Distance learning: The world of online training for accountants

There was a time, not very long ago, when distance learning for accountants was limited to self-study books, take-home exams, and the occasional closed-circuit broadcast. In fact, the do-it-yourself training was seen by many as a last resort, when all other avenues for getting required training had been exhausted.

Today, distance learning has come of age and is providing us with options to study what we want, when we want it, and with whom we want.

Take college courses for example. The University of Phoenix, long-considered a groundbreaker in the area of online education, was founded 30 years ago and now offers over 100 bachelor's and graduate degree programs, available all over the world, and all available online.

A quick Google search for "Undergraduate Degrees," "Online Colleges," "Online Accounting Degree," or any of a number of other related search words will retrieve literally hundreds of colleges and universities – major schools, including, quite possibly, your alma mater – that offer their degrees online. If you are already enrolled in a college, chances are, some or even all of the courses are available online. Masters degree programs and PhDs are also available online.

Online training can include real-time classroom training where you join a virtual class of students who are your classmates and work with a professor, just as you would in a campus setting, or it can be individual training that you do on your own, at your own pace.

For CPA candidates, there are several online CPA review programs available. Study at your own pace, review material as much as you need, focus on the areas that are most difficult for you.

Once certified as a CPA and licensed to practice in your state, you need to maintain your license by attending continuing professional education (CPE) courses each year. The convenience, flexibility and low cost of online CPE has contributed to a marketplace that provides not only a plethora of training options, but training from the top professionals in the field. Online professional training appeals to training coordinators because it eliminates travel expense for in-person training programs, and firms do not have to work around staff time away from the office.

Warning: Each state has different CPE requirements for its CPAs, and those requirements often include a limit as to how many hours of online CPE each year can count toward the annual requirement.

Many advanced programs, such as MBA programs, are geared toward people who are already working full-time and want to be able to earn their degree by studying nights and weekends.

Review courses for GMAT, GRE, and LSAT tests can be found online and again offer the advantage of studying at your own pace and the convenience of doing the work 24/7, wherever you want.

In addition to the degree programs and preparatory courses, the Internet is home to online programs that can prepare you for advanced certifications, such as the Certified Financial Planner and the Certified Fraud Examiner.

In short, the Internet and the concept of distance learning has become commonplace and fits well into a society that values the ability to find what you want, when you want it.

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