When it comes to obtaining an online master’s in accounting, you may have concerns about potential downsides or risks. As a general rule, an online master of accounting is a good investment due to the potential for your career. The key factor to consider when evaluating the potential of an online degree program is the return on your investment. Online degree programs have a lower cost when compared to the traditional on-campus programs, on average. The lower cost means that students have a higher return on the investment, which makes it a good option.
A master of accounting online allows you to work in a variety of industries and careers. You can work in fraud investigation, taxation, auditing, corporate finance, and an accounting firm. Online MACC programs allow you to focus on obtaining your career objectives. Online degree programs offer the opportunity to develop a flexible schedule that helps you keep up with your classes. You also work at a pace that fits your situation, so it provides an accelerated solution for your degree.
Methodology: Ranking the Best Online Master’s of Accounting
With an eye toward return on investment, the editors of Great Business Schools have ranked the best online accounting master’s programs according to four factors: Cost, Salary Potential, Student Satisfaction, and Reputation. Data comes from College Scorecard, IPEDS, Niche, and U.S. News & World Report.
1. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
The Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill can claim the best online masters of accounting program. This online degree program is designed to suit the needs of working professionals, soldiers, busy parents, and traveling salespeople—anyone who would have a hard time making it to on-campus classes. The UNC MAC program offers the same top-notch education you would get in a bricks and mortar setting in a format that makes it convenient for just about everyone.
The Kenan-Flagler Business School provides students with the leadership skills they need to help create positive change in the world. The school emphasizes practical learning experiences that prepare students for real-world success.
Highlight: Students can enroll in the UNC MAC program even if their educational background is another field besides accounting.
Degree: Master of Accounting
2. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
The University of Illinois online Master of Science in Accountancy (iMSA) program offered by the Gies College of Business is one of the best online accounting masters programs in the world. The program produces graduates who are fully competent in the fundamentals of accounting and have experience working with the most popular types of analytics.
At the Gies College of Business, over 90% of students take part in experiential learning opportunities. This helps prepare students for the real world, leading to one of the best graduate employment records in the nation. Gies encourages to think big and act on their big ideas. The school seeks to stretch its students to see new possibilities and new ways to make a difference in business and in life.
Highlight: According to Brigham Young University, the Gies College of Business has the best accountancy faculty in the nation.
3. Rutgers University
The Rutgers Business School offers an online Master of Accountancy in Governmental Accounting that is one of the best online masters in accounting for students who wish to pursue a career in government. The program is flexible enough to accommodate the needs of busy working professionals who need to fit their education around their jobs and other commitments. The program consists of just 30 credits, so it can be completed quickly even part-time.
Rutgers Business School’s graduates are resourceful, resilient, responsible, and ready to face the future in the digital era. In addition to business skills and knowledge, Rutgers provides a global outlook and helps students learn to make decisions ethically. The school offers innovation in teaching and research and has many partnerships with businesses and other organizations that increase its students’ success.
Highlight: Out-of-state students enrolled in the program are charged the in-state tuition rate.
Degree: Master of Accountancy in Governmental Accounting
4. Auburn University
The Auburn University online Master of Accountancy (MAcc) program offered by the Raymond J. Harbert College of Business is one of the best online masters of accounting degrees in the nation. The program is designed to meet the needs of busy professionals, but the curriculum is the same as the on-campus program. Student complete the same assignments and tests as their brick and mortar peers. The program incorporates traditional lectures with online delivery for the convenience of its students.
The Harbert College of Business provides a practical and innovative education that prepares students for their future careers. The school is growing quickly and is confident about its future. The school’s research in radio frequency identification (RFID) and supply chain management is changing the way companies do business.
Highlight: This program provides everything students need to prepare them to pass the CPA exam.
Degree: Master of Accountancy
5. University of Connecticut
The University of Connecticut School of Business offers an online Master of Science in Accounting (MSA) that is one of the best online accounting masters programs around. The program is AACSB accredited and has been recognized for its online learning practices. The UConn MSA is also affordable, and there are many electives students can choose from in order to customize their degrees. The program provides plenty of actionable knowledge that students can apply right away in the real world.
The UConn School of Business is known for its top-notch teaching, research, outreach, and collaboration. The school’s focus is on real-world learning that enables future business leaders to make a real-world impact. The school is committed to experiential learning, academic excellence, and globalization. The UConn School of Business strives to use its research to solve business problems throughout the world.
Highlight: The UConn MSA is ranked #8 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.
Degree: MS in Accounting
6. University of Massachusetts Amherst
The MS in Accounting from the University of Massachusetts Isenberg School of Management is one of the best online masters in accounting. The program is designed to give students the knowledge they need to become leaders in the field of accounting. Isenberg’s MS in Accounting is an accelerated program that is both affordable and flexible. The program meets the requirements needed to prepare students to become CPAs in the state of Massachusetts. Graduates will gain advanced accounting knowledge and a thorough understanding business taxation.
The Isenberg School of Management is constantly working to improve its educational offerings. The school is committed to creating new knowledge through research and sharing that knowledge with its students.
Highlight: You don’t need an accounting degree to earn an MS in Accounting from the University of Massachusetts. Students with degrees in other fields are welcome.
Degree: MS in Accounting
7. University of Missouri
The Robert J. Trulaske, Sr. College of Business at the University of Missouri offers one of the best online masters of accounting programs in the nation. The school’s online Master of Accountancy (MAcc) makes the program accessible to working professionals, parents, and others with demanding schedules. The program prepares students to begin their careers as CPAs—a growing field with plenty of opportunities for new graduates.
The Trulaske College of Business gives students the knowledge and skills they need to get ahead in the business world. At Trulaske, every student must complete an internship to gain experience in the business world while working toward their degrees. The school has several resources available to help students find internships. Trulaske is committed to inclusion and diversity.
Highlight: Faculty members at the Trulaske College of Business are nationally renowned for their productivity in research.
Degree: Master of Accountancy (MAcc)
8. University of Arizona
The online Master of Science in Accounting from the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management is one of the best online accounting masters programs for students who require flexibility. With six start dates to choose from, you can go back to school whenever you’re ready. Online classes are taught by the same faculty as the school’s campus-based classes and the program includes 12 credits of business electives, giving students the ability to customize the program to meet their needs.
The Eller College of Management transforms students into leaders who have the skills and knowledge they need to thrive in their careers and in their lives. The school emphasizes collaboration, teamwork, and the pursuit of big ideas. Eller’s experiential classes help students gain the experience they need to succeed in the real world.
Highlight: Online students work at their own pace and can complete the program in as little as 12 months.
Degree: MSA program
9. Colorado State University Global Campus
CSU Global’s online Master’s in Professional Accounting is one of the best online masters in accounting for students who want to work with clients as professional accountants and CPAs. This program prepares students to be able to work on their own or within an organization to help the whole company run more smoothly. Graduates will be able to keep track of financial regulations and help clients decrease costs and increase profits. They will be competent to maintain records and make sure the proper amount of tax is paid.
CSU Global is all about online education. The school offers degrees that can be completed 100% online at any time that’s convenient for the student. There are accelerated courses available, and classes begin monthly.
Highlight: The program has five concentrations to choose from: data analytics, fraud investigations and forensic accounting, auditing and assurance, taxation, and professional accounting.
Degree: Master of Professional Accounting
10. Boise State University
The online Master of Science in Accountancy from Boise State University is one of the best online masters of accounting that can be completed within one year. The program prepares students for the CPA exam so that they are ready for their next step up the career ladder. Students build experience in auditing and complete advanced coursework that will help them further their careers. Graduates will be able to apply accounting principles, fulfill their professional responsibilities, make ethical decisions, and use technology effectively.
Boise State University is the largest university in Idaho and has the largest graduate school in the state. The school collaborates with Harvard Business School to bring its curriculum to Idaho through the HBX CORe program. Boise State University is a doctoral research institution.
Highlight: Boise State University’s Master of Science in Accountancy program is AACSB accredited.
Degree: MS in Accountancy (MSA)
11. University of Dallas
The Satish & Yasmin Gupta College of Business at the University of Dallas offers a Master of Science in Accounting that is one of the best online accounting masters programs in the country. This program gives students a firm grounding in accounting so that they are prepared for the challenges they will meet in the business world. Upon graduation, students will be ready to take the CPA exam to kick off their careers in public accounting. Courses include introduction to taxation, entity taxation, auditing, advanced accounting, and financial statement analysis.
The Gupta College of Business produces skilled, accountable managers who are ethical decision-makers and leaders. The school seeks to instill its Catholic values in its students and its programs offer a challenging business education that places an emphasis on real-world experience.
Highlight: The program consists of 33 credit hours and takes about 1.5-2 years to complete.
Degree: MS in Accounting – add Personal Financial Specialization
12. George Mason University
The MS in Accounting program offered by George Mason University’s Mason Online is designed to prepare students to take the CPA exam. As one of the best online masters in accounting programs available, the program offers flexibility and is a great choice for students who are already working but want to advance their careers. The average MSA graduate earns $10,000 more per year than someone with only a bachelor’s degree in accounting. The program takes two years to complete, and students who start at the same time progress through the program together as a cohort.
Mason Online makes George Mason University accessible to the world. George Mason University is the largest public research university in Virginia and is known for its entrepreneurship, innovation, diversity, and dedication to making education accessible to all. The classes offered through Mason Online are just like their offline counterparts, but with the added flexibility today’s busy students need.
Highlight: The courses are divided into 8-week modules, with two classes in each module.
Degree: MS in Accounting
13. University of Scranton
The Kania School of Management at the University of Scranton offers an online Master of Accountancy (MAcc) that is one of the best online masters of accounting programs around. The program provides everything students need to become leaders in the field of accounting. Students gain the hands-on experience they need to excel while becoming proficient in soft skills such as teamwork and communication. Graduates have a firm understanding of the ethics of business and finance. Students can choose a concentration in forensic accounting, accounting analytics, or a general degree customized with electives.
The Arthur J. Kania School of Management is on the cutting edge of innovation and embraces new technologies in education. The school is AACSB accredited and is listed as one of the best business schools in the US by The Princeton Review.
Highlight: Kania’s online MAcc uses Wiley’s CPAexcel® to ensure that graduates are thoroughly prepared to sit for the CPA exam.
Degree: Master of Accountancy
14. Penn State World Campus
The Master of Professional Accounting degree offered by the Penn State World Campus prepares students for a professional career in accounting and gets them ready to take the CPA exam. Students learn to handle audits, understand tax laws, and use new software and technologies. One of the best online accounting masters programs, it is open to students with non-accounting degrees, but there are certain pre-requisites that must be completed before beginning the master’s program.
The Penn State World Camus was launched in 1998, but Penn State has been offering distance education for over 125 years. The school’s mission is to make the Penn State experience available to everyone.
Highlight: Penn State offers a graduate certificate in accounting that provides a foundation in accounting. Students can choose to apply to the graduate program after completing the certificate.
Degree: Master of Professional Accounting
15. Golden Gate University
Golden Gate University’s Master of Science in Accounting is one of the best online masters in accounting. There are four concentrations for students to choose from: forensic accounting, financial accounting and reporting, management accounting, and internal auditing. Faculty members with real-world skills in private industry, government, and public accounting help prepare students for what they will face on the job after graduation.
Golden Gate University is committed to educating adult students who are juggling the demands of work, family, and school. The school has instructors with real-world experience to help students prepare for the transition to their new careers. Golden Gate has small classes, top-notch faculty, and a strong alumni network.
Highlight: The MSA from Golden Gate University will help satisfy the 150 hours of education required to sit for the CPA exam.
Degree: Master of Accountancy
Will Employers Trust an Online Master’s in Accounting?
When it comes to employment opportunities, it may seem that an online master’s in accounting is a bad choice due to the stigma associated with the degree. That is not true. In fact, employers value an online degree as long as it is properly accredited.
Accreditation for accounting programs plays a critical role in an employer’s impression of the school or university. When looking into online degree programs in accounting, students should ensure that accredited online masters in accounting programs are the focus of the search. Students should avoid any schools that do not have information about accreditation or that are not accredited for the accounting program.
Opt for a degree program that meets or exceeds the standards for a third party accreditation. You also want to evaluate the type of organization providing accreditation. The organizations that focus on STEM fields are a good choice since accounting is considered one of the STEM areas of study.
If the program is accredited, then an online degree will not limit your opportunities for a career. Accounting degrees online from accredited colleges and universities are given serious consideration from employers. In some cases, the self-study and the focus on personal responsibility help students stand out when applying for a job.
Can I Be a CPA Without a Master’s in Accounting?
When you are looking at the difference between a masters in accounting or CPA designation, you may have concerns about the requirements to obtain the CPA. Students may have a choice between CPA or masters in accounting, but many will find that the educational standards to qualify for the CPA exam are difficult to meet at the undergraduate level.
Technically, it is possible to become a CPA without a master’s in accounting; however, it requires students to take 150 credit hour education. For many students, that will mean completing an undergraduate in accounting and taking master’s level courses to finish the credit hour requirement. Students can meet the standards for the credit hours by obtaining a master’s degree after finishing an undergraduate degree program. In most cases, that will allow students to complete the minimum standard.
While a master’s degree in accounting is ideal for students who do not want to continue their education after a master’s program, students can also qualify for the test by obtaining an MBA in accounting. The MBA degree will take longer to complete, so students should be aware of the potential limitations on the time required for the degree.
As a general rule, the easiest path to meet or exceed the qualification standards for the CPA exam is to obtain a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in accounting. Students should be aware that the specialized credits in accounting required for the CPA exam may vary by state, so they must evaluate the state standards to determine if they qualify for the exam.
Although the standards for credit hours as a total are similar, each state may set some standards for the number of accounting classes as well as other types of classes required for the exam. In some states, students may need to take a class on ethics. The ethics class ensures that students are aware of the ethical standards that apply to the CPA and a career in accounting.
When it comes to comparing a master’s in accounting or CPA program, students will find that both programs offer more opportunities for a career. The key is comparing your career objectives with the recommendations for that career. A CPA opens doors in corporate settings and accounting firms. It ensures that students meet certain ethical standards. A master’s degree may also offer opportunities for a career. The key is evaluating your goals and then obtaining the appropriate education to qualify to meet your goals for a career.