10 Best Online Accounting Courses
Whether you are starting a career in accounting or looking to change careers, online courses are a great place to start.
Online courses can be full bachelor’s or master's degrees, foundation programs or focused on specializations. They generally consist of pre-recorded material that the student can work through at their own pace.
Some courses run throughout the year and are referred to as on-demand, while others have set start dates and deadlines.
The on-demand courses allow you to start as soon as you are ready and have the time.
They are also usually more cost-effective than in-person learning as you don't have as much support or feedback and access to additional resources.
Online courses also come in different experience levels, meaning there is always a course suited to your ability.
Becoming an accountant usually requires a bachelor's degree in accounting or finance.
To be CPA accredited in the US, you need 150 hours of semester hours of college coursework – that is 30 hours more than a standard four-year degree.
Taking additional courses may help you reach that target minimum or help with higher education applications.
Accounting is forecasted to grow 4% over the next 10 years, making it a safe career choice.
While the traditional learning route – bachelor's degree, master's degree, work experience, accreditation – is still preferred, online courses can:
- Help develop essential accounting skills
- Provide deeper learning and understanding of the subject
- Assist with CPA exam preparation
- Make graduate and postgraduate college applications stand out
- Help further your career prospects
As technology develops, all industries are looking at ways to innovate their products and services. Therefore, it may be essential for you to take online courses to keep up with changing trends.
The latest trend from finance is fintech (financial technology). Top universities worldwide are adding fintech courses and programs to their curriculum, with the majority being online.
Equally, online courses help new learners decide what topics interest them and which don't.
There are two types of accountants:
- Management accountants
- Financial accountants
There are four common specialisms:
Taking an online course may help you decide where and if you want to specialize.
Online accounting courses are also useful for those venturing into entrepreneurship. All successful business owners need to have an understanding of finance, especially in the beginning when there is no budget to hire an accountant.
If you are considering a career change, then an online course is an excellent introduction to that industry. It also shows potential employers or educational institutions that you are serious about your new career and are willing to put in the time and effort to learn a new craft.
When choosing an online accounting course, you might want to consider:
What your goals are – Are you looking for foundation courses to get you started or something more substantial? Do you want to take a course because it is part of your career plan to help you get into college or because you are starting your own business?
Who teaches it – Is the course taught by a professor with years of experience, a leading member of an accounting charter or someone who just has an interest in accounting? Is the course associated with a high-ranking business school or university?
Whether it is recognized by any governing bodies – Is it recognized by the AICPA, CIMA or CGFM? Does it add any credits to your CPE?
The student reviews – What did past students like or not like about the course?
The assessment method – Some courses offer multiple-choice exams, while others require a completed capstone project. Do you have enough time to complete a big project or does an exam suit your current situation better?
The particulars – What are the costs and additional costs? Do you need to pay extra for course material and a certificate? Is it fully flexible? Do you have access to the tutor, or are questions answered in a forum or group discussion?
Additional material – Are print-outs and additional resources freely available or do you need to pay extra for them? Are the videos and PDFs in the curriculum the only available resources?
The following courses vary in price, length and level. They are not bachelor's or master's degrees but stepping stones to an accounting career or means to level up your knowledge.
The majority are run by reputable universities but do not appear to have any accreditation with accounting professional bodies. However, if you are looking to improve your college application or move into accounting, these courses may help.
Before committing to a course, reach out to the tutors to confirm how it will help with your career development.
Duration: Two hours – series of three-minute videos
Price: Included with LinkedIn Premium subscription, free one-month trial or $39.99 one-off payment
The course was created by Jim and Kay Stice. They are both very well-respected professors who teach accounting at BYU Marriott School of Management.
- What is accounting
- Balance sheets
- Income statement and cash flow
- Managerial accounting
- Income taxes
This course is registered with the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) and provides 3.6 Continuing Professional Education (CPE) credits.
Duration: Approximately 14 hours
Price: Free to enroll but various charges for certificate and course material
The Financial Accounting Fundamentals course is taught by a professor from the Darden School of Business, University of Virginia.
It has enrolled over 99,000 students, with 85% giving the course a five-star rating.
Reviews state that the course has a good mix of video lessons, case studies and practical exercises.
All deadlines are flexible, so it fits into your schedule.
The topics covered are:
- Financial accounting
- Balance sheet
- Recording transactions
- Income statements
- Cash flow
- Financial statement preparation
- Annual reports
- Analysis of financial statements
This course is part of the Entrepreneurship: Growing your Business Specialization program. While it does offer accounting fundamentals, it is aimed at small business owners and entrepreneurs.
Duration: Six weeks
The course covers:
- Recording costs
- Cost classification and measuring
- Source documents and coding
- Nature and purpose of cost and management accounting
The primary purpose of the course is to prepare students for ACCA exams. However, it has also been recommended to those:
- Starting a career in accounting
- Studying business or finance
- About to launch a start-up
The course is self-paced but recommended study time is around five to six hours per week.
Duration: 12 hours – fully flexible learning
Price: Free enrolment but added fees for study material and certificate
This course is taught by an associate professor from the IESE Business School, University of Navarra.
The topics covered are:
- Introduction to accounting
- Income statement
- Cash flow statements
- Accrual accounting
Past students have commented that this course is easy to follow and offers lots of practical examples. Nearly 86% gave it a five-star rating.
Principles of Financial Accounting is part of two other programs:
- Foundations of Management specialization
- Think like a CFO specialization
As both programs are specializations, they come with a hands-on capstone project to demonstrate your understanding.
For those considering a career in accounting, the CFO specialization will give a deeper understanding of finances.
Duration: Six hours
Price: Included with LinkedIn Premium subscription or free one-month trial
Taught by Jim and Kay Stice, this course offers MBA-level information.
Part one modules include:
- Accounting equations
- Assets and liabilities
- Owner's equity
- Balance sheet and income statements
- How financial statements are made
- Debits and credits
- Accrual accounting
Part two includes:
- Ratio analysis
- Business valuation
This course is recognized by NASBA and offers 5.4 CPE points.
Reviews state that the course is well structured and has enjoyable practical exercises and case studies.
Duration: Six months – recommended learning of four hours per week
Price: Free to enroll but study material and certificate may incur additional costs
This course is ideal for managers and entrepreneurs as it covers:
- Understanding financial statements
- Accounting for business decision making
- Fundamentals of accounting capstone project
The course is taught by an accounting professor from the University of Illinois.
The content taught is in-depth with lots of practical information and examples, making it helpful for CPA exam preparation.
For those interested in furthering their learning with an MBA, the University of Illinois offers a competitive iMBA that follows on from this specialization.
Duration: Five hours – on demand
This course was created by an award-winning MBA professor. It is the number one best-selling Udemy accounting course and has received great reviews from Business Insider magazine.
- Income statement analysis
- Balance sheet analysis
- Financial modeling – best practices and how to find historical data
- Valuation – best practices, discontinued cash flow, price to revenue, price to earnings, final target price calculations
- Assessing financials with formulas
While the course is not accredited with any accounting union or charter, Udemy is widely recognized by companies like Mercedes and Adidas as being reliable and trustworthy.
Duration: Nine months – eight to 12 hours per week
This course is delivered by the award-winning accounting faculty from Kelley School of Business, Indiana University, and covers 30% of their online Master's of Science Accounting course.
It includes three courses:
- Financial reporting
- Managerial accounting and corporate control
- Taxes and decision making
After completing this course, you can enroll in the master's program without needing to sit the GMAT.
This course is also ideal for those preparing for their CPA exam.
While the MicroMasters course gives you a level of understanding that allows you to quickly get on with your career, it is a long course that can be challenging at times.
The assignments and exams have set deadlines, so there is very little flexibility.
This course is only recommended for those serious about their accounting career.
Level: Intermediate to advanced
Duration: Five hours – on demand
Price: $99.99, but often on sale
This course has been updated for 2021 and is recommended for:
- Small business owners and entrepreneurs
- Those wanting to level up in their accounting career
The instructor has an MBA and is an accredited Chief Financial Officer (CFO).
This course is self-paced, but you can contact the tutor at any time by sending a help message.
Reviews state that the course includes a lot of useful information and is easy to understand but lacks practical examples.
Before starting the course, you need an understanding of financial reporting and the basics of accounting.
The modules covered include:
- Deferred revenue
- Intercompany transactions
- Foreign exchange transactions
- Options and warrants
- Consolidating subsidiaries
Duration: Six weeks, self-paced
This course is designed to:
- Provide you with a working knowledge of financial technology
- Help you identify new opportunities in finance
The program was created by Oxford University Associate Fellow and CFTE co-founder Huy Nguyen Trieu, and includes:
- Digitisation of money
- Digital platforms and mobile financial services
- Artificial intelligence and algorithm technology in financial services
- Central bank digital currencies
- Blockchain and cryptocurrencies
- Open banking and data networks
The program carries a heavy workload, but it lays the foundations of an excellent fintech knowledge base from an internationally recognized and well-respected institution.
Thanks to technology, online courses are readily and easily available.
While there is still the perception that traditional in-person learning is better, it is no longer the only route to success.
If the course is detailed enough and you put in the effort to learn everything you need, there is no reason why you can't secure an apprenticeship or accreditation in accountancy.
Before investing in a course, make sure:
- It is designed for your level of understanding
- It is run by a respectable tutor or institute
- It covers the topics you want to learn
- It suits your schedule