Accounting Certificate Programs: how to give your career a huge edge

Who needs to take accounting certificate programs and why should you do it? There are three main reasons that students earn college certificates:

  • It's time to change your career
  • You need to do something extra to stand out and get a promotion at work
  • They can be part of the requirements needed to fulfil professional licensing within a particular industry

Now, let's put these into the context of our accountancy world. We've identified seven benefits/reasons for undertaking accounting certificate programs:

  1. Are you wanting to get into the accounting profession? This is a great starting point.

  2. If you're already an accounting professional, then it's about updating your skill set. For example, this could really suit a bookkeeper or an accounting clerk who wants to demonstrate real commitment to improving their financial skill-set

  3. You're in an analyst role that demands, amongst other areas, you understand how financial statements work and how they can impact business decisions

  4. You run you're own business but you feel a bit uncomfortable with the numbers and financial statements

  5. You run you're own business but you feel a bit uncomfortable with the numbers and financial statements

  6. You're undertaking a master's course but want to add accountancy as a specialization

  7. Accounting certificates can help with fulfilling the educational requirements of the CPA

  8. Employers have a high regard for anyone who successfully undertakes an accounting certificate program. However, reputation is everything when it comes to choosing the right college.

Generally speaking you don't need any particular education requirements to undertake the course but a bachelor's degree is usually recommended. That's because it's all about deep diving into a particular industry and in many cases it's working professionals who are completing these courses.

But why would you take a certificate in accounting as opposed to a full undergraduate (bachelor) or graduate (masters) degrees? Here are three more reasons for you to consider:

  • They can be fully online, campus based or both. Working professionals need flexibility and this gives it to them as they may only have eveings or weekends to complete the coursework
  • The time to complete is shorter (less than one year)
  • The cost is significantly less
  • The simple fact that you don't want  to become a fully certified accountant. Your job may not reuqire it. You may not have the time or the inclination.

By taking an accounting certificate at a recognised institution your reputation will be enhanced  enhanced not only because of the college but more importantly the demonstrating of your own commitment to accounting.

CPA & CMA Certifications

However, if you're intending to become a CPA (certified Public Accountant) or a CMA (Certified Management Accountant) then taking an accounting certificate program on it's own will not be the right path for you. Very importantly, it will count towards to the educational requirements of these important certifications. But you really need to look at the bachelor and master degrees first.

What Do Accounting Certificate Programs teach you?

We're probably agreed that they seem like a very good idea but what do you actually learn?  

Different colleges provide different material but in general you complete compulsory courses in the principles of financial accounting and managerial accounting. And then you'll specialize in:

  • Financial Controller subjects such as financial reporting, forensic accounting, accounting for governmental & non-profit organizations, internal & external auditing, cost accounting, tax planning & business law. So, if you're working as an accountant in a company you'd want to go down this path.


  • Financial/Business Analysts subjects such as corporate finance, valuations, financial statement analysis, cash flow management & financial planning. This is where you're not working as an accountant but you're role demands you thoroughly understand how to review financial statements and use accounting data to, for example, value a business.

In terms of semester credits most accounting certificate programs give you between 16 and 54 depending on your specialization. That makes it very important to review exactly which course will be suitable for you and what is affordable.

And we're guessing you want to know which colleges around the country offer these accounting certificate programs? We'll be building on this list but here some of the top providers of these accounting professional certificates are:

Semester Units
GPA / Grades
UC Berkeley Extension
Minimum 2.5 GPA, Distinction for 3.5 or higher
UCR Extension (University of California Riverside)

$5,500 to $5,900
Grade C or better for all units
UC Davis Extension
(University of California)

$4,470 to $4,920

VCU (Virginia Commonwealth University)
Ideal for bachelor degree holders