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Best online graduate certificates in accounting 2021: Top picks

With a graduate certificate in accounting, you can learn essential accounting skills without having to complete a full graduate degree.

Accounting involves recording and managing financial transactions for individuals and businesses. Accountants interpret and communicate financial information, identify ways to reduce expenses and grow profits, and make sure clients comply with applicable laws and regulations. A graduate certificate in accounting provides a quick and convenient pathway to careers in the field.

With a graduate degree in accounting, individuals can advance their careers as accountants, auditors, and bookkeepers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that over 100,000 new accountant and auditor positions will be added to the field between 2020 and 2030.

To find out more about the best online graduate certificates in accounting for 2021, take a look at the rankings below. 

The best online graduate certificates in accounting

ZDNet's ranking methodology chooses the top online graduate certificates in accounting by looking at the cost, convenience, curriculum, and the unique features of each program.

Unless otherwise indicated, data is drawn from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and College Scorecard.

1. University of Connecticut

Storrs, Connecticut

About the program: UConns's online graduate certificate in accounting fundamentals includes 12 credit hours of coursework to facilitate career advancement or help learners prepare for the CPA exam.

  • Acceptance rate: 49%
  • Graduation rate: 82%
  • Annual net price: $22,012
  • Years to degree: One
  • SAT Range: 1200-1410
  • Minimum GPA: 3.0
  • Enrollment periods per year: One
  • Course delivery method: Synchronous

Accreditation: The University of Connecticut is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).

2. Auburn University

Auburn, Alabama

About the program: Students enrolled in Auburn's online graduate certificate in accountancy choose 18 credit hours of coursework from options such as accounting analytics, fraud examination, and federal tax research. 

  • Acceptance rate: 81%
  • Graduation rate: 76%
  • Annual net price: $24,104
  • Years to degree: One
  • Minimum GPA: Not publicly available
  • Enrollment periods per year: Three
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

Accreditation: Auburn University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

3. Penns State World Campus

University Park, Pennsylvania

About the program: Penn State World Campus offers a 12 credit hour graduate certificate in accounting online that emphasizes auditing theory alongside core accounting practices and principles

  • Acceptance rate: 76%
  • Graduation rate: 73%
  • Annual net price: $27,372
  • Years to degree: One
  • Minimum GPA: Not publicly available
  • Enrollment periods per year: Three
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

Accreditation: Penn State World Campus is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

4. University of Arizona

Tucson, Arizona

About the program: UofA's online graduate certificate in accounting requires nine credits of coursework. Students can also take optional courses to meet CPA requirements.

  • Acceptance rate: 85%
  • Graduation rate: 63%
  • Annual net price: $15,016
  • Years to degree: One
  • Minimum GPA: 2.75
  • Enrollment periods per year: Six
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

Accreditation: The University of Arizona is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

5. University of Louisville

Louisville, Kentucky

About the program: UofL's online graduate certificate in accounting includes 27 credit hours of coursework that emphasize the role of accounting across for-profit, nonprofit, and governmental settings. 

  • Acceptance rate: 69%
  • Graduation rate: 53%
  • Annual net price: 16,867
  • Years to degree: One to two
  • Minimum GPA: 2.7
  • Enrollment periods per year: Three
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

Accreditation: The University of Louisville is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

6. University of Louisiana at Monroe

Monroe, Louisiana

About the program: ULM's online post-baccalaureate certificate in accounting gives students the opportunity to meet the CPA exam requirements in Louisiana.

  • Acceptance rate: 80%
  • Graduation rate: 45%
  • Annual net price: $10,453
  • Years to degree: One to two
  • Minimum GPA: Not publicly available
  • Enrollment periods per year: Six
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

Accreditation: The University of Louisiana at Monroe is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

7. Southern New Hampshire University

Manchester, New Hampshire

About the program: SNHU's online certificate in accounting emphasizes financial reporting to prepare students for a variety of professional certifications in the field.

  • Acceptance rate: 88%
  • Graduation rate: 47%
  • Annual net price: $41,095
  • Years to degree: One to two
  • Minimum GPA: 2.75
  • Enrollment periods per year: Six
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

Accreditation: Southern New Hampshire University is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).

8. Eastern Oregon University

La Grande, Oregon

About the program: EOU's post-baccalaureate accounting certificate online includes 45 credit hours of intermediate and advanced coursework in accounting alongside classes in taxation, auditing, and finance.

  • Acceptance rate: 98%
  • Graduation rate: 42%
  • Annual net price: $14,300
  • Years to degree: One
  • Minimum GPA: Not publicly available
  • Enrollment periods per year: Four
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

Accreditation: Eastern Oregon University is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on College and Universities (NWCCU).

9. Davenport University

Grand Rapids, Michigan

About the program: Davenport's online graduate certificate in accounting and financial analysis emphasizes the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles adopted by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission through 18 credit hours of coursework.

  • Acceptance rate: 82%
  • Graduation rate: 27%
  • Annual net price: $16,098
  • Years to degree: One
  • Minimum GPA: Not publicly available
  • Enrollment periods per year: Three
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

Accreditation: Davenport University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

10. Brenau University

Gainesville, Georgia

About the program: Brenau's online graduate accounting certificate includes 15 credit hours of coursework. Students choose between public and managerial accounting concentration options.

  • Acceptance rate: 58%
  • Graduation rate: 46%
  • Annual net price: $21,745
  • Years to degree: One
  • Minimum GPA: 3.0
  • Enrollment periods per year: Six
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

Accreditation: Brenau University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

What to expect in an online accounting graduate certificate program

A graduate certificate is basically a shorter, more affordable, and more specialized alternative to a graduate degree. To be accepted into a graduate certificate program in accounting, applicants need a bachelor's degree in any field, though most programs require previous coursework in accounting, finance, and economics. Sometimes, applicants need relevant work experience to get into a graduate certificate program. They might also need a minimum undergrad GPA, a resume, and letters of recommendation.

Earning a graduate certificate in accounting takes less than two years, although students may have opportunities to earn a certificate in as little as 12 months. Through courses in managerial accounting, auditing theory, and financial statement analysis, individuals gain in-depth understanding of accounting fundamentals. Many graduate certificates focus on specific aspects of accounting, such as accounting for nonprofits, cost management, and taxation for corporations. 

Many accounting certificates include a specific group of courses designed for specific certificates. For example, students enrolled in a graduate certificate in accounting can meet the coursework requirements to sit for the certified public accountant (CPA) licensing exam. 

Accounting graduate certificate courses

Courses in an online graduate certificate in accounting explore topics such as taxation, auditing, and financial reporting. While curricula vary by specific program, online accounting graduate certificates emphasize foundational concepts of accounting. Common courses include advanced managerial accounting, federal taxation for individuals, auditing theory, and international accounting and reporting.

Advanced managerial accounting

An advanced managerial accounting course focuses on building problem-solving skills for practicing accounting professionals. Topics include measuring business and financial performance, cost analysis, and activity based management.

Federal taxation for individuals

Federal taxation for individuals focuses on tax policies and regulations associated with federal income taxation. The course covers topics such as income, exclusions, business deductions, and charitable contributions. 

Auditing theory

Auditing theory covers the concepts and principles of auditing practices. Topics include strategic approaches to auditing financial statements, procedures used to audit financial statements, the auditing lifecycle, and ethical considerations in auditing.

International accounting and reporting

This course introduces students to different financial reporting standards used around the world. Students will learn about environmental and cultural influences on accounting, foreign currency transactions, international taxation, and analyzing foreign financial statements.

Accounting degree levels

Accounting degrees prepare students for roles in various fields and levels of experience. An undergraduate certificate or degree in accounting introduces learners to core practices and principles in accounting. This can lead to an entry-level position as an accounting clerk or bookkeeper. Graduate programs emphasize advanced accounting concepts and topics, ideal for individuals who want to work in managerial roles. 

Certificate in accounting

  • Length: One to two years
  • Cost: $3,000-$22,000
  • Post-grad careers: Payroll accountant, bookkeeper, accounting assistant

An accounting certificate includes introductory classes in financial reporting, accounting software, and mathematics for accounting. Students learn the essentials of bookkeeping, payroll, and financial statements.

With a certificate in accounting, individuals can enter the workforce as accounting clerks and assistants, payroll accountants, or bookkeepers. A certificate in accounting can supplement an undergraduate degree or prepare students for earning an associate or bachelor's degree in the discipline. 

Associate in accounting

  • Length: Two years
  • Cost: $8,000-$44,000
  • Post-grad careers: Bookkeeper, accounting assistant, billing clerk

An accounting associate degree emphasizes analyzing and recording financial information, maintaining and operating accounting technologies, and preparing financial statements. Learners complete two years of coursework in finance, economics, and accounting essentials.

Many associate degrees in accounting are applied programs, designed for students who plan to enter the workforce after graduating. Graduates of an associate degree in accounting can also transfer to a four-year degree in accounting or a related field. 

Bachelor's in accounting

  • Length: Four years
  • Cost: $12,000-$90,000
  • Post-grad careers: Auditor, public accountant, tax examiner

An online accounting degree includes four years of general education and major coursework. Alongside classes in English, mathematics, science, and the humanities, students study aspects of accounting such as financial accounting, cost accounting, and auditing. Learners may have opportunities to pursue concentrations in topics such as forensic accounting, taxation, and international accounting. 

Toward the end of an accounting bachelor's degree, students may take part in an internship so that they can gain real-world experience and work alongside accounting professionals. In some programs, students also complete a capstone project.

Master's in accounting

  • Length: Two years
  • Cost: $15,000-$100,000
  • Post-grad careers: Certified public accountant, accounting manager, senior auditor

An accounting master's degree builds upon existing accounting knowledge through two years of coursework. Students complete classes in cost accounting, financial accounting, and managerial accounting as they focus on ethics, decision-making, and problem-solving in the field. 

Accounting master's degrees also include classes in data and analytics, research in financial reporting, and accounting ethics. Within a master's degree in accounting, learners may have opportunities to take specialized coursework in areas such forensic accounting, internal auditing, or tax accounting.

With a master's degree in accounting, individuals can advance to executive and leadership roles in business or continue onto a doctorate in the field.

Doctorate in accounting

  • Length: Three to five years
  • Cost: $20,000-$120,000
  • Post-grad careers: Chief financial officer, university professor, financial analyst

A doctor of business administration in accounting focuses on practical aspects of finance, economics, and accounting, while a Ph.D. in accounting emphasizes research and theory in accounting.

Core classes in doctoral accounting programs explore advanced aspects of financial reporting, econometrics, and taxation. Students use quantitative and qualitative research methods to assess accounting data and write a dissertation.

In conclusion

Degrees and certificates in accounting open up opportunities for individuals at all levels of their career. If you're interested in a career in accounting, there's a program out there that can help you achieve your goals. The rankings above are a great start to find the graduate certificate in accounting program that's right for you.