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Accounting and Bookkeeping Certificate: Program Summary

Accounting and bookkeeping certificate programs provide students with a fundamental understanding of financial principles and practices. Students can expect to learn about data interpretation, general accounting transactions, and financial reports.

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Essential Information

Undergraduate bookkeeping and accounting certificate programs are designed for individuals looking for entry-level work in one of these fields. While a few schools do offer programs that combine the two fields, they are typically offered as individual programs. Undergraduate certificate programs in bookkeeping prepare students for careers managing an organization's financial records, while accounting programs may include broader topics in financial standards, tax laws and accounting systems.


Accounting Certificate

Accounting certificate programs introduce students to the role of accounting in an organization. Students can expect to learn about basic financial principles and accounting systems. These programs can often be completed in 1-1.5 years and are available in both on-campus and online formats, depending on the school. Some programs require students to complete an internship to gain hands-on training. Common courses may include:

  • Federal income tax
  • QuickBooks and computerized accounting
  • Managerial accounting
  • Auditing
  • Practical accounting
  • Business ethics

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Bookkeeping Certificate

Bookkeeping certificate programs include some of the same basic courses as an accounting certificate program; however, they usually focus on managing payrolls and accounting systems for an organization. Some programs may also prepare students for certification exams. This program can often be completed in one year or less, and applicants must have at least a high school diploma or equivalent. Common courses include:

  • QuickBooks
  • Payroll accounting
  • Excel spreadsheets
  • Computerized accounting
  • Tax accounting

Continuing Education Information

Individuals who have earned an accounting certificate may transfer their credits into a bachelor's degree program in accounting in order to prepare for a career as an accountant. Such programs may teach students about advanced accounting, the audit process, SEC reporting and multinational accounting. After earning a bachelor's degree, students may need to complete a graduate degree or certificate program in accounting in order to meet their state's requirements to earn the Certified Public Accountant designation.

While not required by all employers, bookkeepers may wish to become certified to demonstrate their skills and knowledge to potential employers. The National Association of Certified Bookkeepers (NACB) offers the Certified Public Bookkeeper designation for individuals who pass the Uniform Bookkeeper Certification Examination exam. The American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers also offers a credential; those who complete their exam earn the Certified Bookkeeper (CB) designation.

Popular Career Options

Graduates with an accounting certificate are prepared for entry-level positions within a financial organization or an accounting department. Some possible career titles include:

  • Accounting clerk
  • Accounts payable/receivable clerk
  • Auditing clerk
  • Accounting technician
  • Financial analyst

Employment Outlook & Salary Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the employment of bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerks is expected to decline by 8% from 2014 to 2024, primarily due to technological improvements in the field. The BLS also reported that this group earned an average salary of $38,990 as of May 2015.

Students who want to pursue entry-level accounting or bookkeeping jobs have the option of earning a certificate in one of these fields. Although there are some differences between the programs, both introduce students to essential financial concepts.

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