Transfer students switch schools for a variety of reasons. Financially
motivated students may choose to start their accounting degrees at a
community college to save money; other students transfer because the
academic program at a different school is simply a better fit for their
interests and career goals. Some students have more specific transfer
situations, such as military students who earned college credits while
in the service, or international students who moved to the United States
and want to continue their education here. Nearly 10% of all students
complete their degrees through multiple institutions, according to the
National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.
Many colleges and universities are welcoming to transfer students,
offering generous transfer policies, plus other resources to ease the
process and make it as smooth as possible. Do your research before
beginning the accounting program application process to increase your
chances of success.
How to Choose an Online Accounting Program
Make sure to choose accounting programs that accept transfer students,
and contact their enrollment advisers to learn each school's
specific transfer policies. Also make sure to learn whether the
accounting departments at your chosen institutions are accredited.
Accreditation demonstrates a school's credibility and dedication
to continual improvement. Key accreditation agencies include the Higher
Learning Commission, Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and
Schools, and Distance Education Accrediting Commission.
Also make sure to inquire about the the length of your chosen accounting
programs. Some are as short as 12 months, while others may take two to
four years. Find out if your degree must be completed on a part-time or
full-time basis, or if the department offers more flexibility than that.
Many part-time programs cater specifically to working professionals. If
you're looking into online programs, determine whether the classes
are offered synchronously or asynchronously. Synchronous programs invite
you to participate in live, real-time web conferences, while
asynchronous elements include previously recorded videos, lectures, and
other assignments. You should also look into the plan of study, the
different types of classes offered, and concentrations, areas of
emphasis, internships, practicums, and other accounting major
requirements. Find out if the curriculum requires a final capstone
and/or thesis project. Many online programs offer 100% distance
learning, but some programs may mandate a few on-campus requirements or
other in-person commitments. As for cost, tuition usually fluctuates
based on how many credits you're taking, but ask about the total
cost of education, which includes books, materials, and other
miscellaneous fees. Find out if there are any extra technology fees
associated with taking classes in an online format.
Type of Accounting Degrees
Those interested in accounting have a variety of degree options to
choose from, including associate, bachelor of science, or bachelor of
arts. Consider some important differences before deciding which
accounting degree is right for you.
An associate degree in accounting is the first step beyond a high school
diploma or accounting certificate. Most associate programs comprise 60
credits and take two years to complete, giving students basic,
fundamental accounting knowledge. It's affordable and can be
completed relatively quickly. After earning an associate degree, many
students transfer their credits to a four-year university.
Those who do not earn their bachelor's degree often get jobs as
bookkeepers or accounting clerks. However, to become a certified public
accountant, you must earn a bachelor's degree in accounting from a
four-year college. A bachelor's degree is the next step up from
earning an associate degree. Accounting students can choose between a
bachelor of science (BS) and a bachelor of arts (BA), the main
difference being that a BA includes more general education coursework in
finance, while a BS requires more specific, major-related courses
involving the technical or practical aspects of accounting. Both of
these undergraduate degrees consist of 120 credits, and can be completed
in four years of full-time study. Those who've already earned an
associate degree can transfer their credits and complete the
bachelor's degree in just two more years.
Average Salary by Degree and Years of Experience
Associate's Degree, Accounting
Bachelor of Science (BS / BSc), Accounting
Bachelor of Arts (BA), Accounting
Typical Accounting Program Entry Requirements
Online accounting program students must meet certain requirements. For
instance, most schools require students to hold a high school diploma,
GED, or equivalent. Some ask you to demonstrate writing skills by
submitting a short essay, while others might request a phone interview
with an admissions adviser or enrollment counselor, or a campus visit to
tour the school and ask questions. Many schools like to see SAT or ACT
scores and at least one letter of recommendation, while some do not
require any letters of reference or standardized test scores, but do
mandate an entrance exam (such as a collegiate readiness assessment, in
which you must demonstrate your ability to handle college coursework).
After learning and completing your school's application
requirements, make sure to submit the
Free Application for Federal Student Aid
(FAFSA) to apply for scholarships and other forms of financial aid.
How Do You Apply for an Accounting Program?
Required application materials vary depending on the online accounting
program. Generally speaking, applicants should prepare the following
All schools require transfers students to complete and submit an online college application form. Some have a specific deadline for enrollment, while others allow you to apply at any time. You can find the application on the school's website.
High School Transcript
Since most online programs require a high school diploma. GED, or equivalent, you must submit your high school transcript to demonstrate proof of completion. To get a copy of your high school transcript, call your school directly. Either someone in the registrar's office or counseling office can help you.
Letters of Recommendation
Some schools require letters of recommendation from professional references. To obtain a letter of recommendation, ask someone who can vouch for your credibility, such as a teacher, professor, supervisor, or manager.
SAT or ACT Scores
Typically, colleges that want to see your SAT or ACT scores will want official score reports sent directly to them from test administrator, such as the College Board, which is a nonprofit organization that prepares the SAT. You must call or submit an online request to get official test scores sent to your school of choice.
Send in official college transcripts with your college application. You can order these transcripts through your school's registrar office to obtain an official of your college transcripts.
Application Fees (or Fee Waiver)
Many schools require applicants to pay a non-refundable application fee, usually between $40 and $70. However, some schools do not require a fee, or offer a fee waiver to some applicants. If there is a fee, you will be asked to pay it via credit card when you submit your online application, or by mail via check or money order.
When Should I Begin the Application Process?
Deciding when to begin the application process depends on your chosen
school and accounting program. Some four-year colleges, such as
Arizona State University, recommend that transfer
students begin the application process a year
ahead of their planned enrollment, to ensure a smoother transition. On
the other hand, some schools, such as
Western Governors University, do
not have application deadlines, so students start and complete
their applications at any time.
How to Transfer Colleges
Some colleges have transfer agreements, which allow students to easily
move credits from one to the other. The following checklist briefly
breaks down the steps you need to take to transfer your college credits:
Research your prospective transfer schools
Check accreditation status and articulation agreements
Contact school advisers
Confirm that your credits will be transferred over
Research financial aid options
Begin application process
Types of Transfer Students
Students decide to transfer colleges for a variety of reasons, and each
type of transfer has its own unique considerations:
Community College to Four-Year College Transfer
Students who have earned an associate degree from community college may decide to transfer their credits to a bachelor's program.
Four-Year College to Four-Year College Transfer
Some students transfer from one four-year college to another because they feel one school is a better fit for them, or offers a program better suited for their individual interests and career goals.
Many military students transfer credits that they earned while on active duty in the service. Some may decide to transfer to a school that's more military-friendly, in which case they can use their educational benefits.
International students may decide to move to the United States and want to transfer credits they earned in their home country. Most schools have specific admissions requirements for international students, for example, a test for non-native English speakers.
It's up to the admitting school to decide whether your previous
credits will transfer. In other words, a school's admissions
office has the right to reject credits earned at other institutions of
higher education. Transferring between public schools in the same state
is usually the easiest way to go, and some schools create articulation
agreements to further simplify the transfer process. When looking into a
school's transfer policy, pay close attention to policies about
course equivalency, course levels, and quarter systems versus semester
Course equivalence is especially important if you're transferring credits form a community college. Each school has its own equivalency guidelines: One may accept credits from your community college's basic financial accounting class to count toward its equivalent 100-level class. However, another school may only accept those class credits as general elective credits.
Generally, it's easier to transfer credits for lower-level coursework (e.g. 100- and 200-level courses) than it is for upper-level courses. For example, you may be able to transfer credits from a basic managerial accounting course without issue, but have to retake a higher-level business strategy course, because upper-level courses tend to be so content-specific.
Quarter vs. Semester Transfers
Consider whether your prospective school runs on a semester or quarter system. Most run on a semester calendar, which includes longer courses and more time in each class. To get a tentative idea of how the quarter credits transfer to semester credits (and vice versa), use this general formula.
What if My Credits Don't Transfer Over?
Schools have the right to reject transfer credits based on their own
transfer policies. In some cases, schools may reject credits altogether,
or accept credits only as general elective coursework, rather than as
specific accounting-related courses. Students have the option to file an
appeal if they're not satisfied with how their credits
transferred. Some schools have students fill out a
appeal form, while other schools may ask for a
Most schools require a course grade of "C" or better to
successfully transfer credits, though some have stricter requirements.
Many online schools have more lenient transfer policies than traditional
colleges. Contact your prospective school's admissions office to
speak with a transfer adviser to confirm that your credits will transfer
over before applying or enrolling in courses.
According to the
U.S. Government Accountability Office, transfer students lose approximately 43% of their
credits when they
switch from one school to another, and students who transfer from
private for-profit schools to public schools lose more than 94%.
In-State vs. Out-of-State Transfers
When you attend a school in the state in which you reside, you pay
in-state tuition, which is much more affordable than out-of-state
tuition. Some schools have a tuition policy for distance learners that
allows them to pay in-state tuition, even if they do not live in the
same state as the school. Transferring credits from one school to
another in the same state is ideal, because many community colleges and
public state schools have articulation agreements, allowing students to
easily transfer credits from one to the other. The following table shows
the price differences between in-state and out-of-state schools.
College Tuition Prices
Public 4-year In-State College
Public 4-Year Out-of-State College
Private 4-Year Nonprofit College
Benefits of Transferring From a Community College to a Four-Year School
Associate degrees generally cost less than the first half of a
bachelor's degree, because associate programs require less time,
and community colleges are less expensive than four-year schools. In
fact, the primary benefit of earning an associate degree from a
community college and then transferring your credits to a four-year
school is affordability. This is the most affordable path to earning a
bachelor's degree. It also offers the most flexibility, since you
can begin your program without committing to a four-year university.
Many states have articulation transfer agreements between community
colleges and state universities, allowing students to transfer credits
from one school to another without any issues. Many articulation
agreements also lay out a joint admissions agreement, which allows
students who were already admitted in one school to be automatically
admitted into another. The following table compares tuition at public
two-year schools to tuition at public four-year schools:
Two-Year and Four-Year College Tuition Prices
Public 2-Year In-State College
Public 4-Year In-State College
Other Factors to Consider When Transferring
Starting your accounting degree at a community college and transfering
to a four-year university is ideal for some students, but there are some
drawbacks to consider. It's possible that not all of your credits
will transfer, meaning you may have to retake certain courses. Also,
community college coursework may be easier than coursework at a
four-year university, which may leave some students underprepared when
they get into a bachelor's program. Transferring accounting
schools also means going through the admissions and application
processes. The acceptance rate for transfer students may be lower than
the regular student acceptance rate, because limited space is available
for transfer students.
Accreditation is a comprehensive review process that demonstrates a
school's academic excellence and dedication to continual
improvement. When researching online accounting programs that accept
transfer students, find out about each school's accreditation
status. Before enrolling in a program, make sure it's accredited
by a reputable agency, ideally one of six regional agencies recognized
by the U.S. Department of Education.
Transfer students have many financial aid options, including loans,
grants, and scholarships. The following is a list of scholarships to
consider as a student pursuing an online degree in accounting:
AICPA Transfer Scholarship Award
Who Can Apply: The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (CPA) offers 25 scholarships each year to students transferring from two-year colleges to four-year schools. Applicants must plan to complete their degrees in accounting and become licensed CPA professionals, and have a minimum GPA of 3.0.
Who Can Apply: The Silicon Valley Community Foundation offers four scholarships for California residents who are currently enrolled in community college and plan to transfer to a four-year college. Students must demonstrate financial need and hold a minimum GPA of 3.0.
Who Can Apply: The Hispanic Scholarship Fund is offered to Hispanic students who are currently attending community college and plan to transfer into full-time accredited not-for-profit, four-year universities. Applicants must hold a minimum GPA of 2.5.
AICPA Scholarship Award for Minority Accounting Students
Who Can Apply: The AICPA provides financial support to minority students pursuing an accounting degree. Applicants must plant obtain CPA licensure, and have already completed 30 semesters hours of college coursework.
Striving for Greatness Accounting & Finance Scholarship
Who Can Apply: PM Business Advisors awards scholarships to students who are enrolled in a full-time college or university, and plan to sit for the CPA exam within the next three years. Applicants must be well-rounded individuals who demonstrate academic excellence in accounting and have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0.
Who Can Apply: The Educational Foundation for Women in Accounting offers multiple scholarships to women in the field of accounting. Scholarship are available specifically for those who are in their sophomore, junior, and senior years of their bachelor's degree in accounting.
Independent Accountants Association of Illinois Scholarship
Who Can Apply: The Independent Accountants Association of Illinois Scholarship Foundation offers two awards each year to students pursuing a career in the field of accounting at an Illinois college, community college, or university. Applicants must have a minimum "B" average in all accounting subjects.
Who Can Apply: The Educational Trust Fund of the Connecticut Society of CPAs offers multiple scholarships to support students pursuing an accounting degree. This scholarship is designed specifically for students in their freshman year who plan to complete their sophomore year at a four-year university.