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Best Online Accounting Certificate Programs

May 31, 2021

What is an Online Certificate Program in Accounting?

In the field of accounting, certificate programs can be crucial. They're often a requirement to progress into specialized job positions. Certificates also help to showcase your abilities to future employers.

Online certificate programs in accounting have a high market demand and are pretty easy to find. They can be offered by many kinds of higher educational institutions such as universities, community colleges, and technical colleges.

Online programs are versatile, practical and sometimes even faster to complete than their campus-based counterparts. Online certificate programs also grant you more freedom to really tailor your desired career path. You will have the choice between the current 170 institutions offering online certificate programs, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

Certificates in accounting can also be a defining factor in hiring even in different fields. It is very common for professionals in related fields like human resources, economics and business management to seek accounting certificates as a way to enhance their previous education.

There is a trend in accounting programs that is the progressive inclusion of software and IT-related courses. Nowadays, much of the data storage and management are done by such software, meaning that an accounting certificate program that offers software training will have a great advantage over other programs.

What is the Difference Between an Online Certificate and an Online Degree in Accounting?

Degree programs are longer and more complex than certificate programs. In general, certificate programs are aimed at building expertise in a single focused aspect inside the all-encompassing field of study. Other degrees tend to be broader. A bachelor's degree, for example, is designed to build a basic foundation in all subjects of the chosen field of study.

In accounting, a bachelor's degree coursework may include some courses in finance, investments, taxes, law, etc, attempting to create a basic understanding of the field as a whole. Certificate programs, on the other hand, will choose one of these subjects and really delve deep into it. For this reason, certificates will often come with a very clear and objective substance. For example, a certificate in accounting might be titled 'Certificate in International Taxation,' meaning that the program only has courses focused directly on that topic.

Accreditation for Online Accounting Programs

Accreditation is one of the defining factors in the credibility of any educational program. To be accredited, a program must pass rigorous tests and requirements set forth and enforced by third-party institutions. Accreditations are a tool of quality assurance. For this reason, other institutions, whether financial, educational, or philanthropic, will be more likely to interact favorably with accredited institutions. Accreditation is also a prerequisite for getting financial aid, it can make transferring to other schools easier and it may play a role in the job market.

There is a variety of accreditations. Some may be specially tailored towards accounting degrees, like the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) while others may be exclusively directed toward online platforms, like the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC).

Should I Get an Online Certificate in Accounting?

Some bachelor's degree programs or higher have a set requirement of external activities needed to complete the degree. In this case, undergraduate students may find certificate programs a good choice. Certificates often come with explicit details on the total hours worth of the program, which can be useful in wearing down those requirements.

Certificates are also sought after in the job market. Job openings usually list necessary and desired skills. Certificate programs are a short-hand way to develop those skills and communicate these expertises to a future employer. Many of the job opportunities in accounting require plenty of experience and specializations. Certificates are a way to get your foot in the door without committing to a 2- or 4-year degree. Certificates are fast-paced and are very valuable to workers seeking quick results.

Online certificate programs in accounting can also be a tide-turner for small business owners. In a small business, a dedicated accountant may be a luxury. In this case, an online certificate program in accounting can reduce the expense of third-party accounting by helping someone in the small business limited personnel to develop the required skill to keep finance, investments and taxes in order.

Career Options After Completing an Online Certificate Program in Accounting

Certificates are a way to certify advanced expertise in one aspect of your field of study. This means that a bachelor's degree may open opportunities for entry-level jobs, but certificates are the ones that will guide your next steps in the career.

Choosing your certificate will most likely guide you to that specific expertise, meaning that in a team of accountants, you'll most likely be assigned the tasks related to the chosen certificate program you enrolled in. So, if you choose to enroll in a taxation-related certificate program, you'll most likely be dealing with tax management while your co-workers deal with payroll, investments and other tasks.

It is important to take note that certification programs (not to be confused with certificate programs) are a very important aspect of the field of accounting. Most career paths in accounting have a prominent certification test down the line that really distinguishes professionals in the field.

Some examples of notable certifications are:


Fraud Examiner

Fraud examiners require a deep understanding of accounting methods and requirements. By breaking down records and documentation, fraud examiners can detect suspect transactions and out-of-place investments. Landing a job in fraud examining might require a certificate in fraud examining and/or a certification in fraud examining offered by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (CFE)

Payscale.com data suggests that the average salary for fraud investigators is $84,321 per year.

Financial Analyst

Financial analysts are capable of understanding the financial records and producing reliable planning based on them. By understanding the trends of the company, a financial analyst may need to advise a company in any needed structural and business change. Financial analysts typically need a bachelor's degree but many combine that with a certificate (or two), as they need to prove both expertise in the methods of accounting and knowledge in business administration.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, financial analysts have a median salary of $83,660 per year and a job outlook of 5% between 2019 and 2029.

Compensation and Benefits Managers

An accountant serving as a compensation and benefits manager needs to know and apply knowledge about all legislation and taxes related to labor. This is a very important task as any divergence from the norm may lead to a labor lawsuit. Payroll managers enjoy a wide and prosperous job market, as companies in all fields of economical activity may require labor and payroll management.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, compensation and benefits managers have a median salary of $125,130 per year and a job outlook of 3% between 2019 and 2029.

Continued Education after an Online Accounting Certificate Program

Certificates are usually achieved during or after a bachelor's degree. With both the bachelor's degree and the certificate in hand, the student/professional is ready for the job market in most entry-level and even mid-management roles.

A professional may choose to pursue a second certificate to broaden his or her possible employment options. Certain kinds of roles, like accounting technicians, are mostly inaccessible without extensive and specific qualifications. Also, there's room for pursuing other degree types, like the master's degree and the doctorate. These degrees can be door openers for landing academic professor and researcher jobs.

Courses for an Online Certificate Program in Accounting

Coursework in accounting certificate programs will vary depending on the certificate's objective. This is the nature of certificate programs - to be tailored toward a specific goal sometimes including prerequisite knowledge needed to fully grasp the specialized courses. Accounting courses can range in between the fields of finance, methodology, taxes, payrolls, mathematics, law and others.

It is important to research and understand the objective of your chosen certificate program. If chosen wisely, a certificate program will grant you the tools and knowledge necessary to master a specific task.

Managerial Accounting

This program explores advanced financial planning knowledge, tackling issues spanning from savings, expenditures, investments, and taxes. Additionally, students will learn procedures in financial analysis, seeking to develop a better skill in managing a company's assets balance. Financial planning is a very desirable toolset for companies of all kinds.

Accounting Ethics

In this course, students will be exploring the moral dilemmas that might be present in the corporate world and how to behave when one comes up. The course will collide morals and law trying to decipher boundaries in the pressures exerted by competitiveness and profit-seeking. Accounting Ethics is a very important step towards understanding the role of an accountant in society and the responsibilities involved.

How Long Does an Online Certificate Program in Accounting Take to Complete?

Certificate programs vary quite a bit when it comes to length. Some programs will feature five to eight courses while others will consist of a singular course. In this sense, the choice of a certificate program entails very careful research. There's a program for everyone, some can be finished in a month while others may take a whole year.

How to Choose an Online Certificate Program in Accounting

Not all certificate programs are created equal; the difference may come as a result of the program's objectives. Some certificate programs are designed for graduate students while others are tailored for undergraduates. There's a certificate program for everyone, and the easiest way to find out which will better fit your needs is to both ask yourself how your current schedule and finances match any given program and where you want to get to as a professional.

Certificates vary widely in terms of cost and length. In this sense, the student has to think about how that given certificate will fit their desired career path. Some certificates may need and lead to a certification program. For example, tax certificates are attractive to professionals willing to work toward a financial services auditor certification.

Also, when searching for your best-suited certificate, remember that the National Center for Education Statistics has a free-to-use search tool that is full of information and available options of programs for you to choose from.

How to Get Into an Online Accounting Certificate Program

Online certificate programs are easygoing in their admission processes, being far from the traditional requirements for a bachelor's degree program, as an example. Some institutions, mainly community colleges, may opt for an open-admissions policy, ensuring every candidate an opportunity to enroll in their programs.

For undergraduate certificate programs, students are often required to fulfill at least one of these prerequisites:

  • High School Diploma or General Educational Development test (GED)
  • High School Equivalency Test (HiSET)
  • High School equivalent certificate achieved via homeschooling

For graduate certificate programs, institutions may require a 4-year bachelor's diploma or equivalent. Some institutions may set a minimum GPA in the previous degree as a requirement for eligibility.

Cost of an Online Accounting Certificate Program

Online certificate programs are, in a way, cheaper than campus-based ones, if not in credit prices, definitely in life-based costs. A community college certificate might cost around $3,020 for a 17-credit program while an Ivy League certificate might come in around $18,000. Some programs charge per-credit while others offer a flat fee for the entire program.

Financial Aid & Scholarship Resources for Online Accounting Certificate Programs

If you plan on applying for a certificate program, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form should be your first stop. The federal government has a variety of initiatives designed to help you deal with educational-related costs. These initiatives may be in the form of grants, loans, or scholarships. That being said, financial aid can be tricky when it comes to certificate programs. FAFSA only covers certain schools and fields of study at the certificate level.

Students can also search for philanthropic, social and academic institutions offering grants and scholarships for distinguished students. These typically require letters of recommendation, essays, extracurricular activities and good grades. A great place to search for available scholarships is CareerOneStop's scholarship finder tool, which is offered by the U.S. Department of Labor.

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