Online Higher Education V. The Accounting Profession

Accounting would seem to be an ideal major for online higher education. There aren't any labs and it has right and wrong answers so tests can be graded by computers. To be an accountant you have to pass the CPA exam, so why hang around college for four years taking random humanities courses when you could just study accounting really intensely at home for a couple of years and then pass the CPA exam?

Right?

Well, the accounting professional societies have been well aware of these arguments since the days of correspondence courses. And they don't favor making it cheaper and faster for you to become an accountant like them. In their minds, they have quite enough competition as it is. Plus, it's more pleasant to associate with fellow accountants who have also taken Art History rather just drudge away at accounting.

So, they've responded with a long state-by-state campaign for "The 150 Hour Requirement." Over 40 states now require that anybody sitting the CPA exam must have 150 credit hours of higher education. That's not four years of college, but five.

The American Institute of CPAs helpfully explains how to get your 150 hours:

Combine an undergraduate accounting degree with a master's degree at the same school or at a different one; 

Combine an undergraduate degree in some other discipline with a master's in accounting or an MBA with a concentration in accounting; 

Enroll in an integrated five-year professional accounting school or program leading to a master's degree in accounting.

In this world, there are a lot of organized Powers that Be, such as the accounting professional organizations. And most of them don't have much incentive to make college cheaper for those who aren't part of organized Powers that Be.