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.
Top 10 Online Schools for CPA Credit
|1||Champlain College||Burlington, VT|
|2||Colorado Christian University||Lakewood, CO|
|3||University of Alaska Fairbanks||Fairbanks, AK|
|4||Liberty University||Lynchburg, VA|
|5||University of Alaska Southeast||Juneau, AK|
|6||Fort Hays State University||Hays, KS|
|7||Belhaven University||Jackson, MI|
|8||Shoreline Community College||Shoreline, WA|
|9||Southern New Hampshire University||Manchester, NH|
|10||Trinity Valley Community College||Athens, TX|
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
The following ranked list features top schools that offer accounting classes online. These certificates and diplomas are ideal for aspiring CPAs and for those looking to complete their last few post-baccalaureate credits. Students can also apply these online accounting courses to other entry-level careers in bookkeeping, auditing, or payroll.
Each ranking offers a detailed look at the school and its accounting curriculum. Covered topics include total credit requirements, course content, learning outcomes, and potential career pathways. We also share relevant information regarding each school's admission requirements and application process.
Established as a business college for men in 1878, Champlain became coeducational six years later. Located in Burlington, Vermont, Champlain offers undergraduate and graduate programs to nearly 2,200 students annually.
Champlain's online undergraduate accounting certificate prepares learners for entry-level positions in the field. Sixteen credits train students to interpret, explain, and use financial information. Enrollees work with federal income tax forms and laws, develop bookkeeping skills, and learn to present financial content to the public.
Coursework in financial accounting introduces students to personal and business applications of financial reports. Enrollees explore financial transactions as they relate to corporate positioning and profitability. Managerial accounting courses at Champlain emphasize the use of accounting data for decision-making, planning and controls, budgeting, and cost-profit relationships.
Intermediate accounting classes in Champlain's online accounting undergraduate certificate focus on accounting cycles, cash flow, receivables, and debt financing. Learners also examine employee compensation, lease accounting, investments, and intangible assets. During coursework in federal taxation, students gain hands-on experience using and applying the federal tax code as they learn to perform tax planning and tax research activities.
Champlain's online accounting certificate culminates in an integrated learning through practice exercise. Students apply their knowledge and skills from the curriculum to experiential learning module activities.
Champlain also offers online accounting undergraduate certificates in advanced accounting, cost accounting, and forensic accounting. Enrollees can also transfer certificate coursework into one of Champlain's undergraduate degrees in accounting.
Each applicant must provide transcripts, a resume, and essay responses for consideration.
Colorado Christian University
Founded as Denver Bible Institute in 1914, CCU came to fruition after merging with Western Bible Institute in 1985 and Colorado Baptist College in 1989. Now home to nearly 8,500 enrollees, CCU offers interdenominational undergraduate and graduate programs from its main campus in Lakewood, Colorado, and online.
The online certificate in accounting at CCU emphasizes knowledge and skills for careers in corporate finance. Students explore the accounting process in business, management, and organizational operations through 12 credits of coursework.
The accounting certificate curriculum includes six credits of required coursework in financial accounting fundamentals. Learners focus on the accounting process, balance sheets, and income statements as they relate to the accounting cycle and accounting recordkeeping. Financial accounting coursework also explores modern accounting software.
The remaining six credits of the online accounting certificate allow degree-seekers to choose aspects of accounting relevant to their personal and professional goals. A tax accounting course explores federal tax laws, taxation of business transactions, and tax preparation. Enrollees may also pursue a class in government and nonprofit accounting to examine concepts and practices related to budgets, fundraising, and responsibility accounting.
Coursework in the online accounting certificate at CCU program transfers to undergraduate degrees in accounting, business, organizational management, or related disciplines.
Each applicant must submit high school transcripts and documents from previous coursework with a copy of a state-issued identification.
University of Alaska Fairbanks
The flagship institution within the University of Alaska System traces its origins to 1906. Officially established in 1917, UAF offered its first classes five years later. Currently, UAF provides courses through seven rural and urban campuses, along with online classes.
The online accounting technician certificate at UAF prepares students for careers as bookkeepers, payroll accountants, and payable and receivable clerks. The online accounting technician certificate also builds financial decision-making skills applicable to owning and operating a small business.
Learners complete the 30-credit curriculum in one year. Coursework meets the requirements for the first year of the university's associate of applied science in accounting degree, which includes 60 credits of coursework. UAF also offers a 15-credit online bookkeeping technical occupational endorsement.
Required classes include principles of accounting, business math, and introduction to business. Enrollees explore fund accounting for nonprofits, microcomputer accounting, and principles of accounting alongside coursework in business communications, human relations, and income tax.
During a capstone, learners focus on accounting procedures in retail, service, and trade businesses. Exercises allow students to complete accounting cycles by keeping, posting, and preparing financial documents; reconciling bank statements; and computing payrolls. The class also emphasizes purchasing, accounts payable and receivable, and credit.
Applicants need basic computer skills to apply. Each interested candidate must possess a high school diploma or GED certificate.
Liberty offers more than 600 undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs to more than 100,000 students worldwide. Based in Lynchburg, Virginia, Liberty emphasizes excellence in teaching and learning alongside scripture and faith to synthesize academic knowledge and a Christian worldview.
Liberty provides a 21-credit online undergraduate certificate accounting for individuals entering the field or seeking to enhance existing knowledge and skills. The certificate serves as a pathway to a bachelor's degree in accounting or entry-level careers in business. Alongside accounting-specific classes, Liberty's accounting certificate incorporates comprehensive content related to business law and management.
Required coursework focuses on financial and managerial accounting. Financial accounting coursework introduces students to fundamentals of transactions, ledger accounts, trial balances, and accounting. Liberty's managerial accounting course emphasizes cost-profit and budget analysis.
Taxation coursework offers information about legal and accounting aspects of federal taxation for individuals and unincorporated businesses, while auditing classes teach students about standards, procedures, and reporting applicable to internal and external audits. Liberty's cost accounting course explores principles and procedures to collect, record, and report costs.
Students complete Liberty's online undergraduate certificate in accounting in one year. To apply, each candidate needs a minimum 1.5 GPA from previous college coursework. Liberty also requires applicants to provide high school self-certification documents.
Current, discharged, or retired military service members and their spouses receive tuition discounts for undergraduate study at Liberty.
University of Alaska Southeast
As the newest institution within the University of Alaska System, UAS formed out of the consolidation of institutions in Juneau, Sitka, and Ketchikan, Alaska, in 1987. Based in Juneau, Alaska, UAS continues to operate campuses in Sitka and Ketchikan, with additional online offerings, to enroll nearly 4,000 total students annually.
UAS provides an online accounting technician certificate to individuals looking to enter the field. The accounting technician certificate curriculum includes 30 credits of general education and program-specific coursework.
General education requirements include communication coursework in business English, fundamentals of oral communication, or writing across contexts. Computational skill classes build competencies in business mathematics and intermediate algebra. Students also explore management skills and psychology.
Accounting classes include principles of financial accounting, which emphasizes recording, summarizing, and interpreting accounting data. Managerial accounting classes train students to carry out process costing, budgeting, and variance processes.
A class in payroll accounting introduces learners to federal and state regulations that relate to payroll and employment practices and processes. The computer-automated accounting course teaches students to use computer systems for payable, receivable, and payroll transactions.
The accounting certificate curriculum at UAS also incorporates business coursework to familiarize students with management, marketing, and personnel administration. A course in spreadsheet concepts and applications offers information on creating, designing, and modifying spreadsheets, databases, formulas, and charts.
Each applicant must submit transcripts with a minimum 2.0 GPA for consideration.
Fort Hays State University
Governed by the Kansas Board of Regents, FHSU once occupied the grounds of the former military outpost at Fort Hays, Kansas. Now located in the town of Hays, FHSU provides undergraduate and graduate programs to more than 15,000 enrollees.
FHSU offers an online accounting certificate that includes 12 credits of coursework. Designed to build accounting knowledge and skills for non-business majors, FHSU's certificate in accounting integrates six credits of required classes in accounting principles with six credits of elective courses.
Accounting principles classes prepare students to create and interpret financial statements. Learners build fundamental skills in anticipation of completing classes in income tax procedure, governmental and institutional accounting, or cost accounting.
The income tax procedure course at FHSU introduces students to the role of taxation in business decision-making processes. Enrollees explore federal tax concepts, types of taxpayers, and tax models based on the standards established by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
The governmental and institutional accounting class at FHSU focuses on budgeting and operational fund accounts used by state, municipal, and comparable public institutions, while the cost accounting course uses accounting data to plan and control operations, make long-range plans and policies, and determine income and inventory value.
Applicants provide transcripts for consideration. Kansas residents under the age of 21 need a minimum 2.0 GPA, while non-Kansas residents present must documentation of a minimum 2.5 GPA alongside requisite ACT or SAT scores. Online students pay the same per-credit tuition regardless of resident status.
Born out of the merger of Mississippi Synodical College and McComb Female Institute in 1883, Belhaven offers more than 70 undergraduate and graduate programs. Based in Jackson, Mississippi, Belhaven prepares more than 4,400 students each year.
Belhaven's online accounting certificate opens career opportunities in business, government, and nonprofit settings. Students gain fundamental knowledge of accounting principles and practices while engaging in experiential learning activities. Enrollees can pursue these online accounting courses for CPA credit to ultimately sit for the exam.
The online accounting certificate at Belhaven includes 36 credits. Cost accounting coursework emphasizes budgeting, cost and revenue behavior, and cost-profit relationships. Forensic accounting requirements train learners to detect, track, and prove financial fraud.
Additional classes in individual and business income tax accounting build familiarity with income tax legislation and regulation. Learners study accounting ethics, auditing, and governmental and nonprofit accounting to establish comprehensive knowledge of and skills in the field. Interdisciplinary coursework in business law emphasizes contracts, agency, and the legal environment of business.
Each applicant must submit transcripts from high school and previous college coursework demonstrating a minimum 2.0 GPA. Learners may need to complete prerequisite courses before entering the program. Online undergraduate students at Belhaven pay $395 per credit, while active military members, veterans, and military spouses receive tuition discounts.
Shoreline Community College
Established in 1964, Shoreline sits on over 80 acres near Seattle, Washington. With more than 13,000 enrollees, Shoreline provides over 100 professional, technical, and workforce training degrees and certificates. Shoreline also offers transfer degrees, high school and GED certificate options, along with college readiness programs.
Shoreline's accounting certificate, designed as a step to earning an associate of applied science in accounting, includes 55 credits. Students learn principles, theories, and practices related to recording and reporting financial data. Learners also develop managerial skills to carry out budgeting, planning, and decision-making processes.
General education coursework includes business communications, business mathematics, and human relations in business. Forty credits of core requirements enhance accounting, business, and computer technology proficiencies. Each learner completes a three-part sequence in accounting principles, learning how to integrate accounting concepts and processes into real-world scenarios.
Payroll accounting classes emphasize payroll taxes and benefits, and Shoreline's computer accounting course focuses on software designed for small business applications. Additional classes in Microsoft Word and Excel familiarize learners with word processing, spreadsheets, and databases.
Shoreline's online accounting certificate prepares students for careers as accounts receivable and accounts payable clerks, bookkeepers, ledger clerks, and junior accountants. The curriculum facilitates careers in tax preparation, payroll distribution, and retail as well.
With no eligibility requirements for admission to Shoreline's accounting certificate, each applicant only needs a high school diploma, a GED certificate, or to be at least 16 years old. Nonresident online students pay tuition comparable to on-campus Washington residents.
Southern New Hampshire University
Founded as an accounting and secretarial science school in 1932, SNHU now offers undergraduate and graduate programs to more than 100,000 students annually. Based on a 300-acre campus near Manchester, New Hampshire, SNHU houses six academic schools and colleges, along with two regional campuses.
SNHU's online accounting certificate emphasizes foundational principles and practices to prepare students for careers in the field or enhance existing knowledge. The 18-credit program trains learners to interpret and use financial statements, conduct essential financial and accounting actions, and engage with accounting-related technologies.
This accounting certificate integrates theoretical frameworks, accounting standards, and ethical responsibilities for accounting. The managerial accounting course within SNHU's accounting certificate focuses on how to use accounting data to make informed decisions in business settings.
Enrollees examine financial accounting, exploring techniques and concepts related to the accounting cycle. Coursework in federal taxation allows learners to work with federal tax code as it applies to individuals and businesses, gaining hands-on experience preparing federal tax returns and communicating tax return information in the process.
With an accounting certificate from SNHU, learners can pursue entry-level positions as bookkeepers, financial clerks, and accounting assistants. The curriculum serves as a path to an undergraduate degree in accounting, economics, finance, or other comparable disciplines.
Online students pay $320 per credit, while military service members and their spouses receive tuition discounts. Alongside an open enrollment policy, SNHU allows candidates to apply at no cost.
Trinity Valley Community College
With four campuses serving five counties accompanying online offerings, TVCC enrolls nearly 8,000 students annually. Based in Athens, Texas, TVCC opened its doors in 1946 as Henderson County Junior College. It took its current moniker in 1966 and grew to a multilevel institution in 1969.
The online accounting certificate at TVCC offers essential knowledge and skills for employment in the accounting profession. Three semesters of coursework serve as a pathway to an associate of applied science in accounting.
During the first semester of the accounting certificate at TVCC, students complete 12 credits of introductory coursework. Classes include business computer applications, computerized accounting, and business English. The second semester incorporates 12 credits of courses in payroll and business tax accounting, business mathematics, and business principles.
The third semester builds on earlier content, enhancing learner competencies with computerized accounting applications, spreadsheet use, and federal income tax preparation. Enrollees also study business law within the comprehensive, 36-credit curriculum. TVCC also provides accounting students an online occupational skills achievement award in Quickbooks. This award leads to the accounting certificate.
TVCC offers online coursework through the Canvas learning management system. Learners access classes through the Virtual College of Texas, a consortium of Texas community colleges dedicated to extending educational opportunities to students.
In anticipation of applying, students can complete online readiness and learning readiness assessments. Each applicant must provide transcripts from high school or a GED certificate with documentation of previous college coursework.
Thomas Edison State University
Dedicated to serving adult learners, TESU opened in Princeton, New Jersey, in 1972, now offering more than 100 undergraduate and graduate programs from its main campus in Trenton.
The online undergraduate certificate in accounting includes 18 credits of foundational accounting content. Designed to transfer into the university's accounting bachelor's degree, the curriculum also prepares students for entry-level roles in the field.
Required coursework in financial accounting trains students to record and summarize transactions. Enrollees learn to prepare, interpret, and apply financial data, building a comprehensive understanding of the accounting cycle, merchandising, and financial assets. Managerial accounting classes emphasize analytical principles and processes related to cash flow, budgeting, and financial statement assessments.
This accounting certificate also includes a two-course sequence in intermediate accounting. Coursework explores accounting theories, principles, and standards. Enrollees explore topics such as investments, bonds, leases, accounting for income taxes, and share-based compensation.
As part of the curriculum, learners choose six credits of classes in advanced accounting, cost accounting, or federal income taxation. Flexibility allows students to focus on aspects of the discipline that best meets their personal, academic, and professional goals.
TESU applicants can transfer up to nine credits of coursework into the online accounting certificate. To apply, each candidate must provide high school transcripts, a GED certificate, or home school equivalent. Applicants under the age of 18 do not receive admission to TESU unless they are active military service members.
Pamlico Community College
Established as an industrial education center in 1962, PCC moved from its initial home to Alliance, North Carolina, five years later. After relocating to Grantsboro, North Carolina, in 1976, PCC continued to expand its physical and educational presence throughout the eastern part of the state. PCC operates as one of 58 institutions within the North Carolina Community College System.
PCC offers an online accounting certificate that includes 14 credits of coursework. Enrollees explore principles of financial accounting and managerial accounting while building competencies in computer applications. Additional classes in federal income tax allow learners to engage with regulations, processes, and practices of taxation.
The online accounting diploma at PCC builds on the essential knowledge and skills contained within the certificate curriculum. The 37-credit diploma explores payroll accounting, accounting software applications, and personal finance. Learners also study writing and inquiry, quantitative literacy, and word processing.
The accounting certificate and the accounting diploma at PCC lead to an online associate of applied science in accounting. The associate degree curriculum enhances existing accounting competencies by incorporating management, marketing, and economic fundamentals.
The college's online accounting offerings prepare students for careers in tax preparation, and financial advising, along with accounts payable and receivable. Learners also develop managerial oversight and reporting skills, recordkeeping and payroll expertise, and technical competencies to thrive in insurance, finance, healthcare, and governmental sectors.
Each applicant must submit high school transcripts, a GED certificate, and evidence of any previous college coursework for consideration.
Stanly Community College
Serving roughly 10,000 students annually with extensive curricular, continuing education, and basic skills offerings, SCC operates a main campus in Albemarle, North Carolina. SCC, as a member of the North Carolina Community College System, also serves students at a campus in Locust, North Carolina, along with online programs.
SCC offers online accounting programs to prepare students to analyze, apply, and summarize financial data. Learners gain experience using computerized accounting tools while developing communication skills needed to relay accounting information to customers and coworkers. The comprehensive accounting programs at SCC prepare students to work in healthcare, education, government, and business settings.
This online accounting certificate includes 18 credits. Enrollees explore principles of financial accounting and introduction to business during the first semester of the program. Additional courses in federal income taxation establish foundational knowledge to complete classes in payroll accounting, principles of management, and accounting software applications.
Students earn an online accounting certificate in one year. SCC also provides learners with a 39-credit accounting diploma. Along with classes in personal finance, economics, and business ethics, students build foundational accounting competencies to pursue careers in bookkeeping, tax preparation, and payroll distribution services.
Both the online certificate and the online diploma at SCC transfer into the online associate of applied science in accounting at the school. Coursework includes core requirements, along with aspects of quantitative literacy, professional writing, and business law. The accounting associate degree includes 67-68 credits learners complete in two years.
Each applicant must provide high school transcripts or a GED certificate, along with all previous college coursework.
Colby Community College
Located near the Colorado and Nebraska borders, CCC occupies 80 acres in Colby, Kansas. CCC offers educational programs to a 14-county service area with additional offerings online. With more than 50 degrees and certificates, CCC provides students with paths to continued education and successful vocations alike.
Its online technical certificate in accounting and management includes 34 credits. The curriculum incorporates business coursework alongside accounting classes, allowing students to complete the program in 1-2 years.
Learners complete two classes in accounting fundamentals. A class in managerial accounting accompanies management classes in small business and retail. Enrollees explore QuickBooks and advanced electronic spreadsheets to hone the technical skills needed for careers in bookkeeping, tax preparation, and finance.
Additional classes include customer service, personal finance, and principles of selling. As part of the technical certificate in accounting and management at CCC, students participate in a seminar in business management to synthesize theories, principles, and practices from throughout the program.
CCC also offers an online technical certificate for virtual assistants. Students focus on effective time management, applied office procedures, and small business management. The virtual assistant curriculum includes classes in web page design, creating a virtual office, and advanced word processing and spreadsheets as well.
Each interested candidate must provide transcripts from high school or a GED certificate, along with documentation from any previous college coursework. Online students pay per-credit tuition based on county, state, regional, and national residency.
George Mason University
Holding distinction as Virginia's largest public research university, Mason began as a branch of the University of Virginia in 1956. Mason became an independent institution in 1972. Located in Fairfax, Virginia, Mason offers more than 200 academic programs, enrolling over 38,000 students annually.
Ideal for students looking to enroll in online accounting courses for CPA credit, Mason's online accounting certificate includes 30 credits. To take the CPA exam in Virginia, students need 150 credits of college coursework with at least 30 credits of accounting classes with a minimum of 24 credits of non-accounting business coursework. Learners complete the curriculum on a part-time schedule.
Required classes for Mason's online accounting certificate include a three-course sequence in financial accounting. During the first course, learners focus on financial accounting from the perspective of individuals who prepare and use financial statements.
The second and third financial accounting courses explore analyzing and applying financial data for financial, operation, and investment decisions. Mason's undergraduate accounting certificate integrates additional classes in managerial and cost accounting, accounting analytics, and assurance and audit services.
Alongside 24 credits of required courses, learners choose six credits of elective coursework. Elective options include international accounting, advanced federal taxation, and governmental and nonprofit accounting. Students also explore commercial law, financial management, or participate in an internship in accounting.
Each applicant must hold a bachelor's degree or higher from an accredited college or university.
Minnesota West Community and Technical College
MWCTC formed out of the merger of Southwestern Technical College and Worthington Community College in 1997. MWCTC occupies campuses in Canby, Granite Falls, Jackson, Pipestone, and Worthington, Minnesota. Additional online offerings and learning centers in Luverne and Marshall provide venues for more than 60 degree and certificate programs.
The online accounting certificate at MWCTC includes 16 credits. Students complete the curriculum as a path to immediate employment in the workforce or as part of an associate degree in accounting or business.
The online certificate in accounting integrates required classes in accounting principles with technology fundamentals. Learners choose six credits of business or accounting electives to customize the curriculum to meet their educational and professional goals.
MWCTC also offers an online diploma for accountants. The 64-credit program includes two years of coursework in business law, business math, principles of accounting, and computerized accounting applications. Students complete general education requirements alongside classes in spreadsheet and database concepts and applications, income taxation, auditing, and word processing.
An additional online accounting clerk diploma at MWCTC trains learners to perform routine tasks related to maintaining accounting records. Students build skills in business transactions such as disbursements, payroll, reconciliation, and invoicing. The 32-credit curriculum includes comprehensive coursework in computing, accounting principles, and business practices.
Coursework from the certificate and diploma programs can transfer into the school's online associate of applied science in accounting. Students complete 60 credits of courses, including an optional internship, in roughly two years.
Each applicant must provide high school transcripts or a GED certificate for consideration. Students with previous college coursework submit transcripts from all prior institutions.
Great Basin College
Based in Elko, Nevada, GBC currently offers academic and vocational programs at three branch campuses and more than 20 regional locations. Its online certificate for accounting technicians incorporates the first year of coursework needed to earn an associate of applied science in business administration with an emphasis in accounting. Thirty credits of coursework prepares students to pursue careers in bookkeeping, data entry, accounts payable, and retail.
Fifteen credits of general education classes emphasize human relations for employment, introduction to human resource management, and business principles. Through classes in composition and technical writing, learners build communication skills needed to relay financial data to customers and colleagues.
Required accounting classes include financial accounting, microcomputer accounting systems, and managerial accounting. The technical accounting certificate at GBC also emphasizes small and large business management, economic principles, and business law.
The online technical accounting certificate builds ethical, effective decision-making skills based on financial information. Students learn to prepare and assess financial statements to record and maintain ledgers related to financial activities. To complete the associate degree in accounting, learners take an additional 30 credits of classes in personal finance, governmental accounting, and taxation for individuals.
Applicants must provide transcripts for consideration.
University of Virginia
Founded in 1819 by Thomas Jefferson, UVA serves as the flagship institution of the Commonwealth of Virginia. UVA houses 12 academic schools from its main campus in Charlottesville, Virginia, along with online offerings. UVA offers more than 120 academic programs to nearly 25,000 students annually.
The online accounting certificate at UVA provides online accounting courses for CPA credit. Individuals with a bachelor's degree reach the 150-credit CPA threshold, while individuals who seek to enter careers in accounting gain valuable knowledge and skills applicable to the field.
The 30-credit curriculum integrates 10 courses students complete in an average of 20 months. Students complete 18 credits of required coursework. Introductory accounting classes introduce learners to the role of financial data in contemporary business. Topics include accounting modeling, income measuring and reporting, and assets. Learners also explore cost accumulation, performance planning, and comparable managerial considerations related to financial analysis.
Required classes in intermediate accounting emphasize asset valuation, accounting for leases, and income taxes. Four elective courses allow students to customize their certificates to meet personal and professional goals. Elective options include federal accounting, advanced auditing, fraud examination, and forensic accounting. Learners can also take accounting for nonbusiness organizations or advanced federal taxation.
All students pay the same tuition, regardless of residency status. Each applicant must provide high school or GED documentation, along with transcripts from all previous college coursework.
Casper traces its origins to 1945 as the first junior college established in Wyoming. The college enrolls nearly 3,000 students annually, providing more than 140 academic transfer, technical, and career programs. Casper aligns with 11 universities to feature advanced on-campus degrees, along with online offerings.
Casper's online bookkeeping certificate includes 25 credits of general education and major coursework. Students complete classes in business mathematics or problem-solving in addition to a communications class designed to hone written and verbal communication skills for future business professionals.
Major classes integrate 19 credits of technical, theoretical, and practical content. Learners take principles of accounting to examine fundamental concepts and procedures within the field. Enrollees explore terminology, financial statement usefulness, and decision-making techniques in accounting.
Accounting for bookkeepers emphasizes financial accounting and taxation, while payroll accounting coursework focuses on payroll laws and recordkeeping requirements. The bookkeeping certificate curriculum also builds familiarity with QuickBooks for desktop and online use to record sales, receivables, payables, and purchases for businesses.
Additional classes in spreadsheet applications and computer information systems accompany a certified bookkeeper exam review. The exam, administered by the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers, covers topics including adjustments, error correction, and payroll. Students also revisit depreciation, inventory, and internal controls as they prepare for the exam.
Learners complete the bookkeeping certificate at Casper in nine months. Each applicant must submit high school transcripts or a GED certificate, along with documentation regarding any previous college coursework.
Minnesota State College Southeast
With campuses in Red Wing and Winona, Minnesota, MSC Southeast came to fruition with the merger of two community colleges in 1992. Its predecessors, Red Wing Community College and Winona Technical College, trace their origins to 1949 and 1971, respectively. Currently, MSC Southeast offers more than 40 degree, diploma, and certificate programs, serving nearly 2,800 students annually.
MSC Southeast's online accounting programs include diplomas for accounting and accounting assistants. The accounting diploma at MSC Southeast integrates 60 credits of general education and technical coursework, while the accounting assistant diploma combines 31 credits of general and technical content.
General education classes within the accounting diploma emphasize communications, finance, mathematics, and economics. Forty-seven credits of technical courses provide comprehensive knowledge of payroll, financial, and managerial accounting. Enrollees explore income tax, cost accounting, and business ethics, alongside classes in auditing and the legal environment of business. Additional courses in spreadsheet concepts and applications, accounting software, and database concepts build skills for careers in the field.
The accounting assistant diploma at MSC Southeast similarly includes general education coursework in communications and mathematics. The core of the diploma curriculum emphasizes accounting fundamentals through 24 credits of content. Enrollees explore managerial, financial, payroll, and nonprofit accounting.
Students earn accounting diplomas in two years, while accounting assistant learners complete their diplomas in as few as 12 months. Both curricula serve as pathways to associate and bachelor's degrees in accounting and business.
Each applicant submit high school transcripts or a GED certificate and any previous college coursework for consideration.
Minnesota State Community and Technical College
Formed when Fergus Falls Community College merged with Northwest Technical College in 2003, M State offers more than 70 academic and career technical programs.
M State's online accounting clerk diploma includes 33 credits. Students carry out calculations, journaling, and other accounting record-keeping tasks. Communication coursework accompanies a two-part financial accounting sequence, which also includes lab components. Classes in business mathematics and spreadsheet applications allow learners to gain hands-on, technical experience in anticipation of careers in the field.
The online associate of applied science in accounting integrates 69 credits of general and major coursework. Required classes in college writing, public speaking, and computer technology accompany courses in managerial and financial accounting, income taxation for individuals, and payroll accounting.
M State also offers a review course for individuals planning to take the certification exam offered by the Accreditation Council for Accountancy and Taxation. Enrollees can pursue an online associate of arts in accounting that transfers to bachelor's degrees in accounting at seven institutions in Minnesota. Tuition for online classes at M State remains the same for resident and nonresident learners.
Applicants must provide transcripts for consideration. M State may award course credit based on previous professional, military, and live experience.
Northcentral Technical College
NTC, established in 1912, provides more than 100 associate, technical, and certificate programs. As a member of the Wisconsin Technical College System, NTC occupies a main campus in Wausau, Wisconsin.
The online accounting assistant technical diploma at NTC prepares students to perform payroll reports and analysis. Enrollees learn to process the accounting cycle in preparation for careers as bookkeepers, staff accountants, and office assistants.
Students complete the 31-credit curriculum in one year. Coursework in accounting fundamentals emphasizes income statement preparation, balance sheet entry, and sales recording. Payroll accounting classes focus on payroll laws and regulations, along with salaries, payroll tax liabilities, and payroll report preparation.
Technical classes in Excel and Word accompany courses in college mathematics and math with business applications. During the second semester of the program, students move to advanced accounting classes with a three-part sequence in QuickBooks. Additional coursework builds oral, written, and interpersonal communication skills for business settings.
NTC also offers an online associate degree in accounting. The technical diploma provides students with more than half of the credits needed to earn an associate degree in accounting at NTC. Both programs serve as pathways to bachelor's degrees at 18 institutions with which NTC has articulation agreements.
Western Wyoming Community College
As one of seven community colleges in Wyoming, WWCC began offering classes to just 40 students in 1959. WWCC now enrolls over 7,000 students annually. Based in Rock Springs, Wyoming, WWCC offers additional programs in Green River and online.
The online accounting certificate at WWCC includes 35 credits of coursework for students to complete in one year. The curriculum incorporates classes in communication, mathematics, and accounting, along with computer technology content.
Learners take classes in English composition and technical writing to develop their research skills. The technical writing course emphasizes memos, letters, and reports for use in business, industry, and government settings. Additional classes in interpersonal communication focus on nonverbal communication, handling interpersonal conflict, and improving listening and response skills.
Principles of accounting classes introduce students to practices and processes in the field. Learners explore preparation and analysis of financial statements, cost accounting and budgeting, and decision-making in business. Spreadsheet application coursework trains students to use formulas, functions, charts, and comparable tools in Excel.
Within the curriculum, learners can take business elective coursework, customizing their certificates to meet personal and professional goals. Elective options include finance, economics, management, and marketing.
As part of the Western Undergraduate Exchange, WWCC offers discounted tuition to residents of 15 participating states. To apply, a part-time student must provide a WWCC registration form for consideration. Full-time learners submit formal WWCC applications.
University of California, Irvine
Founded in 1965, UCI joins nine other campuses within the University of California System. UCI offers more than 200 undergraduate and graduate programs through 13 academic schools. More than 36,000 students attend UIC online and on campus.
The applied accounting certificate at UIC meets educational requirements for the California Board of Accountancy. College graduates looking to qualify for the CPA exam in California benefit from the program's online accounting courses for CPA credit. Individuals who wish to hone their accounting skills or seek to enter the field also gain valuable competencies applicable to business, government, and nonprofit settings.
The certificate trains learners to interpret and assess financial statements, solve complex accounting and business problems, and make informed business decisions using financial data. Students complete the holistic 45-credit program in 12-24 months.
Required courses include financial accounting, management accounting, and accounting in business. Intermediate accounting theory and practice coursework, offered in a two-part sequence, emphasizes accounting framework systems, time value of money, and cash flow processes.
Enrollees explore individual and corporate federal income taxation to gain an essential understanding of the federal tax legislative process. Coursework in auditing focuses on the roles, responsibilities, and services provided by CPAs and auditors. Additional classes build technical skills using accounting information systems.
An applicant with a bachelor's degree in accounting can waive two required courses based on previous coursework. Each student must submit a declaration of candidacy to pursue the applied accountant certificate at UCI.
Southwestern Community College
Opened in 1964, SCC is part of the North Carolina Community College System. SCC, located in Sylvia, North Carolina, offers degree, certificate, and diploma programs, including an online accounting and finance certificate that learners complete in one semester.
This 16-credit online accounting and finance certificate emphasizes the fundamentals of financial and managerial accounting. Students gain an essential understanding of financial analysis and reporting while learning to prepare financial statements and make informed decisions based on financial data. Managerial accounting coursework emphasizes internal and external reporting with a focus on product-costing systems.
Accounting software applications classes train learners to perform ledger tasks, maintain inventory, and carry out payroll processes using computer accounting programs. An accompanying course in computer technology adds knowledge of basic computer operations, use, and safety.
Students also explore individual income taxation. Topics include taxation law and regulations, electronic research and methodology, and income tax return preparation. SCC also offers accounting and finance certificates that emphasize bookkeeping, payroll accounting, and tax accounting. The bookkeeping certificate includes 16 credits, the payroll certificate integrates 18 credits of coursework, and the tax accounting certificate incorporates 17 credits of coursework.
Online accounting and finance certificates at SCC serve as a pathway to the accounting and finance diploma and the associate of applied science in accounting and finance at the institution. The SCC accounting and finance diploma includes 42 credits, while the associate degree incorporates 67 credits of coursework.
Each applicant must possess a high school diploma (or equivalent) or be at least 18 years old. Admission materials include high school transcripts or a GED certificate, along with documents from all previous college coursework.
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:
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.