Online Accounting Certificate and Certification

Understanding the Differences to Choose the Right Path

Professionals in the financial services industry can pursue a variety of credentials to bolster their career. Current and aspiring accountants can pursue accounting credentials such as accounting certification from a professional organization or an accounting certificate from a college or university.

Accountants can look forward to positive job prospects; The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects jobs for accountants to grow by 6% between 2018 and 2028. This guide covers important information about earning an accounting certificate online, including sample coursework, education requirements, and career benefits.

What Is an Accounting Certificate Program?

An accounting certificate program consists of a sequence of courses in accounting topics. Most certificate programs take between six months and a year to complete. Many schools offer these programs in a fully online, asynchronous format.

While courses vary by program, most accounting certificate courses cover foundational topics such as taxation, auditing and analysis, and business. The following list outlines some typical courses found in an accounting certificate program.

Sample Coursework

  • Icon Principles of Accounting: Most accounting certificate programs include introductory coursework on accounting principles and procedures for retail, trade, and service businesses and single proprietor businesses. Topics covered include debits and credits, accounting data analysis, and the accounting cycle.
  • Icon Taxation This course gives students an overview of tax laws and federal income tax preparation procedures and documentation. Learners may study topics such as corporate taxation and estate and gift taxation.
  • Icon Auditing and Analysis In this course, learners investigate tools and strategies for interpreting and analyzing a company’s financial statements. They also learn how to apply accounting principles to prepare documents related to auditing and analysis. Some courses may explore forensic accounting techniques and principles.
  • Icon Quickbooks Many accounting certificate programs feature a course on the accounting application Quickbooks. Students gain basic microcomputer accounting skills, learning how to enter transactions, analyze results, and organize business finances.
  • Icon Accounting Capstone Some accounting certificate programs culminate with a capstone project. This project could take the form of a community finance initiative or a personal project for a home business. Students could also lead a financial literacy program for children in a local setting.

Who Should Pursue an Accounting Certificate?

An accounting certificate helps current and aspiring accountants advance their career. Completing an accounting certificate program after earning a degree can increase job opportunities for graduates. It can also satisfy coursework requirements for professional certification that students may have missed during their studies.

Established professionals can also benefit from earning an accounting certificate. Earning a certificate can increase salary potential and help professionals advance into leadership roles. It can also help professionals in another industry transition into an accounting career.

Additionally, certificate programs help professionals explore their interests and address blind spots in their knowledge base.

What Is Certification?

Certification differs from a certificate in several respects. A certificate program includes a course sequence offered by a college or university. Certificates may accompany a degree or offer an alternative to a degree. Certificates typically take less time and feature fewer requirements than certification.

Third-party organizations offer certification. To earn certification, professionals must usually meet education and experience requirements and pass an exam. They must then meet certain requirements to renew their certification within a specific time period. This type of credential is usually reserved for established industry professionals, rather than students and professionals new to the industry.

Accounting professionals can pursue a variety of certifications. The certified public accountant credential from the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants is a general credential that positions accountants for leadership roles with higher levels of responsibility. Other organizations, such as the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA), offer certifications tailored to specializations, such as the IMA’s certified management accountant credential.

Career Advancement for Accountants

The flexibility of online accounting certificate programs allows students to more easily balance coursework with personal and professional obligations. Earning an accounting certificate online prepares individuals to enter the workforce or pursue advanced study. Individuals interested in furthering their education can read the following guides to learn about what to expect from online accounting degree programs.

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