Best Online Accounting Certificate Programs of 2022

Updated November 3, 2022

If you're interested in an online certificate in accounting, explore this guide to find the top available programs.

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Best Online Certificate Programs

By pursuing an online accounting certificate, students can earn foundational knowledge in a field full of opportunities. An online accounting certificate prepares professionals for both entry-level jobs and further academic studies, making it a practical investment that opens a variety of choices for graduates.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that demand for financial clerks will decrease by 2% between 2020 and 2030. Financial clerks perform crucial work, especially those who contribute to tax season. The BLS projects 120,900 openings in this field each year for the next decade as the current workforce retires or changes jobs.

On this page, you can find information about the best online accounting certificate programs, including common courses and educational outcomes, available career paths, and how to choose the right online program.

What Is an Accounting Certificate?

An online accounting certificate prepares students for entry-level positions in the field. Professionals with a certificate qualify for jobs as bookkeepers or accounting clerks. Students may pursue the certificate in advance of further education, like an associate degree, or to prepare them for the transition from a two-year to a four-year program.

Online accounting certificate programs cover foundational accounting skills, typically over the course of a year. Professionals learn to organize tax documents and to understand their organization's financial workings. Online programs use mostly or totally distance learning, with no or minimal in-person requirements.

Though the terms seem similar, a certificate in accounting differs from an accounting certification. With a certificate in accounting, graduates qualify for entry-level positions in the field and need further education to pursue an accounting certification. To work as a certified public accountant (CPA), applicants must complete a certain number of college-level hours and complete an exam.

Some schools offer post-baccalaureate certificates, available to graduates with bachelor's degrees. These certificates can help aspiring CPAs to complete the necessary credit hours and to qualify for the exam.

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Should I Get an Accounting Certificate?

With an accounting certificate, professionals can qualify for a variety of entry-level jobs in a promising field. Graduates can test the waters in an interesting career and decide whether to pursue a higher degree. The certificate also provides an academic background, with transferable credits into many associate or bachelor's degree programs.

What Jobs Can I Get with an Accounting Certificate?

Graduates with an accounting certificate can pursue a variety of jobs such as financial clerks, administrative assistants, and bank tellers. According to BLS, financial clerks number among the highest paying of these positions at a median annual salary of $41,520 , whereas bank tellers earn $32,620 per year. By obtaining a college-level certificate, however, employees may qualify for more opportunities and faster advancement in their careers.

Financial Clerk

Employed in industries like insurance, credit intermediation, and healthcare, financial clerks take care of clerical tasks related to their organization's financial workings. They may produce invoices, maintain records, and work with customers when questions arise. The BLS reports that demand for financial clerks is growing along with the national average for all occupations, projecting a 2% decrease between 2020 to 2030.

Annual Median Salary: $41,520

Bookkeeper

Bookkeepers oversee the financial records for their organization, either as a whole or in parts. They keep track of expenditures and record income, compiling reports for managers to review. Depending on the organization, they may assist with payroll, billing, and purchasing. According to the BLS, computer innovations continue to lead to a decline in demand for bookkeepers, with a 3% decline in the field projected between 2020 and 2030.

Annual Median Salary: $42,410

Accounting Clerk

Often encompassing specialized duties related to payroll or accounts payable, accounting clerks tend to work for large companies. Typical tasks include financial data entry, application of interest charges, and loan monitoring. Common industries include tax preparation and bookkeeping, retail, and wholesale trade. The BLS projects that demand for accounting clerks will decline by 3% between 2020 and 2030 due to technological innovations in the field.

Annual Median Salary: $42,410 p

Further Educational Paths in Accounting

With a certificate in accounting, students can obtain the academic background they need to further their studies at the undergraduate level. They may continue to pursue an associate degree or bachelor's degree.

Depending on their individual career goals, some students may even decide to pursue a master's degree in accounting. As professionals complete higher levels of education, they open doors to further job opportunities, with advanced responsibilities and higher earning potential.

Accounting professionals hoping to qualify as CPAs must complete education beyond a certificate in accounting. Prospective students may wish to pursue this credential in order to qualify for a wider range of job options, as many employers prefer CPAs to fill accountant positions.

While specific requirements vary by state, aspiring CPAs can expect to complete 120-150 hours of college-level education. If a license requires 120 credits, a bachelor's degree suffices. When asked to complete 150 hours, professionals may need to obtain a master's degree or complete graduate certificate programs.

For licensure, accountants must also pass the CPA exam, which includes sections on auditing and attestation, financial accounting and reporting, regulation, and business environment and concepts.

Typical Accounting Certificate Online Coursework

The academic requirements for online accounting certificates differ by program, ranging from about 16-36 credits. Since different schools take different approaches, students should carefully consider the curriculum before enrolling in a program.

While structures vary, most accounting certificate programs strive to provide students a basic foundation in accounting. With a firm grasp on accounting structures, software, and ethical expectations, students learn the necessary skills to enter the workforce or to continue their educational path. The list below offers a few examples of courses that may appear in an online accounting certificate curriculum.

  • Cost Accounting: In this course, students study the collection and use of raw data in business decision-making. Topics include the relationship between financial data and product planning and performance measurement.
  • Managerial Accounting: Courses in management accounting cover cost accounting from a leadership perspective. Topics include cost-volume-profit analysis, budgets, standard costs, and inventory costing alternatives.
  • Accounting Information Systems: This course covers important accounting documentation techniques such as flowcharting while also preparing students to work with common accounting software programs. Topics may also include the basics of revenue and expense cycles.
  • Taxation: Sometimes split into two levels, taxation courses prepare students to assist individual, corporate, and nonprofit clients in tax preparation. Accounting students learn to help their clients take advantage of tax benefits and file without penalty.
  • Auditing: Covering basic topics in auditing theory, auditing practice, and the legal liability of auditors, this course ensures that students leave with a fundamental understanding of the ethical requirements auditors must follow. Additional topics include audit planning, audit evidence, and types of audit reports.

How to Choose an Accounting Certificate Program

Prospective students considering an online accounting certificate should weigh various program attributes before making a final decision. Some important factors include accreditation, specialized tracks, student-to-teacher ratio, program length, and available resources for distance learners.

Accreditation

Accreditation sets high standards of excellence for the institution as a whole. Many schools only accept transfer credits from regionally accredited programs, making it a strong priority for prospective students.

Specialized Tracks

Some programs offer accounting certificates specifically aimed at certain career paths. Students may wish to seek out a program geared to tax preparers, payroll clerks, or accounts receivable clerks.

Student-to-Teacher Ratio

When weighing the merits of a program, the ratio of students to teachers in a class can indicate the level of personal attention participants can expect. Students who wish to make a strong connection with faculty may look for smaller class sizes.

Program Length

A student's situation outside the classroom and their educational goals can play a part in determining how much time they can commit to a program. Students with family or work obligations may only be able to pursue a program part time which will take longer to complete. Those hoping to land full-time work quickly may elect for shorter programs; students looking to prepare for further studies might want to look for longer programs with more in-depth coursework.

Resources

All students require support from their institution during their studies. Students should consider whether the college or university provides technical support, library services, tutoring, and career counseling to distance learners.

Should I Get My Accounting Certificate Online?

An increasingly popular option for postsecondary students, online education provides flexibility while serving curriculum as rigorous and engaging as in-person programs. Because the careers associated with an accounting certificate program typically require no in-person requirements -- such as student-teaching -- the subject fits perfectly into the structure of an online learning environment.

When researching online programs, students should consider their own study habits and situation alongside the structure of the degree. Some programs operate asynchronously, with all materials available for students to view and complete at their convenience. While a self-controlled schedule may be the most flexible option, some participants find that real-time classes utilizing webcams or other synchronous technology allow for connection with faculty and peers as well as an imposed structure that keeps them on track.

Regardless of the presentation style, online programs require the same dedication as those operating on campus. To succeed, students must exercise excellent time management skills and self-motivation.

Students may also wish to note whether the school offers in-state or discounted tuition for distance learners as well as whether the institution's resource and networking opportunities are available remotely.

Top Online Accounting Certificate Programs

An accounting certificate program gives learners the skills to pursue entry-level jobs in business and finance. Our ranking highlights five of the top online programs available in 2022. Read on to learn more about how we rank colleges.

#1 Best Online Accounting Certificate Programs of 2022

Southwest Wisconsin Technical College

  • Fennimore, WI
  • 2 years
  • Online + Campus

A Fennimore-based public college, Southwest Tech offers several career and technical training programs. The school serves many counties in southwest Wisconsin, offering associate degrees, diplomas, and certificates.

Accounting Assistant Technical Diploma

Southwest Tech's accounting assistant technical diploma introduces major accounting principles and practices. The program trains learners to work as accounting assistants or bookkeepers for businesses.

Students complete classes including payroll applications, QuickBooks, and math with business applications. Learners can specialize in business spreadsheet applications or business taxation.

After completing the diploma program, candidates can earn an associate degree in accounting with one additional year of study. Associate graduates can transfer their credits toward a bachelor's in accounting at a four-year college. Southwest Tech maintains an articulation agreement with Franklin University in Columbus, Ohio.

Applying to Southwest Tech

Applicants need a high school or GED diploma. Southwest Tech may also consider ACT or ACCUPLACER scores. Alternatively, applicants can complete an assessment during their registration to determine class placement.

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission 
  • Tuition: $2,500-$2,820 per semester
  • Required Credits: 34
  • Program Length: 12 months
  • Delivery Format: 100% online (asynchronous) or hybrid (online and on campus)
Average Tuition
In-state
$4,095
Out-of-state
$6,143
Retention Rate
71%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
2,640
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
26% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#2 Best Online Accounting Certificate Programs of 2022

Moraine Park Technical College

  • Fond du Lac, WI
  • 2 years
  • Online + Campus

Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin-based MPTC also runs campus locations in Beaver Dam, West Bend, Jackson, and Ripon. The school serves more than 10,000 students annually through campus and online courses.

Accounting Assistant Technical Diploma

MPTC offers a one-year accounting assistant diploma program that emphasizes key accounting concepts and procedures. Graduates can pursue entry-level careers in areas like tax preparation or bookkeeping. The program also leads to MPTC's associate degree in accounting.

Enrollees learn how to record and analyze basic financial information. They take classes like payroll accounting, introduction to finance, and data management analysis. Learners also gain basic software knowledge in Microsoft Office.

MPTC offers credit for prior learning, which may help students graduate faster. Enrollees may receive credit for relevant professional experience, such as work history or professional training.

Applying to MPTC

MPTC requires all applicants to submit either high school or GED transcripts. The college also requires ACT or ACCUPLACER scores. MPTC waives these testing requirements for applicants with a high school GPA of 3.0 or higher.

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Tuition: $141 per credit for in-state learners; $211 per credit for out-of-state learners
  • Required Credits: 35
  • Program Length: 12 months
  • Delivery Format: 100% online (asynchronous) or hybrid (online and on campus)
Average Tuition
In-state
$4,102
Out-of-state
$5,547
Retention Rate
73%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
4,061
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
31% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#3 Best Online Accounting Certificate Programs of 2022

Seminole State College of Florida

  • Sanford, FL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Based in Central Florida, Seminole State focuses on undergraduate education. The college offers associate and bachelor's degrees, along with a wide selection of professional certificate programs. Seminole State ranks among the top public schools in Florida.

Accounting Specialist Technical Certificate

Seminole State's accounting technical certificate trains enrollees how to analyze and present financial reports. Students explore topics like data entry, computer software, and accounting principles. Learners choose from online, campus, or hybrid enrollment options.

The program features four classes that introduce foundational accounting and business concepts. Enrollees study topics like office accounting, keyboarding and document processing, and business communications.

Certificate-holders can pursue entry-level jobs including accounting assistant, billing clerk, and payroll clerk. They can also move directly into Seminole State's associate programs in either administrative office management or accounting technology.

Applying to Seminole State

Applicants need a high school or GED diploma. Applicants do not need to submit SAT or ACT scores. However, Seminole State may require admitted students to take a placement test.

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Tuition: $104 per credit for in-state learners; $382 per credit for out-of-state learners
  • Required Credits: 12
  • Program Length: 4-6 months
  • Delivery Format: 100% online (asynchronous) or hybrid (online and on campus)
Average Tuition
In-state
$2,393
Out-of-state
$9,494
Retention Rate
Not provided
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
17,754
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
51% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#4 Best Online Accounting Certificate Programs of 2022

Richmond Community College

  • Hamlet, NC
  • 2 years
  • Online + Campus

Established in 1964, RCC serves students throughout North Carolina's Richmond county. The school enrolls around 10,000 students annually. Around 30% of enrolled students pursue curriculum programs, while 70% pursue workforce development programs.

Accounting Specialist Certificate

RCC's accounting specialist program introduces major accounting skills for entry-level careers or further academic study. The program trains students to analyze, process, and communicate financial information for businesses. RCC also offers related certificates in accounting/bookkeeping, payroll accountant specialist, and tax preparer.

Learners in the accounting specialist track complete classes like financial accounting, managerial accounting, and either microeconomics or macroeconomics. Graduates often pursue careers at small businesses, accounting firms, and other financial organizations.

RCC maintains articulation agreements with several four-year colleges. Many certificate-holders go on to earn their bachelor's in accounting. Some of RCC's partner schools include Fayetteville State University and Gardner-Webb University.

Applying to RCC

Applicants need a high school or GED diploma. They must submit official transcripts from high school or any other college attended. Admitted students may also need to take a placement test.

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Tuition: $76 per credit for in-state learners; $268 per credit for out-of-state learners
  • Required Credits: 17-18
  • Program Length: 4-6 months
  • Delivery Format: 100% online (asynchronous) or hybrid (online and on campus)
Average Tuition
In-state
$2,432
Out-of-state
$8,576
Retention Rate
58%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
2,586
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
52% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#5 Best Online Accounting Certificate Programs of 2022

William Rainey Harper College

  • Palatine, IL
  • 2 years
  • Online + Campus

Palatine, Illinois-based Harper serves students throughout Chicago's northwest suburbs. Offering a variety of two-year degrees and certificates, this public community college enrolls more than 35,000 students annually.

Accounting Assistant Certificate

Harper's accounting assistant certificate offers a broad introduction to financial and managerial accounting. Students complete courses including QuickBooks, payroll accounting, and advanced spreadsheet software. Learners can also choose from electives such as individual tax accounting, auditing, and fraud examination.

Graduates can pursue entry-level jobs such as bookkeeper, junior accountant, and analyst. The certificate program also leads into Harper's associate of applied science in accounting degree. Some credits earned in certificate courses may count toward Illinois CPA exam education requirements. 

Certificate candidates can participate in Harper's accounting club, which offers educational and professional opportunities.

Applying to Harper

Applicants must submit official high school or GED transcripts. Accounting candidates must either submit SAT or ACT scores or take a placement test before enrolling in college-level math classes. 

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Tuition: $134 per credit for in-state learners; $466 per credit for out-of-state learners
  • Required Credits: 29
  • Program Length: 12 months
  • Delivery Format: 100% online (asynchronous) or hybrid (online and on campus)
Average Tuition
In-state
$9,372
Out-of-state
$11,184
Retention Rate
75%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
13,477
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
22% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

More About Accounting Certificates

How do I get an accounting certificate?

To apply for an accounting certificate program, prospective students should hold a high school diploma or equivalent and prepare to submit transcripts. Some schools require a GPA minimum or proof of English proficiency.

How much does it cost to get an accounting certificate?

It depends. Some schools allow out-of-state online learners to pay in-state or otherwise reduced tuition. Others make no distinction between online and in-person classes when it comes to tuition and fees.

Is a certificate in accounting worth it?

With an accounting certificate, graduates qualify for entry-level jobs in the field, where they can gain important experience. Students also build an academic background in accounting to prepare them for further education.

What can I do with a certificate in accounting?

Accounting certificate-holders qualify for jobs as accounting clerks, financial clerks, bookkeepers, and other entry-level positions in the field. They may also seek out more general positions, like administrative assistants.

What's the difference between an accounting certificate and certification?

Completing an accounting certificate means earning foundational knowledge in the field, along with about 16-36 college credits. Certification represents a professional credential that accountants seek after fulfilling 120-150 credit hours and passing an exam.

Are online accounting certificates accepted?

An online accounting certificate merits strong consideration from employers, as it represents a base of knowledge in the field. By earning a certificate through an accredited program, students can later count the college credits they earned toward a higher-level degree.

Can I take accounting classes online?

Yes, many accounting certificate programs operate fully online, with no in-person requirements. Students can also find online programs at the associate, bachelor's, and master's degree levels.

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