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 Online Accounting Courses in 2021
- Best Overall: Develop Your Finance and Accounting Skills Path by LinkedIn Learning
- Best Budget Option: Introduction to Financial Accounting by Udemy
- Best for Basics: Introduction to Finance and Accounting Specialization from Coursera
- Best for Certification: Online Fundamentals of Accounting Certificate Program by Northwestern University
- Best for CPA Exam Prep: Becker CPA Review
- Best for Continuing Education: Financial Learning Library by Kaplan Financial Education
Best Overall : Develop Your Finance and Accounting Skills Path by 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.
Monthly subscription cost is affordable, starting at $19.99
Good for individuals at all skill and experience levels
Accounting professionals can’t earn CPE credit for two of the courses
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), how accounting is used to make decisions, 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 wanting to understand how accounting and finance work, entrepreneurs wanting to manage their own companies’ finances, students wanting to brush up on their skills, and even accounting professionals needing 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.
In addition to video content, you’ll be given a variety of downloadable resources and if you need assistance, you can interact with your peers and content experts in the course’s Q&A forum.
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.
LinkedIn is a professional network with about 740 million members located across the globe. The company was launched in 2003 and maintains its headquarters in Sunnyvale, California. In addition to providing a space for professionals to connect online, LinkedIn also offers online training via LinkedIn Learning.
Best Budget Option : Introduction to Financial Accounting 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.
No prerequisite knowledge is needed
Can't ask the instructor questions
Only includes an hour of training materials
No certificate of completion
If you’re looking 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 know 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 provided by Udemy for this online accounting class, 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 course offerings.
Best for Basics : Introduction to Finance and Accounting Specialization from 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.
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
Can't earn CPE credit
Can take up to five months to complete
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 in this online accounting program, 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, 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 on the program, you’ll be able to complete it in about five months. Since it’s a self-paced program, 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 content expert. You’ll earn a certificate of completion when you finish each course, although you won’t earn any CPE credit.
Coursera was founded in 2012 and is headquartered in Mountain View, California. It partners with over 200 well-regarded colleges and universities to provide quality online education to learners worldwide.
Best for Certification : Online Fundamentals of Accounting Certificate Program by 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 continue their education and get an Advanced Accounting Certificate online and then sit for the CPA exam.
Northwestern University has an excellent reputation
Don’t need to have prior accounting knowledge or experience
Possible to go on to get an Advanced Accounting Certificate.
Expensive compared to other programs
Can take up to a year to complete
Must have a bachelor’s degree
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 think they might 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 you’ll need to 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 for this program 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 you’ll need to make sure you can pay for the program yourself or find a form of financial assistance.
One of Northwestern University’s School of Professional Studies’ goals is to be a national leader in delivering learning opportunities to professionals in an innovative way. Northwestern got its start in 1850 and is headquartered in Chicago.
Best for CPA Exam Prep : Becker CPA Review
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. Additionally, the class uses adaptive learning technology that modifies the coursework to your learning needs.
Flexible monthly payment plans with no interest
Adaptive learning technology modifies the course materials to your learning needs
Lowest-cost plan doesn’t come with unlimited access to the materials
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 members, and more.
Unlike printed materials that become quickly 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, so you’re able to get this type of support.
Although the tuition costs of $2,399 to $3,499 are expensive, Becker has payment plans that make it easier to pay. All of the plans come with a flexible monthly payment option. Payment plans range from six 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.
Becker Professional Education was founded in 1957 and is headquartered in Chicago. The company is well-regarded for its CPA exam preparation courses and its CPE program.
Best for Continuing Education : Financial Learning Library by 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.
Courses available for entry-level to senior-level professionals in a variety of fields
Courses include a wide variety of accounting topics
No access to course instructors to ask questions.
Expensive if you don’t plan to take a lot of CPE classes each year
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 other online programs, webinars, and conferences.
Kaplan Financial Education was founded in 1970 and is headquartered in La Crosse, Wisconsin.
Lots of different types of people can benefit from online accounting classes. With an online accounting course, you can gain 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 accounting professional needing CPE credits, there’s an online option for you.
We selected the Develop Your Finance and Accounting Skills Path offered by LinkedIn Learning as offering the best overall online accounting classes. Its curriculum is good for people with various backgrounds and skill sets, including beginners and accounting professionals alike. The program progressively moves through all the basics, and accounting professionals can even earn CPE credit. Plus, a LinkedIn Learning subscription costs as little as $19.99 a month.
|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|
|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|
What Is an Online Accounting Class?
An online accounting class allows you to learn about accounting from the comfort of your own home. If you sign up for an online accounting class, 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 and 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. For example, if you signed up for intermediate accounting but you don’t remember what you learned in financial accounting, you may be able to fill in the gaps with a one- to two-hour online accounting course.
- Entrepreneurs or small business owners. If you own a small business or plan to create a startup, an online accounting class can teach you what you need to know 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 needing 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 more. 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. For example, you might be able to learn some of the basics of accounting via on-the-job training or by reading books. The former could happen if you’re promoted into an accounting role based on your work performance. However, you’ll 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.
If you want to learn accounting, a better option is to take accounting classes. There are many different online accounting classes from which you can choose. You can take these classes on a stand-alone basis or as a part of a formal degree or certificate program. By taking accounting classes, you’ll be able to learn the materials much quicker.
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 these 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. This can be a great option for business owners, entrepreneurs, and managers who want to know more about accounting so they can better manage their businesses. You can complete most online accounting certificate programs in a year or less.
There are even advanced accounting certificate programs for those with prior accounting coursework that can help you get the classes you need to qualify for the CPA exam. Even if you have a bachelor’s degree in accounting, some states require additional advanced accounting coursework. An advanced online accounting certificate program can be a great way to fill those requirements without getting a master’s degree in business or accounting.
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. For example, preparing financial statements that investors, lenders, and owners can use to make decisions about the company’s performance. The ultimate goal of accounting is to provide information people can use to make decisions about the company’s performance.
How We Chose the Best Online Accounting Classes
We reviewed a couple of dozen online accounting classes when looking for the best. In our search for the best, we considered how much it 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. Also, we looked into the reputation of the online accounting class provider.
All of our picks offered affordable options for a wide variety of professions, learning needs, and budgets.