Passing all four parts of the CPA exam on the first attempt says a lot about every candidate who accomplishes it, but it also says something important about the school that prepared them for the challenge. The Uniform CPA Exam is no cakewalk and intelligence alone won’t get you through it… you absolutely have to have a rock-solid education in the principles of accounting to get through those 16 grueling hours of testing and come out on the other side with that sweet calm that comes when it’s all over and you feel good about how you did.
For anybody with big plans to get that most prized of all credentials, passing the exam is the one thing you absolutely need to be thinking about when considering options for an online accounting master’s program. One of the best ways to gauge if a program has what it takes to get you there is to look at the first-time pass rate for previous exam candidates that graduated from that program.
The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy knows this and puts in the time and effort every year to compile exactly that statistic, logging exam scores and pass rates for every single exam-taker in the country, then tracking that information back to the master’s program each one of them graduated from. Their latest compiled report on the results, covering the 2016 exam series, ties in to each of the programs we evaluated.
For that year, the national average rate was about 50 percent for the nearly 80,000 exam candidates who passed on their first attempt. You’ll find that every program here beats that number by a comfortable margin, and often by double digits.
We’ve ranked the Top 15 online-only graduate accounting programs in the country according to that statistic here for your convenience, but we know there’s plenty more you need to consider before laying down dollars for a master’s.
Looking Past The Pass Rate
We’re well aware that online programs have a different set of criteria to check out and evaluate than traditional programs. We took a look at all of the most important aspects, including cost, technical aspects of the online teaching platform, job placement and career services, post-graduation employment rates, and opportunities for peer-to-peer and instructor interaction.
Online programs have an uphill battle to fight in many of those areas, but if they are achieving high pass rates on the CPA exam, it’s a good sign that they’ve nailed the challenges. Nonetheless, we give you the low-down on all the elements of an entirely online program that need to be considered in the decision-making process.
One of the best things about each of these schools is the very fact that they are offering these programs online. The overriding concern for most students is whether or not they will be able to get into a program that is close enough to attend in person, or whether they will be forced to relocate and have to deal with the difficulty of moving, and the potentially higher costs of out-of-state tuition. In a lot of cases, outcomes end up taking a back seat to practicality.
Online programs throw all those issues out the window. You can attend the finest program in the country without leaving your kitchen table, if you want. All the advantages that these top-ranked programs deliver are open to anyone, anywhere, as long as you can afford the tuition.
Better yet, you usually have the option to take courses at your own pace and consume class content at a time and place that is most convenient for you. For working professionals, this is an enormous advantage.
The 15 Best Online Accounting Master’s Programs in the Nation
Whichever of these schools you choose, you can be assured that you’ll get not only all the advantages of an online degree program, but also superb preparation for the ultimate prize that comes at the end of all that hard work: your CPA license.
This list features programs that our editorial staff hand selected to present as top recommendations. We believe the many aspects of a program that come together to create an exceptional student experience can’t be reduced to numbers alone, so no formula was used to attempt to score or rank these programs. Instead, they represent our top picks based on a thoughtful review of the things we know mean the most to students. Each one of these programs offers something unique, and all come equally highly recommended. We stand behind the principal of editorial integrity and make these recommendations independently and without compensation.
College of Business and Economics
CPA First-Time Exam Pass Rate: 92%
Online Master of Science in Accountancy
Cost Per Credit: $450
- Exceptional Support for Online Students Through the Advising and Academic Support Center, Which Offers Online Tutoring, Academic Coaching, Success Workshops, and More
- Superb Technical Support Offered Through the Educational Center
- Outstanding Career Services Offered through the Career Center
Boise State University’s 30-credit Online Master of Science in Accountancy will prepare you for the next phase of your public accounting career, thanks to a curriculum that’s focused on helping you pass the CPA exam and preparing you for the challenges of a career in an area of accounting. The advanced coursework of this program allows you to also build on your expertise in the audit and attest functions of public accounting. This fully online program, which can be completed in as little as 22 months, comes with plenty of support for the online student, including online tutoring, academic coaching, success workshops, and writing consultations through the Advising and Academic Support Center. The Educational Center helps you with any problems you might run into, and the Career Center is your resource for applying for an internship, searching for a job, or planning your career.
University Park, Pennsylvania
CPA First-Time Exam Pass Rate: 81.9%
Online Master of Professional Accountancy
Cost Per Credit: $920
- Options for Self-Study and Peer-to-Peer Interaction
- Program is Developed and Taught by a Full-Time, Experienced Faculty, All of Whom Have Experience Teaching Online
- Asynchronous Courses Can be Completed Anywhere, Anytime
- Exceptional Online Support Services Include Technical Support, an Academic Advising Staff, and Resources Like Career Counseling, Tutoring and Exam Proctoring
Penn State’s World Campus allows distance-based learners to benefit from the esteemed programs of the university, including the 30-credit Master of Professional Accounting. This program, which consists of 10 courses that are designed to help students achieve success on the CPA exam, builds on the success of the campus-based accounting graduate degrees, as it is developed and taught by an experienced, full-time faculty, all of whom are experienced in teaching online. The online Master of Professional Accountancy allows you to complete courses anywhere, anytime. Many of the students in the program use a combination of self-study and peer-to-peer interaction through a centralized online platform that includes features like video conferencing, chat, and bulletin boards. While the courses are asynchronous, you’ll complete weekly assignments, readings, discussions, and sometimes group work to enhance your learning outcomes. Online learners have access to technical support and an academic advising staff, along with plenty of resources, such as career counseling, exam proctoring, and tutoring.
Raymond J. Harbert College of Business
CPA First-Time Exam Pass Rate: 72.5%
Master of Accountancy
Cost Per Credit: $ 875
- Raymond J. Harbert College of Business Ranked 10th in the Nation in 2017 for Its Online Programs Nationally by U.S. News & World Report
- Online Discussion Boards Supplement In-Class Discussion and Encourage Student Engagement
- Online Program Mirrors the On-Campus Program: Same Instruction, Same Exams, and Same Assignments; Campus-Based Classes are Recorded and Streamed to Online Students
- One, Three-Day Campus Residency Required
Like it’s on-campus counterpart, Auburn University’s Master of Accountancy program is designed for the working professional. Students of the online program receive the same instruction as their campus-based peers, which includes the same assignments and exams. Plus, the Harbert College of Business features smart classrooms, where campus classes are recorded and streamed to online students. The curriculum of this program provides students with study in advanced technical skills, research, and communication skills, while also preparing them to pass the Uniform CPA exam. This program can be completed in just two years (two classes per term for five semesters) for the working professional, or one year (three semesters) for the full-time student. While the program is offered fully online, students are required to participate in a three-day, on-campus residency during the final spring semester of the program. The residency includes the Auburn MAcc Leadership Summit, which features social events, business seminars, and leadership workshops.
Kenan-Flagler Business School
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
CPA First-Time Exam Pass Rate: 71.4%
Master of Accounting
Cost Per Credit: $1,418
- Program Boasts an Exceptional, 98% Employment Rate Among Graduates
- Flexible Program Can be Completed in as Little as 12 Months or as Long as 36 Months
- Online Program Features the Same Curriculum and Faculty as the Campus-Based Program
- Program Includes a Required Three-Day Immersion Event, Which Features a One-Credit, On-Campus Leadership Course
- Weekly Classes are Held in the Evenings; Video Lectures and Homework Assignments Available in the Learning Management
- Exceptional Tech Support Offered 24/7
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has everything the online learner needs—and more! This program boasts an exceptional, 98% employment rate among students within three months of graduation, a flexible schedule that allows students up to 36 months to complete the program (although it can be completed in as little as 12), and a superb alumni network, which was ranked first in the nation by LinkedIn. The online Master of Accounting boasts the same, high-caliber curriculum as its on-campus program, along with an esteemed faculty, plenty of peer-to-peer interaction, and outstanding recruitment opportunities. Consisting of between 33-48 credits, depending on your previous education, this program offers the best in flexibility, including four start dates each year-January, March, June, and September. Each class meets weekly for two hours through the program’s virtual classroom. Outside of your scheduled class times, you’ll get plenty of peer-to-peer interaction by working in small group projects. Video lectures and homework assignments are all located in one, convenient, learning management system, which can be accessed at any time, from anywhere. There’s even a mobile app for learning on the go!
School of Business Administration
Coral Gables, Florida
CPA First-Time Exam Pass Rate: 70.8%
Master of Professional Accounting
Cost Per Credit: $1,960
- Program Includes the Same Curriculum and is Taught by the Same Faculty as the Campus-Based Program
- UOnline’s Virtual Platform Provides Students with Access to Coursework and Faculty Support Anytime, Anywhere
- Optional, On-Campus Events Provide Beneficial Learning and Networking Opportunities
- Exceptional Online Support Includes a 24/7 Student Support Team and an Academic Advising Team
The University of Miami’s Master of Professional Accounting features 32 credits in a 100% online format that mirrors the university’s esteemed on-campus program. This means that as an online student, you’ll have the same curriculum and be taught by the same, hand-picked faculty, as the on-campus program. You’ll learn through UOnline’s virtual platform, which is designed to support you anytime, anywhere. We also love that faculty members offer weekly synchronous office hours where you can get help with your coursework or discuss your academic and career goals. While this program is completed through a fully online course delivery, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to attend optional, on-campus events where you can network with faculty, students, and the University of Miami community. You can also attend the university before starting your program, where you’ll receive training on the UOnline’s learning model. There’s also plenty of online support, too, including a 24/7 Student Support Team and an Academic Advising Team.
College of Business
Boca Raton, Florida
CPA First-Time Exam Pass Rate: 70.4%
Executive Master of Accounting with a Concentration in Professional Accounting
Cost Per Credit: $303 (FL resident), $926 (non-resident)
- Program Includes the Same Curriculum and the Same Faculty as the Campus-Based Program
- Online Students Can Stream Weekly Lectures to Their Laptop or Phone or Watch the Recorded Lectures at Their Convenience
- Flexible Program Can Be Started Three Times a Year: Spring, Summer, and Fall
Busy, working professionals, take note: this program is for you! Florida Atlantic University’s Executive Master of Accounting with a concentration in Professional Accounting is a two-year, fully online course of study that’s specifically designed to meet the needs of working professionals. This program, designed to provide students with specialized knowledge and skills with a focus on the accounting profession and the CPA designation, includes the same, high-quality instruction as its on-campus counterpart. The Saturday morning lectures of the program are broadcast through the school’s interactive videoconferencing platform, so students here can watch the lectures live or stream them at their convenience. This flexible program can be started three times throughout the year—Spring, Summer and Fall, and applications are accepted year-round. Complete your accounting grad degree here and you’ll be part of one of the largest accounting programs in the U.S., which includes 900 traditional and non-traditional undergrad and grad students.
Eller College of Management
CPA First-Time Exam Pass Rate: 70%
Online Master of Science in Accounting
Cost Per Credit: $1,000
- Program Features a Variety of MBA and Accounting Electives
- Program Offers the Same Curriculum and Faculty as the On-Campus Program
- Flexible Program Features Six Start Dates Throughout the Year
- Superb Summer Internship Opportunities Available
- Outstanding Post-Graduate Career Assistance
- Plenty of Opportunities for Peer-to-Peer Interaction Through Discussion Boards and Chats
The University of Arizona’s Online Master of Science in Accounting is where you’ll prepare for the CPA designation and a career in public accounting through the completion of 18 units of required online accounting courses. But it’s also where you’ll sharpen your business acumen through the completion of 12 units of selected online MBA and accounting electives. Best of all, this program features the same curriculum as its on-campus counterpart, so online students can be sure they’re receiving the same, quality education synonymous with the University of Arizona. Each course is eight weeks long, and the program has six different start dates throughout the year for maximum flexibility. As an online student here, you’ll use a variety of technologies to connect with your peers and faculty, including discussion boards and chats. The Online MS in Accounting can be completed as little as 12 months, and all students must pass a written comprehensive exam at the end of the program. It also features an esteemed faculty with both scholarly and professional experience, summer internship opportunities with top firms, and post-graduate career assistance.
College of Business
CPA First-Time Exam Pass Rate: 65%
Master of Science in Accounting
Cost Per Credit: $850
- Program Ranked Among the Top 3 in the Nation by U.S. News & World Report and the Public Accounting Report
- Unique, Two-Segment Courses Provide a Fully Online Experience with Plenty of Experiential Learning Opportunities
- Interactive Learning Environment Allows Students to Connect with Faculty, Their Peers, and Industry Professionals
- Flexible Program Features Two Start Dates Each Year and Can be Completed in as Few as 18 Months or as Long as 36 Months
- Online Learning Platform Offered Through a Partnership with Coursera
Looking for a program with a proven record of success? Look no further than the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which is home to the online Master of Science in Accounting, ranked among the top three such programs in the nation by U.S. News & World Report and the Public Accounting Report. This grad degree program may be delivered completely online, but it also offers up plenty of hands-on experiences. This is because each course in the program is delivered in two segments: a self-paced, on demand set of video lectures, along with a hands-on, practice-oriented set that features live sessions where students work directly with faculty, their peers, and even with industry professionals. Students can ask questions, work on assignments together, and make presentations during this time. This program, which was specifically designed for the working professional, can be completed in as few as 18 months or as long as 36 months, and has two start dates per year. Thanks to a partnership with Coursera, the university is able to provide its online students with flexible learning experiences that are focused on quality and engagement. Plus, faculty here are available via email or online during live office hours to answer your questions and provide support.
Beacom School of Business
Vermillion, South Dakota
CPA First-Time Exam Pass Rate: 64%
Online Master of Professional Accountancy
Cost Per Credit: $444
- Program is Taught by the Same Faculty as the On-Campus Accounting Programs
- Outstanding Online Student Support Services Offered Through the Academic and Career Planning Center
- Prepares Students to Pass the CPA Exam and Work in Industry, Government, or Accounting Education
The University of South Dakota’s Online Master of Professional Accountancy is where specialized training in accounting meets the best in flexibility, convenience, and accessibility! This fully online grad degree provides in-depth study in accounting, finance, and related subjects for students interested in earning the prestigious CPA designation and working in government, industry, or accounting education. While it’s delivered as a distance-based program, it’s anything but second rate. In fact, the curriculum is taught by the same faculty that teach on-campus. Plus, online students are afforded a wealth of benefits, including outstanding student support, interactive opportunities with faculty and peers, and access to the Academic and Career Planning Center, where the dedicated staff will help them reach their educational and professional goals.
School of Business
CPA First-Time Exam Pass Rate: 63.6%
Masters in Accounting
Cost Per Credit: $ 965
- Dedicated Career Management Staff Offers Individualized Career Counseling, Employment and Networking Opportunities, and Online Resources
- Nearly 86% of All Students in This Program Receive a Job Offer Before Graduation
- Program Ranked 56th in the Nation by U.S. News & World Report
- Can be Completed on a Part- or Full-Time Basis
- Flexible Program Offers Specialization in Financial, Forensic, Government, or Tax Accounting
- Outstanding Opportunity for Experiential Learning Through the Program’s Integral Global Residency Program
George Mason University’s online Masters in Accounting knows how to stand out from the crowd with a master’s in accounting that provides a focused course of study that will get you to those 150 credits you need to earn the CPA designation, including in-depth study in the areas of business ethics and corporate governance. It’s no wonder that this program ranked 56th among all online graduate business programs in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. This program also has an outstanding record of student success, with nearly 86% of all students securing a position before they even graduate. The university’s Accounting Advisory Council is made up of accounting executives from the federal government, from regional firms, and even from the Big 4 accounting firms. Just like its on-campus counterpart, the online Masters in Accounting can be completed in less than one year if completed on a full-time basis or less than two years if completed on a part-time basis. We also love that both programs allow students to focus their course of study on a specific track, including financial, forensic, government, or tax accounting and that it includes an integral Global Residency Program—an opportunity to gain professional accounting experience in the competitive global arena.
College of Business
CPA First-Time Exam Pass Rate: 63.2%
Online Master of Accountancy
Cost Per Credit: $1,175 (OH resident), $1,194 (non-resident)
- Ohio U’s College of Business Has Been Consistently Ranked as One of the Best Business Schools by U.S. News & World Report
- Fully Online Program Requires No Online Residency Requirement
- Exceptional Student Support Provided by Personal Student Support Advisors
Ohio University’s Online Master of Accounting offers students the best in graduate education (The College of Business has been consistently ranked as one of the Best Business Schools in the country), all with the benefits of 100% online course delivery. This program requires no on-campus residencies or workshops, making it a truly online program for the busy working professional. Students with an undergraduate degree in accounting can complete the program in five semesters, while those with an undergraduate degree in another discipline can complete it in seven semesters. We also love the university’s excellent student support services, which include a personal Student Support Advisor who can help you throughout the program.
Lumpkin College of Business and Applied Science
CPA First-Time Exam Pass Rate: 62.1%
MBA – Concentration in Accounting
Cost Per Credit: $600
- Exceptional Career Services Provide Centralized Career Development and Experiential Learning Service to Students and Alumni
- Fully Online Program Can Be Completed in Six Semesters (Two Calendar Years)
- Flexible Asynchronous Curriculum Allows Students to Study on Their Own Schedule
- Program Features the Same Faculty as the On-Campus MBA Programs
Eastern Illinois University’s MBA with a concentration in Accounting will prepare you for a career in accounting, finance, operations management, consulting, marketing, sales, and more—all from the comfort of your home! This fully online program can be completed in two calendars years over six semesters, with two classes offered each term. For a truly flexible course of study, all classes are offered through an asynchronous approach that allows students to upload assignments, listen to lectures, and complete reading assignments on their own time. Plus, the faculty of this online program is the same faculty that teaches on-campus students, thereby ensuring the highest quality instruction.
School of Business
CPA First-Time Exam Pass Rate: 61%
Master of Accountancy
Cost Per Credit: $785
- Nearly 100% of Program Graduates are Employed Right After Graduation
- Outstanding Student and Career Support Through the Business Recruiting and Career Development Center
Southern Utah University’s online Master of Accountancy comes with an impressive accolade: It is one of the most affordable online master’s programs in accounting in the entire country, and still one of the very best by any measure – including the first-time pass rate for CPA Exam candidates that completed the program. And the proof of this program’s history of excellence is clear: nearly 100% of graduates are employed right after graduation, and many are recruited before they graduate! This 30-credit, fully online program also comes with its share of support through the Business Recruiting and Career Development center. Students here can get assistance with job placement, job searches, career coaching, resume reviews, and more.
Naveen Jindal School of Management
CPA First-Time Exam Pass Rate: 59.4%
Master of Science in Accountancy
Cost Per Credit: $1,453 (resident), $2,205 (non-resident)
- CPA Review Courses and Advising Appointments Ensure Students are Prepared to Pass the Uniform CPA Exam
- Outstanding Career Services Offered Through the Career Management Center Include Internship Placement and Professional Development Assistance
The University of Texas at Dallas’ Master of Science in Accounting, which is available in a fully online format, is designed to prepare students to pass the Uniform CPA Exam, thanks to a rigorous and contemporary curriculum, CPA review courses, and CPA advising appointments. The Jindal School of Management’s Career Management Center is an excellent resource for online students here who need assistance completing the work experience needed to obtain their state CPA license. The Career Center also helps students prepare for their internships and enhance their professional development via workshops, mock interviews, and many employer-supported events.
Arthur J. Kania School of Management
CPA First-Time Exam Pass Rate: 59.1%
Online Master of Accountancy, MBA with a Specialization in Accounting
Cost Per Credit: $N/A (call program mgrs. At 1-866-373-9547 during business hours)
- University Consistently Ranked Among the Top 10 Master’s Universities in the North by U.S. News & World Report
- Strong Alumni Network with Connections in Regional and Local Public Accounting Firms and the Big 4
- Open to Both Accounting and Non-Accounting Majors; A Fully Online Bridge Program Allows Non-Accounting Majors to Take the Necessary Prerequisites to Enter the Program
- Program Can Be Completed in as Little as 10 Months and as Long as 6 Years
- 24/7 Teach Support and a Designated Mentor Offered to All Online Students
There’s plenty of reasons why the University of Scranton should be on your short list for online master’s degree accounting programs: This university has been consistently ranked among the top 10 master’s universities in the North by U.S. News & World Report…the rigorous curriculum prepares students with aspirations of CPA certification, management, and leadership positions…and the program’s alumni hold esteemed positions in regional and local public accounting firms and the Big 4. The online MBA with a specialization in accounting combines advanced study in business foundations and the accounting profession. The 30-credit, fully online Master of Accountancy is open to both accounting and non-accounting undergrad majors, with a MAcc bridge option allowing non-accounting majors to complete the necessary prerequisite courses to enter the program. We also love the excellent CPA exam preparation services offered here, the round-the-clock support offered for all online students, and the interactive Engage Learning Management System for the best in dynamic distance learning.