Free Online Accounting Courses

An accountant is a crucial component of any business or organization that makes financial transactions, and many individuals employ accountants to oversee their personal finances. Whether one chooses to take online accounting courses, or follow a more traditional educational path, preparation for accounting involves training in auditing, financial accounting and taxation. Ultimately, most accounting training leads to professional certification from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (CPAs).

What do accountants do?
Accountants are responsible for the preparation and maintenance of financial records. They also ensure clients meet government regulatory standards for taxes, reporting, and other legislative compliance. Performing these tasks well allows businesses to operate in a cost-efficient manner that meets governmental tax and compliance rules.

Busy companies manage multiple revenue streams and conduct hundreds of thousands of transactions as part of the normal course of business. Accountants create financial statements, handle tax obligations, audit books and systems for legal compliance and cost efficiency, and organize reporting systems. All of these tasks must be communicated to management, and accountants are expected to provide cost-saving solutions for the business at hand.

How to become an accountant
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) requires that any accountant who files tax returns be a certified public accountant, or CPA. Most states require a bachelor’s degree and an additional year of coursework before an aspiring CPA may sit for the certification exam. Many CPAs enroll in five-year degree programs that grant both bachelor’s and master’s degrees and qualify graduates to take the CPA exam.

A typical four-year Bachelor of Science in Accounting requires that students spend the first two years of school taking general education courses, along with supplementary classes that cover economics, advanced mathematics, and business law. The core of an accounting program prepares graduates for the CPA exam, and stresses technical competence in auditing, taxation and financial accounting.

Undergraduate accounting degree programs commonly require students to take courses such as:

  • Governmental Accounting
  • Accounting for Not-for-Profits
  • Forensic Accounting
  • Auditing
  • Federal Taxation I & II
  • Managerial Accounting
  • International Accounting
  • Accounting Software

At this point, new graduates of a bachelor’s degree program may continue on to another year of schooling to earn the extra credit hours required for the CPA designation. Some firms hire these graduates in junior positions and allow them to continue their education, and some only hire accountants who have passed the CPA exam.

The master’s degree program for accountants may either be a five-year program designed to award both degrees, or may be a separate program designed to prepare bachelor’s graduates for the CPA exam.

Graduate-level accounting courses generally include the following:

  • Financial Statement Analysis
  • Advanced Forensic Accounting
  • Entrepreneurship Law
  • Tax Research Methodology
  • Issues in Reporting
  • Accounting Information Systems
  • Business Mergers and Acquisitions

Once qualified as CPAs, accountants have many choices in the field. Most CPAs fall into one of four categories: public accounting, management accounting, government accounting, or auditing.

Public accountants are the most visible of all CPAs. Their clients may include individuals, corporations or government entities. For each of these clients, a public accountant must ensure all legal requirements are met. These include tax form preparation and payment, reporting, and disclosure of financial information or internal auditing of financial practices. Generally public accountants work as sole practitioners or with a group of other public accountants.

Management accountants work directly for an organization. Duties for management accountants include budgeting, financial document preparation, strategic planning, cost-efficiency analysis, and asset management. Management accountants often report to senior management.

Government accountants? work for local, municipal, or state government agencies. Extensive legislative rulings in the accounting industry must be met, including tax payment and reporting compliance. Government accountants audit the entities that are subject to their employers’ rules, ensuring that the governmental revenue stream is managed lawfully and efficiently.

Internal auditors usually work for an organization, sometimes as consultants. They scrutinize the organization’s financial practices and identify fraud or cost inefficiencies. Internal auditors can help an organization avoid hefty fees and penalties for noncompliance with government regulations.

Key skills
Accountants must first have a knack for math. Aside from the ability to crunch numbers, well-developed analytical and critical thinking skills lead to effective auditing and identification of inefficient business practices. Accountants must also be extremely detailed, organized, and able to explain complicated financial concepts to their employers and clients.

Career outlook
Accounting is a growing field, due to increasing governmental legislation on so many aspects of tax, reporting, and legal compliance. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 16% growth in new accounting jobs throughout 2020.

Newly-minted CPAs can choose which industry is most appealing. Public accounting firms, corporations, not-for-profit organizations and government regulatory agencies are all areas where CPA skills are valued. The typical career path for a CPA begins with an associate position. With time and good performance, promotions to the title of senior associate may follow. Ultimately, the career ladder for accountants extends all the way to senior management and Corporate Financial Officer (CFO) positions.

If you’re skilled with numbers and detailed problem-solving, accounting may be the field for you. Consider exploring the wealth of undergraduate degree programs available; accounting is a degree program that lends itself well to online study. Young CPA groups exist on Facebook and LinkedIn, and many professional organizations like the American Institute for CPAs also offer resources for aspiring accountants.

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Get More Out of Your Online Accounting Courses

A WSJ reader wonders if filing for an extension increases one's chances of getting flagged for an audit.

No, replies a spokesman for the Internal Revenue Service. "Extensions have no impact on your chances of being audited," he says.

Several private-sector tax experts agree. "In my experience, the simple answer to your reader's question is that filing in April or October does not affect the chances of being 'audited,' " says David A. Lifson, a certified public accountant at Crowe Horwath LLP in New York.

      Read More

Accounting in the News

Source: Accounting Today

Our Favorite Accounting Blogs

  • Accounting in General

    • Accounting Tomorrow

      Accounting Tomorrow is focused on how the accounting profession can make room for the next generation of younger, more diverse professionals.

    • AICPA Insights

      The official blog of the American Institute of CPAs focuses on topics affecting accounting professionals, the AICPA, and its members.

    • Best Practices

      Jones and Roth provide articles with advice and news related to medical best practices and accounting.

    • Boring is Optional

      Accountant, Mark Lee, is challenging the stereotype of the straight-laced accountant with stories, jokes, videos, anecdotes, links, and quotes from the accounting profession.

    • Cherry Bekaert

      CPA firm, Cherry Bekaert presents their insight into several facets of accounting, from Education to Technology and Life Sciences.

    • Contractors Center Point

      This industry-specific blog offers information and insight into accounting for construction and contracting.

    • CPA Practice Advisor

      CPAs and accountants will find news, resources, informative articles, and much more related to the accounting industry on this blog.

    • Dollars and Sense

      With weekly contributions from CPAs and consultants, this blog gives readers practical advice on accounting principles that apply to everyday life.

    • Jr. Deputy Accountant

      She's not a junior, an accountant, or a deputy. She is, however, a self-proclaimed "Fed savant," who delivers snark-filled commentary on the federal banking system.

  • Auditing

    • Chambers on the Profession

      Richard Chambers, president and CEO of the IIA, shares reflections and insight garnered from 30 years of experience in the internal audit profession.

    • re: The Auditors

      Francine McKenna explores the global capital market audit/accounting industry in an "independent, objective, and usually critical way."  

    • The Summa

      Professor David Albrecht, Ph.D., CPA serves up his opinion on the current state of auditing and account "like a double espresso."

  • CPA Exam Prep

    • CPA Exam Blog

      Jeff Elliott, CPA and father of six, knows first hand the difficulties of balancing life while studying for the CPA exam. He offers tips, tricks, and study aids for the would-be CPA.

    • Exam Cram

      Amusing insight from student members of the New Jersey Society of CPAs as the study to take their CPA exam.

    • Roger CPA Review

      The official blog of CPA test prep company, CPA Review. Get the latest tips, tricks, insights, and motivation to ace your CPA exam.

  • Forensic Accounting

    • 10Q Detective

      Written by the founder of 10Q Detective, a firm focused on finding financial statement "soft spots" prior to SEC filings.

    • Asset Search Blog

      Attorney, Fred L. Abrams, is an expert in financial intelligence, financial fraud investigation, and legal strategy for recovering hidden assets.

    • The Fraud Files

      Maintained by forensic accountant and fraud investigator Tracy Coenen, this blog informs about accounting security practices.

  • Taxes

    • It's Taxing

      Bond and Beebe Accountants and Advisors understand that taxing means onerous, so they've created user-friendly blog to educated clients and associates on timely tax-related topics.

    • Summing It Up

      Prof. James Edward Maule's more than occasional commentary on tax law as a part of life's big picture.

    • Tax Girl

      Tax attorney, Kelly Phillips Erb, LOVES the tax profession, though she agrees that "paying tax is painful but reading about it shouldn't be."

    • Tax Quips

      Accountant, Eva Rosenberg,  covers small business news and offers tips and tax loopholes for investments, inheritance, real estate and more.

    • The Wandering Tax Pro

      40-year tax veteran, Rober Flach, delivers up-to-the-minute advice, information, resources, and commentary on income tax issues, policy, and practice.

Accounting Journals & Trade Magazines

  • Journals

  • Trade Magazines

    • Accountancy Age

      Accountancy Age is an online magazine with news, opinion pieces, resources, videos, and more on the subject of accounting.

    • Accounting and Business

      ACCA is a magazine for professionals in the accounting and business industry with research, insights, news, and more.

    • Accounting Today

      Accounting Today is a free online magazine with newsletters, web-seminars, e-books, technology resources and more for accounting professionals.

Accounting Grants & Scholarships

  • Scholarships

    • AICPA Accountemps Student Scholarship

      Deadline: April 1

      Award Amount: $2,500

      The American Institute of CPAs awards this scholarship to students who demonstrate potential leadership as CPAs in the accounting industry.

    • AICPA Fellowship for Minority Doctoral Students

      Deadline: April 1

      Award Amount: $12,000

      Open to minority doctoral students, this fellowship supports those who have the potential of becoming educators in the accounting field.

    • AICPA John L. Carey Scholarship

      Deadline: April 1

      Award Amount: $5,000

      The John L. Carey scholarship is awarded to students pursuing graduate studies in accounting and the CPA licensure.

    • AICPA Scholarship for Minority Accounting Students

      Deadline: April 1

      Award Amount: $5,000

      Awarded to minority students majoring in accounting, this scholarship pays for the “expenseses that directly relate” to accounting education.

    • Beta Alpha Psi Medal of Inspiration Award

      Deadline: May 1

      Award Amount: $5,000

      Beta Alpha Psi students are eligible for this award, sponsored by the AICPA

    • EFWA Scholarships

      Deadline: varies

      Award Amount: $1,000 - $16,000

      The Educational Foundation for Women in Accounting grants several scholarships to women studying accounting at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

    • Herman J. Neal Scholarship

      Deadline: April 1

      Award Amount: $4,000

      Awarded to African American students pursuing a degree in accounting and CPA designation, this award is offered by ICPAS.

    • MillerCoors National Scholarship

      Deadline: June

      Award Amount: $3,000

      A scholarship for junior and senior business, accounting, communications, economics, marketing, or public relations majors of Hispanic descent.

    • National Association of Black Accountants Scholarship Program

      Deadline: January 31

      Award Amount: $1,000 - $10,000

      The National Association of Black Accountants offers scholarships supporting ethnic minorities pursuing accounting or business degree programs.

    • National Society for Accountants Scholarship Foundation

      Deadline: March

      Award Amount: $500 - $2,000

      The National Society for Accountants (NSA) seeks to promote the industry of accounting by supplying this scholarship to undergraduate accounting students.

    • National Society of Accountants Scholarship Program

      Deadline: March 1

      Award Amount: $500 - $2,000

      An average of 32 awards are provided to undergraduate accounting students through the National Society of Accountants Scholarship program every year.

    • Ritchie-Jennings Memorial Scholarship Program

      Deadline: February

      Award Amount: $1,000 - $10,000

      This internationally-awarded scholarship is available to students majoring in accounting, business, finance and criminal justice.

    • Surety and Fidelity Industry Intern Scholarship Program for Minority Students

      Deadline: April 30

      Award Amount: $2,500

      This scholarship program provides up to $2,500 to minority students pursuing a degree in accountancy or related field.

    • Tau Kappa Epsilon: W. Allan Herzog Scholarship

      Deadline: March 15

      Award Amount: $3,000

      A scholarship for fraternity members pursuing a degree in accounting, finance, or economics.

    • TELACU Scholarship Program

      Deadline: March

      Award Amount: $1,000

      TELACU provides undergraduate and graduate school scholarships to students in California, Illinois, Texas and New York, for accounting studies.

    • UBS/PaineWebber Scholarship

      Deadline: March

      Award Amount: $8,000

      A scholarship for minority students attending UNCF Member Colleges and Universities majoring in a business discipline such as economics.

Accounting Internships

  • American Red Cross Paid Summer Internships

    Deadline: March

    While available positions vary from year to year based on need, the American Red Cross often seeks students with an accounting/auditing background to work at their Washington, D.C. headquarters.

  • Bank of America Corporate Audit Intern Program

    Deadline: December 16th

    The Bank of America corporate audit departent seeks applicants who have a desire to adapt and learn the multiple businesses within Bank of America.

  • BDO Internship Program

    Deadline: varies

    Experience the real life of a tax or assurance associate in one of BDO's 35 offices nationwide with this internship program.

  • Crowe Horwath Internships

    Deadline: varies

    Internships at Crowe Horwath provide an intense, but rewarding experience, sharing hands on opportunities with client projects in accounting, including tax preparation and financial statements.

  • Deloitte Undergraduate Internships

    Deadline: varies

    Gain experience in accounting working as a Deloitte intern, with various programs available for undergraduate students including Deloitte Discovery.

  • Ernst & Young Global Student Experience

    Deadline: varies

    Apply to join Ernst & Young's Global Student Experience to take on international finance assignments in major cities across the globe.

  • Garick 360° Accounting Internship Program

    Deadline: varies

    This program is designed for accounting majors considering a career in corporate accounting. It is extended to all students who have an interest in learning the interworking of a business.

  • Goldman Sachs Internal Audit Internship Program

    Deadline: varies

    The Internal Audit division of Goldman Sachs offers internships ranging from one week to ten weeks, each introducing how the division is structured and how it fits within the organization.

  • Grant Thornton Internships

    Deadline: varies

    With locations throughout the U.S., students can gain hands on experience in public accounting through Grant Thornton's internship program.

  • KPMG Internships

    Deadline: varies

    KPMG offers paid internships in audit, tax, and advisory practices with opportunities to explore career options, networking, and mentorship, as well as build experience in the real world.

  • Pricewaterhouse Coopers Internship Program

    Deadline: varies

    Interns with Pricewaterhouse Coopers learn from the firm's professional services learning environment through training, coaching, client experiences, and more.

  • Transamerica Internship Program

    Deadline: varies

    The Transamerica Internship Program employs 100-120 college interns every year, including approximately 30 in their accounting department.

  • U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Summer Honors Business Program

    Deadline: February

    This opportunity is for MBA students and other graduate students in such areas as accounting, economics, and finance, to the regulation of the securities markets and the work of the Commission.

  • U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Summer Honors College Program

    Deadline: February

    This 10-week long internship introduces undergraduate students studying accounting, economics, finance, and related fields, to the regulation of the securities markets and the work of the Commission.

Accounting Student & Professional Organizations