Best Online Accounting Certificate Programs

Explore the best schools with online certificate programs in accounting. Also, learn about the different kinds of accounting certificates, common coursework, and possible career paths, including how to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Schools offering Accounting degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Best Online Certificate Programs in Accounting

To determine the top online accounting certificate programs, it's important to take into account program cost, the flexibility of the program, and how long each program takes to complete. Below, you can explore the best programs that lead to an accounting certificate.

1. Auburn University

Location Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Auburn, AL $11,276 75%

Auburn University offers two online accounting certificate programs:

  • Undergrad Certificate in Accountancy
  • Graduate Certificate in Accountancy

The undergrad certificate requires 24 total hours and is for students who already hold a bachelor's degree and who need to complete additional coursework to sit for the CPA exam. The graduate certificate requires 18 total hours and is for those want to work towards a Master of Accountancy degree without having to take the GMAT. The graduate certificate also helps students fulfill coursework requirements for the CPA exam and certification. Both programs feature flexible classes that can be streamed live or viewed at a time convenient to students.

2. Herzing University-Minneapolis

Location Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
St. Louis Park, MN $14,000 97%

Herzing University-Minneapolis has an online Graduate Certificate in Accounting and Finance program that is for those who have already earned a master's degree or higher. This certificate requires 16 hours with coursework on managerial accounting and financial planning. While this program may not help students meet coursework requirements for the CPA exam, it does prepare students for the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) exam, which is a credential for those in the financial accounting field. The Graduate Certificate in Accounting and Finance can be earned in about 1 year.

3. Davenport University

Location Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Grand Rapids, MI $18,414 97%

Davenport University has two online graduate certificate programs in accounting, including in the fields of:

  • Internal Auditing
  • Forensic Accounting

The internal auditing certificate consists of 4 classes for a total of 12 credits, which can be applied towards Davenport University's Master's in Accountancy program. This certificate prepares you to earn the Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) designation. The forensic accounting certificate only consists of 2 classes that prepare students to take the Certified Fraud Examiner Exam. This certificate program develops students' fraud investigation skills and also focuses on embezzlement.

4. University of Arizona

Location Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Tucson, AZ $12,467 92%

The University of Arizona offers an online Graduate Certificate in Accounting program that requires 9-18 total units. In this program, students get to choose from classes on:

  • Business law
  • Auditing
  • Federal taxation
  • Healthcare accounting

To apply to the University of Arizona's program, you must have a bachelor's degree and complete prerequisite coursework in accounting and taxation. Most students can earn their certificate in about 5 months. This certificate program is designed to help students complete the prerequisites they need in order to apply to a master's program in accounting or to help them prepare for the CPA exam.

5. Eastern Oregon University

Location Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
La Grande, OR $8,679 98%

Eastern Oregon University's Post-Baccalaureate Accounting Certificate program is for students who need more coursework credits in order to sit for the CPA exam and for non-accounting degree students who want to become accountants. To apply to this program, you must hold a bachelor's degree and complete prerequisite coursework in accounting, economics, statistics, and other subjects. This 48-credit hour online certificate program has no on-campus residency requirements and can be completed in 4 years.

Rank School Name Location Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
6 University of Alaska Fairbanks Fairbanks, AK $6,657 84%
7 University of Connecticut Storrs, CT $15,730 74%
8 Champlain College Burlington, VT $41,010 100%
9 University of Louisville Louisville, KY $11,656 97%
10 Southern New Hampshire University Manchester, NH $ 31,136 75%
11 University of Alaska Southeast Juneau, AK $7,092 84%
12 University of Louisiana at Monroe Monroe, LA $8,554 97%
13 University of Baltimore Baltimore, MD $8,958 94%
14 Mercy College Dobbs Ferry, NY $19,042 97%
15 University of Virginia-Main Campus Charlottesville, VA $17,653 59%
16 Stark State College North Canton, OH $4,070 83%
17 Belhaven University Jackson, MS $25,300 100%
18 Regis University Denver, CO $36,810 99%
19 Western Iowa Tech Community College Sioux City, IA $4,272 92%
20 Brenau University Gainesville, GA $29,050 98%
21 Pennsylvania State University-World Campus University Park, PA $13,988 72%
22 Saint Leo University Saint Leo, FL $23,020 100%
23 Northwestern Oklahoma State University Alva, OK $7,471 90%
24 Liberty University West Liberty, WV $7,680 97%
25 Minnesota West Community and Technical College Granite Falls, MN $5,592 90%
26 Northwest Christian University Eugene, OR $30,050 100%
27 University of St Francis Joliet, IL $32,320 99%
28 Riverland Community College Austin, MN $5,570 84%
29 Benedictine University Lisle, IL $34,290 99%
30 Minnesota State College Southeast Winona, MN $5,628 78%
31 Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College Shell Lake, WI $4,729 80%
32 Gardner-Webb University Boiling Springs, NC $32,000 100%
33 Iowa Lakes Community College Estherville, IA $6,460 86%
34 Northcentral Technical College Wausau, WI $3,553 74%
35 Fox Valley Technical College Appleton, WI $4,565 68%
36 Georgia Piedmont Technical College Clarkston, GA $2,924 90%
37 Stanly Community College Albemarle, NC $2,673 53%
38 Eastern Florida State College Cocoa, FL $2,496 66%
39 University of Miami Coral Gables, FL $50,226 72%
40 Ogeechee Technical College Statesboro, GA $2,876 89%
41 Nicolet Area Technical College Rhinelander, WI $4,404 86%
42 Upper Iowa University Fayette, IA $30,450 99%
43 Baker College Flint, MI $9,800 97%
44 Chippewa Valley Technical College Eau Claire, WI $4,364 76%
45 Klamath Community College Klamath Falls, OR $4,404 88%
46 Foothill College Los Altos Hills, CA $1,563 40%
47 Wiregrass Georgia Technical College Valdosta, GA $2,794 92%
48 Georgia Northwestern Technical College Rome, GA $2,798 91%
49 Pamlico Community College Grantsboro, NC $1,867 40%
50 Minnesota State Community and Technical College Fergus Falls, MN $5,335 86%

All statistics provided by the National Center for Education Statistics, tuition based on 2018-2019 school year

Learn.org's school ranking methodology categorizes and assesses data from schools and other reliable sources, such as the U.S. Department of Education, and weighs the information based on quality, cost, value and other factors critical to students' academic decisions.

Overview of Online Accounting Certificate Programs

Generally, there are 3 kinds of accounting certificate programs: undergraduate, graduate, and post-master's programs. Unlike bachelor's or master's programs in accounting, certificates to do not lead to a degree. Students only take classes on accounting topics, and there are typically no general education requirements. However, many online certificate programs in accounting do require some prerequisite coursework.

Online accounting certificate programs are usually very flexible, with asynchronous classes and part- and full-time attendance available. Additionally, many of these programs allow you to work and take classes at the same time.

Undergraduate Accounting Certificate Programs

Undergraduate certificate programs in accounting are designed to give students broad foundational knowledge of the accounting field and develop their basic accounting skills. These kinds of certificate programs prepare students for entry-level accounting positions, such as a bookkeeper.

Undergraduate certificate accounting programs can require anywhere from 5-8 total classes.

Admission requirements for undergraduate certificate programs vary by the university. While some programs require that students hold a bachelor's degree, other programs only require that students have graduated from high school.

Some, but not all, programs require students to have completed prerequisite coursework, including courses in algebra, economics, accounting, finance, and other subjects. A limited number of programs allow students to apply the credits they earn in their certificate program to a bachelor's or associate degree in accounting.

Graduate Accounting Certificate Programs

Also known as post-baccalaureate certificate programs, graduate certificate programs in accounting are for those who already have earned a bachelor's degree. Typically, these certificate programs are designed to help students meet the 150-semester hour coursework requirement that they need to take the CPA exam and become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA).

Accounting graduate certificate programs can have a general focus on accounting or can focus on one subfield of accounting, such as:

  • Auditing
  • Managerial accounting
  • Forensic accounting
  • Accounting analytics

These online programs can require anywhere from 3-6 total classes. Generally, there are no prerequisite coursework requirements; however, a limited number of programs may require some prerequisite classes in accounting or taxation. Some programs allow students to transfer their graduate certificate accounting credits towards a full master's degree in accounting.

Post-Master's Accounting Certificate Programs

Post-master's programs in accounting are for students who have already earned a master's degree in accounting or a business-related field. These certificate programs can have a singular focus on accounting or can focus on a specific area of the field, such as financial accounting.

Like other kinds of accounting certificate programs, some post-master's programs are designed to help students meet the coursework requirements for taking the CPA exam. However, other post-master's programs prepare students who are already in the accounting profession for specific accounting certifications, such as the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) certification, which is a financial accounting credential.

Post-master's programs in accounting require about 4-5 total courses, depending on the university.

Time Commitment for an Online Accounting Certificate Program

The length of time to complete an online certificate program in accounting depends on several factors, including the format and kind of program you are attending as well as any prerequisite coursework you need to complete before beginning your certificate program.

However, all accounting online certificate programs are designed to be completed relatively quickly with a limited number of classes and credits required. It's possible to complete an online accounting certificate in as little as 5 months or in about 1 year or longer.

It's important to consult with your chosen certificate program and school about how long their program takes to complete, how many classes you can take a semester, and if there is any time limit for completing your certificate.

Common Courses in an Online Accounting Certificate Program

Although the exact coursework students take in an accounting certificate program varies by school and the kind of program, there are some common classes. Below, you can explore some topics that you may study in a certificate program in accounting.

Managerial Accounting

This course explores how organizations and managers use accounting and financial information to make sound business decisions. Specific topics that students study include:

  • Budget preparation
  • Financial statement analysis
  • Cost-volume-profit analysis

Financial Accounting

Financial accounting is a course where students learn how to analyze and interpret financial statements to make investment and operating decisions. There is an emphasis on how to manage a business' financial performance by understanding such financial factors as inventory, assets, equipment, liabilities, and equity.

Income and Federal Taxes

In courses like these, students study various aspects of the federal tax system and how taxation affects individuals, trusts, estates, and corporations. Exact subjects that are covered include:

  • Deductions
  • Tax filing requirements
  • Income determination
  • Tax forms
  • Tax planning

Business Law

This class teaches students about the fundamentals of the American justice system with a special emphasis on business-related laws and concepts. Students focus on contracts, the formation of corporations, intellectual property, and labor law. Some courses also focus on business ethics and criminal law.

Auditing

Students learn about methods, procedures, and standards for completing audits. Courses also center on ethical and legal issues that affect auditors. Core auditing topics include statistical sampling, internal control, and audit reports.

Accreditation for Online Accounting Certificate Programs

Accredited online accounting certificate programs prove that they have met an independent standard in terms of quality, curriculum, and student outcomes. Attending an accredited program is a prerequisite for financial aid and may also be a requirement for certifications in the field. Below are two major accrediting bodies for accounting programs.

The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International)

AACSB International accredits both business and accounting programs. Criteria for earning accreditation includes employing experienced, qualified faculty and having a curriculum that develops accounting skills and knowledge.

The Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP)

ACBSP accredits business programs of all types. For certificate programs to achieve accreditation, it must:

  • Track student progress in terms of job placement, retention, and program completion
  • Meet curriculum standards in terms of the type of classes offered and course descriptions
  • Have experienced faculty
  • Assess student learning

Accounting Career Options

When you have an educational background in accounting, you could pursue a career as an accountant, a bookkeeper, or a budget analyst.

Accountant

Accountants are experts in financial records and taxation. They work with businesses, in the government, or are self-employed. Accountants have a wide range of job duties, including:

  • Preparing tax returns
  • Making sure taxes are paid fully and on time
  • Ensuring financial statements adhere to regulations and laws
  • Preserving any financial records or documents
  • Creating written reports about finances
  • Recommending methods to increase profits and save money

There are also specialized kinds of accountants who focus on certain areas of accounting. Forensic accountants, for example, may work with law enforcement agencies to investigate financial fraud and other crimes.

Becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

Becoming a certified public accountant is an optional pathway that accountants can take. However, if you are an accountant who files documents or reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), then you must be a CPA, as per federal law.

To become a CPA, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Complete 150 credit hours of college coursework
  • Have a bachelor's degree
  • Pass the 4-part Uniform CPA Examination
  • Have 1-2 years of accounting experience
  • Hold a state license
  • Complete continuing education to maintain CPA credential

Regular 4-year bachelor's degree programs in accounting normally don't allow you to earn the total 150 credit hours needed to sit for the CPA exam. Accounting certificate programs can help you earn those additional credit hours so that you can become a CPA.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), accountants earned a median salary of $70,500 in 2018, and the number of jobs is expected to increase by 6% from 2018-2028.

Bookkeeping Clerk

Bookkeeping clerks are responsible for tracking and recording all of an organization's income and costs. Specific job duties include:

  • Handling bank deposits in the forms of checks and cash
  • Utilizing bookkeeping spreadsheets and software to track cash received and overdue debts
  • Preparing financial statements, income statements, and balance sheets

Bookkeepers need some college education, such as a certificate or coursework in accounting, and don't generally need a degree. Some in the field choose to earn the Certified Bookkeeper (CB) designation, which proves they have the necessary bookkeeping skills and knowledge for the job. This designation requires 2 years of professional bookkeeping experience, and you must pass an exam.

Bookkeeping clerks earned a median salary of $40,240 in 2018, and the number of jobs is expected to decrease 4% from 2018-2028, as per the BLS.

Budget Analyst

Budget analysts work within businesses, government agencies, or educational institutions, where they are responsible for creating and managing budgets. The specific duties a budget analyst may perform include:

  • Preparing budget proposals and reports
  • Reviewing and determining the budget for specific departments
  • Working with management on budget concerns and plans
  • Suggesting budget or spending changes

Budget analysts generally need a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field. Those working for government agencies may decide to earn the Certified Government Financial Manager credential. This requires a bachelor's degree with at least 24 credits in financial management and 2 years of experience. You also need to pass several exams.

In 2018, the BLS reported that budget analysts earned a median salary of $76,220, and the number of jobs is expected to increase by 4% from 2018-2028.

Accounting Associations & Organizations

There are several associations and organizations that represent the accounting profession, administer credentials and certifications, and offer benefits to paid members.

American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA)

AICPA advocates for accountants, has over 429,000 members, and administers the CPA credential and exam. AICPA has several member tiers for those who are CPAs, non-CPAs, students, and those who are about to take the CPA exam. As a member, you receive various discounts on insurance and office supplies, have access to professional development and networking opportunities, and can receive exclusive newsletters and magazines.

American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers (AIPB)

AIPB promotes and supports the bookkeeping profession by helping paid members stay up to date on bookkeeping best practices and procedures, guiding members when they have bookkeeping questions, and providing job opportunities. AIPB also offers the Certified Bookkeeper (CB) designation as well as prep courses to help you pass the exam and continuing education courses.

Association of Government Accountants (AGA)

AGA specifically represents accountants and professionals who work in the local, state, or federal government. As an AGA paid member, you can take advantage of training events, educational resources, networking opportunities, and webinars. AGA is also responsible for administering the Certified Government Financial Manager credential.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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