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Managing money and making smart financial decisions are essential skills business leaders must have, regardless of industry. Earning an online graduate certificate in finance is a flexible, fast way for working professionals to develop financial literacy, understand how financial markets function, sharpen analytical and budgeting skills, and more.

Unlike a master of business administration (MBA) in finance, which can take several years to complete, students can earn an online graduate certificate in finance in as little as 6-18 months. Most certificate programs require 12-18 credits. The average cost of the programs on our list is $12,673. However, factors like a school’s status as public or private or whether a student pays in-state or out-of-state tuition will impact tuition rates.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts growth in several jobs that require financial expertise. For example, the employment of financial examiners is expected to increase by 20% through 2032. These individuals earn a median annual salary of $82,210. The agency also predicts a 13% increase in employment of financial advisors, who earn $95,390 annually.

How to Choose an Online Graduate Certificate in Finance Program

Choose your area of study

Before you begin researching online graduate certificate in finance programs, it’s helpful to understand your educational and career goals so you can find a program that fits your needs.

Graduate certificate programs are designed for students who have a bachelor’s degree and some professional experience. Students often seek this type of certificate as a way to improve their skills so they can move to middle or upper management positions or transition to more finance-focused positions from another area.

Some programs are open to students of all educational backgrounds, while others require students to have an undergraduate degree in finance or a related field. Students interested in developing finance skills and knowledge may also want to consider an MBA or master of finance (MFin) before selecting a graduate certificate program.

This is also a good time to consider what type of online certificate program you want. Determine whether an asynchronous or synchronous course delivery method suits your needs and if you’ll enroll full-time or part-time.

Research schools and programs

The parameters you set in the first step will guide you as you research and consider programs. Visiting a school’s website is a great place to start gathering information on their certificate in finance programs. You can also contact schools via phone or email to speak to an admissions counselor, participate in virtual information sessions or open houses, and follow schools and programs on social media to learn more.

In addition to researching the program’s curriculum, cost, financial aid availability, faculty, and logistics, you should verify that the program is offered by an accredited institution. Institutional accreditation confirms that the school and its programs meet quality standards and affects student eligibility for financial aid, professional certifications and employment opportunities, and the transferability of credits to other schools. Students can check their school’s accreditation status via the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) database.

Prepare for applications

This step will vary based on the individual school and program. Some programs require an application, while others allow students to enroll directly without applying first. Check with individual schools to confirm their admissions procedures as well as any eligibility requirements they may have. For graduate certificate programs, students must typically have a bachelor’s degree. The program may also require students to have prerequisite coursework or professional experience in finance or a minimum undergraduate GPA.

Applications for certificate programs may include the following:

  • Completed application and fee
  • Official transcript from undergraduate college
  • Resume or CV
  • Letter(s) of recommendation
  • GRE or GMAT scores

Select your program

Once you’ve gathered sufficient information on programs, compare them and determine which option best suits your needs and goals. If multiple programs seem like a good fit, you can apply to all of them and choose based on where you are accepted.

Some things to consider when comparing programs are curriculum, faculty qualifications and areas of expertise, cost, available financial aid, course delivery method, and completion time.

Determine how you’ll pay for your certificate

If you haven’t already, speak to a financial aid counselor to get specific information on how much the program costs, including tuition and fees. You’ll also want to confirm that the certificate program is eligible for federal financial aid, like student loans, grants, and work-study. Not all certificate programs are eligible for this type of financial support, so it’s important to clarify this before proceeding.

If your program is eligible for federal student aid, the next step is to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Schools use this information to determine your eligibility for need-based aid like federal student loans, grants, scholarships, and more. You can also explore merit-based aid resources, like scholarships from your school, private organizations, non-profit foundations, or community groups.

Students who are working while earning an online graduate certificate should inquire with their employer to see if they can receive tuition assistance benefits.

Best 50 Accredited Online Graduate Certificate in Finance Programs

Best Online Graduate Certificate in Finance Programs Badge

Harvard Extension School

East Carolina University

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Stony Brook University

Boston University

University of St. Francis

Colorado State University

University of California Riverside

Cornell University

Penn State World Campus

San Antonio College

University of Kentucky

Saint Mary's University of Minnesota

Park University

City University of Seattle

University of California at Berkeley

Thunderbird School of Global Management

Stanford University

Kansas State University

University of Miami

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How We Rank Schools

Our list prioritizes graduate certificate programs that are both valuable and accessible for busy professionals. Some of the certificates are specialized for a particular field, such as public budgeting and financial management. While all of the programs on our list have an online component, some are also hybrid or have an on-campus option for students who crave the social aspect of college courses.

Many of the programs are offered through colleges and universities in the northeast and are accredited by the New England Commission on Higher Education (NECHE). NECHE works to ensure educational excellence across all of the institutions it accredits, and it is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a reliable gauge of an institution’s educational quality.

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.

What Can You Expect From an Online Graduate Certificate in Finance Program

Online graduate certificates in finance are designed to equip working professionals with the essential financial knowledge and skills they need for management and leadership roles. Coursework builds on students’ existing experience while introducing advanced concepts related to financial accounting, financial statement analysis, financial strategy and decision-making, risk management, and more.

Courses may be delivered synchronously, in which students meet virtually at regularly scheduled times, or asynchronously, meaning there are no actual classes, and students complete lessons and assignments entirely on their own time. Students who learn best through discussion and other real-time interaction may prefer a synchronous program, while those who need maximum flexibility may find an asynchronous program works best.

Because these programs tend to cater to working professionals, they usually don’t have an experiential learning component, like an internship. However, many do use case studies to prepare students for scenarios they’ll face in the real world.

Potential courses you’ll take in an online graduate certificate in finance program

  • Financial Accounting: Helps students become informed users of financial statement information and teaches them how to analyze financial statements and other corporate disclosures.
  • Corporate Financial Strategy: Prepares students to rigorously analyze major issues affecting the financial policies of corporations, including capital structure, dividend policy, corporate governance structure, and the process of raising capital through IPOs and SEOs.
  • Managerial Finance: Introduces students to financial management issues faced by financial managers in today’s business environment, including time value analysis, equity financing and security markets, capital structure and the cost of capital, asset management and financing, and more.
  • Mergers and Acquisitions: Examines the corporate valuation process by which takeovers and other corporate control transactions take place, including financial forecasting, scenario analysis, and due diligence.

Online Graduate Certificate in Finance Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to an online graduate certificate in finance program?

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

Enrollment processes vary, with some schools requiring an application and others allowing students to directly enroll without applying. A standard application for an online graduate certificate program typically requires official transcripts from previously attended schools, a resume or CV, a personal statement, a letter of recommendation, and GRE or GMAT scores.

Regardless of application procedures, students should also 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 graduate certificate in finance cost?

The cost of an online graduate certificate in finance will vary depending on the type of institution you’re attending (private or public) and whether you’re considered an in-state or out-of-state student at a public university.

The average cost of the programs included in our list is $12,673. However, financial aid resources like scholarships, loans, grants, and employer tuition assistance benefits will impact the total amount that students end up paying out of pocket. Students should be aware that there may also be fees for online classroom technology or resources in addition to tuition.

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

The number of required credits and the pace of the program determine how long it takes to complete an online graduate certificate in finance program. The more credits a program requires, the longer it will take to finish. Also, enrolling in a program part-time will increase the amount of time it takes to complete the program. In general, the shortest amount of time a certificate program takes is six months, while the longest programs can take up to two years.