Accounting, record keeping, and bookkeeping are essential aspects of any successful business, but that doesn’t mean they come easily to entrepreneurs and small business owners.
If high school was the last time you used algebra or you haven’t touched a financial spreadsheet in years, jumping into the complicated world of business accounting can feel like wading into an unknown bog filled with quicksand and various other dangers. After all, your financials are integral to business success, helping you forecast for the future, evaluate your current efforts, and establish strategies to meet your goals. Not to mention, they may be requested by the IRS or other tax authority. In other words, it’s important to get your corporate financial right.
Direct Capital put together the following 50 resources that pool together webinars, university classes, websites, podcasts, and videos to provide a robust offering of free accounting and bookkeeping tutorials and courses. From introductory topics to full-on diplomas, these links will have you running the numbers in no time.
- Beginner Accounting Courses & Classes
- Advanced Accounting Courses & Classes
- Accounting Videos, Webinars & Podcasts
- Accounting Websites
Beginner Accounting Courses & Classes
From the most basic concepts to comprehensive accounting 101 courses, these free beginner classes will introduce you to the concepts, principles and practices of managerial and financial accounting.
The “introduction to financial accounting” field practically overflows with free info, so it can be tough to determine which is right for you. We present this 10-unit course courtesy of Saylor, an online learning academy. Though this is considered a Business 103 class, it’s basic enough that you can jump right in but thorough enough that you’ll receive a truly comprehensive introduction to financial accounting for business.
Favorite Feature: The course is taught by an MBA and MHRM professor, so you know you’re getting a university-level education – for free!
If you need a thorough and rigorous intro – that’s 4 classes a week at 1.5 hours per class – to financial accounting, this MIT – yes, that MIT – offering will do the trick beautifully. Over the course of six weeks, the lecture series schools students in the basics of corporate financial accounting and reporting. But even better, the class then teaches you what all that raw data means: how to use accounting to assess your business performance, value your company, and evaluate your company decisions.
Favorite Feature: Translations are available in Persian, Portuguese, Simplified Chinese, and Spanish.
There are lots of free intros to financial accounting, but one of the best is this bundle of awesomeness from UPenn’s Wharton Business School. The 10-week course is geared to anyone without an accounting background, and posits that hey, even if you plan to hire an accountant, you should still understand the basics of accounting to make better, more informed decisions about your company.
Favorite Feature: Leave it to one of the best MBA programs in the U.S. to offer a practical course for the real world – business owners with no background in financial accounting.
The Open University is back again, this time with a how-to introduction to bookkeeping. The non-mathematicians amongst us will appreciate the practical review of numbers, like refreshers in calculator skills and accounting equations. You’ll learn about double-entry bookkeeping, trial balances, profit and loss statements, and other must-have accounting topics, and will practice your skills – with actual numbers and math.
Favorite Feature: We really love the course’s focus on math, since math is essential to accounting but many non-accountants have forgotten the skills they once learned in school.
If you love no-nonsense info for people who have no time for nonsense, then this one’s for you. Finance for Non-Financial People takes the mystery out of business finance and accounting. But it’s more than that: this four-week intro course also explains the importance of accounting and how to analyze your company’s finances to paint a comprehensive picture of your current financial situation.
Favorite Feature: Even if you’ve never taken a finance or accounting course, you’ll learn easily thanks to plain language and simple explanations.
Not everything at LearnAccountingForFree.com is actually free, but the first complete course – Introduction to Financial Accounting – now is! (Previously $99, so free is a great deal.) The course is the perfect primer to financial accounting, offering descriptions of basic accounting terminology, lessons in understanding your financials, and a thorough overview of leveraging accounting data to make better business decisions.
Favorite Feature: The course was developed specifically for small business owners, so all information is tailored to your entrepreneurial questions and uses.
When you don’t have time for two separate courses, MIT steps in with this two-for-one special. The self-explanatory title says it all: this 13-week undergraduate course offers an introduction to both financial and managerial accounting and reporting. We love that this class is structured for business owners and managers who read financial reports – not the accountants who prepare them.
Favorite Feature: The format of this course is perfectly organized into readings, lecture notes, assignments and exams (yep, exams).
Recordkeeping is absolutely essential to accurate accounting and despite popular belief, is about more than just saving receipts and noting down your payroll. This course, brought to you by Ed Zimmer and The Entrepreneur Network, takes you step by step through all aspects of business record-keeping, exploring topics like paper accounting, source documents, payables accounting and processing, and more.
Favorite Feature: After you complete the course, you’ll have the best, most precise records any small business (or the IRS) could ask for.
If you’re in business, chances are you’ll dabble with cash accounting, a popular accounting method that has stood the test of time. Essentially, cash accounting is a method to track your expenses and revenues (accounts payable and receivable) during the period in which they are paid and received. This outstanding course from Alison introduces you to the what, how and why of cash accounting. You’ll receive a certificate of completion once you successfully complete the course.
Favorite Feature: This class doesn’t just cover the basics of cash accounting, but also helps you determine whether the method will benefit your business.
10. Accounting 101
SmallBizU has compiled this seriously comprehensive course, appropriately dubbed Accounting 101. Over 150 slides cover everything basic accounting, from the language of business (a.k.a. accounting jargon) and the importance of understand raw data, to gross margins and cash balances. It’s simple; it’s straightforward; it’s visual; it’s easy to understand.
Favorite Feature: Scroll back and forth between slides, skip stuff you already know, and take copious notes as you go – the slideshow format works well for any type of learner.
The NewStart Institute offers two free accounting classes, one basic and one more advanced. Module I covers such topics as bookkeeping language, property, debits and credits, recording transactions, your general ledger, and financial statements, while Module II jumps into cash accounting, petty cash, bank reconciliation, and other advanced concepts.
Favorite Feature: Each sub-topic has its own materials and syllabus, making it easy to navigate each course and dial-down to topics that apply to your business.
Direct from Alison, this Fundamentals of Accounting offers a slightly more comprehensive look at accounting for business. The main focus of the class is practical and real world: how to create a profit and loss statement, how to maintain your balance sheet, and how to develop other accounting reports for your business. You’ll receive a certificate of completion once you successfully complete the course.
Favorite Feature: The class gives an excellent introduction to accounting terminology, so you’ll never feel lost as you scroll through websites or take more advanced courses.
From Bizzer.com comes this introductory course to financial statements. You’ll discover a range of helpful information, from a description and how-to of double-entry accounting, to recording debits and credits, to an explanation of accounting equations.
Favorite Feature: The provided accounting exercises are practical and a great resource for reinforcing your newfound knowledge.
If you manage your own business but aren’t a trained accountant, this class is for you. The four-week course focuses on managerial accounting with an emphasis on internal data – data to equip employees within your company to understand the current state of affairs and use this knowledge to make better decisions. A standout feature in this class is the first module, which covers the essential differences between financial and managerial accounting.
Favorite Feature: We really love the thorough intro to managerial accounting jargon, which can be confusing (and sometimes intimidating) to newbies.
This offering from Saylor is a comprehensive introduction and review of managerial accounting, wrapped in a six-unit package. You’ll learn the differences between managerial and financial accounting and, even better, will understand how the former applies to your business and business decisions. Fair warning: there’s a final exam at the end of the course!
Favorite Feature: All course readings are linked from within the class – and they’re free!
The Open University brings you this introduction to the context of accounting – an overview of the field, its history, and its practical applications for today’s small business owners. Topics go beyond the standard to help you truly understand your finances: what is the difference between data and information? How can you identify (and use) “good” information? How can proper accounting help your business?
Favorite Feature: Each module is broken down into sub-sections, making this course a great intro class for entrepreneurs who work best at their own pace, instead of a rigid week-by-week schedule.
For anyone involved in sales, inventory is a part of everyday business. This Alison offering sets you up to properly measure and report inventory costs, so you can then calculate an accurate cost for all goods sold – and adjust your sales prices accordingly. You’ll learn about different inventory methods, like LIFO and FIFO, as well as the importance of keeping an accurate inventory.
Favorite Feature: If you don’t have a background in accounting and operate a sales-based business, this class is absolutely essential to turning a profit.
Here’s another one-topic course from Alison, this time on your accounts receivable and accounts payable. Accounts are a part of any business, and being able to accurately record and track your payables and receivables will set you up for future success. You’ll receive a certificate of completion once you successfully complete the course.
Favorite Feature: This course leans heavily on practical applications of A/R and A/P, like how to handle overdue receivables and even how to issue promissory notes.
This free class from Alison is another one-topic wonder, covering accounting for the sales and purchase of goods in merchandising (as opposed to manufacturing). As such, merchandised-based business owners will learn about managing their accountings, the finances of discounts, factoring in transportation costs, and other factors that contribute to gross profit. You’ll receive a certificate of completion once you successfully complete the course.
Favorite Feature: The focus on merchandising tailors this class to the individual needs, questions and concerns of small business owners in this line of business.
One of the most important steps in business is completing your accounting cycle – closing your accounts at the end of the period. This course teaches you how to complete this process, from generating your Income Statement and Retained Earnings Statement, to updating the current Balance Sheet and Classified Balance sheet. You’ll receive a certificate of completion once you successfully complete the course.
Favorite Feature: This class focuses on the small business accounting cycle, instead of the cycle that applies to general accounting or large-scale business.
Advanced Accounting Courses & Classes
The advanced courses and classes, most available in university lecture format, are best tackled after you have the basics under your belt.
One of our favorite MIT offerings is this graduate-level course, Management Accounting and Control. This 18-installment course dives into the minutiae of managerial accounting, and then helps you leverage your new-found knowledge to analyze business decisions, determine pricing, develop accurate budgets, and more. Heads up: there’s a (required) final exam at the end of the course!
Favorite Feature: There’s a lot of course work – 3 lectures a week (total: 4.5 hours) – but all materials are available for free. No pricey textbook required.
Small business owners often do their own accounting, and that means that they need a thorough understanding of accounting principles and processes. This free offering teaches you how to create accounting ledgers and journals – and the rules for properly maintaining each. You’ll receive a certificate of completion once you successfully complete the course.
Favorite Feature: Upon completion of this course, you’ll be able to accurately create and maintain your business ledgers.
23. Shark Accounting
If you plan to seek venture capital for your business, this two-hour course will prepare you in preparing your presentation – an intro to business numbers and how to plan for success. In essence, this short class teaches you how to use financial forecasting and accounting to create a successful business plan; in practice, it equips you to create a presentation that will wow investors.
Favorite Feature: Course professor Vincent Turner is available to answer questions via email.
This course teeters on the beginner-advanced line. We’ve filed it as advanced because you’ll want some basic knowledge before you fire up this course, but don’t be intimidated – this Alison course is well designed and very doable for business owners without accounting backgrounds. The goal of the class is right there in the title: how to analyze accounting data to make better business decisions. You’ll receive a certificate of completion once you successfully complete the course.
Favorite Feature: We appreciate that this course is created with non-accountants in mind and teaches business owners how to understand their business’s accounting data.
The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) 2014 Report to the Nations estimates that as much as 5% of the productive economy may be subject to fraud each year. This five-week course gives you the tools to understand and combat fraud in your business, whether the perpetrators have simply made a mistake, made a bad decision, or purposely set out to defraud you and your company.
Favorite Feature: The course covers all types of fraud, but small biz owners will benefit especially from reviewing the all too common, it-could-happen-to-you credit card and healthcare fraud.
If you like to work at your own pace, give this class a try. Available through Portland State University and Professor Elizabeth Dreike Almer, PhD and CPA, this class is a well organized, advanced review of financial accounting and reporting topics. Heads up: there’s quite a bit of reading and homework involved – as there would be in any advanced-level university class – so make sure you have a few free hours clear every week.
Favorite Feature: Course materials, including PowerPoint presentations and all readings, are easily and freely available online.
If you already understand the basics of managerial accounting – the use of accounting to help achieve your company’s business goals – then it’s time to explore more advanced topics – in this case, planning, costing and finally, measuring your performance. This four-week course from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will school you on how to understand and analyze raw financial data to pinpoint better ways to achieve goals and empower managers to make more informed decisions.
Favorite Feature: We love when free means free: the course textbook is available as a completely gratis PDF!
For many business owners, managerial accounting is the most helpful brand of accounting – the link between your company’s financial data and your own decision-making. This graduate-level class, courtesy of the New Jersey Institute of Technology’s Dr. Asokan Anandarajan, explores what managerial accounting entails, from break-even analysis, to strategic cost reduction, to liquidity and solvency, and beyond.
Favorite Feature: All 17 lectures are available as video classes and require no paid materials.
Management Accounting is the use of accounting data to fuel and inform managerial decisions for your business. This course reviews the fundamentals of managerial accounting, reviewing the principles of standard accounting and then applying them to various types of businesses. You’ll learn to take an analytical approach to the data, and how to leverage your understanding to make better, more profitable decisions.
Favorite Feature: Grading is mandatory in this course, which may seem like a very un-favorite feature to some. We see it as a way to keep ourselves accountable.
Another offering from the Open University, this advanced course explores the evolution of financial reporting and why certain rules exist. In other words, if you’re interested in the why‘s of accounting and its current regulations, this class offers up more than a few answers.
Favorite Feature: If you do international business, this course covers accounting whys across jurisdictions and international borders.
The Arkansas Small Business Development Center has created this excellent course in financial statements, and specifically their use in analyzing your current business situation and forecasting for the future. It’s an excellent class to take if you’re just starting out, but is also outstanding for business owners interested in improving performance and fueling future success.
Favorite Feature: This class is written with straightforward language, so even those without a strong financial background will understand the concepts within.
Alison is back with this upper-level course, which offers an online diploma in Advanced Accounting Controls and Transactions. As this is a diploma course, it covers a smorgasbord of accounting topics, including those related to sales, inventory, and cash management. You’ll learn both theory and practical application, and will complete the course with a very thorough understanding of how accounting helps manage your business and influence future decisions.
Favorite Feature: We appreciate that this class is more than theory: it teaches you to analyze your business to make better decisions.
A small step up from Alison’s introductory course, this fundamental review of financial accounting principles explores financial accounting in depth. Review basic principles and concepts, and explore more advanced topics like risk analysis, ratio analysis, business capital, and accounting’s role in making business decisions. You’ll receive a certificate of completion once you successfully complete the course.
Favorite Feature: If you plan to be deeply involved in your company’s accounting, this primer course provides more in-depth preparation than most intro courses.
A second diploma course from Alison, this comprehensive offering explores accounting theory and practices. You’ll learn about debits and credits, T-accounts, accounting periods, balance sheets, and much more. Better still, by the end of the course you’ll know how to create financial statements, execute each step in the accounting cycle, and analyze data to make better decisions for your business.
Favorite Feature: This course was developed specifically with small business owners in mind, so many aspects address your particular interests and needs.
Accounting Videos, Webinars & Podcasts
If you’re in the mood for short and easily digestible accounting knowledge, these videos, webinars and podcasts have you covered. Most are under an hour long, so you can consume at your leisure whenever you have free time.
The Small Business Association (SBA) is one of the Internet’s best free resources for entrepreneurs and (no surprise) small business owners. The SBA’s Introduction to Accounting course, which is bundled as part of their accounting for business resources, offers a 30-minute intro to accounting for small business. All the materials are also available as text, so you can review to your heart’s content.
Favorite Feature: This is an excellent, super fast introduction to business accounting – the perfect beginning to your informal accounting education.
If you plan to do your own accounting, or if you just want to understand everything your pro bookkeeper tells you, the Accounting Best Practices podcast keeps you up-to-date on everything you need to know. At nearly 200 episodes (and counting), there’s a free episode to cover nearly every topic.
Favorite Feature: Accounting know-how on the go! Download interesting episodes to your smartphone or mp3 player, and listen while you commute, exercise, or just wait in line.
Kutztown University of Pennsylvania offers up this straightforward tutorial on creating profit and loss statements. The goal: to determine how much money your business is (or isn’t) making. The method: simple language and a fast, easy tutorial that takes you through the process, step by step.
Favorite Feature: The flash-based tutorial is easy to navigate and shows you how to create your P&L statement with real numbers.
Another Kutztown offering, this flash-based tutorial dishes the dirt on preparing your business balance sheet. Like its sister presentation on profit and loss, this flash-based class is well organized into balance sheet topics – current liabilities, owners equity, etc. – and takes you step-by-step through the process of creating and maintaining your company’s balance sheet.
Favorite Feature: The format makes it easy to work at your own pace and review previous modules until you have the info down pat.
Cloud accounting is very popular these days, and this one-hour webinar helps you determine whether web-based accounting is right for your business. Free registration with Proformative is required to access the webinar. Review the five key signs that you’re ready to upgrade to the cloud, and determine the value proposition, unique to your business, of moving to cloud-based accounting.
Favorite Feature: We really like that the webinar doesn’t look at just the security aspect, but also explores whether cloud accounting addresses your business’s needs, including complex business processes and compliance issues.
Visual learners unite at Free Accounting School, a website dedicated to providing excellent, informative videos on accounting basics. Each video class is broken down into its covered topics, so you can easily navigate to the accounting basics that interest you.
Favorite Feature: Most accounting classes are text or slideshow-based, so a full offering of videos is highly appreciated.
This 10-part series is an excellent offering via iTunesU and Villanova University’s Dr. Anthony Catanach and Dr. Noah Barsky. Each installation is available as an audio or video lecture – or both, if you prefer – and explores the basic principles of managerial accounting: basic business processes, strategy, risk management, and how to leverage accounting info to make better business decisions.
Favorite Feature: As the class is pre-recorded, there’s no fixed schedule – download and consume at your own pace.
Accounting Websites and Online Resources
These accounting websites are often more comprehensive than their class counterparts, offering not only multiple tutorials and courses on individual topics (e.g. an introduction to financial accounting), but also providing a bevy of resources on accounting topics, definitions, worksheets and resources.
Part-class, part-website, Bean Counting 101 easily makes our list of favorite accounting sites. There are five tutorial modules, which cover topics from super basic what is accounting?, to more advanced topics like profitability and cash flow, using your financial statements, keeping inventory, accrual accounting, and balancing your company’s general ledge.
Favorite Feature: Almost all lessons are geared to business accounting, not general accounting or other sub-topics – in other words, subject perfect for small business owners.
If accounting and finance feels like an intimidating topic, the idea of your own accounting tutor may appeal. Enter AccountingCoach, a website designed to help small businesses understand accounting through an incredibly diverse and deep well of classes, tutorials, trainings and more.
Favorite Feature: When you don’t even know where to start (“What’s that thing called? I don’t even know the words to search!”) the Q&A section is an incredibly helpful resource.
As the title suggests, My Accounting Course offers an excellent introduction and review of accounting topics – a thorough, free and easily accessible website. Beyond the traditional classes and topics, you’ll find a great accounting dictionary (demystify all those unfamiliar terms!) and CPA review courses, as well as other resources to augment your learning.
Favorite Feature: We absolutely love the examples section, for learners who need to see concrete, real-world applications of accounting theory.
Bean Counter’s website is the accounting tutorial mother load – an entire website devoted to almost every accounting and bookkeeping topic under the sun. Start with the intro to bookkeeping tutorial and move on to journals, payroll, inventory, cash accounting and more. It’s all here, for free and on demand.
Favorite Feature: All courses are available for free online, but if you’d like a print version, you can purchase eBooks, CDs, and even paperback course materials.
My Accounting Tutor is the brainchild of Craig Pence, MBA, CMA and CFM. The website is devoted to providing free accounting tutorials with – get this – an emphasis on the learner’s particular needs. As such, the site’s accounting classes are divided into categories for sole proprietors, corporations, and general topics, like advanced explorations of financial and managerial accounting.
Favorite Feature: Most sites offer basic information, but My Accounting Tutor gets real-world with tutorials like its Intro to Quickbooks, which accounting newbies will really appreciate (and need).
This website, courtesy of Michael Celender, offers a full review of beginner accounting topics: basic concepts, transactions, the accounting cycle, reports, inventory, books, and so much more. Though the URL implies that the focus is on students, the site offers practical and helpful information for anyone lacking a background in finance.
Favorite Feature: The site is incredibly easy to navigate by topic and, within each topic, by individual lesson.
Malcom White, CPA and experienced accounting lecturer, has created an excellent resource on everything accounting. Though not an individual website – these tutorials live on WyzAnt – this resource is comprehensive, offering classes (complete with review quizzes!) on everything from introductory accounting to operational budgeting and incremental analysis.
Favorite Feature: Since the lessons are so well organized, it’s easy to skip over familiar (or non-applicable) topics.
College-Cram.com is ostensibly a site for college students, but their accounting section is a serious resource for anyone learning about accounting. Test your knowledge on a range of bookkeeping topics, from the accounting cycle, to inventory, to taxes, to basic statistics. Seriously, if you need to know it it’s probably here.
Favorite Feature: Forms, reviews, and study sheets abound, giving you hands-on worksheets to test your new knowledge.
If you said, “double what?” upon reading the course title, then this website is for you. Conveniently organized into categories – bookkeeping basics or fixed assets, anyone? – the site teaches bookkeeping practices with a heavy emphasis on examples and real-world references. This is one of the most comprehensive, free financial accounting sites out there.
Favorite Feature: The site isn’t flashy but it’s about as thorough as it comes: unless you want to become a professional accountant, you’ll probably never need another tutorial!
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