Most Affordable Online Accounting Degrees
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It's no secret that college is expensive. But, many accredited schools offer affordable or lower-cost accounting degrees. Some things that can lower your total college costs are enrolling at a public university as an in-state student and applying for financial aid.
Accounting is widely considered a stable and practical career path with excellent resilience to changing economic conditions. The field also pays well. According to Payscale, the average wage for BA in accounting graduates was $75,000 as of September 2022.
Students can get the greatest return from their educational investment by choosing lower-cost programs. This guide connects readers with the leading affordable online accounting programs.
Cheapest Online Accounting Degrees
How Much Does an Accouting Bachelor's Degree Cost?
Some institutions calculate costs on a per-credit basis. Others charge part-time and full-time rates per semester or academic year. Rarely, schools may also set flat-rate pricing for the entire program. Attending an in-state public college or university offers the lowest tuition rates.
The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), reports that the average tuition and fees for bachelor's students at in-state public schools was $9,377 in 2020-2021. The average cost of attending a private college was $37,641 for that same year.
Use these figures as benchmarks when evaluating the affordability of an accounting program.
Making the Cheapest Accounting Degrees Even Cheaper
Cost-conscious students can draw on other proven methods for reducing education expenses. Reducing your costs improves long-term returns on your educational investment and helps you avoid a heavy debt load after graduation.
Creating a personal budget plan can help, along with these strategies:
Accelerate Your Learning.
Ambitious students can take advantage of accounting programs that charge flat rates per semester or year. Overloading your schedule with an extra course can shave one semester or more off your program length. This could potentially reduce your net cost by thousands of dollars.
Rent Your Books.
Numerous services offer students the chance to rent their textbooks for a fraction of the cost of buying them. Along similar lines, you can also purchase used books instead of new ones. You can source used books through your campus bookstore or search online.
Live at Home.
Attending a local school that does not require you to relocate can drastically reduce your room and board costs. Room and board rivals tuition as the largest cost students face, so minimizing those expenses can save you a great deal of money. Studying online while living at home is another option if you do not have an appealing program in your immediate area.
Start at a Community or Junior College.
Most public and private institutions allow students who have earned college credits at other schools to apply those credits toward their degree. This allows you to study at lower-cost junior or community colleges for the first 1-2 years of your program before completing your degree at a more recognizable institution.
Balance School with Work.
Learning online has opened up a whole new set of scheduling possibilities that make it easier than ever to work while you study. Earning an income while in school can help you reduce or avoid debt, and shoulder inevitable expenses more readily.
What Factors Into an Accounting Bachelor's Affordability?
Many students look at tuition rates first to determine whether a program is affordable. However, many other factors can reduce a student's net costs, including:
- Enrollment status (in state vs. out of state)
- Program location
- Delivery format (online vs. in person)
- Financial aid availability
The following sections explore each of these affordability factors in detail and how they relate to bachelor's degrees in accounting.
Campus-based, hybrid, and online programs typically allow students to choose between part-time and full-time enrollment. Each option has its advantages and disadvantages from a cost perspective.
Attending part-time creates fewer scheduling demands. Cost-conscious learners can use the opportunity to work while they study. This can help you absorb your educational costs more easily, but it also extends your completion timeline.
Full-time learning requires a greater up-front time commitment. However, it also speeds up your graduation time, letting you pursue accounting jobs sooner.
In general, balancing work with part-time study works best if you attend an institution that charges on a per-credit basis, which is the case in most schools from 1-11 credits. The numbers may not add up in your favor if you pay a flat rate per semester or per year, as is typically seen from 12-18 credits.
Most public institutions charge in-state students less than out-of-state learners. Many states participate in tuition exchange or reciprocity agreements that offer in-state rates to students from neighboring states.
Hybrid programs that blend on-campus and online learning have different cost considerations. You must factor in occasional commuting and parking costs if you live close to school. You may need to meet airfare and accommodation costs to fulfill your on-campus requirements if you live far away.
Room and board also add a considerable cost for campus-based learners. Studying online can lower these costs. It also helps to consider differences in living costs in various cities.
List of States With Online Accounting Schools
Studying exclusively online offers multiple cost benefits:
- It can relieve students of room and board expenses
- Public institutions sometimes offer in-state rates to all online learners regardless of their location status
- Asynchronous online course structures make it easier to balance studying with paid employment
On the downside, online learning may impact your ability to network in-person with classmates and professors or participate in field-based learning. Many accounting students use these opportunities to build their networks and land jobs.
The median cost of an accounting program is more than 4.6% times higher at private colleges than in-state tuition at public institutions, according to Data USA. However, private school tuition can become comparable or more affordable than out-of-state public school tuition after factoring in financial aid.
Private institutions, such as Ivy League schools and liberal arts colleges, are increasingly offering generous financial aid to students meeting specific income requirements. For example, Stanford University provides free tuition to students from families earning less than $150,000 a year.
Students should also pursue forms of non-repayable student aid, including:
- Work-study programs
Tax benefits for students and their parents can also be an indirect form of financial aid.
How Can You Pay for an Accounting Degree Online?
Scholarships are the best form of student aid because they do not need to be repaid as long as students meet academic requirements. These awards can reduce the cost of your attendance and your debt burden.
The following section reviews three scholarships specific to accounting students. It is not an exhaustive list, but it can help familiarize you with available scholarship opportunities.
Scholarships for Accounting Students
AICPA Foundation Scholarship for Future CPAs
- Requirements: Up to 25 scholarship awards are available to students in accounting and related programs. Evaluation criteria include academic performance, leadership ability, and the applicant's planned career path.
- Award: $5,000
Accounting & Financial Women's Alliance (AFWA) Foundation Scholarship
- Requirements: This scholarship is open to women students in the third, fourth, or fifth year of an undergraduate accounting program. The AFWA considers academic transcripts, extracurricular activities, community involvement, and the applicant's current financial situation.
CMA Scholarship Program
- Requirements: The Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) offers this scholarship to academically gifted aspiring certified management accountants (CMAs). The award covers the fee to the IMA's CMA study program, plus CMA exam registration fees and three years of IMA membership.
- Award: Variable
Will Getting Your Online Accounting Degree Pay Off?
Accountants and auditors earn a median annual salary of $77,250, which is $30,000 more than all other workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
This figure suggests that accounting degrees generate excellent long-term returns. Even so, you should still conduct your own analysis comparing program costs to your expected salary after graduation.
Some tools that can help your analysis include:
- Debt-to-income calculator worksheet offered by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
- Statistics regarding employment outcomes for accounting graduates of the schools you are considering
- Comparing the average incomes of people with your current qualifications against those of professionals with bachelor's degrees in accounting
Job Outlook for Accounting Graduates
Also, consider the various careers available to accounting majors. You can do more than just become a bookkeeper or accountant. Other career paths open to accounting majors are:
Some of these paths pay higher average salaries than those typically earned by accountants. For example, the BLS cites a median income of $95,570 for financial analysts, which is nearly $20,000 more than the median annual salary for accountants and auditors.
Common Questions About Accounting Programs
What should I major in to become an accountant?
Aspiring accountants often pursue BA or BS degrees in accounting. Other options include a bachelor's in business administration with a concentration in accounting.
How can I save money getting an accounting degree?
To reduce tuition costs, consider an in-state public institution, studying online, or overloading credits at a school that charges flat rates per semester or year. Online learning can also reduce your secondary costs, as can living at home and studying part-time while you work.
What jobs can I get with an accounting degree?
Many accounting graduates go on to earn their certified public accountant or certified management accountant license. Some become bookkeepers or account clerks, while others pursue careers as financial analysts, advisors, or examiners.
Is an online accounting degree worth it?
Professionals with accounting degrees generally benefit from strong labor market demand in all economic conditions. Accounting is a practical academic path that can lead to many well-paid careers in accounting, finance, or business. Many students can earn excellent long-term returns on their educational investments.
Andy Buchanan has over 10 years of experience working with financial aid and student accounts in higher education. He has worked in the financial aid offices at Columbia University and New York University, as well as the student billing offices at New York University and Seattle Pacific University, where he was most recently the associate director of student accounts. He has a bachelor's degree from Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota, and is currently pursuing his master of business administration from Seattle Pacific University.
Andy Buchanan is a paid member of the Red Ventures Education Integrity Network.
Page last reviewed Oct. 12, 2022
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