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Top Online Accounting and Finance Schools

Top Online Accounting and Finance SchoolsAccounting is not as simple as the basic arithmetic one might use to balance a checkbook. Accountants need to be able to understand and compute the amount of taxes owed and determine the potential tax advantages of a business decision or an individual’s purchases. Accountants might also calculate financial risk, although typically this is done just with investments. Accountants need certification as a public accountant to be able to file documents with the Security and Exchange Commission or to sign off on financial documents with the state.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov, 2012), many states have increased the requirements for certification as a public accountant to include 150 semester hours of education needed before taking the CPA exam. The new requirement is 30 hours more than typically offered through a bachelor’s degree program, but some schools offer five-year bachelor’s and master’s degree combined programs as a result. The BLS also notes a master’s degree in accounting may be helpful in obtaining a role in management (BLS.gov, 2012).

Accounting

Coursework in accounting can focus on economics, tax law, finance and business. Courses can also cover accounting theory, accounting principles, business management skills and advanced bookkeeping methods. Some accountants may also take classes in macro and micro economics if they will be working in finance. Students should also gain experience working with financial and bookkeeping software. Many schools offer both bachelor’s and master’s accounting degrees entirely online or through distance learning. Some schools may require on-site attendance for business classes or require relevant work experience. Check with your school to find out what parts of an online accounting and finance degree program can be completed that way. Degree program in accounting should help prepare students to take the CPA exam.

This exam has been compared to the state bar law exam and described as one of the most difficult to pass. The exam is 14 hours in length and consists of four sections: auditing and attestation, business environment and concepts, financial accounting and reporting, and regulation. The SEC requires that any accountant filing reports with them be certified as a CPA (BLS.gov, 2012). CPAs are licensed by their state’s Board of Accountancy.

Best accounting schools

The following schools were ranked by U.S. News & World Report as some of 2012’s best online MBA schools, based on student engagement and accreditation. These are the top 10 schools for earning a graduate degree in accounting or finance on that list.

1.  University of Scranton
2.  University of San Diego
3.  Washington State University
4.  Clarkson University
5.  Texas A&M University - Commerce
6.  Quinnipiac University
7.  St. Joseph's University
8.  University of Houston - Clear Lake
9.  Arkansas State University - Jonesboro
10. University of Florida

Below are some of the accounting and finance focuses available from Online schools and colleges through SchoolsGalore.com

Accounting and auditing

Modern accountants are expected to assess financial operations and make recommendations to clients or management in addition to inspecting publically disclosed, or what will be disclosed, financial books to ensure accounting best practices are followed and fraud is not present. The BLS reports that many companies require their accountants to have earned a bachelor’s degree but that in some cases work experience may be sufficient.

The BLS (BLS.gov, 2012) reported that 24 percent of accountants and auditors worked in accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping, and payroll services in 2010. Accountants and auditors earned an annual national wage of $62,850 median in 2011 (BLS.gov, 2012). The top 10 percent earned up to $109,870 nationally and the lowest 10 percent earned up to $39,640 nationally in 2011.The BLS also notes that the hours can be demanding as many accountants worked more than 40 hours a week during the end of a company’s budget year or during tax season. The BLS predicts nationwide employment growth in the field of up to 16 percent 2010 to 2020 as tighter regulations may increase the need for audits.

Bookkeepers

Bookkeepers are responsible for organizing the general ledger of businesses. While they do not provide the analysis that a professional accountant may provide, they can do much of the same basic work and, according to the BLS, they do not need to meet the same degree requirements. Many received much of their training while on the job. Bookkeepers may be required to file payroll accounts and may be responsible to process accounts payable or accounts receivable, which tracks where money is going and coming from. The profession is increasingly relying upon bookkeeping software such as QuickBooks. If working under a CPA, a bookkeeper may even be responsible for some financial analysis.

The BLS (BLS.gov, 2012) reported an annual national wage of $34,740 median for bookkeepers, accounting, and auditing clerks in 2011. The top 10 percent earned up to $53,250 nationally and the lowest 10 percent earned up to $21,450 nationally. The BLS predicts a nationwide employment growth in the field of up to 14 percent from 2010 to 2020 as organizations grow and need more bookkeepers to help with company books (BLS.gov, 2012).

Finance managers

Considered part of corporate accounting, financial managers often work in large companies and prepare financial reports for upper management. Sometimes, a financial manager may be employed as a controller or finance officer. Sometimes they are responsible for managing a company’s credit, as a cash manager, and calculate the risk of investments or insurances as a risk manager. If a finance manager is employed as a treasurer, they may make decisions as to when to raise capital.

The BLS notes that controllers, risk managers and cash managers direct the preparation of finance reports by accountants while also forecasting the financial outlook of their organization based on income, earnings and expenses data. They may also be responsible for providing the SEC with the required financial reports if their company is publicly traded.

A graduate degree can be helpful to a finance manager who is managing or supervising junior accountants, the BLS notes. Additionally, as a result of an increase in finance reporting software, finance managers are increasingly being asked to provide advice for senior management and are expected to have an education in their specialization, be it health care, tax law or government appropriations and budgets.

The BLS (BLS.gov, 2012) reported an annual national wage of $107,160 median for financial managers in 2011. The top 10 percent earned up to $146,150 nationally and the lowest 10 percent earned up to $58,120 nationally. The BLS predicts nationwide employment growth in the field of up to 23 percent 2010 to 2020 due to increasingly-complex investment portfolios and updated regulatory reform (BLS.gov, 2012).

Banking and finance examiners

Unlike other accounting occupations, banking and finance examiners need to have earned a bachelor’s degree in finance, economics or statistics and have only taken classes in accounting. As a result, examiners research a bank’s financial statements, both traditional or investment types, to determine the safety and soundness of the institution. They can review the meetings of bank managers and determine the impact of new regulations.

According to the BLS, banking and financial examiners receive some on-the-job training that can last from one month to more than a year and those examiners can work with securities analysts to evaluate the risk of a bank or determine if it is “too big to fail.” Additionally, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) requires its examiners to have taken at least six semesters of accounting as a requirement for employment.

The BLS (BLS.gov, 2012) reported an annual national wage of $75,250 median for financial examiners in 2011. The top 10 percent earned up to $138,700 nationally and the lowest 10 percent earned up to $43,520 nationally in 2011. The BLS (BLS.gov, 2012) predicts nationwide employment growth in the field of up to 27 percent 2010 to 2020 as new financial regulations may require a greater need for examiners.

Learn more about accredited accounting and finance programs from online schools and colleges through SchoolsGalore.com

When researching colleges and universities, be sure to verify that your school is accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council or another accrediting agency approved by The U.S. Department of Education or The Council for Higher Education Accreditation, or both. DETC and CHEA both provide a searchable list of approved schools.

The CPA exam is provided by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, which provides a list each state’s CPA licensing requirements. Continued professional education is a requirement for licensure in all states. The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy provides a list of accepted continued education courses for CPAs in addition to further information on the CPA exam.

 

Sources and further reading:

The Council for Higher Education Accreditation

The U.S. Department of Education

The Distance Education and Training Council

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

O*NET Online

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants

The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy

U.S. News & World Report

Online Accounting and Finance Schools

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