Top Online Accounting Degrees

What is the Difference: Finance vs Accounting  

Finance and accounting look at different ends of the financial spectrum. Accounting focus' on understanding assets as they are currently. This is based on how much debt we have right now versus how much money we have. Finance is about making strategic changes to reduce debt or incur more profit in the future.

Said another way, accounting reports on the activity that finance has already done. Finance builds strategies based on the knowledge provided by accounting.

What Does an Accountant Do?

An accountant prepares and studys financial records. They ensure that the records are accurate and that taxes are paid on time. An accountant would also make sure laws and regulations are followed.

Most accountants work at accounting firms, tax prep firms or other bookkeeping services. Though the highest paying accountants work in highly specialized industries. The top industry is the agricultural chemical manufacturing industry. Followed by tobacco and aerospace manufacturing.

Online Bachelor of Accounting

Bachelor of Accounting programs are usually 4 year programs that consist of 120 credit hours.They may be available as Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Science (BS) in Accounting. Also an option would be the Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (BSBA) in Accounting. And last but not least, a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) in Accounting.

These programs aim to teach students the analytical, conceptual and technical accounting skills. These typically include substantive coursework in areas such as:

  • Cost Accounting
  • Reporting Procedures
  • Financial Accounting
  • Tax Accounting
  • Legal and Ethical Guidelines

Interesting fact, there is a caveat in all U.S. States. To earn a degree in accountancy, candidates must complete at least 150 semester hours of postsecondary education from an accredited college or university.

As the usual 4-year bachelor’s degree is 120 hours, this leaves a 30-hour gap. To make up the extra credits, some schools offer a 5-year combined bachelor’s and master’s degree.  A master’s degree is not required to sit for the uniform CPA examination. But, it is another way to accumulate the 30 hours.  

Masters in Accounting

Masters in Accounting programs are usually designed as 30 to 36 credit programs, and may take from 1 to 2 years to complete fulltime. Usually, these programs are technical, include research and advanced topics. There may also be room in the course plan to delve deeper into a specific area such as federal taxation. Popular courses might include:

  • Advanced Auditing
  • Advanced Managerial/Cost Accounting
  • Business Communications
  • Corporate Financial Research and Reporting
  • Corporate Tax Decisions and Strategies

Reports show that employers may prefer to hire applicants who have a master’s degree, either in accounting or in business administration with a concentration in accounting. I Interested students could weigh options between the Master of Science (MS), Master of Accountancy or MBA with a focus in accounting.

PhD in Accounting

At the terminal level, students who prefer a research-focused degree might earn a PhD. Many schools offer a PhD in Business Administration – Accounting. This pathway may interest corporate executives who strive towards thought leadership

However, the PhD is not alone in its class. Some business professionals and masters/MBA graduates may want to enhance their credentials in finance. Or build managerial and leadership skills. For this reason, many universities offer degree programs such as:

  • Doctor of Accounting and Financial Management
  • Doctor of Business Administration - Accounting/Financial Management Concentration
  • Doctor of Professional Studies in Business - Finance Concentration

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What is a CPA

A CPA is a certified public accountant. To become a CPA, college students may start out with a bachelors degree in accounting or internal auditing. They must also pass the CPA exam. The CPA exam has four parts to it.

  • Business environment and concepts
  • Financial accounting and reporting
  • Regulation
  • Auditing and Attestation

Candidates do not have to pass all four parts at once. Most states do require that candidates pass all four parts within 18 months of passing their first part.

Many accountants pursue the CPA credential as a career move. Per the BLS, Accountants and Auditors who have become a CPA should have the best prospects. There are also services that only licensed CPAs are legally able to perform. CPAs are able to:

  • File reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)
  • represent clients in front of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

CPA Certification

All 50 states have their own Board of Accountancy. There is a great deal of uniformity about CPA licensing standards driven y the Uniform Accountancy Act. This act is  the product of a joint effort between two agencies.

  1. National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA)
  2. American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA)

The general outline  is referred to as the "Three Es" - education, examination, and experience. On this foundation, state boards may also decide:

  • how to distribute credit hours among accounting, business, ethics, and law classes
  • qualifications necessary to sit for the CPA Exam
  • unique stipulations for fulfilling experiential requirements

What Can You Do With an Accounting Degree?

Accountants and Auditors

Most employers require a candidate to have a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field. Certification within a specific field of accounting improves job prospects. For example, many accountants become Certified Public Accountants (CPAs).

  • Median Salary: $69,350 per year 
  • Job growth through 2026: 10%  (Faster than average)
  • Typical Entry-level education: Bachelor's degree

Budget Analysts

Budget analysts help public and private institutions organize their finances. They prepare budget reports and monitor institutional spending. A Budget analyst can work in a variety of settings like: government agencies, universities, and private companies. Courses in accounting, economics, and statistics are helpful.

  • Median Salary: $75,240 per year 
  • Job growth through 2026: 7%  (As fast as average)
  • Typical Entry-level education: Bachelor's degree

Management Analysts

Management analysts, often called management consultants, propose ways to improve an organization’s efficiency. They advise managers on how to make organizations more profitable through reduced costs and increased revenues. The Certified Management Consultant (CMC) designation may improve job prospects.

  • Median Salary: $82,450 per year 
  • Job growth through 2026: 14%  (Faster than average)
  • Typical Entry-level education: Bachelor's degree