The “Difficulties” of Obtaining an Accounting Education While Running a Business

If you are interested in trying to enhance your accounting skills (or go further and obtain a college degree) while starting or running your own business at the same time, you are not alone. Believe it or not, the average age of college students today is 27. Many adults are going back to school years after what is considered the “traditional” age for attending college.

Still, many entrepreneurs and adults alike find the idea of entering a college classroom daunting. There are several factors to consider, including:

• Age – Adult learners often feel uncomfortable learning with younger students with whom they have little in common.

• Time – Not just away from your business, but also from your family.

• Convenience – The course(s) you want may not be offered during the days and/or times you want to take them.

• Cost.

That last consideration is a big one. Selecting a less expensive non-online option – like a community college – has many hidden costs, such as about transportation to and from classes, and the costs of textbooks and possibly labs, all of which can add up to hundreds of dollars more for you to pay each semester.

But these or other fears should not keep you from pursuing introductory college coursework. The concerns previously listed virtually vanish when you study via your computer in an online course.

Not all online college programs are created equal, however. There are potential pitfalls you need to avoid.

For an online course to work for you, it must reduce your costs, be flexible enough to accommodate your busy schedule, and put you in charge of your options. If an emergency comes up at work or at home, your course should be flexible enough that you do not have to skip a class and should allow you to review the material at a later time or date. A good online course should also allow you to start work quickly.

As for cost, there are now online programs that are often less expensive than what many community colleges charge (and you will not even have to shell out cash for a parking permit, parking meter or shuttle fare to attend classes). A good online course should also give you the option to use less expensive electronic textbooks (“eBooks”) as well.

You should also consider programs that offer on-demand tutorial support, preferably one-on-one. Otherwise, your studies can be delayed for days as you wait for an e-mail response to your request for assistance.

Make sure as well that your online course allows you to earn real college credit that can be transferred when needed to another institution for completing your degree. If it cannot, you are potentially wasting your time and effort, particularly if you decide to pursue a degree.

Regarding online accounting courses specifically, the course description and objectives, the criteria for evaluating the course and the text and other materials supporting the instruction should be clearly spelled out to you in the syllabus. The course should be balanced in presenting to you and grading you in Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), bank reconciliation, financial statements and business ethics. And it should have a mechanism allowing you to ask questions to clarify what is being presented or request more information on the course. Chances are that if the online program is detached from you at the start of your course, it will be no more accessible in handling your requests once you begin your accounting studies.

With the right approach and attitude, you can find that taking an accounting course (or continuing with a degree) while operating a business is not only possible, but also fulfilling at the same time. Your efforts will not only help your business grow, but will provide you with a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Finding a good online accounting course or online degree program is definitely worth your extra effort.


Ryan Busch is Director of StraighterLine, a program that provides a high-quality, better supported, and lower cost way to obtain college credits online with one-on-one instructional support. With StraighterLine's personal, on-demand instruction - a key difference among its competition - students earn transferable credits that give them a head start on more than 300 associate's and bachelor's degree programs. StraighterLine focuses on required courses--like Accounting I and Accounting II. For ...

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