Best Online Graduate Certificate in Accounting Programs
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Professionals can advance their accounting career or move into the field with a graduate certificate in accounting. And an online accounting degree offers a convenient, accessible way to take graduate-level courses.
In less than one year, graduate certificate programs train students in public accounting, auditing procedures, management accounting, and taxation. These programs often meet the requirements for in-demand professional certifications. Because they require fewer credits than a master's degree, graduate certificates generally cost less. And a graduate certificate helps accounting professionals increase their earning potential.
The best online schools offer accredited certificates and degrees that prioritize flexibility. Our list ranks the top online graduate certificate in accounting programs. Prospective applicants can use the ranking to find the best fit for their unique needs and career goals.
What Is an Online Graduate Certificate in Accounting Program?
Graduate certificate programs help professionals advance their skills in a focused, quick format. What is a certificate program? Unlike a professional certification or license, certificate programs train learners without granting a degree. Graduate certificate programs include master's-level classes and require a bachelor's degree for admission.
Most graduate certificates take less than a year to complete, making them an attractive option for professionals seeking graduate-level coursework without the time commitment of a master's degree. After completing a graduate certificate in accounting, students can transfer into master's programs to continue their education.
Popular Online Graduate Certificates in Accounting Programs
Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.
What Can I Expect From an Online Graduate Certificate in Accounting Program?
An online graduate certificate provides graduate-level coursework in accounting. Earning a graduate certificate in accounting generally requires 12-20 credits, depending on the program. Students interested in a CPA license need at least 150 postsecondary credits, which a graduate certificate can help fulfill. Most graduate certificate programs take less than one year. Learners can also enroll on a part-time basis.
During a graduate certificate program, accounting students take advanced classes and specialize their skills. Many programs offer focused coursework designed to train certified public accountants (CPAs), management accountants, forensic auditors, or nonprofit accountants. While some programs offer a set curriculum, others let learners choose electives to customize the course of study.
Online graduate certificate in accounting concentrations:
- Public accounting
- Management accounting
- Forensic accounting
- Data analytics
Graduate students in accounting need strong analytical skills and attention to detail. Online programs also require organizational abilities and self-motivation. During a graduate certificate, learners must use their time management skills to balance coursework with other responsibilities, including work. Many online accounting programs design their certificates for working professionals. As a result, a large number of programs use asynchronous classes, which provide the greatest flexibility.
Still Looking for the Right Fit? Discover Similar Degree Programs.
What Courses Will I Take in an Online Graduate Certificate in Accounting Program?
Management accounting classes cover financial decision-making, reporting, and planning. Students strengthen their cost management, forecasting, and performance management skills. The class prepares learners for the certified management accountant (CMA) exam.
Financial Accounting and Reporting
Students examine financial accounting and reporting regulations and methods. Topics include reporting for businesses, nonprofit organizations, and individuals. The course prepares learners for the CPA exam.
Advanced auditing classes cover topics like forensic auditing, attestation requirements, and auditing methods. Students prepare for the CPA exam or for careers in fraud examination, auditing, or forensic accounting.
Learners examine the laws and regulations governing corporate taxation. Topics include tax planning strategies, corporate structures, and corporate tax preparation. Students learn through case studies, tax forms, and tax schedules.
Specialized courses like nonprofit accounting train graduate students in accounting subfields. This class covers nonprofit accounting principles, financial reporting rules, and fund accounting. Students prepare for roles in public or nonprofit accounting.
What Are Admission Requirements for an Online Graduate Certificate in Accounting Program?
Accounting graduate certificate programs often set similar admission requirements. Like other graduate-level programs, graduate certificates in accounting require a bachelor's degree. However, applicants do not need a bachelor's in accounting to apply. Some programs set recommended or required coursework before applying, while others design their admissions process for those with no accounting experience.
Applicants often need to submit GRE or GMAT scores, though some programs offer test-optional admissions. Programs may also ask for a personal statement that explains the applicant's preparation and career plans. Finally, the admission requirements often include letters of recommendation from faculty or supervisors.
Common admission requirements for an online graduate certificate in accounting include:
- A bachelor's degree from an accredited college
- Standardized test scores
- A personal statement
- Letters of recommendation
In some cases, online accounting programs include an interview to learn more about the applicant.
What Can I Do With an Online Graduate Certificate in Accounting Degree?
Accounting professionals work in a field with above-average salaries. According to BLS data from May 2021, accountants and auditors report a median annual salary of $77,250. A graduate certificate can help accountants specialize their skills and move into higher-paid roles. For example, the best-paid accountants report an annual salary upwards of $129,000 per year.
Accountants also benefit from strong demand. Between 2020-2030, the BLS projects that the field will add around 96,000 jobs. Turnover in the field also means there will be around 135,000 openings for accountants and auditors every year over the next decade.
A graduate certificate prepares accountants for several professional certifications that can increase earning potential. With a graduate certificate, accountants can pursue their certified public accountant license. The certificate also meets the requirements for the certified management accountant credential.
See where a graduate certificate in accounting can take you. Learn more about accounting careers.
Certified Public Accountant
Certified public accountants specialize in financial documents that must be disclosed, including income tax, stockholder reports, and investor financial statements. CPAs specialize in areas like corporate taxation, forensic accounting, and personal finance. The CPA license requires at least 150 credits of postsecondary coursework.
Median Annual Salary: $77,250 (as of May 2021, BLS)
Senior Accounting Manager
Senior accounting managers oversee accounting departments for organizations. They manage accountants and accounting clerks to make sure the department achieves its goals. The responsibilities of a senior accounting manager can include managing an accounting system, monitoring revenue, and creating cash flow reports.
Average Annual Salary: $107,680 (as of June 2022, Payscale)
Financial controllers prepare reports on an organization's financial health. They make sure that balance sheets, earnings forecasts, and income statements are accurate. Financial controllers also create regulatory reports of financial activity. A background in public accounting, auditing, and budgeting helps financial controllers.
Median Annual Salary: $131,710 (as of May 2021, BLS)
Personal Financial Advisor
Personal financial advisors recommend investment strategies for clients. They meet with individuals to understand their long-term financial goals. Then, personal financial advisors suggest retirement planning vehicles and savings options to reach those goals. Some personal financial advisors manage accounts and make investments on behalf of their clients.
Median Annual Salary: $94,170 (as of May 2021, BLS)
Certified Management Accountant
Certified management accountants bring together management accounting and financial management knowledge. They oversee financial planning and evaluate financial statements to make business decisions. CMAs must pass a two-part exam that tests their planning, forecasting, cost management, corporate finance, and risk management knowledge.
Average Annual Salary: $96,000 (as of June 2022, Payscale)
Accounting Not For You? Check Out These Related Careers.
After earning an accounting graduate certificate, accountants can pursue their CPA or CMA license. The certificate also prepares graduates for other accounting and auditing certifications like the certified internal auditor or certified fraud examiner credentials.
Graduates can also pursue a master's in accounting. In many cases, the graduate credits from a certificate program transfer into a master's program, which can save master's students time on their degree. A master's degree also provides additional specialization options or management-level training. For example, professionals interested in management careers can earn their MBA with a concentration in accounting.
How Do I Choose an Online Graduate Certificate in Accounting Program?
Students in graduate certificate programs typically pay graduate tuition. However, make sure to check with the program about the total cost of the certificate. In many cases, choosing an online format can save students money. Some universities offer tuition discounts for fully online students, for example.
Online graduate certificates use several formats. They may offer full-time and part-time enrollment options. Some use accelerated classes. The length of the program also depends on the minimum credits required. Finally, online learners should consider synchronous vs. asynchronous schedules. Working professionals may prefer the flexibility of asynchronous classes, which do not require set meeting times.
Prospective accounting students considering online and on-campus programs might assume that location only matters for in-person options. However, online students may benefit from choosing a local school. If the program includes on-campus requirements, a nearby school can save students time and money.
Always choose an accredited university for your accounting education. Accredited schools meet high standards for academic excellence. Independent accrediting bodies evaluate schools based on their faculty qualifications, student learning outcomes, and curricular materials. Accredited institutions also meet federal financial aid requirements. And students considering a master's program can transfer more credits from an accredited school.
The best online universities offer strong student services. These support services typically include academic advising and career counseling. Distance learners can also benefit from mentorship opportunities and internship resources. Make sure to check what kind of student services the university offers specifically for online learners.
Best Accredited Online Graduate Certificate in Accounting Programs
Rankings compiled by the the BestColleges Ranking Team
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Frequently Asked Questions About Graduate Certificate in Accounting Programs
Is a graduate certificate in accounting worth it?
A graduate certificate in accounting can pay off. Students can complete a graduate certificate with as little as 12 credits. In a matter of months, graduate students can complete a certificate and move into specialized accounting roles.
Certificate programs can also help students prepare for the certified public accountant (CPA) and certified management accountant (CMA) credentials. Accountants seeking focused, graduate-level coursework and those considering a shift into the accounting field benefit from a graduate certificate.
What can you do with a graduate certificate in accounting?
A graduate certificate in accounting prepares professionals for roles like CPA, personal financial advisor, accounting manager, and management accountant. During a certificate program, accounting students take classes in taxation, financial reporting, and auditing. Many programs offer tracks based on career goals after earning the certificate.
With a graduate certificate, professionals can also transfer into a master's program. Graduate certificates from accredited institutions typically provide transfer credits toward a master's degree. A graduate certificate can help accounting students decide whether it's worth earning a master's degree.
Is an accounting graduate certificate program hard?
Graduate certificate programs offer master's-level coursework, which can challenge students. Accounting majors or those with prior accounting experience in the workplace or in college find graduate coursework less challenging than those without accounting experience.
Prospective applicants who did not major in accounting or a related field may benefit from taking undergraduate accounting courses before applying to graduate certificate programs. However, some programs design the coursework for non-accounting majors. Contact programs to ask about their recommended preparation for graduate study.
How long does it take to get a graduate certificate in accounting?
Earning a graduate certificate in accounting generally takes 6-12 months. Most graduate certificate programs require 12-20 credits, which students can complete in less than one year. After taking graduate certificate courses, professionals can pursue specialized roles in accounting or transfer into a master's program.
A master's in accounting requires a minimum of 30 credits, with some programs setting a higher credit requirement. For example, an MBA in accounting may require 50 credits. Typically, students can earn a master's in accounting within two years. Students who enroll part-time take longer to complete a certificate or degree.
What's the highest paying job you can get with a graduate certificate in accounting?
A graduate certificate in accounting leads to careers as a certified public accountant, certified management accountant, accounting manager, or personal financial advisor. Professionals also work as financial controllers and auditors. These roles all pay above-average salaries, with some reaching into the six figures.
For example, financial controllers report a median pay of $131,710 as of May 2021. The highest-paid accountants and auditors report an annual salary of almost $128,970 or more. Earning potential depends on several factors, including industry, location, and experience.
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