How Do I Know If an Online Accounting Program Has a Rigorous Curriculum?

When you’re pursuing a master’s degree in accounting, you want to know your education will be thorough and your degree will be worthwhile. Rather than an easy program, you’re looking for an online accounting degree program with a rigorous curriculum. Here are three indicators you should look at before you choose a school.

Average Undergraduate GPA

A school with a rigorous curriculum will probably be fairly selective when it comes to admitting students. Looking at the criteria your school uses for admission decisions is a good way to gauge how selective the institution’s accounting program is.

Specifically, many college rankings, including those from respected publications like U.S. News & World Report, look at factors like applicants’ mean undergraduate grade point average and the school’s acceptance rate. The more difficult your school is to get into, the more rigorous and challenging you should expect the curriculum to be.

CPA Exam Pass Rate

The average undergraduate GPA tells you what your school expects its students to have accomplished in the past. However, you also want to know how the school’s graduates fare in their future endeavors. One way to determine this is to look at how many of the program’s graduates earn a passing score the first time they take the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam.

The difficulty of the four-part Uniform CPA Examination is infamous, so passing the test on the first try is no small victory. When a school has a high proportion of its graduates passing the CPA exam the first time, it indicates that the program’s courses were effective in preparing students for success on the test and in the real world of the accounting industry.

You can often find out how your intended school’s CPA exam pass rate compares to that of other schools by looking at college rankings or from the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA). If your school is proud of having an outstanding CPA exam pass rate, it will likely emphasize that feature as one of the reasons to apply to the institution or accounting degree program.


The main reason students worry about accreditation is to determine whether a degree program is legitimate and whether the degree they earn will help them reach their career goals. However, accreditation is basically an assessment of the school’s and program’s curriculum by an authoritative agency.

If a school you’re considering is accredited by a regional institutional accreditation body and an appropriate programmatic accreditation agency, that’s a sign that the accounting program’s curriculum has been evaluated and approved by reliable sources. The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AASCB) is one of the most respected programmatic accrediting agencies. The Council for Higher Education Association (CHEA) also recognizes the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) as an agency that’s capable of accrediting accounting and business degree programs.

Also see:

Top 10 Best Online Master’s of Accounting Degree Programs 2015