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Best online master's in accounting 2021: Top picks

Interested in finance, taxation, or business analytics? Check out the best online accounting master's programs to start or advance your accounting career.

In an accounting master's program, students develop knowledge of economics, business, and accounting laws, along with advanced analytical skills. The increasingly globalized and complex business and financial landscape has created a strong demand for highly skilled financial professionals.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that there will be 100,000 new accountant and auditor positions between 2020 and 2030, on top of the current rate of 135,000 annual openings. With a master's degree, graduates can qualify for many accounting positions and industry certifications. Here, we rank the best accounting master's programs to help prospective students narrow their search.

The best online master's in accounting degrees

To ensure our rankings reflect the most up-to-date information, we follow a strict research process. ZDNet's ranking methodology pulls publicly available data from reputable sources, giving readers an accurate list of the top schools and programs.

Unless otherwise indicated, data is drawn from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and College Scorecard.

1. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill, North Carolina

About the program: UNC-Chapel Hill's online accounting master's program features 36-48 credits of training in financial reporting, auditing, and taxation.

  • Acceptance rate: 23%
  • Graduation rate: 91%
  • Annual net price: $12,352
  • Time to degree: One to three years
  • GRE/GMAT: Either required (waivers available); minimum score not publicly available
  • Minimum GPA: 3.0
  • Enrollment periods per year: Four 
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

Accreditation: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is regionally accredited by Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

2. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Champaign, Illinois

About the program: Illinois' 32-credit online accounting master's program includes training in analytics, federal taxation, and financial reporting and auditing.

  • Acceptance rate: 59%
  • Graduation rate: 86%
  • Annual net price: $15,880
  • Time to degree: 1 ½ to three years
  • GRE/GMAT: Optional
  • Minimum GPA: 3.0
  • Enrollment periods per year: Three
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous

Accreditation: The University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

3. University of Miami

Coral Gables, Florida

About the program: UM's 32-credit online accounting master's program offers courses in information systems and cost accounting and prepares graduates for various industry certifications. 

  • Acceptance rate: 27%
  • Graduation rate: 83%
  • Annual net price: $46,949
  • Time to degree: 16-20 months
  • GRE/GMAT: Not required
  • Minimum GPA: 3.0
  • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous 

Accreditation: The University of Miami is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

4. The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

Brownsville, Texas

About the program: UTRGV's 30-credit online accounting master's program offers training in subjects like business law, professional ethics, and accounting methods. 

  • Acceptance rate: 80%
  • Graduation rate: 52%
  • Annual net price: $4,514
  • Time to degree: One to two years
  • GRE/GMAT: Either required (waivers available); minimum score not publicly available
  • Minimum GPA: 3.0
  • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling
  • Course delivery method: Online 

Accreditation: The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

5. Penn State World Campus

University Park, Pennsylvania

About the program: Penn State World Campus' 30-credit online accounting master's program features courses in tax planning, cost management, and commercial transactions.

  • Acceptance rate: 76%
  • Graduation rate: 73%
  • Annual net price: $27,372
  • Time to degree: Two (part-time and accelerated schedules are available)
  • GRE/GMAT: Either required (waivers available); minimum score not publicly available
  • Minimum GPA: Not publicly available
  • Enrollment periods per year: Three
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

Accreditation: Penn State World Campus is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

6. University of Arizona

Tucson, Arizona

About the program: UofA's online accounting master's program features 30 credits in advanced accounting and federal taxation, along with focus areas in business analytics, finance, and marketing.

  • Acceptance rate: 85%
  • Graduation rate: 63%
  • Annual net price: $15,016
  • Time to degree: One to two years
  • GRE/GMAT: Either required (waivers available); minimum score not publicly available
  • Minimum GPA: 3.0
  • Enrollment periods per year: Six
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

Accreditation: The University of Arizona is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

7. University of Missouri

Columbia, Missouri

About the program: Mizzou's 30-credit online accounting master's program features courses in ethics, forensic accounting, and governmental accounting and budgeting.

  • Acceptance rate: 81%
  • Graduation rate: 68%
  • Annual net price: $16,001
  • Time to degree: One to three years
  • GRE/GMAT: Not required
  • Minimum GPA: 3.0
  • Enrollment periods per year: Three
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

Accreditation: The University of Missouri is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

8. George Mason University

Fairfax, Virginia

About the program: Mason's online accounting master's program features 30 credits in courses like fraud examination, professional accounting, and global accounting. 

  • Acceptance rate: 87%
  • Graduation rate: 74%
  • Annual net price: $21,048
  • Time to degree: 11-24 months
  • GRE/GMAT: Either required (waivers available); minimum score not publicly available
  • Minimum GPA: 3.0
  • Enrollment periods per year: Three
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

Accreditation: George Mason University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

9. University of Alabama at Birmingham

Birmingham, Alabama

About the program: UAB's online accounting master's program features 30-credits in courses, such as advanced auditing and attestation, accounting research, and governance and the business environment. 

  • Acceptance rate: 74%
  • Graduation rate: 55%
  • Annual net price: $16,953
  • Time to degree: Two years (self-paced schedules are available)
  • GRE/GMAT: Either required (waivers available); minimum 500 GMAT 
  • Minimum GPA: 3.0
  • Enrollment periods per year: Three
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

Accreditation: The University of Alabama at Birmingham is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

10. Georgia Southern University

Statesboro, Georgia

About the program: Georgia Southern's 30-credit online accounting master's program offers courses in fraudulent financial reporting and law and ethics.

  • Acceptance rate: 54%
  • Graduation rate: 50%
  • Annual net price: $15,536
  • Time to degree: Two
  • GRE/GMAT: Not required
  • Minimum GPA: NA
  • Enrollment periods per year: Three
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous

Accreditation: Georgia Southern University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

11. Emporia State University

Emporia, Kansas

About the program: ESU's 30-credit online accounting master's program offers training in corporate taxation, nonprofit accounting, and fraud examination. 

  • Acceptance rate: 85%
  • Graduation rate: 51%
  • Annual net price: $14,822
  • Time to degree: One to two years
  • GRE/GMAT: Not required
  • Minimum GPA: 3.0
  • Enrollment periods per year: Four
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

Accreditation: Emporia State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

12. California State University, Sacramento

Sacramento, California

About the program: Sacramento State's online accounting master's program covers topics in cost analysis and control, taxation of businesses, and business environments.

  • Acceptance rate: 82%
  • Graduation rate: 69%
  • Annual net price: $9,979
  • Time to degree: 1 ½ 
  • GRE/GMAT: Either required (waivers available); minimum 30th percentile
  • Minimum GPA: 2.5
  • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

Accreditation: California State University, Sacramento is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission (WSCUC).

13. Seton Hall University

South Orange, New Jersey

About the program: Seton Hall's 30-credit online accounting master's degree provides training in capital budgeting, international accounting, and financial statement analysis.

  • Acceptance rate: 74%
  • Graduation rate: 67%
  • Annual net price: $29,845
  • Time to degree: 18-20 months
  • GRE/GMAT: Either required (waivers available); minimum 500 GMAT
  • Minimum GPA: 3.25
  • Enrollment periods per year: Two 
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous

Accreditation: Seton Hall University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

14. Southern Utah University

Cedar City, Utah

About the program: SUU's 30-credit online accounting master's program includes training in taxes for passthrough entities, auditing, and accounting ethics.

  • Acceptance rate: 74%
  • Graduation rate: 67%
  • Annual net price: $29,845
  • Time to degree: One to two years (part-time and accelerated schedules are available)
  • GRE/GMAT: Either required (waivers available); minimum score not publicly available
  • Minimum GPA: Not publicly available
  • Enrollment periods per year: Three
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

Accreditation: Southern Utah University is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).

15. Syracuse University

Syracuse, New York

About the program: Syracuse's online accounting master's program features 30-credits of training in international accounting, financial statement analysis, and business strategy. 

  • Acceptance rate: 44%
  • Graduation rate: 82%
  • Annual net price: $34,482
  • Time to degree: 12-15 months
  • GRE/GMAT: Either required (waivers available); minimum score not publicly available
  • Minimum GPA: 3.0
  • Enrollment periods per year: Four
  • Course delivery method: Synchronous

Accreditation: Syracuse University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

16. SUNY Polytechnic Institute

Utica, New York

About the program: SUNY Poly's online accounting master's degree offers 33-credit hours of training in fund accounting, advanced income tax research, and advanced auditing theory.

  • Acceptance rate: 69%
  • Graduation rate: 55%
  • Annual net price: $13,809
  • Time to degree: 1 ½ to three years
  • GRE/GMAT: Either required (waivers available); minimum 400 GMAT
  • Minimum GPA: Varies
  • Enrollment periods per year: Two
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous

Accreditation: SUNY Polytechnic Institute is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

17. DePaul University

Chicago, Illinois

About the program: DePaul's online accounting master's program includes courses in cost and managerial accounting, business law, and policy formulation.

  • Acceptance rate: 68%
  • Graduation rate: 68%
  • Annual net price: $30,090
  • Time to degree: 1 ½ years (part-time schedules may be available)
  • GRE/GMAT: Not required
  • Minimum GPA: 2.5
  • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

Accreditation: DePaul University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

18. University of Massachusetts Lowell

Lowell, Massachusetts

About the program: UMass Lowell's online accounting master's program offers training in nonprofit, public, and corporate accounting, along with focuses in business analytics, international business, and corporate leadership accounting.

  • Acceptance rate: 73%
  • Graduation rate: 57%
  • Annual net price: $19,119
  • Time to degree: One to two years (part-time schedules are available)
  • GRE/GMAT: GMAT required (waivers available); minimum score not publicly available
  • Minimum GPA: Not publicly available
  • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous

Accreditation: The University of Massachusetts Lowell is regionally accredited by the New England Commission on Higher Education (NECHE).

19. University of Scranton

Scranton, Pennsylvania

About the program: Scranton's online accounting master's program features at least 30 credits of training in accounting communication, ethics, and managerial accounting.

  • Acceptance rate: 76%
  • Graduation rate: 77%
  • Annual net price: $34,374
  • Time to degree: One to two years
  • GRE/GMAT: Not required
  • Minimum GPA: 3.0
  • Enrollment periods per year: Three
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous

Accreditation: The University of Scranton is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

20. Western Governors University

Salt Lake City, Utah

About the program: WGU's online accounting master's program includes courses in fraud and forensic accounting, strategic management, and management accounting.

  • Acceptance rate: Not publicly available
  • Graduation rate: 49%
  • Annual net price: $9,805
  • Time to degree: 1 ½ to three years
  • GRE/GMAT: Not required
  • Minimum GPA: Not publicly available
  • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

Accreditation: Western Governors University is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).

21. Stetson University

DeLand, Florida

About the program: Stetson University's 30-credit online accounting master's program features courses in governmental and nonprofit accounting and advanced accounting theory, along with a data analytics track.

  • Acceptance rate: 72%
  • Graduation rate: 65%
  • Annual net price: $23,568
  • Time to degree: One to two years
  • GRE/GMAT: Either required (waivers available); minimum score not publicly available
  • Minimum GPA: 3.0
  • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous

Accreditation: Stetson University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

22. University of South Dakota

Vermillion, South Dakota

About the program: USD's online accounting master's program offers training in finance and public accounting, along with a specialization in accounting analytics. 

  • Acceptance rate: 90%
  • Graduation rate: 52%
  • Annual net price: $19,252
  • Time to degree: One to two years
  • GRE/GMAT: Either required (waivers available); minimum score not publicly available
  • Minimum GPA: 2.85
  • Enrollment periods per year: Three 
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

Accreditation: The University of South Dakota is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

23. Saint Mary's University of Minnesota

Winona, Minnesota

About the program: St. Mary's 30-credit online accounting master's program features courses in cost and information systems management, along with financial communication and leadership.

  • Acceptance rate: 92%
  • Graduation rate: 67%
  • Annual net price: $19,514
  • Time to degree: 20 months
  • GRE/GMAT: Not required
  • Minimum GPA: 2.75
  • Enrollment periods per year: Two
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

Accreditation: Saint Mary's University of Minnesota is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

24. Mississippi College

Clinton, Mississippi

About the program: MC's online accounting master's program includes 30 semester hours of training in courses like auditing concepts and applications, advanced managerial accounting, and law and ethics in business environments.

  • Acceptance rate: 42%
  • Graduation rate: 55%
  • Annual net price: $17,186
  • Time to degree: Two (part-time and accelerated schedules are available)
  • GRE/GMAT: GMAT required; waived for applicants with a minimum 3.0 GPA
  • Minimum GPA: 3.0
  • Enrollment periods per year: Three
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

Accreditation: Mississippi College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

25. Regis University

Denver, Colorado

About the program: Regis' online accounting master's program features 30 credits of courses in corporate finance, financial communication, and interpreting accounting information, along with specializations in forensic auditing and IT accounting.

  • Acceptance rate: 71%
  • Graduation rate: 57%
  • Annual net price: $25,483
  • Time to degree: One to two years
  • GRE/GMAT: Not required
  • Minimum GPA: Not publicly required
  • Enrollment periods per year: Six
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous

Accreditation: Regis University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Insights from a master's in accounting graduate

Mike jesowshek, a white man with short hair, smiles at the camera

 Mike Jesowshek is a modern and innovative CPA on a mission to ensure small business owners pay the least amount in taxes as legally possible. An entrepreneur for his entire career, it has become his mission to help out businesses that are going through successes and struggles — this is how the Small Business Tax Savings Podcast was born. Mike's end goal is to help business owners in an area they are often not familiar with: accounting.

What career advantages did a master's in accounting open up for you? In what ways was it worth it? 

In order to sit for the CPA exam, I had two main options: get a master's or get a double major. Since I was already dedicated to the accounting route, I thought that the master's option would be more rewarding. It allowed me to dig deeper into accounting, while also giving me the necessary credits to sit for the CPA exam.

Was there anything about earning an accounting master's that you didn't expect or anticipate? 

One thing I didn't expect was the way that others look at a master's — adding that master's to your resume goes a long way. A master's doesn't only equate to additional and deeper learning on a subject — it also demonstrates your dedication to your career and profession.

What was the most challenging course you took during your master's in accounting degree program? What advice would you give to students who are about to start this course? 

No doubt, tax was the most difficult course during my master's in accounting. With that being said, it's a major part of my career now and the deep dive into it opened me up to continue to learn more in this area. My advice would be to fight through it. It's tough and can turn you away from the profession, but also understand that as you get into practice, you often will get more specialized within the code. Therefore, full in-depth knowledge of everything will very unlikely ever be part of your job.

What to expect in an online master's in accounting degree program

In general, an online accounting master's program features intermediate and advanced financial accounting and taxation training for individuals, businesses, and corporations. Many degrees also include courses in business, economics, ethics, and communication. Classes require individual and group work, practical assignments, and advanced research.

Many accounting master's programs provide at least 150 clinical hours in preparation for postgraduate industry certifications, like the certified public accountant (CPA) credential. Some degrees offer specialization tracks as well, such as forensic accounting and financial management. Students in accounting programs typically possess analytical, math, and organizational skills, along with the self-motivation and proactiveness needed for online learning. 

Master's in accounting courses

While the courses in an accounting master's program vary depending on the school, the following list highlights some of the most common courses in accounting offered at the master's level.

Financial Statement Analysis

This course teaches students how to interpret and analyze financial statements. Learners also look at the rules and impacts of financial statements and analysis, along with their applications and limitations.

Accounting Ethics 

In this course, students learn about the rules, regulations, and ethical standards in place for accounting professionals. They explore some of the most common issues in the field and the professional codes of conduct.

Auditing and Assurance

Students in this course learn about the roles of auditors and assurance providers. They examine internal and external audits, risk assessments, and reporting guidelines for these processes.

Taxation

This course explores the taxation responsibilities in individual, business, corporate, and governmental accounting. Students examine tax laws and financial planning issues associated with taxation.

Accounting degree levels

The different accounting degree levels provide varying depths of training. Different degree levels influence what skills a student will develop and what careers they will be able to enter. An individual's level of education also impacts the types of certifications available after graduation.  

Associate in accounting

  • Length: One to two years
  • Cost: $11,390 per year (on average)
  • Post-grad careers: Bookkeeping clerks, financial clerks, and administrative assistants

At the associate degree level, accounting programs train students in the fundamentals and principles of business and accounting. Students learn how to read and analyze financial documents in various settings and for different purposes. 

These degrees equip learners to pursue entry-level business and accounting careers, along with further education in those fields. The training usually combines classroom instruction and practical assignments and provides skills in payroll, financial analysis, banking, and record keeping.

Bachelor's in accounting

  • Length: Four years
  • Cost: $28,120 per year (on average)
  • Post-grad careers: Accountants, auditors, and financial analysts

An online accounting degree at the bachelor's level equips learners with a solid foundation in business and accounting. The training prepares learners for many accounting careers and industry certifications, along with further training for aspiring accounting and business leaders. 

Students develop skills in financial analysis, research, and taxation, along with the ability to perform these roles in different settings. Bachelor's programs usually combine independent study, classroom instruction, practical assignment, and applied learning. 

Master's in accounting

  • Length: One to two years
  • Cost: $19,790 per year (on average)
  • Post-grad careers: Budget analysts, financial examiners, and financial managers

An accounting master's degree delves into advanced concepts in business and financial management, teaching students to combine and apply their training from each of these fields. Learners develop leadership, advanced research, and analysis skills, and they learn to use various field techniques and technologies. 

Many master's programs offer specialization options, such as cost accounting, international accounting, and forensic accounting. Students can also pursue accounting through an MBA concentration. Master's graduates qualify for most advanced accounting professions and certifications.

Doctorate in accounting

A doctorate in accounting focuses on advanced analysis of financial information and markets. Students also learn advanced research and teaching methods, gaining the ability to apply their research findings to develop hypotheses, further questions, and plan lessons. 

At this level, the majority of work involves seminars, discussion groups, and independent research. Learners typically establish a research specialization, complete a comprehensive examination, and write a dissertation. 

In conclusion

While students can find value in all types and levels of accounting training, an accounting master's degree qualifies graduates for some of the most desirable accounting positions and credentials. Prospective students can start their search on this page knowing the programs listed provide some of the best training in the country.