The finance industry is growing steadily and the demand for financial reporting is at peak. Projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that finance jobs will increase by at least 7 percent and possibly as much as 12 percent over the next seven years. With growth rates like these, the industry will need professionals who are well informed in a variety of finance-related specialties.
One such area of concentration is financial reporting. Professionals in this field make regular reports to the company, stockholders, and the Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC. These reports relay information found in various financial documents, such as balance sheets, income statements, and statements of stockholders’ equity.
Whether you are just beginning to consider a career in finance or are currently a financial professional looking to strengthen your resumé, there are many online course options available to get you on your way to learning about this financial niche.
Take a look at our top five picks, and see if one of them is the right choice for you.
How We Chose Our Ratings
We first considered how relevant a program was to the needs of a financial reporter. There are many top-notch online certificates and degrees available for studies in the financial industry, but many of them have very little or no information that would be specifically relevant to financial reporting.
We next considered the reputation of the group or university offering the program. However, certificates and courses that don’t come with the backing of an Ivy League institution may still have merit based on what can be learned, and a lesser reputation can also mean a lesser cost, as well.
The cost of the program was also given consideration, though a high cost didn't necessarily mean a lower rating. A program that includes more certification or training has a higher value; therefore, a higher cost may be acceptable.
We also looked at the length of the programs offered. Similar to the cost of a program, whether degree or certificate, more content made a longer duration more understandable and therefore did not lower a program’s rating.
Top Five Online Courses for Financial Reporting
1. CFA Level 1 (2018) - Complete Financial Reporting & Analysis - Udemy: 4.2 stars
This course is a top-rated class on the Udemy platform. Created to be a supplemental study tool for the CFA Level 1 Exam, this course covers approximately 80 percent of the test content in easily digestible "nuggets" of information. As such, the course covers a wide range of information on financial reporting and analysis. Topics include statement analysis, reporting mechanics, and reporting standards, to name just a few.
The only requirement for this course is a basic knowledge of mathematics, making it a class suitable for beginners. A one-time fee of $139.99 is charged for the course, which can be completed at your own pace. This course was created for Udemy by PrepNuggets Exam Companion. Be aware, however, that while you will get a certificate upon completion of the course, Udemy is not an accredited institution, and the certificate may carry little weight. Given this caveat, this course may be most helpful for individuals who simply want to brush up on their previous studies and training.
This class sits in the fifth spot because of its price and lack of credentials. While you do get a wide breadth of knowledge, the certificate won’t carry much weight with employers and other financial professionals. Still, it could be a good resource for gaining information to help you strengthen your performance ability.
2. Financial Reporting: A Comprehensive Study - Udemy: 4.4 stars
This course is a more in-depth look on topics related to financial reporting. Lecture topics include consolidated financial statements; different types of subsidiaries, balance sheets, and profit and loss accounts; and various valuation scenarios. These advanced topics are intended to support students who are preparing for financial exams, such as the CFA and the CPA. The class is lead by Raja Natarajan, a chartered accountant who teaches financial management topics in Ernakulam, India. Mr. Natarajan holds a post-graduate degree in Business Administration in Finance.
The course costs $49.99 for lifetime access to the lecture videos, articles, and supplemental resources. It is a self-paced course, so the amount of time it takes to get through almost nine hours of lectures is entirely dependent on the individual student. The instructor encourages students to participate in practice activities as they are discussed during the lectures. As it is a class offered by Udemy, it is not accredited, and therefore a certificate of completion may not be widely recognized, but a student could still gain valuable knowledge from taking the course.
This class ranks at fourth on our list because it comes from a professor with field experience. You get more lecture videos for just over a third of the cost of the previous choice, and the course covers more in-depth topics related to the field of financial reporting.
3. Corporate Finance Certificate - Harvard: 4.5 stars
This certificate involves four courses that cover topics related to corporate financial analysis and decision-making. Each student picks one corporate finance course, one valuation course, and two elective options, such as Financial Statement Analysis. The kind of information covered in this certificate could be relevant to those working in the field of financial reporting, as it is largely corporations who require this type of financial service. This certificate may also be applied toward a full master’s degree in finance or management.
If you don’t already have a working knowledge of finance, you might consider first completing the Principles of Finance certificate. The average amount of time it takes students to complete the Corporate Finance certificate is 1.5 years, though you have up to three years to finish all coursework. The average cost of the certificate is $10,800, making it the most expensive option on our list. However, it does come with Harvard’s strong reputation of quality academic training.
This certificate earns third on our list because while it is at least partially relevant to financial reporting and comes from a highly esteemed institution, the cost and time frame required for completion are the highest of any other program on our list.
4. Financial Management - eCornell.com: 4.7 stars
This Ivy League certificate program offers six courses that cover various topics related to financial management, including understanding risk and return, leaning how to make capital investment decisions, and evaluating financial performance. One course specifically covers the topic of financial statements, which is a particularly important concept for financial reporters to understand. Each course is two weeks long and requires three to five hours of work per week. The entire certificate program is completed in three months and results in both a certificate and 3.6 CEUs, or continuing education units. A class size of under 35 students also means more direct personal communication from the instructor.
This course is meant for managers and directors, as well as financial professionals at any level. A basic understanding of accounting and finance would likely be helpful in completing this certificate. While not meant specifically for professionals interested in financial reporting, it certainly offers information that is relevant to the field. There are three payment options for the course. A one-time fee of $3600, three installments of $1250, or six installments of $650. As the certificate is offered in conjunction with Cornell, an Ivy League institution, the certificate would be a well-received accolade on a resumé. The course is written by a Cornell professor and presented by Cornell staff members who are experts in the financial industry.
This certificate gets our second spot because of the reputation that Cornell brings to the table, as well as the relatively fast completion schedule. Not all of the courses are completely relevant to financial reporting, though they still provide information that is valuable to have in any financial specialization. The total cost, which is higher if you need to pay in installments, also kept this option out of the top spot.
5. Financial Reporting Specialization - University of Illinois via Coursera: 5 stars
The Financial Reporting Specialization certificate program available on Coursera includes five courses that can be applied toward a Master of Science in Accounting degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Four of the courses are each eight weeks long and require six to eight hours of work and study time per week. These courses focus on how accounting concepts, theories, and principles are applied to the creation and reporting of financial statements. The final capstone course in the specialization is three weeks long and also requires six to eight hours of work and study time per week. It involves working on a real-world accounting scenario that applies the lessons learned in the previous four courses.
This specialization is considered to be intermediate-level coursework. Students need to have basic accounting knowledge as well as a working ability in mathematics. Experience with a program that creates spreadsheets is also helpful. This specialization costs $79.00 per month until the specialization is completed. Students may work at their own pace, effectively lowering or raising the final cost depending on the speed at which they work through each course. If the recommended course duration is followed, the entire certificate could be completed in just over six months with a total cost of $553. Financial aid may be available, as well. The accounting program at the University of Illinois regularly ranks among the top three programs in the country, so you can rest assured this certificate will add an impressive highlight to your resumé.
This option was an obvious choice for our top pick. Not only does the program content cater specifically to aspiring financial reporters, but it is also available at an extremely affordable rate that can be paid in installments without penalty. The reputation of University of Illinois also helps this option earn our top ranking.
How To Pick a Program
Even with this narrowed down list of top options for courses in financial reporting, it can be hard to determine which course will best suit your own specific needs and goals. By weighing out a few different factors, you can make an informed decision.
Consider first the resources you have available to finance your degree or certificate program. If you don’t have the funds already, look into whether you can get financial aid for the courses you want to take. Once you know how much you have to spend, you can eliminate any options that cost more than that amount.
Also consider the amount of time you have to complete the course. If you need to gain these skills sooner rather than later, look for a program that can be completed in a few weeks. If you don’t have a deadline to meet, you can consider options that take a year or more.
While all of the courses included on our list are good options for your career advancement, some programs are offered by institutions with a higher reputation than others. If this kind of status is important to you or your employer, look to programs offered by the more prestigious institutions.
And of course, consider exactly what it is you need to learn and what skills you need to gain. Some certificates may include training in areas you are either already proficient in or don’t need to know. Others may cover studies for an entirely different financial specialty.
Similarly, some certificate programs can be applied toward a larger degree, while others are strictly certificate only. Your overall education goal can help you pick between these two options.
Whether you just need to brush up on some of the key concepts in financial reporting or you want a certificate that will add some serious heft to your resumé, our list of online programs may have a good option for you. Best of luck in your studies!