Accountants analyze, organize, and manage the financial records of organizations and individuals. They analyze budgets and activities to ensure their organization remains efficient, financially responsible, and compliant with all applicable laws and regulations. They also prepare tax forms and send them to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

The accounting profession is divided into several subfields. Public accountants serve a 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, a specialized area of accounting, focuses on spotting, tracking, and reporting financial mismanagement. Internal auditors perform this service on behalf of a company or organization, while external auditors report to investors and law enforcement agencies.

The law requires all accountants who file reports with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission 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 students, a growing number of colleges and universities also offer certificates in accounting. Certificate programs are shorter than full degree tracks, and can usually be completed within a year or less. Certificates also concentrate exclusively in accounting, allowing students to focus their studies on one career field. Many of today’s students choose to earn their certificate in accounting online. The asynchronous (or self-paced) schedule and study-from-home format of most online accounting certificate programs prove 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 career opportunities you can look forward to with this comprehensive guide.

WILL AN ONLINE CERTIFICATE IN ACCOUNTING PROVIDE ME WITH THE SKILLS I NEED TO ADVANCE MY CAREER?

Students earning an online accounting certificate learn foundational skills 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 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.

WILL AN ONLINE CERTIFICATE IN ACCOUNTING WORK WITH MY SCHEDULE?

Online accounting certificate programs offer a flexible alternative to traditional higher learning. Students can 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.

WHAT JOBS CAN I GET WITH MY CERTIFICATE IN ACCOUNTING?

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 equips students with the fundamental knowledge and skills needed to take the next step in their accounting career, which is often a bachelor’s degree. Current finance professionals may also bolster their qualifications by pursuing a certificate in accounting.

WHAT ARE THE BEST ONLINE ACCOUNTING CERTIFICATE PROGRAMS?

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 U.S. Before you enroll in an online certificate in accounting program, be sure to contact admissions specialists at different colleges and universities to learn more their about specific requirements and offerings.

Rank School Cost Graduation Rate Description Toggle
1 Thomas Edison State University Trenton, NJ Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 42%

Chartered in 1972, TESU offers online programs designed for working professionals. Based in Trenton, New Jersey, the university offers degrees and certificates in 100 areas of study, including an undergraduate certificate in accounting. The fully online 18-credit program provides a foundation in the principles of accountancy to prepare students for careers as bookkeepers, auditors, and tax experts.

Like many online accounting certificate programs, TESU's curriculum covers the basics of financial accounting and managerial accounting. Students take intermediate accounting courses, and self-directed learners choose two of the following courses: advanced accounting, tax accounting and federal income taxation, and cost accounting.

Courses are asynchronous and follow 12-week terms. Transfer students can apply up to nine previous credits from regionally accredited institutions toward the certificate. TESU charges a per-credit tuition rate.

2 Champlain College Burlington, VT Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 62%

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.

3 Moraine Park Technical College Fond du Lac, WI Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 57%

Established in 1912 as the Fond du Lac Continuation School, MPTC is one of 16 technical colleges in Wisconsin and enrolls 19,000 students annually. The college offers courses online and at its campuses in Fond du Lac, Beaver Dam, and West Bend. In addition to associate degrees, MPTC offers fully online technical diplomas, professional certificates, and apprenticeship programs.

Students can complete the online, 35-credit accounting assistant diploma in one year. Students explore bookkeeping basics and learn how to analyze financial information, perform payroll tasks, and use the latest accounting applications. After complete accounting certificate programs online, graduates often pursue entry-level positions or further education; MPTC's accounting diploma transfers directly to the AAS in accounting program.

Applicants must submit official transcripts and ACCUPLACER or ACT scores. All online students pay the same tuition rate, regardless of state residency.

4 Foothill College Los Altos Hills, CA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 62%

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.

5 Wake Technical Community College Raleigh, NC Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 18%

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.

6 Liberty University Lynchburg, VA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 51%

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.

7 Seminole State College of Florida Sanford, FL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 36%

SSCF is a public college in Sanford, Florida. The college enrolls 30,000 students online and on campus. SSCF's online programs include associate and bachelor's degree programs, career certificate programs, and continuing professional education programs in areas such as information technology, health, and business.

SSCF offers three of the best online accounting certificate programs for distance learners: a 27-credit accounting applications program, an 18-credit accounting operations program, and a 12-credit future accounting specialists program. Coursework covers topics such as software, data entry, financial reports, and effective business communication.

The certificate programs prepare students to pursue accounting positions such as payroll assistant, clerk, and office assistant. Students can apply credits earned through SSCF's accounting certificate programs toward a two-year degree.

8 Daytona State College Daytona Beach, FL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 34%

Founded in 1957 in Daytona Beach, Florida, Daytona State is a member of the Florida College System and enrolls nearly 28,000 students annually. The college categorizes programs into college credit, adult education, and vocational studies programs.

Daytona State offers 13 certificates, including two accredited online accounting certificate programs: an 18-credit certificate accounting applications with a computerized option and a 27-credit certificate in accounting technology operations with a tax preparation option. Graduates are equipped to identify and discuss the legal and ethical issues pertaining to financial planning, the business environment, and tax preparation. The technology operations certificate requires coursework in financial accounting and business data processing.

Daytona State is not authorized to provide distance learning programs to students in Wyoming, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, or the District of Columbia.

9 Golden Gate University - San Francisco San Francisco, CA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 17%

GGU is the fourth-oldest private university in California, and in 1996, the university launched one of the first web-based learning programs in the country. Today, the university serves more than 3,550 students, 57% of whom are part-time learners.

GGU offers one of the best online accounting certificate programs for students who plan to pursue the CPA or CMA credential. The 18-credit accounting certificate program requires six upper-division courses, which explore state and federal accounting standards and accounting information systems. Students gain an understanding of theoretical and practical applications to prepare them for the workforce or further education.

GGU delivers online courses asynchronously, so students can complete coursework at their convenience. Students cannot apply transfer credit toward certificate programs.

10 University of Virginia Charlottesville, VA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 94%

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.

11 Shoreline Community College Shoreline, WA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 42%

Based on an 80-acre campus in Shoreline, Washington, SCC offers more than 100 academic, vocational, and workforce training programs. The college enrolls more than 10,000 students and provides fully online associate degree, certificate, and degree completion programs.

SCC offers one of the best online accounting certificate programs available. The certificate in proficiency in accounting teaches students to record, report, and analyze financial information. The 55-credit program covers payroll accounting, managerial accounting, and computers in accountancy. Coursework also explores business communication and mathematics. Students learn how to apply payroll laws and make informed decisions based on financial data.

Graduates often pursue positions in the public and private sectors, and students can apply earned credits toward an AAS in accounting. SCC accepts applications in the fall, winter, and spring.

12 Valencia College Orlando, FL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 43%

Founded in 1967 as Valencia Junior College, Valencia College is a public institution in Orlando, Florida. The college maintains five campuses and enrolls more than 60,000 students. In addition to self-directed distance learning courses, Valencia offers nearly 40 undergraduate degrees and nearly 80 certificate programs online. Valencia's online courses are available only to Florida residents.

The college offers a variety of accounting and finance certificate programs. Valencia students completing accounting certificate programs online learn to create financial statements and analyze business information. Three available accounting technical certificates prepare students for professional licensing exams; Valencia offers a 27-credit accounting applications certificate, an 18-credit account operations certificate, and a 12-credit accounting specialist certificate. Each program prepares students for positions as accountants, bookkeepers, and clerks.

13 Florida State College at Jacksonville Jacksonville, FL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 37%

FSCJ enrolls 50,000 students and offers more than 100 technical certificate programs. Founded in 1965, the college provides flexible distance learning programs designed for working professionals.

The 12-credit accounting technology specialist technical certificate program is one of the most flexible accredited online accounting certificate programs. Students can complete the accelerated program in five months. The curriculum introduces basic accounting concepts and principles for booking and business reports. Coursework explores payroll accounting, and students can take courses in forensic accounting, which involves using accounting skills to investigate criminal activity.

Graduates can apply certificate credits toward the 60-credit AS in accounting technology. FSCJ awards credit for knowledge gained outside the classroom.

14 Surry Community College Dobson, NC Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 36%

Based in Dobson, North Carolina, Surry offers a 17-credit online accounting certificate. Most students complete the five required courses in two semesters. The curriculum explores topics such as business law, economics, and communications. Students learn to apply accounting principles, theories, and methods.

Students begin with coursework in accounting principles and conclude the program with business courses. The program includes three lab courses: financial accounting, managerial accounting, and federal income taxes. Graduates understand accounting concepts, know how to analyze financial data, and are prepared to use current technologies.

Surry also offers an online associate degree in accounting. Established in 1965, Surry is a member of the North Carolina Community College System.

15 University of Alaska Fairbanks Fairbanks, AK Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 25%

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.

16 Eastern Florida State College Cocoa, FL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 46%

Founded as Carver Junior College in 1960, EFSC has campuses in Cocoa, Melbourne, Palm Bay, and Titusville and offers fully online programs, including 18 certificate programs that prepare students to change or advance their careers.

EFSC offers three of the best online accounting certificate programs: accounting technology management, accounting technology operations, and accounting technology specialist. The programs require 27, 18, and 12 credits, respectively. Each certificate program requires the same foundational classes, along with specialized training. The accounting technology management certificate includes courses such as business law and principles of economics. The operations certificate requires coursework in federal tax accounting. EFSC offers five start dates per year.

17 St Petersburg College St. Petersburg, FL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 28%

Based in Florida, SPC enrolls 64,000 students annually and offers more than 100 online programs. The college's online business certificates transfer easily into associate degree programs. SPC offers an 18-credit accounting technology operations certificate that explores the basics of financial reporting and recordkeeping.

The accounting certificate covers financial and managerial accounting, and students gain skills in business and computer applications. Students take a course on accounting software, which covers types of software and concepts such as accounting cycles, AIS setup, and transactions. The accounting certificate requires an internship; students complete at least 180 on-the-job hours to fulfill the three-credit requirement.

18 University of Alaska Southeast Juneau, AK Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 17%

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.

19 Fort Hays State University Hays, KS Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 37%

A public coeducational university in Hays, Kansas, FHSU serves more than 15,000 students and offers certificates and degree programs at the associate, bachelor's, and master's levels. The virtual college offers 50 online degrees featuring asynchronous courses and discounted tuition. Founded in 1902, FHSU has proved its commitment to distance learning options. The online enrollment at FHSC, the third-largest of Kansas's state universities, is nearly 7,000.

Students researching accredited online accounting certificate programs might consider the 12-credit certificate from FHSU, which offers a focused study of the principles of accounting. Of the four required courses, learners choose their two electives on topics like government accounting, income tax procedure, or cost accounting.

To be considered, applications must include school transcripts, and any applicant under 21 years of age must submit a minimum college assessment score (21 or above for ACT, 980 or above for SAT). Online learners pay the same tuition, regardless of state residency.

20 Coastal Pines Technical College Waycross, GA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 45%

Founded in 1965, CPTC provides technical education and training services for students in Jesup, Georgia; Waycross, Georgia; and surrounding areas. CPTC offers a fully online accounting certificate program; the Office Accounting Specialist Technical Certificate of Credit requires 14 credit hours and provides entry level accounting skills.

The curriculum comprises four courses that explore principles of accounting, computerized accounting, and basic computer skills. The certificate can be earned in two semesters.

Online courses are typically asynchronous and are not self-paced; students follow a set schedule.

21 Highline College Des Moines, WA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 33%

Founded in 1961 in Des Moines, Washington, Highline College is one of 34 community and technical colleges in the state. The college enrolls 17,000 students and offers flexible learning options, such as asynchronous online courses and hybrid programs.

Highline College offers one of the best online accounting certificate programs to prepare students for entry-level positions. The curriculum covers basic, foundational knowledge necessary to begin a career in the accounting, finance, or business field. The certificate in accounting for non-financial managers requires 16 credit hours and explores the financial concepts and accounting processes most businesses use. Students gain an understanding of the accounting cycle and learn to communicate in accounting terms. Graduates are equipped to manage liabilities and present financial statements.

22 Minnesota State Community and Technical College Fergus Falls, MN Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 36%

Located in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, M State offers more than 70 career and liberal arts programs. A member of the Minnesota State system, the technical college serves more than 8,000 students per year online and at its campuses in Fergus Falls, Detroit Lakes, Moorhead, and Wadena. M State offers 300 online classes and 25 online programs.

Completing accounting certificate programs online is ideal for working professionals with busy schedules. M State's online accounting clerk diploma provides skills necessary to prepare payroll reports and maintain accounting records. The 33-credit certificate program explores manual and computerized concepts of traditional and modern recordkeeping. Graduates are equipped to perform the duties of an accounting clerk, including calculating, journalizing, posting, and verifying.

23 Richland College Dallas, TX Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 16%

Richland's student body comprises learners from 130 nations. Based in Dallas, Texas, the college enrolls 20,000 students and offers associate degrees, degree completion programs, and one-year certificates. Richland offers 15-week terms in the fall and spring and flexible four-week, six-week, and eight-week terms throughout the year.

Richland offers two accredited online accounting certificate programs: an accounting assistant certificate and an accounting clerk certificate. The accounting assistant certificate requires 30 credits, which most students complete in two semesters, and the accounting clerk certificate requires 18 credits. Both programs provide foundational accounting knowledge and help students develop technology skills. The accounting assistant curriculum emphasizes communication and human relations to prepare students to interact with clients, teams, and management.

24 Lanier Technical College Oakwood, GA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 32%

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.

25 Auburn University Auburn, AL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 75%

Based in Alabama, Auburn in a public research university that enrolls nearly 30,000 students. The university offers a growing number of distance and continuing education programs, including undergraduate, graduate, and professional credit options.

Auburn offers an undergraduate certificate in accounting that requires 24 semester hours. The program prepares students for the CPA exam. Distance learners complete coursework asynchronously, but courses are not self-paced. Online students view recorded lectures from on-campus class sessions.

Auburn's accounting certificate is currently available only to students seeking a second degree. Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree and must have completed eight prerequisite courses, which include microeconomics, macroeconomics, statistics, and business law.

Time to Complete

6 to 12 months

Program Costs

$3,440/year

Core Courses

General business, business administration, finance, management, human resources, economics, statistics, mathematics

Accreditation

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), the United States employs more than 1.3 million accountants and auditors. The BLS projects that jobs for accountants and auditors will increase by 10% between 2016 and 2026, resulting in more than 139,900 new positions over this 10-year period. As a result, accountants enjoy a strong job outlook and a relatively low unemployment rate of 2.5% nationwide.

The following table uses data from U.S. News & World Report to compare the unemployment rates for accountants and eight other finance-related professions. The table features entries from the Best Business Jobs ranking published by U.S. News in 2016.

Occupation Unemployment Rate (2016)
Financial Analyst 2.1%
Market Research Analyst 3.8%
Management Analyst 3.9%
Accountant 2.5%
Financial Advisor 1.5%
Business Operations Manager 1.7%
Operations Research Analyst 3.3%
Mathematician 1.4%
Statistician 1.4%

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 3.7%.

Sample Online Certificate in Accounting Courses

The selection of courses shown below exemplifies material generally covered in undergraduate accounting certificate programs. You can expect variations in course titles, requirements, and focus areas, depending on the goals of the program and the school selected. All reputable programs provide a strong basic foundation in principles of financial, managerial, and tax accounting.

  • Financial Accounting: This course provides an introduction to basic concepts and procedures of the accounting cycle, preparation of financial statements, and evaluation of financial information from a user viewpoint. Topics covered include generally accepted accounting principles, analysis of financial statements, valuation, and forecasting. Using case studies, students examine financial reports and information for business decision-making.
  • Federal Taxation: This course surveys basic provisions and applications of federal tax law and principles of federal taxation for individuals, partnerships, and corporations. Topics covered include an overview of common IRS forms, preparation of tax returns, and an introduction to conducting tax research with emphasis placed on compliance, reporting, and tax planning.
  • Managerial Accounting: This course presents methods of using managerial accounting principles to understand internal business operations, improve operational and strategic decision-making, and accurately evaluate performance. Topics covered include cost accumulation, planning and control systems design, cost behavior, and terminology of costing. Students analyze real-world case studies to develop insight into modern performance management techniques.
  • Accounting Information Systems: This course provides an introduction to implementation of information technology for collecting, organizing, and presenting accounting information. Topics covered include transaction flowcharts, revenue and expenditure cycles, internal controls, and an overview of IT terminology and relational databases. Students examine several accounting software applications, with emphasis on enterprise resource planning.
  • Cost Accounting: This course covers basic concepts of costing, including product costs, variable and direct costing, and process cost systems. Using case studies, students apply cost accounting techniques to real-world business situations and conduct an operating decision analysis. Topics covered include flexible budgeting, cost behavior and allocation, activity-based costing, cost-volume-profit analysis, and variance analysis.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Certificate in Accounting?

Most students completing accounting classes online take nine months to two years to complete a certificate. A few schools offer intensive programs as short as a single semester. As a general guideline, most programs range from 12-30 credits and require candidates to complete 4-10 courses. If you plan to take online accounting courses for CPA credit, you must accumulate a total of 150 credits to sit for the exam.

Course delivery times and formats also affect the length of time required to complete your studies. The asynchronous, individually paced format provides maximum flexibility for online learners. Cohort learning proceeds at a predetermined pace, with a selected cohort of students completing requirements as a group. Some programs offer only evening and weekend courses to accommodate the schedules of professionals working full time. Students who transfer credits or receive credit for exams can shorten their certificate completion times.

Skills and Competencies Gained in an Online Certificate in Accounting Program

While the specific focus may vary according to the school and program you select, you can expect reputable programs in accounting to provide a strong foundation of competencies in business communication, financial accounting principles, and accounting software applications. The selection below offers a sampling of skill areas covered by typical certificate programs.

  • Bookkeeping: Bookkeeping topics include debits and credits, payroll accounting tasks such as calculating benefits and tax withholding, and spreadsheet maintenance. Some bookkeeping certificate online programs provide training in QuickBooks online, Xero, or FreshBooks.
  • Financial Accounting: Financial accounting skills include recording, summarizing, and reporting financial transactions of business operations. Students learn how to prepare financial statements, balance sheets, cash flow statements, and income statements.
  • Accounting Information Systems: Online accounting certificates also build skills in accounting information systems such as QuickBooks and NetSuite. Students develop competencies in data storage, recall, and output of financial information to support business decision-making and enterprise resource planning.
  • Business Communication: Accounting coursework teaches critically important business communication skills such as effective writing, teamwork, presentation skills, active listening, understanding of group dynamics, and interpersonal communication. Success in accounting requires accuracy, clarity, and persuasiveness.
  • Auditing: Auditing coursework teaches students how to inspect detailed financial records for accuracy and compliance with specific criteria such as generally accepted accounting principles and proper internal controls.

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.

Median Annual Salary: $67,190
Projected Growth: 11%

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.

Median Annual Salary: $83,120
Projected Growth: 14%

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.

Median Annual Salary: $51,860
Projected Growth: 8%

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.

Median Annual Salary: $71,590
Projected Growth: 3%

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.

Accreditation for higher learning institutions serves as an indication of legitimacy, high quality, and commitment to continuous improvement. In order to receive accreditation, schools must undergo evaluations and assessments from authoritative bodies. Regional accrediting agencies, such as the Higher Learning Commission and the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, evaluate adherence to state and regional standards. National accrediting agencies typically focus on schools offering religious, technical, for-profit, and vocational education. Regional accreditation holds more prestige than national accreditation.

Both types of accrediting agencies operate under the purview of two organizations: the U.S. Department of Education (ED), a government body providing approval for accreditation agencies, and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), an authoritative non-governmental organization that advocates for academic self-regulation through accreditation.

To verify the status and quality of accounting programs, look for programmatic accreditation from the prestigious Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs, or the International Accreditation Council for Business Education.

Since accreditation status may affect your ability to obtain federal financial aid, transfer previous coursework, or secure employment, take time to verify accreditation for all schools of interest before you decide to enroll. While many schools offer online accounting courses, accredited schools and programs offer assurance that your education meets rigorous and well-regarded academic and professional standards. You can find a list of all accredited schools on the ED website or CHEA database.

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 $69,350 — roughly 84% higher than the median earnings of $37,690 for all occupations nationwide.

However, the earning potential for students with an online certificate in accounting varies by specific job title. Other potential factors influencing salary 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.

Job Title Overall Median Salary Median Salary for Entry-Level Median Salary for Mid-Career Median Salary for Late-Career
Certified Public Accountant (CPA) $56,000 $70,000 $81,000 $93,000
Staff Accountant $46,000 $50,000 $50,000 $51,000
Junior Accountant $40,000 $46,000 $45,000 $48,000
Accounting Manager $57,000 $71,000 $71,000 $67,000

Of the four careers listed, CPAs report the highest career salary growth: an increase of roughly 66% between the entry-level and late-career stages. Accounting managers ranked second with 17.5% growth, followed by junior accountants with 20% growth.

CAREER OPPORTUNITIES

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

Accountants and Auditors

Accountants evaluate financial records to ensure their clients' compliance with tax laws and regulations, while auditors 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.

Median Annual Salary: $69,350

Projected Growth: 10%

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 often interview or survey employees to get a better understanding of how they work. After the research stage, analysts deliver their findings to top executives.

Median Annual Salary: $82,450

Projected Growth: 14%

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.

Median Annual Salary: $54,010

Projected Growth: 14%

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 efficient execution of these proposals. The BLS estimates that local, state, and federal government agencies employ 40% of budget analysts.

Median Annual Salary: $75,240

Projected Growth: 7%

PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZATIONS

Networking and continuing education resources provide opportunities for career growth and development. 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 represents 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.

AN OVERVIEW OF FINANCIAL AID

Approximately two-thirds of today’s college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.p>

UNDERSTANDING THE FAFSA

Completing the 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 COLLEGE 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 WOMEN

Online programs can provide an affordable and flexible option for women trying to balance the demands of work, family, and earning their degree. We've curated a list of valuable scholarships specifically for women.

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.

Rankings Archive

Best Online Certificate in Accounting of 2017
Rank School Location
1 University of Alaska Fairbanks Fairbanks, AK
2 Central Georgia Technical College Warner Robins, GA
3 University of Virginia Charlottesville, VA
4 Lanier Technical College Oakwood, GA
5 Champlain College Burlington, VT
6 University of Alaska Southeast Juneau, AK
7 Southern New Hampshire University Manchester, NH
8 Northwest Iowa Community College Sheldon, IA
9 Wake Technical Community College Raleigh, NC
10 West Kentucky Community and Technical College Paducah, KY
11 Foothill College Los Altos Hills, CA
12 Haywood Community College Clyde, NC
13 Liberty University Lynchburg, VA
14 Highland Community College Freeport, IL
15 McHenry County College Crystal Lake, IL
16 Ogeechee Technical College Statesboro, GA
17 Minnesota West Community and Technical College Granite Falls, MN
18 Craven Community College New Bern, NC
19 Stanly Community College Albemarle, NC
20 Atlanta Technical College Atlanta, GA