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5 Best Online Accounting Master’s Degree Programs 2021

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Students seeking stable, lucrative careers in accounting, auditing, and financial management should pursue a master’s in accounting. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that accountants and auditors earned a median annual salary of $73,560 as of 2020. BLS projections data indicate a 7% growth rate for the profession from 2020-2030, keeping pace with the average rate for all occupations.

Earning an online master’s degree in accounting can help applicants stand out from the competition for the best-paying accounting jobs at prestigious firms.

Strong demand for accountants should persist as organizations continue hiring professionals who understand complex tax rules and financial regulations. Earning an online master’s degree in accounting can help applicants stand out from the competition for the best-paying accounting jobs at prestigious firms.

Many universities offer accounting master’s degree programs online. Below, find our ranking of the best online master’s in accounting programs. We also explain reasons to get an online master’s degree in accounting, what to expect from typical accounting programs, and how to choose the right school.

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What to Expect | Jobs | Top Online Accounting Master’s Programs | FAQs

Why Get an Online Accounting Master’s?

Earning a master’s in accounting entails a major commitment of time and money, but the investment can pay off. Accounting programs prepare students to advance in their careers, earn higher salaries, and gain new skills. A master’s also meets the education requirements to qualify for CPA certification.

Below, we explain some reasons to consider an accounting master’s degree program.

  • Career Advancement: Earning an accounting graduate degree can help students develop the knowledge and skills to qualify for different and better-paying careers. Some accounting employers require or prefer job applicants with master’s degrees.
  • CPA Certification: Candidates must pass the national CPA exam and meet other state requirements to become licensed CPAs in all states.
  • Gain New Skills: Completing an online master’s in accounting helps each student develop advanced skills and practices to immediately apply to their careers. Accounting programs also provide training in specialized areas like forensic accounting, government accounting, and auditing.

What to Expect From an Online Master’s Degree in Accounting Program

Online master’s in accounting programs build a foundation in advanced accounting theory and practice, exploring topics like forensic accounting, financial analysis, and taxation. They prepare graduates for in-demand jobs in accounting, auditing, and finance.

A typical online master’s degree in accounting takes 1-2 years to complete and requires 30-45 credits. Program length varies based on part- or full-time enrollment and whether or not enrollees choose accelerated options. Students with undergraduate degrees in fields unrelated to accounting may need to complete prerequisite courses, adding time to the overall degree length.

Students can choose from specializations in areas like accounting information systems, government accounting, and auditing. Typical courses include advanced financial accounting, financial instruments, accounting ethics, and cost accounting.

Read More About Accounting Programs

Admission Requirements

Admission requirements vary by school, but applicants to graduate accounting programs need a bachelor’s degree at minimum. Most universities do not require an accounting bachelor’s, but those without relevant academic or professional background may need to complete foundational prerequisite courses before enrolling. Applicants typically need to earn minimum scores on the GRE or GMAT exams. Some online master’s in accounting programs require no GMAT score and instead seek a minimum 2.5-3.0 GPA.

The application process involves submitting an application fee, college transcripts, test scores, and a statement of purpose. Many programs require letters of recommendation and a resume documenting relevant professional experience. Some schools also require an interview.

Although not required, applicants may increase their chances of acceptance by submitting evidence of leadership potential or participation in extracurricular or community service activities.

Degree and Concentration Options

Accounting master’s degree programs include an MS in accounting, a master of accountancy (MAcc), and an MBA in accounting. Each degree prepares students for careers in accounting. Most programs offer accounting concentrations and specializations like forensic accounting, public accounting, auditing, and taxation.

  • MS in Accounting: An MS in accounting, sometimes called an MSA, provides a broad foundation in advanced accounting principles and prepares students to sit for the CPA exam. Online MSA programs welcome individuals from diverse academic and professional backgrounds.
  • MAcc: Online MAcc programs usually offer the same courses and provide the same career preparation as MS in accounting programs. Graduates qualify to take the CPA exam and pursue accounting careers.
  • MBA in Accounting: MBA in accounting programs typically focus more on general business knowledge. Learners gain practical business skills applicable to many different fields.

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Popular Accounting Courses

Curricula vary by school, but all accounting master’s degree programs provide a foundation in advanced accounting fundamentals. Students explore issues like financial accounting, business ethics, and accounting information systems. Accounting programs usually include core, elective, and capstone/internship courses. Below, we provide detailed descriptions of some available accounting courses.

  • Advanced Auditing: This class covers the regulatory, economic, and technological environments of public and private sector auditing. Topics include audit evidence gathering and evaluations, risk analysis, auditing and accounting research, and professional standards. Students develop decision-making, analytical, and technical skills.
  • Tax Research: Enrollees in this elective course use electronic and traditional paper resources to assess the validity and authority of primary sources for tax data. Coursework emphasizes federal tax research.
  • Financial Statement Analysis: Learners gain practical skills for analyzing financial statements. Topics include ratio analysis, trend analysis, balance sheet and income statement analysis, and cash flow analysis. The class also covers operating efficiency, free cash flow generation, profitability, and business risk.
  • Accounting Analytics: This course explores methods for using financial statement data and nonfinancial data to analyze financial performance. Students learn predictive analytics, data visualization, and other analytics software programs to optimize operations, forecast events, and determine strategy.
  • Accounting Capstone: As a culminating experience, this class allows learners to apply the knowledge developed during their program in one final research project. Each enrollee develops a project on the accounting topic of their choice with the supervision of faculty members.

How Much Will a Master’s in Accounting Cost?

The cost of a master’s in accounting varies by school. Factors affecting price include the type of college (public or private), program format (online or in-person), and school prestige. Public universities usually offer substantially lower tuition rates than private institutions, and students who can pay in-state tuition typically receive the best price.

Average in-state and out-of-state tuition at public colleges varies significantly by state. Prestigious private universities usually cost the most. Online programs sometimes offer special tuition rates for out-of-state learners. Distance degrees also often provide accelerated options, allowing students to save time and money.

Accounting majors should factor in other costs they may incur, including the price of textbooks and supplies, technology upgrades or repairs, and transportation. Master’s in accounting students can explore financing options to help pay for their education, including student loans, grants, scholarships, and fellowships.

Learn More About Financial Aid Options Learn More About and Explore Accounting Scholarships

Jobs for Master’s in Accounting Graduates

Accounting master’s degree programs prepare students for top positions in accounting, auditing, and finance. Graduates often pursue roles as accountants and auditors, financial managers, and financial analysts. According to the BLS, typical salaries in this field start around $70,000 for accountants and auditors, rising to as much as $134,180 for the median annual salary for financial managers.

Below, we describe some potential career paths for master’s in accounting graduates.

  • Accountants and Auditors: Accountants and auditors work with financial documents to ensure their accuracy. Typical job duties may include organizing financial records, assessing tax debts, finding ways to reduce costs, and recommending best practices to management. They also prepare written reports and give presentations.
    Required Education: Bachelor’s degree | Job Outlook (2020-30): 7% | Median Annual Salary: $73,560
  • Financial Managers: These managers coordinate and make plans for their organizations’ financial goals. Many financial managers start their careers as accountants or financial analysts. They often work for insurance industries, banks, and investment firms. Job duties may include monitoring finances, helping management make financial decisions, and preparing financial reports.
    Required Education: Bachelor’s degree | Job Outlook (2020-30): 17% | Median Annual Salary: $134,180
  • Financial Analysts: Financial analysts help individuals and businesses make decisions about investments and other financial issues. They study business trends, determine the value of companies, assess management, and write reports. Professionals need at least a bachelor’s degree. A chartered financial analyst certification may improve chances for career advancement.
    Required Education: Bachelor’s degree | Job Outlook (2020-30): 6% | Median Annual Salary: $83,660
  • Budget Analysts: Budget analysts create budget reports, review budget proposals, help management analyze proposed plans, and monitor spending to make sure organizations stay within budget. These professionals find employment with the government, businesses, and universities. Budget analysts need excellent communication, analytical, and math skills.
    Required Education: Bachelor’s degree | Job Outlook (2020-30): 5% | Median Annual Salary: $78,970
  • Financial Examiners: Financial examiners ensure that organizations comply with financial laws by reviewing accounts, preparing reports, and monitoring financial conditions. They need strong analytical, math, and writing skills. Financial examiners usually work in either consumer compliance or risk assessment.
    Required Education: Bachelor’s degree | Job Outlook (2020-30): 18% | Median Annual Salary: $81,430

Choosing the Right Accounting Master’s Degree Program

Our rankings list is a great place to start, but choosing an online accounting master’s degree program requires students to consider several factors:

  • Accreditation: Attending an accredited school allows students to receive financial aid, transfer credits to another university, and qualify for professional certifications. The best accounting programs also hold separate programmatic accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.
  • Cost: Before applying to accounting programs, research the estimated cost of attendance. Pay attention to in-state versus out-of-state tuition, special rates for distance learners, and financial aid opportunities.
  • Competitiveness: Schools often report their acceptance rates on their websites. Graduating from a more competitive program can impress prospective employers.
  • Required Admission Materials: Most schools require applicants to submit college transcripts, letters of recommendation, test scores, and writing samples.
  • Prestige: Attending a highly respected school may lead to more job opportunities after graduation. However, degrees from prestigious institutions may cost more.

Why You Should Get Your Master’s in Accounting Online

Earning an online master’s degree in accounting offers benefits like flexibility, convenience, and affordability. Asynchronous programs allow students to learn anywhere and at any time, fitting school around jobs, family, and other commitments. Online learning appeals to working professionals, returning students, and others seeking more flexible options.

Only you can decide if you should earn your master’s in accounting online. Some people learn better in traditional, in-person college experiences. Consider your individual learning style and preferences when making your choice.

The Top Online Accounting Master’s Degree Programs

  1. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
    Location

    Champaign, IL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A land grant institution founded in 1867, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign serves 47,000 students from more than 100 countries and all 50 states.

    Master of Science in Accountancy

    Illinois' Gies College of Business offers a completely online MS in accountancy with no on-campus requirements. The program educates students living in more than 30 states. The 32-credit degree takes 18-36 months to complete and offers networking opportunities with accountancy alumni from U of I.

    Students take core classes like accounting analysis, managerial accounting, federal taxation, and auditing. Electives explore issues like professional ethics, machine learning for accounting, and infonomics. Illinois' master's in accounting online program also gives participants access to non-credit, self-directed courses through Coursera several times a year.

    Applying to Illinois

    Admission requirements include a bachelor's degree in any discipline with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Students from non-business backgrounds must complete prerequisite foundational business courses. The program does not require the GRE/GMAT.

    Program at a Glance

    • School Type: Public
    • Accreditation: HLC; AACSB
    • Tuition: $850/credit
    • Required Credits: 32
    • Program Length: 2 years
    • Delivery Format: Online
  2. DePaul University
    Location

    Chicago, IL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A Catholic research university in Chicago, Illinois, DePaul University offers more than 300 graduate and undergraduate programs.

    Online Master of Science in Accounting

    DePaul's 48-credit online master of science in accounting (MSA) includes classes like business law for accountants, tax treatment of individuals and property transactions, and accounting theory and policy formulation. All Kellstadt Graduate School of Business faculty members who teach classes in the online MSA program also provide instruction on campus.

    The online MSA typically takes two years to complete, but distance learners can choose an accelerated path to graduate more quickly. The comprehensive master's in accounting online program invites applicants with and without backgrounds in accounting, and the program prepares graduates to sit for the CPA exam. Online MSA students may qualify for federal direct unsubsidized loans.

    Applying to DePaul

    Admission requirements for the online MSA include a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution. Applicants must submit college transcripts, a resume, and a personal statement. The program does not require the GRE/GMAT.

    Program at a Glance

    • School Type: Private
    • Accreditation: HLC; AACSB
    • Tuition: $1,080/credit
    • Required Credits: 48 credits
    • Program Length: 2 years
    • Delivery Format: Online
  3. George Mason University
    Location

    Fairfax, VA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The largest public research university in Virginia, George Mason University serves 37,000 students from more than 130 countries. Of all students at Mason, 60% receive financial aid.

    Online Master of Science in Accounting

    The online master of science in accounting (MSA) from Mason's School of Business includes a week-long global residency or international study-tour in a place like Prague, Frankfurt, and London. The modular program offers eight-week classes focused on advanced issues in taxation, the global accounting environment, and fraud and the law.

    Part-time students graduate in two years, but an accelerated option takes as little as 11 months to complete. Mason MSA graduates earn $10,738 more for their starting salaries than those with only a BS in Accounting. Also, 64% of accounting graduates find jobs by graduation.

    Applying to Mason

    Applicants to Mason's online MSA program need a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution and at least 27 college credits in accounting. The program also requires a current resume, official college transcripts, GRE/GMAT scores, and two letters of recommendation.

    Program at a Glance

    • School Type: Public
    • Accreditation: SACSCOC; AACSB
    • Tuition: $975/credit
    • Required Credits: 30 credits
    • Program Length: 2 years
    • Delivery Format: Online
  4. California State University-Sacramento
    Location

    Sacramento, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Founded in 1947, California State University-Sacramento enrolls more than 31,000 students and features an average class size of 27. The school offers 51 master's programs with 26 concentration options.

    Online Master of Science in Accountancy

    Sacramento State's online MS in accountancy (MSA) from the College of Business Administration prepares graduates to sit for the CPA exam. The flexible, fully online program incorporates instant messaging, streaming video, and a year-round schedule.

    Notable classes include governmental and not-for-profit accounting and a culminating experience in accounting and ethics. The two-year, 30-credit online master's degree in accounting offers an accelerated timeline for those who want to graduate more quickly. Some students need to complete additional foundation courses. The program attracts highly qualified applicants with an average of six years of professional accounting experience.

    Applying to Sacramento State

    Admission requirements for the online MSA program include a bachelor's degree from an accredited college with a minimum 2.5 GPA and a minimum 30% percentile score on the GRE or GMAT. Some applicants may qualify for a GRE/GMAT waiver.

    Program at a Glance

    • School Type: Public
    • Accreditation: WSCUC; AACSB
    • Tuition:: $740/credit
    • Required Credits: 30 credits
    • Program Length: 2 years
    • Delivery Format: Online
  5. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
    Location

    Chapel Hill, NC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Founded in 1795 as the first public university in the U.S., the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill boasts an endowment of more than $3.6 billion.

    Online Master of Accounting

    Designed for busy working professionals, the online master's in accounting from UNC's Kenan-Flagler Business School features the same highly qualified faculty, rigorous curriculum, and peer interaction as the on-campus program. Notable classes include professional communication data, leadership immersion, and analytics for accountants. The program offers concentrations in tax, audit, and financial analysis and reporting.

    Prospective learners can sample the program by attending a live online session. Synchronous classes feature face-to-face conversations with instructors and classmates. The program accepts applicants with any undergraduate background and offers start dates in January, March, June, or September. Students may qualify for a variety of financial aid opportunities, including fellowships.

    Applying to UNC

    The master's in accounting online program requires a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution. Applicants submit transcripts, two recommendations, a statement of purpose, and a resume. The program also requires GRE/GMAT scores, but offers exemptions in some cases.

    Program at a Glance

    • School Type: Public
    • Accreditation: SACSCOC; AACSB
    • Tuition: $1446/credit
    • Required Credits: 36-48 credits (depends on prior coursework)
    • Program Length: 12-36 months
    • Delivery Format: Online (synchronous)
Our Ranking Methodology

What the Best Accounting Programs Have in Common

Schools achieve excellence by pursuing a variety of paths, but many top institutions share similar characteristics. Below, we explain how we find and rank the best online master’s in accounting programs.

  • They Are Accredited. The top universities–and all of the schools on our list–are regionally accredited, a credential that demonstrates they meet minimum quality standards and offer reputable degrees. Going to a regionally accredited college makes it easier to receive financial aid and transfer credit. Keep an eye out for the following regional accrediting agencies:
    • Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges Western Association of Schools and Colleges
    • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
    • Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
    • New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
    • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
    • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
    • WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
    Online master’s in accounting programs also may hold programmatic accreditation from the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) or Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). Attending an AACSB-accredited program increases your chances of receiving an up-to-date, career-relevant education.
  • They Offer Academic Excellence. The best accounting schools maintain standards of academic quality that promote educational attainment. High graduation and student retention rates and low student-to-faculty ratios indicate academic excellence. Accounting programs that employ full-time faculty, like Georgia Southern University’s 22 dedicated full-time accounting faculty members, often offer higher-quality degrees. These factors all impact whether accounting master’s students develop the knowledge and skills to pass the CPA exam and build successful accounting careers.
  • They Are Reputable, Yet Affordable. Top colleges maintain reputations as trustworthy institutions that admit strong applicants and provide a quality education. The best schools also make their programs accessible to students from all socioeconomic backgrounds. Some colleges offer lower-than-average tuition rates to all, while others provide financial aid opportunities, like the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s fellowship program.
  • They Have a Strong Accounting Program. Top schools offer flexible online accounting programs that prepare students for success. Asynchronous accounting master’s programs that are available completely online, like Seton Hall University’s, make it easier for out-of-state learners to complete their degrees. Accounting programs offering strong student support tend to see higher graduation rates as well.

Questions About Online Master’s Degrees in Accounting

  • What should I major in to become an accountant?

    Students seeking accounting careers should major in accounting or a related subject. They can add a concentration or specialization to increase their employability in a specific area, like government accounting, forensic accounting, or taxation.

  • Can I get an accounting degree online?

    Yes, you can get an accounting degree online. Many universities offer master’s in accounting online programs that provide flexibility, convenience, and affordability for working professionals and others who prefer distance education.

  • What can I do with an online master's degree in accounting?

    Master’s in accounting programs develop fundamental accounting and auditing skills. These degrees prepare students for accounting and finance careers, including roles as accountants, auditors, financial managers, and financial examiners. Graduates also learn basic business skills applicable to many other positions.

  • How much do people with a master's in accounting make?

    Salaries vary, but master’s in accounting graduates typically earn strong wages. The BLS reports that accountants and auditors made a median salary of $73,560 in 2020.

Accredited Online College Programs

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A master's degree in accounting can lead to a lucrative, rewarding career. Get the details and tips you need to find the right school for your goals.

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