Accountants work closely with individual clients, businesses, or organizations to analyze financial factors ranging from taxes to audits to various revenue increasing strategies. Employers look for two fundamental skills in top tier accountants, mastery of mathematics and attention to detail. Accountants delve into data sets and crunch numbers in order to discover trends or problems, and then are tasked with providing opportunistic strategies based on what was discovered. A minimum of a bachelor’s degree (usually in accounting) is required to enter the field, however, top-level positions and high-end employers look for students who not only hold a master’s degree in accounting but also hold certifications that further demonstrate their aptitude.
Certifications require certain amounts of semester hours with a required exam at the end where students must exceed a certain score to earn the certification. For your convenience we have compiled this list of the top 20 online masters in accounting programs, all of which are designed to prepare students for the CPA (Certified Public Accountant), CMA (Certified Management Accounting), or CIA (Certified Internal Auditor) exams. We constructed this ranking through a three-fold metric that weighs affordability, flexibility, and the academic prestige of the school. You can find a more thorough explanation of the metric used below. We hope this ranking serves to illuminate some of the best master’s level accounting programs available, and highlights what makes them the best of the best.
- Estimated tuition (1/3): The estimated tuition per credit hour for out-of-state students
- Flexibility Enhancing Features (1/3): The number of available concentrations, accelerated programs, and coursework delivery paces.
- Academic Prestige (1/3): The classification of the program’s parent organization by prominent organizations like Forbes and US News & World Report.
1. Florida Atlantic University
At Florida Atlantic University, the Master’s of Accounting program is designed specifically to accommodate students’ professional and career goals. The program emphasizes a teaching philosophy of academic and cultural diversity as well as progressive learning strategies. This philosophy is meant to mirror the real world complexities career paths, and so students in the program will learn to overcome challenges through personal integrity and teamwork. A driving motivation of the program is to not only mold students into successful accountants, but to also mold them into leaders of their future business communities.
The curriculum of the program follows suit with this career-oriented philosophy; it not only prepares students to take the CPA exam, but it empowers them to pass it with distinction–to stand out from the competition. The parent institution is nationally renowned across multiple ranking and review organizations and it also ranks as the most affordable on this list, making it one of the rare programs that succeeds at offering both quality and affordability. Furthermore, students are able to establish personal and career interests by delving into the program’s specialization tracks.
- Estimated tuition: $303
- Flexibility Enhancing Features: Specialization tracks
- Academic Prestige: 12th
2. Gardner-Webb University
Gardner-Webb University’s Graduate School of Business offers a fully online Master of Accountancy program. The program is uniquely driven by an acknowledgement that today’s accountants are tasked with more responsibilities than ever before. Businesses, market trends, and industries as a whole are more complicated, and thus the accountants responsible for them must have a skillset suited to handle a wide-array of new age problems. The program’s proposed solution is to offer students various degree tracks, so that they might delve deeper into a specific industry’s unique characteristics and thus be prepared for any problems that may arise in it.
The program offers three distinct degree specialization options: A general track where students learn the more universal principles of accounting, a tax track where students specialize in the science of taxation and all its nuances, and a forensic accounting track where students learn about ethics of accounting, fraud examination, and internal auditing. Also, the program is able to demonstrate the efficacy of its strategies through its graduates, who earn 10-20% higher salaries than those with equivalent bachelor’s degrees.
- Estimated tuition: $502
- Flexibility Enhancing Features: 3 degree specializations
- Academic Prestige: 20th
3. Western Governors University
Western Governors University employs a progressive teaching philosophy. It was the first university in the country to employ a competency-based learning model that allows students to maximize their current skillsets and focus more on their areas of improvement. This means that students of the Master’s in Accounting program will move more quickly through subject material they have mastered, while being able to spend more time on material that is more challenging to them. To facilitate this process the program assigns a faculty mentor and personalized degree plan, so that each student will have an education tailored to their specific strengths and needs.
This program is the third most affordable program on this list, and arguable one of the most flexible programs in the country. Students will literally choose how, when, and where they learn the program’s curriculum with the freedom to focus on coursework with more perceived personal importance. Despite this flexibility the program still prepares students adequately to sit for the CPA, CMA, or CIA exam. This is likely due to the program’s curriculum design following the guidelines of the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). No matter which exam you aim to complete the program prepares you each of them, granting students a uniquely well-rounded accounting education.
- Estimated tuition: $406
- Flexibility Enhancing Features: Competency-based learning, personalized degree plan, and self-paced learning.
- Academic Prestige: 20th
4. Colorado State University – Global Campus
Colorado State University’s (CSU) Global Campus is a well-known online degree hub that offers a fully online Master’s of Professional Accountant. CSU has dedicated enormous resources to developing its Global Campus, and as such students pursuing online degrees can expect the utmost in distance learning technology and online teaching technology. The degree itself is more focused than others on this list and emphasizes a curriculum that prepares students to pass the CPA exam. As such the program’s teaching philosophy centers around the professional requirements of a Certified Public Accountant.
This program’s focus on the CPA career path makes its curriculum less burdensome if the student is set on the CPA path rather than other alternatives, because they will only focus on coursework that pertains to their career. The coursework itself is also delivered in such a way as to accommodate both full-time students and those with full-time jobs. The coursework is accessible 24/7 so students can progress through the program at the pace that best suits their personal goals and lifestyles.
- Estimated tuition: $500
- Flexibility Enhancing Features: Self-paced coursework.
- Academic Prestige: 7th
5. University of South Dakota
The University of South Dakota’s School of Business offers Master of Professional Accountancy program that focuses on preparing students to succeed as Certified Public Accountants. This means that the program’s curriculum is designed around the challenges of the CPA exam, and is less focused on other coursework that would only pertain to those pursuing CIA and CMA career paths. Students concerned about whether an online accounting program can offer the same quality as an on-campus program need not worry. The program has been accredited by The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) since 1949, an accreditation that less than five percent of the nation’s business schools have earned.
Despite earning one of the most prestigious business school accreditations in the country, the program is still 5th most affordable on this list. The program has earned this prestige through its laser focused curriculum objectives. The objectives are twofold: To develop students’ judgmental ability relating to the production and use of accounting information, and to inspire students to assist in the development of professional competence, both in their personal sphere and in their business associates. The fundamental philosophy of this program is that graduates will strive for continued growth and excellence as Certified Public Accountants throughout their career.
- Estimated tuition: $442
- Flexibility Enhancing Features: N/A
- Academic Prestige: 10th
6. Rutgers University
Rutgers University offers a fully online Master of Accountancy in Governmental Accounting Program that offers a unique focus denoted in the degree name. The program is designed for students looking to enter the rapidly expanding field of government financial management, accounting, and auditing. The program offers in-state tuition to all students in the US and also waives the GMAT requirement for students to enroll. While the program is focused on government finance, the curriculum is well-rounded and prepares students to sit for either the CPA or the CMA exams. The program also employs a generous credit-transfer system, allowing credit for previous collegiate or work experience if approved by the program director.
The program’s unique focus on government finance has allowed it to fine tune its curriculum and coursework to best suit the demands of the industry. Thus it was ranked 14th in the nation in 2016 according to US News & World Report’s “Best Online Business Programs.” Another unique and distinguishing feature of this program is its certificate option, whereby completing four online courses students can earn a Graduate Certificate in Government Financial Management. This certificate also prepares students to sit for the Certified Government Financial Manager Exam, a top-tier certification sponsored by the Association of Government Accountants.
- Estimated tuition: $945
- Flexibility Enhancing Features: Graduate Certificate in Government Financial Management
- Academic Prestige: 4th
7. University of Alabama, Birmingham
The University of Alabama, Birmingham Collat School of Business offers a Master of Accounting program, which holds the accounting accreditation by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), the highest honor a business school can achieve for its accounting programs. The program can be completed entirely online, on-campus, or through a combination of both. The program also allows students to pursue specific concentrations to augment their degrees and enhance their expertise in a specific area.
Students can pursue the General Master of Accounting, which covers the general learning principles of accounting in a broader curriculum, or choose the Internal Auditing Concentration, which focuses on a highly focused curriculum. Furthermore, a Fast-Track option is available for high-achieving undergraduate students, which decreases both the time and financial requirements of the program. Year-round internships and hands-on learning opportunities provide students with the necessary foundations to pursue any certification path, and also grants access to a large professional network with the potential to open doors to valuable career opportunities.
- Estimated tuition: $899
- Flexibility Enhancing Features: Fast-Track Option, Internships, and Internal Auditing Concentration.
- Academic Prestige: 9th
8. University of Miami
The University of Miami offers a fully online Master’s in Professional Accounting with multiple start dates, and an impressively efficient program that can be completed in just 16-20 months. The program is also accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), the highest honor an accounting program can achieve. The program also offers generous tuition reduction and scholarship options to qualified candidates. As the degree name implies, the program is dedicated to preparing students for success as Certified Public Accountants, and that includes passing the CPA exam. This also means that coursework pertaining to other career paths will be optional for the student, which is ideal for those who have committed to becoming CPAs.
The University of Miami is the second most prestigious school on this list, according to national and international ranking and review organizations. Thus students can be assured that the accounting program is developed by some of the best educators in the country. While the program does have a higher price-tag per credit hour, it offers students a unique scheduling feature. Students schedule their coursework each week with an advisor, so that they can complete their schoolwork amid full-time jobs without sacrificing one-on-one time with instructors and peers. The program also gives students the freedom of choice in certifications if they do not want to pursue a CPA, and offers “Boot Camps” to prepare students for certifications not covered by the standard curriculum: CISA. CFE, CIA, and CMA.
- Estimated tuition: $1,900.00
- Flexibility Enhancing Features: Self-scheduled coursework and Certification Boot Camps,
- Academic Prestige: 2nd
9. Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota
Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota’s Master of Accountancy program has a unique teaching philosophy. The program is designed for students who want to become business leaders, who want to take their degree beyond its normal confines. To this end, the curriculum was designed by professionals, for professionals through collaboration of CPA firms, CFO’s, and other accounting leaders. Unlike other programs that may focus exclusively on accounting curriculum, Saint Mary’s program emphasizes leadership, ethics, and strategic management.
The program is taught by industry experts, who have reached the higher rungs of the various areas of the accounting industry. These instructors take a personal stake in their students success and provide some of the interpersonal connectivity that is often lacking in online degree programs. Thus from technical support to academic guidance, faculty help students to reach their highest levels of performance. Because at St. Mary’s “We train accountants as people because you are not a number. You are a master of numbers.”
- Estimated tuition: $595.00
- Flexibility Enhancing Features: N/A
- Academic Prestige: 10th
10. Southern New Hampshire University
Southern New Hampshire University’s Master of Science in Accounting prepares students to excel toward any career in accounting from being a CPA, to a corporate accountant, to an auditor, to a fraud examiner, or to a high-level financial analyst. The program employs a unique dedication to studying the newest and most important technology of the industry, so that students will be prepared no matter what career path they choose. And students are further empowered to establish their career choice through the program’s concentration options, which help students gain the specific expertise needed to stand out among competition in the job market.
Students in the program will choose from three concentration options: Auditing–where they will learn the science and nuances of audits, Forensic Accounting–where they will learn the legal and ethical dimensions of investigative accounting, and Taxation–where students will learn the ins and outs state and federal tax systems. The program also stands out due to its efficiency and flexibility. Classes can be completed in as little as 15 months, making it one of the fastest accounting programs in the country. And further, these self-paced classes are delivered by world-class instructors, who offers one-on-one learning sessions.
- Estimated tuition: $627
- Flexibility Enhancing Features: 15 Month Completion, 3 Concentration options, and Minimal Admission Requirements.
- Academic Prestige: 9th
11. Walden University
Walden University is well-known name in online education. The University has been a pioneer in online education for decades, and as such students of Walden’s M.S. in Accounting program can expect cutting-edge distance learning technologies. The program is designed to suit any student, regardless of their certification desires, since it provides a proficient foundation for any of the certification exams. One of the program’s distinguishing features is the incorporation of real-world and real-time events into the curriculum, so that students will enter their careers with a modern perspective of the industry. Such events include the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which had instantaneous effects on the accounting world.
After completing the program’s first four courses, students are awarded a graduate certificate that’s embedded in the curriculum. The certificate serves as a valuable credential to graduates, who are either currently working or looking for work while they pursue their degree. Further into the program, students can earn further distinction through choosing one of three specializations: Accounting for the Professional, Accounting with CPA Emphasis, and a Self-Designed Specialization. This program is one of few in the country to allow students to directly create and name their own specialization.
- Estimated tuition: $920
- Flexibility Enhancing Features: Built-in Graduate Certificate, Three Specializations (Including a Self-Made Option)
- Academic Prestige: 20th
12. Regis University
Regis University’s College of Business and Economics offers a Master of Science in Accounting. A distinctive feature of this program is its strong foundation in ethics. When financial corruption is a global concern, corporations and accounting licensing bodies place employees with backgrounds in ethics in high demand. A program adviser will also be paired with each student to help them further establish an education plan for their time in the program, building on past strengths and experiences. Thus the program allows students to construct their own curriculum according to their personal interests and professional goals. Though the choice is ultimately left to the student, the standard curriculum paths are designed to prepare students any of the certification exams.
Qualified students in the program will have the option of pursuing an accelerated track of the M.S. in Accounting. Despite the accelerated pace, the program still adequately prepares students to sit for any of the certification exams. This is partly due to the privileged access to the Becker CPA Exam Review Courses, which are considered highly valuable and successful preparatory courses for the exam. With 6 start dates and self-paced coursework, students of the program will find the program offers immense flexibility.
- Estimated tuition: $810
- Flexibility Enhancing Features: Accelerated Track, Becker CPA Exam Review Courses, and Self-Designed Curriculum.
- Academic Prestige: 19th
13. University of Massachusetts Amherst
The University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Isenberg School of Management is a nationally recognized school with top-tier rankings in business and accounting. The School offers a Master of Science in Accounting focuses on the “The Smartest Way to Your 150,” which refers to the 150 credit hours required to sit for the CPA exam. The program focuses on making these 150 credit hours as valuable and efficient as possible, covering subjects such as: number analytics, tax implications, and reading market trends. Through covering such topics the program aims to make graduates a valuable asset to any company, who have prosperous futures ahead of them.
The program is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), the highest honor an accounting program can achieve. Despite such distinctions, students often require cold hard statistics to feel good about investing such capital in their education. These placement statistics of the programs graduates are likely to do just that: 95% of students are placed in careers within 3 months of graduating with a median starting salary of $56,000. These impressive statistics of success, however, are likely at least due in part to the quality students admitted into the program, with admission requirements being steeper than many others on this list.
- Estimated tuition: $750
- Flexibility Enhancing Features: Accelerated Learning Options
- Academic Prestige: 5th
14. University of Connecticut
The University of Connecticut offers a fully online Master of Science in Accounting, which was the very first online master’s program at the University. The program boasts highly honorific accreditations, a dual-AACSB accreditation and recognition by the United States Distance Learning Association for best practices in online learning. Thus students of the accounting program can be assured that they will receive the utmost in what online education has to offer. The program, however, is focused on the CPA and MSA professional routes and thus the curriculum is focused around the professional demands of a career in public and private accounting.
The program is ranked the #2 Master’s of Accounting program by U.S. News & World Report for 2016, meaning that the somewhat higher price tag per credit hour is justifiable, considering it is still much more affordable than many comparable programs that are without such prestigious superlatives. The program also instills a great deal of flexibility into the program. Students may choose full-time, part-time, or design their own program schedule. Furthermore, coursework is conducted asynchronously, which means that students are allowed to complete coursework at different times, accommodating personal schedules and work-life demands.
- Estimated tuition: $825
- Flexibility Enhancing Features: Full-time, Part-time, and Personally Designed Schedule Options.
- Academic Prestige: 3rd
15. University of Texas, Dallas
The University of Texas, Dallas offers a Master of Science in Accounting through its Naveen Jindal School of Management. The program consists of 36 credit hours, and is usually completed in between 18 and 24 months. The program is geared towards preparing students to excel at any of the certification exams, and employ academic advisers to guide students according to specific state guidelines for the certifications. The program also features an impressive focus on career-outcomes and offers career coaching, resume workshops, interview preparation, and networking strategies. These features guarantee that once graduates step into the job market they have the skillsets needed to secure prosperous careers.
The program also allows students to customize their coursework around areas of interests including: corporate accounting, assurance services, taxation, internal audits, and ERP/SAP systems. Beyond customizability built into the curriculum, student organizations within the program drive other forms of teamwork and growth. The Accounting Leadership Association is one of the most popular and opens up networking opportunities, service events, and leadership development opportunities. There are, however, a number of other groups that support racial pride and collaboration, and others that are focused on students collaborating within a specific interest such as the Institute of Internal Auditors Student Chapter.
- Estimated tuition: $701
- Flexibility Enhancing Features: Customizable coursework
- Academic Prestige: 8th
16. Franklin University
Franklin University offers a Master of Science in Accounting, which can be completed entirely online through cutting-edge distance learning technology. Franklin’s program takes a unique perspective on the field of accounting. It is pushing for a new understanding of accounting professionals, where they are no longer just number-crunchers behind closed doors, but instead take on key leadership roles and master the art of industry-wide consulting. In other words, the program prepares students to take their accounting skills and apply them to the big picture of business systems and financial trends, elevating them above where they have been pigeon-holed in the past.
As mentioned above, the program emphasizes leadership roles and successful consulting strategies, but it also provides students with the freedom of choice to pursue personal interests and career goals through specialized degree tracks. Students may choose the taxation track, where they will explore pertinent topics such as corporate and individual taxation, pass through entities, and gift and estate taxes. Or students can choose the financial operations track where students masters integral concepts of forensic accounting, auditing, data mining, risk analysis and management, and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. Students with an eye for efficiency will likely be pleased by the fact that the degree can be completed in just 17 months. Students will also be granted a wealth of hands-on features that are designed to introduce students to the industry’s leading technology and information systems strategies, preparing them for the top-tier roles for which the program is preparing them.
- Estimated tuition: $635
- Flexibility Enhancing Features: Specialized Degree Tracks and 17 Month Completion Time
- Academic Prestige: 20th
17. Auburn University
Auburn University Harbert College of Business offers an online Master of Accountancy program is designed for working professionals and mirrors the full-time on-campus option. Students in the online program receive the same instruction, assignments, and exams as their on-campus peers. Both program are also accredited by the AACSB International, a prestigious distinction for an accounting program. The program focuses on preparing students to sit for the CPA exam, and further, boasts that its students are highly likely to pass in their first attempt. This statement is backed up by the program’s impressive statistics: an 80% pass rate on all four sections of the CPA exam, which far exceeds the national average.
Auburn University itself is a reputable and well-known university, and further, both the Harbert College of Business and the Accounting program itself have received highly impressive rankings. The Harbert College of Business is ranked #7 for graduate online programs in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. The online accounting program was ranked #4 in the nation by the “Online Accounting Degree Programs.” If these rankings do not imply the quality of education, then the quality of faculty should. The program’s instructors are made of professionals who have experienced the top-tier of the industry and who have produced some of the world’s most impactful research in the field.
- Estimated tuition: $850
- Flexibility Enhancing Features: Full-time Students Can Complete in 12 Months
- Academic Prestige: 6th
18. Western International University
Western International University (WIU) posits that successful and skilled accountants are the key to thriving corporations and organizations. In fact, it is the University’s goal to expand the role of accountants in the future of business. To ensure that students have the technical expertise to reach this goal, the curriculum focuses on courses such as international accounting, advanced auditing, advanced consolidation accounting, legal and ethical environment of accounting, multinational taxation, forensic accounting, and intensive accounting research. The program is also designed to prepare students for the national shift in standards from the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) to International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS).
WIU’s program is highly flexible in its admission requirements, and often times requires little to no undergraduate credits in accounting, making it a perfect option for those looking to switch gears and enter the field of accounting without tons of previous experience. The program provides students with personal academic advisers to help them navigate the online coursework, so that lack of experience won’t become a hindrance in a student’s growth and learning. This personalized guidance, combined with a research-intensive curriculum is designed to prepare students for any of the certification exams in just 58 weeks, or 1.2 years. As the second most affordable program on this list with lenient admission requirements, this is likely a perfect fit for many students.
- Estimated tuition: $390
- Flexibility Enhancing Features: Lenient Admission Requirements
- Academic Prestige: 20th
19. National University
National University offers a Master of Accountancy that can be completed entirely through online coursework, which is the University’s specialty. This program also offers lenient academic requirements for admission, requiring a bachelor’s degree without any requirements for undergraduate experience in accounting. The program’s teaching philosophy is to provide a strong foundation in a well-rounded curriculum, so that students can pursue any of the certification exams that suit their professional goals and have the necessary experience backgrounds required to pass them.
The program is delivered through the University’s School of Business and Management, and as such the curriculum emphasizes management strategies and leadership systems. This emphasis is delivered through a focus on core content including: analyzation of accounting information of business, government, or nonprofit entities; utilization the most current information technologies, methodologies, and systems; and application of ethical and legal concepts to accounting and tax problems. As demonstrated in this wide-range of coursework, the program intends to touch briefly on all relevant areas of accounting education, rather than leaving it to the student to choose which to delve into.
- Estimated tuition: $406
- Flexibility Enhancing Features: N/A
- Academic Prestige: 20th
20. Saint Joseph’s College
Saint Joseph’s College offers a fully online Master of Accountancy degree that distinguishes itself through a unique dedication to interdisciplinary curriculum and projects. The subjects of leadership and ethics are as important to the curriculum as the subjects of accounting. The teaching strategies involved are dialogue intensive, with problem-based learning and written assignments, which are designed to develop credibility in communication and clarity of thought in reporting. The proper conveying of information and mastery of communication skills are undercurrents that can be found throughout the program’s curriculum, making it a prime option for students who enjoy interpersonal interaction and analytical communication environments.
The program has very lenient admission requirements, and allows students to “catch-up” if they are without any previous undergraduate education in business or accounting through prerequisites woven into the curriculum, so that these students can avoid falling behind. Students with more experience in these fields and a GPA of at least 2.5 can partake in the “Fast Track” option and wave two full introductory course requirements, thus making the program completable in just one year. With multiple start dates, the fast-track option, and self-paced coursework students from all backgrounds are likely to find a program pace that best fits their personal work-life schedule.
- Estimated tuition: $1,000
- Flexibility Enhancing Features: Multiple Start Dates, Fast Track Option, and Self-Paced Coursework
- Academic Prestige: 20th