Today, I’ll be covering five crucial factors to consider before enrolling in an online accounting degree program. I know how stressful it can be trying to decide among all the different online universities out there especially considering how important your education is and the significance that it can have on the rest of your life. Luckily for you, I’m going to cut out all the fluff and really dig into the core decision factors that truly matter. So you can figure out which online accounting degree program is the right fit for your particular situation. So if you are ready let’s get to it.
How to Choose the Best Online Accounting Degree Program?
Goals and Objectives
The first thing that you need to do is sit down and really think about what you want to do with your online degree in accounting. What is your end goal? Is it to become a staff accountant, financial analyst, bookkeeper, financial examiner, auditor, or controller?
There are tons of different options; the point is that you first need to nail down exactly what it is you want to do or specialize in. This will help you figure out which county degree program best aligns with your personal objectives. That way as you do your research, you can start identifying what I call x-factors among all these different universities and their degree programs.
By x-factors I’m talking about the specific attributes offerings and curriculum that align with your personal goals. So think different concentration options. Does the university offer a specific concentration in the area or niche in which you are most interested? How many elective credits are there as part of the degree track? That way you can really zero in on the topics that are you are most passionate about.
Are there any specific accounting certifications that are integrated into the degree program so you can further boost your resume or maybe your ultimate goal is to earn a master’s degree or MBA after completing your bachelor’s. In that case, you’ll likely want to check out online universities that offer accelerated bachelors to master’s pathways.
Purdue University Global which is a popular national online university is a perfect example of this. Essentially, if you meet the grade requirements in certain bachelor’s degree courses, you can gain entry into a shortened version of Purdue Global’s MBA program. That way, you can complete both degrees in less time and at a lower cost than completing both separately.
So the big takeaway here is that by spending time up front, thinking about your end goals and objectives it will help you identify which programs might be a good fit for you personally.
So now that you have a good idea of what your best fit degree program looks like, you need to consider the admission requirements and the admission process. Online universities generally fall into one of two buckets either open enrollment or selective enrollment.
Selective enrollment schools are the more traditional types of universities that probably come to mind when you hear the word college: think Berkeley, NYU, and Vanderbilt. These types of universities tend to have stringent admission requirements. You’ll likely need a minimum GPA, a good SAT or ACT score and write a personal statement among other things.
So if you have a strong academic background and you don’t mind jumping through some hoops in order to get accepted into a top-ranked accounting program, then you might want to focus your research on selective enrollment schools. Just keep in mind though the acceptance rates at selective enrollment schools can be low.
There’s definitely no guarantee that you’ll get into a selective enrollment school so you may also want to consider open enrollment universities. These types of schools are great for students who might not have the strongest academic background or for people who may have been in the workforce for a while and are now looking to go back to school since the only admission requirement depending on the program at open enrollment schools.
Typically, students just have a high school diploma or GED. So if this type of admissions process is more aligned with your background or current situation I would recommend checking out Purdue University Global. I’ll be using them for example purposes throughout this article since they are a well-known national online university.
Pricing and Affordability
The third and quite possibly most important factor to consider is pricing and affordability. What is an online bachelor’s degree in accounting going to cost and as you might imagine there are a few factors to consider here.
Tuition per Credit
The first thing I would do is look at the university’s tuition per credit rate and the number of credits required for graduation. Doing some quick math will give you a good idea of the total cost to earn your online accounting degree.
Typically, national online universities require either 120 or 180 credits to graduate and then in terms of pricing it typically range between about $250 per credit on the low end all the way up to $550 per credit on the high end. Though this depends on the universities you’re considering as well as other factors, like whether you’re in-state versus out-of-state, an international student, part of the military, and more.
On top of the standard tuition costs, online universities usually charge other fees and assessment as well that you’ll definitely want to watch out for. These include technology fees, transcript fees, learning assessments, graduation fees, etc. Sometimes, these secondary costs can really add up, so it’s worth looking into prior to enrolling.
Allowable Transfer Credits
While we are on the topic of affordability there are two more factors to keep in mind: one is allowable transfer credits. You’ll definitely want to research this if you have credits left over from a college course that you might have taken in the past. This is a great way to reduce the overall cost of your degree program.
For example, Purdue University Global allows students to transfer up to 75 of the total credits required for graduation and the average bachelor’s graduate earns their degree in about two years. Of course, each online university has their own transfer policies and rules so you should definitely do your own research but I at least wanted to make you aware of this.
Now the other thing to look out for here are trial periods. In some cases, online universities allow you to do a free trial run before you go and plop down thousands of dollars in tuition. For example once again, Purdue Global offers a no financial obligation three-week trial period. So essentially you can enroll, take classes for three weeks, see if you like it, and then decide whether to continue or opt out with no tuition costs. This I think is a pretty cool option for students that are maybe on the fence.
The next factor to consider is financial aid and I’m not talking about student loans because at the end of the day pretty much anyone can go out and get themselves a federal or private student loan. Instead, what’s more important and interesting to look at is the average amount of institutional aid that universities provide directly.
In other words, what percentage of new beginning full-time students can get grants or scholarships from the actual university and not third party sources and what is the average amount of that aid? This will give you a good idea of what your chances are of securing funds from the university to help reduce the overall cost of earning your degree.
And yes that type of information is publicly available if you are wondering. You can actually get this data directly from the US Department of Education. So you can check out what the stats are for the specific university that you are interested in.
Before we move on from the topic of financial aid, I should mention that some national online universities also offer different incentives and promotions to keep students motivated after they first enroll. In most cases, these incentives are called progress scholarships, welcome grants, or something to that effect. Essentially, how they work is that if you stay continuously enrolled at the university and meet some other basic eligibility requirements.
Schools will often reduce your tuition rate in order to keep you motivated and on track to earn your degree and the other item you should inquire about is tuition locks. Some online universities lock in the tuition rate for the duration of your degree program when you first enroll. That means there won’t be any surprise tuition hikes down the road, so definitely make sure to ask if one of these options is available to you during the application process.
The final factor on my list today that you should consider prior to enrolling in an online accounting degree program is program format or in other words how the courses and terms are structured or scheduled. In my experience, most online degree programs fall into one of three buckets: short accelerated terms, traditional school terms, and self-paced.
Short Accelerated Terms
In that first category of short accelerated terms, some online universities work off five to six week terms in which students take one course at a time or sometimes two, max. The courses move very swiftly but the nice thing is that you only have to focus on one class at a time. You don’t have to juggle three or four courses at once.
So if you’re the type of student who maybe has trouble multitasking or staying organized and on schedule then this type of program format might be a good fit for you assuming you have the free time for a compressed schedule.
Traditional School Terms
The second type of format is more of the classic college experience that you are probably used to. Once you take two to five classes per term, this is your typical quarter or semester system where terms usually last anywhere from eight to 12 weeks. I would say the majority of online universities fall into this bucket. So if you want a more typical traditional higher education schedule, even if it’s part time, I would suggest you focus your research on these types of program formats.
Purdue Global which I’ve mentioned several times already follows this format. They offer 10-week terms in which each program requires a weekly commitment of around 15 to 18 hours on average. They have some helpful information on their website regarding how their courses and terms are structured, so you can get a better feel for this type of program format.
Self-Paced Learning Formats
Last up here I want to cover is the self-paced learning formats that seem to be picking up steam in recent years. Essentially, with these types of degree programs you can take courses at your own speed and move on to the next course whenever you’re ready. So if you want to tackle multiple courses at a time and fly through the degree program as quickly as possible, you can in as little as 15 to 18 months.
In some cases or if you have other obligations like a full-time job or young children and you can spare only a few hours per week, you can slow it down and study at your own pace. Bottom line, if you are super busy or you have a hectic/chaotic schedule that is constantly changing, this type of self-paced program might be a great fit.
Sometimes, there are schools that offer both types of degree formats, Purdue University Global being one of them, you can earn your online accounting degree following the traditional path that i just covered a minute ago where there’s 10 week terms or for select students Purdue Global offers what they call their excel track which is a perfect example of the self-paced degree format where you’re in the driver’s seat.
Final Thoughts on the Best Online Accounting Degree Program
I know making a decision about something as important as your education is extremely difficult so I hope this was some helpful advice around online universities and gives you some guidance in finding an accounting degree program that best fits your specific goals, budget, and learning preferences.
If you are interested in another online degree area outside of accounting, be sure to check out the rest of our online bachelor’s degree programs. We have a ton of helpful articles related to online education.