Show Me the Accreditation: Finding the Best Online Accounting Degree

Online Degree

You can do almost anything online these days, from ordering pizza to buying tickets to earning an accounting degree.

For many accounting professionals, online degrees and certifications are the best options, as they fit well with busy schedules. However, be aware that not all schools and organizations are created equal. There are risks you may encounter, such as the dreaded degree or certification mill, which distributes credentials that are essentially worthless. How do you avoid these mills and get the online accounting degree, MBA or training that can help your career development plan?

One essential step in selecting the best online accounting degree or certification is to be mindful of accreditation. Simply put, accreditation means a program lives up to a set of standards put forth by a respected organization, which makes their graduates more valued by employers. To help you decide which online program is best for you, here are the three major organizations that offer accreditation.

1. Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)

The AACSB has been around since 1916 and is recognized globally. Its long-standing reputation for placing emphasis on research schools and its stringent requirements make it the gold standard in academia and the hiring world. It also offers multiple forms of accreditation. For example, a school can be AACSB-accredited, and the online programs within that school can also apply for separate recognition.

2. Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP)

Though much newer than the AACSB, the ACBSP is also known worldwide. Established in 1988, the ACBSP values research and teaching equally. Though the U.S. Department of Education no longer recognizes this type of accrediting body, it is noteworthy that ACBSP was the first to be recognized by the federal government. (Note: In 1996, the Department of Education decided to recognize only those agencies that impact the distribution of federal funding.)

3. International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (IACBE)

Established in 1997, the IACBE is the newest of the three certifiers on the block. IACBE accreditation is contingent on the outcomes of universities and their programs. Though established more recently than the AACSB and the ACBSP, it does hold the same Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) recognition as the other two.

In some cases, you may have to do some digging. For example, the IACBE and ACBSP offer directories of accredited schools. However, they don’t specify whether online programs hold the same weight as their traditional counterparts. To find out, contact the school that offers the online accounting degree you’re interested in.

Evaluating online degrees and certifications

When evaluating online degrees themselves, it’s best to get as close to the source as possible, so bypass admissions and head straight for the department that offers the program. Certifications are typically easier to research than degree programs, as accrediting organizations (like the AICPA) have their own websites, recommended training programs and testing sites.

Keep in mind that determining the best credentials can sometimes be a subjective judgment, and these are just a few of the many organizations that offer accreditation. To determine the ideal course of training for your career development, ask your manager, boss or mentor which programs are more highly valued in your branch of accounting, organization or region. By taking the time to research a program’s accreditation before training begins, you’ll know the time spent earning credentials will be well worth your investment

Are you thinking about earning an online accounting degree to advance your career development, or have you already done that? Share your experience in the comments.