Entering into the field of accounting can be a bit intimidating. Free online accounting courses are an excellent option for anyone considering going into the field of accounting to test out content. Business school candidates can work through basic and advanced level courses without the worries of a semester-long commitment, tuition rates, and fear of an unsuccessful attempt negatively impacting GPA. The following free online accounting courses would also be beneficial as continuing education for current accountants or as a resource for individuals who run their own business and would like to know more about maintaining their finances.
Free Online Accounting Courses
The free online accounting courses on our list are offered by notable universities through some of the top business schools in the nation. The courses are often presented by some of the same highly regarded staff as those who teach traditional online or on-campus classes. Because of this, participants can expect an extremely high level of education, all free of charge. The flexibility of free online accounting courses is also an added benefit. Many of the courses on this list do not require any prerequisites and offer rolling start dates. This means that students can start learning as soon as they are ready without waiting for semesters to start. Several of the options are offered in a self-paced format, which gives you the ability to work at your own pace. In contrast, others are instructor-led, an option that is great preparation for taking courses towards a university degree.
To find the 2021 Best Free Online Accounting Courses Ranking, we identified free, online, accounting-focused courses offered on Coursera and edX. For the ranking order, we focused on overall prestige and reputation. Each course is given a Consensus Score that combines data from five leading business school ranking systems: U.S. News and World Report, Forbes, The Financial Times, The Economist, and Bloomberg Businessweek. All ranking data was converted to a 100-point scale, weighted equally, and then averaged. Here are the Best Free Online Accounting Courses.
University of MichiganStephen M. Ross School of Business
Introduction to Time Value of Money is a free beginner-level Coursera course. Intro to TVM is sponsored by the University of Michigan. The curriculum covers the topics of simple concepts and applications of TVM, annuities in relation to the time value of money, as well as complex applications. The course has start dates on a rolling basis and normally takes around 13 hours to complete. Students follow through a convenient digital format that includes quizzes, videos, and readings to appeal to a variety of learning styles. Of 166 current reviews, Intro to TMV has an impressive rating of 4.8 out of five stars. Comments left include praise for the instructor and the efficiency, ease of use, and interesting nature of course content. After completing this free online accounting course, students will understand how the value of money changes over time, the implications of all financial decisions, and will leave with the practical knowledge necessary to make informed decisions on a wide variety of financial decisions.
Indiana UniversityKelley School of Business
Indiana University’s Taxes and Decision Making edX course is an advanced level and fully distance class that is a part of the Micromasters Accounting Program. This Taxes and Decision Making course is designed with junior/senior-level college students or those who have already completed their bachelor’s degree. The free online accounting course is spread out over 12 weeks and follows an instructor-led format. Students should expect to invest eight to twelve hours of their week studying and completing coursework. This course is free. However, a textbook is suggested for all learners and is required for those planning to apply for a verified certificate. Ordering an e-textbook or renting can keep the cost of this resource at a reasonable rate. Throughout the class, students will master properly applying federal income tax laws to income taxpayers, using basic finance tools to help individuals and businesses to maximize their after-tax wealth, and differentiating federal income tax laws from financial accounting standards.
University of VirginiaDarden School of Business
After completing Coursera’s free Managerial Accounting Fundamentals course, 50% of students reported starting a new career, and 33% reported receiving a pay raise or promotion. Managerial Accounting Fundamentals is offered by the University of Virginia and is a completely online beginner-level course. Through 13 hours of study, students will learn different types of costs, how costs are represented graphically, cost-volume-profit analysis, ways to calculate and allocate overhead rates in activity-based and traditional allocation systems, and how to distinguish costs and benefits that are relevant and irrelevant in making management decisions. Nearly 28,000 students have taken this free accounting course, and of those, more than 100 have left reviews with an average of 4.8 out of five stars. Learners commented that they would recommend this course’s convenience, extensive explanation of concepts, level of difficulty for beginners. Certificates can also be purchased for resumes, CV, or LinkedIn profiles.
University of PennsylvaniaThe Wharton School
Nearly 90,000 students have enrolled in Coursera’s free Accounting Analytics course offered by the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. The class is completely online and delivered in a self-paced format making it easy to fit into even the busiest of schedules. On average, students complete the course in around 10 hours and can expect to walk away with a better understanding of ratios and forecasting, earnings management, big data and prediction models, and linking non-financial metrics to financial performance. In recent reviews, this course received an average of 4.5 stars and was noted for its interesting content, integration of content during the final week, and practicality. The Accounting Analytics course is the fourth of a five-part specialization in Business Analytics, including Customer Analytics, Operations Analytics, People Analytics, and a Business Analytics Capstone. Of those who chose to complete the specialization in addition to the free Accounting Analytics course, 32% started a new career, and 21% received a pay increase or promotion.
University of California, IrvinePaul Merage School of Business
The University of California-Irvine joined with Coursera to offer Completing the Accounting Cycle free of charge. This online course is one of three in the Introduction to Financial Accounting: The Accounting Cycle specialization. The specialization also includes What is Financial Accounting and Recording in Journals and Posting in Ledgers. Students can work at their own pace and typically spend around 10 hours studying. Modules within the course cover key topics like adjusting entries and adjusted trial balance, the worksheet, creating and analyzing financial statements, and closing entries and the post-closing trial balance. After completing this free course, students can expect to better understand adjusting entries, closing entries, the preparation of an income statement, retained earnings statements, balance sheets, and procedures for closing the four closing entries. Learners can start this accounting course at any time and have the ability to work through the modules at their own pace.
Massachusetts Institute of TechnologySloan School of Management
Financial Accounting is an edX course sponsored by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Over 21,000 students have enrolled in this free online accounting course that is a component of the Micromasters Program. To participate, students must sign up for a start date and then follow along with the curriculum path over a period of 12 weeks. The course is free of charge, but those who complete the program can add a verified certificate for $450. This option is easily shareable as an addition to resumes or can be added directly to a LinkedIn profile. The content delivered in MIT’s Financial Accounting is considered advanced. Students should be prepared to spend 10 to 14 hours studying per week to fully utilize the course. Expected outcomes include understanding key accounting terms, how financial statements are constructed, reading financial statements, and how to gather inputs to valuation and models for corporate decisions.
Columbia UniversityColumbia Business School
Students can learn how to measure the risk and return of equity and debt through Columbia University’s Risk & Return edX course. There are multiple windows to sign up for this free online accounting class. Risk and Return can be taken either as a stand-alone course or as a part of Corporate Finance professional certification. Over four weeks, learners will be introduced to the concepts of measuring risk, estimating the expected return of an asset, adjusting the risk of the equity and debt when a firm changes its capital structure, and calculating the weighted average cost of capital. Modules are completed in a self-paced format, with most students spending an average of three to four hours per week studying. Before starting this course, it is suggested that participants have a basic understanding of accounting and Microsoft Excel. Learners will best be prepared for Risk & Return if they have also completed edX’s free Introduction to Corporate Finance and The Free Cash Flow Method for Firm Valuation.
Babson CollegeF.W. Olin Graduate School of Business
The free online course, Financial Accounting Made Fun: Eliminating Your Fears, is brought to the edX platform by Babson College. It is a self-paced introductory level course that required four to six hours of study time over about a month. Each week, students will cover balance sheets and transaction analysis, income statements and cash flow, ratio analysis, and forecasting. Key learning goals are to have a greater understanding of how primary financial statements are constructed, the difference between cash flow and profit, calculating important performance ratios to evaluate the performance of a business, and creating a financial forecast that allows entrepreneurs to confidently present to investors and creditors. This course also offers the option to purchase a certificate for $199. The content offered in Financial Accounting Made Fun is an excellent resource for those entering into the field of finance and accounting. It is also packed with information that anyone who runs their own business will certainly benefit from.
University of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignGies College of Business
Advanced Financial Reporting: Accounting for Business Combinations and Preparation of Consolidated Financial Statements is a free Coursera course offered through the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. This advanced-level course has impressive ratings of 4.8 out of five stars, and 50% of learners who have completed the content shared that they received tangible benefits. Another 50% reported earning a pay increase or promotion in correlation with completing this course. Advanced Financial Reporting is generally completed in around 24 hours of study and is a completely virtual class. Students begin with a course orientation and then move through modules on control of business, acquisition method, components of consideration transferred in a business combination, assets acquired and liabilities assumed, and more. Content is delivered through reading assignments, videos, and quizzes which keeps the experience interactive and interesting. Recent reviews noted that this class was well-structured, a great review over the technical areas of financial reporting, very informative, and easy to implement.
West Virginia UniversityJohn Chambers College of Business and Economics
Over 65,000 students have already taken Coursera’s free Forensic Accounting and Fraud Examination course. The course is offered by West Virginia University and boasts 4.7 out of five stars as a rating and a 97% approval score. Recent reviews stated that this class is one of a kind, enjoyable, practical, and easy to implement. Forensic Accounting and Fraud Examination participants also only need to spend a total of seven hours to go through the content in this accounting course, which is presented through readings, quizzes, and videos. Concepts covered within the curriculum are learning who accidental fraudsters are, understanding the basic elements of fraud, how internal control concepts can help detect and prevent predator fraudsters, analysis tools to help identify fraudulent activities, and the objectives and stages of money laundering. The final module discusses the importance and difficulties facing whistleblowers. New classes start every day, and 22% of students report starting a new career after completing this course.
Where are the best places to earn a degree in Accounting?
A sign of a truly high-quality business school is a business accreditation through the AACSB, ACBSP, or IACBE. AACSB accreditation schools make up the top 5% of business schools worldwide. The AACSB is also the only business accreditation agency that includes an additional Accounting Accreditation. This next step requires schools to meet higher standards that are specific to the field of accounting. In fact, there are less than 200 programs worldwide that meet the criteria for AACSB Accounting Accreditation. Rankings such as our Best Online Bachelor’s in Accounting is a great place to start your search as the schools included have already been vetted for quality and prestige.
How should I choose a business school?
Other than accreditation, there are two important factors in deciding where to earn a degree in accounting-cost and preferred delivery method. Students who have many other responsibilities but need a convenient and cost-effective option may want to check out online learning options such as those listed on our Online Master’s in Accounting ranking and our Online Accounting MBA Ranking. Online learning allows for flexibility of schedule but also comes with perks such as in-state tuition rates or general program discounts. The last step is to think about whether you plan to complete an undergraduate or graduate degree in accounting. For those looking for a budget-friendly and local option, many bachelor’s degree programs offer the opportunity to complete your associate’s degree through a local community college first and then transition directly into the four-year program. Wherever you choose to earn your degree, key points to remember are that it is accredited, offered at a price point that works for your budget, and that it includes format options that work with your lifestyle.
What skills are beneficial to have as an accountant or CPA?
Understanding mathematical concepts is a large part of becoming a great accountant. However, successful accountants must also have strong communication skills. Presenting information in an accessible fashion, discussing important topics in formal and casual settings, communicating in written methods such as emails or memos, and working in teams are all skills that help accountants succeed. Accountants must also be willing to continue their education through books, online courses such as those mentioned in this ranking, podcasts, or workshops. New methods and technologies are constantly emerging. To be trusted in the highest decision-making circles, accountants must be up to date on top trends such as eCommerce, workflow technology, or image processing. Familiarity with databases, spreadsheets, presentation software, accounting software, and internet trends is essential for keeping up with the fast-paced financial industry. Critical thinking skills are also an extensive benefit to those in the field of accounting. The ability to find creative solutions while remaining ethical is one of the most important aspects of a financial advisor’s job. A great option for strengthening skills in these areas is pursuing other free online courses.
For those who are considering entering into the field of accounting, our Ultimate Guide to Accounting is a great place to start. You can also learn more about earning an Associate’s degree or Bachelor’s degree in Accounting. If finances are holding you back from taking the first step towards your dream, remember that there are a myriad of options for financial aid, grants, and scholarships for students of all personal and educational backgrounds. If you have narrowed down your top choices in schools, the next step is to schedule an appointment with an academic advisor in order to see which of their accounting programs is the best match for your needs. Looking into flexibility, cost, expected graduation timeline, and the level of peer interaction you prefer will help you find the most success. After that, you are ready to choose your university and apply to start making your goals a reality!