Accounting skills are always in high demand. Here's where to find great online training.
Businesses look for and need candidates with top notch accounting skills to help them navigate today's complex financial world.
Whether you're an entrepreneur trying to go it alone or an established professional seeking to maintain currency, quality accounting skills is a must to maintain the financial health of your business. Obtaining or maintaining those accounting skills can be challenging, but fortunately, the internet has revolutionized learning, taking it out of the traditional classroom and moving it directly into the home.
If you're not sure where to begin when it comes to online accounting training, below you'll find some great online training resources we found to help you navigate your way through online learning. Resources include both free and fee-based courses that are either instructor-led or self-paced courses that can be completed on your own time and at your own pace. Regardless of where you are and what your accounting training needs are, online learning has a course for you. [Read related story: The Best Accounting Software for Businesses]
The Best of Online Accounting Training
One of the most transformative facets of online education today is the rise of Massively Online Open Courses, or MOOCs for short. MOOC courses are free, which make them very attractive to the budget-conscious. While some MOOC trainers may charge a fee for testing, or to issue a certificate or collegiate-level credit, the courseware itself is provided free to learners.
Two great MOOC search-engines are the MOOC List and the MOOC Search Engine (MOOCSE). The MOOC List includes courses from online learning providers such as Coursera, edX, FUN, FutureLearn, OpenClassrooms, top universities and more. Many of the course listings on MOOC List have definitive start dates so you'll only find courses that are due to start within the next 30 days. Examples of some of the MOOC List accounting courses we found include:
- Forensic Accounting and Fraud Examination: A five-week instructor-led course offered by the West Virginia University; a verified certificate may be obtained for a fee.
- Introduction to Accounting: A self-paces course offered by The University of British Columbia; a verified certificate available for a fee
- Accounting for Business Decision Making - Measurement and Operational Decisions: a four-week instructor-led course offered by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign; a verified certificate available for a fee
MOOCSE includes free online courses from top universities such as Harvard, MIT and Stanford, many of which are offered through providers such as edX, Venture Lab, Udacity, Coursera and others. MOOCSE allows you to search for courses either by relevant keyword (in this case "accounting") or by specific course provider. A keyword search for "accounting" courses revealed more than 105,000 free courses just waiting for learners to explore. Courses ranged from advanced accounting degreed programs to foundational, entry-level courses. Examples of courses we found include:
- Accrual Basis of Accounting: A three-video series from the Khan Academy
- Financial Accounting: A 10-week fee-based ($89) offered by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA)
- Accounting Essentials for MBA Success: A six-week course presented by the Imperial College of London; course is free but there is a $79 fee to obtain a certificate
Alison is another great online learning provider. While all courses are free, learning must pay a fee to obtain the certificate or diploma designations. Allison makes it easy to navigate courses. Each course landing page includes a course description, predicted outcomes, estimated completion time and the recommended skill level a learner needs to successfully complete the course. Alison courses are available in certificate, diploma and learning path designations, each level with an increasing level of time commitment required to complete the course.
At present, Alison offers 24 accounting courses. Available topics include accounting theory, cash accounting, business and merchandising transactions, control and cash monitoring, receivables and payables and more.
Udemy bills itself as the "world's largest online learning marketplace," and it certainly lives up to its reputation. Here, we found 385 accounting-related courses with topics ranging from cost accounting, Excel, bookkeeping, finance fundamentals, investment accounting, accounting for entrepreneurs, and much more. Foundation, intermediate and advanced-level courses are offered. Courses are fee-based but most are less than $200, with many less than $100.
Started by MIT and Harvard in 2012, edX boasts a partnership with over 90 learning providers including top universities such as Harvard, the University of Texas, Berkeley, as well as numerous institutions and nonprofit organizations. We found more than 100 accounting-related courses on edX, including both self-paced and instructor-led courses. Topics included basic introductory accounting courses to more advanced courses geared towards accounting for business decision makers. We found both free and fee-based accounting courses on edX. Most fee-based courses ranged from $49 on the low side to a high of $249. Certificates are offered for free courses for an additional fee (typically around $150).
Don't underestimate the power of YouTube when it comes to finding online accounting training. A simple search on the word "accounting" yielded more than 1.7 million hits.
Some of the gems we found included a series of short (less than 30 minutes each) training videos from Executive Finance. One of our favorites training video finds came from CPA Strength. CPA Strength maintains a robust playlist featuring more than 90 accounting training videos which target accounting basics for those with limited skills. Videos are short – less than 15 minutes each in most cases – and are an easy way to gain some foundation-level training for the accounting novice.
Looking for something more formal? We found class videos for Accounting 1 and Accounting 2 (each nearly an hour in length) presented by the Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas, allowing the learner to "sit in" on the course. Also, be sure to check out the accounting video series from Alanis Business Academy. Here you'll find more than 100 accounting training videos, most less than 20 minutes in length.
Coursera is another online training provider that currently offers more than 250 accounting courses ranging from introduction to financial accounting, business and financial fundamentals, finance for non-finance professionals, and much more. You can even earn a master of science in accounting if that's your goal. Coursera courses are available at either the Certificate, Specialization or Degree level. Certificate courses typically take about four weeks to complete and cost less than $100. A certificate is issued upon completion. Specialization courses take four to six months to complete and prices range from $39 to $79 per month. Coursera also offers degree programs which take one to three years to complete and cost up to $25,000.
Where to go from here?
With so many online training choices to choose from, selecting the training that's right for you may seem daunting. Start by examining your personal goals. Are you an entrepreneur who is looking to sharpen your personal accounting skills? Are you seeking certifications to help you enter the accounting profession? Or, perhaps you're an established accounting professional seeking additional certifications to advance your career. Regardless of where you are in your career, understanding what you want to accomplish will aid you in selecting the type of training that's right for you.
You should also make sure you understand not only how you like to learn, but the time you have available to learn. If your time is limited, look at courses that are self-paced and allow you to learn anytime, anywhere, rather than attending an instructor-led course that has a defined time commitment. If you're considering a fee-based course, check course reviews and see what other learners have to say about the course before you pay.