Online MBA in Accounting
Updated May 12, 2022 | Amy Boyington
Are you ready to discover your MBA program?
Accountants keep financial records and help people and companies file taxes. Businesses, the government, and individuals hire these professionals. Accountants work in nearly every industry, including retail, finance, and healthcare.
The accounting industry offers diverse career opportunities. Accounting graduates can become accountants, personal financial advisors, tax preparers, and auditors. Professionals may also enter managerial positions, such as finance manager or accounting manager.
Some accountants use their financial background to venture into business on their own as solo entrepreneurs or small business owners.
Accounting professionals typically need a bachelor's degree in accounting or business. Online accounting MBA programs can help accountants meet the requirement of 150 credit hours for a certified public accountant (CPA) license. This degree can also lead to advanced positions with higher salaries.
This guide details the benefits of earning an accounting degree with an online MBA. We look at how to choose the right program, pay for your degree, and plan for your future career.
Why Should You Get an Online MBA in Accounting?
An online MBA in accounting lets learners access the same curriculum and digital tools as in a traditional classroom.
Many schools have resumed in-person learning in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, online students do not face the same challenges as in-person learners, like potential closures and social distancing requirements. Online programs also provide flexibility, allowing students to attend from anywhere and skip the commute.
Many programs are asynchronous, meaning that degree-seekers do not meet with instructors at scheduled times and dates. Instead, learners study on a self-paced schedule that can adapt to their full-time jobs and responsibilities. Programs with synchronous learning require a stricter schedule with set meeting times.
An online accounting MBA may also edge out in-person programs in cost. Some schools charge online students in-state tuition rates, even if they live in a different state.
How to Choose an Accounting Degree Program
College applications take time to complete, and many require a fee. To save time and money, students should only apply to programs they truly want to attend. Prospective learners can narrow down their options by researching factors like delivery style, cost, accreditation, and student outcomes.
Learners can usually find this information on each program's website. Schools' admissions offices can also assist.
When choosing a program, pay attention to its delivery style. For example, students who learn best through listening should consider programs with lecture-based courses.
Working professionals who want to maintain a full-time job during their studies might seek out online MBAs in accounting with flexible, asynchronous course delivery. Learners should also research any on-campus requirements, especially for schools located far from home.
Many schools provide student support resources like tutoring services and writing centers. Applicants should also consider each prospective school's professor-to-student ratio. Instructors with fewer students per course can often provide more personal attention. Prospective distance learners should also find out whether their school offers 24-hour technical support.
Before enrolling in a program, calculate its overall cost. Remember to factor in living expenses and learning materials like textbooks. Many schools offer tuition discounts to in-state students. Some institutions allow all online students to pay reduced tuition regardless of residency.
Colleges and universities set varying admission requirements. Applicants should make sure their GPAs, test scores, and resumes match each prospective school's requirements.
Learners can take several steps to improve their profile if they fall short. They can complete more undergraduate courses to improve their GPAs, retake entrance exams, or gather more experience on their resumes. They can also narrow their focus to schools with lower admission expectations. In some cases, an institution may make exceptions and waive certain requirements.
Many programs list student outcome data on their websites. Applicants can also contact admissions departments for this data. Quality programs produce successful graduates, so prospective learners should research how many students find work within three years of graduation.
Applicants should also consider degree-completion rate, which may reflect each program's difficulty level. They might also research common jobs for graduates, comparing them to their own goals.
Some schools partner with local businesses and large corporations to provide opportunities for students. These opportunities may include capstone projects and internships that let students engage with real-world business issues. Business partners may also provide informative guest lectures and help graduates find jobs.
When researching schools, pay attention to their accreditation status. Accreditation shows that a school meets independent academic quality standards. Programs can also earn field-specific accreditation. AACSB International is one of the top accreditors for accounting and other business-related majors.
Getting a firsthand account can help applicants learn a lot about a program. Reach out to current students and alumni for information about student support, curriculum content, and class formats. These people can provide an unbiased view on what their programs entail, including the pros and cons. Schools' admissions offices can help connect applicants with current students and graduates.
Class topics vary between programs. Learners should research each prospective program's curriculum to find out if its classes suit their interests and goals. Below, we outline several common courses found in online MBA in accounting programs.
Financial accounting courses teach students about an economic entity's financial resources and responsibilities. Enrollees learn to balance budgets and conduct employee payroll. This course also covers best practices for offering financial recommendations to clients.
In a financial accounting course, students learn to apply accounting theory in practice. After completing this class, students should understand the basics of filing taxes and managing budgets for organizations.
In an auditing course, students learn about auditing terminology. They discover how to successfully plan for and execute audits. They also study the connections between auditing and accounting. This course covers the auditing rules set by the International Accounting Standards Board. Some auditing courses include guest speakers and case study discussions.
An entity taxation course teaches students to prepare and file taxes for businesses. Learners discover how to use tax write-offs and proper documentation to avoid failed audits and undue taxes. This course also covers communication skills to help tax professionals explain tax procedures to clients. Learners typically prepare practice taxes for fictional businesses to perfect their skills.
Comparison of Accounting Degrees and Specializations
Colleges and universities offer various accounting-related degrees. These degrees are similar, but each can lead to its own career path. Students should choose programs that align with their professional goals. The following table outlines common graduate accounting degrees and resulting career paths.
POTENTIAL CAREER PATHS
Master of Business Administration in Accounting
MBAs teach leadership and management skills, plus practical business competencies. An MBA with an accounting concentration helps prepare students for accounting certifications like the CPA credential. Students learn about capital budgeting, financial management, and budget analysis.
Chief Financial Officer, Financial Manager
Master of Science in Accounting
A master's degree in accounting prepares learners to take the CPA exam. Students learn foundational accounting skills, like how to put together balance sheets and cash flow statements. Coursework also covers advanced accounting topics like auditing, property transactions, international taxation, and business law.
Master of Science in Taxation
This degree serves students who want to work as tax professionals. Graduates can work in the business, legal, and financial fields, guiding companies and individuals through complicated tax policies. Courses explore income tax at the local, state, and federal levels; ethical considerations; shareholder rules; and estates and gifts.
Cost and Length of an Accounting Degree
Large student loan bills can cut into students' disposable income after graduation. However, applying for financial aid and choosing an affordable program can help ease the financial burden. Most schools offer reduced tuition for in-state students, but some institutions may extend this same rate to all online students regardless of residency.
When calculating program cost, learners should factor in their living expenses and school supplies. Program length can also affect cost. For example, some schools raise tuition rates each year. The longer it takes to complete the program, the more money graduates might owe.
Many schools charge per-credit tuition rates, so programs with more credit requirements can cost more. Most online MBA in accounting degrees take 2-4 years to complete and require 55-70 credits. Students who want to graduate faster can look for accelerated programs.
American Institute of Certified Public Accountants Scholarship for Minority Accounting Students
This scholarship awards minority undergraduate and graduate students up to $5,000 each year. Interested students need a minimum 3.0 GPA and 30 credits of completed college coursework. Applications open on Dec. 1 and typically close in March.
American Institute of Certified Public Accountants John L. Carey Scholarship
The John L. Carey Scholarship aids graduate students with little or no accounting experience. The committee awards five $5,000 scholarships a year. Applicants must fill out the online application, which determines their eligibility. U.S. citizens who have not yet begun their graduate studies may apply.
Financial Women of San Francisco Scholarship
Since 1985, Financial Women of San Francisco has awarded over $2.7 million in scholarships. These awards go to undergraduate and graduate San Francisco Bay Area-women pursuing careers in finance. Graduate students receive a $15,000 award. Applicants must submit a resume, a 750-word essay, unofficial transcripts, a current photo, and two letters of recommendation.
Greater Washington Society of Certified Public Accountants Educational Fund Scholarships
Students earning bachelor's or graduate accounting degrees at specific Washington, D.C.-area schools can apply. Scholarship awards range from $3,000-$5,000. To qualify, students must hold a minimum 3.2 GPA, pass at least nine accounting credits, and submit a recommendation letter and 500-word essay.
The Georgia Society of Certified Public Accountants Scholarships
Careers in Accounting
Accounting professionals oversee finances for companies and individuals. They ensure that their clients pay their taxes accurately and on time. In some cases, these professionals help clients save on taxes through tax credits and write-offs. Many accountants work for firms. Others open their own businesses.
Below, we've outlined five career options for accounting MBA graduates. Some of these positions pertain directly to accounting. Others relate to the finance field more broadly. Prospective learners should familiarize themselves with potential career paths and tailor their studies to their professional goals.
Accountant or Auditor
Graduates with MBAs in accounting often pursue jobs as accountants and auditors. These professionals examine and prepare financial records for tax and payroll purposes. They also oversee account books and look for ways to increase a company's profits.
Accountants and auditors play valuable roles in their companies' financial health and success. They make recommendations to management, so they need excellent communication skills. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that these professionals earned a median annual salary of $77,250 as of 2021. The BLS projects these positions to grow by 7% from 2020-2030.
Budget analysts organize finances for public institutions, like government branches and colleges. They also work for private institutions, like corporations. These professionals collaborate with project managers and department directors to create organizational budgets. Budget analysts also examine budgets to prevent overspending and help predict their employers' future financial needs.
According to the BLS, these professionals earned a median salary of $79,940 per year as of 2021. The BLS projects job growth of 5% in the field from 2020-2030.
Cost estimators use data to estimate project costs. When determining budget recommendations, these professionals consider labor and material prices. They usually work in office settings, but sometimes visit project sites to gather data. They also make adjustments to their estimates as they collect new information.
Construction companies and factories typically hire cost estimators. The BLS reports that these professionals earned a median salary of $65,170 per year as of 2021. The agency projects job growth of 1% for cost estimators from 2020-2030.
Financial analysts guide businesses and individuals on financial decisions, like investments. They analyze current and historical financial data to provide educated recommendations. These professionals must stay up to date with economic and business trends so they can serve their clients well.
Many financial analysts work for agencies. Others work as self-employed contractors. According to the BLS, these professionals earned $81,410 per year as of 2021. The BLS projects job growth of 6% in the field from 2020-2030.
Tax Examiner, Collector, or Revenue Agent
These professionals work for the government. They collect taxes from businesses and individuals and examine financial records to identify the correct amount owed. Tax examiners, collectors, and revenue agents also conduct audits of income tax returns to verify tax liabilities. They may contact taxpayers to request additional tax documents.
The BLS reports that these professionals earned a median annual salary of $56,780 as of 2021. The agency projects that jobs in this field will decrease by 4% from 2020-2030.
Common Questions about Online Accounting Programs
How do I choose the right accounting MBA program?
Look for an accredited program with a comprehensive curriculum that meets industry standards. Also, consider whether an in-person or online program fits your needs best. Finally, speak with a financial aid advisor to explore program costs and aid options.
Is accounting hard?
Accounting involves advanced skills and concepts that some people find challenging to learn. Pursuing an accounting degree takes time, effort, and dedication. Students must master complex topics like forensic accounting and taxation.
Is an online accounting degree worth anything?
An online accounting degree program covers the same concepts as an in-person program, making it just as valuable. Today's employers usually accept an online MBA in accounting as readily as a face-to-face degree.
What qualifications do I need to become an accountant?
Most accounting positions require at least a bachelor's degree. Some employers offer on-the-job training and tuition assistance for accountants to advance their careers. An online MBA in accounting can help professionals meet the education requirements to earn CPA licensure, which some positions demand.
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