Certificate Program in Accounting

Updated October 3, 2022

A certificate can help you learn accounting skills and earn credits without enrolling in a degree program. Explore how this option can benefit your accounting career.

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Earning an accounting certificate can help people to learn the basics of the accounting profession. Certificate programs can also help those already in the accounting field learn new skills, which can translate to new career opportunities.

Students can earn undergraduate or graduate accounting certificates. Undergraduate certificate programs teach students the skills needed to apply for entry-level accounting jobs, like bookkeepers or accounting clerks.

Graduate certificates help students with bachelor’s degrees meet the requirements to become a certified public accountant (CPA) and pursue more advanced jobs as financial analysts or financial controllers. Graduate certificates can also help current accountants specialize in unique or high-demand subfields, like data analytics and forensic accounting.

Keep reading to learn more about these certificate programs, including how they can impact your accounting career.

Why Get an Undergraduate Certificate in Accounting?

  • Start With a Higher Base Salary: According to Payscale, the average base salary for those with an accounting certificate is $59,000, which is $4,000 higher than those with only an associate degree in accounting.
  • Help Your Resume Stand Out: An undergraduate certificate in accounting shows that a student understands accounting fundamentals and meets the requirements of typical entry-level positions. Additionally, listing an accounting certificate on your resume can boost your credentials and help you get noticed by future employers.
  • Earn Credit Toward a Degree or CPA Certification: Some certificate programs allow students to count their certificate classes toward a bachelor’s degree in accounting.

Why Get a Graduate Accounting Certificate?

  • More Career Opportunities: A graduate certificate in accounting helps students meet the credit requirements to take the CPA exam, which employers may require for more advanced accounting jobs.
  • Increased Earning Potential: Graduate certificates can lead to higher-paying career opportunities. For instance, graduates who go on to become CPAs after passing the CPA exam earn an average annual salary of $71,970 as of May 2022, according to Payscale. This figure is nearly $20,000 higher than the average salary for a typical accountant, which is $52,566 per year.
  • Prepare For a Master’s Degree Program: Graduate certificate programs allow students to gain deeper accounting knowledge, which can help build the confidence they need to pursue a master’s degree in accounting. Additionally, some schools allow students to count certificate credits toward a master’s degree.

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Different Accounting Certificate Types

In general, undergraduate accounting certificates teach students the basic accounting skills they need to enter the profession. Some schools offer students the option to specialize in an accounting area like bookkeeping certificates or information technology.

Additionally, students can choose from a variety of program types. While some accounting certificate programs are in person, many schools also offer online programs. This flexible format gives learners the option to enroll in a program that meets their educational needs and fits into their schedule.

Graduate Certificates and Certifications

Both accounting certifications and certificates demonstrate that individuals have completed additional education or training in the field. However, schools offer certificates while professional organizations offer certifications.

Certificates show that students have completed additional coursework or training through an academic program but do not give students licensure. Certificate programs are often tailored to a learner’s specific needs, like preparing them for the CPA exam.

Certificate programs can be a good option for those seeking additional education in the accounting field. They can also give students considering earning a master’s or Ph.D. in accounting a headstart on their degree since some schools accept certificate courses as prerequisite or transfer credits.

However, to become licensed accountants, professionals must earn a CPA certification. While certificates give students the academic background they need to become accountants, certification often involves passing a formal exam.

Employers may require certifications for mid- and senior-level accounting jobs, like public accountants, management accountants, or fraud examiners. For more information on the accounting certification process, check out the certifications overview page.

Should You Get Your Certificate in Accounting Online?

Accredited online certificates can provide a quality education while giving students more flexibility and convenience than an in-person program.

Before choosing an online program, there are a few things to consider. First, look into whether courses are 100% online or in a hybrid format, where some classes are online and others are in person. Additionally, some programs may have synchronous classes, meaning students have to log in at a specific time every day. Othera may offer asynchronous classes, allowing students to complete courses on their own schedule as long as assignments are submitted on time.

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Undergraduate Accounting Jobs and Salaries

Earning an undergraduate accounting certificate helps prepare job seekers for entry-level accounting positions. According to Payscale, the average annual salary for those with an undergraduate accounting certificate is $59,000.

People with undergraduate certificates can pursue support roles that manage the day-to-day accounting tasks. With additional education or certifications, certificate-holders can work their way up into positions with more responsibilities and higher salaries.

Bookkeeper


A bookkeeper’s job is to manage a business' day-to-day financial transactions. Daily tasks include tracking incoming and outgoing money, and balancing the company’s financial statements. Professionals with bookkeeping certifications may be able to advance more quickly in their careers.

Required Education: Some colleges courses or undergraduate certificate

Job Outlook (2020-30): -3%

Median Annual Salary: $45,560

Accounting Clerk


An accounting clerk maintains and prepares accounting documents and records like bank deposits and ledgers. Some daily tasks include processing procurement requests, running payroll, creating spreadsheets, and invoicing for services. To advance in their careers, accounting clerks can earn certifications and work toward completing a bachelor’s degree.

Required Education: Some college courses or undergraduate certificate

Job Outlook (2020-30): -2%

Median Annual Salary: $44,760

Tax Preparer


Tax preparers calculate, prep, and file income tax returns for both individuals and businesses. Some daily tasks include understanding tax law, calculating return amounts, and helping people reduce their tax liabilities. Certifications like becoming a CPA or an enrolled agent can help tax preparers advance in their careers.

Required Education: Bachelor's degree or undergraduate certificate

Job Outlook (2020-30): -4%

Median Annual Salary: $49,550

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Graduate Accounting Jobs and Salaries

Graduate accounting certificates help prepare learners for more advanced positions like financial managers, earning an annual salary of $131,710, according to the BLS.

Additionally, these certificate programs help people develop in-depth accounting skills, which can be appealing to potential employers, especially in competitive fields.

Certified Public Accountant


CPAs help individuals and businesses plan for their financial futures, advise clients on financial decisions, and prepare tax filings. Some daily tasks for CPAs include budgeting, preparing financial reports, forecasting revenue, and establishing accounting policies for companies.

Required Education: Graduate certificate or graduate degree

Job Outlook (2020-30): 7%

Median Annual Salary: $77,250

Budget Analyst


Budget analysts help businesses decide how to manage their money, help companies stay financially viable. Some daily tasks for budget analysts include suggesting budget cuts and increases, auditing companies’ existing budgets, and keeping an eye on financial resources.

Required Education: Bachelor’s degree

Job Outlook (2021-31): 5%

Median Annual Salary: $79,940

Auditor


An auditor makes sure that the financial records of an individual, business, or organization are in compliance with tax laws. They look for any discrepancies to prevent or catch fraud. Some of an auditor’s daily tasks include inspecting accounting data, tracking cash flow, and compiling reports.

Required Education: Bachelor’s degree

Job Outlook (2021-31): 7%

Median Annual Salary: $77,250

Next Steps After Getting an Accounting Certificate

It's never too early to begin planning your accounting career. Graduates with an accounting certificate can take the following steps to advance their careers.

  • Enter the Workforce: An accounting certificate prepares graduates for many entry-level accounting jobs.
  • Pursue an Associate, Bachelor's, or Master's Degree: Credits from a certificate program often transfer to degree programs, which can save students time and money on a degree.
  • Earn CPA or CMA Certification (for Experienced Professionals): Higher-level certificates can help those with prior degrees meet CPA or CMA requirements.

Common Questions About Accounting Certificates


How much does an accounting certificate cost?

The cost of an accounting certificate varies by program but can range from $200-800 per credit.

How can I pay for my accounting certificate?

Most students pay for their accounting certificate partly through financial aid, such as loans, grants, and scholarships. Some employers offer tuition assistance or reimbursement.

Can I get an accounting certificate without a degree?

Yes, new accounting students can earn undergraduate accounting certificates without a college degree, but some prerequisite coursework may be required.

Is an accounting certificate worth it?

In terms of pay and job demand, an accounting certificate may be worth it. Salaries for accounting certificate graduates vary. However, the median annual salary for business and finance jobs is $76,570, according to the BLS. The agency projects the sector to grow about as fast as average from 2020 to 2030.

What salary can you get with an associate degree in accounting?

Professionals with an associate degree in accounting make an average annual salary of $55,000 as of May 2022, according to Payscale.

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