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Individuals with accounting skills are essential to all businesses, regardless of industry. Earning a certificate in accounting can prepare students for entry-level accounting positions and create a strong foundation for further post-secondary education, including associate and bachelor’s degrees.

Entry-level accounting jobs include bookkeepers and accounting clerks. While the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts a decline in employment of these positions, there will still be an average of 183,900 new job openings for bookkeepers and accounting clerks annually through 2032. The median annual wage for these jobs is $45,860. With additional experience and education, individuals can go on to work as accountants and auditors, who earn a median annual salary of $78,000.

Completion time for accounting certificate programs varies, although most programs are designed to be completed in about one year of full-time study. Cost also varies. For example, the average per-credit tuition rate for the programs on this list is $118 for in-state students and $318 for out-of-state students.

How to Choose an Accounting Certificate Program

Choose your area of study

Accounting certificate programs can have different areas of focus. Before starting your search, it’s helpful to clarify what your career goals are so you can find the program that best aligns with them.

For example, if you want to go into payroll accounting or accounts receivable, you can seek out a program that focuses on those areas. If you’re looking to develop a wider range of accounting skills, consider programs with a generalist curriculum.

Another consideration is whether you will continue your accounting education after earning your certificate. Many programs on this list give students the opportunity to apply credits earned from their certificate to an associate or bachelor’s degree. Because students must have a bachelor’s degree in accounting to become a certified public accountant (CPA), it can be helpful to earn a certificate from a program that offers this option.

At this stage, it’s also helpful to clarify logistical needs. Will you enroll full-time or part-time? Do you want a program that is fully in-person, or will a hybrid program with some online classes be easier to accommodate? Fully online accounting certificate programs are also available if needed.

Research schools and programs

Once you have some clarity on what type of accounting certificate program you’re looking for, you can begin exploring the different options available.

Most schools will have relevant information, including curriculum, course descriptions, tuition rates, and start terms, on their websites. You can also contact the school’s admissions office if you have questions. If possible, attending in-person or online open houses or information sessions can help you learn more about the program and school culture.

The following questions can help you understand if an accounting certificate program is right for you:

  • Is the institution accredited by a recognized accreditation agency?
  • What does the curriculum include, and how does it align with your interests and goals?
  • How long does the program take to complete?
  • Who are the faculty, and what are their areas of expertise
  • What support services and resources does the school provide to students?
  • What is the overall culture of the institutions and departments?

Prepare your applications

Each school sets its own requirements and procedures for admissions. This information should be available on the school’s website, or you can contact the admissions office for more details.

Certificate programs often have lower barriers to entry than degree programs. Typically, students must submit a completed application, a fee, and proof of a high school diploma or GED. Other requirements may include a letter of recommendation and a personal statement.

Select your program

Once you have a shortlist of programs, review all the information you’ve collected and determine which one best fits your needs. You can compare accounting certificate programs based on curriculum, cost, schedule, completion time, faculty credentials, and financial aid availability. Submit your application or enrollment forms to secure your place in the class.

Determine how you’ll pay for your certificate

If you haven’t already, confirm the cost of your accounting certificate program. Most schools charge tuition on a per-credit basis for certificate programs. Also, find out whether your program is eligible for federal student financial aid like loans, grants, and work-study. Not all certificate programs are eligible for this kind of financial aid, so you’ll want to know your options before enrolling. This information may be published on the school’s website, or you can contact a financial aid counselor for more information.

If your program is eligible for federal student aid, you should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine how much financial assistance you can receive. You can also inquire with your school about other types of aid, including scholarships and grants.

Additional funding for an accounting certificate can come from employer tuition assistance benefits or GI Bill benefits for active-duty service members and veterans.

Best 50 Accredited Accounting Certificate Programs

Best Accounting Certificate Programs

New River Community College

Palm Beach State College

Central New Mexico Community College

Stanly Community College

Foothill College

Coastal Pines Technical College

Wiregrass Georgia Technical College

Virginia Highlands Community College

Atlanta Technical College

Casper College

Lanier Technical College

Shoreline Community College

Georgia Northwestern Technical College

University of Alaska Fairbanks

University Of Baltimore

Kaskaskia College

Seminole State College of Florida

Colorado State University

University of Louisville

Discover More Options

How we rank schools

We reviewed many certificate programs in accounting, most of which are standalone certificates intended to complement a bachelor’s or master’s degree. There are some programs, though, that are pursued concurrently with a degree program.

Program options include on-campus and online programs, although online programs may have a short in-person requirement.

To make sure all of the certificates are quality programs, we included only regionally accredited options. Many of these accounting certificate programs are also accredited through the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) or the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).

We evaluated each program on the basis of flexibility, faculty, course strength, cost, and reputation. Then, we calculated the Intelligent Score for each program on a scale from 0 to 100. For a more extensive explanation, check out Our Ranking Methodology.

What Can You Expect From an Accounting Certificate Program?

A certificate in accounting helps students develop basic accounting skills that they can use in entry-level accounting positions like bookkeeper or accounting clerk. They can also provide formal training to individuals who have some professional experience with accounting.

These programs introduce students to foundational accounting principles and practices, including financial accounting, managerial accounting, statement analysis, budgeting, and accounting software. They also help students develop soft skills like analytical thinking, problem-solving, and professional communication.

Since accounting is a broad field, some certificate programs focus on a particular area, such as payroll accounting, bookkeeping, or information systems technology. The type of program you choose will determine what kind of coursework is included in the curriculum.

The number of credits in a certificate program varies. The average number of credits for the accounting certificate programs on this list is 23. Because certificate programs are shorter than degree programs, they typically don’t include an experiential learning component, such as an internship. Students in accounting certificate programs generally follow a set curriculum, although some programs may include electives.

Potential courses you’ll take in an accounting certificate program

  • Principles of Accounting: This class provides an introduction to financial accounting concepts, with an emphasis on analyzing business transactions and financial statements.
  • Payroll Accounting: One of the most common types of accounting, payroll accounting includes specific procedures and controls, tax and employment laws, and tax report analysis.
  • Spreadsheet Accounting: Electronic spreadsheets are essential to many forms of accounting. Most programs include at least one course teaching students how to utilize electronic spreadsheet software for accounting purposes.
  • Financial Accounting:  Provides an introduction to financial accounting concepts, including the accounting cycle, internal control, balance sheet accounts, cash flow, and characteristics of corporations.

Accounting Certificate Program Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to an accounting certificate program?

For the most accurate information about how to apply to an accounting certificate program, visit the school’s website or contact an admissions counselor.

Certificate programs typically have a straightforward application process, with students required to submit an application or enrollment form and official transcripts showing proof of a high school diploma or GED. Additional requirements may include a letter of recommendation, resume or CV, and personal statement.

Be mindful of deadlines and start terms, as these will also vary by school. Some certificate programs admit students multiple times throughout the academic year, while others only enroll new students once or twice yearly. Missing application deadlines can delay the start of your program.

How much does an accounting certificate program cost?

The average per-credit tuition rate for the accounting certificate programs on this list is $118 for in-state students and $318 for out-of-state students. In-state and out-of-state tuition rates only apply to public colleges and universities. Private institutions charge students the same tuition regardless of residency.

Because certificate programs require fewer credits than degree programs, they tend to be less expensive overall. However, students should note that not all certificate programs are eligible for federal financial aid, like loans and grants, meaning students may have to pay more out-of-pocket or find alternative ways of financing their accounting certificate.

For the most accurate information regarding a program’s cost, contact the school’s financial aid office.

How long does it take to earn an accounting certificate?

The length of an accounting certificate program depends on its credit requirements. The average number of credits of programs included on our list is 23, which translates to about one year of full-time study. Programs requiring fewer credits can usually be completed in less time, while programs that require 30-40 credits may take longer. Students who enroll in a program part-time can also expect to take longer to complete their certificate.