Best Online Accounting Courses

LinkedIn Learning offers the best overall online accounting courses

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Online accounting courses can help people gain the accounting knowledge they need to succeed in their careers. Business owners, entrepreneurs, and managers can take online accounting classes to help them better manage their companies. Individuals studying for the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam can benefit from an online prep course. Even accounting professionals can benefit from online accounting courses to meet continuing professional education (CPE) requirements.

No matter your knowledge level or experience, an online accounting class can help you fill skill gaps and advance in your career. We reviewed over two dozen course offerings based on costs, concepts covered, the time for completion, and more to find the best online accounting classes.

Best Overall : Develop Your Finance and Accounting Skills Path by LinkedIn Learning


LinkedIn Learning

 LinkedIn Learning

Why We Chose It

People with all skill and experience levels can take this comprehensive seven-course online accounting program at an affordable cost.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Monthly subscription cost is affordable, starting at $19.99

  • Good for individuals at all skill and experience levels

Cons
  • Accounting professionals can’t earn CPE credit for two of the courses

Overview

The Develop Your Finance and Accounting Skills Path offered by LinkedIn Learning is a detailed online accounting program designed to help people understand the major types of accounting (tax, financial, and managerial) and how accounting is used to make decisions. It also teaches how to evaluate the health of a company, interpret financial reports, and communicate financial results. There are no prerequisites to complete this program, and the LinkedIn Learning subscription is affordable, starting at $19.99 per month.

This program includes seven courses that progressively move the learner through the basics of accounting to financial statement analysis and communication. It’s good for business professionals who want to understand how accounting and finance work, entrepreneurs who want to manage their own companies’ finances, students who want to brush up on their skills, and even accounting professionals who need to earn CPE credit. 

If you don’t sign up for the monthly subscription, most of the courses included in this program have a one-time cost of $34.99 to $39.99. This program includes about 14 hours of on-demand video content, so if you plan to move through the content fairly quickly, a monthly subscription is likely the more affordable option. 

Once you’ve completed all the courses included in the program, you’ll earn a completion badge for the finance and accounting skills path (on LinkedIn Learning) and a shareable certificate of completion for each course you complete. Plus, you can earn CPE credit from the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy for most of the courses included in this online accounting program. None of the other programs we reviewed included all of this.

Best Budget Option : Introduction to Financial Accounting by Udemy


Financial Modeling for Startups & Small Businesses by Udemy

Financial Modeling for Startups & Small Businesses by Udemy

Why We Chose It

You don’t have to pay anything to learn the basics of accounting, since the Introduction to Financial Accounting course offered by Udemy is completely free.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Free

  • No prerequisite knowledge is needed

Cons
  • Can't ask the instructor questions

  • Only includes an hour of training materials

  • No certificate of completion

Overview

If you want to learn about financial accounting and you’re on a budget, the free Introduction to Financial Accounting course offered by Udemy is a great option. You’ll get access to over an hour of on-demand video tutorials about accounting. You don’t need to have any prerequisite knowledge, although you’ll find it helpful to know basic high school math. 

This online accounting class will teach you key financial accounting terms, how to record basic financial transactions, the difference between profit and cash flows, and how to prepare the three primary financial statements. It contains good accounting information for anyone who wants to learn accounting basics without spending any money.

One of the main drawbacks to the Introduction to Financial Accounting course by Udemy is that you won’t earn a certification of completion when you finish the class. Also, there isn’t a Q&A discussion forum, and you won’t be able to ask the course instructor any questions. 

Udemy was founded in 2010 and is headquartered in San Francisco. The company is one of the largest global marketplaces for online learning, with about 40 million learners and 155,000 courses.

Best for Basics : Introduction to Finance and Accounting Specialization from Coursera


Coursera

 Coursera

Why We Chose It

You can learn the basics of finance and accounting from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania for the Coursera subscription fee of $79 a month.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Offered by the Wharton School

  • Can learn the basics of finance and accounting for $79 a month

  • Access to content experts via a Q&A forum

Cons
  • Can't earn CPE credit

  • Can take up to five months to complete

Overview

The Introduction to Finance and Accounting Specialization from Coursera is a program offered by the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. You don’t need any knowledge or experience to enroll, but you should be comfortable with high school math. 

This accounting program consists of four classes that progressively cover the basics of financial accounting and corporate finance (e.g., accounting standards, financial statement preparation, and corporate decision-making). You’ll complete the four Introduction to Finance and Accounting Specialization classes fully online. 

You can expect to spend about 40 hours on this program. If you spend two hours a week, you’ll be able to complete it in about five months. Since it’s self-paced, the amount of time it takes you to complete it is up to you.

The materials include videos, homework problems, quizzes, downloadable Excel spreadsheets, and more. You’ll get personalized feedback on assignments and will even get to complete a hands-on project at the end of the program. If you have questions, you can post them in the Q&A forum for each class and get a response from your peers or a content expert. You’ll earn a certificate of completion when you finish each course, although you won’t earn any CPE credit.

Best for Certification : Online Fundamentals of Accounting Certificate Program by Northwestern University


Northwestern University

Northwestern University

Why We Chose It

Offered by a university with an excellent reputation, anyone with a bachelor’s degree (in any subject) can earn an Online Fundamentals of Accounting Certificate or an Advanced Accounting Certificate online, and then sit for the CPA exam.

Pros & Cons 
Pros
  • Northwestern University has an excellent reputation

  • Don’t need prior accounting knowledge or experience

  • Can continue to an Advanced Accounting Certificate

Cons
  • Expensive compared to other programs

  • Can take up to a year to complete

  • Must have a bachelor’s degree

Overview

The Northwestern University School of Professional Studies offers an Online Fundamentals of Accounting Certificate program that’s great for business professionals with a bachelor's degree who haven’t previously studied accounting. You’ll need to take four online courses to complete this online accounting certificate program, and you’ll learn all the basics of accounting from a well-known university. 

The Online Fundamentals of Accounting Certificate program is great for managers responsible for department budgets, entrepreneurs, and individuals who want to become an accountant. If you want to continue your studies after you finish this program, you can progress to Northwestern's Advanced Accounting Certificate program. Depending on the requirements of your state, this second certificate program may be enough coursework to sit for the CPA exam.  

You’ll complete the program fully online. The courses are not self-paced, so be prepared to submit coursework when required by your professor. Each class takes an academic quarter (about three months) to complete. If you take one class every quarter, you can expect to complete the Online Fundamentals of Accounting Certificate program in about a year.

Since you’ll earn a post-baccalaureate certificate from a university, this program costs more than most of the other online accounting classes we reviewed. The tuition is $2,054, plus you’ll need to pay a technology fee of $125 for each of the four classes. Financial aid isn’t available, so make sure you can pay for the program yourself or find a form of financial assistance.

Best for CPA Exam Prep : Becker CPA Review


Becker CPA Prep Course

 Becker CPA Prep Course

Why We Chose It 

Not only will you get access to comprehensive CPA exam materials, but you can choose the payment plan and program options that best fit your learning needs. The class uses adaptive learning technology that modifies the coursework to your learning needs.

Pros & Cons 
Pros
  • Excellent reputation

  • Flexible monthly payment plans with no interest

  • Adaptive learning technology modifies the course materials to your learning needs

Cons
  • Lowest-cost plan doesn’t come with unlimited access to the materials

  • Expensive

Overview

If you’re an accountant who hasn’t yet taken the CPA exam or a recent college graduate with an accounting degree, the Becker CPA Review program offers the best online accounting class for CPA exam prep. Not only does Becker have an excellent reputation, but you can choose from three different learning plans with adaptive learning technology that customizes the coursework to your learning needs. You can even get tutoring, and there are live classroom options. 

Regardless of the plan you choose, you’ll get access to 31 hours of recorded lectures, nearly 1,500 multiple choice questions, 100 videos to help you master tasks and accounting skills, three simulated exams similar to what you’ll experience when you take the real CPA exam, one-on-one support from academic support staff, and more.

Unlike printed materials that quickly become out-of-date with changes to the CPA exam, the materials you’ll get from Becker are always kept in sync with the CPA exam. If you want more one-on-one support or the ability to attend synchronous classes online to interact with your teacher, you can upgrade to a higher-level plan.

Although the tuition costs of $2,399 to $3,499 are expensive, Becker has payment plans that make it easier to afford. All of the plans come with a flexible monthly payment option. Payment plans range from 6 to 24 months and are completely interest-free. You will, however, be required to pay a non-refundable processing fee ranging from $49 to $99.

Best for Continuing Education : Financial Learning Library by Kaplan Financial Education


Kaplan Financial Education

  Kaplan Financial Education

Why We Chose It

Accounting professionals can access 375 online CPE courses covering a wide variety of topics for an annual fee of $499.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Courses available for entry-level to senior-level professionals in a variety of fields

  • Courses include a wide variety of accounting topics

Cons
  • No access to course instructors to ask questions

  • Expensive if you don’t plan to take a lot of CPE classes each year

Overview

The Financial Learning Library by Kaplan Financial Education offers the best online accounting classes for accounting professionals (e.g., certified public accountants, certified management accountants, certified internal auditors, certified fraud examiners) who need to earn CPE credits on a routine basis. This is because you’ll get access to 375 on-demand online CPE courses for an annual cost of $499. 

Although a fee of $499 may seem like a lot of money at first glance, it can be less expensive than paying for classes one at a time. It’s not unusual for accountants to need 30 to 40 CPE credits per year, with this varying by state and the type of certification held (e.g., CPA or CMA).  Many online accounting courses cost between $25 to $50 per CPE credit. If you’re buying the courses one at a time, you could end up spending $750 to $2,000 a year on your required CPE coursework. 

Kaplan’s courses included in the Financial Learning Library cover a wide variety of topics, including financial accounting, auditing, ethics, finance, technology, taxes, and more. This makes it easy for accounting professionals to choose courses covering the topics they need to meet their CPE requirements. It can also be a great way to stay up-to-date on the industry’s changes and fill any skill gaps. 

The amount of time it will take you to complete each course will vary from less than an hour to a couple of hours or more. You won’t have access to course instructors to ask questions, nor is there a Q&A forum. If you prefer one-on-one guidance and support, Kaplan offers various other CPE courses for accountants, including online programs, webinars, and conferences.

Final Verdict

Many different types of people can benefit from online accounting classes. They can teach you the skills and knowledge you need to advance in your career from the comfort of your own home. Whether you’re an entrepreneur who wants to learn more about accounting so you can start a business, a recent college grad who needs to pass the CPA exam, or an accounting professional who needs CPE credits, there’s an online option for you. 

We selected the Develop Your Finance and Accounting Skills Path offered by LinkedIn Learning as the best overall online accounting class. Its curriculum is good for people with various backgrounds and skillsets, including beginners and accounting professionals alike. The program progressively moves through all the basics, and accounting professionals can even earn CPE credits. Plus, a LinkedIn Learning subscription costs as little as $19.99 a month. 

Compare the Best Online Accounting Courses

Class What It’s Best For Why We Picked It Cost
Develop Your Finance and Accounting Skills Path by LinkedIn Learning Best Overall You’ll learn the basics of accounting at a low monthly cost, and you don’t need to know anything about business to get started. As low as $19.99 a month
Introduction to Financial Accounting by Udemy Best Budget Option You can learn the basics of accounting in an hour at absolutely no cost and without prerequisite business knowledge. Free
Introduction to Finance and Accounting Specialization from Coursera Best for Basics You can learn all the basics of accounting in this four-course series from the highly regarded Wharton School. $79 a month
Best for Certification: Online Fundamentals of Accounting Certificate Program by Northwestern University Best for Certification If you have a bachelor’s degree in any subject, you can get a certificate in accounting from a well-regarded school. $2,179 for each of the four required courses
Becker CPA Review Best for CPA Exam Prep Your study materials will always stay up to date with the CPA exam and adapt to your learning needs. $2,399 to $3,499
Financial Learning Library by Kaplan Financial Education Best for Continuing Education You can get access to 375 different online classes to meet your ongoing CPE needs. $499

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is an Online Accounting Class?

An online accounting class allows you to learn about accounting from the comfort of your own home. In most cases you won’t have to show up for class at a specified time. Instead, you’ll be able to complete the work when it’s most convenient for you. 

Many online accounting classes are self-paced, meaning you can complete the course in as much or as little time as you want. However, if you’re enrolled in a formal degree or certificate program with a university, you’ll need to complete the materials in a specified time frame (e.g., by specific due dates or within a specific quarter or semester). 

Who Should Take an Online Accounting Class?

Anyone who wants to learn about accounting without attending an in-person class should think about taking an online accounting class. Online accounting classes can be a great option for:

  • Students who need additional support. If you’re an accounting student and don’t fully grasp the concepts covered in your accounting or business classes, you might benefit from an online accounting class.
  • Entrepreneurs or small business owners. If you own a small business or plan to create a startup, an online accounting class can teach you how to manage your finances and increase your odds of business success.
  • Managers who are responsible for budgets. Many managers don’t have business or accounting experience. If you’re a manager and are responsible for your department’s budget, an online accounting class can be a great way to fill any skill gaps.
  • Individuals preparing for the CPA exam. If you’re a recent college graduate or an accounting professional who hasn’t yet taken the CPA exam, an online accounting class can help get you ready. There are many online accounting classes specifically focused on CPA exam prep
  • Accounting professionals who need CPE credit. Many accounting professionals are required to earn CPE credits each year to maintain their certifications, such as certified public accountants (CPAs), certified management accountants (CMAs), certified internal auditors (CIAs), certified fraud examiners (CFEs), and others. Online accounting classes make it easy to meet these requirements at a time and place that’s good for you.

How Much Do Online Accounting Classes Cost?

Online accounting classes range from free to a monthly cost of $79. However, if you want to earn an online accounting degree or certificate, you can expect to pay a fee of $1,000 to $2,000 or more per course. For accounting professionals who want to earn CPE credit, you may pay as little as $25 to earn a single credit or you could pay up to $500 if you want access to a robust library of online accounting courses. 

Can I Learn Accounting Without Taking a Class?

It is possible to learn accounting without taking a class. However, you’ll likely only learn as much as you’re exposed to at work or in the books you choose to read. This means it could take you a long time to get proficient. There are many online accounting classes from which you can choose, offered on a stand-alone basis or as a part of a formal degree or certificate program.

Can I Get a Degree in Accounting Online?

Many colleges and universities offer online accounting degree programs. These programs range from accounting certificate programs up to doctorate degrees. Before deciding which program to choose, you should consider your career goals and how quickly you want to finish the program.

If you don’t yet have a degree, you can get an online bachelor’s degree in accounting. You can also get an online master’s degree in accounting. These are good options for people who want to become professional accountants. You can expect online accounting degree programs to take two to four years to complete. If you already have a bachelor’s degree, there are online accounting certificate programs that will teach you the basics of accounting in a year or less, even if you have no prior accounting knowledge.  

How Is Accounting Different From Bookkeeping?

Bookkeeping is focused on the day-to-day work related to recording the financial transactions of a business. This includes purchases the company makes, sales the company records, and payments it makes to others (e.g., its employees). 

Although accounting includes bookkeeping tasks, it is more focused on decision-making. This includes, for example, preparing financial statements that investors, lenders, and owners can use. The ultimate goal of accounting is to provide information people can use to make decisions about the company’s performance.

Methodology

We reviewed about two dozen online accounting classes while looking for the best. We considered costs, what’s included in the curriculum, how long you’ll spend on the class, who each class is right for, and if you can contact the instructor. We also looked into the reputation of the online accounting class provider. 

Article Sources

  1. AICPA. "Continuing Professional Education (CPE) Requirements for CPAs." Accessed March 6, 2021.

  2. Institute of Management Accountants. "Current CMAs." Accessed March 6, 2021.