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Best Graduate Certificate in Accounting Online Programs for 2024

Graduate certificates provide an affordable option for launching or enhancing your accounting career. Learn more about how you can conveniently earn a graduate certificate online from a top college.

Author: Michael Hoffman

Editor: Staff Editor

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If you have a bachelor’s degree in business — or even another subject — and you’re interested in an accounting career, you may be wondering if graduate school is worthwhile. While a master’s degree will certainly prepare you to work as an accountant, these programs usually take considerable time and money. Fortunately, earning an online graduate certificate in accounting is a viable alternative that can provide more flexibility, take less time, and save you money — all while furthering your career.

What’s more, earning an online graduate certificate in accounting will enhance your subject knowledge, provide the credentials needed to teach at the collegiate level, and help you meet the CPA exam requirements. It is also a great choice if you are looking to gain extra skills, enhance your value in the job market, or boost your standing with your current employer.

This guide introduces the best programs from top colleges and universities that offer graduate certificates in accounting online. So, if you’re ready to move on or move up in your career, keep reading to learn how a graduate certificate in accounting online could be the right next step for you.

Best Online Accounting Graduate Certificate Programs for 2024

Our 2024 rankings for accounting graduate certificate programs offer clarity for those seeking a focused and efficient way to deepen their expertise. Whether you’re aiming to specialize in a niche area or seeking to meet the requirements for CPA licensure, our list guides you toward the most reputable and flexible online options.

About the ranking
1
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Type:
Private not-for-profit
Cost:
$$

Davenport University offers a graduate-level certificate focused on how to prepare financial statements and maintain accounting records. This 100% online degree is for current accounting and finance professionals interested in taking their careers to the next level, though business accounting professionals with degrees in other fields may find this certificate useful too. The curriculum covers federal taxation, business law fundamentals, and advanced accounting practices. All courses transfer to Davenport University’s master’s in accounting, which is also a fully online degree.

Program Highlights:

Accounting Essentials Graduate Certificate

  • Credits: 18
  • Length: One year
  • Mode: Online
  • Accreditation: IACBE

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation HLC
2
Gainesville, Georgia
Type:
Private not-for-profit
Cost:
$$

Those who want to enter or progress a career in accounting and auditing should consider the program at Brenau University. This 12-credit program teaches students about auditing and accounting in corporate settings. Its four courses prepare students for the CPA exam and cover corporate taxation, advanced accounting, fraud protection, and advanced auditing services. This course is for business professionals who already understand the basics of accounting, so applicants need an undergraduate degree in business or experience in a corporate setting. The school also offers opportunities to take more accounting coursework after the certificate.

Program Highlights:

Accounting Certificate

  • Credits: 12
  • Length: One year
  • Mode: Online
  • Accreditation: ACBSP

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
3
Boiling Springs, North Carolina
Type:
Private not-for-profit
Cost:
$$

Gardner-Webb University offers a graduate certificate in accounting that prepares students to meet the North Carolina State Board of Public Accountancy’s requirements to sit for the Uniform Certified Public Accounting Examination. The certificate is just a dip into the field of accounting, though, and students must complete the entire master’s program to be eligible for the CPA exam in North Carolina. The certificate includes 15 credit hours of foundational accounting courses that are also included in the school’s master’s degree. It gives students a better grasp of preparing financial statements and corporate taxation.

Program Highlights:

Graduate Certificate in Accountancy

  • Credits: 15
  • Length: Varies
  • Mode: Online
  • Accreditation: ACBSP

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC

College Spotlights: Online Graduate Certificate in Accounting Programs

Below, we’ve spotlighted three standout programs to help you continue your search for the best graduate certificate in accounting online. These programs all feature important elements that support student academic and career success, such as affordability, study flexibility, subject comprehensiveness, quality faculty, and access to valuable student support services. The spotlights offer a good idea of what to expect from the certificate program you ultimately choose.

Auburn University

Logo of Auburn University featuring the letters 'AU' in orange with a blue outline next to the full name of the university in blue, set against a grey background.

The Graduate Certificate in Accountancy (GCA) from Alabama’s Auburn University is a great example of how an online certificate program maximizes study convenience and flexibility. Coursework (including lectures, assignments, and exams) is completed 100% online with no campus visits required. The semester-based curriculum is designed with students who are employed full-time in mind, allowing the option of taking either one or two courses at a time. Students not working full-time can complete all requirements in as few as two semesters.

Earning the GCA requires 12 credit hours of coursework. Students choose any four of over 20 accountancy courses in subjects that include intermediate accounting, auditing and assurance services, income tax, accounting analytics, advanced business law, fraud examination, and many others. The current per-credit cost for the program is $900 (increasing to $950 in August 2023).

Admission requirements include a previously earned bachelor’s degree in any major from a regionally accredited institution and completion of a number of economics, business, and accountancy prerequisites. Both the Harbert College of Business and the School of Accountancy at Auburn are accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).

University of Arizona

Logo of The University of Arizona featuring a large red block "A" with a navy blue outline and the university’s name in navy blue beneath it.

Study convenience is also a key feature of the Accounting Online Graduate Certificate program offered by The University of Arizona. All coursework is completed entirely online; you can earn the certificate in as few as five months. There are no specifically required courses, so students can tailor their studies to best meet their individualized academic interests and career goals. Depending on their course choices and specific state licensure requirements, graduates may be prepared to sit for the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam to become licensed. Other career options include analyst, auditor, and controller. In addition, graduate-level course units earned in the certificate program can be applied to The University of Arizona’s Online MS in Accounting program. All courses are offered through the AACSB-accredited School of Accountancy at the university’s Eller College of Management.

Earning the certificate requires completion of between nine and 18 units of coursework. The current cost (tuition and minimal fees) for each three-unit course is $3,000. Six program starts are available throughout the year. Admission into the accounting certificate program requires a previously earned bachelor’s degree (earned with a minimum 2.75 GPA) and a completed Introduction to Financial Accounting course. Other prerequisites may be required for specific courses.

Purdue Global

Logo of Purdue Global featuring a stylized globe with segments in black and brown, next to the text "PURDUE GLOBAL" in white on a green background.

Part of the Purdue University System, Purdue Global is a major provider of online undergraduate and graduate degree and certificate programs. Purdue Global’s Online Graduate Certificate in Accounting is particularly noteworthy for being one of the most affordable online accounting certificate programs. The current tuition rate for the certificate program is $485 per credit, making the total tuition for the 16-credit program $7,760. Indiana residents receive a 10% discount on tuition and fees. Other discounts are available for active military and veterans, international students, Purdue Global alumni, and others.

The curriculum consists of four courses: Financial Accounting and Reporting, Regulation, Advanced Auditing, and Advanced Managerial/Cost Accounting. As with the other two spotlighted programs, Purdue Global’s graduate accounting certificate program is 100% online with no in-person requirements. All courses are six weeks in length; program starts are available every six weeks. The average program completion time is seven months for full-time students. Part-time study is also available.

Top Reasons to Earn an Online Graduate Certificate in Accounting

Earning a graduate certificate in accounting online is an excellent way for many students to launch or advance their careers. Here’s a bit more detail:

Start or Advance Your Accounting Career Without Having to Take on Aa Full Degree

Depending on the specific certificate program, student course choices, and state requirements for CPA licensure, earning a graduate certificate in accounting online may qualify you to sit for the CPA exam much more quickly — and at a much lower cost — than earning a full accounting degree.

Take the First Step Toward a Master’s Degree in Accounting

In most cases, credits earned in an online graduate certificate in accounting program can be applied to master’s in accounting programs. So, students intent on eventually pursuing an accounting masters can obtain credits for that degree while enjoying the immediate positive career impact of holding a graduate certificate in accounting.

Benefit From Convenient, Flexible Online Graduate Programs in Accounting

Practically all accounting graduate certificate programs are 100% online, and almost all of them feature fully asynchronous course delivery, creating a smoother — and more convenient — study experience.

What You’ll Learn in Online Graduate Certificate Programs in Accounting

Coursework in online graduate certificate programs in accounting focuses primarily on accounting fundamentals, such as those in the course descriptions below. The total number of courses you’ll complete will depend on your certificate program, but a minimum of four courses (12 credits total) isn’t uncommon.

Certificate programs in specialized areas of accounting study are also an option. Curricula consist of assignments, readings, tests, etc.; internships or in-person practice hours aren’t included, nor are capstone project or thesis requirements.

Popular Courses

Auditing

An examination of financial statements and systems from the independent auditor’s perspective applying generally accepted auditing standards. Subjects discussed include internal and operational auditing, audit risk analysis, audit planning, preparation of auditor reports, statistical sampling, audits of electronic data processing systems, and issues of legal liability and professional ethics.

Federal Taxation

Study of fundamental federal tax laws and regulations as they apply to individuals and corporations as well as partnerships, gifts, trusts, and estates. Explores the entire life cycle of the corporation (formation, operations, shareholder distributions, and liquidation). Additional subjects covered include preparing federal tax returns and communicating tax information to stakeholders.

Government and Nonprofit Accounting

Introduction to accounting principles, practices, and issues related to government and nonprofit entities, including government units, hospitals, universities, charitable agencies, and other nonprofit organizations. Common course topics include account structure, budgeting, fundraising, cost-benefit analysis, and financial statement preparation and presentation.

Intermediate Accounting

Comprehensive review of the foundational accounting elements involved in preparing financial statements and financial reporting following Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. Common topics include asset valuation, income measurement, disclosure problems, and issues concerning corporate liabilities and stockholder equity. Most often presented as two separate courses (Intermediate Accounting I and II).

Managerial Cost Accounting

Survey of topics and issues related to the role of cost accounting in decision-making and the application of accounting principles in business management. Common topics include capital budgeting, cost-volume-profit analysis, absorption costing, job order costing, and differential analysis. Students also learn how accounting and productivity information can be applied to improve organizational performance.

What are Some Specialization Certificates in Accounting that I Can Earn?

Graduate certificates in accounting online are sometimes offered in specialized areas of practice within the larger accounting field. Below are four of the most common of these specializations:

Management Accounting

Probably the single most popular accounting graduate certificate specialization. Management accounting certificate holders gain valuable knowledge and skills in financial analysis and planning, professional ethics, decision-making, management and leadership, and more. An excellent certificate choice for those seeking to become chief financial officers, budget analysts, corporate controllers, or to fill other top leadership positions in business and accounting.

Forensic Accounting

Forensic accounting graduate certificates prepare students for professional roles in fraud investigation, corporate compliance, criminal and civil litigation, and more. Course subjects include auditing, accounting and financial rules and regulations, fraud detection, interview techniques and principles, accounting information systems, and professional ethics. Forensic accounting certificate programs may also prepare students for the CPA exam.

Taxation

Graduate certificates in taxation prepare current accounting, business, and legal professionals, as well as nonaccountants interested in changing careers, for specialized accounting practice in the complicated world of tax principles, regulations, and planning. Examples of course subjects include taxation of corporations and shareholders, merger and acquisition taxation, tax research and planning, and partnership taxation.

Accounting Information Systems

Accounting Information Systems graduate certificates are designed primarily for current accounting professionals who need to enhance their knowledge to include designing, using, and auditing information systems technology in common use for many accounting functions. Topics typically include data analytics, database design and analysis, information systems project management, and data mining and warehousing.

What Can You Do with a Certificate in Accounting?

Graduate certificates in accounting online prepare students for continued studies to earn their master’s, as well as provide opportunities for higher salaries and professional advancement with their current employers. Accounting certificates also lead to careers in a range of employment positions in accounting and the broader business field. In addition, earning your graduate certificate in accounting online may qualify you to sit for the CPA exam, depending on the specific certificate program, courses taken, and licensure requirements in your state. Be sure to speak with a school admissions representative about qualifying for the CPA exam before you enroll in any online graduate certificate in the accounting program.

Below are a number of job titles for accounting certificate holders along with recent national wage and job growth figures for each. Bear in mind that some of these occupations may require a previously earned bachelor’s degree in a business major, additional accounting-related coursework, or substantial professional accounting or business experience.

Career Job Growth (2020-2030) Annual Mean Wage (2021)

Accountants and Auditors

6.9%

$77,250

Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks

-3.0%

$45,560

Budget Analysts

4.8%

$79,940

Credit Analysts

-5.8%

$77,440

Financial Examiners

17.9%

$81,410

Financial Managers

17.3%

$131,710

Management Analysts

13.7%

$93,000

Tax Examiners and Collectors, and Revenue Agents

-3.7%

$56,780

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics; Projections Central

Accreditation for Programs Offering Graduate Certificates in Accounting Online

An important element to look for when considering online graduate certificate programs in accounting is accreditation. Accreditation is the process through which postsecondary institutions and the programs they offer are determined to have met standards of academic quality. It’s your way of knowing that the program you enroll in has been properly vetted and is worth your time and money.

There are two basic types of postsecondary accreditation: institutional accreditation and programmatic accreditation. Institutional accreditation concerns the accreditation of colleges and universities when taken as a whole. Institutional accreditation of U.S. colleges and universities is handled by a group of several independent regional and national accrediting agencies approved by the U.S. Department of Education.

Programmatic accreditation has to do with the vetting of individual degree and certificate programs. However, most in-person and online graduate certificate programs in accounting in the U.S. are not specifically accredited. Instead, business schools and departments within the colleges and universities that offer accounting certificates are accredited. The biggest accreditor of business schools in the U.S. is the AACSB. Others include the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs and the International Accreditation Council for Business Education.

Costs and Financial Aid for Online Accounting Graduate Certificate Programs

A big benefit of graduate certificate programs is the cost savings they offer when compared with full degree programs. But that doesn’t mean they’re cheap. Therefore, it’s critical that you develop a clear understanding of just how much you’ll pay for your certificate program and what resources you’ll need to tap into. Remember that, in almost all cases, certificate programs don’t qualify for federal student financial aid. However, other funding sources may be available. These include scholarships, grants, work-study programs, employer reimbursement programs, tuition assistance, and private loans.

A good place to start your certificate funding search is with the financial aid offices at the schools you’re considering. To learn more about paying for your online graduate certificate in accounting program, visit our financial aid page.

What Your Graduate Certificate in Accounting Online Program Could Cost

Below are the current tuition costs associated with three online graduate certificate programs in accounting. Along with the costs discussed in the program spotlights above, they’ll give you a general idea of the breadth of prices for online accounting certificates. Remember, though, that these are tuition costs only. Your program’s total cost will be higher once you’ve included any additional program fees and the cost of items such as books and supplies.

School Name No. of Credits Cost/Credit Est. Total Tuition Cost

12

$1,007

$12,084

21

$627

$13,167

12

$399

$4,788

Frequently Asked Questions About Graduate Certificates in Accounting Online

What is the Difference Between a Graduate Certificate in Accounting and a Master’s Degree?

Besides the time and money commitments, there are substantial differences between graduate certificates and master’s degrees in accounting. We’ve discussed at length what students can do with an online accounting graduate certificate (qualifying for the CPA exam, launching an accounting-related career, enhancing their current professional value, and taking the first step toward earning an accounting master’s). A master’s in accounting degree, on the other hand, provides students with greater depth and breadth in accounting knowledge and skills, preparing them to take on more specialized practice and leadership roles in business and in accounting firms.

Another major difference between accounting master’s and graduate certificate programs is the admission requirements. Online accounting graduate certificate programs typically admit students with nonaccounting bachelor’s degrees, although with additional prerequisite accounting and business course requirements. Almost all master’s in accounting programs, however, require applicants to hold either a bachelor’s degree in accounting, a CPA license, or both. Another twist is that many MBA programs with accounting concentrations also admit students with nonaccounting bachelor’s degrees.

For more on master’s level degrees in the accounting field, be sure to visit our guides featuring the Best Online Master’s Degree Programs in Accounting and the Best Online MBA in Accounting Programs.

What Are the Admissions Requirements for an Online Accounting Certificate?

As you would expect, admission requirements for programs offering online graduate certificates in accounting vary. Nevertheless, a number of requirements are the same or similar for almost all programs. Here’s a look at the most common:

  • Bachelor’s degree: All programs require, at minimum, a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university (or, for international students, an accepted bachelor’s equivalent). Some programs limit admission to applicants with a bachelor’s in accounting or a closely related major (such as business or finance). Many programs, however, accept students with degrees in practically any major. Applicants with a nonaccounting bachelor’s degree must complete one or more prerequisite classes in accountancy and business.
  • GRE/GMAT scores: Graduate certificate in accounting programs rarely require GRE or GMAT test scores for admission. Accounting certificate holders continuing their studies to earn their accounting master’s, though, may be required to submit GRE or GMAT scores.
  • Additional application requirements: Other common application submission requirements include a current resume, letters of recommendation, and a statement of purpose. International students will likely be required to submit proof of English proficiency.

How Long Will It Take to Finish My Graduate Certificate in Accounting Online?

A big advantage of earning an online graduate certificate in accounting is that most programs offer a good deal of flexibility when it comes to completion times. Students can study full-time or tailor their studies to fit with their full-time work or otherwise busy schedules. It’s also important to remember that completion times vary from program to program depending on the total number of courses or credits required. With that in mind, most students are able to complete their online accounting certificate programs in one year of full-time study to 1 ½ years of part-time study.

Can I Earn My Graduate Certificate in Accounting 100% Online, or Do I Need to Take Classes on Campus?

One of the best features of earning your graduate certificate in accounting online is the ability to complete all program requirements through distance learning. In fact, most online accounting graduate certificate programs today are 100% online with no on-campus visits or other in-person requirements. You’ll also find that coursework in almost all of these programs is presented asynchronously, meaning that students don’t have to log on and participate in class sessions at specifically scheduled dates and times.