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Best CPA Online Courses in 2021

September 27, 2021 | Staff Writers

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The CPA license is an important credential in the accounting field. field. Those who take the CPA exam demonstrate their commitment level to the profession, along with mastery of accounting skills. CPA designations open the doors to professional advancement and salary increases.

CPAs are the leaders and managerial experts in their field. Companies look for this designation for executive-level management opportunities within their business. Due to the intense nature of the exam, those who pass it are highly coveted.

The rigorous nature of the exam means that the CPA average pay increases by 10-15%. Job opportunities for those who pass are also more readily available, so it is wise to invest in receiving this designation professionally and enroll in the right accounting program and sign up for a good review course.

Importance of the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) Designation

The top reason for pursuing a CPA designation is prestige. CPAs are admired by their peers and clients and viewed as elite professionals. In addition to the post-secondary education and passing the exam, CPAs are also tested with extensive on-the-job training.

Their level of expertise and proficiency exceeds the standard accountant. 

The second reason is career development. CPAs stand out to employers who are impressed by the designation. 

Someone who has earned their CPA demonstrates a commitment to the profession. This certification launches careers in leadership and managerial positions and is necessary for positions that demand higher responsibility and authority.

Career security is another important reason to pursue a CPA. Professionals with a CPA are higher in demand in this sector. The reason for this boom is the dip in accounting students in the 1990’s. Students were pursuing careers in IT and marketing, leaving a gap in accounting.

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 increased the need for CPAs to enforce higher standards in public corporate accounting. 

CPAs enjoy what they do! They are multi-talented professionals. They perform a mixture of highly specialized job functions comprising auditing, business and management consulting, IT, international financial reporting, and tax advisory services. 

Forensic CPAs carved a way into law enforcement. It paved a way for accounting to be involved in multiple areas of business. 

The final reason to obtain a CPA is money and benefits. There are numerous career options for those in accounting. It isn’t a job, per se, but a series of upward career paths. 

In reality, a CPA license generates:

  • 10-15% more income
  • The Bureau of Labor projects this area will grow faster than average through to 2024.

Duties and Responsibilities of a CPA

Common responsibilities include:

  • Preparing financial statements.
  • Reviewing statements for accuracy. Review of systems and procedures is evaluated for efficiency.
  • Organizing and keeping current financial records.
  • Preparing schedules, forms, and tax returns. CPAs must ensure that documents are filed promptly and that taxes owing are paid.
  • Meeting with management to suggest revenue increases and cost reductions.
  • Writing and maintaining reports.
  • Reviewing and signing off on annual reports due to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Why Take Online CPA Courses?

A CPA designation is accomplished through formal education and work experience. Many online accounting programs offer degrees that have built-in CPA options that aid in preparing for the CPA Examination in your state.

The first thing you need to do when obtaining a CPA accountant is to earn a bachelor’s degree in business administration from a regionally accredited college.

A regionally accrediting intuition is important, and it might not mean what you think. When asked during an interview if the person attends an accredited university or college, they usually mean a regionally accredited university.

There are six geographic regions of the United States, and each has a non-governmental, regional agency that oversees and accredits institutions headquartered in the area. Most regionally accredited colleges in the same region recognize degrees and credits from other accredited institutions.

Emphasis is placed on regional accreditation rather than national because other institutions may not recognize coursework completed in nationally accredited programs. They may not see it as equal in terms of standards.

The next phase in the journey is completing on-the-job training in accounting under a supervisor that is a licensed CPA, usually during the last year of the degree program or post-degree. Most individuals work as bookkeepers or junior accountants to gain experience.

Finally, to become a CPA, you might take and pass the Uniform CPA exam, created to test a person’s knowledge of accounting, business law, and auditing practices. The test itself is challenging. It is highly recommended to complete a reputable accounting degree with a CPA component before engaging in the exam. It will increase your likelihood of success.

An online CPA track degree generally takes longer to complete in comparison to an online bachelor’s degree in business. The CPA exam involves an deep dive into accounting practices and business law.

The regular online business degree is typically made up of 40 courses or 120 credit hours. Certified public accountants usually complete an accounting bachelor’s degree in business administration in 50 courses or 150 hours. The second option is significantly longer.

Check into state degree requirements in the state where you want to qualify as a CPA. Many states have similar requirements. Sometimes it is feasible to attend an online CPA degree out of state and still meet state licensing requirements.

CPA Growth and Jobs

If you are earning an accounting degree, ensure that the program has a CPA track because demand for this certification is expected to grow between 15-20% in the next ten years. This increase in growth is primarily due to stricter accounting and auditing regulations opening up more lucrative career options.

The accountant requires a CPA designation to file reports with the Security and Exchange Commission and perform supervisory audits. CPAs have the best chance at higher wages and management opportunities.

A bachelor of accounting will earn an average salary of $61,690 or as high as $80,000. Corporate directors of accounting or auditing earn the highest salaries. Government accountants earn less. Information systems managers, forensic accountants, auditors, and private practice CPAs also receive a higher wage.

A good recommendation is to pursue a CPA accounting master’s degree. This degree will better prepare the individual for the exam due to the depth of course material and open more job opportunities upon graduation.

The best careers in accounting tend to go to those holding a master’s degree and CPA certification. Accounting graduate numbers in auditing, forensics, or computerized accounting are in high demand.

What to Consider Before Enrolling in CPA Schools and Online Courses

A bachelor of accounting is the minimum degree that you need to be a CPA. However, this may not be the most beneficial thing to do for your long-term career prospects.

Those who only have a bachelor’s degree may rely more heavily on experience to pass the CPA. Generally, courses at the master’s level better prepare you to write the exam because the courses are more in-depth.

Many CPAs have master’s degrees in accounting or business administration, enabling them to climb the corporate ladder and find  public accounting jobs more easily.

For licensure, individuals are required to pass the exam and fulfill ongoing professional education (CPE) to become a CPA.

Each state has its own board of accountancy. These boards regulate the profession and grant the CPA license. Qualifying in one state may not mean that you will be able to practice in another. 

If you work within a large enterprise that has multiple locations, you can overcome this challenge.

Certified Public Accountants should have the following skills to succeed:

  1. Analytical Skills. CPAs must discern issues before they become potential problems affecting the business’s profitability or viability.
  1. Superior Organizational Skills. Accountants handle numerous documents for many clients. These consist of both electronic and paper documents. You may need to locate them quickly and efficiently.
  1. Detail Oriented. Paying attention to details is critical in the life of a CPA. Minor mathematical errors can be disastrous and require many hours of work to fix.
  1. Communication and People Skills. Accounting involves communication with a wide variety of people. Many may not be enthusiastic about their accountant’s news.
  1. Problem Solving Skills. Individuals are required to analyze, compare and interpret facts and figures. The ability to solve problems in unfamiliar settings is an asset for most businesses. Creative thinking will enable the person to face issues on an ongoing basis and generate innovative solutions.
  1. Understand Upcoming Changes in Technology. Accountants never stop learning. Technology is growing at an accelerated rate, and accountants need to familiarize themselves with what is available. 

They need to be aware of upcoming trends in e-commerce, image processing, workflow technology and understand how these facets impact business. These all aid in decision-making. 

Individuals need to be acquainted with using the internet, email and discussion boards, conferencing technology both on the phone and online. You should establish competency when using the latest spreadsheet, database, word processing, accounting, business, and presentation software.

  1. Ethics. Ethics is never outwardly said but highly required. People need to trust you. After all, you are working with their money. Companies rely heavily on the information provided. Honesty and integrity are crucial to this position.
  1. Project Management. Accountants handle multiple clients simultaneously. Conflicting demands, unanticipated requests, competing deadlines, and personal obligations will all be pressures experienced.

The individual must be able to judge situations, determine priorities, and organize tasks and obligations in the correct order.

  1. Broad Business Perspective. An established business sense and awareness of current events will help in recommendations to companies/clients. Then, they add value to the organization because their recommendations are based on an understanding of corporate operations, policies, practices, and competitive issues.

A growing number of CPAs are self-employed and may work from home. Yet, others work for public accounting firms, largely a desk job, since working from home can feel isolating if you enjoy being social.

There are interactions with clients and team members as required, and some travel to clients’ business locations. So, there is a bit of socialization. However, for the most part, the job is solitary.

CPAs work full time, and 20% work overtime- usually during tax season, or year-end.

Do I Physically Enroll or Do Online Learning?

In trying to discern whether you should physically enroll in a CPA program or go online, consider your motivation. Will you be self-motivated to do the coursework if you go online? 

The temptation to skip class is more overwhelming online than in person. There is greater accountability in person than online. If you invest money into a degree, you need to consider whether you can see it through. It is simply too costly not to finish or procrastinate.

Online learning isn’t for everyone, yet it is also beneficial to many as not everyone is self-motivated. There is no one telling you that it is time to go to school. The individual needs to regulate themselves and get things done.

Additionally, there are numerous distractions at home.

Online learning benefits those dedicated to seeing the degree through. If the individual needs to work full time, online learning is advantageous because it better fits the person’s schedule. It offers flexibility.

Many companies appreciate online learning as well. It says that you are self-disciplined and can get things done. Online learners tend to be more analytical overall and demonstrate good time-management skills, making their unique skill set an asset for some businesses.

Conversely, some companies see it as a detriment. They question the quality of learning and retention- even with superior grades. The view is very mixed in terms of preference.

Generally, online costs are lower, and there is no commute, making it attractive to many people.

Physically enrolling has many benefits as well. Often, campuses hold seminars, have conferences, or hold meet-and-greets with prominent businesses. It is a great way to network and get noticed.

Many are looking for a new hire, and just by physically being there, you may find employment.

Many courses, however, are full-time, which may not work for someone with part-time availability. Also, if you are only available part-time and are truly dedicated, accelerated courses are offered.

What to Look for in a School or Online Course

Select a traditional college. It will inspire a greater degree of trust and respect from potential employers. Traditional colleges have a well-known and established standard. Thus, the employer will be more confident in your capabilities as opposed to another institution.

For employers, it may not necessarily be the online factor that has greater importance. For the most part, it’s the name. Furthermore, often online learning is not uncovered until the interview process when a potential employer may ask how the person managed to work full time and go to school.

Then, obtaining employment becomes more weighted on how the applicant answers the question. The person can put a positive spin on it by highlighting the self-motivating factors needed for online learning.

Choosing a program from an accredited post-secondary institute is very important. If the institution lacks accreditation, employers become suspicious. Then the time and money spent in obtaining a degree become wasted.

While educational trends and perspectives are changing, select a traditional school with proper accreditation. It should be an online program with a school with a physical campus, giving the degree a more legitimate feel and garners more respect.

Do your research into the program. Many courses are available on the internet. However, if you can gain employment, they serve no purpose. All they are, then, is simply a piece of paper with no ultimate value.

Your degree should carry respect and credibility with employers.

Best Online Schools With CPA Courses

  1. Pennsylvania State University World Campus

Degrees Offered:

  • Bachelor of Science
  • Graduate Certificate
  • Master of Professional Accounting

Penn State offers a degree that prepares students for the CPA exam. The curriculum takes a survey approach to accountancy, covering federal income taxes, financial accounting, auditing, and accounting information systems.

It has 120 credits and takes four years to complete. Pennsylvania State University is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, a distinction that 5% of business schools earn globally.

  1. Colorado State University Global

Degrees Offered:

  • Bachelor’s Degree
  • Master of Professional Accounting

This institution also uses a survey approach to accounting, covering compliance, ethics, finance, marketing, economics, leadership, and accounting basics. Students can choose between 20 different specializations.

It takes 120 credits and four years to complete. It includes courses on Federal taxation, intermediate accounting, and a capstone in accounting research and analytics.

  1. Florida Institute of Technology

Degrees Offered:

  • Associate of Accounting
  • MBA Accounting
  • MBA Finance
  • Bachelor of Accounting
  • Bachelor of Business Administration-Accounting

Florida Institute of Technology prepares graduates for the CPA or CMA certification. It combines a liberal arts education with a professionally focused curriculum, including auditing, compensation and benefits, and cost accounting. 

It includes coursework in economics, human resources, and marketing. It is a 121-credit course and takes four years to complete.

  1. Regis University

Degrees Offered:

  • Bachelor of Science 
  • Master of Science
  • Bachelor of Science Accounting (Accelerated)

Students have the option to learn on regular or accelerated tracks. For the accelerated track, courses last eight weeks, permitting students to earn degrees quickly.

Courses in this program include income tax accounting, business finance, business law, and accounting ethics. It comprises 120 credits (a four-year program). Applicants must have previous work experience and some previous college credit to apply.

  1. California Baptist University

Degrees Offered:

  • Bachelor of Accounting
  • Master of Accounting

California Baptist University prepares students for the CPA exam. The curriculum has 69 credits and takes three years to complete. It has courses in federal income taxation, cost accounting, and governmental and nonprofit accounting.

Students must complete an overview course on the Bible before graduation. 

  1. Washington State University

Degrees Offered:

  • Bachelor of Accounting
  • Master of Accounting

Courses can be taken full or part-time. The curriculum includes general education courses that are 16 weeks in duration with foundational business courses lasting seven weeks each.

Courses include cost accounting, auditing, and introduction to taxation. 

WSU has a separate accounting accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. This honor is awarded to 165 institutions nationally.

  1. Saint Leo University

Degrees Offered:

  • Bachelor of Arts Accounting
  • Master of Accounting
  • Master of Business Accounting

Saint Leo is a Roman Catholic-affiliated liberal arts college. The curriculum consists of courses in financial statement analysis, cost accounting, auditing, and accounting information systems.

The program is 120 credit hours (4 years) and includes an internship in the field.

Saint Leo offers a more personal touch. Students are offered an opportunity for one-on-one mentoring, advising, and coaching, leading to strong placement in major accounting firms.

  1. Liberty University

Degrees Offered:

  • Certificate in Accounting
  • Associate in Accounting
  • Bachelor of Accounting
  • Master of Accounting

Liberty is one of the largest universities globally. It enrolls over 100,000 students, mostly military or online students. Coursework includes financial and managerial accounting, taxation, business law, and auditing.

It requires 120 credits (3.5 years) to complete. Students must have a high school GPA of 2.0 to gain admission.

  1. University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth

Degrees Offered:

  • Bachelor of Accounting
  • Master of Accounting
  • Master of Science in Accounting
  • Graduate Certificate in Forensic Accounting

This institution has an online program with a generous transfer policy. Students can bring up to 75 previous credits to the school. Areas of study include cost accounting, organizational behavior, strategic management, and marketing. An additional 30 credits can be done to earn a CPA status.

The program has 120 credit hours and takes four years to complete.

  1.  Misericordia University

Degrees Offered:

  • Bachelor of Science Accounting

Misericordia University is a Catholic-affiliated liberal arts school. It offers accelerated online accounting degrees, and students often graduate in 20 months.

Individuals can complete up to 12 credits per semester that last seven weeks in duration. It is a 121-credit course, including business policy, intermediate accounting, taxation, and auditing.

Students are required to complete six credits worth of internships.

Applicants must have a high school GPA of 2.5 or top 50% class rank and SAT score of at least 930.

CPA licensure is very important in advancing a career in accounting. Even though the exam is very challenging, it carries a certain amount of credibility with potential employers.

It says that the individual is well-educated, and has a firm understanding of accounting principles. They are dedicated to the profession and have worked exceedingly hard in obtaining the proper credentials.

A CPA opens opportunities for advancement in business as it demonstrates leadership abilities and managerial competency. These are sought-after characteristics of someone with an accounting accreditation.

While online courses are still potentially receiving some mixed reviews from employers, there are some basic guidelines to follow.

Take courses from an accredited institution. The college or university should be traditional as post-secondary institutes have an established standard of education. This standard allows a potential employer to have confidence in the skills that you have established.

If they are unfamiliar with the school, or there is no physical campus, the degree becomes suspicious in an employer’s eyes. It lacks validity. They question the degree to which you are competent and whether or not you truly grasp accounting principles.

Plus, companies do not want to gamble with something as important as their finances. They need someone who is competent and who has the proper understanding. If they don’t know your curriculum or the institution is not well-established, employers will be leery of hiring you.

CPA licensure helps in so many ways and is often incorporated into studies. In addition to course material, you can find additional assistance here in preparing for the exam. These are review courses that can help in determining readiness for the test.

We recommended that students pursue a master’s in accounting. This degree further prepares the individual for the CPA and opens doors for advancement. You will get work in the general public sector with a bachelor’s degree, but a masters allows entrance into more specialized areas.

Is an online CPA course right for you? Well, it depends on multiple factors and education. There are pros and cons to each scenario. The person needs to assess what works for them personally. 

Yet taking all of these factors into consideration will catapult you down the road to success. It may appear to be a long road with many years of education. However, in the long-term, the investment will be worth it.

Truly, you owe it to yourself, if possible, to go all the way. Opportunities are increasing in this field, and most people report a high level of satisfaction in this profession. The opportunity for growth and acceleration is exponential as this area is rapidly expanding to alternative sectors.

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