How to Select the Best Online Accounting Courses

By Henry Steele - May 9, 2017
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Online education in most fields is rapidly expanding; according to a study by the Sloan Consortium, online enrollments in online degree programs and courses has grown by more than 12% in the last few years.

This trend is definitely true in the accounting field. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that accounting jobs will experience 12% growth by 2024. US News and World Report also states that the job of accountant is the #6 best job as of 2015. Many professionals today are taking accounting classes to take advantage of the high job demand.

If you think that you want to hone your accounting skills, a great way to do it on your own time is to take courses online. You may be able to transfer those courses into an accounting degree program later, if you like.

But how should you select the best accounting classes and what are the options?  Keep reading to learn what you should look for to choose the best accounting courses to accelerate your career.

Essential Topics in Accounting Courses

Whether you are taking one course or multiple courses, there are several basic accounting principles that should be covered in your material. These include:

  • Financial statements – overview; owner’s equity changes; income state or P&L; statement of financial position; cash flows
  • Importance and purpose of accounting
  • Basic accounting principles – assets, liabilities, capital; accounting equation; double entry; accounting cycle
  • Analyzing business transactions; rules of debit and credit; chart of accounts; posting to the accounting ledger
  • Accrued income and expense; unearned income; prepaid expense; depreciation expense; bad debts expense
  • Preparing income statements and how to make a balance sheet
  • Preparing income taxes – federal and state

Free or Pay Courses

There are resources online today that offer free accounting classes that will provide you with a basic knowledge base in accounting. These classes will not provide you with a certification that you have completed a certificate generally, but they still are useful for providing you with basic accounting information.

For example, you can take free accounting courses online at in these areas:

  • Accounting Theory: Theories underlying basic procedures of accounting
  • Accounting and Its Use in Business Decisions: Learn how to describe and identify three basic business types and also be able to understand the three activities done by business organizations.
  • Introduction to Cash Accounting: Understanding the basic method of managing business revenue and expenditures to track income and outgoing in an organization

Single or Certificate Courses

There are many online accounting courses and programs from which to choose. One of the first things to decide is if you want to take a single, standalone accounting course online, or take an accounting certificate program. Either option will work depending upon your personal and career goals.

A potential advantage of taking an accounting certificate program online is that you will gain the basic tools that you need to succeed in accounting. If you choose, you can potentially apply those courses towards your bachelor’s degree later.

For example, Southern New Hampshire University offers a regionally accredited accounting certificate program with these courses:

  • Financial Accounting: Explains the regulations and rules for gathering accounting data and information that is used by both internal and external sources to evaluate the financial strength of a company. The class develops your ability to accurately and quickly interpret financial data and to communicate this information to supervisors.
  • Managerial Accounting: Explores what the financial effects are of different types of business decisions and the various financial benefits of new practices in business.
  • Intermediate Accounting I: Extends and expands your knowledge of financial accounting classes. Learn how to prepare complex, accurate financial statement, such as required disclosures.
  • Federal Taxation I: Learn the theory and practice that is relevant to preparing federal income tax returns for private individuals.

Northwestern University also offers a high quality online accounting certificate program. You will obtain a solid base in the essential principles of accounting, such as taxation and financial reporting. It also will prepare you if you have budget responsibilities or want to work in accounting or budgeting. Courses include:

  • Introduction to Financial Accounting
  • Introduction to Managerial Accounting
  • Income Tax
  • Intermediate Accounting
  • Managerial Cost Accounting

There are good number of other organizations that offer one, single online course in accounting that covers many topics.

MOOCs – Free and Paid

Another good option for professionals interested in an accounting background is to take a MOOC, or Massive Online Open Course. These courses are offered either in live or recorded format online and are usually free. These generally are not certificate programs, but you will be able to get a good grasp of basic accounting principles by taking a MOOC. offers the free course Introduction to Financial Accounting. It will teach you the accounting skills that you need to perform analysis of disclosures and financial statements to use them in financial analysis. It also will teach you the ways in which accounting standards and managerial incentives affect the process of financial reporting. is another excellent MOOC provider that offers accounting courses to mass online audiences. Most courses cost approximately $89, but there are some free courses as well. Some of the classes that it regularly offers in accounting include:

  • Management Accounting: Introduces students to different ways to manage business finances with the idea to boost business performance. Allows you to develop your managerial accounting knowledge and understand how to make appropriate finance and investment decisions.
  • Accountant in Business: If you lack a business background but want to understand how systems and people in a company interact, this course will help you. You will understand the overall business environment, such as the legal, regulatory and economic influences.
  • Financial Accounting: Introduces you to the key principles of financial accounting, and allows you to demonstrate your proficiency in using double entry techniques. This includes preparing and interpreting basic financial statements.
  • Intermediate Financial and Management Accounting: The second part of a program that is designed for those who are just beginning in their work in accounting, and wants to improve their accounting skills.

Online Learning Options

The many online account courses and degree programs make it easier than ever to select one that fits your career needs. Some online students may think that distance learning will isolate them too much.

However, many online accounting course now offer live or synchronous formats. You can view and participate in your accounting classes live with other students and actually engage with them.

But if you prefer to take your accounting classes entirely on your schedule, you can choose courses that are completely asynchronous, meaning that they are archived and recorded.


If you decide to take an online certificate program in accounting, it is recommended to look for a program that has been properly accredited by a respected accounting accreditation body.

In business and accounting, the most respected is the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business or AACSB. Your program has met very high quality standards if it has been accredited by the AACSB.

Single courses are not accredited by the AACSB, however.


There are many excellent online options for single and certificate accounting courses today. Use the above information as a guide to help you to find quality online accounting courses to accelerate your business career.


Henry Steele
Henry Steele
Managing Editor
Henry is Managing Editor of He is a seasoned business professional who regularly consults with local business's throughout Southern California. Henry pursued his undergrad in Business and Economics at the University of San Diego and gained valuable life changing experience through a unique internship upon graduation.

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