Learn More About How We Rank Our Accounting Programs

| Accounting.com Staff

Learn More About How We Rank Our Accounting Programs

Students interested in an accounting degree may find their search for the right school overwhelming. Our rankings help learners navigate accounting programs so they can find schools that would suit their needs.

To provide prospective accounting students with the best, most accurate information, we rank programs with a unique methodology, specific to our users’ needs. This accounting methodology considers a variety of key factors, weighing them based on their importance to the program selection process.

Our ranking methodology foraccounting degrees considers affordability, academic quality, school/program reputation and prestige, and program availability. We source this information from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), a federal agency tasked with collecting, analyzing, and publishing education statistics in the United States.

We ensure our rankings remain free of outside influence, as schools cannot pay for spots on our lists. Our site features advertising partners; we do not consider these relationships when compiling our rankings.

On this page, we introduce our accounting ranking system, providing detailed information about the data we use and how we weigh each factor. These factors include several important subfactors, explained below.

Crunch the Data: About Our Data | Rankings Methodology | Rankings Factors

About the Data We Use to Rank Accounting Schools

To create our accounting rankings, we rely on the most current information reliable sources have available. We pull data from NCES, a federal agency that collects, organizes, analyzes, and publishes educational data and statistics from schools around the country. Housed within the U.S. Department of Education, the NCES annually updates statistical information, as congressionally mandated.

To locate and analyze data, we use the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), which is managed by NCES. IPEDS creates data sets and reports based on information collected by NCES. IPEDS examines trends and tendencies in NCES data, including enrollment numbers, tuition rates, faculty and staff employment, and degree conferral rates.

We use this IPEDS data in our rankings to help students make the best possible choice for their accounting degree. Our quality assurance team verifies that schools without adequate data are not included on our website.

We usually update our rankings annually, or sometimes more frequently if IPEDS releases new data. This means we may update our rankings for more popular programs several times per year.

When we update rankings, all new data from IPEDS is run through our rankings algorithms to create a list of the top accounting schools. We never rebrand old rankings for a new year. Students can count on our data to stay current, accurate, and always aimed at helping them find the best learning options.


As of Jan. 4, 2022, IPEDS has released only provisional data for the 2019-2020 school year. Our rankings on this site use the most current data available, instead of the most finalized, at the time of publication. Both types of data sets undergo all NCES quality control procedures.

A Breakdown of Our Accounting Rankings Methodology

When creating our rankings, we understand the importance of using the right methodology to assess accounting degrees. For our rankings, we consider what makes a program the best: academics, affordability, reputation/prestige, and program availability and flexibility.

To create the rankings, we weigh each of these factors based on importance for that specific degree type. Explore the charts below to see how we weigh each factor.




About Our Accounting Ranking System Factors

For each of our four factors, we weigh several subfactors. We consider these data points — including information about retention rates and admissions yield — to calculate the scores for each program/school.

These subfactors also influence our rankings:

Subfactors for Academics
  • Retention Rate: A school’s retention rate measures how many students remain enrolled from one fall semester to the next fall semester. This figure includes students who enroll in a fall semester and graduate by the following fall. Higher retention rates often signal that an institution fosters an environment of student support and success. According to IPEDS data, in 2018-19, the average full-time retention rate for all degree-granting, four-year institutions was 81.3%.
  • Graduation Rate: To calculate graduation rates, IPEDS measures how many students from an institution complete their degrees within 150% of the expected time frame for that program. For example, the graduation rate for a school’s four-year accounting degree measures how many students graduate with that degree in six years. In our rankings, we include IPEDS graduation rate data from 2016.
  • Robust Faculty: The best programs are led by faculty at the top of their fields. We look at the percentage of faculty who hold terminal degrees in their field. We also consider data regarding the number of full-time faculty an institution employs versus part-time or adjunct instructors. Smaller class sizes often correlate to a more rigorous education with more individualized instruction, so we also factor in each school’s student-to-faculty ratio. Our rankings feature the IPEDS full-time faculty percentages and student-to-faculty ratios from 2019.
Subfactors for Affordability
  • Price for Students With Grants or Scholarships: One of the metrics we consider for affordability is the net price of tuition for students who received grants and scholarships, which do not require repayment. This net price is the amount students pay out-of-pocket, not including any federal or private loan funds. Our rankings factor in the average net tuition price for students awarded grant or scholarship aid for the 2018-19 academic year.
  • Students Getting Financial Aid: We also take into account the percentage of students at each school who receive financial aid. Financial aid includes any funding towards the overall price: federal and private loans, scholarships, grants, work-study, assistantships and tuition waivers, and tuition reimbursement programs. We examine the percentage of full-time, first-time undergraduates awarded any financial aid and the average amount of grant and scholarship aid awarded at each school. Our current rankings feature 2015-16 financial aid data from IPEDS.
  • Students Getting Federal Aid: Our rankings consider the percentage of students at each institution who receive federal aid. Federal aid includes need-based grants, loans, and funds earned through work-study programs. We include the 2015-16 data for the percentage of undergraduate students awarded federal student loans and the average amount of federal student loans awarded to undergraduate students at each school.
  • Post-Graduation Student Debt:The average debt for a graduate of a four-year institution is $36,510, according to Education Data. The median monthly payment among graduates toward student debt is $250. We consider the post-graduation student debt for each school in our rankings, including the 2017 IPEDS average loan default rate for graduates. We look for schools with low student debt and low default rates.
Subfactors for Reputation
  • Percentage of Applicants Admitted: Acceptance rates measure the percentage of applicants who receive admission offers from an institution. Lower acceptance rates indicate a school is both competitive and selective.Our rankings include the IPEDS admissions rate data from 2019-20.
  • Admissions Yield: Our rankings also factor in each school’s admissions yield, which is the percentage of admitted students who actually enroll in classes. A higher enrollment rate usually indicates that a school’s faculty and resources are attractive to new students. Our rankings include the IPEDS enrollment rate data from 2019-20.
  • Return on Investment: Earning an accounting degree is a substantial investment for most students. When we rank schools, we consider the return on investment (ROI) for students by examining the average wages of graduates from those programs. Ideally, schools should boast a high ROI, with students earning higher wages than people without a degree. We use 2019 IPEDS data, which reports the average earnings of graduates who are 25 years old and over.
Subfactors for Program Availability and Online Flexibility
  • Percentage of Online Students Enrolled: Students considering online programs may want to know how many students enroll in online learning at each school. A higher online enrollment rate often signals that a school’s online learning is well-designed and online course availability is high. To calculate online availability scores, we use the percentage of students enrolled in fully online undergraduate programs and the percentage of students enrolled in any online coursework. This subfactor is used only in ranking online programs.
  • Percentage of Relevant Degree Level Offered: To factor in overall program availability, we consider the percentage of programs offered at that specific degree level. For example, when ranking a bachelor’s program, we look at how many bachelor’s degrees each school offers to measure the availability of bachelor’s programs at that school. Higher program availability at the corresponding degree level can indicate a school’s commitment of resources to those degrees.


Featured Image: Worawee Meepian / EyeEm / Getty Images

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