Best Online Graduate Certificate in Accounting Programs

The experts at BestColleges have ranked the top online bachelor's in accounting programs. Compare these schools by cost, convenience, and academic quality to plan for your future today.

portrait of Genevieve Carlton, Ph.D.
by Genevieve Carlton, Ph.D.

Published on June 10, 2022

Edited by Amelia Buckley
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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.

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:

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.

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Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

What Courses Will I Take in an Online Graduate Certificate in Accounting Program?

Management Accounting

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

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.

Corporate Taxation

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.

Nonprofit Accounting

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?

Career Outlook

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.

Career Paths

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 Controller

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)

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Continuing Education

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?

Cost

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.

Program Format

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.

Location

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.

Accreditation

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.

Student Support

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

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Best Online Graduate Certificate in Accounting Programs

  1. University of California, Irvine
    Location

    Irvine, CA

    Tuition

    $15014

    Established in 1962, the Division of Continuing Education at UCI offers more than 80 certificates and professional programs. In addition to its Irvine campus, UCI oversees multiple corporate locations, extension learning sites, and an online division.

    UCI's graduate certificate in accounting requires 10 courses (45 quarter units) and covers topics like federal income taxation, accounting theory and practice, and auditing. Students may complete an additional non-certificate course in ethics in accounting. The program prepares graduates to sit for the CPA Exam.

    Though UCI offers classes throughout the year, the majority of courses in this accounting track occur in the spring and summer semesters. Students can earn their certificate in 12-24 months.

  2. University of St. Francis
    Location

    Joliet, IL

    Tuition

    $19418

    USF oversees an online division and a physical campus in Joliet, Illinois. The university offers more than 120 online graduate, undergraduate, and certificate programs and enrolls more than 1,500 distance learners each year.

    USF's online graduate certificate in accounting comprises 12 credits and includes courses in international accounting and reporting, fraud examination, financial statement analysis, and taxes. Individuals may apply all certificate credits toward a master's degree at USF.

    Online students pay the same tuition, regardless of their state of residence. Participants complete courses asynchronously in virtual classrooms. USF offers 24/7 technology support to online learners. Students can enroll in the fall, spring, or summer.

  3. Pennsylvania State University
    Location

    University Park, PA

    Tuition

    $21678

    Penn State World Campus offers more than 150 graduate, undergraduate, and certificate programs online. This online division is the second-largest campus in the state university system and enrolls more than 20,000 students each year.

    Penn State World Campus' online graduate certificate in accounting holds accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. The 12-credit program emphasizes auditing theory and practice and offers elective coursework related to topics like cost management, taxation, and financial statements and reporting.

    Graduates may qualify to sit for the CPA Exam. Students can apply all certificate credits toward Penn State's master of professional accounting degree. Faculty delivers courses asynchronously in virtual classrooms.

  4. University of Connecticut
    Location

    Storrs, CT

    Tuition

    $19650

    Ranked among the nation's top colleges, UConn enrolls more than 32,000 students at seven campuses across the state and through its online division. The university offers more than 130 graduate, undergraduate, and certificate programs across 14 schools and colleges.

    UConn's online graduate certificate in accounting fundamentals comprises four courses and 12 credits. The curriculum emphasizes the core principles and practices of accounting as the "common language of business." UConn recommends that online learners enroll in the fall.

    Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree. Students can apply certificate credits toward a graduate degree, pursue a career in accounting, and/or sit for the CPA Exam. Faculty utilize asynchronous and synchronous course delivery.

  5. University of Miami
    Location

    Coral Gables, FL

    Tuition

    $43305

    Serving south Florida and a global community, UM enrolls more than 17,000 students at three physical campuses and online. The university offers more than 180 graduate, undergraduate, and certificate programs across 11 schools and colleges.

    UM's online graduate certificate in accounting practice is suitable for students with no prior experience in accounting. The curriculum includes four courses and 16 credits, exploring topics like taxation, accounting information systems, and intermediate accounting. UM students can also pursue an online certificate in corporate finance or financial decision-making.

    Distance learners can access a variety of virtual programs and services, including counseling, tutoring, and technology support. This program offers multiple start dates throughout the year. UM holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  6. University of Michigan-Flint
    Location

    Flint, MI

    Tuition

    $12519

    UM-Flint enrolls more than 8,500 students and boasts a low student-to-faculty ratio of just 13-to-1. The university offers 130 graduate, undergraduate, and certificate programs on campus and online.

    UM-Flint's online post-master's graduate certificate in accounting is one of many business certificate programs at the school. Students must complete 12 credits, choosing four guided electives. Options cover topics like advanced financial reporting, forensic accounting, and individual federal income taxation. This program does not require GMAT scores for admission.

    Applicants must hold an MBA (or a similar degree) and provide letters of recommendation for consideration. Students may enroll in the fall, winter, spring, or summer semester. Distance learners can access resources like tutoring, counseling, and technology support.

  7. City University of Seattle
    Location

    Seattle, WA

    Tuition

    $20567

    CityU serves nearly 7,000 students at over 25 international locations and through an online campus. Students may choose from more than 60 graduate, undergraduate, and certificate programs across six major fields of study.

    CityU's online graduate certificate in accounting suits students who hold an undergraduate accounting degree and plan to become a certified professional accountant. Students must complete five courses, totaling 15 credits, in topics like financial accounting and reporting, regulation, and auditing and attestation. Students pay a set, per-credit tuition rate for online coursework, regardless of their state of residence.

    CityU admits students into this certificate program at the beginning of any semester. Support for online learners includes career, library, counseling, and technology services.

  8. University of Arizona
    Location

    Tucson, AZ

    Tuition

    $15594

    As a provider of some of the nation's highest-rated business programs, the College of Management at Arizona enrolls more than 6,500 students. Management students can choose from more than 26 graduate, undergraduate, and certificate options, and many programs are available online.

    Arizona's online graduate certificate in accounting requires a minimum of nine credits. Students choose at least three courses from options including advanced accounting, business law, and principles of auditing. The certificate track requires prerequisite coursework in financial accounting, managerial accounting, and federal taxation.

    Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree and a minimum 2.75 GPA. Students can enroll on one of six start dates per year. Online learners pay the same per-course tuition, regardless of where they live.

  9. Auburn University
    Location

    Auburn, AL

    Tuition

    $23205

    The second-largest academic school at Auburn, the College of Business enrolls nearly 5,400 students on campus and online. Business students may choose from more than 30 graduate, undergraduate, and certificate programs.

    Auburn's online graduate certificate in accounting comprises 18 credits in courses such as advanced accounting topics, federal tax research, and advanced business law. Students can choose from a synchronous or asynchronous course delivery format. Auburn's College of Business is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.

    Applicants to this certificate program must hold a regionally accredited bachelor's degree and satisfy prerequisite coursework in business and accounting. The program charges the same tuition rate for online graduate classes, regardless of a student's state of residence.

  10. Southern New Hampshire University
    Location

    Manchester, NH

    Tuition

    $39071

    One of the nation's fastest-growing colleges, SNHU enrolls more than 3,000 traditional learners and more than 135,000 online students. The university offers over 200 graduate, undergraduate, and certificate programs across 28 schools and colleges.

    SNHU's online graduate certificate in accounting comprises 21 credits and seven courses in topics that include cost accounting, financial reporting, and federal taxation of individuals. Students may apply completed certificate credits toward an MS in accounting at SNHU. Graduates may qualify to sit for the CPA Exam.

    The program enrolls news students on five start dates throughout the year. All online learners pay the same tuition, regardless of their state of residence. The university also offers a 25% tuition discount to military service members and their families.

Frequently Asked Questions About Graduate Certificate in Accounting Programs

Is a graduate certificate in accounting worth it? true

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? true

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? true

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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