Online Accounting Degrees
Opportunities for accountants range from international trade to financial crime fighting, but most jobs relate to accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping and payroll. This profession involves recording, summarizing, reporting and analyzing financial transactions for business enterprises, not-for-profit organizations and government entities. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists four major fields that employ accountants and auditors:
- Public accounting, in accounting firms or self-employed businesses
- Management accounting, in companies, generally on executive management teams
- Government accounting, in federal, state or local governments, auditing government agencies and businesses subject to government oversight
- Internal auditing, in organizations needing audits of accounting and other areas such as compliance, operations and IT
The American Institute of CPAs, AICPA, has a tool on its ThisWayToCPA website to determine your best employment fit, including type and size of accounting firm, industry, practice area and specialization.
Accounting: training and education
The BLS notes that associate degree holders may be able to obtain entry level, clerical positions in accounting or auditing, but most jobs require at least a bachelor's degree and many employers are looking for a master's degree. Whether you're looking at online accounting degree programs or a program on campus, AICPA reports that the top two master's degrees for accountants and auditors are the Master of Accountancy and the MBA with an accounting concentration.
If you're interested in postsecondary academia, you need a Ph.D. One accounting Ph.D. path leads to teaching, while the other leads to research. The focus could be on either archival research -- research for articles on economics and finance with a strong emphasis on mathematics -- or behavioral research, which explores how and why people make decisions.
You can also pursue accounting certificates, which serve purposes such as these:
- Add to existing knowledge in specialized areas such as forensic accounting, intellectual property law or governmental reporting
- Provide non-accountants with an understanding of accounting principles
- Update skills for accounting professionals
Online accounting degrees offer the opportunity for flexible scheduling, for professionals who need to juggle work and studies.
Accounting: career salary and outlook
One trend in accounting is the ongoing globalization of business, which requires professionals to understand international trade and accounting rules. Online accounting degree programs could offer one way to prepare for an increasingly computerized economy where remote teams collaborate electronically across the globe. The BLS mentions demand for specialized knowledge such as familiarity with international financial reporting standards or proficiency with accounting and auditing computer software and information systems.
For accountants and auditors, the 2010 median income was $61,690, according to BLS data, and projected employment growth between 2008 and 2018 is 22 percent. The AICPA 2011 Trends Report notes that overall hiring has increased, but hiring for M.A. graduates rose by 11 percent, while hiring for BA graduates decreased by 13 percent. Campus or online accounting degrees, particularly master's degrees, are fast becoming the standard for top accounting jobs.