How to Learn Accounting
Although accounting is one of the most popular choices after high school, going to a four-year college to get your bachelor’s degree can be a severe financial drain, even for those who can afford it. Budgeting for the most basic accounting degree, coupled with supplementary financial aid, can still amount to a major financial setback for many. So, what can you do instead?
Both introductory and more advanced accounting courses can open up avenues for your career, and surprisingly, some accounting courses are free online. These courses will equip you with fundamental accounting and financial skills, giving you essential tools in case you decide to pursue a bachelor’s degree in the future.
Find Your Bootcamp Match
- Career Karma matches you with top tech bootcamps
- Access exclusive scholarships and prep courses
And don’t worry if you weren’t good at math in school: accounting does not deal with algebra or trigonometry. Your basic math skills will serve you well.
What Is Accounting?
Without accountants, the world would be in shambles and that’s not an overstatement. Accountants are the experts who take care of all of our financial records, income statements, business plans, and more after completing their accounting courses. They complete extensive reviews, analysis, and reports for local, state, and national tax reporting agencies.
Without the help of talented and dedicated accountants, businesses would cease to function, entire countries would fall into extreme debt, and the world would be a very different place. Accounting and auditing are essential and lucrative careers.
What Are Accountants Used For
Accountants have the unique opportunity to perform their job in a wide array of fields. Some accountants work for large businesses and corporations, while others choose to work on a more personal level and help people with their individual taxes. There are even individuals who choose to work where they find fraudulent accounting information. An accountant prepares and reviews financial statements and documents.
An accountant’s day-to-day duties include:
- Reporting and analyzing accounting data
- Supporting financial transactions by auditing data
- Analyzing account information for assets, liabilities, and capital account entries
- Entering account information into spreadsheets by documenting financial transactions
Types of Accountants
When pursuing your accounting degree, it’s best to determine your career path early on. Understanding the career path you wish to pursue in accounting is helpful when determining the level of degree you need to earn and what courses you need to take. It may even have an impact on where you choose to study.
Some of the most common occupations associated with accounting degrees are:
Auditors are tasked with monitoring businesses in terms of ethics and integrity. Auditors make sure companies meet their financial standards. Students who plan to work in auditing specialize in business law, accounting research and forensic accounting.
When working as an auditor, you’ll be sifting through financial records of companies, individuals and government organizations to make sure they followed tax law. Other positions involve working as an auditing manager and fraud examiner.
Working as a tax accountant involves helping individuals, and small and large businesses, to make sure their tax documents meet federal regulations. If you are a personal accountant, you can work at an accounting firm or be self-employed. As a corporate tax accountant, your work involves making sure organizations meet federal standards when they file their taxes.
For both positions, you are typically expected to hold your CPA license. There are also tax consultant positions for those who are experts in the field. Tax consultants provide relevant and up-to-date information on tax issues to their clients.
Fraudulent practices are increasing with the rise of online trading. This means forensic accountants are in demand now more than ever before. Forensic accountants perform forensic auditing, review financial statements and identify discrepancies in a company’s funds.
Just like with many of the other positions listed above, you must have a CPA or a license as a Certified Fraud Examiner to work in this field. However, you do not need a graduate degree to become a forensics accountant.
The Best Online Accounting Courses and Certificates
Below, we will list some of the best online accounting courses, along with some tips and pointers for how to move forward after your coursework ends. You’ll find out just how important online accounting classes can be to your development as a financial expert.
With these online options, you’ll be a master in management accounting before you know it and will be crunching numbers alongside business executives.
When it comes to online accounting courses, there are almost too many good options to choose from. Below are some notable accounting courses you should consider.
University of Pennsylvania: Introduction to Financial Accounting
This online accounting course, taught by accomplished accountant expert professor Brian J. Bushee, is all about financial statements and technical accounting skills.
What makes this particular course noteworthy is that not only is it a part of the Wharton School (yes, that Wharton School of business), but it teaches complex skills to people who know nothing about accounting. And it works.
Professor Bushee focuses on key aspects of accounting: financial statements, balance sheets, and financial records.
After completing this course, you can further your accounting skills in one of Professor Bushee’s other accounting classes to bolster your knowledge and perhaps enter a certificate program.
University of Illinois: Fundamentals of Accounting Specialization
Taught by Kevin E. Jackson and others, this online accounting course brought to you by the University of Illinois starts with the basics. It focuses primarily on how businesses manage their finances.
By the end, students will know all about financial institutions, balance sheets, income statements, and financial records, and will have in-depth knowledge about how businesses operate.
This specialization course consists of multiple sections with a capstone course at the end. The capstone will prepare learners for other accounting degree programs they may take in the future, in which capstone courses are the norm.
University of Virginia: Financial Accounting Fundamentals
In this course, taught by expert MBA graduate and University of Virginia PhD professor Luann J. Lynch, students will be guided through the basic tenets of accounting, namely balance sheets, income statements, and financial management.
Interactive activities are used to better illustrate these concepts for all types of learners. Professor Lynch employs critical thinking exercises to better illustrate accounting principles and concepts to even the most confused students.
Journal entries and a lively discussion forum will bring students together as they collaborate on ideas and assignments, and real-world examples are used to demonstrate accounting and financial fundamentals.
"Career Karma entered my life when I needed it most and quickly helped me match with a bootcamp. Two months after graduating, I found my dream job that aligned with my values and goals in life!"
Venus, Software Engineer at Rockbot
Accounting: From Beginner to Advanced
This Udemy course is one of the most popular on their entire site. With nearly 16,000 satisfied students, what more endorsement do you need?
Created by Stefan Ignatovski, PhD, “Accounting: From Beginner to Advanced” teaches you how to prepare financial statements, balance sheets, income statements, and to analyze cash flow.
You will also delve deeper into more accounting and financial concepts like dividends, stocks, bonds, and of course, investments. It includes downloadable resources, videos on demand, lifetime access, and an impressive certification of completion.
Whether you’re a total rookie in accounting or a business owner looking for some valuable tips, this online accounting course will give you new tools to succeed.
The course currently costs $124.99.
Once you have a solid foundation from some online programs on offer, you may want to explore certificate programs or pursue your Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting.
Earning an accounting certificate can give you a fantastic toolkit of intermediate skills as you move forward on your journey toward doing what you love. It can even set you on a path toward a career as a Certified Public Accountant.
Attending a certificate program in accounting can also significantly boost your chances of employment. Accounting certificate programs allow students to pick a specialized area of accounting, such as managerial accounting or financial management, and they will then gain valuable accounting skills in that area.
You can enroll in a certificate program either before or after you get a degree in accounting.
What Is the CPA Exam?
You may have previously heard the term CPA. It may not sound attractive at first, but becoming a CPA will put you at the forefront of financial management. The CPA exam is created by the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy.
Why Take the CPA Exam?
Along with giving you the title of Certified Public Accountant, studying for the CPA exam will also equip you with a set of valuable accounting skills that you will use in the future. Becoming a CPA will grant you many more job opportunities in accounting than you would typically find.
With a CPA license, former low-level accountants can rise to become managerial-level accountants and will find more independence in their work as they climb the ladder in the financial sector. This career path is the goal of many accountants and starts with the CPA certification.
Should You Study Accounting?
Accounting is a stable job, with plenty of room for career advancement. Plus, every business needs someone to assist them with balance sheets, financial records, and more. Let’s look at some obvious ways that enrolling in accounting courses can help you in the long run.
The fields of accounting and auditing are very popular, with 1.4 million accountants in the US in 2019, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The bureau also projects a four percent growth rate for the industry.
While this is a pretty average rate when compared to other occupations, the need for experts in financial records and managerial accounting will likely never dwindle.
The states that employ the highest number of accounts are California, Texas, New York, and Florida, but any major metropolitan area is a good bet if you are seeking an accounting job.
Depending on your level of seniority, you could make upwards of $124,450 a year as an accountant. The top 10 percent of highest-paid accountants work in Washington, D.C., New York, New Jersey, and Virginia.
If you want a reliable way to guarantee a higher salary, you should aim to become a CPA.
Before you know it, you will be mastering the accounting basics of financial statements, balance sheets, and more. If you do a little digging, you will learn all there is to know about accounting. These are the keys to the castle and will introduce you to a world of possibilities.
Once you get the fundamentals down and move on toward a certificate or accounting degree, you’re ready to make your way in the world of finance. Join over 1.4 million fellow accountants who pride themselves on having mastered accounting principles. You’ll be in good company.
About us: Career Karma is a platform designed to help job seekers find, research, and connect with job training programs to advance their careers. Learn about the CK publication.