The field of accounting touches all aspects of business and management. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, accounting salaries exceeded the average salaries for positions in business in 2015. There has never been a better time to explore the professional possibilities afforded by an online graduate accounting certificate.

Requiring less than a year to complete, graduate certificate accounting online programs provide an advanced, focused background in accounting without the long-term commitment of a degree. The online format allows students the flexibility to quickly apply learned skills to their career goals. Below, we'll discuss the educational and professional opportunities available to graduate certificate accounting online students.

What are the best accounting programs of 2020? Here are our top 10:

Rank School Location
1 University of California, Irvine Irvine, CA
2 University of St. Francis Joliet, IL
3 Pennsylvania State University University Park, PA
4 University of Connecticut Storrs, CT
5 University of Miami Coral Gables, FL
6 University of Michigan-Flint Flint, MI
7 City University of Seattle Seattle, WA
8 University of Arizona Tucson, AZ
9 Auburn University Auburn, AL
10 Southern New Hampshire University Manchester, NH

2020 Best Accredited Online Graduate Certificate in Accounting Programs

Rank School Location Cost Graduation Rate Description Toggle
1

University of California, Irvine

Irvine, CA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 83%

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

Joliet, IL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 62%

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

University Park, PA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 29%

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

Storrs, CT Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 85%

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

Coral Gables, FL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 82%

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

Flint, MI Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 46%

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

Seattle, WA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: N/A

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

Tucson, AZ Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 64%

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

Auburn, AL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 78%

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

Manchester, NH Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 54%

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.

What Will I Learn in an Online Graduate Certificate in Accounting Program?

The curriculum for each online graduate accounting certificate is different, which allows students to choose the curriculum best suited to their interests and goals. Most accounting certificate programs include courses covering fundamental principles of accounting, along with specialized coursework. Here are a few courses common to most programs:

  • Intermediate Accounting: Students learn basic practice and theory of financial accounting. Coursework covers accepted practices in the industry, accounting information systems, cash controls, receivables, and related problem-solving skills.
  • Auditing: This course explores concepts and procedures involved in auditing financial statements. Students learn theories of audit evidence, legal responsibilities, professional and ethical standards, and audit planning, often examining these in the context of economic and political change.
  • Federal Taxation: This course introduces students to income taxation and related compliance issues, liabilities, planning, and reporting. The course may focus on taxation for individuals, businesses, or both and prepares students for careers in tax preparation.
  • Research and Communication: Students learn the types of research certified public accountants (CPAs) perform, how to use research databases, and basic communication practices, including proper use of grammar and punctuation. This class prepares students for specialized careers in accounting research management, which involves monitoring the quality of other accountants' work.

What Can I Do With a Certificate in Accounting?

Due to the depth and scope of post-baccalaureate accounting programs, graduates pursue a variety of career opportunities, including advancement and specialization. Some professionals pursue certification to boost salary potential. Professionals in accounting should be detail-oriented with good analytical, organizational, and communication skills. Below are three career paths for professionals with an online graduate accounting certificate.

Accountant or Auditor

Accountants and auditors prepare and review financial records, ensure taxes are paid properly, and assess the financial operations of companies. They ensure all documents are accurate and compliant.

Median Annual Salary: $68,150
Projected Growth Rate: 11%

Financial Analyst

Financial analysts assist individuals and businesses with investments. They assess investment types, economic and business trends, and other factors to evaluate the profitability of ventures. Experienced financial analysts may become portfolio or fund managers.

Median Annual Salary: $81,760
Projected Growth Rate: 12%

Personal Financial Advisor

Personal financial advisors provide guidance on investments, insurance, college savings, mortgages, taxes, and retirement — although some specialize in certain areas. Most complete a year of work under supervision before pursuing self-employment.

Median Annual Salary: $90,530
Projected Growth Rate: 30%

Certificate in Accounting Salary

Salaries vary by career path, geographic location, and experience level. The following table shows the average salaries of five of the most common accounting-related positions at different career stages.

Job Title Overall Median Salary Entry-Level Salary Mid-Career Salary Late-Career Salary
Accounts Payable Clerk $37,231 $35,839 $38,081 $37,861
Bookkeeper $41,096 >$37,396 $41,205 $45,016
Office Manager $45,272 $40,872 $45,082 $50,071
Financial Accounting Manager $76,841 $68,314 $76,942 $73,848
Financial Controller $80,108 $66,209 $78,717 $85,443

Accreditation for Graduate Certificate Programs

Before applying to a program, verify that the school is regionally or nationally accredited. Accreditation indicates that the online graduate accounting certificate program meets high standards of quality. Before awarding accreditation, accrediting agencies evaluate curriculum development, student achievement, and faculty, academic, financial, and support services. Accreditation is not mandatory for certification programs, but many employers and educational institutions only recognize credentials awarded by accredited schools.

Regional accreditation is generally regarded as more prestigious than national accreditation. Online accounting graduate certificates may also earn specialized accreditation from accrediting bodies specific to accounting or business, such as the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs, and the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education.

Professional Organizations

Professional organizations help students and recent graduates maximize the value of their online accounting graduate certificate. Members network with accounting professionals from across the country to learn about the field, share ideas, and stay updated on business and accounting trends. Membership benefits often include networking opportunities, online job boards, career services, and continuing education programs.

Financing Your Online Graduate Certificate in Accounting Program

Though a prestigious credential, an accounting certificate is significantly cheaper than a graduate degree. Still, many students need financial support to attend a graduate certificate accounting online program. Take advantage of employer sponsorships, private loans or scholarships, and federal funding, which may include scholarships, loans, grants, and work-study programs. Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, to determine your eligibility for federal funding.

AN OVERVIEW OF FINANCIAL AID

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UNDERSTANDING THE FAFSA

Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.

FINANCIAL AID FOR ONLINE STUDENTS

Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you'll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn't always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.

SCHOLARSHIPS FOR SINGLE PARENTS

Online college programs can be a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family's financial future. We've compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.

FINANCIAL AID FOR VETERANS AND ACTIVE MILITARY

Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.