Managing a company’s financial position is a complex process that requires analytical tools, knowledge of business law and taxation, and familiarity with the preparation and analysis of financial reports. This broad body of knowledge is encompassed by accountancy, a core business function that is integral to training in business administration and management. Students who major in business as undergraduates learn basic accounting skills and study foundational elements of financial and managerial accounting as part of a curriculum that typically includes instruction in principles of finance, management, and marketing. There are also colleges and universities that offer undergraduate degrees in accounting. These bachelor’s in accounting degree programs provide intermediate and advance training in accounting, often as a concentration within a larger undergraduate business degree program.
A bachelor’s in accounting is a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science (BA or BS) degree program with a designated major or concentration in accounting. Students in these programs receive specialized instruction in the principles of accounting and practical training in the application of this knowledge in areas like asset valuation, enterprise risk management (ERM), financial statement analysis, taxation, and the auditing process. They also complete a range of general education coursework in order to fulfill the basic graduation requirements for a four-year bachelor’s degree program. Undergraduate accounting programs are commonly housed within business schools or offered as part of an undergraduate business major. Students in these programs typically take courses in communication, economics, information systems, operations management, and statistical analysis as a foundation for the accounting curriculum, which may include anywhere from six to 12 courses.
Online bachelor’s in accounting program utilize distance learning technologies to provide all or most of their general and specialized coursework online. Students in online programs can log on to a learning management system (LMS) for classes, which can be done from anywhere with an Internet connection. They are able to view lectures and other course materials, participate in online discussion forums, contact instructors and administrators, and access various school resources through the LMS. While it is rare, some online bachelor’s programs require students to attend a limited number of on-campus orientation and/or instructional sessions.
In addition to classifying programs based on campus-visit requirements, OnlineEducation.com conducts independent research into the curriculum and structure of programs to ensure that they are offered online and that they have an accounting major. Programs on the site must be offered by regionally accredited, non-profit colleges and universities, and most programs receive additional programmatic accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International), the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP), or the International Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE). Programs that require more than two campus visits per years are not currently listed on the site.
Students in an online bachelor’s in accounting program complete a general education curriculum that may include coursework in English composition, behavioral science, history, humanities, natural science, and mathematics. The other major components of undergraduate accounting programs are business and accounting courses. Some programs offer a business major with an accounting specialization, while others combine general business and specialized accounting coursework into a separate accounting major. In both types of programs, students learn about business computing, business law, economics, finance, marketing, and operations management, and take courses in managerial accounting, financial accounting, tax and business law, and other accounting topics.
The accounting major in an online bachelor’s degree program typically comprises six or more courses that cover the fundamentals of accounting and other topics relevant to the field. The table below offers an overview of courses that are commonly part of an undergraduate accounting curriculum.
|Management Accounting I||An introduction to internal reporting systems used for planning, control, and decision-making in accounting.|
|Management Accounting II||The use of advanced accounting methods to inform decision-making in areas such as resource allocation, financial reporting, and performance evaluations of a firm.|
|Governance, Risk, Compliance, & Ethics||An overview of corporate governance structures with a focus on enterprise risk management, fraud prevention, regulatory compliance, and the ethical framework for managerial accounting.|
|Financial Statement Analysis||Analyzing a firms financial position using various frameworks, including strategic ratio analysis, cash flow analysis, forecasting, pro-forma financial statements, and firm valuation.|
|Federal Taxation||Understanding the federal income tax system as a basis for the preparation of tax returns for individuals and businesses.|
|Corporate Taxation||An integrated approach to understanding tax compliance, tax planning, accounting, economics, and finance at the corporate level.|
|Business Law||Laws and governmental regulations pertaining to commercial paper, real estate, personal property, creditors' rights, bankruptcy, estate planning, and other financial concerns.|
|Intermediate Accounting I||The theoretical framework for the development of various accounting standards, regulations, and practices, with a focus on the accounting cycle, including adjusting, correcting, reversing, and closing entries.|
|Intermediate Accounting II||How companies account for facilities and intangible assets, investments, long-term debt, income taxes, stockholders' equity, and more complex cash flow statement transactions.|
|Intermediate Accounting III||Reporting and disclosure requirements for leases, income taxes, pensions, and shareholder equity.|
Online bachelors in accounting programs are typically designed to accommodate high school graduates as well as transfer students who have earned prior college credits in a bachelor’s or associates degree program. Criteria for admissions may differ depending on an applicant’s level of academic achievement. Prospective applicants should examine each program’s admissions requirements carefully. Some programs require the submission of SAT scores, letters of recommendation, and/or a written essay, while others do not. Some programs may also consider an applicant’s high school class rank and/or grade point average (GPA) in relevant coursework as part of the admissions process.
There are several key variations in online bachelor’s degree programs that prospective students should be aware of and that may be important considerations for students who anticipate working full-time while earning their degree. These concerns include the delivery formats for online instruction; enrollment options; and campus visits.
Instructional Methods: Online courses may be taught using synchronous or asynchronous instruction. Synchronous instruction indicates that students must be logged on to the LMS as designated time in order to view lectures and participate in other course activities. Asynchronous instruction does incorporate set meeting times. Instead, students in a course that utilizes asynchronous instruction can access lectures and other course materials on the LMS at their convenience, 24-7. While some online bachelor’s programs utilize a mix of synchronous and asynchronous instruction, there are programs that rely solely on asynchronous instruction. These programs may provide more overall flexibility, which is advantageous for students who anticipate having significant commitments outside of school. However, courses that utilize asynchronous instruction require more self-motivation, as each student is responsible for keeping up with lectures and completing assignments on time.
Enrollment Options: Prospective applicants to an online bachelor’s degree program should examine enrollment options in order to determine how many courses they will be expected to take per semester and how long it take to complete the program. Full-time students can complete an online bachelor’s program in four years provided they take four or five courses per traditional academic semester. Part-time students in a similar program would take fewer courses per semester (two or three), thereby extending the time to completion by a year or more. Some online bachelor’s programs do not adhere to a traditional semester or quarter system. These programs have shorter terms that last between six and ten weeks, allowing full-time students to take one or two class per term.
Campus Visits: Online bachelor’s degree programs typically do not require students to attend sessions on campus. However, on-campus orientations and instructional sessions are integrated into some online degree programs. Prospective applicants to an online bachelor’s in accounting program should inquire with a program administrator to determine whether or not the program requires students to attend campus sessions.