Almost any accounting course is now available online. Some business and technical colleges offer both an associate’s and bachelor’s degree in accounting. Major universities are also offering a number of classes in accounting. For example, at the School of Management of the University of Texas at Dallas students can take the following courses online: Financial Accounting, Managerial Accounting, Accounting for Managers, Corporate Financial Reporting, Issues in Financial Reporting, Assurance and Attestation, Ethics for Professional Accountants, Database Management, Strategic Cost Management, Accounting Information Systems, Financial Statement Analysis, Individual Taxation, and Corporate Taxation.
The University of Texas at Dallas website also provides some important information for those wanting to take the Certified Public Accounting Examination (CPA Exam) in Texas. As the site warns, CPA Exam candidates in Texas must take at least 15 of the required 30 hours in accounting on campus. Students in other states should verify the requirements for that state as they design their degree program if they wish to become CPAs.
Online courses can be multimedia and combine reading materials, video, practice problems, and other homework. The video lectures might be comparable to those offered on campus, but with the significant difference that the students will not be able to ask questions during the lecture. As with on-campus classes, students will need to spend a significant amount of time for each class in completing reading assignments, working problems, and preparing to take the quizzes and examinations.
There are a number of advantages to taking an online accounting course. A student can view the course lectures at any time of the day or night that is convenient for the student. This can be especially important for students who need to work, as their work schedule might make it difficult for them to get to a course on a college campus. They can also review a given lecture more than one time if they find the material confusing.
An online accounting course can be particularly well suited for those who need to complete continuing professional education hours for a CPA license. For example, most accountants must complete at least 40 hours per year of continuing professional education. For those working in the profession, scheduling classes during the “busy season” like the tax season can be difficult, but an online class can fill the need.
There are also some significant disadvantages to taking an online accounting course. Students might not be able to ask questions of the professors while the questions are fresh in their minds. Some professors will take questions by email, but the response could be delayed. Some online courses do not allow students to proceed on their own schedule, but require that coursework be completed on a specific schedule. For these courses, tests will be put online for a specific test window and then will not be available.
Communication from some professors for online courses could be confusing. For example, the professor might post a problem for students to complete and to submit in a specific format, but the instructions might not be clear or the submission might not work. In these cases students might also be unable to contact the professor for new procedures or clarification.
One other possible disadvantage to obtaining a degree from an online college is how employers might view the quality of the education. Some might question whether the graduate has learned as much as a student attending classes on campus. The actual quality of the education a student receives from taking courses online can depend to a large degree on the effort the student makes to learn the material and not just to make high grades on the tests.