Best Accounting Programs

Villanova University demonstrates the best academic excellence year after year

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An accounting program is the study of financial principles and how they are recorded in business. There is no work experience typically needed for an accountant, further emphasizing the importance of educated employees in the workplace. 

The best accounting programs come from affordable and accredited schools with a proven track record of academic excellence and an admissions process that allows a widespread group of applicants in. The best accounting schools seamlessly blend education and experience that lead to a reliable and lucrative career ahead.

Best Accounting Programs of 2021

Best Overall : Villanova University


Villanova University

 Villanova University

  • Price: $57,710
  • Platform: Online, hybrid, in person 
  • Duration: 4 to 5 years
Why We Chose It

At Villanova University, the curriculum is specifically designed to prepare students for careers in accounting, business, and legal professionals, plus the graduate tax program gives graduating students real-world education and responsibility. It goes far beyond just classroom and textbook learning to prepare students for a well-rounded career in accounting, no matter which niche you pursue. 

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Published expert instructors

  • Comprehensive business curriculum

  • International accounting training

Cons
  • Difficult admissions process

  • Expensive tuition costs

Overview

The suburbs of Philadelphia are home to this private school that was founded in 1842. Villanova University has a total undergraduate enrollment of 6,865, spread across 260 acres. There is a standard semester-based calendar for Villanova’s six colleges, including its School of Business for undergraduate and graduate students. It teaches critical skills that will prepare students for work in small business with coursework concentrating in areas like auditing, business intelligence, IT leadership, and accounting regulation. 

Villanova University is home to many accomplished professors and instructors published in leading academic journals like The Accounting Review, Journal of Accounting and Economics, and Contemporary Accounting Research. The school also boasts a near 100% job placement rate for full-time employment for its accounting majors. However, acceptance is difficult with just a 28% acceptance rate and a typical SAT score of 1320 to 1470.

Best for Returning Students : Southern New Hampshire University


Southern New Hampshire University

Southern New Hampshire University

  • Price: $9,980
  • Platform: Online, hybrid, in person 
  • Duration: 1.5 to 5.5 years
Why We Chose It

An online degree at Southern New Hampshire University is made easier with extra attention given to returning students. Programs take a real-world approach in a flexible format that works best for students, preparing them for their careers to come.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Very affordable programs

  • Smaller class sizes

  • Simplified admissions process

Cons
  • No job placement

  • Many resources online-based

Overview

Southern New Hampshire University was originally founded in 1932 as the New Hampshire School of Accounting and Secretarial Science. Today, it offers more than 200 programs of study to over 100,000 online and on-campus students from its Manchester, New Hampshire campus. Its 338-acre campus holds a unique career-oriented focus that many returning students are likely to find appealing. There are also flexible day, evening, weekend, and online schedules to accommodate the rest of life’s demands. 

Classes in accounting at Southern New Hampshire University include Forensic Accounting & Fraud Examination, Financial Planning, Auditing, and Corporate Finance for a wide-ranging spread of accounting and finance-related curriculum. The College Unbound@SNHU program also offers expedited learning if you want to pair three-year accelerated studies with apprenticeships and internships. Class sizes run small, with an average student-faculty ratio of 12:1. There is an 86% acceptance rate, and the rolling application process gives extra peace of mind, too, so you are not rushing to meet a deadline.

Best for Undergraduates : Brigham Young University


Brigham Young University

Brigham Young University

  • Price: $13,860
  • Platform: Online, hybrid, in person 
  • Duration: 2 to 6 years
Why We Chose It

The Marriott School of Accountancy is nationally recognized for one of the highest job placement rates in the country for graduate students. Its students also have a high pass rate for the CPA exam, demonstrating that the Marriott School of Accountancy prepares its future accountants for both academic and professional excellence.  

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Among the best job placement rates

  • Fairly affordable tuition

  • High starting salaries for graduates

Cons
  • Limited scholarship assistance

  • Remote campus location

  • Strict conduct code

Overview

Founded in 1988, Brigham Young University’s Marriott School of Accountancy is the namesake of J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott, the founders of Marriott Corporation. On its Provo, Utah campus, students are able to enjoy the 20,000 square foot N. Eldon Tanner Building, whose seven-story glass facade was expanded in 2008 in order to accommodate BYU’s ever-expanding program. Today, it enrolls about 2,100 undergraduate and 1,200 graduate students in its Marriott programs.

Students also have access to the Whitmore Global Business Center, the Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology, and the Ballard Center for Social Impact for additional, hands-on study. Undergrad degrees earn an average income of $60,049, but those with an MBA earn an average starting salary of $108,371 per year. 

There are both Bachelor's and Master's programs available with an exclusive Ph.D. prep track to prepare upcoming doctorate students. Programs offer your choice of either an auditing or tax emphasis based on future career plans, with the university utilizing teaching assistants to run several classes. The school is ranked number one in several areas by the 2021 Princeton Review. The fall admissions ends in March each year. 

Read the full Marriott School of Business Review.

Best for Graduates : University of Pennsylvania


University of Pennsylvania

University of Pennsylvania

  • Price: $80,432
  • Platform: Online, hybrid, in person 
  • Duration: 4 to 6 years
Why We Chose It

In its accounting programs, Wharton places a strong focus on leadership, regularly challenging students to make use of the 25 on-campus research centers to demonstrate leadership skills. With the largest alumni network in the country, almost 92% of Wharton Business School’s 2020 graduating students report job acceptance with an average median salary of $150,000 per year and a $30,000 median guaranteed bonus.  

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Prestigious Ivy League

  • Diverse accounting programs

  • Metropolitan location with local opportunity

Cons
  • Competitive admissions process

  • Larger class enrollment

  • Restricted job placement

Overview

University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Business School is an internationally renowned academic institution for several areas of study, including accounting. Based in Philadelphia, the surrounding metropolis is home to a large community that regularly delivers both professional and personal opportunities with the chance to supplement classroom learning with real on-the-job experience. 

The Wharton Business School offers both Bachelor's and Master's programs with available concentrations in Financial Measurement and Disclosure, Business Analysis, Taxes, Valuation, and Accounting for Mergers, Acquisitions, and Complex Financial Structures. There is also the option for joint degrees in cooperation with the Penn Law School and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, plus you can take supplemental online courses to round out your study. 

There is a choice of certification as either a certified public accountant (CPA) or chartered management accountant (CMA) to provide added flexibility in addition to a Ph.D. program. 

Read the full University of Pennsylvania Wharton Business School Review.

Best for Small Business : University of Notre Dame


University of Notre Dame Mendoza College of Business

University of Notre Dame Mendoza College of Business

  • Price: $57,699
  • Platform: Online, hybrid, in person 
  • Duration: 1 to 5 years
Why We Chose It

The University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business has a renowned undergraduate degree in accounting. These skills can also translate to long-term job stability, thanks to on-campus job placement services and counseling.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Consistently top-ranked academia

  • Reasonable SAT requirements

  • Wide-ranging curriculum

Cons
  • Tuition is pricey

  • Low acceptance rate

  • Strong religious affiliation

Overview

Founded in South Bend, Indiana, the University of Notre Dame is a private university that holds a storied history as a Roman Catholic institution since 1842. It is also made famous by its notable alumni, which include former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Hall of Famer Joe Montana, and talk-show host Regis Philbin. Spread across 1,265 acres, it has a total undergraduate enrollment of 8,731 at its highly-ranked Mendoza College of Business, which offers both undergraduate and graduate programs in a semester-based format.

Students develop skills in analytics, communication, and decision-making. They are also introduced to the theory and applications of financial reporting, management, tax planning, and more. Specialized classes like Corporate Financial Reporting, Strategic Cost Management, Cost Analysis, and Federal Taxation, prepare students for a well-rounded career in accounting. 

However, attendance is made more challenging by a selective admissions process that boasts a 16% acceptance rate, with half of all students holding an SAT score between 1400 and 1550 or an ACT score of 32 and 35. 

Read the full University of Notre Dame Review.

Best for Online : University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign


University of Illinois

 University of Illinois

  • Price: $39,410
  • Platform: Online, hybrid, in person 
  • Duration: 1.5 to 6 years
Why We Chose It

Students at University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign’s Gies College of Business enjoy exclusive access to the nation’s largest research faculty, as well as personal support from Gies Business Career Services. However, the 23:1 student-teacher ratio makes this school better suited for online instruction where students can work at their own pace and benefit from one-on-one support as needed.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • 100% job placement rate

  • Largest research faculty

  • Expedited programs available

Cons
  • High student-teacher ratio

  • Limited accountancy staff

  • Less adept at international job placement

Overview

As the largest accounting program in the country, the University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign is also one of the oldest, founded in 1867. It is consistently ranked as having one of the best accounting programs and schools by both U.S. News & World Report and the Public Accounting Report. 

For those considering a career in accounting, the Gies College of Business offers a unique feature to help with the decision. Through its Accountancy Leadership Academy, potential accounting students can hear first-hand from established professionals right within their own community before they commit to a career path. Other coveted campus programs include the ACCY Program, which benefits minority students, and STEM-specific programs. 

At the University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign, the Gies College of Business excels in flexibility, delivering a plethora of course options that allow you to earn in a degree in as little as 18 to 36 months. World-renowned faculty pairs with hands-on curriculum to serve students from a variety of backgrounds, regardless of whether you have some work experience or are entirely new to the field. Most impressive, however, is the 100% employment rate for its 2020 domestic graduates. International graduates were in close pursuit with an 86% rate within just six months of graduation. 

Best for Forensic Accounting : American University


American University

American University

  • Price: $26,955
  • Platform: Online, hybrid, in person 
  • Duration: 1 to 6 years
Why We Chose It

American University’s Forensic Accounting certification and Accounting Analytics specialization help prepare students for work with the world’s leading consulting firms. Its excellent location in Washington, D.C. assures that students will be neighbors with some of the industry’s best employers, making job stability that much easier to attain.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Surprisingly affordable tuition

  • Regular access to “Big Four” experts and firms

  • Located in national hotspot Washington D.C.

Cons
  • Classes up to six years

  • Expensive for extended tuition

  • Distractions from local metropolis

Overview

Right in the heart of the nation’s capital is American University, a Washington, D.C. university known for its prowess in forensic accounting. 

Prominent experts from accounting’s "Big Four" firms are regular guest speakers, and students also have the added support of the Office of Career Engagement, which helps them find employment with leading companies like Deloitte, EY, KPMG, PwC, Fannie Mae, FTI Consulting, and the International Monetary Fund. In addition to work for consulting firms, graduates have also found success contributing their newfound skills to major corporations and law enforcement agencies.

American University is also a great pick for online coursework, with a flexible format that also offers busy students the option of evening classes held online or in-person to accommodate work schedules. Online instruction has been available through the Kogod School of Business since 2015 and features an online-only MBA program that can take just 15 months to complete, while other programs can take up to six years to complete.

Best for Accounting/Finance Hybrid : University of Texas at Austin


University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business

University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business

  • Price: $38,326
  • Platform: Online, hybrid, in person 
  • Duration: 5 years
Why We Chose It

At the University of Texas at Austin’s McCombs Business School, students can enjoy a multi-focused curriculum that pairs traditional accounting concepts with financial analysis, auditing, and control. This program creates an accounting/finance hybrid that can help prepare you for work within the health, nonprofit, or government sectors.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Regarded as a public Ivy League school

  • Highly customizable curriculum

  • World-renowned research hub

Cons
  • Very large enrollment

  • Regular use of teaching assistants

  • Competitive application process

Overview

Ranked #1 in the nation for 14 consecutive years, the University of Texas at Austin’s McCombs Business School has a reputation that precedes itself. UT Austin is an enormous school with an enrollment of 40,163, with Austin serving as its flagship campus. Yet the school manages to maintain an impressive student-to-faculty ratio of approximately 9:1 despite its size.

There are unique and valuable courses that specialize in topics like petroleum accounting that are combined with specialized curriculum touching on healthcare accounting, financial planning and wealth management, and even a tax practicum course. 

While the University of Texas at Austin is not the most expensive accounting school, it is certainly not the most affordable. Students have the option of a Bachelor’s, Master’s, or Ph.D. program, all of which widely vary in cost and term.  For a more economical option that still ranks among the top accounting programs, McCombs Business School offers an accounting specialization to pair with your Bachelor of Business Administration degree that can get you into the workplace faster.

Final Verdict

While there are lots of choices for accounting schools in the U.S., not all of them will offer the best accounting programs for your education. With the help of programs like the Graduate Tax Program, Villanova University’s School of Business provides real world-based curriculum from accomplished and published instructors who help nurture budding accountants, legal professionals, and business people. Students can benefit from the school’s multi-faceted approach to accounting academia that gives attention to international accounting practices, in addition to standard domestic procedures.

It may not be the cheapest school, but with a near 100% acceptance rate, there’s no denying that Villanova University is home to the best accounting programs to set you up for future success.

Compare the Best Accounting Programs

Company Price  Duration Job placement (yes/no)  Format (online and/or in-person)
Villanova University Best Overall $57,710 4 to 5 years Yes Online and/or in-person
Southern New Hampshire University  Best for Returning Students $9,980  1.5 to 5.5 years  No Online and/or in-person 
University of Notre Dame Best for Small Business  $57,699  1 to 5 years  Yes  Online and/or in-person 
Brigham Young University  Best for Undergraduates $13,860  2 to 6 years  Yes  Online and/or in-person 
University of Pennsylvania  Best for Graduates $80,432  4 to 6 years  Yes  Online and/or in-person 
University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign  Best for Online $39,410  1.5 to 6 years  Yes  Online and/or in-person 
American University  Best for Forensic Accounting $26,955  1 to 6 years  No Online and/or in-person 
University of Texas at Austin  Best for Accounting/Finance Hybrid $38,326  5 years  Yes Online and/or in-person 

How to Choose the Best Accounting Programs

To help you find the best accounting school, consider what kind of accounting program will best suit your needs.

  • Type of degree: From an expedited one-year certificate to extended programs for undergraduate, graduate, and Ph.D. study, there are a lot of options for your accounting degree.
  • Admissions: Most schools have required or suggested requirements for both your grade point average (GPA) and your SAT or ACT scores. 
  • Job placement: Another important consideration is the resources and support that a school can offer you after graduation when you are searching for job placement.
  • Flexibility: Some students also work full-time, making it harder to attend traditional daytime classes. Many of the schools on our list offer flexible schedules, whether through online or evening classes.

Accounting Programs vs. Accounting Certificate 

While accounting programs reflect a more traditional college format, students also have the option of an accounting certificate. This option is significantly faster, only taking about a year, so you can get to work that much sooner. Accounting certificates tend to focus on a specific niche within an area of study. They usually lead to entry-level jobs, so they may not result in the lucrative and advanced positions often merited by advanced studies. 

When you pair undergraduate with graduate programs, it builds a deep understanding of many in-depth accounting concepts. However, these accounting programs are significantly longer and can come at a much greater cost.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Careers Do Accounting Programs Prepare Students For?

The best accounting programs prepare students for a career working as a professional bookkeeper, staff accountant, accounts payable and receivable clerk, auditor, financial analyst, tax accountant, forensic accountant, or a variety of other related positions. 

What Topics Are Covered in Accounting Programs? 

Ultimately, the topics covered will depend on your specific course schedule, but many of the best accounting schools offer curriculum that includes financial and forensic accounting, in addition to management, auditing, and taxation for a well-rounded program of study.

How Much Do Accounting Programs Cost?

There are many factors that determine the cost of your accounting program, such as the school you choose, the type of program, the class format, and your decision to live on or off campus. While Southern New Hampshire University charges less than $10,000 per year, other schools like Villanova and Brigham Young University charge well over $50,000 per year.

Methodology

With so many schools offering accounting programs, it can be challenging to ascertain which one offers the best accounting program for your needs. Our exclusive review process considers a variety of factors, such as a school’s available academic programs and accreditation status, as well as other factors like affordability, accessibility, faculty, and admissions requirements.

We help take some of the guesswork out of the decision with the latest facts and figures so you can be confident in the decision about your education.