Best Online Accounting Master's Programs 2023

Updated December 23, 2022

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The best online master's in accounting programs can move accounting careers forward. Use our guide to learn what to expect from an online master's degree in accounting.

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Pursuing an online accounting master's degree can be the first step to a flourishing career. This degree can benefit both current accounting professionals and career-switchers.

A master's in accounting provides advanced training in accounting and financial management. Graduates can pursue careers in public accounting, forensic accounting, and taxation. For many students, a graduate degree in accounting may lead to improved job prospects and higher pay.

Many students now choose to pursue a master's degree online. In 2020, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reported that 71% of all graduate learners took at least one distance education course, with 52% studying exclusively online.

Pursuing an accounting master's degree online can offer greater scheduling flexibility. An online degree may also cost less than a traditional brick-and-mortar program.

Read on to learn about delivery methods, costs, accreditation, and benefits, and explore our ranking of the best online accounting master's degree programs.

What to Expect From a Master's in Accounting Online

Requirements for a master's in accounting vary by school. Like on-campus master's degrees, admission to most online master's in accounting programs requires a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field. Some programs also require the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) or a similar exam.

Students can specialize in auditing and financial reporting. They may also focus on areas like tax planning and compliance, business and financial analysis, and government contracting. Curricula also cover accounting software and other technologies.

How Does an Online Accounting Master's Differ From an On-Campus Program?

Online and on-campus accounting master's programs typically share the same curricula and instructors. Still, these formats feature some key differences.

In traditional on-campus programs, students attend classes and complete assignments in person. In contrast, online learners complete coursework and assignments virtually. This can provide more flexibility for students who must balance studies with other commitments.

Interaction between students and instructors also differs. In traditional programs, students may enjoy more opportunities to connect with professors and classmates in person. This modality can benefit students who learn best through face-to-face interactions.

In online programs, students and instructors typically communicate through online tools such as discussion boards and email. This option may suit learners who prefer online communication or want more flexibility in when and how they interact with their peers and instructors.

Accounting master's candidates often complete internships. Remote learners can work with an advisor to locate online internships. Advisors can also help students find in-person traditional internships in their home areas.

Comparing Online and On-Campus Master's in Accounting Degrees
Factor Online Program On-Campus Program
Cost $485-$1,572 per credit $449-$1,802 per credit
Course Load 30-52 credits 30-48 credits
Program Length 1-6 years 1-2 years
Prepares Graduates for CPA Exam Yes Yes

Sources: Brenau University, Franklin University, Indiana University, Liberty University, NC State University, North Central University, Purdue Global, Seton Hall University, Seton Hall University (online), Syracuse University (Online), Western Michigan University; University of Connecticut (online); University of Florida; University of Massachusetts

In looking for the best online accounting master's degrees, consider your budget and study style. Some online accounting degrees may have a lower net cost than on-campus degrees because of reduced tuition, housing, and transportation costs.

Online accounting degrees may also offer more schedule flexibility than traditional programming. Some remote learners can complete their degrees more quickly because of this flexibility.

Delivery Formats for Online Accounting Degrees

Online master's in accounting degrees are available in online, on-campus, and hybrid formats. The hybrid model combines online and classroom learning. Students who prefer this approach complete some of their courses remotely and others in a traditional classroom.

Hybrid and 100% Online Accounting Program Models

The hybrid model allows students to enjoy the flexibility of online learning while also connecting in person with classmates and instructors. Students and professors can interact in real time through video conferencing and scheduled discussions as well.

A 100% online accounting model may offer more flexibility and convenience. Students complete coursework on their own time and at their own pace. This format also eliminates the need for students to commute to a physical campus. Students interact with classmates and instructors online only.

Synchronous or Asynchronous Learning

Colleges and universities may structure programs in synchronous or asynchronous formats. Asynchronous learning allows students to access coursework on their own schedule. Synchronous learning requires attendance at specific times.

Both asynchronous and synchronous learning offer advantages and disadvantages. Asynchronous learning can provide more flexibility, but students may fall behind if they do not keep up with the material.

Accelerated

Some institutions offer accelerated online accounting degree programs that enable students to earn their degrees in a shorter time frame. These programs often attract students who want to complete their degrees more quickly. Students should confirm an accelerated degree program's requirements before applying.

Accreditation for Online Master's in Accounting

Accreditation matters to an online master's in accounting. Accreditation assures potential employers that a school or program provides high-quality education. Credits from accredited institutions are more likely to transfer to other colleges or universities. To gain accreditation, schools must meet standards set by a third-party accrediting agency.

The U.S. Department of Education recognizes two types of educational accreditation: institutional and programmatic. Institutional accreditation typically applies to the entire institution. Programmatic, or specialized, accreditation usually applies to programs, departments, or schools that are part of an institution.

AACSB International accredits many accounting programs. Another accrediting body for accounting programs is the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs.

State Authorization

The state authorization process protects distance learners who live in a different state than where their college or university is physically located. State authorization guarantees that the school legally operates in the state(s) where it serves students.

Students at state-authorized institutions may be eligible for state financial aid. If your college does not hold state authorization, you may still be eligible for federal financial aid.

How Much Will a Master's in Accounting Online Cost?

NCES reports that average graduate tuition and fees at public institutions reached $12,394 in the 2020-21 academic year, with an average of $26,621 at private institutions.

At either a public or a private school, factors to consider include tuition prices, transfer requirements, alumni support, and employment outlook. In-state or out-of-state residency status can also affect the overall cost. Other program costs may include technology and subscription fees.

Financing Options

Online master's in accounting candidates can apply for financial aid. Types of aid include scholarships, fellowships, grants, and loans. Students can also find work-study opportunities.

Scholarships and grant approvals depend on financial need, academic merit, or a combination. Students eligible for fellowships often pursue careers in academia or research.

Federal or private loans typically set interest rates and repayment terms. Paid internships may accept students who meet certain criteria.

Why Get Your Accounting Master's Online?

According to Wiley University Services' 2022 survey, most online college students (79%) prefer to complete program requirements without physical campus visits. Program length was an important factor in opting for remote learning, with 69% of students choosing online degrees because of faster completion times.

Online accounting degrees can offer many benefits, including greater flexibility and the ability to complete coursework at your own pace. Students can often access accelerated or part-time tracks.

Online programs usually feature the same instructors as their on-campus counterparts. The best online accounting master's programs provide the same educational quality traditional programs offer.

However, students should weigh several considerations when deciding if online education is right for them. Factors to look at include tuition cost, time commitment, and opportunities for interaction.

Pros

  • Able to complete coursework anywhere.
  • Can schedule attendance and homework around other priorities.
  • May cost less than traditional programs.

Cons

  • May provide fewer resources than on-campus programs.
  • Some students may lack motivation to complete self-paced work.
  • Some students may require in-person support systems.

Best Master's in Accounting Online Programs

The following ranking profiles our experts' picks for the top five online master's programs in accounting for 2023. Use it to help guide your research as you consider learning opportunities that match your interests and career plans.

The link below explains the criteria we evaluated in generating the ranking:

#1 Best Online Accounting Master’s Programs 2023

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

  • Chapel Hill, NC
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Home of the Tar Heels, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was founded in 1789 and opened in 1795. UNC was the first public university in the United States.

Online Master of Accounting

UNC-Chapel Hill's online master of accounting program is built to meet the same high academic standards as its acclaimed campus-based counterpart. Learners emerge ready to take advantage of professional opportunities available through UNC's career recruitment network.

Recruitment partners include all of the "Big Four" accounting firms and multiple major corporations and financial institutions.

The program offers excellent scheduling flexibility. Ambitious full-time students can graduate in one year. Part-time learners can self-pace, taking as little as one course at a time. All students receive complete institutional support, including individual academic advisors and career coaches.

Applying to UNC-Chapel Hill

UNC-Chapel Hill's online master of accounting program accepts students from all academic and professional backgrounds. Application materials include:

  • Unofficial undergraduate transcripts
  • A personal essay and a resume or CV
  • Two academic or professional references

GMAT/GRE scores are optional. UNC-Chapel Hill will contact your references on your behalf. They do not need to write formal letters of recommendation.

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Tuition: $1,446.36/ credit
  • Required Credits: 36-48
  • Program Length: 12-36 months
  • Delivery Format: 100% online (synchronous)
Average Tuition
In-state
$7,019
Out-of-state
$34,198
Retention Rate
95%
Admission Rate
25%
Students Enrolled
30,092
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
91% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#2 Best Online Accounting Master’s Programs 2023

Western Governors University

  • Salt Lake City, UT
  • 4 years
  • Online

Salt Lake City-based Western Governors University was founded in the mid-1990s to take advantage of emerging educational technologies. The 100% online institution has since garnered a national reputation for inclusive innovation.

Online Master of Accounting

Western Governors University's online master of accounting degree combines a focused accounting coursework core with finance and strategic management courses. Upon graduating, students hold the 150 semester hours required by most U.S. states for certified public accountant (CPA) exam eligibility. 

The program uses a competence model to advance learners through course sequences. This innovative structure trades rigid schedules for self-paced learning. Students begin a course, engage with its content, then take an assessment testing their knowledge as soon as they feel ready.

WGU's model appears to have a positive impact on earning potential. According to WGU, graduates report average salary increases of nearly $19,000 after completing their degree. 

Applying to WGU

Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree in accounting or a CPA license. Core admission materials include academic undergraduate transcripts from an accredited institution. GMAT/GRE scores are not required.

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Private
  • Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Tuition: $4,530/ six-month term
  • Required Credits: 30
  • Program Length: 2 years
  • Delivery Format: 100% online (asynchronous)
Average Tuition
In-state
$6,380
Out-of-state
$6,380
Retention Rate
75%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
147,866
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
Not provided
Accreditation
Yes Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

#3 Best Online Accounting Master’s Programs 2023

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

  • Edinburg, TX
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley brands itself as "The Future of Texas." The school claims a position as the number two public university in Texas, and as the state's leader in lowest net cost of attendance.

Master of Accountancy Accelerated Online Program

University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley's master of accountancy accelerated online program packs a lot of learning into a compact schedule. Students take courses in seven-week terms and can complete all requirements in as little as one year.

The program combines a rigorous accounting core with electives that allow students to pursue personal interests. Through this structure, learners can craft specializations in auditing, taxation, estate planning, fraud examination, and more.

Graduates leave the program with the academic requirements needed to take the Texas State Board of Accountancy's CPA exam. Applicants who need assistance meeting UTRGV's tuition rates can use the financial aid programs UTRGV offers. 

Applying to UTRGV

A strong academic background or a bachelor's degree in accounting is recommended. Candidates must have an undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0 on the 4.0 scale. Required application materials include academic transcripts and GMAT scores. Application is free.

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Tuition: $472.22/credit
  • Required Credits: 30
  • Program Length: 12 months
  • Delivery Format: 100% online
Average Tuition
In-state
$7,233
Out-of-state
$17,049
Retention Rate
81%
Admission Rate
82%
Students Enrolled
32,441
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
97% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#4 Best Online Accounting Master’s Programs 2023

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

  • Champaign, IL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The University of Illinois network has a distinguished history of academic and intellectual excellence. Students and faculty associated with the school have won 29 Pulitzer Prizes and 24 Nobel Prizes.

Online Master of Science in Accountancy

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign brands its online master of science in accountancy program as the iMSA. The Gies College of Business, which holds accreditation from the prestigious Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), houses the program.

U of I describes the iMSA as the first national top-five accounting program to adopt a 100% online format. Coursework emphasizes direct active participation. Students use a practical learning model to apply gained knowledge and skills to real-world situations.

The U of I curriculum focuses on foundational essentials. Learners heavily engage with the principles of financial reporting, taxation, auditing, and analytics.

Applying to U of I

U of I recommends a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0 on the 4.0 scale. Applicants must submit transcripts, a resume, a personal essay, and two recommendation letters.

A bachelor's in accounting is not required. However, candidates should have college-level coursework in business management and principles of accounting or financial accounting. GMAT/GRE scores are optional.

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC), AACSB
  • Tuition: $850/ credit
  • Required Credits: 32
  • Program Length: 18-36 months
  • Delivery Format: 100% online, partially asynchronous
Average Tuition
In-state
$14,317
Out-of-state
$33,824
Retention Rate
94%
Admission Rate
63%
Students Enrolled
52,679
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
96% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#5 Best Online Accounting Master’s Programs 2023

North Carolina State University at Raleigh

  • Raleigh, NC
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

North Carolina State University is noted for its strong focus on graduate education. About two-thirds of the school's 300-plus degree programs are offered at the master's or doctoral levels. NC State ranks in the top 1% of global universities as assessed by the Center for World University Rankings.

Master of Accounting

NC State's program for online master of accounting combines a strong accounting core with enhanced customization options. Electives make up nearly one-third of its credit requirements. Students can pursue their interests in risk management, finance, leadership, sustainability, information technology, and other innovative areas.

The program's design focuses on established business professionals looking to advance their careers. Coursework emphasizes the competencies students need to earn CPA licensure. All students are matched with career counselors.

NC State's Poole College of Management holds accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).

Applying to NC State

NC State accepts students from all academic backgrounds. However, candidates need college coursework in financial reporting, managerial accounting, intermediate accounting, taxation, business law, and auditing.

The school describes admission standards as competitive. Applicants need academic transcripts and GMAT scores.

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), AACSB
  • Tuition: $505.28/credit (in state), $1,572.28/credit (out of state)
  • Required Credits: 31
  • Program Length: 18-36 months (up to 72 months if needed)
  • Delivery Format: 100% online, primarily asynchronous
Average Tuition
In-state
$6,535
Out-of-state
$26,654
Retention Rate
94%
Admission Rate
46%
Students Enrolled
36,042
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
91% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Questions About an Online Master's in Accounting

How long does it take to get a master's degree in accounting online?

The time to complete a master's degree in accounting online depends on each specific program and on students' individual circumstances. Most accounting graduate students complete their online programs in 12-24 months.

How much is an online degree in accounting?

The cost of an online degree in accounting varies by program and school. Online degrees can often be more affordable, as they may charge lower tuition rates and allow students to save on transportation and relocation costs.

Is an online accounting master's valuable?

A 2022 survey from Indeed.com indicates that a master's degree in accounting may position candidates for higher earnings. Seventy-three percent of respondents pursued a master's degree in accounting for better job opportunities, while 77% said that their accounting master's degrees helped boost their salaries.

Is studying accounting online hard?

Online accounting master's programs offer flexibility to working professionals seeking advancement opportunities. Studying accounting online may seem difficult because of course requirements. However, many school resources for accredited online programs help set up students for professional growth and success.


Page last reviewed on Nov. 2, 2022.
Note: The insights on this page — excluding school descriptions — were reviewed by an independent third party compensated for their time by Accounting.com.

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