Best online certificate in accounting 2021: Top picks

    Accounting certificates prepare students for entry-level accounting roles that include managing financial records, analyzing financial operations, and ensuring that clients and employers avoid risks and take advantage of financial opportunities.

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 7% growth in accounting professions between 2020 and 2030 as a result of organizations’ increasingly complex and globalized financial activities. Accounting certificate-holders can also pursue bookkeeping and tax examiner positions. Here, we rank the best accounting certificates and provide detailed information about these programs.

    The best online certificate in accounting

    To ensure our rankings give an accurate picture of the certificate landscape, we pull data from reputable and publicly available sources. The information is then curated by using ZDNet’s ranking methodology.

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

    1. North Arkansas College

    Harrison, Arkansas

    About the program: Northark’s 30-credit online accounting certificate trains students in accounting principles, financial mathematics, and computerized accounting.

    • Acceptance rate: Not publicly available
    • Graduation rate: 36%
    • Annual net price: $4,702
    • Time to completion: One year
    • SAT range: Not required
    • Minimum GPA: Not required
    • Enrollment periods per year: Two to five
    • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous

    Accreditation: North Arkansas College is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

    2. Kaskaskia College

    Centralia, Illinois

    About the program: KC’s 32-credit online accounting certificate provides training in accounting software systems, managerial accounting, and tax accounting.

    • Acceptance rate: Not publicly available
    • Graduation rate: 47%
    • Annual net price: $6,574
    • Time to completion: One year
    • SAT range: Not publicly available
    • Minimum GPA: Not publicly available
    • Enrollment periods per year: Three
    • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

    Accreditation: Kaskaskia College is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

    3. Leeward Community College

    Pearl City, Hawaii

    About the program: Leeward CC’s 31-credit online accounting certificate trains students in Quickbooks, business principles, and payroll and general excise taxes.

    • Acceptance rate: Not publicly available
    • Graduation rate: 24%
    • Annual net price: $7,657
    • Time to completion: One year
    • SAT range: Not publicly available
    • Minimum GPA: Not required
    • Enrollment periods per year: Three
    • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous

    Accreditation: Leeward Community College is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC).

    4. Yavapai College

    Prescott, Arizona

    About the program: YC’s 36-credit online accounting certificate trains future accounting assistants in courses that include payroll accounting, intermediate accounting, and basic tax planning.

    • Acceptance rate: Not publicly available
    • Graduation rate: 23%
    • Annual net price: $6,965
    • Time to completion: One to two years
    • SAT range: Not publicly available
    • Minimum GPA: Not publicly available
    • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling
    • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous

    Accreditation: Yavapai College is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

    5. Southeastern Community College

    West Burlington, Iowa

    About the program: SCC’s online accounting certificate provides training in financial statements, balance sheets, and income tax analysis.

    • Acceptance rate: Not publicly available
    • Graduation rate: 32%
    • Annual net price: $7,223
    • Time to completion: Three to four months
    • SAT range: Not publicly available
    • Minimum GPA: Not publicly available
    • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling
    • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous

    Accreditation: Southeastern Community College is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

    6. Iowa Lakes Community College

    Estherville, Iowa

    About the program: Iowa Lakes’ 28-credit online accounting certificate trains students in business communications, computer accounting, and cost accounting.

    • Acceptance rate: Not publicly available
    • Graduation rate: 32%
    • Annual net price: $10,509
    • Time to completion: One year
    • SAT range: Not publicly available
    • Minimum GPA: Not publicly available
    • Enrollment periods per year: Two
    • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

    Accreditation: Iowa Lakes Community College is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

    7. Minnesota West Community and Technical College

    Worthington, Minnesota

    About the program: MWCTC’s 16-credit online accounting certificate features training in spreadsheet concepts and principles of accounting.

    • Acceptance rate: Not publicly available
    • Graduation rate: 50%
    • Annual net price: $11,952
    • Time to completion: Three to four months
    • SAT range: Not publicly available
    • Minimum GPA: Not required
    • Enrollment periods per year: Three
    • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

    Accreditation: Minnesota West Community and Technical College is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

    8. Southwestern Community College

    Sylva, North Carolina

    About the program: SCC’s four online accounting certificates feature between 16-18 credits. They provide training in accounting and finance, bookkeeping, taxes, and payroll.

    • Acceptance rate: Not publicly available
    • Graduation rate: 40%
    • Annual net price: $5,354
    • Time to completion: Three to four months
    • SAT range: Not publicly available
    • Minimum GPA: Not publicly available
    • Enrollment periods per year: Three
    • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous

    Accreditation: Southwestern Community College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

    9. William Rainey Harper College

    Palatine, Illinois

    About the program: Harper’s 29-credit online accounting certificate includes courses in business software packages, Quickbooks, and introduction to managerial accounting.

    • Acceptance rate: Not publicly available
    • Graduation rate: 39%
    • Annual net price: $7,532
    • Time to completion: One year
    • SAT range: Not publicly available
    • Minimum GPA: Not publicly available
    • Enrollment periods per year: Three
    • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

    Accreditation: William Rainey Harper College is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

    10. Riverland Community College

    Austin, Minnesota

    About the program: Riverland offers two online accounting certificates for aspiring tax preparers and bookkeepers. Both certificates feature 21 credits in courses like Quickbooks and payroll accounting.

    • Acceptance rate: Not publicly available
    • Graduation rate: 39%
    • Annual net price: $8,893
    • Time to completion: One year
    • SAT range: Not publicly available
    • Minimum GPA: Not publicly available
    • Enrollment periods per year: Two
    • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous

    Accreditation: Riverland Community College is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

    11. Northcentral Technical College

    Wausau, Wisconsin

    About the program: NTC offers three online accounting certificates, including small business bookkeeping, bookkeeping technology, and Quickbooks. They feature 6-16 credits of courses like math with business applications and accounting fundamentals.

    • Acceptance rate: Not publicly available
    • Graduation rate: 56%
    • Annual net price: $10,131
    • Time to completion: Three to six months
    • SAT range: Not publicly available
    • Minimum GPA: Not publicly available
    • Enrollment periods per year: Three
    • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous

    Accreditation: Northcentral Technical College is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

    12. Des Moines Area Community College

    Des Moines, Iowa

    About the program: DMACC offers three online accounting certificates, including accounting, payroll, and accounting for entrepreneurs. The programs require between 12-16 credits and feature courses in accounting cycle, payroll, accounting, and Sage computerized accounting.

    • Acceptance rate: Not publicly available
    • Graduation rate: 24%
    • Annual net price: $10,076
    • Time to completion: One year
    • SAT range: Not publicly available
    • Minimum GPA: Not publicly available
    • Enrollment periods per year: Three
    • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous

    Accreditation: Des Moines Area Community College is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

    13. Wayne Community College

    Goldsboro, North Carolina

    About the program: WCC’s 17-credit online accounting certificate includes courses in payroll accounting, accounting software applications, and spreadsheets.

    • Acceptance rate: Not publicly available
    • Graduation rate: 23%
    • Annual net price: $2,315
    • Time to completion: One year
    • SAT range: Not publicly available
    • Minimum GPA: Not required
    • Enrollment periods per year: Three
    • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

    Accreditation: Wayne Community College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

    14. Richmond Community College

    Hamlet, North Carolina

    About the program: RCC offers six accounting certificates, including two online options in accountant specialist and payroll specialist. These programs feature between 17-18 credits in courses like principles of financial and managerial accounting.

    • Acceptance rate: Not publicly available
    • Graduation rate: 25%
    • Annual net price: $2,598
    • Time to completion: One year
    • SAT range: Not publicly available
    • Minimum GPA: Not publicly available
    • Enrollment periods per year: Two
    • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous

    Accreditation: Richmond Community College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

    15. Lone Star College System

    Houston, Texas

    About the program: LSC offers two online accounting certificates, including an assistant and bookkeeper program and a payroll assistant program. The certificates feature between 112-160 contact hours of training in topics like office accounting and Quickbooks.

    • Acceptance rate: Not publicly available
    • Graduation rate: 18%
    • Annual net price: $8,016
    • Time to completion: One year
    • SAT range: Not publicly available
    • Minimum GPA: Not publicly available
    • Enrollment periods per year: Three
    • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous

    Accreditation: Lone Star College System is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

    16. Western Wyoming Community College

    Rock Springs, Wyoming

    About the program: WWCC’s 35-credit online accounting certificate provides training in interpersonal communications and spreadsheet applications.

    • Acceptance rate: Not publicly available
    • Graduation rate: 40%
    • Annual net price: $7,824
    • Time to completion: One year
    • SAT range: Not publicly available
    • Minimum GPA: Not required
    • Enrollment periods per year: Two
    • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous

    Accreditation: Western Wyoming Community College is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

    17. Minnesota State College Southeast

    Red Wing, Minnesota

    About the program: MSC Southeast’s 21-credit online accounting certificate prepares students for bookkeeper careers. The training covers courses in financial and payroll accounting.

    • Acceptance rate: Not publicly available
    • Graduation rate: 40%
    • Annual net price: $13,824
    • Time to completion: Three to four months
    • SAT range: Not publicly available
    • Minimum GPA: Not publicly available
    • Enrollment periods per year: Two
    • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous

    Accreditation: Minnesota State College Southeast is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

    18. Houston Community College

    Houston, Texas

    About the program: HCC offers three online accounting certificates, including accounting, forensic accounting, and payroll specialist credentials. The certificates require between 12-33 credits and include courses in advanced spreadsheets and managerial accounting.

    • Acceptance rate: Not publicly available
    • Graduation rate: 17%
    • Annual net price: $5,272
    • Time to completion: Three to 12 months
    • SAT range: Not publicly available
    • Minimum GPA: Not publicly available
    • Enrollment periods per year: Three
    • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

    Accreditation: Houston Community College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

    19. Lenoir Community College

    Kinston, North Carolina

    About the program: LCC’s 14-credit hour online accounting certificate provides courses in accounting software applications, professional development, and financial accounting.

    • Acceptance rate: Not publicly available
    • Graduation rate: 24%
    • Annual net price: $5,212
    • Time to completion: Three to four months
    • SAT range: Not publicly available
    • Minimum GPA: 2.2 without entrance test
    • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling
    • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous

    Accreditation: Lenoir Community College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

    20. Champlain College

    Burlington, Vermont

    About the program: Champlain’s 16-credit online accounting certificate includes courses in federal taxes, intermediate accounting, and integrated learning through practice.

    • Acceptance rate: 85%
    • Graduation rate: 61%
    • Annual net price: $33,561
    • Time to completion: One year
    • SAT range: 570-670
    • Minimum GPA: Not required
    • Enrollment periods per year: Three
    • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

    Accreditation: Champlain College is regionally accredited by the New England Commission on Higher Education (NECHE).

    21. Orangeburg Calhoun Technical College

    Orangeburg, South Carolina

    About the program: OCtech’s 27-semester hour online accounting certificate includes training in computerized accounting software, payroll systems, and income tax processes.

    • Acceptance rate: Not publicly available
    • Graduation rate: 24%
    • Annual net price: $6,012
    • Time to completion: One year
    • SAT range: Not publicly available
    • Minimum GPA: Not required
    • Enrollment periods per year: Three
    • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous

    Accreditation: Orangeburg Calhoun Technical College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

    22. Pitt Community College

    Winterville, North Carolina

    About the program: PCC’s online accounting certificate features courses in auditing and assurance services, business finance, and statistical analysis.

    • Acceptance rate: Not publicly available
    • Graduation rate: 26%
    • Annual net price: $3,478
    • Time to completion: One year
    • SAT range: Not publicly available
    • Minimum GPA: Not publicly available
    • Enrollment periods per year: Three
    • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous

    Accreditation: Pitt Community College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

    23. Wake Technical Community College

    Raleigh, North Carolina

    About the program: Wake Tech offers eight online accounting certificates, including the 14-credit accounting core credential. This program includes courses in business law, financial accounting, and managerial accounting.

    • Acceptance rate: Not publicly available
    • Graduation rate: 24%
    • Annual net price: $6,876
    • Time to completion: One year
    • SAT range: Not publicly available
    • Minimum GPA: Not required
    • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling
    • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous

    Accreditation: Wake Technical Community College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

    24. Western Iowa Tech Community College

    Sioux City, Iowa

    About the program: WITCC offers four online accounting certificates, including bookkeeping, cost accounting, payroll clerk, and tax preparer credentials. These programs feature 17-30 credits in courses like basic and advanced spreadsheets, payroll accounting, and taxes.

    • Acceptance rate: Not publicly available
    • Graduation rate: 43%
    • Annual net price: $7,201
    • Time to completion: One year
    • SAT range: Not publicly available
    • Minimum GPA: Not publicly available
    • Enrollment periods per year: Three
    • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous

    Accreditation: Western Iowa Tech Community College is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

    25. Central Carolina Community College

    Sanford, North Carolina

    About the program: CCCC offers three online accounting certificates, including payroll accounting, income tax preparer, and small business financial advisor. The 17-credit payroll accounting certificate features courses in personal finance and individual income taxes.

    • Acceptance rate: Not publicly available
    • Graduation rate: 32%
    • Annual net price: $5,694
    • Time to completion: One year
    • SAT range: Not publicly available
    • Minimum GPA: Not publicly available
    • Enrollment periods per year: Two to three
    • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous

    Accreditation: Central Carolina Community College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

    Insights from an accounting graduate

    Bret hanzon, a white man wearing a suit, smiles at the cameraBret hanzon, a white man wearing a suit, smiles at the camera

    Bret Hanson holds bachelor’s degrees in marketing and accounting from Oregon State University. He serves as the elected President of the Lake Grove Fire District Board of Directors. As a certified fraud examiner, he specializes in turning complex business structures into clarity for lenders. He has worked on lending projects of up to $75 million in categories such as life sciences, technology, and healthcare. As an industry expert in recurring revenue, he often consults on the best practices to account for churn within various industries. Beyond the office, Bret enjoys a full-time nomadic travel lifestyle with his family.

    ZDNet: What was the most challenging, rigorous course you took in your accounting program? What advice would you give to students who are about to start this course?

    Bret Hanson: Introductory accounting courses were the hardest to complete successfully. In early accounting classes, I didn’t have exposure to business operations as a whole to fully grasp concepts with a whole new vocabulary attached. As my education progressed, I continued to reflect on prior accounting classes to assess how much deeper my understanding grew as I learned more about business structures. I would advise young students to fully immerse themselves in these introductory courses and learn how to ask questions on the material.

    ZDNet: How did you make the most of your accounting program so that it prepared you for post-grad jobs?

    BH: As a student, I focused on how technical elements of accounting would actually be utilized by a company in practice. Theories and equations without real life stories behind them can be hard to retain. Going beyond classroom settings and putting day-to-day job tasks under the lens of an accountant solidified my understanding outside of school and showed me how all the departments within a company are affected by the accounting process.

    ZDNet: What were the greatest takeaways from your accounting certificate that helped you to be successful in your career?

    BH: Knowing enough about business as a whole to ask the right questions is vital. As an auditor, my job is to take complex company data and simplify the information to be understood by a wide variety of people that are not accountants. Being mindful of how marketing, sales, R&D, and middle management will use the accounting information I present is what guides the information in and presentation of my reports. A great accountant (and auditor) will understand and cater to their audience rather than simply explaining data for other accountants who already understand the raw information.

    What to expect in an online certificate in accounting program

    Online accounting certificates vary by school, level, and focus. These condensed programs can feature entry-level, intermediate, and even graduate-level training from an online accounting master’s program. They may include general or foundational courses or provide more specialized education in a subdiscipline.

    Online accounting certificates are similar to online accounting degrees, just in smaller, more focused packages. Students may complete individual and group projects, participate in class discussions, and complete practical assignments. While some programs allow students to choose between courses, most have rigid curriculums.

    An accounting certificate’s difficulty depends on many different factors, but online learners typically need to be self-motivated and committed to their studies. In general, successful accounting students are detail-oriented and have sharp analytical and mathematical skills.

    Accounting courses

    The courses offered in an accounting certificate differ for every program. The training may provide courses in accounting basics or in very specialized topics. The following list examines some of the more popular options available in a certificate program.

    Cost Accounting

    In this course, students learn how accounting can impact managerial decisions, pricing, company growth, and performance evaluations. Learners look at ways of managing costs, planning projects, and analyzing profits.

    Financial Accounting

    This course explores the entire accounting cycle. Students learn accounting principles, how to prepare financial statements, and how to use financial information for business decisions.

    Payroll Accounting

    Students in this course learn about a payroll accountant’s major duties, including calculating net pay, commissions, and expenses. They may also study labor laws, vacation, and benefits.

    Tax Accounting

    In this course, students learn the rules for individual and corporate taxation. They may also learn to use a few of the leading accounting software programs, such as Quickbooks.

    In conclusion

    The accounting certificates ranked above represent some of the best and most accessible options for study in this field. For students who cannot set aside the time or money for a degree, these accelerated online credentials provide a promising alternative. Accounting certificates can lead to entry-level accounting careers and help experienced business professionals develop new financial skills.

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