If you're a parent, work full-time, or just have a really busy schedule, online training can be a real life-saver. And now that online diplomas and degrees have become so common, there are more options than ever for flexible study.
But, not all of these options are created equal.
If you're considering an online accounting program, it's very important to carefully compare and evaluate the various diplomas and certificates out there.
Think about what kind of structure you'll need to stay motivated, on track, and actually finish the program. How will things be different when there's no real live instructor in front of you, and no actual school to attend?
Online learning can seem incredibly simple and easy from the outside. You can study at your own pace. Start when you want. And pretty much answer to no one but yourself!
But with all that flexibility and independence can come downsides many students don't expect. Want to make sure the online accounting program you choose has the right stuff? Look for these 5 key qualities.
1. Find an online accounting program that uses "blended" learning
Online college and university courses seem like a gift from the gods if you'd prefer to learn at your own pace, from home.
But over the years, the love affair with online training has soured a little, as students realized that a totally online format can feel a bit too isolating.
If you're learning all by yourself, with little contact with classmates, and no real class structure, it can be very easy to lose focus. Suddenly, a course that was supposed to take 3 weeks is dragging on for months—even years.
There's a ton of research out there about online training and low "completion rates". Students start the program, but lose their motivation somewhere along the line, and never actually graduate. This happens all the time.
What's a possible solution? "Blended" learning. If you're browsing for an online accounting program, make sure you look for a school that blends online with on-campus study options.
Blended learning uses technology and face-to-face support to help keep students connected, motivated, and on-track to complete their programs.
This means your accounting courses will be offered online, but there'll be opportunities to attend some classes on campus, too.
You'll get to use the college computer lab, library, and career services, and meet your classmates and instructor in person. You'll feel more like a real part of the school community.
Bottom line: When your online training combines with real, on-campus support, you'll have a much better chance of finishing on time. And you'll get a lot more out of the experience.
2. Make sure you'll have one-to-one instructor time
One of the biggest drawbacks to online classes is that most of them don't offer much real, one-to-one time with the instructor.
You're not in an actual, physical classroom, so you won't be able to call the instructor over, and have him/her explain a tough concept or answer a question.
Lack of personal support is often cited as a major problem with typical online courses. And it's true—if you don't feel that your instructor really knows who you are, and is ready to offer help, you'll probably lose motivation and fall behind.
This is why it's crucial to investigate each online accounting program you're considering, and make sure the format includes plenty of opportunities to meet with your instructor.
Meetings might be possible via online chat, email, video conference, or at the college campus.
Bottom line: Before you enrol, just make sure there are easy ways to connect with your instructor, and get help quickly, whenever you need it.
3. Make sure the accounting program covers everything you need to get hired
There are many, many online accounting programs out there. Some are diplomas, others are certificates. Some require you to have certain prerequisites, others are advanced accounting training for people who already have professional accounting experience.
Accounting programs at the university level often include various electives you'll need to take, which won't necessarily relate directly to accounting (like business law, economics, and supply chain management).
You'll also see differences in the length of training. Some online accounting programs are spread across 4-6 years. Others can be completed in under 12 months.
So, given all the different possibilities, it's very important to look closely at the courses included in the program you're considering: do they cover everything you'll need to get hired, straight after training?
If you don't already have accounting experience, or related post-secondary training, this aspect is key. Make sure your online accounting diploma includes entry-level essentials, such as:
- accounting principles and practices, from basic to advanced
- in-depth instruction on a computerized accounting software (like QuickBooks, Simply Accounting, FreshBooks, etc.)
- managerial and cost accounting
- payroll administration
- Microsoft Office programs (such as Excel)
4. Does the online accounting program include an internship?
Never underestimate the power of an internship. Many online accounting programs don't include a work placement, which means students don't get any real-world experience before they graduate.
If you've never had an accounting job before, and will be competing for entry-level positions after college, an internship could make or break your success.
Not only will you get actual accounting experience to add to your resume, you'll also connect with a possible employer—who may even hire you after you've finished training.
At the very least, you'll apply the skills you learned in class, and gain some much-needed confidence before hitting the job market.
5. Look for "free trial" offers so you can preview the online program
A free trial is an excellent way to see how the online learning system works, and make sure you like the approach the school is using—before you pay out tuition.
Some accounting colleges offer a couple of weeks of free classes, so you can meet the instructor (either online or in person), see who else is taking the course, and make sure the online platform is easy to use.
Be sure to ask admission advisors at the schools you're considering about this option. Training is a big investment of your time and money. Choose a school that really helps you make sure you're making a good investment, based on your unique needs and goals.
Next Steps: Learn more about quality online accounting training at Herzing
If you're really serious about earning an accounting diploma, we'd love to hear from you. We've helped thousands of students successfully complete accounting training, both on-campus and online.
Our unique FlexEd online learning system is ideal for busy people who need a little extra flexibility while earning their diploma.
Chat live with an Advisor to get all the details. Or click below to explore the Accounting program and request more information. We're here to help!