Cheapest Online Master's in Accounting Programs

Updated November 30, 2022

Want to enhance your career but are concerned about returning to school? Inexpensive online master's degrees could be the path to take.

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With college tuition prices rising every year, students should consider the cost of a master's in accounting before choosing a program. The cheapest programs offer below-average tuition rates while still providing students with an accredited education that prepares them for an upper-level career in the accounting field.

Attending one of the cheapest online master's in accounting programs can allow students to maximize the return on investment (ROI) of their education. People with a master's degree in accounting earn $75,000 per year as of November 2022, according to Payscale.

That is almost $17,000 per year more than the average annual wage across all U.S. occupations based on data from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS). Lower tuition costs limit the expense of earning a master's degree while still qualifying graduates for high-paying jobs.

Affordable, accredited online master's programs in accounting can prepare students for their future careers while helping students stay within budget. In order for the cheapest online master's in accounting degrees to maintain their value, they should come from accredited programs.

Accreditation ensures a school meets the standards of academic excellence determined by third-party accrediting bodies. You can check your program's accreditation status on the Council for Higher Education Accreditation website.

Learn more about the cheapest online master's in accounting programs below.

Top Affordable Accounting Programs

Completing a master's degree in accounting provides the training necessary to enter the accounting field or climb the corporate ladder. Review our ranking of five top accounting schools based on key factors, such as academic quality and affordability.

#1 Cheapest Online Master’s in Accounting Programs

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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

Established in 1795, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is one of the nation's top public colleges. The school enrolls about 31,000 students in 264 programs and administers high-quality, affordable education.

Master of Accounting

The master of accounting (MAC) enrolls learners from various academic and professional backgrounds. Working professionals take evening classes and complete the degree in 12-36 months.

Enrollees take more or less coursework based on their level of technical competency. All students receive the training required to sit for the Uniform CPA exam. Participants learn core skills, such as income tax preparation, financial reporting, auditing, and data analytics for accountants.

Students can choose one of three concentrations: tax, audit, or financial analysis and reporting. Enrollees attend a leadership immersion held on campus in Chapel Hill. The program offers four start terms each year.

UNC-Chapel Hill's Affordability

Students can complete the degree in a 12-month accelerated time frame that saves money. Enrollees pay the same affordable per credit tuition rate regardless of residency status. UNC-Chapel Hill awards fellowships worth an average $3,000-$6,000 to both online and on-campus MAC enrollees.

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Institutional: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges; Program: Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business
  • Tuition: $1,446/credit
  • Required Credits: 36-48
  • Program Length: 12-36 months
  • Delivery Format: 100% online (asynchronous and synchronous) 
  • Admissions
    • Process: Admission requires a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited college, school transcripts, and a resume.
    • Standardized Tests: GRE or GMAT scores. Waivers are available for qualified applicants.
Average Tuition
In-state
$7,019
Out-of-state
$34,198
Retention Rate
96%
Admission Rate
23%
Students Enrolled
29,877
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
12% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#2 Cheapest Online Master’s in Accounting Programs

Northcentral University

  • La Jolla, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online

Located in San Diego, Northcentral University (NCU) develops programs to meet the needs of working professionals. Students can earn degrees in fields, such as business, education, and psychology entirely online.

Master of Science in Accounting

NCU's master of science in accounting (MSA) prepares enrollees for the Uniform CPA exam. Students complete the 30-credit MSA asynchronously online in a recommended 16 months. The curriculum uses Wiley CPAexcel to teach competencies established by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

The curriculum teaches key skills, such as financial, managerial, and cost accounting. Students learn how to apply auditing, accounting, and tax concepts in business contexts. They also explore how to ensure organizations comply with tax and regulatory requirements.

NCU's Affordability

Students pay the same affordable tuition regardless of residency status. Participants lock in tuition for the duration of their enrollment in the MSA. Students completing the degree in the accelerated 16-month time frame save time and money, making the MSA an affordable option.

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Private
  • Accreditation: Institutional: WASC Senior College and University Commission; Program: Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs
  • Tuition: $938/credit
  • Required Credits: 30 
  • Program Length: 16 months
  • Delivery Format: 100% online (asynchronous)
  • Admissions
    • Process: Admission requires a bachelor's degree from an accredited college and school transcripts.
Average Tuition
In-state
$11,064
Out-of-state
$11,064
Retention Rate
Not provided
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
11,223
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
Not provided
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

#3 Cheapest Online Master’s in Accounting Programs

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

  • Champaign, IL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Founded in 1867, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Illinois) enrolls about 51,000 students. A top-ranked public college, Illinois delivers 250 programs through 16 colleges and academic units.

Master of Science in Accounting

The Gies College of Business and Coursera partner to deliver the iMSA. Students attend classes in a live global classroom, completing 32 credits in 18-36 months  Enrollees receive a strong accounting foundation and specialized training in elective areas. 

The core curriculum covers auditing, accounting analysis, federal taxation, and managerial accounting. Students complete 12 credits in elective coursework that can include machine learning for accounting. 

Enrollees can also use elective credit to learn how to apply analytics-based tools in accounting areas like fraud examination. The iMSA prepares learners to sit for the Uniform CPA exam, and graduates join a strong alumni network.

Illinois' Affordability

Students pay an affordable $20,564-$27,200 for the iMSA depending on elective courses. Enrollees pay the same tuition rate regardless of in-state or out-of-state residency. Qualified students may receive need-based scholarships that cover 70% of tuition.

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Institutional: Higher Learning Commission; Program: Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business
  • Tuition: $20,564-$27,200 program cost; $850/credit accounting courses
  • Required Credits: 32
  • Program Length: 18-36 months
  • Delivery Format: 100% online (asynchronous and synchronous)
  • Admissions
    • Process: Admission requires a bachelor's degree and prerequisite coursework, such as principles of accounting.
    • GPA: 3.0 (recommended)
    • Standardized Tests: GMAT or GRE scores (optional)
    • Cost: $70 domestic applicants, with waivers available
Average Tuition
In-state
$14,188
Out-of-state
$33,127
Retention Rate
93%
Admission Rate
59%
Students Enrolled
51,605
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
39% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#4 Cheapest Online Master’s in Accounting Programs

SUNY College at Old Westbury

  • Old Westbury, NY
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

At SUNY Old Westbury, students study on a 604-acre campus located 22 miles from New York City. The school enrolls about 4,400 students in 45 undergraduate and 16 graduate programs. 

Master of Science in Accounting

The master of science in accounting offers tracks for students with a bachelor's in accounting and those without. The degree meets the 150-credit hour requirement needed for CPA licensure in New York state. 

Students complete 30-62 credits depending on their academic background. Learners with an accounting degree complete 30 credits in two years. Students without an accounting degree complete foundational coursework, such as intermediate accounting, auditing, and income tax preparation.

All accounting majors learn fraud examination, global finance, and advanced auditing skills. A notable course focuses on taxation for corporate managers. Only students who reside in select states can enroll in the MS in accounting.

Old Westbury's Affordability

Students in the MS in accounting benefit from SUNY's affordable tuition. Old Westbury boasts annual tuition that costs less than 20% of the national average for private schools. Students can use financial aid, such as scholarships, to help pay for tuition.

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Institutional: Middle States Commission on Higher Education 
  • Tuition: $471/credit or $5,655/semester, in state; $963/credit or $11,550/semester, out of state
  • Required Credits: 30-62
  • Program Length: Two years for accounting majors
  • Delivery Format: 100% online (asynchronous)
  • Admissions
    • Process: Admission requires a BA, BS, or BBA and submission of college transcripts. Applicants without a degree in accounting may have to complete prerequisite coursework.
    • Standardized Tests: GMAT with waivers available
    • Cost: $50
Average Tuition
In-state
$7,070
Out-of-state
$16,980
Retention Rate
76%
Admission Rate
78%
Students Enrolled
5,126
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
16% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#5 Cheapest Online Master’s in Accounting Programs

North Carolina State University at Raleigh

  • Raleigh, NC
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

North Carolina State University at Raleigh (NC State) specializes in science, technology, engineering, and math programs. About 36,000 undergraduate and graduate students benefit from the school's emphasis on experiential learning. NC State also manages a robust virtual college.

Master of Accounting

The Poole College of Management administers the online master of accounting (MAC). Working professionals can complete the MAC in 18-36 months, or take as long as six years. Students without an accounting background can complete prerequisite accounting courses online. The program has a first-time CPA pass rate that consistently ranks above the national average.

The MAC's public accounting track prepares enrollees for public accounting careers and to sit for the CPA exam. Students interested in pursuing careers in the industry choose the business and industry track. Participants may further customize the degree with one of three specializations: IT, tax strategy, or enterprise risk management.

NC State's Affordability

The school offers affordable in-state tuition for MAC students, and competitive tuition rates for those who live out of state. Students can use financial aid to help pay for tuition. The college of management offers merit-based scholarships worth $2,000-$19,000 for MAC students.

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Institutional: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges; Program: Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business
  • Tuition: $505/credit, in state; $1,504/credit, out of state
  • Required Credits: 30-31
  • Program Length: 12-72 months
  • Delivery Format: 100% online (asynchronous)
  • Admissions
    • Process: Admission requires a bachelor's degree and prerequisite accounting coursework.
    • Standardized Tests: GMAT with waivers available
    • Cost: $75 for U.S. citizens and permanent residents; $85 for non-resident aliens and international applicants.
Average Tuition
In-state
$6,535
Out-of-state
$26,654
Retention Rate
94%
Admission Rate
45%
Students Enrolled
36,304
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
41% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

What Factors Into the Cost of a Master's in Accounting?

In general, the cost of tuition determines the affordability of a degree. However, additional factors can increase the overall master's in accounting cost.

These factors include whether students enroll full or part time, qualify for financial aid, or live in areas with a high cost of living.

Tuition


In general, students pay about $27,000 in tuition costs for an online master's degree in accounting.

Online master's degrees in accounting tend to be more affordable than the average in-person program, where tuition costs an average of $30,930 for in-state students and $40,820 for out-of-state students.

Colleges calculate tuition in three major ways: per credit hour, per semester, or per year. As you research, check to see which tuition structure each school uses in order to correctly evaluate the cost of tuition.

Enrollment Status


Most of the cheapest online master's in accounting programs allow students to choose between part-time and full-time enrollment.

Enrolling part time gives students the option of working while simultaneously earning their degree, which can help them avoid taking out loans and cover cost of living expenses. However, part-time students take longer to complete their degrees.

If a student enrolls in a program that charges per semester or per year, taking more time to graduate can increase the degree's cost.

Full-time students have the benefit of completing their program more quickly, often in one year. However, full-time learners will likely have higher tuition payments per semester, and perhaps fewer opportunities to earn additional income while enrolled.

Location


Some online master's degrees in accounting programs have different tuition rates for in-state and out-of-state students. For example, an in-state student enrolled in North Carolina State University's online master's in accounting program pays $1,260 per credit hour compared to out-of-state students, who pay $2,320 per credit hour.

Students attending an in-person or hybrid program have additional expenses to consider. You must live within commuting distance of campus to attend in-person classes, which can create additional transportation and parking costs.

Consider how cost of living impacts the overall expense of your degree. For example, living in an area with a high cost of living means that expenses like rent, food, and utilities may be higher compared to other parts of the state or country.

Earning a master's in accounting degree online can lower expenses by allowing you to live in a cheaper area while earning their degree.

Delivery Format


Accounting at the graduate level translates well to an online learning environment. Enrollees in a master's in accounting are often mid-to-late-career professionals looking to switch or advance their careers. Online degrees allow them to continue maintaining employment.

An online master's in accounting also enables students to gain technology experience and network globally while completing their degrees.

Online degrees in accounting can save students time and money over campus-based programs. Many schools allow students to enroll full or part time and choose to attend classes on campus, online, or through hybrid study.

Finding an affordable accounting degree is a primary concern among graduate students. Many online programs offer in-state or discounted tuition rates for distance learners, regardless of their resident state of residence. Online students can also avoid paying additional costs for commuting, housing, and campus amenities.

Financial Aid


Financial aid can assist you in paying for your degree. While most schools have financial aid programs, consider the types and amount of aid offered by each school before committing to a program.

Be aware that schools with higher tuition rates may also provide better financial aid packages for qualifying students. For instance, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill offers fellowships for qualified students that range from $3,000 - $10,000.

Some schools may offer graduate assistantships, which can also reduce the cost of attendance.

You may also qualify for financial aid through other programs. Work-study programs allow you to work on campus to earn money toward their tuition.

Awards like scholarships and grants can be put toward degree costs and do not need to be repaid. You may also qualify for loans to cover educational expenses, though you have to repay them after graduation.

How Can You Pay for a Degree in Accounting?

Students do not need to repay scholarships after graduation. In other words, scholarships are free money for school.

Explore the list below to learn more about a few scholarship awards available for master's in accounting students.

A variety of additional sources, including professional accounting organizations and individual universities, offer scholarships.

Scholarships for Accounting Students

AICPA Foundation Scholarship for Future CPAs

  • Requirements: Students must be undergraduate or graduate students pursuing an accounting or accounting-related major who plan to earn certified public accountant (CPA) licensure. Additionally, students must be enrolled full time, have a GPA of at least 3.0, demonstrate some financial need, and have completed at least 30 hours of coursework with six hours in accounting at the time of application.
  • Award: $3,000-$10,000

AICPA Scholarship Award for Minority Accounting Students

  • Requirements: Students must be an ethnic minority pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree in accounting or an accounting-related field who demonstrate some financial need. Additionally, students must be enrolled full time, have a minimum 3.0 GPA average, and have completed at least 30 credit hours of coursework with 6 credit hours in accounting. Finally, students must intend to pursue CPA licensure.
  • Award: $3,000-$10,000

Ritchie-Jennings Memorial Scholarship Program

  • Requirements: To qualify, students must be sophomore, junior, or senior undergraduates or graduate students enrolled full time at an accredited four-year university. Additionally, students must be majoring or minoring in accounting, business administration, finance, criminal justice, or any other fraud-related discipline and intend to pursue a career in fraud after graduation.
  • Award: $1,000-$10,000

Making the Cheapest Master's in Accounting Even Cheaper

Most students require financial aid to complete even the most affordable master's in accounting degrees. Degree-seekers can start with the FAFSA to determine their eligibility for financial aid, which tends to be more limited for graduate students.

The following list includes some common considerations for cost-conscious students.

Book Rentals: Even with quick, easy access to virtual information, many courses still use hard-copy books and learning materials. Many schools offer book rentals and buy-back programs that enable students to reuse discounted course materials.

Maximizing Credit Loads: Students may consider overloading credits in programs that do not assign per-credit tuition rates. By maximizing their credit load, learners may meet their degree requirements in less time and at a lower cost than if they pay per credit. Students should consider the scheduling requirements of overloading credits if they have other life or work commitments.

Transfer Credits: Learners with previous academic, life, or work experience can transfer credits toward master's in accounting degrees. Online programs encourage students to apply the maximum number of transfer credits, granting them faster completion times and lower costs than traditional programs.

Will Getting Your Accounting Degree Pay Off?

Even the cheapest master's in accounting degrees cost money. Before enrolling, think about if an accounting master's degree makes financial sense.

You can start by calculating the net cost of their degree, factoring in tuition, fees, living expenses, course materials, and any financial aid awards. From there, compare that number to their projected salary earnings to determine a program's ROI.

Consider the overall benefits of earning a master's degree in accounting. For example, many graduates from master's in accounting programs become CPAs.

According to the BLS, the average CPA in the United States earns an annual mean wage of $77,250, which is about $20,000 more than the average annual wage across all U.S. occupations.

Here is how a student considering Seton Hall University's online master's degree in accounting might calculate their ROI: Seton Hall's online master's in accounting costs about $40,500. According to the BLS, accountants in New Jersey — where Seton Hall is located— earn an average annual wage of $97,950.

Even with New Jersey's higher-than-average cost of living, students can recuperate their educational costs within one year of employment as a CPA.

Common Questions About Accounting Master's Programs

  • How much does a master's in accounting cost?

    While costs vary among schools, a typical master's in accounting ranges from $10,000-$35,000 at public and private colleges.

  • How much does it cost to get an accounting degree online?

    A school may charge variable tuition for online programs based on its public or private status and state reciprocity agreements. Distance learners often enjoy perks like in-state tuition rates and book rental options.

  • What is the best master's degree for accountants?

    Schools commonly offer master's degrees in accounting or MBAs with an accounting concentration. Students with either degree meet the minimum education requirement for many entry-level roles in accounting and finance.

  • Should I get an MBA or master's in accounting?

    MBA and master's degrees in accounting share some similarities, including core coursework in soft accounting and business skills. MBAs may best suit students looking for broad accounting programs with flexible career options, while master's degrees in accounting best serve aspiring CPAs and accountants.

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

    Many master's in accounting degree-holders pursue CPA licensure to become accountants. A master's degree can also lead to careers in financial management or senior-level tax or financial examiner positions.


Watson is a paid member of the Red Ventures Education Integrity Network.

Page last reviewed November 20, 2022

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