Graduate certificate in accounting programs guide

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What is a graduate certificate in accounting?

A graduate certificate in accounting can simultaneously help you to further your education and your career in a relatively short time. Graduate certificate programs offer specialized training in your specific area of interest, similar to what you’d learn in a master’s in accounting program. Such a program will also help you meet professional certification requirements and become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or a Certified Management Accountant (CMA).

Formal education can paint a brighter future

Accountants will continue to be a hot commodity – it’s a fact. Research performed by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that over 280 thousand accounting job opportunities will become available in the United States of America in the following decade for industry professionals with different education levels. Other recent data by BLS shows that the further you advance with your education, the higher your chances of earning more money throughout your career than people with fewer studies.

Based on this information, if you already hold a bachelor’s in accounting, want to have a successful career and gain access to high-level positions in this industry, you may need to take your education a step further. However, a master’s degree in accounting or a specialized MBA program can be options that are not so easily accessible, both financially and from the point of view of the entry requirements. In this case, a good alternative may be to earn a graduate certificate in accounting.

Finding the right accounting certificate program

When you look for institutions that offer graduate certificate programs, a possible cause for confusion you could stumble upon is that there are 2 types of accounting certificates available: undergraduate – also called post-baccalaureate – and graduate.

Even if these 2 categories sound similar, they are different in curriculum, targeted audience, and end purpose. This page will guide you through admission requirements and coursework of a graduate certificate in accounting program as well as the career outlook you could have by earning it.

Certificates and certifications are 2 different things

The graduate accounting certificate is a type of diploma that prepares you for more advanced roles in the industry. By earning it, you broaden your skillset and gain specific industry knowledge. An accounting certification is an entirely different thing.

You need to earn more than a graduate certificate to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or to get other types of credentials such as Certified Management Accountant (CMA) or Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE). However, if you already hold a bachelor’s degree in accounting and want to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and meet the exam’s entry requirements, choosing a graduate certificate in accounting will help reach that goal.

What you need to know about getting certified

Graduate certificates in accounting give you a specialized body of information and advanced skills in a specific area of study. For example, as mentioned before, you can choose to include in your curriculum a CPA preparation course that will help you gain additional knowledge on that topic and get closer to meeting the examination entry requirements.

A graduate certificate will offer you a similar level of knowledge as you’d gain by earning a master’s in accounting, but in a more affordable manner and in a shorter time frame. Another benefit is that you might be able to transfer the credits gained by earning a graduate certificate towards pursuing a different degree program offered by the same university.

Choose an accredited certificate program

Graduate certificates in accounting give you a specialized body of information and advanced skills in a specific area of study. For example, as mentioned before, you can choose to include in your curriculum a CPA preparation course that will help you gain additional knowledge on that topic and get closer to meeting the examination entry requirements.

A graduate certificate will offer you a similar level of knowledge as you’d gain by earning a master’s in accounting, but in a more affordable manner and in a shorter time frame. Another benefit is that you might be able to transfer the credits gained by earning a graduate certificate towards pursuing a different degree program offered by the same university.

Choose an accredited certificate program

Before you decide on the institution and the graduate certificate program you want to enroll in, it’s good to check if they are accredited. Holding a valid accreditation is proof that an institution and the programs it offers meet a specific – typically high or very high – level of quality regarding educational standards that are established and recognized by the state or nationwide.

It is independent, third-party bodies that grant schools an accreditation based on a rigorous evaluation process and regular monitoring after that. You can find more information on nationally-recognized accrediting organizations available on the website of the U.S. Department of Education.

Program accreditation is essential when it comes to receiving financial aid towards the payment of your studies. Find out if the graduate certificate program you are interested in is a recognized one by checking it with the following reputable organizations:

Admission requirements for graduate certificates in accounting

As the name suggests, you normally need to hold a related bachelor’s degree to enroll in a graduate certificate program in accounting. Even if requirements may vary from one school to another, most institutions offering such diplomas have admission requirements such as General Educational Development (GED) test scores of at least 2.5, as well as proof of at least a couple of years of work experience in the field of accounting.

Earning a degree online

If you are already working full time, attending classes on campus can be a challenge. Not to worry, though. Most institutions offer both online and hybrid graduate certificate programs, where hybrid courses include both face-to-face interaction and online courses. Thus, if your schedule does not allow you to attend classes regularly, it’s a great alternative to earn your accounting graduate certificate like this.

Duration and cost of studies

Even if every institution has its regulations, it usually takes around one year or between 15-30 credit hours to complete, depending on the program format. It’s good to know that certain universities only allow working students to take a limited number of classes per semester. The tuition fees vary based on the program format and the school offering it. Per-credit fees range from $200 for lower-ranked institutions to $500 for more competitive programs.

Courses in a graduate certificate curriculum

The coursework of graduate certificate in accounting programs can vary depending on their duration, format, and the institutions that offer them. However, these are some of the most common classes that almost every curriculum includes:

Intermediate and advanced auditing

In this course, you’ll acquire in-depth knowledge of managerial accounting processes and fraud examination techniques.

Intermediate and advanced managerial accounting

This course teaches you how to analyze various financial data and use this kind of information and set of skills in real-world business situations.

Taxation

This course offers you in-depth information on tax laws and regulations at state and national level, giving insights into taxation practices and how these could affect financial decisions and business investments.

Ethics in accounting

This course will give you a helicopter overview of ethical best practices and decision-making processes in finance, and teach you about the role of ethics in accounting specifically, and business in general.

Prepare for the CPA examination

Most holders of a bachelor’s in accounting choose to earn a master’s degree to meet credit requirements and sit down for an exam to become Certified Public Accountants (CPA) or earn other types of licensures. States only accept candidates who have already accumulated at least 150 credit hours by means of formal education. However, no US state requires that you get the credit hours needed by earning a master’s degree, so a graduate certificate program can also help you reach that goal.

The significant advantage of a graduate certificate in accounting program – other than the credits it offers – is to prepare students for the CPA exam. You’ll have classes that focus on teaching the information required to pass the test, and you’ll gain a thorough understanding of CPA guidelines, learning if you can meet the admission criteria.

Your career outlook with a graduate certificate in accounting

Although a master’s degree in accounting is typically considered the highest form of education for professionals in the accounting fields, you can gain similar industry knowledge and skills by earning a graduate certificate. That will help you stand out in the eyes of recruiters and employers and can offer you similar access to better-paid employment opportunities that are opened with a master’s degree.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) showed that in 2019 accountants and auditors earned on average $71,550 per year in wages. However, it’s good to keep in mind that this number can modify substantially based on your work experience, education, and the state you are active professionally.

As a forensic accountant you audit commercial or non-profit organizations and state institutions to establish an organization’s financial data’s legality and accuracy.

2019 median annual salary: $69,000

Earning a graduate certificate in accounting helps you meet the educational and credit hour requirements to become certified as a public accountant. Earning this or another type of certification usually increases your chances of advancing into a better role.

2019 median annual salary: $71,550

Tax examiners are usually employed by state or government institutions to establish the amount of tax owed by businesses or individuals. Their job description includes activities like auditing, data analysis, and examination of tax returns.

2019 median annual salary: $54,890 per year

Auditors can be either external or internal professionals employed by a business or government organization to check the accuracy, conformity, and legality of all the company or individual’s financial transactions.

2019 median annual salary: $71,000

American Accounting Association (AAA)

The AAA gathers under one roof an extensive community of accountants from all walks of life, including the academic field.

National Society of Accountants (NSA)

NSA is a society with a core mission of helping tax and accounting professionals further their knowledge.

American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA)

AICPA is the official body that represents CPAs, developing and grading the CPA certification examination at state and national level.

American Association of Finance and Accounting (AAFA)

The AAFA connects accounting organizations, firms, and professionals throughout the United States.

International Federation of Accountants (IFA)

This organization represents accounting professionals in more than 130 countries around the world, acting as a global common ground for networking and best practices in the accounting industry.

The Institute of Internal Auditors of North America (IIA)

The IIA is an organization with 200,000 members globally that represents internal auditors’ interests at national and international levels.

Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA)

ISACA now has more than 150,000 members in over 180 countries and is a global organization for information governance, control, security, and audit professionals.

National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA)

NASBA acts like a forum for the 55 State Boards of Accountancy in the US, which administer the Uniform CPA Examination. In partnership with AICPA, NASBA facilitates CPA examination for professionals oversees.

Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE)

Home to over 85,000 members, CFE is an anti-fraud organization that offers anti-fraud training, certification, and education.

European Accounting Association (EAA)

EEA is an academic organization that supports Europe’s accounting community through research, education opportunities and knowledge sharing.

Institute of Management Accountants (IMA)

Also known as the Association of Accountants and Financial Professionals in Business, IMA is the body in charge of organizing, grading CMA and CSCA examination certifications.

Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB)

FASB is an independent organization that sets the standards for public and private organizations following Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) in the field of financial accounting.