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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, or 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. The BLS projects a 7% growth rate for the profession from 2020-2030. This keeps pace with the projected growth rate for all occupations.

An online master’s degree in accounting can help candidates qualify for well-paying accounting jobs at prestigious firms.

Organizations must hire professionals who understand complex tax rules and financial regulations. This leads to strong demand for accountants. An online master’s degree in accounting can help candidates qualify for well-paying accounting jobs at prestigious firms.

Many universities offer accounting master’s degree programs online. Below, we rank the best online master’s in accounting programs. We explain why to get an online master’s degree in accounting, what to expect from an accounting program, and how to choose the right school.

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

Why Get an Online Accounting Master’s?

Earning a master’s in accounting entails a major commitment of time and money. Still, 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 certified public accounting (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 better-paying careers. Some accounting employers prefer applicants with master’s degrees.
  • CPA Certification: Candidates must pass the national CPA exam and meet state requirements to become licensed CPAs.
  • Gain New Skills:An online master’s in accounting helps students develop advanced skills and practices. 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. They explore topics like forensic accounting, financial analysis, and taxation. These programs 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 enrollment status. Accelerated programs may charge higher tuition rates as well. Students with undergraduate degrees in non-accounting fields may need to complete prerequisite courses. This could add 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. Applicants to graduate accounting programs need a bachelor’s degree at minimum. Most universities do not require an accounting bachelor’s. However, those without relevant academic or professional backgrounds may need to complete 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 requires an application fee, college transcripts, test scores, and a statement of purpose. Many programs call for letters of recommendation. Some also want a resume documenting relevant professional experience. Some schools ask for an interview.

Applicants may increase their chances of acceptance by submitting evidence of leadership potential or 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. These may include 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. This degree 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 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 explore general business knowledge. Learners gain practical business skills applicable to many different fields.

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Popular Accounting Courses

Curricula vary by school. 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 describe 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. Students also explore risk analysis, auditing and accounting research, and professional standards. Learners develop decision-making, analytical, and technical skills.
  • Tax Research:This elective course teaches students 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. Students learn to analyze trends, balance sheets and income statements, and cash flow. The class also covers operating efficiency, free cash flow generation, profitability, and business risk.
  • Accounting Analytics: This course explores using data to analyze financial performance. Students learn predictive analytics, data visualization, and other analytics software programs. Learners understand how to optimize operations, forecast events, and determine strategy.
  • Accounting Capstone: As a culminating experience, this class allows learners to apply knowledge from their program in a final research project. Each enrollee develops a project on the accounting topic of their choice under faculty supervision.

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 lower tuition rates than private institutions. In-state students at public colleges typically pay the lowest tuition rates.

Public college tuition varies 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. These might include textbooks and supplies, technology upgrades or repairs, and transportation. Master’s in accounting students can explore financing options to help pay for their education. Options include 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, accountants and auditors earn a median annual salary exceeding $73,000. Financial managers earn a median salary of $134,180 per year.

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. They organize financial records, assess tax debts, find ways to reduce costs, and recommend 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 plan for their organizations’ financial goals. Many financial managers start 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. These professionals study business trends, determine companies’ value, 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 and review budget proposals. They also help management analyze proposed plans and monitor spending to make sure organizations stay within budget. These professionals work 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. These professionals review accounts, prepare reports, and monitor 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:School accreditation allows students to receive financial aid, transfer credits to another university, and qualify for professional certifications. The best accounting programs also hold 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 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

    Champaign, IL



    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

    Chicago, IL



    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

    Fairfax, VA



    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

    Sacramento, CA



    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

    Chapel Hill, NC



    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)

Questions About Online Master’s Degrees in Accounting

  • What should I major in to become an accountant?

    Aspiring accountants should major in accounting or a related subject. They can add a concentration or specialization to increase their employability in a specific area. Such areas may include government accounting, forensic accounting, or taxation.

  • Can I get an accounting degree online?

    Yes. Many universities offer master’s in accounting online programs. These 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. Graduates may work as accountants, auditors, financial managers, or financial examiners. Students learn basic business skills that apply to many other positions as well.

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

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

Accredited Online College Programs

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