Accounting certificate programs may be the right choice for students of all education backgrounds. For those starting their higher-education journey, an entry-level certificate program offers the opportunity to develop career skills that could potentially pave the way to several types of career avenues. For individuals who have already earned a bachelor's degree, earning a graduate certificate in accounting could be used to gain eligibility to sit for CPA examination, lead to enrollment in a master's degree program, or simply develop new skills.
For those with minimal post-secondary education, an entry-level certificate program typically does not prepare students to work formally as an accountant, they may be eligible for a number of accounting- or bookkeeping-related occupations. Entry-level accounting certificate holders may also go on to earn an associate degree in accounting or a bachelor's degree in the field.
Meanwhile, individuals with a bachelor's degree may want to pursue a graduate certificate in accounting. For career changes, it may open doors for a potential switch to a new career. For accountants, taking certificate courses can help build the hours needed to become eligible to sit for the CPA exam, or build and refine skills in their current roles.
What to expect in an accounting certificate program
Entry-level accounting certificates. Students enrolled in certificate programs typically learn the fundamentals of accounting practices although the depth of instruction may vary depending on whether the program is geared toward entry level or graduate students. At the end of an entry-level certificate program, students traditionally possess the following knowledge:
- Fundamental accounting practices
- Basics of business math
- Accounting ethics
Course requirements for accounting certificates depend on the school offering the program.
Entry-level accounting certificates may include classes such as the following:
- Financial accounting
- Managerial accounting
- Business math
- Federal taxation
- Accounting ethics
Graduate accounting certificates. These programs may cover subjects in greater depth, going into more detail with advanced classes in areas such as:
- Cost accounting
- Financial reporting
- Taxation for corporations
CPA preparation certificates may focus on advanced accounting, leadership or another track. Regardless of the specialization, most certificates at this level place a heavy emphasis on exam preparedness.
The completion time for certificate programs can vary depending on the type of certificate and institution offering the coursework. Students should check with admission counselors, program coordinators or department officials about program length, prerequisites and total cost.
Careers for accounting certificate holders
An entry-level certificate in accounting could lead to several types of career opportunities, including the following:
- Bill clerk
- Tax preparer
- Accounting assistant
- Payroll clerk
- Financial clerk
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports most of these accounting-related fields should see average growth between 2012 and 20122.
Meanwhile, those earning a graduate certificate may be eligible to sit for the CPA exam and work as accountants or auditors. These occupations are expected to see 13 percent national job growth between 2012 and 2022 according to the BLS.