As more and more students try to balance a full-time job and the benefits of a four-year degree, they often consider whether or not they can earn an online accounting degree instead of attending courses on campus. The good news is that online accounting schools are actually quite common and, after more than a decade of development, online classrooms provide the same in-depth, beneficial instruction as traditional programs based on a college campus. As with any degree, however, today’s students pursuing online accounting education should keep a few considerations in mind in order to enroll in the strongest possible program. Many of the same rules and considerations apply to both online and offline programs, so this should be a straightforward series of careful decisions.
Make Sure the Program is Regionally or Nationally Accredited
Online accounting programs come in numerous forms, but one thing they all have in common is that they must be properly accredited in order to offer students the best employment potential after they graduate. Generally, the most widely accepted and recognized accreditations are those offered by regional bodies. These bodies oversee a specific territory and accredit all schools whose academic quality and rigor stand up to their federally-approved tests.
National accreditation is also acceptable in many cases, and typically is associated with for-profit schools or online-only institutions. The one thing to avoid is a school with no accreditation at all. Degrees from such a school hold very little weight, and often cannot be used when applying to a graduate program in any field. In both cases, the accrediting body should be approved by the Department of Education’s Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
Look for Program-Specific Accreditation
The leading body for business program accreditation, which applies to degrees in accounting, is the one offered by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business(AACSB). The AACSB is associated with some of the most prestigious programs in the country, but also lends its seal of approval to many smaller universities and online programs. Students may also want to look into programs accredited by other national business organizations, like the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) and the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (IACBE). These accreditations are an extra layer of prestige on top of regional or national accreditation.
Consider In-State Online Programs or More Affordable Options
One of the great things about online programs is that they’re offered by universities in virtually every state. Many public universities that offer online accounting degrees adhere to the same in-state tuition policy for local residents, which can result in a serious savings for students. Consider that in-state tuition would be paired with virtually no transportation costs or extra fees for room and board. This gives students a chance to minimize their post-graduation debt burden while earning a degree widely recognized in their home state for its quality and its large network of alumni.
Verify the Quality and Relevance of the Program’s Curriculum
Accounting programs typically have a pretty standard set of courses that students must take, but variations between schools are natural. No matter where the school is based, make sure that it includes the fundamentals of financial accounting and reporting, cost accounting, auditing and federal tax policy. Look into the school’s internship policy to see whether or not an internship is required, arranged, or optional, and whether or not the accounting department has nationwide connections that would allow students to land such an internship even if they’re far away from campus.
Online Options are a Great Fit for Many Students
Online accounting degrees are increasingly popular as students look to increase their time management, reduce their debt, and earn a highly marketable degree in a stable field. By making key considerations about available online accounting degree programs, students will ensure a stronger curriculum, a more powerful degree, and better long-term prospects in the job market.