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Best Accounting Schools in Kentucky in 2021

October 4, 2021 | Staff Writers

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Kentucky is a beautiful mid-south state with a thriving economy, making it a great option for those who are looking to get started in the field of accounting. There are many major employers in logistics, bourbon production, and vehicle management, for example, and these companies need people with financial expertise.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, accountants in the state can expect to earn an average salary of $70,710 per year. There are currently 11,380 accountants in the state, and employment is expected to increase by 3 to 4% between 2019 and 2029 across the United States.

Not everyone who studies an accounting bachelor’s degree goes on to become a certified public accountant. Many people who study the field decide to progress to a master’s degree in business and administration or choose to pursue work in a related area such as financial management, bookkeeping, or cost estimating.

A two-year college degree is sufficient to work as a bookkeeper, and a bachelor’s degree with a major in accounting can prepare a student for the CPA exam. It’s possible to pursue these degrees through an online college, but many people enjoy the experience of studying on campus, especially in the Bluegrass State with its many natural beauty spots and thriving social scene.

Pros and cons of attending a Kentucky accounting school

Kentucky is a beautiful place to go to college or university, with some well-respected and longstanding institutions offering accounting courses. The University of Kentucky, for example, is a public institution that dates back to 1865, while Kentucky State University was founded in 1886.

The state is small and has more navigable miles of water than any other part of the USA, as well as a diverse landscape. Agriculture is an important part of Kentucky’s economy, and tourism is important too, with many visitors coming for the iconic Kentucky Derby.

The public university system in the state is made u of eight campuses, offering courses at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. Tuition fees vary depending on the institution, but in general, education in the state can be affordable, with state universities having low fees compared to private institutions.

What are the pros of attending an accounting program in Kentucky?

Kentucky is a great place to study accounting, especially for those who are working towards the CPA examination. To become a licensed CPA in the state, students are required to complete an extensive program of education and take the CPA exam. 

This examination is a four-part, in-depth test with a national average pass rate of just over 50%. Unlike other tests, the scores are not curved, you’re simply marked, then pass or fail. You can work in business jobs with a degree even if you haven’t passed the CPA, but to work as an accountant, you need to have your license.

The Gatton College of Business and Economics is an accredited university with an accounting program that claimed a 100% pass rate for the CPA exam in 2013. That’s an incredible feat, and one that makes places on their B.S. and master’s programs highly desirable.

Another advantage of studying at such an institution is the graduate employment rates. Gatton College, and other longstanding accredited universities in Kentucky, all have good relationships with employers, sometimes including Big Four accounting firms. This means you can be confident you’ll find it easy to find stable employment upon graduation.

What are the cons of attending an accounting program in Kentucky?

Kentucky is generally regarded as a good place to study, however, there are some challenges. Most universities charge higher fees for out-of-state students than they do for in-state students, so if you’re considering transferring over from a different state and a university that doesn’t take part in the Academic Common Market, you may find you’re charged much more than an in-state student.

Financial aid is available for both in-state and out-of-state students, and modern community colleges usually charge lower fees than bigger states, but

In addition, because the most high-profile universities in the state are old institutions, the on-campus accommodation isn’t great. If you dream of living in shiny new student dorms, you may be disappointed. These issues are minor ones, however, when you consider the long-term benefits of earning a bachelor’s degree or master’s in accounting.

What are the pros and cons of living in Kentucky?

Kentucky is a great place to live and work, with several major employers and an unemployment rate that is fairly similar to the national average. In addition, Kentucky is a good place for people who want to work in other states in the south-central area of the USA. It’s easy to travel to other major cities for commuting or even just for leisure.

The tax policies in the state make it a nice option for people who are looking for a long-term place to live. income taxes are reasonably low and there are some generous exemptions. While many of these exemptions are for older adults, it’s still something worth thinking about. Between the tax policies and house prices in the state, life in Kentucky can be quite affordable, making it an appealing place to raise a family.

Unfortunately, life isn’t all sunshine and roses in Kentucky. In fact, the state’s weather is one of its biggest downsides. Tornado warnings should be taken seriously, and the state gets a few severe storms every year.

Another thing to be aware of is that while the smaller towns are beautiful places to live, some of the bigger cities have smog and pollution issues. If you have asthma, or just don’t particularly fancy living somewhere with poor air quality, you’ll want to avoid Lexington and the bigger cities.

The community spirit in Kentucky can be nice, and university campuses are diverse, but the communities that form tend to be close-knit and focused around a specific ethnicity. This means those who belong to an ethnic minority will make friends on campus, and aren’t likely to feel unwelcome, but they won’t have the same rich and diverse social group as they might find in a much bigger city.

Types of accounting programs at schools in Kentucky

If you’re interested in studying for an accounting degree in Kentucky, you should first of all consider your long-term plans. Are you hoping to work in business, as a bookkeeper, or as a certified public accountant? The right study pathway for you will depend on your long-term career goals.

What types of accounting degrees are there?

Accounting students have several career options, including:

  • Associate degree
  • Bachelor’s degree with a minor in accounting
  • Bachelor’s degree with a major in accounting
  • Master’s degrees in accounting
  • Graduate-level certificates
  • Doctoral-level qualifications

Many people study accounting as a part of a business administration degree. This is ideal for those who want to have a rounded education with some knowledge of how accounting and finance work, but whose long-term goal is to find employment in some other area of business.

What types of accounting programs are available through Kentucky schools?

There are 35 institutions in Kentucky offering accounting qualifications at various levels, ranging from associate’s degrees to post-graduate courses. Students have the option of studying at public or private universities, technical colleges, or through distance learning.

If your end goal is CPA licensure, you will need to find a degree program with a major in accounting that offers a total of 150 semester hours of education, or a 120 semester hour degree plus a 30-hour preparation course for the CPA exam.

While it’s not mandatory for would-be accountants to study course that has AACSB accreditation, it’s a good idea to look for this because AACSB-accredited accounting courses are recognized not just across the United States, but internationally.

Students have the option of studying their degree on campus, online, or through a hybrid program. Online degree courses allow learners to pace their studies and are often more affordable than their on-campus counterparts, but many students find that the extra support offered by faculty with on-campus degrees makes it easier for them to complete the course.

How do you know which type of accounting program is best for you?

Choosing between different accounting courses can be difficult, especially if you haven’t decided what your long-term goals are yet.

One common option is to take a course that covers both accounting and business administration, then progress to a master’s degree at a later date. This allows you to keep your options open and means you’ll graduate with the skills required for a lot of different jobs in the world of business.

Alternatively, if you’re sure you want to take the CPA exam, you can enroll in a Bachelor of Science in Accounting program, such as the one offered at the Von Allmen School of Accountancy. For this course, students must complete a number of pre-major courses, and earn at least 27 credit hours of upper-level coursework in accountancy.

There are master’s and PhD level courses in accounting that are a good option for those who have some experience in finance and who wish to further their career. The admission requirements for these degrees are usually focused on prior grades and experience, with the faculty assuming that someone who has already completed a bachelor’s degree has enough experience in the field to feel confident that they enjoy the subject enough to enroll in a program at such a high academic level.

One of the hardest decisions for many students is deciding whether to study on campus, or whether blended or online learning is a better idea. You This decision comes down to a combination of cost, and the amount of support you expect to need as a learner.

Online learning gives you the freedom to do most of your studies at a time and place that suits you, although you may still need to attend some scheduled classes or take part in group projects throughout your studies.

Employers, for the most part, respect online degrees and their on-campus ones equally, as long as the awarding body is accredited. The most important thing for accountants is passing the four-part CPA examination and maintaining the continuing education requirements for your state.

Cost of accounting schools in Kentucky

Studying for an accounting degree can be expensive. In the long term, the earning potential of CPAs makes it worthwhile, so the cost of the degree can be treated as an investment in your future. The average income across all professions in Kentucky is $29,029, and accountants can expect to earn more than twice that amount. This means it would only take a couple of years for a graduate to ‘earn back’ their investment in their education.

What determines the cost of accounting programs?

The cost of accounting programs depends on the institution offering them, as well as the length and level of the degree, how it’s delivered, and whether it includes CPA preparation.

The cost may also be influenced by whether the student lives in the state or is an out-of-state or international learner.

Tuition fees in Kentucky are slightly above the national average for most undergraduate programs, but the state is far from the most expensive in the country. In-state students can expect fees of around $10,000 for a four-year undergraduate program delivered on campus.

What are the most affordable accounting programs in Kentucky?

The University of The Cumberlands is one of the most affordable universities, with tuition fees of just $9,875 per year for students, regardless of whether they’re a Kentucky resident, out-of-state student, or even an international enrollee.

This institution offers both on-campus and online degree programs, and the fee mentioned above is for on-campus learning. Online programs cost just $199 per credit hour, which is incredibly affordable. For comparison, Northern Kentucky University charges around $413 per credit hour.

What are the most expensive accounting programs in Kentucky?

Fees can vary significantly between institutions. The  University of Louisville is one of the more expensive institutions for students who are planning on studying on-campus, with typical fees of $21,726 per year for in-state students, or $38,072 for in-state students. 

International students can expect to pay around $40,478 per year if they’re studying an undergraduate degree.

The above fees include accommodation and a meal plan, so those who are willing to live off-campus would be faced with bills around $10,000 per year less than the ones listed above.

Many undergraduates see these fees as being worthwhile, however, because living on campus saves them time in terms of commuting, and allows them to enjoy the social side of university. In addition, the meal plan means there’s one less thing for students to worry about. All their meals are prepared for them so they don’t have to buy groceries, cook, or think about nutrition.

Tips for comparing the cost of accounting programs in Kentucky

It can be confusing to try and compare the cost of accounting degree programs from different universities, because of the way fees are presented.

Some institutions give an “all in” fee per academic year, with a breakdown of the cost of tuition, accommodation, meal plans, textbooks and other services. Other institutions present their fees per semester, or even per credit hour. This is made even more confusing by the fact that the number of credit hours offered per degree can vary between institutions.

In addition to tuition fees, many universities have other fees such as a charge for the use of facilities, or mandatory student society memberships. Students will also be expected to pay for textbooks and study materials, as well as potentially cover the cost of their CPA exam.

Finally, there is the application fee to consider, along with any “continuing enrollment charges” that may arise, especially for online degrees that students can complete part-time.

Application fees are significant because they’re payable up-front and usually aren’t refundable if you don’t meet the entry requirements for the course. You’ll need to have the money to pay for these, and you need to be accepted onto a course before you can apply for financial aid.

Continuing enrollment fees are worth taking into account because they can add hundreds, or sometimes more than $1,000 to the total cost of a course. Some students are happy to pay these fees while studying part-time, however, because they’re paying per credit hour and find it easier to spread the cost of the degree program over a longer period.

Best schools with accounting degree programs in Kentucky

Those looking to start an accounting program in Kentucky will find that there’s no shortage of universities to consider, including some highly-rated institutions. In fact, two of the universities offering bachelor’s degrees in accounting that prepare learners for the CPA are rated in the top 200 by U.S. News & World Report.

Which colleges in Kentucky have the best accounting programs?

Some of the best accounting programs at the bachelor’s degree level are offered by:

What do the best accounting degree programs in Kentucky have in common?

The best accounting degree programs are ones that are delivered by a college or university that is accredited by a body listed on the Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs.

Ideally, someone who wants to become a CPA would pursue a degree accredited by the AACSB, however, that is not required. Any accredited degree that covers sufficient accounting-related content to prepare a graduate for the CPA examination would be respected by most employers and allow someone to work in a finance-related role.

In some ways, the most important thing is not the name of the body that accredits the degree, but the experience and contacts that the student would earn along the way.

Many bricks-and-mortar universities have close links with major employers. For example, the Gatton College of Business and Economics at the University of Kentucky is highly regarded because it maintains close links with the accounting industry. Many graduates of the school go on to work with Deloitte, PwC, KPMG, and other large CPA firms, or get placements at Fortune 500 companies.

Even community and technical colleges now offer students help to build their careers upon graduation. Gateway Community and Technical College offers students the chance to earn certificates while they study, so they can promote themselves on LinkedIn and start making connections with employers even before they graduate. They also offer opportunities for students to gain real-world experience via internships.

Somerset Community College offers a number of degree options that are focused on giving students real-world skills. Their general business administration courses include leadership, small business management and financial perspective modules that offer immediate value to employers whether they’re looking for entry-level work or hoping to climb the ladder at a major corporation.

How can you enroll in a top accounting program in Kentucky?

Whether you’re looking to study a managerial accounting MBA program or a business administration degree at the bachelor’s level, you’ll need to apply to the university or college and earn a place in the program.

Some institutions have open enrollment, so if you can pay the fee you can start the course. This is common with online courses at the undergraduate level. Top accounting and business programs, however, are more selective because the universities offering them have reputations to uphold and want to make sure they have high graduation rates and a good pass rate for the CPA.

To earn a place in a degree program at a top university, you’ll need to complete a personal statement, have a transcript showing a good GPA, and pass an interview.

Northern Kentucky University uses a special admission process, where students enter their accounting program as a Pre-Accounting major, then join the college on the B.S. in Business Administration – Accounting if they successfully complete the accounting-related programs with a grade C or better and have an overall GPA of 2.5 or better. Students who don’t qualify for the accounting major may still have the opportunity to graduate with a B.S. in Business Administration.

While many students complete a bachelor’s degree and consider that the end of their academic life, there are plenty of options for continuing education. If you haven’t decided what you’d like to do after graduation, it makes sense to study a bachelor’s degree in business administration and specialize in your master’s.

Some universities offer students the opportunity to go directly from a general bachelor’s into a master’s degree program and offer some flexibility to change the focus of the master’s after enrollment. With this kind of program, you don’t have to worry about tying yourself down to one specific area such as forensic accounting or auditing early on in your academic studies.

If you don’t currently have the GPA to be accepted into an accounting program, consider re-taking any pre-requisite general education and mathematics courses to improve your overall grades. Alternatively, apply to a general business program and request to transfer to an accounting major based on the strength of your grades in the first year if you’re confident that you’ll be able to perform well and maintain good grades when studying at the college level.

What comes next after earning an accounting degree in Kentucky?

After earning a bachelor’s degree in accounting, the next step for someone who wants to work as an accountant is to take the four-part CPA examination. Once you have passed this examination, you will then need to earn some experience working under the supervision of someone who is already licensed.

To earn CPA licensure, you’ll need one year of work experience after graduation. Experience earned as an intern or volunteer as a part of your bachelor’s degree does not count toward the required work experience hours.

Licensed CPAs can undertake accounting work including audits and certifying accounts in the state in which they earned their license. There is a reciprocity program which means accountants can apply for licensure in other states after passing the CPA exam. However, since CPA licensing requirements differ slightly between states, there may be some additional study required to earn additional licenses.

Accountants are required to complete 80 hours of continuing education every two years. At least two hours of that education must be in professional ethics. Accountants who hold a license in more than one state can usually have their continuing education efforts counted towards holding their license in more than one state, however, they will usually be expected to complete state-specific training to ensure they have a robust understanding of ever-changing tax and financial laws.

Nano Learning and Blended Learning courses do not count towards continuing education in Kentucky. Self-Study courses, however, are accepted and can count for all 80 hours.

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