Online Accounting Degrees: Valuable Asset or Waste of Money?

Posted on 09. Jul, 2007 by in Saving & Investing

Accounting and finance degrees are in high demand. You can’t argue with that. Just last year, CNN Money listed accounting as one of the top 5 hottest careers.

College graduates with an accounting degree but not yet a CPA designation might make between $35,000 and $45,000 a year, or up to $50,000 in large cities like New York. After a couple of years they can command a substantial pay hike if they move to large company as an internal staff auditor or to a smaller company as controller. At that point, their salary can jump to anywhere from $50,000 to $75,000.

But do you need a 4 year degree from an ivy-league school to command that kind of cash? Or can you earn a degree in finance or accounting online or through a correspondence program? might be able to answer a few questions about online degrees that may entice you to make that career move you’ve been thinking about. The site lists a large number of popular and obscure online degree programs with accounting and finance-related degrees. You can earn an associate’s degree (typically sufficient for a simply bookkeeping job) or you can earn a Bachelor’s degree which can open the door to many accounting positions.

However, many people shy away from online or distance learning, and they have good reason to. The “industry” has been plagued by cheap “diploma mills” which are willing to give anyone a diploma with little or no work… as long as your willing to pay for it.

But if you go into an online learning program such as the University of Phoenix, Kaplan University Online, or the DeVry Institute, with a little knowledge you can find a quality education that fits your lifestyle (and budget). Here are a few tips to consider while doing your research:

Choose an Accredited School: Be sure to check out the US Department of Education’s list of accredited schools to find legitimate programs that other schools and employers will recognize.

Check With Your Future Employers: If you want to work for a “big 4” accounting firm, then give them a call and ask about being hired with an online degree. Some may prefer a certain program, or ask that you also complete supplemental coursework. Your local CPA firm might not. So be sure to ask your future employer.

Consider Schools You Know and Trust: This doesn’t mean you should attend the school with the most commercials on TV. Ask around. Find some friends who have pursued online education and ask them about their experiences.

Recognize the Warning Signs: Don’t waste your money on an institution that functions as a diploma mill by issuing degrees for money with little or no work required, claims to be accredited when it isn’t, charges either sky-high or very low fees, or fails to provide a physical address.

Reflect on Your Schedule: Most online courses are just as rigorous and time-consuming as traditional on-campus courses, which typically require three to four hours of class time each week in addition to homework.

Know Thyself: Are you disciplined and dedicated enough to pull this off? Because of the many distractions you’re likely to encounter at home and through work, you’ll have to force yourself to study and complete assignments on time.

How’s Your Writing? The nature of online communication means your reading comprehension and your ability to develop your thoughts in writing will be key. Many colleges offer refresher writing courses if you think you need to improve.

Take a Test Drive: The lack of face-to-face contact and conversation with your professor and fellow students just might make you batty. Before committing to a degree track, try taking just one online class first.

Sure, an online degree isn’t for everyone… but it may be exactly what you were looking for. So do your homework and be sure to check out sites like which provide you with a list of degree possibilities.

The preceding review, written in my unbiased opinion, was a paid review of

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3 Responses to “Online Accounting Degrees: Valuable Asset or Waste of Money?”

  1. Abi

    10. Jul, 2007

    When I started reading this post I thought ‘Hmm, this sounds suspiciously like a paid review.’ Turns out I was right. I don’t care if people write paid reviews, I’d just like to be informed of it before getting to the end of an entry.

    Sure, you’ve got good advice in there, but a little warning would be great.

  2. Jason Guthrie

    14. Jul, 2007

    Abi, you made a good point. If you’ve read any other of my paid review of personal finance-related items I think my readers might be interested in, you’ll notice that I always put a disclaimer at the beginning of the post. In this case, I felt my thoughts were far from a paid review and more of my own opinions than anything. In this case I would have recommended as a source of information – regardless of whether the post was a paid review or not.

  3. John Kohr

    26. Oct, 2007

    Wow you can’t beat an honest person!Jason you command respect for that one.If you ever get a chance to read this post would you send me a e-mail on how to get into doing paid reviews or just some good information on it Experience is always first in my book.By the way I enjoyed the review.
    John Kohr Home Based Business Reviews

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