Best Online Certificate in Accounting

by Doug Wintemute

Updated September 20, 2022

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An online accounting certificate can prepare graduates for entry-level financial careers and the CPA exam.

Accounting training equips students with practical skills and knowledge for the business and financial worlds. Many organizations seek to hire accounting graduates for their expertise in finance, operations, and management practices.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a faster-than-average 5% employment growth for the business and financial sectors from 2019-2029. While the COVID-19 pandemic undoubtedly affected the industry, many accounting professionals have continued to work remotely. The pandemic may have even increased the need for accounting expertise, with organizations shoring up their financial health and future-proofing their operations.

Individuals interested in accounting careers can pursue degrees, industry certifications, or accounting certificates. Certificates can help students prepare for entry-level roles, advance within their current careers, and bolster their industry qualifications. This guide provides in-depth information on these credentials, including available career options and a ranking of the best online certificates in accounting.

Top 10 Online Accounting Certificate Programs 2021
#1 Coastal Pines Technical College Waycross, GA
#2 Ogeechee Technical College Statesboro, GA
#3 Foothill College Los Altos Hills, CA
#4 University of Virginia-Main Campus Charlottesville, VA
#5 Sheridan Technical College Hollywood, FL
#6 University of Alaska Fairbanks Fairbanks, AK
#7 Stanly Community College Albemarle, NC
#8 Lanier Technical College Oakwood, GA
#9 Wiregrass Georgia Technical College Valdosta, GA
#10 Georgia Northwestern Technical College Rome, GA

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The Best Online Accounting Certificate Programs

  1. Coastal Pines Technical College
    Location

    Waycross, GA

    Tuition

    $3823

    Coastal Pines Technical College, part of the Technical College System of Georgia, began in 2014. The college offers diplomas, associate degrees, and technical certificates. Students who want to find entry-level jobs in accounting can earn a diploma in accounting from Coastal Pines Technical College, which takes three semesters to complete. The college also offers an accounting degree, which takes six semesters, and an office accounting specialist certificate, which takes two semesters to complete.

    The program starts with students taking basic skills courses, such as fundamentals in English, basic psychology, and business math. After completing the basic education requirements, students take occupation courses, which give them technical and practical accounting skills. The curriculum teaches students financial accounting, computerized accounting, tax accounting, and payroll accounting. It also covers document production, computer literacy, and spreadsheet applications.

    Classes run on an asynchronous format, with students participating in online discussions and completing assignments by set deadlines. To graduate, students must complete 42 credits. To enroll, applicants must hold a high school diploma or GED and be 16 years old or older. Candidates must also take the ACCUPLACER test and score a minimum of a 60 in English, 55 in reading, and 34 in math. Finally, students must attend an orientation in which they take an introduction to an online learning session.

  2. Ogeechee Technical College
    Location

    Statesboro, GA

    Tuition

    $5991

    Ogeechee Technical College opened its doors in 1986. It now offers 28 completely online programs, including diplomas, associate degrees, and technical certificates.

    Students can earn an accounting diploma in four semesters, or less than two years. Classes run asynchronously, so students can complete assignments and participate in online discussion boards as their schedules allow. However, professors require students to follow a class schedule and meet deadlines. The program lets students tailor their education to suit their career interests by concentrating in inventory management, payroll accounting, accounts payable, or accounts receivable.

    To graduate with an online accounting certificate, students must complete 42 credits. These include eight basic skills credits and 34 occupation credits. The curriculum teaches students about document production, financial accounting, computerized accounting, spreadsheet applications, payroll accounting, and tax accounting. After their program, students gain the education to work as office managers, bookkeepers, and accounting technicians.

    The admissions office allows students to begin classes at any semester. To apply for this program, students must complete an application and submit college or high school transcripts and test scores. Applicants must take the ACCUPLACER, Compass, SAT, ACT, PSAT, or GED to place them in reading and math classes.

    Ogeechee Technical College also provides an accounting associate of applied science degree, computerized accounting specialist certification, office accounting specialist certificate, and payroll accounting specialist certificate.

  3. Foothill College
    Location

    Los Altos Hills, CA

    Tuition

    $7481

    Foothill College features online, hybrid, and in-person classes, offering 167 degrees and certifications, including a 53-credit certificate of achievement in accounting. Accounting degrees and certificates help students learn about accounting ethics, auditing, fraud examination, and accounting for nonprofits.

    Students taking the certificate of achievement in accounting develop the skills to work in entry-level accounting jobs. Classes introduce students to basic accounting terminology and principles. Graduates can land jobs as accountants and corporate accountants. To earn an online accounting certificate, students must take 43 core courses and 10 support courses. Students do not need to take general education courses.

    Required classes include business law, the principle of business, macroeconomics, financial accounting, managerial accounting, computerized accounting, and tax accounting. The college also offers a 40-credit certificate of achievement in certified public accountant (CPA) examination preparation for students who want to work as CPAs. Students can also earn an online accounting degree from Foothill College, which sets them up to transfer to a four-year college.

    The college maintains an “open-door policy” for all high school graduates and non-graduates who are 18 years old or older. Foothill College accepts applications in the spring, summer, and fall. Classes run on a quarter system. Online classes operate on an asynchronous format, which allows students to make their own school schedule.

  4. University of Virginia-Main Campus
    Location

    Charlottesville, VA

    Tuition

    $16594

    The University of Virginia traces its roots to 1819, when Thomas Jefferson founded the institution. In addition to bachelor’s and master’s degrees, the college also offers online certificates and degrees. The school of continuing and professional studies at UVA offers an online accounting certificate. Students can complete the certification online within 20 months. However, students who take less than two classes per term may take longer to earn their certificate.

    This program attracts new accounting students, along with working professionals who want to advance in their current careers. To complete the program, students must take six required courses in subjects such as introduction to accounting and cost accounting. To fulfill their credit requirements, students must also take four elective courses, including classes in federal taxation, fraud examination, and forensic accounting.

    To earn a degree, students must complete 30 credits or 10 courses. The college offers start dates in August, January, and May. To apply, students need a high school diploma or GED. They must also complete an online application and submit their transcripts, a resume, a letter of recommendation, a statement of purpose, and an application for Virginia in-state education privileges. The college does not offer financial aid for this program.

    The certification gives students the required education and hours to take the certified public accountant (CPA) exam. To apply for the CPA exam, students must complete a bachelor’s degree.

  5. Sheridan Technical College
    Location

    Hollywood, FL

    Tuition

    $7837

    Sheridan Technical College offers 27 career and technical study programs, along with 18 online programs. The undergraduate certificate in accounting takes nine months for full-time students to complete. Graduates develop the knowledge and skills to work as accounting assistants, clerks, and associates. The program teaches students basic accounting competency in QuickBooks, computers, and MS Excel.

    In the first five weeks of the program, students take business core classes. They learn about software programs, including PowerPoint, Microsoft Word, Windows, Microsoft Excel, and D2L. After completing the program, students can also take the QuickBooks certified user industry certification or MOS Bundle certification.

    The program offers five start dates throughout the year. To enroll, students must attend an in-person orientation and take the Test of Adult Basic Education (TABE). Those who hold an associate in applied science degree may receive exemption from taking the TABE. Applicants must also meet with a program counselor to discuss the TABE and other college topics, such as tuition. Students also need basic skills and equipment, including headphones with a microphone.

  6. University of Alaska Fairbanks
    Location

    Fairbanks, AK

    Tuition

    $9010

    The University of Alaska Fairbanks offers 178 programs and seven campuses for its 8,500 students. Besides its main campus, UAF holds five additional campuses in rural areas and six community centers. Students who want to hone their accounting skills can earn UAF’s accounting technician certificate. The entire program comprises 30 credits and takes full-time students about one year to complete.

    After completing this degree, students can find jobs in payroll, bookkeeping, and payables or receivables. Students come into this program with varying career experience -- the program suits new students and small business owners who want to hone their financial accounting skills. Students can use the credits earned in this certificate and put it toward a 60-credit associate of applied science degree in applied accounting.

    To begin this program, students need basic computer skills. Applicants who cannot meet this requirement must take the computer business applications course. The college requires students earning a certificate to take at least 15 credits at UAF. The major requirement classes include principles of accounting, payroll accounting, income tax, microcomputer accounting, business math, introduction to business, human relations, and business communications. To graduate, students must maintain a minimum 2.0 GPA.

  7. Stanly Community College
    Location

    Albemarle, NC

    Tuition

    $6925

    Established in 1971, Stanly Community College offers more than 30 programs of study. Students can take classes on the main campus or at the Crutchfield Education Center, Economic Development Division, or Small Business Center.

    The college provides several programs for prospective accounting students, including an accounting associate degree, accounting diploma, associate business and accounting pathway, and a completely online accounting certificate. The accounting certificate teaches students the basics of financial operations and accounting principles. Students also study economics and law. To earn an accounting certificate, students must complete 18 credits with a minimum 2.0 GPA.

    Students who take a full-time course load can complete their certificate in two semesters. In the first semester, students take classes in principles of financial accounting, federal income taxes, and introduction to business. In their second and final semesters, students take payroll accounting, accounting software applications, and principles of management.

    At the end of the program, students possess the skills to compile financial statements and use accounting software. Graduates secure careers in hospitals, government agencies, schools, and accounting firms. To apply, students must complete an online application, submit their transcripts, explore their career interests to determine their best educational path. They should also submit placement test scores and attend an orientation prior to starting classes.

  8. Lanier Technical College
    Location

    Oakwood, GA

    Tuition

    $4325

    Lanier Technical College opened its doors in 1964. The college offers certificates, diplomas, and associate degrees. In addition to the main campus, students can take classes at four campuses throughout the state, or they can access online classes.

    The certificate in office accounting specialist teaches students basic accounting skills to work as bookkeepers, accounting assistants, or accounts payable accounts receivable administrators. Students can take the certificate program completely online, or in-person at the Hall, Forsyth, or Barrow campuses. The online accounting certificate requires students to take 14 credits. Required classes include financial accounting, introduction to computers, and computerized accounting.

    The admissions office accepts students into this program every semester. To apply, candidates must be at least 16 years old with a high school diploma or GED. They must also take the ACCUPLACER test or the SAT, ACT, CPE, COMPASS, or ASSET.

    Lanier Technical College does not offer Pell Grant funding for this certificate program, but students may receive state or institutional funding. Lanier Technical College maintains transfer agreements with nearby four-year colleges for students who want to transfer credits from this online accounting certificate toward a degree. The college also offers a 64-credit associate accounting degree, which students can complete online in five semesters. The college also features a 42-credit accounting diploma, which takes four semesters to complete.

  9. Wiregrass Georgia Technical College
    Location

    Valdosta, GA

    Tuition

    $2345

    Wiregrass Georgia Technical College offers more than 160 programs. Students can take the online accounting diploma in-person at the Valdosta and Coffee locations, or complete classes online. The diploma requires students to take 34 credits, including eight general core credits and 34 occupational credits. General core courses include the fundamentals of English, business mathematics, and basic psychology. Occupational courses teach students specialized accounting skills they can apply to their future careers.

    Students take classes in spreadsheet applications, tax accounting, payroll accounting, and financial accounting. The curriculum also consists of an occupation elective and accounting elective.

    Online classes run asynchronously, allowing students to log on and complete assignments when it suits their schedule. Before beginning their classes, students must take the Distance Education Blackboard Orientation, in which they complete an assessment to ensure they are prepared for online learning. The college also provides library materials digitally through its Georgia Library Learning Online program.

    To apply for the accounting diploma, students need to be at least 16 years old with a high school diploma, a GED, or at least 60 college credits. Wiregrass Georgia Technical College may require students to submit ACCUPLACER, ACT, ASSET, COMPASS, PSAT, or SAT scores. The college also offers an online accounting associate degree, which requires students to complete 64 credits.

  10. Georgia Northwestern Technical College
    Location

    Rome, GA

    Tuition

    $3774

    Georgia Northwestern Technical College was established in 2008 when Coosa Valley Technical College and Northwestern Technical College merged. Students can also attend classes at six other locations in Georgia, along with online classes.

    Students can choose from 200 degrees, diplomas, and certificates. Georgia Northwestern Technical College offers classes in online, hybrid, and web-enhanced formats. The college’s accounting diploma requires students to take 42-43 credits. The diploma program teaches students the fundamentals to work in accounting, such as accounting vocabulary and concepts. Students also learn spreadsheet, database, and presentation software. Online students can take advantage of online tutoring.

    Students begin their education by taking basic skills classes, such as the fundamentals of English, basic psychology, and business math. Students then hone their accounting skills by taking classes on financial accounting, document production, spreadsheet applications, tax accounting, and payroll accounting. The program also requires students to take a guided elective course. By the program’s end, students gain the skills to find entry-level jobs in accounting.

    Georgia Northwestern also offers an accounting associate of applied science degree, which requires students to take 64 credits. Interested applicants must complete an online application, submit transcripts, and take a placement test. They can also submit SAT or ACT test scores.

Best Online Certificate

Online Accounting Certificate Programs Ranking Guidelines

We ranked these degree programs based on quality, curricula, school awards, rankings, and reputation.

Our Methodology

Here at TheBestSchools.org, we take the trust and welfare of our readers very seriously. When making our school and program rankings, our top priority is ensuring that our readers get accurate, unbiased information that can help them make informed decisions about online education. That's why we've developed a rigorous ranking methodology that keeps the needs of our readers front and center.

Our proprietary, multi-criteria ranking algorithm analyzes key data indicators — as collected by the federal government — for each school or program. What data we use depends on the focus of each specific ranking, but in all cases, our ranking methodology is impartial: Schools cannot buy better rankings at TBS.

While specific criteria under consideration can vary by ranking, there are a few data points that we value most highly. They are affordability, academic quality, and online enrollment. Below, we break down our algorithm to help you understand what you're getting when you use one of our rankings.

  • Academics
  • Affordability
  • Online Enrollment

Data Sources

The data used in TBS rankings comes primarily from the federal government, and much of it is provided by the schools themselves. We aggregate and analyze this data to build our rankings.

The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) is our primary source. Its data comes from annual surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Every college, university, or technical school with access to federal financial aid must participate in these surveys, which include questions about enrollment, graduation rates, finances, and faculty qualifications. This is publicly available data, which you can access yourself through the College Navigator.

Additionally, because we value a personal touch and the professional experience of our staff and Academic Advisory Board, we vet all results and adjust rankings as necessary based on our collected knowledge of schools and degree programs. Depending on the ranking, we may obtain additional input from AcademicInfluence.com, subject matter experts, prior TBS ranking lists, or other sources we deem relevant to a particular ranking.

Breakdown of Our Rankings Methodology

About Our Ranking Factors

Here at TBS, we value what you value: quality education, affordability, and the accessibility of online education. These factors guide all of our program rankings.

Each of these factors are further broken down into weighted subfactors. For example, retention rates are weighted more heavily than availability of program options because they are a better indicator of student success.

We chose the following factors for our rankings because of their influence on learning experiences and graduate outcomes. However, students should always balance our rankings against their personal priorities. For instance, a learner who needs a fully online program may prioritize online flexibility more than our rankings do. Our rankings are designed to help you make a decision — not to make a decision for you.

Academics - 75%
Affordability - 15%
Online Enrollment - 10%

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What Is an Online Accounting Certificate?

Online accounting certificates vary based on the program and education level. Some provide basic fundamental training, but others focus on a specialization or provide advanced or graduate-level education. Potential students should start by identifying their goals and what certificates align with those aspirations.

Accounting certificates typically attract new students, business professionals, and accounting graduates. New students can use certificates to build an educational foundation, gain entry-level skills, or earn transfer credits to later continue their studies. Existing business professionals can use certificates to specialize their knowledge and qualifications.

Some students earn graduate accounting certificates online after completing their bachelor's degrees in order to meet requirements for industry certifications. Certified public accountant (CPA) credentials, for example, require 150 undergraduate credits, but most bachelor's programs only include 120, so students need to earn more credits to sit for the exam.

What Is the Difference Between an Accounting Certificate and Degree?

Deciding between an online associate degree in accounting, an online bachelor's in accounting, and an online accounting certificate can be challenging. These credentials can lead graduates down similar professional pathways, but with different end careers.

The main difference between these programs is program scope. Associate degrees usually require 60 credits, and bachelor's degrees comprise 120 credits, while an accounting certificate may feature just 15-45 credits. This means that bachelor's degrees are more comprehensive than associate degrees, while certificates are often an added credential for bachelor's graduates. In general, graduates with higher-level degrees have more career opportunities.

However, these programs often complement each other. Associate degrees usually provide principles and foundations courses, bachelor's programs delve into more intermediate and diverse accounting topics, and certificates often have more specialized content. It's common for students to attend more than one of these programs.

What Can You Do With an Accounting Certificate?

With an accounting certificate, graduates can provide accounting and finance-related services in nearly every industry and organization imaginable. According to BLS employment data, some of the biggest industries for these professionals are finance and insurance, the government, and management.

Professionals with accounting training and credentials can also work in many business and financial jobs, including those outlined below.

Bookkeeper

Bookkeepers manage financial records for organizations, which involves filling out documents, preparing taxes, and checking forms for accuracy. These professionals may also create reports based on their financial analyses, which management departments use to make informed business decisions.

Students can acquire many of the skills needed to become a bookkeeper through an accounting certificate, including training on accounting software, gaining management skills, and understanding the accounting cycle and business accounts.

Internal Auditors

Internal auditors analyze organizations' finances to look for errors, inefficiencies, and potential risks or fraud. These professionals typically work within large organizations.

Accounting certificates can help students develop the specialty skills needed for this job, such as auditing, assessing regulations and compliance, and communicating effectively, which auditors use when presenting their findings.

Budget Directors

Budget directors have managerial roles within organizations, with responsibilities like setting budgets, monitoring spending, and analyzing the effectiveness of finances. They may also communicate budgets and spending to management, shareholders, or the public.

Accounting certificate training can often delve into budgeting and finance maintenance, which is relevant to this career. Students learn to analyze and evaluate spending, identify risks and opportunities, and compile information to present findings effectively.

Choosing an Online Program

When exploring the best online accounting certificate programs, students need to consider several factors. First, learners should identify which programs best suit their professional goals by researching things like available concentrations and focus areas. They should also consider accreditation status, tuition rate, course format, and schedule flexibility.

Accreditation for Accounting Programs

Accreditation assures students that their schools and programs meet rigorous academic standards. Accounting professionals must earn their credentials from regionally accredited schools to qualify for most forms of financial aid, ensure their credits will transfer, and earn employment after graduation.

In addition to institutional accreditation, students should also look for programmatic accreditation. While not all accounting programs are programmatically accredited, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business recognizes many of the top business and accounting programs.

What to Expect From an Accounting Certificate

Accounting certificates can cover many topics and satisfy different purposes, so coursework differs. Prospective students should expect to encounter unique offerings in every program, but some common certificate program coursework is listed below.

Accounting Curriculum

  • Financial Accounting: At the basic level, financial accounting courses cover the major concepts of accounting and financial statements. More advanced courses delve into specifics like foreign currencies and nonprofit finances.
  • Managerial Accounting: Management accounting courses teach students how managers can apply financial data to improve decision making. Some of the topics covered include costing, profit analysis and planning, and working with accounting software.
  • Federal Income Tax Accounting: In this course, students learn the rules and regulations that govern federal income taxes. They explore guidelines for individuals and organizations, along with each of the major sections involved in the system.
  • Cost Accounting: Beginner-level cost accounting courses introduce students to goods manufactured statements, costing processes, and how managers use cost information to make better decisions and solve problems.
  • Small Business Accounting: Students in small business accounting courses observe the duties of a small business accountant, such as payroll and taxation. They may also learn how small businesses apply cost and management accounting principles.
  • Federal Taxation: Federal taxation courses teach students about the various purposes of and requirements for taxes at the individual or corporate levels. They cover topics like income tax requirements, exemptions, and sales tax.

How Long Does It Take To Get a Certificate in Accounting?

The length of an accounting certificate varies by program, but enrollees can complete most programs within one year. Since certificates typically require 15-45 credits, students usually take 2-12 months to graduate.

Some online accounting certificate programs allow learners to complete courses asynchronously. Students can fast-track their training or move more slowly based on their needs, with many programs offering both condensed and part-time schedules.

Accounting Certifications

While most colleges and universities offer accounting certificates, accounting certifications usually come from professional organizations. Certifications recognize professionals who meet or exceed industry standards in specific sub-fields.

To earn an accounting certification, candidates typically need to pass an examination. Once completed, certified professionals must maintain and renew their credentials every 2-5 years, usually by completing continuing education requirements. Below are a few popular certifications.

The CPA designation demonstrates to employers and clients that a professional has industry-leading skills and experience. Certified individuals can improve their job prospects, advancement opportunities, and salary potential with CPA certification. Some employers even make this credential a requirement for employment. CMA certifications recognize professionals who have advanced knowledge of data analytics and financial management. This credential demonstrates that the candidate can use their accounting knowledge to improve organizations' financial health and make better decisions based in financial data. The CIA credential identifies professionals with advanced auditing skills and knowledge. This certification assures employers that a credentialled candidate can perform an advanced audit for their organization. Certified professionals have more earning potential and advancement opportunities. Professionals with CFA credentials can perform the tasks required of financial managers, including auditing, asset and risk management, and investment analysis. CFAs typically earn more than traditional financial analysts and have more job opportunities.

What Is the Difference Between an Accountant and a CPA?

Accountants do not need a certification to practice, but industry-recognized credentials can help them in their careers. The most common credential that accountants earn is the CPA credential.

The CPA credential recognizes accountants who meet high industry standards for education, experience, and expertise. CPAs can perform duties that regular accountants cannot, such as signing tax returns and performing audits for publicly traded organizations. CPAs also have a fiduciary responsibility to their clients, which governs them to act in the best interest of their clients.

Accounting Organizations

Professional accounting organizations help their members at every career level, including students, new graduates, and experienced professionals. Some organizations represent the profession as a whole, advocating for improved standards, debating policies, and dispersing information to the general public, while others cater to specific demographics, locations, or career specializations.

Members of these organizations often have access to specialized professional networks, training programs, certifications, and industry events. Aome of the largest and most renowned accounting organizations are listed below.

Accounting Careers

Many students earn accounting certificates in order to pursue careers as accountants and auditors, but certificates can prepare graduates for other fields, as well. Certificates can deliver a stand-alone education and access to entry-level careers, as well as career advancement potential.

In the table below, we examine career options that accounting certificate holders can pursue and the median annual salaries for each.

Accounting Career Median Salary (2019)
Accountants and Auditors $71,550
Tax Examiners and Collectors $54,890
Bookkeeper $41,230
Financial Clerks $40,540
Source: BLS

Frequently Asked Questions

What Jobs Can You Get With a Certificate in Accounting?

An accounting certificate can lead to many finance-related careers in the business world. In combination with experience or further training, certificates can even help graduates land management positions.

How Do I Get Certified in Accounting?

Several organizations offer accounting certifications for industry professionals, such as the American Institute of CPAs. Candidates typically need to meet education and experience requirements to qualify for credential examinations.

Portrait of Doug Wintemute

Doug Wintemute

Doug Wintemute is a Toronto-based freelance writer with professional writing interests in higher learning and entertainment. He completed his BA and MA in English at York University, graduating summa cum laude and earning academic merit, research, and writing awards at both levels. Since 2014, he has contributed content and editorial work for award-winning digital trade publications, global SEO copywriting projects, and hugely popular online brands. He can be contacted through LinkedIn.

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