically comprise approximately 20-30 credits and take about a year to complete when studying full time. Because of their condensed format, certificates offer few, if any, customization options. All students take the same courses to develop fundamental competencies in accounting principles.

With an accounting certificate, graduates can seek employment in entry-level bookkeeping or clerk positions. Many schools allow students to apply their certificate credits toward an associate or bachelor's.

Certificate applicants typically need to submit transcripts showing proof of high school graduation and overall GPA.

Explore Accounting Certificate Programs Explore Top Graduate Accounting Certificates
Associate Degrees in Accounting

Associate degrees require approximately 60 credits of coursework and take about two years to complete when studying full time. These programs expand on the offerings of a certificate, requiring both core accounting courses and general education courses focused on areas like English, mathematics, and science.

Like certificates, associate degrees prepare students for entry-level accounting careers. They make a great option for young learners who want to earn college credits at reduced community college prices. Many graduates transfer to bachelor's programs after completing their two-year degrees.

Typical admission requirements for an associate program include a high school diploma and minimum 2.0 GPA.

What Can You Do With an Associate in Accounting? Explore Top Accounting Associate Programs
Bachelor's Degrees in Accounting

A bachelor's degree in accounting combines core courses, general education, and electives. Most full-time students graduate in four years. Transfer students with an associate degree can finish in just two years.

Bachelor's programs in accounting commonly offer concentration options geared toward students with different career aspirations, such as tax accounting, public accounting, managerial accounting, and auditing/forensic accounting.

Many states require CPAs to hold a minimum of 150 college credits, meaning a 120-credit bachelor's satisfies a majority of the education requirements needed to pursue CPA certification. A bachelor's also prepares graduates for a number of uncertified accounting positions.

Admission typically requires a high school diploma, minimum 2.0-2.5 GPA, and qualifying ACT or SAT scores.

What Can You Do With a Bachelor's in Accounting? Compare the Best Bachelor's in Accounting Programs
Master's Degrees in Accounting

To earn a master's degree in accounting, students should expect to take about 30-40 credits and invest two years of full-time study. Many colleges also offer part-time enrollment options which take up to four years to complete.

In the accounting field, students can also pursue a unique five-year program to earn both a bachelor's and master's in a shorter time frame. This format is especially ideal for aspiring CPAs who need to fulfill a 150-credit requirement to obtain certification.

With a master's, graduates can also pursue careers in advanced accounting positions like budget analyst, financial manager, or personal financial advisor.

Explore Top Master's in Accounting Degrees

Selecting CPA Schools and Online Courses

Whether you plan to attend classes online or in person, selecting the right CPA school can make a major difference in both the quality of your education and your quality of life while enrolled. Keep the following key factors in mind when evaluating your options:


If you earn your college credits from an unaccredited school, you become ineligible for CPA certification. Look for schools accredited by a recognized regional accrediting agency.

Student-to-Faculty Ratio

The smaller a school or program's student-to-faculty ratio, the more personal attention you can expect from instructors.

Faculty/Staff Credentials

College is a major financial investment, so you want to make sure you learn from the best. Before selecting a school, look into the qualifications of faculty and staff. Ideally, your accounting professors should hold advanced degrees and extensive experience in the field.


Not every school offers well-funded athletic programs, Greek life, or diverse student organizations. If getting involved on campus matters to you, look for a school with extracurriculars that meet your interests.

University Resources

You want to attend a school that offers everything you need to succeed, whether that means career services, tutoring, or counseling. Evaluate the availability and quality of support services at each institution you consider.

Why Take Online Accounting Courses?

For years, negative stigma about distance learning providing students with the same quality education as in-class instruction was ubiquitous. These days, online college courses and degrees are gaining increased acceptance, success, and prevalence. Many of the nation's top schools now offer remote learning options.

In the face of COVID-19, thousands of students are turning to online options as a way to continue their education with fewer risks. Accounting courses translate particularly well to the online environment, as they rely heavily on independent learning for skill development.

To determine whether the online learning experience is right for you, keep the following considerations in mind:

  • Your preferred learning style
  • How you prioritize academics and socializing
  • Whether your home environment allows for focus and concentration
  • Whether you feel comfortable communicating and collaborating digitally
  • Whether you can meet online course technology requirements


Frequently Asked Questions

Can I get my accounting degree online?
Yes. Plenty of top-ranked schools offer online accounting degrees at the associate, bachelor's, and master's levels. These programs provide flexible scheduling, ideal for students with work and family obligations.
Can I become an accountant without a degree?
No. Individuals without a degree can pursue select entry-level jobs, such as accounting clerk, bookkeeper, and tax preparer. However, you need a college degree to work as a professional accountant or CPA.
How much does accounting school cost?
The total cost of attending an accounting or CPA school varies. Factors impacting cost include type of school (public vs. private, in-state vs. out-of-state), desired degree level, and length of enrollment.
Can you become a CPA online?
Although CPA certification typically requires some in-person components, like a certification exam, aspiring professionals can complete their accounting classes online. A growing number of colleges offer academic opportunities to distance learners.
Is becoming a CPA worth it?
For entry-level accounting professionals looking to advance in the workplace, becoming a CPA can be a great choice. CPAs enjoy excellent job security and tend to earn higher salaries than accountants without CPA certification.

Professional Organizations for Accounting

You can meet initial CPA certification requirements by taking accounting classes online, but your education does not stop after graduation. Accountants must commit to lifelong learning to stay up to date with best practices.

Professional organizations, like those listed below, offer access to the latest news and information impacting accounting professionals. Other common perks of membership include continuing education classes, networking opportunities, and exclusive discounts.

  • Professional Association of Small Business AccountantsPASBA represents CPAs and other accountants who serve small business clients throughout the United States. The organization aims to help its members grow their practices and increase profitability. Membership benefits include networking, professional development, and referral listings.
  • American Institute of CPAsThe world's largest member association in the field of accounting, AICPA develops and scores the Uniform CPA Examination, monitors and enforces compliance of ethical standards, and serves as a legislative advocate. Members receive professional guidance, networking opportunities, and access to accounting publications.
  • National Society of AccountantsAt its core, NSA aims to help small practice tax and accounting professionals grow in success. The organization produces education programs, awards scholarships, and offers membership benefits including networking opportunities and exclusive discounts.
  • National Conference of CPA PractitionersNCCPAP is a professional organization that connects CPAs across the country. The organization serves as an advocate for its members in addition to providing a forum for continuing education and networking. Members receive benefits including a referral directory and exclusive discounts.

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