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Online Accounting Degrees, Courses and Careers

An accounting education offers students a chance to learn the key skills and fundamental formulas for financial management. An accounting career can lead to working in corporate accounting, management accounting, government auditing, and internal auditing. Many accountants may choose to work as independent contractors where they run their own firm. Completing an accounting degree is the first step to working within the financial field, and is a valuable asset for both public and private sectors of the economy.

Job Description and Responsibilities for Graduates of Accounting School

After completing programs and courses at an accounting school, entry-level positions require diligence, attention to detail, and a variety of tasks. An accounting degree can lead towards to financial management and accounting supervisor positions, as well as a variety of analyst and consultant positions within the industry. Training may be provided by the company or employer, while the accounting degree provides the basics for skills and ongoing education.

Accountants are usually involved with a variety of projects and assignments including:

  • Working with a team of financial managers, representatives, and certified accountants
  • Keeping records accurate and reporting information to necessary departments
  • Taking part in auditing, tax, and consulting activities
  • Reviewing financial statements
  • Correcting and reporting tax information
  • Interpreting and reviewing financial systems and processes
  • Evaluating costs and performance for specific departments
  • Verifying the accuracy of reports
  • Analyzing and devising budgets
  • Making recommendations for reaching financial goals
  • Performing audits and other quality control measures as directed by the organization

Accounting careers can branch out into various departments and sectors within the industry. There are four major fields of accounting:

  • Public
  • Management
  • Government accounting
  • Internal auditing

Completing an accounting degree offers flexibility and many options to grow within a particular field. Almost 10% of accountants become self employed and manage their own firm or business.

Career Options After Completing Your Accounting Education

Accounting schools may helps students specialize in a particular sector after their third year, and a variety of targeted training programs are available to help students concentrate their courses in this way. Graduates with accounting degrees may choose a career as a:

  • Public Accountant
  • Forensic Accountant or Investigator
  • Contract Manager
  • Management Accountant
  • Industrial Accountant
  • Corporate Accountant
  • Personal Financial Advisor
  • Government Accountant
  • Auditor
  • Internal Compliance Manager
  • Legal Auditor
  • Health Care Auditor

Employment Placement Options with an Accounting Degree

An accounting degree can lead to work in several industries in both the public and private sector. A 40-hour work week is the standard for accountants, and work load increases during tax season and the budgeting stages. Almost every business needs an accountant, but the most common organizations include:

  • Credit unions and banks

  • Government agencies

  • Nonprofit organizations

  • Retail businesses

  • Online businesses and entities

  • Law firms

  • Private tax practices

  • Auditing teams

  • Information technology departments

  • Small businesses

Accounting Degree Courses, Education, and Training Programs

Training programs usually involve a bachelor's in accounting degree, but many employers prefer a master's degree in business administration with a concentration in accounting. Online degree programs are another option for students who may need flexible schedules.

Accounting programs focus on financial management, asset management, recordkeeping, analyzing budgets, and learning specific account management software. Common courses available at include:

  • Financial Accounting
  • Accounting Information Systems
  • Contemporary Auditing
  • Income Tax
  • Accounting for Managerial Decision Making
  • Cost Accounting
  • Accounting Theory
  • Personal Financial Planning Fundamentals
  • Estate Planning
  • Basic Bookkeeping
  • Nonprofit Accounting

Computers are making basic accounting classes almost nonexistent, and the general tasks for accountants are shifting into a new direction with different standards, formats, and guidelines. Accounting packages are designed to manage much of the manual work once needed for data management, reporting, and recordkeeping. Students who pursue training with an emphasis on learning the software have a significant advantage.

Many accountants choose to pursue a role as a personal financial advisor, as this involves making use of accounting and tax knowledge, developing budgets, and managing assets for one or more clients. After completing their education, students may become Certified Public Accountants (CPA) by passing a national examination. Certification can increase salary minimums and also provide credibility for a future employer. 42 States and the District of Columbia require 150 hours of coursework to become a CPA.

Online Accounting Degree Programs

Taking an accounting course online can be a valuable way to complete training. Since most of the instruction involves the completion of projects using spreadsheets and other computer-based applications, an online accounting degree program can be very beneficial for working students or those who have limited schedules. By completing courses online, the student can work at their own pace and this is often a part of a distance learning or correspondence course program.

Accreditation for Accounting Schools

Many accounting schools are accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) International. Others may be accredited by the same party as the business school that they have a department in including the Commission on Higher Education and Learning for that region.

Accounting Career Earning Potential and Employment Prospects

Students with an accounting degree can look forward to favorable employment prospects within the financial management industry. Accounting careers are expected to grow faster than average through 2014, and an accounting education can be a lifelong growth opportunity to acquire new skills, stay up to date on the latest developments, and provide additional experience. National changes in standards and guidelines are largely attributed to the change in technology, and students who learn the key skills and computer programs during their training will have the most advantages.

Median annually salaries for auditors and accountants were $50,770 in 2004; those with a bachelor's degree averaged $43,269 in 2005. Related occupations include:

  • Cost estimators

  • Bookkeepers

  • Bill collectors

  • Management analysts

  • Financial analysts

  • Revenue agents

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