Undergraduate certificate in accounting programs

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Why earn an accounting certificate

If you have graduated from high school and want to enter the workforce, an undergraduate certificate in accounting enables you to gain an adequate body of knowledge to do that. Such accounting certificates offer a generalized accounting curriculum and prepare you for entry-level accounting positions. Affordable and relatively short compared to other accounting degrees, an undergraduate certificate in accounting helps you gain work experience in the industry and is a good starting point for your future education.

The many benefits of technology

Technological developments, such as advanced software programs, are expected to reduce demand for various accounting tasks. This change is reflected in the 2019 edition of the Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks section of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook. The institution projects a 6% decline in demand for these job types in the following decade.

However, things may be better than they look at first glance. According to the same BLS, the growing use of automation in various accounting areas will also make way for an interesting situation, to say the least. It will increase the competition for more advanced accounting roles and – combined with the need to replace aging workers who retire – create favorable prospects for entry-level positions in the industry.

Regardless of how the situation will be 10 years from now, there continue to be enough employment opportunities in accounting in today’s employment market. If you want to work in this industry, a great way to start a career in this field is by earning a degree, and an easy way to do that is to earn a certificate in accounting.

Choosing the right accounting certificate program

A possible cause for confusion when you do your research may be the fact that there are 2 categories of accounting certificates available: undergraduate, or post-baccalaureate, and graduate. Even if they are similar in name, the two types of certificates are designed for distinct audiences and have different end purposes. This article covers the admission requirements and curriculum of an undergraduate certificate in accounting and the roles you qualify for when you earn such a degree.

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, choose a graduate certificate in accounting. It will help you significantly more than an undergraduate one towards achieving your goal.

Certificates and certification mean different things

The accounting certificate is a type of degree you can earn to understand the basic principles of the topic and find work in entry-level roles in the field. Even if it may sound similar, an accounting certification is an entirely different thing.

You need to earn more than a certificate to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or get other types of credentials such as Certified Management Accountant (CMA) or Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE). To achieve that, you would typically first graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Accounting and then continue your studies by pursuing either a master’s of accounting or an MBA in accounting program.

Types of undergraduate certificates in accounting

There are different types of undergraduate certificates in accounting you can choose from depending on the specific area you want to focus on and master.

Bookkeeping Certificate

Earning this certificate, you get accustomed to accounting principles and gain the necessary bookkeeping skills that can help you find entry-level work in this field.

Accounting Clerk Certificate

This certificate teaches you to read, understand, and interpret different financial statements and accounting records, helping you gain the necessary competencies to obtain a junior position in the industry.

Payroll Accounting Certificate

This certificate covers topics such as state and federal payroll taxes, wages, stock options, and other financial transactions, preparing you to enter the workforce in the field of payroll accounting.

Information about undergraduate certificates in accounting

Earning a certificate in accounting is the right choice if you want to learn the principles of accounting and jumpstart your career without investing too much time and money. The program curriculum will help you understand the ABC of accounting and the role of an accountant in an organization. You’ll learn to compile, interpret, and communicate various financial documents. This program will also help you develop critical thinking, decision-making, and problem-solving skills, boosting your confidence and communication abilities.

Earning a certificate in accounting can also be beneficial if you already hold a bachelor’s degree in another field of study. It will enhance your body of knowledge and skillset and can either be a gateway to a new range of employment opportunities or help you decide to further your education in a new direction.

Choose an accredited program

When you select a certificate in Accounting program that is accredited at state or national level, you will hold a degree from an institution that is trustworthy and well-ranked. Program accreditation is important when it comes to receiving financial aid towards the payment of your studies. Find out if the program you are interested in is a recognized one by checking it with the following reputable organizations:

Prerequisites and admission requirements

If you have an interest in numbers and a good eye for details, earning an undergraduate certificate in accounting may be the right choice for you. The admission criteria for this type of accounting certificate programs typically include holding a high school diploma or passing your General Educational Development (GED) test with a score of at least 2.0.

Certain institutions might require you to prove the level of your writing skills and math knowledge before classes start. Community colleges usually have no or very accessible entry requirements for their programs.

Earn your degree online

Duration, curriculum, or cost of hybrid or fully online formats vary slightly from on-campus programs. Earning your certificate online is a great alternative if you cannot attend classes on campus regularly. You gain the flexibility and convenience of studying when and where you want, and can keep a day job to help to pay for your studies.

Program duration and tuition fees

The duration of undergraduate certificates in accounting varies from one institution to another. However, it usually takes less time to earn an undergraduate certificate than earning an associate’s degree. Most traditional programs take up to 1 year or between 20 and 30 credit hours to complete, with accelerated formats cutting that duration in half.

The cost of tuition also depends on the program format and the institution that offers it. You can expect to pay a per-credit fee starting at $100 for lower-ranked institutions and reaching $200 for more competitive programs.

The curriculum of an undergraduate certificate in accounting

Undergraduate certificates in accounting aim to develop your knowledge in accounting principles and business ethics and build working competencies in bookkeeping software programs like Excel. Classes will also help you gain business communication skills and improve your research abilities.

Introduction to financial accounting

This course focuses on teaching you the generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) that help you collect financial data and interpret accounting information for different business organizations and national institutions.

Introduction to managerial accounting

Integrating management planning and controlling functions, this course teaches you the processes and techniques used to evaluate the financial performance of a business.

Accounting information systems

In this course, you learn how to control various financial processes and analyze economic information using modern software systems and traditional accounting tools.


This course offers you a helicopter view of state and federal income tax laws and regulations in place, providing information on taxation principles and techniques.

Jobs you can have with an accounting certificate

Even if the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a slight decline in demand for entry-level accounting professions in the following decade, positions such as bookkeeper, accounting clerk, or payroll administrator remain essential for the successful completion of day-to-day activities in every business organization.

As a bookkeeper, you’ll be responsible for recording the financial activity of a business. Bookkeepers keep track of financial transactions, prepare and create financial statements, or follow the activity of various accounts.

In this role, you’ll track and record financial activities, issue payments to other companies or organizations, and perform other entry-level daily accounting processes.

An accounts receivable clerk verifies, tracks, and records all monetary transactions of a business, making sure said company receives payments due for all services it provides.

Working in close connection with your organization’s finance and human resource departments, you keep administrative records, track worked hours, deliver paychecks, and perform other employee-related activities.

As an accounting assistant, you are an accountant’s right hand, performing general office duties, and taking care of bookkeeping tasks and other necessary accounting activities.

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.