10 Best Online Masters in Accounting Degree Programs

Accounting is a service profession that involves helping organizations run more efficiently and successfully by reducing costs and thereby improving profits. Accountants are in demand as they perform vital functions by offering an increasingly wide array of business and assurance services going well beyond preparing financial documents. Businesses are now expecting their accountant to assume the role of personal financial advisor who is not only aware of the current financial laws and regulations but also uses their knowledge to provide fiscal insight and basically anything pertaining to the business’ organization for managerial control. In other words, accountants today are an inherent part of the financial information arena of any successful organizations and because of these new responsibilities, they need to be able to interact comfortably with management and clients alike. Furthermore, this particular career path is closely related to the growth of the economy and as the health of the economy keeps improving, the demand for accountants will keep expanding as well. Accounting is the language of business and a large part of what defines financial success for today’s corporations.

While general accounting services are usually expected from a CPA, accounting services can be applied to any field and at any level of responsibility. There are 3 general tracks when it comes to accounting services: taxation, auditing, and consulting. Taxation handles not only tax filings but also tax planning issues such as minimizing tax liabilities. Auditing, or assurance, involves the analysis of company systems and protocols to ensure regulatory compliance and that all necessary safeguards are in place to avoid fraud. Finally, consulting encompasses all other voluntary services such as optimizing business operations, minimizing redundancies and waste, or assessing client opportunities. On average, accountants and auditors earn approximately $60,000 while a CPA earns roughly $67,000 and according to AccountingToday starting salaries are expected to rise nearly 4% in 2017. Of course, accounting also prepares students for positions as financial analysts earning an average $80,000 or financial managers earning an average of more than $115,000. Students who earn a Master’s degree can expect better career opportunities and usually earn higher-than-average starting salaries. The programs listed below will prepare you to become an effective leader in accounting and make you more viable as a CPA. In this competitive field, employers typically select students from the very best programs so we have compiled a list of programs according to the following metrics affordability, prestige, and flexibility.

1.) Benedictine University College of Business

Benedictine University (BenU), founded in 1887 by Benedictine monks of Chicago, is a top-tier private, Catholic institution. Based in suburban Lisle, IL, BenU offers students a relaxed campus environment with easy access to the entertainments of the Chicago. Offering 56 and 19 undergraduate and graduate programs respectively, the university believes in providing higher education strongly rooted in the Catholic teachings of St. Benedict. Regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, BenU is currently tied at #220 “National Universities” by U.S. News & World Report and ranked the best “Values-Driven Leadership Program” by HR.com’s LEAD Awards. The university enrolls approximately 3,400 undergraduates, 6,000 graduate students, and 500 online students annually. BenU offers a 12:1 student-faculty ratio and 71% of classes cater to less than 20 students.

Benedictine University’s online MBA program is highly flexible, offering 7 concentrations, one of which is a concentration in accounting. The online MBA program overall was ranked “Best Online Graduate Business Program for Veterans” by U.S. News & World Report in 2016. The program requires at least 52 credit-hours of Managerial Process courses where students can choose either the traditional one-course-at-a-time option and finish in 2 years or the accelerated MBA with 2 courses per term and earn a degree in as little as 1 year. BenU’s accounting concentration, itself, requires an additional 12 credit-hours of coursework to be chosen from: Corporate Accounting Theory and Practice I & II; Cost Analysis, Profit Planning, and Control; Theory and Practice of Financial Report; and Tax Influences on Decision-Making.

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  • Out-of-State Tuition Per Credit: $650
  • Program Length: 1 to 2 years
  • Flexibility-Enhancing Components: 7 concentrations

2.) Gardner-Webb University

Gardner-Webb University (GWU), founded in 1905, is a private, Baptist institution. Based in rural Boiling Springs, NC, GWU offers students a beautifully-landscaped campus that sits on over 225 acres a little more than an hour outside of the urban center of Charlotte. GWU is a nationallyecognized leader in Christian higher education, and the university encourages “spiritual formation” as part of the curriculum—it can even earn credits. With 80% of full-time undergraduates receiving some need-based aid, GWU is currently tied at #220 “National Universities” by U.S. News & World Report. The university enrolls approximately 2,600 undergraduates and 1,700 graduate students annually. GWU offers a 13:1 student-faculty ratio and 69% of classes cater to less than 20 students.

Gardner-Webb University’s Master of Accountancy offers a combination of theory and praxis—on top of traditional academic courses, GWU’s program offers access to internships through its extensive career network. Only 30 credit-hours are required, including 15 hours of core coursework, 9 elective credit hours in accounting, and 6 graduate business elective hours. A student may take 9 to 15 accounting elective hours by selecting an emphasis, or a combination of different areas. GWU’s accounting emphasis also requires a Capstone in Advanced Auditing.

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  • Out-of-State Tuition Per Credit: $525
  • Program Length: 30 credit hours
  • Flexibility-Enhancing Components: many emphasis

3.) Colorado State University – Global Campus

Colorado State University-Global Campus (CSU-G), founded in 2007, is a not-for-profit state school with administrative offices in Greenwood Village, CO. Although the university has brick-and-mortar offices, CSU-G is the first and only 100% online state university in the United States. Regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, CSU-G is currently tied at #123 “Best Online Graduate Education Program” by U.S. News & World Report, #5 “Best Online College” by Best Colleges Report, and #16 “Best Value Online Graduate School” by Value Colleges Report. The university promises flexibility with monthly start dates and 8-week course lengths. Tuition is very competitive and guaranteed, which means the rate is locked and will not increase so long as students remain enrolled and in good academic standing. Military scholarships and tuition discounts offered. CSU-G enrolls approximately 10,700 undergraduates and 3,700 graduate students annually.

Colorado State University-Global Campus’ online Master’s in Accounting will prepare students to sit for the CPA exam with an emphasis on: leadership, teamwork, planning, and communication skills. Only 30 credit-hours are required, including 24 credits of graduate professional accounting courses, and 6 credits of elective coursework. All faculty hold a PhD or terminal degree and have worked extensively in their field. Notably, CSU-G offers degree specializations where “Awards of Completion” and “Skill Endorsements” showcase students’ mastery in “Advanced Accounting and Auditing” or “Applied 21st Century Accounting”.

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  • Out-of-State Tuition Per Credit: $500
  • Program Length: 30 credit hours
  • Flexibility-Enhancing Components: several specializations

4.) University of South Dakota

The University of South Dakota (USD), founded in 1862, is South Dakota’s oldest collegiate institute and only public liberal arts university. Although the surrounding region is extremely rural, the city of Vermillion hosts the beautiful campus amongst its historic and modern buildings. This mixture of history and modernity parallels USD’s ability to remain a foundation of the Dakotas’ higher education system while maintaining an edge in technological innovation. With institutional accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, USD ranked #110 best overall in U.S. News National Best College List 2017. Considering it also received the “Best Value” accolade from Forbes magazine in 2013, USD ranks #1 on our list for its combination of academics and affordability. The university enrolls approximately 7,500 undergraduate and 2,500 graduate students.

The University of South Dakota’s online Master of Professional Accountancy (MPA) will prepare students to sit for the CPA exam in many states, including South Dakota. Only 30 credit-hours are required, including 21 credits of graduate core accounting courses, and 9 credits of elective coursework. The University of South Dakota’s business school is continuously accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). Less than 5% of the United States business schools have receive this accreditation.

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  • Out-of-State Tuition Per Credit: $442
  • Program Length: 30 credit hours
  • Flexibility-Enhancing Components: N/A

5.) Western Governors University

Western Governors University (WGU), founded in 1996, is an online, not-for-profit institution based in Salt Lake City, UT. Regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities-ecognized by the U.S. Department of Education as the regional authority on educational quality and institutional effectiveness of colleges and universities in the seven-state region—WGU was presented the International Distance Learning Award by the United States Distance Learning Association every year between 2011 and 2015. 76% of students receive some form of financial aid, and WGU charges a flat rate each term so the more classes you complete, the more affordable it becomes. Under WGU’s competency-based approach, terms are six months in length and prepare students for actual career field work rather than simple academic intelligence.

Western Governors University’s online Master of Science in Accounting will not only prepare students for the CPA exam but it can allow qualified students to receive the 150 educational hours required to take the exam in most states. Terms are 6 months long, and although the program only requires 30 credit-hours, the typical student takes 1.5 to 2 years to complete. WGU students can concentrate their focus in the following key subject areas: Financial Management, Advanced Financial Accounting, Governmental & Nonprofit Accounting, Accounting Research, Advanced Managerial Accounting, and Fraud & Forensic Accounting.

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  • Out-of-State Tuition Per Credit: $406
  • Program Length: 1.5 to 2 years
  • Flexibility-Enhancing Components: competency-based program

6.) Florida Atlantic University

Florida Atlantic University (FAU), founded in 1964, is a public institution sitting on 850 acres in beautiful Boca Raton, FL. Prestigiously accredited by the AACSB, FAU’s College of Business was named one of the “Best Business Schools” in 2011 by The Princeton Review and one of America’s “Top 50 Business Schools for Entrepreneurs” by Success magazine. The College of Business emphasizes innovation and entrepreneurship through practical instruction, real-life consulting opportunities, interaction with successful executives and research efforts conducted at its four “centers”. Over 95% of FAU’s faculty members hold doctoral degrees in their field, and the university enrolls approximately 25,200 undergraduates and 5,100 graduate students.

Florida Atlantic University’s Master of Accounting is one of the largest in the country with over 1,200 students enrolled, undergraduate and graduate. The program only requires 30 credit-hours, including 18 credits of core courses, 3 hours of accounting electives, and 9 hours of program electives. Aside from core courses, the program offers specialized courses such as international taxation, accounting for e-Commerce, and Entertainment Law. Notably, FAU’s online executive program offers a Master of Accounting, with an option to concentrate in Business Valuation or Forensic Accounting, or a Master of Taxation.

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  • Out-of-State Tuition Per Credit: $800
  • Program Length: 30 credit hours
  • Flexibility-Enhancing Components: several specializations

7.) Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota

Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota (SMUM), founded in 1912, is a private, Catholic institution sitting on 350 acres in Winona, MN. Although there is a selective admissions process, SMUM is currently ranked #49 “Regional University, Midwest” and #23 “Best Value School” by U.S. News’ Best Colleges Report. 75% percent of full-time undergraduates receive some form of need-based financial aid. The university focuses on graduate work, enrolling approximately 1,100 undergraduates and 4,700 graduate students. SMUM offers an 18:1 student-faculty ratio and 67% of classes cater to less than 20 students.

Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota’s Master of Accountancy program emphasizes leadership, the broader functional knowledge and skills required for career mastery, and the soft skills that employers often say are desired in accountants. The program only requires 30 credit-hours and will prepare students to sit for both the Certified Professional Accountant (CPA) or the Certified Managerial Accountant (CMA) exam. Notably, SMUM’s supportive faculty are experts and/or working professionals in the field and they are available in a timely manner to help students via mobile platform.

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  • Out-of-State Tuition Per Credit: $595
  • Program Length: 30 credit hours
  • Flexibility-Enhancing Components: N/A

8.) University of North Carolina – Kenan-Flagler Business School

The University of North Carolina–Kenan-Flagler (UNCKF), founded in 1789, is a public, coed institution sitting on over 700 beautiful acres in Chapel Hill, NC—consistently voted one of the best college towns in America. UNCKF is currently ranked #30 “Best College in a National University” by U.S. News’ Best Colleges Report and its global alumni network is currently #10 by The Economist. Over 1,100 alumni are currently employed within Fortune 500 executive management. UNCKF enrolls approximately 18,400 undergraduate students and offers a 14:1 student-faculty ratio and 42% of classes cater to less than 20 students.

The University of North Carolina–Kenan-Flagler’s online Master of Accounting program is 12 months long and offers students access to high-profile companies (e.g. Bank of America, Disney, IRS, Capital One, Credit Suisse) for both internships during school and careers upon graduation. UNCKF has received several impressive accolades including #16 “Full-Time MBA” by U.S. News & World Report (2017) and #10 “Executive MBA” by Financial Times. Notably, UNCKF ranks #1 “Best Graduate Schools for Accounting Professionals“ by LinkedIn because nearly 100% of students are hired, mostly at Big Four firms, within 3 months of graduating.

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  • Out-of-State Tuition Per Credit: $1363
  • Program Length: 12 months
  • Flexibility-Enhancing Components: opportunity to accelerate

9.) Colorado Technical University

Colorado Technical University (CTU) was founded in 1965 in Colorado Springs in a building originally used as a roller rink. CTU is a private for-profit institution with campuses in Colorado Springs and Denver. Since its beginning in 1965, Colorado Technical University has been serving career focused adults by promoting industryelevant higher education and fostering the development of their professional goals. CTU received a WCET Outstanding Work (WOW) award for its intellipath adaptive learning technology and is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Students can save up to 30% on tuition and time by using a free assessment module called Fast Track. Moreover, most faculty members are leaders in their fields and hold advanced degrees in the subjects they teach. With a total enrollment of 26,330 students, the school provides real world, industry-current programs in a variety of subjects.

Colorado Technical University’s Master of Science in Accounting is one of the more rigorous programs on the list, requiring 45 credit-hours of core accounting courses and a single elective course—either Applied Managerial Economics or Ethics in Accounting. While the program is not specifically designed around the CPA exam, it will teach the fundamentals of the functional accounting areas needed to be prepared for the CPA exam. CTU’s program takes at least 18 months to complete and is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission while the accounting curriculum follows very stringently all standards of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

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  • Out-of-State Tuition Per Credit: $585
  • Program Length: 45 credit hours
  • Flexibility-Enhancing Components: N/A

10.) Syracuse University

Syracuse University (SU), founded in 1870, is a private, coed institution sitting on over 700 acres in the heart of Syracuse, NY. The campus is a beautiful combination of historic and modern design, full of greenery and art. Over 85% of full-time faculty members have earned a Ph.D. or professional degree and SU’s proprietary Goodman IMPRESS program offers students school credit for things like professional development, volunteering, and certifications. The Whitman undergraduate business college is consistently ranked highly due to its mixture of strong academics and access to extracurriculars. For example, half of undergraduate students study abroad and all students work at least one internship during their time at Whitman.

Syracuse University’s online Master of Science in Accounting is offered in both a 12-month accelerated program or a professional 15-month program geared toward full-time professionals. The program only requires 30 credit-hours, including 15 credits of core accounting courses and 15 hours of electives, preparing students to sit for the CPA exam in New York and many other states. Notably, Syracuse University offers a unique Defense Comptrollership Program wherein students work directly with the United States Department of Defense to understand the needs of governmental accounting.

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  • Out-of-State Tuition Per Credit: $1341
  • Program Length: 12 months
  • Flexibility-Enhancing Components: accelerated

Carrie Morris

Warren Dahl