An accounting degree is a great investment that can lead you down many lucrative and fulfilling career paths. The flexibility offered by online universities has encouraged more people than ever before to enroll in online programs. Before deciding to obtain your degree online, it’s crucial to understand the differences you can expect between a traditional brick-and-mortar college and an online institution.
Online institutions have come a long way over the past decade. Most of the well-recognized online universities now offer fully accredited accounting degrees. Many of the top brick-and-mortar colleges now offer exclusive online programs as well. However, traditional in-person college programs are still preferred by employers over online degrees, even those earned from elite schools. In a recent poll conducted by Public Agenda, 56% of employers still preferred a candidate with a degree from an “average school” where they attended in-person rather than an online degree from an elite university. 17% preferred the latter. This isn’t to say that employers write off candidates who earned their degree online, but it’s safe to assume that, in general, candidates who earned their degree the traditional way still get more attention.
It’s no secret that accounting requires a strong technical skillset. Do those who earn their accountancy degrees online come out less prepared to enter the workforce? Not necessarily. Like all programs and classes in general, it really depends on many variables such as the standards of the accounting program, the professors, and the work ethic of the student participating in the program. An online program places more emphasis on self-studying and self-learning. On one hand, this environment can be much more difficult for a student to learn complicated concepts but on the other hand it fosters an environment of critical thinking and problem solving. With that said, online programs still offer avenues to communicate directly with professors and classmates but it’s not as convenient as being in a live classroom when questions come up. In the end, a determined student who enrolls in a reputable online degree will most likely come out with just as good of a technical skillset as someone who completes their degree in person.
Many online programs cost just as much, if not more, per credit hour compared to live college courses. However, taking classes exclusively online means that you will save thousands of dollars in transportation costs and potentially tens of thousands of dollars in room and board costs unless you plan to commute. Although online programs are by no means cheap compared to in person programs, most of the time they will come out much less expensive.
Traditional colleges usually offer their students opportunities to network with accounting firms and other businesses. This can be through “career events” or by joining campus groups such as “Beta Alpha Psi” or “Student Accounting Society.” Unfortunately, these opportunities are not the same for someone completing their program with an online institution. However, many colleges put on “career day” events and allow those who are attending other institutions to sign up and attend. You can also reach out directly to the companies you are interested in and speak with their campus recruiting representative to schedule a chat or interview.
As you can see, there are many important things to consider before enrolling in an online accounting degree. If you are a self-motivated person who has no problem staying on top of your work and you don’t mind self-networking, an online program may be a great fit for you. On the other hand, if you strive better in a classroom setting and want more networking opportunities, then a traditional program may be your best fit. Whichever path you decide, remember that hard work and determination will always pay off!