You may be surprised to learn that the first accountants are believed to have originated in ancient Mesopotamia before the 15th century. They worked in temples, keeping track of taxes paid (usually in livestock and vegetables) and may have developed a system of writing to keep records. 

Fortunately, today’s accountants don’t have to track sheep and cows to follow investments, finances, or budgets. Online bachelor’s in accounting degrees provide a springboard to qualifying for a well-paying accounting job. 

What Do Accountants Do?

21st century accountants perform a variety of business functions, in fact, many consider accounting to be the bedrock of business. Accountants create, prepare and audit financial records for individuals, small businesses, government agencies, or large corporations. 

The key responsibility of an accountant is accuracy. Professional accountants organize financial records, maintain records, assess the health of financial data and make recommendations for improvement, and advise ways to increase profits, reduce costs, or improve revenue. Accountants can help drive the ethical management of a business, corporation, or industry.

How Do You Become An Accountant?

Colleges and Schools of Business provide accounting degrees, either as a stand-alone degree or a major under the Bachelor of Business Administration degree. You can also receive either a Bachelor of Science (BS) or Bachelor of Arts (BA) in accounting.

You’ll need to enroll in a business program which is accredited by associations such as the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International (AACSB). Accredited programs will assure your education meets standards to prepare you to sit for professional licensure or certification exams. Professional exams include Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Certified Internal Auditor (CIA), Certified Fraud Auditor (CFA), Certified Bank Auditor (CBA), etc. 

Careers in accounting are projected to grow at an average rate of 6% between 2018-2028 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The median salary for a professional accountant is $70,500 a year and can increase to as much as $122,840 annually.

What Classes Are Needed for an Accounting Degree?

Undergraduate programs will be a blend of general education and business courses. You can expect to take courses in business ethics, basic and advanced finance, principles of accounting, micro and macroeconomics, income tax, marketing principles, global economies, and more. You can find online undergraduate programs which offer internships, study abroad programs, or project-specific reports. 

What Are the Best Online Bachelor’s in Accounting?

Online College Plan uses data from the National Center for Education Statistics to determine the best programs. We factor in how robust the school’s online education is, how well that school delivers on its promises, how affordable the program is, and how selective the school as as a whole. For more information, see our methodology page.

  1. MERIT: 98.61

    It’s difficult to match the national recognition of PennState’s online programs. U.S. News and World Report ranks PennState as offering one of the top 10 “Best Online Bachelor’s Programs” and “Best Bachelor’s Programs for Veterans.”

    Regardless of the accolades, this is a solid BS in accounting degree which will prepare you for the CPA, CIA, Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE), and Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) exams. Courses focus on business topics in business law, supply chain management, tax and cost accounting, finance, business strategy, and other areas. 

    PennState is a military friendly school and you should take advantage of their dedicated programs especially for veterans and military members. 

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  2. MERIT: 89.14

    As a graduate of the University of Minnesota (UM), you’ll join an impressive alumni group which includes U.S. Vice Presidents, Academy Award-winning actors, and presidents and CEOs of international businesses. 

    UM provides an online BS in accounting which will qualify you to sit for the CPA, Certified Management Accounting (CMA), and Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) exams. The program is 120 credit hours in length and covers topics in income taxes, managerial finance, ethics, auditing, etc. If you’re interested in global economics, You may be able to study abroad or you can participate in an internship.

    Admission applications are accepted in December, May, and August. An additional plus is there’s no tuition residency requirement.

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  3. MERIT: 85.47

    Established in 1890, Washington State University has always kept ahead of the curve in providing education to Washington state residents. In 1992, WSU took education to the next level with its Global Campus. 

    You can receive a BA in accounting completely online with this program. The Carson College of Business is especially proud of its distinction of its Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business Accounting accreditation.The degree requires 120 credit hours, which includes core business courses, including Finance and Accounting.

    There is an International Experience requirement designed to bolster your skills in a global economy and marketplace. These six hours can be completed with study abroad, approved coursework, or international internship.

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  4. MERIT: 82.81

    As it says on the Colorado State University Global homepage, “Online education isn’t just something we do, it’s the only thing we do.” For over a decade, CSU has offered accredited, distance education with monthly start dates and accelerated courses.

    This is a BS in accounting that will enhance your understanding of accounting fundamentals. A 120-credit hour degree, you’ll take business classes in Accounting, Cost Accounting, Auditing, Financial Principles, Taxation, a capstone project, and Accounting Practicum. You need to be at least 23 years of age to apply and you’ll need to provide academic transcripts. 

    CSU is named a military friendly school and has been ranked #8 in U.S. News and World Report as “Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Veterans” and #11 in “Best Online Bachelor’s Programs” overall. 

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  5. MERIT: 81.29

    You’ll want to explore the degree completion program for your BS in accounting at Missouri State. The degree requires 125 credit hours and can be completed in two years of full-time attendance. 

    Criteria for this degree requires 45 hours of core business courses, 6 in globalization, and 25 program specific required classes. You’ll need general education courses to supplement your concentrations. An Associate of Arts degree from an accredited school will typically satisfy the general education courses.

    If you’re not a Missouri resident, a one hour course on Missouri government will be required. Business courses include Principles of Macroeconomics, Cost Accounting, Financial Management, Tax Accounting, Auditing, and other business topics. 

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  6. MERIT: 80.57

    It may be tempting to pack up and move to the beaches of Boca Raton, FL and attend Florida Atlantic University, but it’s not necessary. FAU offers a nationally recognized online bachelor’s programs, one of which is the 100% online Bachelor of Business Administration in accounting. 

    You need at least 60 credit hours of lower division courses prior to application to this program. Once admitted to the College of Business, you’ll take core accounting courses and then enroll in Intermediate Accounting Theory, Cost Accounting, Marketing Management, Money and Banking, Global Strategy and Policy classes.

    FAU is military friendly and has a dedicated Military and Veterans Student Success Center. The online BBA degree is an approved program by the Veterans Administration. The Center can also help determine if, as a military member, you’re eligible for tuition assistance. 

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  7. MERIT: 80.29

    The school of business at UMass-Amherst began at the end of WWII and has grown into the award-winning Isenberg School of Management. 

    The school supports an online accounting major with its Bachelor of Business Administration degree. You’ll receive a well-rounded education including general education credits (12), electives (21), as well as core business coursework. You’ll take nine major courses in topics such as Auditing, CPA law, Corporate Taxes, and more. 

    The Isenberg School of Management is proud to offer one of the “Best Business School Overall” as determined by U.S. News and World Report.

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  8. MERIT: 77.75

    The Fox Business School of Temple University is one of the oldest business schools we’ve researched. Established in 1918, Fox was accredited by the AACSB International in 1934. A distinguished school, Fox has over 200 full-time faculty to teach over 8,500 students. 

    Fox offers a 124 credit-hour, online Bachelor of Business Administration with an accounting major. You’ll study courses in Auditing, Federal Taxes, Intermediate and Advanced Accounting, as well as complete a capstone project. This curriculum includes Temple University general education studies as well. 

    Admission for incoming freshmen includes a $55 application fee, academic transcripts, SAT/ACT scores, and an essay. At Temple University, there is no limit to the transfer credits accepted but 45 of your last 60 credit hours must be taken at Temple. U.S. News and World Report ranks Temple in the top 100 in “Best Value Schools”, “Best Colleges for Veterans”, and “Top Public Schools.”

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  9. MERIT: 77.63

    Appropriately, for the Palmetto State, the University of South Carolina provides online education through its Palmetto College. The college is part of the University of South Carolina system and offers a degree completion program in business. 

    The program is a BS in business administration with an accounting concentration. You’ll cover classes in Management and Leadership Principles, Business Finance, Financial Accounting, Taxes, as well as Auditing. To apply to this program, you’re required to have 45-60 credit hours from an accredited school with a minimum of a 2.0 GPA. 

    More than 91% of students at Palmetto College receive financial aid, so be sure to ask how you could qualify.

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  10. MERIT: 76.94

    Do you have an associate’s degree in accounting or other business field? Do you want to complete your degree? Old Dominion University may just be the place for you. 

    You can receive an online BA in business administration with an accounting concentration from this prestigious school. This program only requires 30 credit hours provided you have the required general education courses to transfer. 

    You should be sure to check the transfer policy as it varies for graduates of a Virginia community college, an out of state community college, or military students. Core business courses for this degree include Economics, Principles of IT, Taxation, Organization and Management, and more.

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  11. MERIT: 76.93

    With a history dating to 1856, Auburn University has embraced distance education with the Robert J. Harbert College of Business leading the way offering nine online degrees. 

    The college digitally records campus accounting courses for online students to watch on their timeline. Intermediate and Advanced Accounting, Income Tax, Business Law, and Governmental and Nonprofit Accounting are courses included. There are prerequisites for this program which include Principles in Management, Marketing, and Finance, along with others. 

    The BS in business administration with a concentration in accountancy is for second degree students only and will prepare you to sit for professional exams and certifications. You can complete the degree in 30 credit hours. An AACSB accredited degree is required for admission.

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  12. MERIT: 75.44

    The University of Toledo is rightfully proud of its 93% job placement rate for its accounting graduates. If that percentage impresses you, the online Bachelor of Business Accounting (BBA) is worth a look. 

    Besides a general education, as a BBA student, you can expect to study Financial Services; General Management; Accounting; Entrepreneurship, Family, and Small Business; Operations and Chain Supply Management; and other courses for a total of 120 credit hours. You need a 2.0 GPA and minimum 25 ACT Composite/1150 SAT Composite to be considered for admission. 

    If one of U.S. News and World Report’s “Best Online Bachelor’s Programs” appeals to you, be certain to verify that your state of residence is accepted by UT for admission. 

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  13. MERIT: 75.12

    This university has an interesting pedigree. The University of Maryland was approached 70 years ago by the U.S. Department of Defense. The school was asked to provide evening and weekend classes for local military personnel and those stationed in Europe and Asia. 

    Fast forward and the school is still providing distance education and, among other offerings, has an online BS in accounting. With this degree, you’ll learn about accounting systems, auditing processes, international accounting, financial analysis, and more.  The program will qualify you to sit for certification.

    Active-duty military, veterans, or military spouses can accelerate the degree by receiving credit for military training or experience. If you fall into one of these categories, you’ll want to discuss your training with an admissions advisor. 

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  14. MERIT: 74.93

    If you’re looking for an online BS in accounting, the AACSB accredited degree from the University of Alabama Birmingham might be an excellent choice. 

    Provided 100% online with a full-time dedicated faculty, UAB has an 82% graduation rate and ranks #20 in “Best Online Bachelor’s Programs” by U.S. News and World Report. 

    The accounting degree prepares you to sit for the Certified Management Accountant (CMA), CPA, Certified Internal Auditor (CIA), and other professional exams. You’ll take courses in Financial Accounting, Auditing, Taxes, and complete a capstone project. 

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  15. MERIT: 74.23

    If you’re searching for a highly respected, online accounting program, you’ll want to check out this Bachelor of Business Administration with an accounting major through the School of Accountancy. Requiring 120 credit hours, this degree can lead to the successful completion of the Certified Public Accountants (CPA) exams.

    You’ll take general education courses and core business courses with this program, including studies in accounting fundamentals, calculus, macro and microeconomics, marketing principles, and more. Accounting major classes will require studies in accounting systems, federal income tax, cost, and auditing accounting. 

    The University of Memphis has been ranked in U.S. News and World Report’s “Best Online Bachelor’s Programs” and in “Top Public Schools.”

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  16. MERIT: 70.15

    The University of South Dakota describes its Vermillion, SD campus as “elegant” and “striking’ but you’ll never see it as an online student. 

    This is an online Bachelor of Business Administration degree with an accounting emphasis. The first two years of the 120 hour program are in general education and core courses. Classes will be in Business Statistics, Macro and Microeconomics, as well as Principles of Accounting. Major courses are in Business Finance, Marketing, Business Policy, Accounting, Money and Banking, etc.

    You’ll be admitted as a general business student (USD students are affectionately called “Yotes” after the school mascot, Charlie Coyote) and will need to complete 45 credit hours of pre-business coursework before admission as a Beacom School of Business major. You might also be interested in the BBA-MBA fast-track Option.

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  17. MERIT: 69.42

    It would be hard to beat Colorado University-Denver’s online BS in business administration with an accounting major for flexibility and innovation. Believing in the benefit of “learning while doing”, the program has an experiential learning component in the form of internships, project-based courses, or even study abroad. The school has had past international studies in London, Cuba, and Dubai. 

    This degree requires 120 credit hours in coursework including general education core courses (English, history, etc.), business core courses (law and ethics, marketing, finance, etc.), and major topics (auditing, taxes, financial accounting, etc.).  Admission requirements vary and you’re encouraged to contact one of the school’s Enrollment Navigators. 

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  18. MERIT: 69.38

    You can avoid Minnesota winters as a University of Minnesota student by enrolling in their online BS in accounting degree and taking courses in the warmth of your own home. 

    This BS in accounting degree can be completed in 120 credit hours. You’ll take classes in Income Tax, Auditing, Business Ethics, and Accounting Systems. Core accounting courses are in Principles of Accounting, Legal Environment in Business, and Business Ethics. General education courses are also part of this BS curriculum. Be sure to check out the study abroad and internship programs. 

    Additional advantages to this program are there’s no out-of-state tuition and it will prepare you to sit for the CPA, CIA, and CMA certification exams. If you want, you can take a special Certified Public Accountant Exam Test course.

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  19. MERIT: 69.11

    This Louisiana university was established in 1884 and has grown to a student population of over 11,000 and offers five collegiate degrees. The BS in Accounting from NSU’s “ENSU Global Campus” can be taken online. 

    Classes include general education studies as well as accounting courses in Financial Accounting, Calculus, Business Statistics, Micro and Macroeconomics, and Marketing Principles. Your final year will offer courses in International Business, Auditing, and others. Admission requirements are a $30 application, academic transcripts, and ACT/SAT/or Accuplacer Placement. 

    U.S. News and World Report named NWU on its list of “Best Online Bachelor’s Programs.” The school offers a flat rate tuition rate for distance education students. 

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  20. MERIT: 68.01

    U.S. News and World Report names Indiana State University on its list of “Best Online Bachelor’s Programs” but a “Most Innovative School” and little wonder. ISU offers over 70 online degrees, including a BS in accounting. 

    A four year program, you’ll need 120 credit hours for a diploma, in courses such as Nonprofit Accounting, Financial Accounting, Taxation, etc. There’s also the University’s Foundational Studies Program emphasizing leadership, communication skills, and critical thinking. You can choose a minor from risk management, insurance, or forensic accounting. 

    General admission standards include high school transcripts (or GED scores) for freshmen, and transfer students need to provide transcripts showing at least a 2.0 GPA. Once graduated, you’ll join ISU notable alumni such as Senator Birch Bayah, basketball star Larry Bird, and journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

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  21. MERIT: 67.15

    If you have an associate’s degree, the online accounting major at SUNY Plattsburgh may be tailor made for you. This BS in accounting degree will prepare you to sit for CPA, CIA, CFE, and other professional certification and licensure exams. 

    Program courses include Cost Accounting, Business Law, Intermediate and Advanced Accounting, Government and Nonprofit Accounting, Statistics, Marketing, and others. There’s an optional internship for work experience in businesses and agencies in your hometown. You should check out SUNY Plattsburgh’s work with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program.

    SUNY Plattsburgh ranks in the top 50 “Best Value Schools”, “Best Colleges for Veterans”, and “Top Public Schools” by U.S. News and World Report. There are some notable alumni from this school including graduates like Wolf Blitzter, Al Roker, Harvey Milk, and Calvin Klein. 

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  22. MERIT: 65.47

    For many of us, Nebraska may be too far to attend school. Luckily, Bellevue University will come to us with an online BS in accounting requiring 127 credit hours. The degree is developed to enhance organizational and detail skills in areas of analysis, cost accounting, finance, tax accounting, and more. 

    You can even specialize with a business finance concentration or a minor in tax accountancy. Supplementing the general education curriculum, you’ll be required to take 9 credit hours in the Kirkpatrick Signature Series in classes of American Vision and Values, Tradition and Change, and Freedom and Responsibility. 

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  23. MERIT: 65.27

    Starting in 1906 as an agricultural and mechanical school, the University of West Georgia morphed from a two-year college to the current four-year university with over 13,000 enrolled students. 

    To reach even more students, UWG offers an online Bachelor of Business Administration in accounting. The degree requires you take general education classes as well as core business topics. Subjects covered include economics, accounting, management, and electives for a total of 120 credit hours. Elective areas are auditing, accounting, fraud examination, and other topics.

    Entering students need to submit a $40 application, academic transcripts, and SAT/ACT scores. Due to state requirements, students from certain states are unable to attend UWG. Be certain to verify your home state is eligible for you to apply for this program. 

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  24. MERIT: 64.73

    Clarion University may be a small Pennsylvania school, but it packs a big academic punch, ranking #39 in “Best Online Business Programs” by U.S. News and World Report

    You can take advantage of that quality education with its online Bachelor of Arts in business administration in accounting. What’s more, the program offers four accounting concentrations in general accounting, CPA, industry, or internal audit. You’ll complete the degree with 120 credit hours including an internship. 

    Clarion University dates to 1859 and has its beginnings as a Methodist seminary. Over the nearly two centuries, Clarion now offers over 100 degree programs in its six departments, including four degree programs ranging from Associate to Graduate degrees. 

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  25. MERIT: 64.69

    If you’re wanting to sharpen your decision making skills and develop a sound foundation in business principles and concepts, you’ll want to consider the online Bachelor of Business Administration with an accounting major at this Georgia university. 

    U.S. News and World Report includes the online bachelor’s programs at Columbus State University as one of the “Best Online Bachelor’s Programs” in 2020. Requiring 123 credit hours, this degree combines a liberal arts education with core business classes. Courses in your major will involve Accounting Information Systems, Individual Income Taxes, Auditing, and Intermediate Accounting. 

    You’ll be confident to sit for licensure and certification in professional organizations like the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) and Certified Public Accountant (CPA). First year students need to submit ACT/SAT scores, academic transcripts, and application.

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  26. MERIT: 64.19

    The president of Pratt and Whitney, CEO of Avon Products, vice president of Lehman Brothers, and a former chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, all attended UMass Dartmouth, which speaks to the school’s educational quality. 

    You can take advantage of that education through the BS in accounting degree offered online. The program covers accounting principles and concepts, using accounting systems, and developing decision making skills, as part of this 120 credit hour degree. Internship programs are available to provide hands-on work experience. 

    To prepare you for the professional licensing exams, the program includes courses in Auditing, Taxation, Financial Management of Corporations, Business Finance, as well as Cost Accounting. 

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  27. MERIT: 60.09

    This Michigan school had an interesting start in 1883 as the Cleary School of Penmanship. Over 130 years later, Cleary University has kept up with the times and offers an online BA in accounting. 

    The 120 credit-hour program will provide a solid foundation in cost accounting, investment and portfolio management, business statistics, macroeconomics, corporate finance, and more. Upon degree completion, you’ll be able to sit for the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) exam. 

    For admission, you need to provide SAT/ACT scores, academic transcripts showing a 2.0 GPA or better, complete a free online application, and apply for federal financial aid. Cleary University is military friendly and provides a Student Veteran Resource Center. 

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  28. MERIT: 57.78

    This online BA in business in accounting degree gives you a “two-for-one” option with a double major in finance and general business. A double major will give you a wider range of knowledge and can improve your employment options. Of course, you can choose either discipline as a major, if you prefer.

    The program focuses on accounting issues in ethics, regulations, decision-making, and leadership skills. Some of the courses in this program cover Financial Management, Business and Corporate Strategy, and International Business. You’ll also enroll in general, liberal arts classes to round out your education. 

    If you have an interest in international finance and accounting, UM-Flint has a robust international exchange program. While abroad, you’ll enroll in UM-F courses and take classes in a UM-F partner school. The good news is that any financial aid you’re receiving can be applied to your study abroad experience. 

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  29. MERIT: 56.75

    Graduates of Northeastern University include governors, senators, U.S. ambassadors, CEOs, and a billionaire. While you may not become a billionaire accountant, you’ll certainly benefit from receiving an online BS in finance and account management at Northeastern University. 

    This program requires 120 credit hours and covers classes in Intermediate and Advanced Accounting, Business Law, Ethics, Corporate Finance, and Information Management and Technology. A plus with this program is the entrepreneur concentration.

    Located in Boston, Northeastern University gets high marks from U.S. News and World Report in several categories such as, “Best Value Schools”, “Best Undergraduate Teaching”, and “Most Innovative Schools.” The report also recognizes NU’s internships and international studies in the top 20 of those elements. 

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  30. MERIT: 54.23

    Pace University has quite a roster of alumni from actors to corporate leaders. Among the graduates are CEOs and presidents of Verizon, CBS Corporation, New York Stock Exchange, and Sirius Satellite Radio, to name a few. 

    New York’s Pace University offers dedicated, online degree completion programs that include a Bachelor of Business Administration in business studies. The degree offers a concentration in accounting and internal auditing. You’ll be an attractive hire with knowledge of financial software, data analytics, understanding of internal control systems, fraud protection and prevention, and even whistleblower investigation. 

    This school has consistently been noted in “Best Online Bachelor’s Programs” by U.S. News and World Report.

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What degree do I need to become an accountant?

The degrees available for accountancy range from 2-year associate’s degrees to undergraduate and graduate degrees. While any of these can land you an accounting job, the higher your education, the higher your salary potential. 

Colleges and universities offer online accounting degrees through their business, finance, or distance education departments. Online programs provide the same curriculum, faculty, and degrees as campus programs.

You can receive an accounting major in Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Science (BS), Bachelor of Arts in Business Accounting (BABA), or Bachelor of Business Administration. If you have an associate’s degree, you can usually transfer your degree credits to a bachelor’s program in a degree completion program.

Why should I get an accounting degree?

College degrees may not be for everyone, but if you want to become an accountant, it’s a must-have. An undergraduate degree can equate to better employment options, a higher salary, job security, professional advancement, as well as preparation for licensure and certification exams.

Industries and businesses rely on accountants to provide an accurate depiction of the health of a company. The advice and consultation from a business degree prepared accountant is critical.

What skills should I have to become an accountant?

First, being good with numbers is a good start; but, there’s more to being a good accountant than just figures. You should ask yourself if you’re detail-oriented, if you’re able to clearly explain complex ideas, if predictability appeals to you, and if you are good at organization. Of course, there are other attributes that will benefit you in an accounting career, but those traits should be a good jumping-off point to choosing whether to explore accountancy. 

What job opportunities are there for accountants?

Accountant opportunities are many but it depends on what you want to do. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports approximately 24% of trained accountants work doing tax preparation, payroll services, and bookkeeping. That leaves a good percentage of accountants working in other areas.

Corporations and industries, financial and insurance companies, government agencies, and family-owned business, all have a need for accountants. In 2018, over 1.4 million accountants were employed with 6% more needed to meet demand.

What courses will I take in accounting?

Your coursework will depend, of course, on the college or university you attend. There are usually core business courses required for an undergraduate degree. Some of the foundational classes may include human resource management, marketing, financial accounting, production and operational management, and business law and ethics. 

What program accreditation should I look for?

Reputable schools offering online education will hold accreditation from a regional, Department of Education approved, qualifying organization, such as the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). 

As an accountant, the gold standard for accreditation is the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). Other accreditation organizations are the International Assembly of Collegiate Business Education (IACBE), and Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP).

Are there any accounting professional certifications I need?

There’s a positive alphabet soup of accounting certifications. Most of the schools we researched will prepare you to, at least, sit for the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam.

The most common professional certifications in this field are: 

  • Certified Financial Analyst (CFA)
  • Certified Management Accountant (CMA)
  • Certified Internal Auditor (CIA)