Financial statements can be intimidating, a seemingly inscrutable jumble of acronyms and jargon. Understanding the key concepts and principles of financial accounting, however, can illuminate financial statements and unlock critical insights into business performance and potential. This online course will demystify financial statements and teach you how managers, Wall Street analysts, and entrepreneurs use an understanding of accounting to drive strategic decision making.

You will learn the fundamentals of financial accounting from the ground up and apply your understanding of financial statements in a wide range of business settings. You will step into the shoes of an equity research analyst, a yoga studio owner, the leadership of one of the largest nonprofits in the United States, and other executives through the course’s multimedia case studies—and walk away confident in your understanding of financial statements.

Whether you’re preparing for an MBA, a career on Wall Street, or just need to gain confidence in your ability to understand and communicate financial results, participating in Financial Accounting will allow you to:

  • Appreciate how the balance sheet, income statement, and cash flow statement are constructed—and how they interact
  • Evaluate the financial health of a business using financial statements
  • Understand both US GAAP and IFRS accounting standards
  • Prepare and evaluate financial forecasts used to make strategic decisions
  • Value a venture, project, or investment opportunity and perform a sensitivity analysis

Course Structure

Financial Accounting consists of approximately 60 hours of material developed by Professor V.G. Narayanan and delivered over an eight-week period with a flexible program structure. There is no set time to log in. You complete the coursework, which consists of a highly engaging mix of short videos, multimedia cases, interactive learning exercises, and written reflections, on your own time while meeting regular deadlines. All course material is delivered through the innovative HBX online platform. While there is no direct real-time interaction with the faculty built into the course, current and former participants may be invited to special events, both on and off-line, where HBX faculty are present.

The HBX Learning Model centers around the Harvard Business School case method, featuring interviews with business leaders and executives from companies around the world who candidly discuss challenges they've faced or obstacles they've overcome. We ask you to step into their shoes and engage with your peers to work through these real-world business scenarios.

Topics covered include:

  • Recording Transactions
  • Financial Statements
  • Analyzing Financial Statements
  • Forecasting & Valuation

Participants in Financial Accounting are eligible for a Certificate of Completion from HBX and Harvard Business School. To earn the certificate, you must successfully complete all coursework, including satisfactory performance on quizzes, by the stated deadlines and actively contribute to the vibrant HBX learning community.

For those interested in learning business fundamentals more broadly, the 3-course HBX CORe program—Business Analytics, Economics for Managers, and Financial Accounting taken in tandem—is available for $1,950. Learn more about the different pathways to earn the CORe credential

Who would benefit from taking Financial Accounting?

Financial Accounting is designed for anyone who needs to be able to build or interpret financial statements and communicate financial results regardless of job function. There are no prerequisites for the program. Financial Accounting is intended for individuals at all stages of their careers—college students and recent graduates without a background in accounting, those considering an MBA or other graduate program who would like to strengthen their understanding of accounting, or professionals seeking to understand financial statements and communicate financial results.

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What are HBX certificate programs?

HBX certificate programs are focused on one essential business topic. They combine the flexibility of online programming with the rigor and quality of a Harvard Business School education to give participants a unique edge in their careers.


Meet The Faculty

V.G. Narayanan

V.G. Narayanan

Thomas D. Casserly, Jr. Professor of Business Administration; Chair, MBA Elective Curriculum

V.G. spent many years thinking about what he would do if he had the opportunity to create an online course. Watching how his kids learned on the computer inspired him to rethink the possibilities; his Financial Accounting course is the result. V.G. has been teaching accounting at HBS for last 20 years and is currently the Chair of MBA Elective Curriculum. He has chaired the pre-MBA summer program at HBS and taught introductory accounting to incoming MBA students in the summer Analytics program for the past several years. He has also served as the course head for the first-year required accounting course for MBA students - Financial Reporting and Control. In addition, he chairs several executive education programs and serves on the boards of companies and non-profit organizations.

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