Best Online Certificate in Accounting Programs

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Accountants analyze, organize, and manage the finance records of organizations and individuals. They are responsible for preparing tax forms and sending them to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). They also analyze budgets and activities to ensure their organization is efficient, financially responsible and compliant with all applicable laws and regulations. The accounting profession is divided into several subfields. Public accountants serve a wide range of clients, including businesses, organizations and households. Management accountants concentrate on corporate finance, while government accountants handle financial matters for local, state and federal agencies. Auditing is a specialized area of accounting concerned with spotting, tracking and reporting financial mismanagement. Internal auditors perform this service on behalf of a company or organization, while external auditors are employed by outside firms and report to investors and/or law enforcement agencies. All accountants who file reports with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) are required by law to become Certified Professional Accountants (CPAs); specific CPA requirements vary by state, but often include an exam and 150 credits of college coursework.

Although accounting is a popular field of study for associate and bachelor’s degree-earners, a growing number of colleges and universities also offer certification in accounting. Certification programs are shorter than full degree tracks, and can usually be completed within a year or less. Certificates are also concentrated exclusively in the accounting field, allowing students to focus their studies on one career subject. Graduates in accounting are offered at both the undergraduate and graduate level at colleges and universities across the country. Additionally, many of today’s students are choosing to earn their certificate in accounting online. Web-based students follow the same rigorous curriculum as their brick-and-mortar counterparts, leading to the same number of job opportunities after graduation. The asynchronous (or self-paced) schedule and study-from-home format of most online accounting certificate programs are also ideal for students with part-time jobs, childcare duties and other responsibilities that could possibly interfere with campus-based learning.

Learn more about what you can do with an online certificate in accounting and what kind of career opportunities you can look forward to with this comprehensive guide.


Students who earn an online accounting certificate will learn foundational skills that are essential to their career. Undergraduate accounting certificates often introduce subjects like financial accounting, managerial accounting, corporate finance and financial reporting and analysis. Graduate-level certificates in accounting will cover advanced areas of the field, such as upper-level reporting and analysis, principles of auditing and fraud examination, research in accounting and integrated accounting.


Online accounting certification programs offer a flexible alternative to traditional higher learning. Students will be able to download course lectures and readings, participate in virtual discussions with other students, submit written assignments, take exams and communicate with their professors on their own schedule. Current educational technology also allows them to study away from their home computer using a laptop, tablet, smartphone and other Wi-Fi-compatible devices.


In most states, CPAs must complete 150 credits of college coursework; this typically includes a four-year bachelor’s program, plus 30 or more additional credits. An online certificate in accounting will equip students with fundamental knowledge and skills needed to take the next step in their accounting career, which is often a bachelor’s degree program. Certificates are also designed for current finance professionals looking to bolster their qualifications.


Choosing a program is an incredibly personal decision, and only you can properly evaluate whether a target school’s strengths match your educational needs. The following ranked list of schools should serve as a helpful starting point in your search for the best online certificate in accounting programs in the United States. If you are considering an online certificate in accounting, be sure to contact admissions specialists at different colleges and universities to learn more their about specific requirements and offerings.

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Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description
1 University of Alaska Fairbanks 73.40 53% Fairbanks, AK

A top-tier ranked university, UAF offers a portfolio of online undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs, including an accounting technician program that prepares graduates with entry-level accounting skills for positions in payables and receivables, payroll, bookkeeping, and with the skills needed by small-business operators.

It is a one-year program that counts as the first year of training for those seeking to pursue the two-year associate of applied science (AAS) degree in applied accounting. Among the course topics in this online accounting certificate program are accounting, introduction to business, microcomputer accounting: QuickBooks or microcomputer accounting, income tax, and an accounting capstone project. To enter the program students are required to have basic computer skills and meet general UAF requirements for certificate programs.

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2 Central Georgia Technical College 66.50 49% Warner Robins, GA

CGTC has been providing central Georgia's workforce with education and training for more than 40 years. The school's office accounting specialist technical certificate prepares students with skills for entry-level work and can be earned entirely online. Curriculum covers topics such as principles of accounting, computerized accounting, and basic computer skills. Students in the certificate program complete four classes over two semesters, equaling 14 total credit hours. Applicants to the certificate program must be at least 16 years old and hold a high school diploma or GED.

Also on offer is the payroll accounting specialist technical program, a 17-credit-hour online accounting certificate covering financial accounting, payroll accounting, computerized accounting, and introduction to computers. CGTC's online programs, delivered via Blackboard, are self-paced. CGTC delivers its online learning through the Georgia Virtual Technical Connection. Students in the office accounting specialist certificate program may be eligible for institutional and state financial aid.

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3 University of Virginia-Main Campus 62.30 97% Charlottesville, VA

UVA, founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819, is a top-ranked national university known for academic rigor, value in terms of return on investment, and selectivity in accepting full-time students.

Through the institution's School of Continuing and Professional Studies, UVA offer a certificate in accounting program that is 100% online and gives students foundational knowledge in accounting, auditing commercial law, taxation, and managerial finance. There are 10 courses in this accounting certificate program online, including introductory accounting and auditing classes and elective courses such as advanced auditing and fraud examination. Often, students take two courses a term, including during the summer, in order to complete the program in 20 months. Students with a high school diploma or equivalent are eligible to apply to this program.

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4 Lanier Technical College 60.90 46% Oakwood, GA

LTC is part of the Technical College System of Georgia and serves several counties with academic, career and technical education, continuing education, and business and industry training in numerous areas. LTC offers a two-semester online office accounting specialist technical certificate that provides graduates with accounting skills necessary for entry-level office work. This accounting certificate online covers principles of accounting, computerized accounting, and basic computer skills. The program comprises 14 total credit hours. A high school diploma or GED is required for entry; students must also submit ASSET, SAT, ACT, CPE, or COMPASS test scores.

In addition to financial aid, scholarships are available from the Lanier Tech Foundation, which offers scholarships to deserving students through donations from business and industry, organizations, and individuals. The school participates in Move On When Ready, a state program in which students can earn both high school and college credit simultaneously via any of LTC's five campuses or online.

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5 Champlain College 60.90 71% Burlington, VT

Established in 1878, Champlain College, located in Burlington, Vermont, provides undergraduate, graduate, and continuing education rooted in traditional New England education values and innovation. The school's certificate in accounting prepares graduates for entry-level positions in accounting. This accounting certificate program online teaches students the fundamentals of accounting, how to interpret financial information in annual reports, the effective use of financial information in management's decision-making, and more.

This certificate program comprises five courses -- some of which may have prerequisites -- and a total of 15 credits. Applying students are expected to have at least a 2.5 GPA. Students in stand-alone certificate programs at Champlain are not eligible for financial aid.

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6 University of Alaska Southeast 60.20 37% Juneau, AK

UAS offers undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs on its campuses in Juneau, Ketchikan and Sitka, in addition to a catalog of eLearning opportunities for students in and out of state. The school offers an accounting technician certificate that is designed to give graduates intensive accounting skills necessary for entry into accounting occupations. This online accounting certificate program comprises 30 total credit hours, including 9-10 general requirements and 21 program requirements. General requirement curriculum covers written and oral communication skills, computational skills, and other skills, with course offerings such as management and introduction to psychology. Program requirement courses include financial accounting, managerial accounting, payroll, and spreadsheet applications. Students in the program must maintain a 2.0 GPA or higher.

Online course delivery at UAS depends on the course and may include web, audio, video conference, and/or satellite and may be done with a group or on an individual basis. UAS's eLearning includes online comprehensive student services, including admission counseling, advising, tutoring assistance, online library resources, and computing services.

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7 Southern New Hampshire University 60.00 95% Manchester, NH

A private, nonprofit university, SNHU enrolls more than 3,000 on-campus students and more than 60,000 online students in undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs.

Students enrolled in SNHU's accounting certificate online program receive a solid foundation of knowledge and skills in the principles and practices necessary to enter accounting positions in any sector. Core areas of study include financial accounting, managerial accounting, and federal taxation. Among the notables of this program is 24/7 access to student support from dedicated faculty and staff. SNHU notes that its tuition rates for online programming are among the most affordable in the nation. If you are an active-duty service member or the spouse of one, you may receive a 30% tuition discount. The school also offers traditional financial aid packages.

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8 Northwest Iowa Community College 59.40 63% Sheldon, IA

In collaboration with Gatlin Education Services and ed2go, NWICC offers two online certification programs in the field of accounting: the certified bookkeeper online training program and the payroll practice and management training program. The 140-credit-hour certified bookkeeper program is designed to help experienced bookkeepers boost earning potential, enhance professional status, and increase job opportunities. There are six areas of study, including adjusting entries, basic payroll, and internal controls & fraud prevention, among others. The program is self-paced and can be completed in up to six months. All textbooks are included with the cost of the program.

The 100-credit-hour payroll practice and management program is designed for those seeking to enter a career in payroll, or those with experience seeking professional certification. Subject areas include wage and tax reports, wages and compensation, and payroll administration. This online accounting certificate program is self-paced. Students have six months to finish the program and will be prepared for the certified payroll professional (CPP) exam upon completion.

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9 Wake Technical Community College 57.10 48% Raleigh, NC

Students at Wake Tech in North Carolina have more than 200 associate degrees, diplomas, and certificate programs from which to choose in areas ranging from arts, science, general education, and college transfer programs into four-year colleges and universities. Non-credit programs are also offered for professional and personal enrichment.

Among its portfolio of distance learning options is a two-semester payroll accounting clerk certificate, which covers financial accounting, payroll, accounting spreadsheets, and accounting software. Also available online is a two-semester accounting core certificate. This accounting certificate online focuses on areas including financial accounting, microeconomics, managerial accounting, and business law. A third offering is also available entirely online: a three-semester accounting software applications certificate that focuses on financial accounting, accounting spreadsheets, and accounting software applications.

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10 West Kentucky Community and Technical College 57.00 52% Paducah, KY

WKCTC provides its students with the foundational skills necessary to prepare them for work in numerous fields, including business. Two online accounting certificate programs are offered. The first is an accounting certificate, in which required courses include managerial accounting, financial accounting, and elective courses include areas such as personal finance, data organization, and taxation. This program can be completed in one semester, and comprises 18-21 credits.

Another online option is the two-semester accounting recordkeeping specialist certificate, which requires study in financial accounting, payroll accounting, individual taxation, and computerized accounting systems. WKCTC offers two ways to learn online: Learn by Term, in which students take semester-long courses online; or Learn on Demand, in which courses are self-paced.

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11 Foothill College 54.20 75% Los Altos Hills, CA

Located in Los Altos Hills in California, Foothill College offers three online accounting certificate programs. One is an online certificate of achievement in accounting with areas of study including financial accounting, financial accounting, managerial accounting, and computerized accounting practices using QuickBooks and Excel. The school also offers a financial accounting career certificate in which students study financial and intermediate accounting. Thirdly, Foothill has a bookkeeping specialist certificate of proficiency, in which students study accounting for small businesses, financial accounting, and computerized accounting practices using QuickBooks and Excel. Foothill uses both the Etudes and Canvas online learning platforms.

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12 Haywood Community College 53.10 38% Clyde, NC

HCC offers three accounting certificate programs online that are designed to give graduates the knowledge and skills necessary for entry into, and growth in, the accounting profession.

The first is a general certificate in accounting that comprises 15-16 total credit hours and is completed in one semester; courses include principles of financial accounting, intro to business, and keyboarding. Students can also earn a certificate in accounting focused on income tax preparation. This is a two-semester program with 16 total credit hours; curriculum covers principles of financial accounting, individual income taxes, spreadsheets, and more. Last, the school offers a certificate in accounting tailored towards small business financial advisors. This program lasts for two semesters and comprises 17 credit hours; students study principles of management and managerial accounting, entrepreneurship, and more. Harwood provides online services for distance learners and online library catalogs.

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13 Liberty University 50.50 66% Lynchburg, VA

Students at Virginia-based LU get a well-recognized education rooted in solid Christian values. The largest Christian university in the world, LU awards associate, bachelor's, master's, specialist, and doctoral degrees. The school's distance learning opportunities reach tens of thousands of students around the world with 271 online programs on offer. There are approximately 40 certificate programs available, many of them online.

LU offers a 100% online certificate in accounting that prepares students with the communication and computer application skills needed for entry-level work in accounting. This 18-hour accounting certificate online focuses on the areas of financial accounting, business law, and the principles of management. Students who complete certification will be able to identify, analyze, and work through ethical dilemmas from a biblical perspective.

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14 Highland Community College 49.30 58% Freeport, IL

HCC offers an online certified bookkeeper program designed to help experienced bookkeepers increase earning potential and enhance professional status and job opportunities.

The 140-course-hour program consists of six areas of study: adjusting entries, correction of accounting errors, book and tax depreciation, basic payroll, merchandise inventory, and internal controls and fraud prevention. Upon completion of the program, students will be able to prepare payroll transactions, apply accounting concepts to depreciation transactions, and value and report inventory on financial statements, among other skills. All workbooks are included with the price of tuition, including a set of six workbooks that will help students prepare for each of their exams. Notably, Highland has the lowest tuition in the tri-state region.

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15 McHenry County College 47.60 52% Crystal Lake, IL

Located in Illinois, MCC offers a 48-week accounting certificate program that can be completed entirely online. The program prepares graduates for entry-level positions as junior accountants in fields ranging from business and manufacturing to insurance companies and nonprofits. Curriculum covers topics including accounting procedures, financial accounting, and management accounting.

MCC also offers a 16-week bookkeeping certificate in which students learn QuickBooks and Peachtree General Ledger for general accounting functions such as the preparation of general journal entries, maintenance of balance sheets and reconciliations, and account analyses. The certificate prepares professionals for jobs as accounts payable/accounts receivable clerks, bookkeepers, tellers, and more. MCC notes that its online accounting certificate programs are different from others because they are designed to be stackable, providing a pathway for career advancement via sequences of career-related courses.

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16 Ogeechee Technical College 47.50 47% Statesboro, GA

OTC has been preparing students with the education and training necessary for successful careers since 1986. Among its offerings is a 100% online computerized accounting specialist technical certificate that teaches students accounting procedures and accounting software. Students must complete 21 semester credit hours; the program typically takes two semesters to complete.

Course topics in this accounting certificate online include the principles of accounting, spreadsheet fundamentals, and computerized accounting. Graduates of this online accounting certificate are qualified for entry-level positions as accounting technicians or bookkeepers in fields such as the business sector, education, and health care providers. Applicants to the certificate program must be at least 16 years old with a high school or GED transcript. They must also meet certain assessment requirements on either the ACCUPLACER, COMPASS, SAT, or ACT exam.

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17 Minnesota West Community and Technical College 47.20 59% Granite Falls, MN

A member of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System, Minnesota West Community & Technical College provides affordable and accessible educational opportunities to its diverse student population. The school offers a 16-credit-hour certificate in accounting that can be completed entirely online.

Students learn basic accounting knowledge which can be used in an entry-level position or be transferred to a two-year accounting or business degree. Course topics in this online accounting certificate program include accounting principles and practices, payroll accounting, and computerized accounting skills.

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18 Craven Community College 47.20 41% New Bern, NC

CCC serves the educational needs of students in historic Craven County, North Carolina, via its two campuses offering a portfolio of associate degrees, diplomas, and certificates in several areas. Craven is home to the Institute for Aeronautical Technology, offering 147 Federal Aviation Administration-approved programs.

CCC offers an online payroll accounting certificate that comprises 15 credit hours, with core courses including payroll accounting, financial accounting, federal income taxes, and accounting software apps. Another online accounting certificate offered through the school is the small business accounting certificate with a focus on financial accounting, accounting software apps, business law, and entrepreneurship. The completion of 17 credit hours is required for this certificate.

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19 Stanly Community College 47.10 41% Albemarle, NC

DSC's certificate in accounting technology management program provides students with solid foundational knowledge of the theory and practice needed for entry into the field of accounting. This online accounting certificate program is designed to be completed in two semesters for a full-time student, and includes courses such as office accounting, computer spreadsheets, personal income tax, and business information processing. Students in this program are eligible for financial aid.

The school also offers a two-semester certificate in accounting technology operations with a tax preparation option for full-time students. Course topics include software and hardware for tax returns, financial planning, and financial reports, among others. Credits earned in each program can be applied towards the school's AS degree in accounting technology.

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20 Atlanta Technical College 45.80 43% Atlanta, GA

For more than 40 years, SCC has been providing educational and workforce development opportunities to students in Albemarle and the region. SCC has more than 30 programs leading to associate degrees, diplomas, certificates, general education, etc., in areas such as healthcare, engineering, business, and computers.

Among the school's offering is an accounting certificate totaling 14 credit hours. Areas of study include principles of financial accounting, managerial accounting, and payroll accounting. The certificate can be completed in two semesters. SCC also has an accounting diploma option and an MS applications & business accounting diploma option that can be completed online to build on the online accounting certificate.

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Time to Complete

6 to 12 months

Credit Hours

$2,500 – $10,000

Program Costs


Core Courses

General Business, Business Administration, Finance, Management, Human Resources, Economics, Statistics, Mathematics


There is no formally recognized accreditor for certification programs in this field. Please defer to an individual school’s regional or national accreditation status.

Additional Considerations

A certificate in accounting will not be a sufficient qualification for taking the CPA exam in most states.

Job Placement: Certificate in Accounting

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), more than 1.3 million accountants and auditors are currently employed in the United States. This already large industry is also expected to increase by 11% between 2014 and 2024, resulting in more than 142,000 new jobs over this 10-year period. As a result, accountants enjoy a strong job outlook and a relatively low unemployment rate of 3.2% nationwide.

The following table uses data from U.S. News & World Report to compare the unemployment rates for accountants and eight other finance-oriented professions. Each entry in the table was featured in the ‘Best Business Jobs‘ ranking published by U.S. News in 2016.

Occupation Unemployment Rate (2016)
Financial Analyst 2.2%
Market Research Analyst 2.4%
Management Analyst 3.0%
Accountant 3.2%
Financial Advisor 3.3%
Business Operations Manager 3.7%
Operations Research Analyst 3.8%
Mathematician 4.0%
Statistician 4.0%

Source: U.S. News & World Report

The unemployment rate for accountants is also much lower than the national unemployment rate for all occupations, which currently sits at 4.7%.

Earning a Living

In addition to a favorable job outlook and low unemployment rate, accountants and auditors also enjoy relatively high earning potential. The BLS notes that the median annual salary for these professionals is $67,190 — roughly 85% higher than the median earnings of $36,200 for all occupations nationwide.

However, the earning potential for students with an online certificate in accounting will vary by specific job title. Salary expectations will strongly vary between different positions; other potential factors include employer size, certification level, experience and city/state of employment. The next table looks at salary projections for five of the most common occupations for accounting certification recipients.

Occupation Median Annual Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 Years) Median Annual Salary for Mid-Career Employees (5-10 Years) Median Annual Salary for Experienced Employees (10-20 Years) Median Annual Salary for Late-Career Employees (20+ Years)
Certified Public Accountant (CPA) $52,908 $64,716 $75,839 $83,810
Staff Accountant $44,785 $48,433 $48,786 $49,754
Junior Accountant $41,312 $45,640 $45,606 $47,508
Accounting Manager $54,946 $65,901 $66,650 $64,736

Source: PayScale

Of the four careers listed, CPAs reported the highest career salary growth: an increase of 58.4% between the entry-level and late-career stages. Accounting managers ranked second with 17.8% growth, followed by junior accountants with 15.0% growth.

Career Opportunities

Students who complete an online certificate in accounting program will be prepared to enter the workforce, or move on to a bachelor’s degree program if they plan to become CPAs. Below we’ve outlined the accounting and auditing profession, along with three other popular career pathways in accounting and finance.

Accountants and Auditors: Accountants evaluate financial records to ensure their client or company is compliant with tax laws and regulations, while auditors are specialized accountants trained to find errors, discrepancies and other red flags in financial records. These professionals typically work long hours; according to the BLS, a quarter of all accountants and auditors work more than 40 hours per week.

Management Analysts: Management analysts work with companies and organizations to boost productivity, increase profits and maintain an efficient structure. First they research the company’s financial history, and will often interview or survey employees to get a better understanding of how they work. Once the research is complete, analysts will deliver their findings to top executives.

Appraisers and Assessors of Real Estate: These professionals inspect, evaluate and calculate the value of houses, offices, rental units, public buildings and other types of property. Their findings influence how properties are bought, sold, mortgaged, taxed and insured. Appraisers and assessors who oversee federal transactions must become certified or licensed to practice in most states.

Budget Analysts: Budget analysts specialize in evaluating and managing organizations with large budgets and sizable financial wealth. They write and review budget proposals, and then work with organizational personnel to ensure these proposals are carried out efficiently. The BLS estimates that 40% of budget analysts are employed by local, state and federal government agencies.

Occupation Median Annual Salary Projected Industry Growth (2014-24)
Accountants and Auditors $67,190 11% (+142,000 jobs)
Management Analysts $83,120 14% (+103,400 jobs)
Appraisers and Assessors of Real Estate $51,860 8% (+6,800 jobs)
Budget Analysts $71,590 3% (+1,500 jobs)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Professional Organizations

Making professional connections and learning about different approaches to accounting is crucial to your success. Professional organizations offer a great entry point for students who want to learn more about their chosen career path. Below you’ll find three of the country’s most prominent organizations established for professional accountants. These organizations host networking events, provide online trainings, maintain active job boards, and offer other services for career-ready college graduates. Resources like these often prove invaluable as you complete your degree requirements and prepare to enter the job market.

  • The American Accounting Association: Celebrating 100 years in 2016, the AAA is an international organization representing more than 7,000 members in dozens of countries. The association’s website features a robust career center with a rotating pool of roughly 200 job openings from across the country, along with a peer-reviewed journal and links to professional development courses.
  • National Society of Accountants: The NSA strives to provide advocacy, continuing education opportunities, and ethical oversight for professional accountants throughout the nation. Members receive access to a range of accounting- and tax-related resources, along with discounts on webinar courses, conference entry fees, and other services.
  • American Institute of CPAs: Considered the world’s largest professional organization for accounting professionals, the AICPA represents more than 400,000 members in 144 countries. The institute’s website features study guides, practice exams, and other resources for bachelor’s graduates who have yet to take their CPA exam, as well as a career center for certified job candidates.

Despite the relative affordability of online programs, most students still need financial assistance. Students should complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to learn more about loans, grants, and other opportunities offered through the U.S. government. Additionally, private grants and scholarships are widely available through nonprofit organizations, companies, and other sources. Check out our collection of resources below to learn more about financial aid options.


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