A degree may open the door to a variety of opportunities and diverse career paths. The degree programs offered at AIU will not necessarily lead to the featured careers. This collection of articles is intended to help inform and guide you through the process of determining which level of degree and types of certifications align with your desired career path.
You've decided you want to pursue a bachelor of accounting degree but are currently working full time. How do you find the time to go back to school without giving up your current salary and benefits? Pursuing an accounting degree online can be a practicable way to move toward your professional goals while also balancing a full-time job and family responsibilities.
While online degrees can provide an extra level of flexibility and convenience, you may not be as familiar with what to expect and what you should look for when choosing an online program.
What to Look for in Online Accounting Degree Programs
If you're pursuing an online bachelor's degree in accounting while you're working full time, it's especially important that the time you devote to coursework also has the potential to move you forward in your career.
Would I benefit from an accelerated accounting degree online?
If you're interested in completing your accounting degree online in less time, you may benefit from looking into accelerated degree programs. Online degree programs may use adaptive learning platforms that are designed to cater course materials and lesson plans to each student's specific needs and knowledge level. Coupled with the opportunity to receive credit for qualifying work experience, adaptive learning technology may help you fulfill your degree requirements a bit faster, so you're not spending valuable time on skills and material you already know.
For those who already have a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field, a one-year or accelerated MBA in accounting program may be suitable if you are looking to pursue an advanced degree in a short period of time.
Is this an accredited degree program?
Once you've decided to go back to school, it is important to make sure you're looking into accredited online accounting degree programs. Accreditation indicates that an independent accrediting agency has determined that a program's instruction or curriculum meets academic quality standards required by the field. For example, the business programs at AIU are Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) accredited. Some employers and professional organizations require that job candidates earn their degree from an accredited degree program. This may be especially important for accountants who plan to take the CPA exam eventually.
Does the program offer a career-focused curriculum?
While a degree program's accreditation may help you make a decision on which school to attend, it's also important to take some time to make sure the courses and curriculum offered translate to real-world skills and experience. Consider whether the program's faculty are industry professionals and if their course offerings reflect the most recent and up-to-date industry developments.
Online Accounting Courses
The courses in online accounting programs are typically divided into general education credits as well as upper and lower-level core classes. General education classes should include non-accounting subjects designed to help develop soft skills like communication and critical thinking and are designed to provide a more well-rounded education. However, they might also include relevant classes like microeconomics and macroeconomics, as well as courses covering some fundamental math skills that core classes will build on later.
Core Accounting Classes
While general education credits may help develop some basic workplace skills, core online accounting classes should be designed to help you prepare for the professional demands and requirements of the field. Depending on the level of a course and where it lies in the degree sequence, a class may introduce and expand your knowledge of generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), or it may focus on practices specific to one type or area of accounting (like auditing or tax accounting). Early core classes will also likely focus on relevant areas of business law and ethics, and those going into a field like actuarial accounting may need to take one or more statistics-related courses.
The core courses encountered later in the program sequence are designed to introduce more specific types of accounting practices, such as financial accounting, managerial accounting, or cost accounting. Core courses may vary depending on the specialization or area of focus. For example, a course on accounting information systems may cover the different types of commonly used software different industries use to organize and access financial data. Many upper-level core classes may also help you prepare for the CPA exam should you decide to go into certified public accounting.
How Much Does an Online Accounting Degree Cost?
The cost of an accounting degree online will vary based on the institution as well as any grants, scholarships, or transfer credits for which you qualify. At AIU, our financial aid advisors are available to help answer questions you may have while you fill out your FAFSA and can help explain any funding opportunities you may qualify for well as what to anticipate when planning for tuition. You can also use our tuition and graduation date calculator to get an estimate of how much your total tuition may cost and how long you may need to take classes.
In addition to a number of available grants and scholarships, AIU also offers to evaluate previous college work and allows students to transfer-in up to 75% of qualifying credits toward completion of their degree requirements. Also, if you're returning to school after working in the financial or accounting fields, you may be able to receive prior learning credit for qualifying work experience. These options may help reduce the number of total credits needed in order to complete your degree, which can save you money on tuition in the long run.
How Long Does a Bachelor of Accounting Take?
The total number of credit hours you'll need to complete to earn your bachelor's of accounting degree online will depend on whether you are eligible for transfer credits, or can receive credit for qualifying military or prior work experience. At AIU, our bachelor of accounting degree requires completing 180 total credits. (If you're looking for ways to earn your accounting degree online in less time, make sure to speak with one of our advisors about maximizing your total number of qualifying transfer or prior learning credits.)
To qualify for admission into our bachelor of accounting program online, applicants must meet one of the following criteria:
- Have a high school diploma or GED certificate
- Meet our requirements for military transfer students
- Show evidence of previous enrollment in a college or university with which we have an articulation agreement
If you are interested in learning more about opportunities you qualify for with AIU, apply now or request additional information from one of our advisors.
Potential Accounting Jobs and Careers
There are many different, possible jobs and career paths for those with an accounting degree. Below are some possible positions:
AuditorIn general, auditors are responsible for inspecting financial records to guard against fraud, mismanagement, or accounting errors. They must have a keen eye for detail and be able to piece together complicated series of financial transactions from various sets of records. While there are many varying types of auditing positions, there are several broad types of auditors:1, 2
- Internal Auditor – Internal auditors are employed by a company to monitor financial records. In addition to identifying potential instances of fraud and ensuring that all legally required financial documents are filed and maintained accurately, internal auditors may also be responsible for designing new processes to reduce fraud and eliminate financial waste.
- External Auditor – External auditors typically work for an outside agency and are brought in to audit a company's financial records. They perform many of the same duties and responsibilities as internal auditors, but often present their findings to investors, upper management, and legal or regulatory agencies.
- Information Technology Auditor – IT auditors have a narrower, technical scope and focus on the finance applications and data platforms a company uses to record and manage financial transactions.
The Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) designation is available from the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA). Those going into IT auditing can become a Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) through the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA).2 Pursuing a career in accounting may be beneficial as the projected growth in employment of accountants and auditors in the U.S. is 10% from 2016 through 2026.3
Certified Public Accountants (CPA)
Many public accountants go on to become CPAs once they've met the work experience and ongoing education requirements set forth by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). While different states have different education and experience requirements, the Uniform CPA Exam administered by the AICPA is the same regardless of where you take it.
Certified public accountants may work for a larger accounting firm, start their own small business, or even go on to specialize in a particular area of the field, such as forensic accounting or tax accounting.1, 2
The Association of International CPAs (AICPA) awards CPA licenses to those who have passed the Uniform CPA Exam and have met all prior education and professional experience requirements for their state.2 Employment of accountants and auditors in the U.S. is projected to grow 10% from 2016 through 2026.3
Certified Fraud Examiner
Fraud examiners focus solely on ways to detect and prevent financial fraud. This may involve auditing processes that can help you identify mismanagement or falsified records, or it can include showing other financial and accounting professionals how to watch for red flags and warning signs of fraud. In some cases, responsibilities may even include working with law enforcement and other legal agencies.4
The CFE exam is broken into four parts, and each focuses on a specialized aspect of the fraud prevention field: fraud prevention and deterrence, financial transactions and fraud schemes, fraud investigation, law. The Association for Certified Fraud Examiners administers the CFE certification to members who have passed the CFE exam and meet all academic and professional requirements.4
Taking the First Steps Toward an Online Accounting Degree
While it may feel like a substantial undertaking, remember that you don't have to pursue your accounting degree alone. At AIU we offer:
- Career Services and Support – In addition to a dedicated, passionate staff of advisors and professional instructors, our students also have access to a career support center that can help you find internship opportunities and prepare a resume and job application materials.
- Alumni Association – Graduates can also take advantage of our alumni association, including a vast professional network of AIU contacts and alumni. So even after you graduate, you'll still have a supportive community of colleagues you can rely on.
- Mobile Learning App – One of the advantages of pursuing your degree remotely is the extra convenience and flexibility online classes have to offer. Our AIU Mobile app allows you to access course content, lesson plans, discussion boards, and contact your instructors on your own schedule, 24 hours a day.
An accounting degree may be within your reach. Request information about AIU’s accounting programs today.
1. "Accountants and Auditors: What Accountants and Auditors Do." U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/accountants-and-auditors.htm#tab-2 (Visit
2. "Accountants and Auditors: How to Become One." U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/accountants-and-auditors.htm#tab-4 (Visited 6/4/18). 3. "Accountants and Auditors: Summary.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/accountants-and-auditors.htm (Visited 6/4/18).
4. "The CFE Credential.” Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. Retrieved from: http://www.acfe.com/cfe-credential.aspx (Visited 6/4/18).
American InterContinental University cannot guarantee employment or salary. For important information about the educational debt, earnings, and completion rates of students who attended these programs, go to www.aiuniv.edu/disclosures. Financial aid is available for those who qualify.
Classes Start August 8, 2018