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Earning an online certificate in accounting is a fast, flexible way to prepare for entry-level jobs, build a foundation for an accounting degree, or upskill to open up new opportunities. These programs are a good fit for undergraduate students seeking an introduction to accounting or working professionals who want to add accounting skills to their toolkits.

Entry-level roles in accounting include bookkeepers, auditing clerks, and accounting clerks. Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that overall employment of these roles will decline through 2032, there will still be 183,900 new job openings, on average, annually during that time. The median annual salary for these positions is $45,860. Employment of accountants and auditors, who earn a median yearly salary of $78,000, is projected to increase by 4% through 2032.

Certificate programs require anywhere from 12-24 credits and typically take 12-18 months to complete. The average per-credit tuition for certificate programs is $154 at public universities and $305 at private institutions.

How to Choose an Online Certificate in Accounting Program

Choose your area of study

A wide variety of online accounting certificate programs are available, so it’s wise to get some clarity on what you’re looking for before you start your search.

Some certificate programs offer a general accounting curriculum, while others focus on specific accounting skills, like payroll accounting or accounts receivable. The type of certificate program right for you will be based on your educational and professional experience and future career goals.

Accounting certificate programs are available at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Students of all educational backgrounds are eligible for undergraduate certificate programs. For a graduate certificate, students typically need to have an undergraduate degree.

Students should note that if they’re interested in becoming a certified public accountant (CPA), a bachelor’s degree in accounting is required for licensure. If students plan to pursue a bachelor’s degree, they should seek out a certificate program that allows them to apply credits to a future degree program.

Lastly, consider your logistical needs, including whether you want a full-time or part-time certificate program and prefer synchronous or asynchronous classes.

Research schools and programs

After establishing the parameters for what kind of certificate program you seek, you can begin researching online accounting certificate programs.

Asking the following questions during the research process can help you determine if the school and program are a good fit 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?
  • Who are the faculty, and what are their areas of expertise
  • How do online students interact with faculty and classmates?
  • Are there any in-person requirements, or can the program be completed entirely online?
  • What support services and resources are available for online students?
  • What is the overall culture of the institutions and departments?

Most of this information should be available on the school’s website. You can also contact their admissions office for more information or participate in virtual open houses or information sessions where available. Following schools and programs on social media is another way to get more insight into whether a school is right for you.

Prepare for tests and applications

Application and enrollment procedures for certificate programs will vary by school. For the most accurate information about how to enroll in an online certificate in accounting program, visit the school’s website or speak to an admissions counselor.

Certificate programs typically have the lowest barriers to entry of any post-secondary education program. Many certificate programs don’t have an application process but allow students to enroll by filling out a registration form and paying a fee. Students typically submit official transcripts from previously attended schools to demonstrate their educational background to be eligible for the certificate program.

Additional documents that students may have to provide include letters of recommendation, a resume or CV, 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

As you’re researching accounting certificate programs, gather information about how much tuition and other associated costs are. This information may be published on the school’s website, or you can contact a financial aid counselor for more information.

Because certificate programs require fewer credits than a full degree, they are typically less expensive. However, students needing additional assistance paying for their online accounting certificate should ensure the program they choose is eligible for federal student aid like student loans, grants, and work-study.

If the program is eligible, students should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which schools use to determine need-based aid. Students can also inquire with their school about other types of aid, including scholarships and grants.

Additional funding for an online accounting certificate program can come from employer tuition assistance benefits, or GI Bill benefits for active-duty service members and veterans. Students should also research ways to get discounted or subsidized tuition.

Best 40 Accredited Online Certificate in Accounting Programs

Best Certificate in Accounting Programs Badge

Richmond Community College

Stanly Community College

Central Carolina Community College

Wayne Community College

Harper College

Lenoir Community College

Craven Community College

Kaskaskia College

Rhodes State College

Seminole State College of Florida

Yavapai College

Northcentral Technical College

Champlain College

Iowa Lakes Community College

Coastline Community College

Florida State College at Jacksonville

Shoreline Community College

North Arkansas College

Milwaukee Area Technical College

McHenry County College

Montgomery County Community College

UA Cossatot

Wake Tech Community College

Des Moines Area Community College

Johnston Community College

Community College of Philadelphia

Fort Hays State University

Lone Star College

Chemeketa Community College

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How We Rank Schools

This list features some of the best online certificate in accounting programs at top colleges nationwide. Each school featured is a nonprofit, accredited institution — either public or private — with a high standard of academic quality for post-secondary institutions. Many of the programs on our list have been accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, which assesses the objectives, quality, and overall effectiveness of business-related programs.

We evaluated each school’s program on tuition costs, admission, retention and graduation rates, faculty, reputation, and the student resources provided for online students. Then, we calculated the Intelligent Score on a scale of 0 to 100. Read more about our ranking methodology.

Next, we compared this comprehensive list of online Certificate in Accounting programs to a list of aggregated college rankings from reputable publications like the U.S. News & World Report, among others, to simplify a student’s college search. We pored through these rankings so students don’t have to.

What Can You Expect From an Online Certificate in Accounting Program

Certificate programs are a convenient way to develop or strengthen your accounting skills, but they may not be the appropriate path for everyone.

Typically, certificate programs are designed for individuals with a degree and experience in accounting or a related field. Undergraduate-level certificate programs are appropriate for students without a background in accounting. Depending on your career goals, you may also want to research bachelor’s degrees in accounting or find a certificate program to help you transition into a degree program. Graduate-level certificate programs build upon existing skills to help students transition to mid-level positions.

Some programs offer a general education in accounting principles and skills, while others focus on a particular area of accounting, such as payroll accounting, tax preparation, or bookkeeping. 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, with most requiring 12-24 credits. Certificate programs usually focus on coursework and don’t include a hands-on learning component, like internships. Some certificate programs may consist of electives, but most have a set curriculum that students follow.

Online courses are delivered either synchronously or asynchronously. In synchronous programs, students have regularly scheduled virtual classes, allowing them to interact with professors and classmates in real-time. Asynchronous programs have no regularly scheduled meetings, and students can access lessons and assignments anytime. Asynchronous programs offer more flexibility, but they also require a greater level of accountability and self-motivation.

Potential courses you’ll take in an online certificate in accounting program

  • Basic Accounting Principles: This course introduces students to essential accounting and bookkeeping functions and gives them a foundational understanding of accounting procedures in different contexts.
  • Financial Accounting: This course focuses on the systems and processes for producing summary financial data for external users, emphasizing applying basic accounting principles like inventory systems, depreciation methods, and analysis of accounts receivable and payable.
  • Spreadsheet Applications: Most programs include a course in Excel and its uses for accounting. This course teaches students how to create, edit, format, and manipulate workbooks, use basic and advanced formulas and functions, create reports, and more.
  • Income Tax Accounting: This course introduces students to the fundamentals of income tax accounting, including the Internal Revenue Code and the federal law concerning the preparation of individual tax returns. Topics include itemized deductions, business expenses, tax form preparation, and more.

Online Certificate in Accounting Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to an online certificate in accounting program?

Visit the program’s website or speak to an admissions counselor to learn the specific procedures for applying to an online certificate in accounting program.

These programs usually have fewer requirements than full degree programs. Students must typically submit an application or enrollment form and official transcripts from previously attended schools. Additional requirements may include a letter of recommendation, resume or CV, and personal statement.

Students should be mindful of application dates and start terms. 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 online certificate in accounting cost?

Because online certificate programs are shorter than traditional degree programs, they are often less expensive overall. The average per-credit cost for certificate programs on this list is $154 at public universities and $305 at private colleges. Based on this, tuition for an 18-credit certificate would be $2,772 at a public university and $5,490 at a private school.

Students should also budget for additional fees for things like tech support, library resources, books, learning materials, and reliable personal technology.

However, attending a certificate program online can also save students money. For example, it eliminates transportation costs like gas, tolls, parking, or public transit fees.

How long does it take to earn an online certificate in accounting?

The completion time for online certificate programs varies based on their required credits and a student’s enrollment status. Certificate programs typically require 12-24 credits and can be completed in as little as six months or as much as two years. Students who enroll full-time will complete their certificate program faster than those enrolled part-time. Those who want to complete their accounting certificate program in as little time as possible should look into accelerated programs that condense coursework into a shortened time frame.