What Can I Do with an Accounting Certificate?

As you consider which undergraduate accounting option is right for you, you will likely come across the option of an accounting certificate. These certificates typically require less time than an associate’s or bachelor’s degree program and can sometimes be completed in just a year. However, will a certificate program prepare you for the accounting career you’re seeking? It depends not only on your ultimate professional goals, but also on where you are in your education and training.

Accounting Certificates for Beginning Students

If this is your first time in college, don’t expect a certificate program to qualify you to sit for the certified public accountant (CPA) exam or attain a coveted staff accountant position at a prestigious firm. More likely, the certificate program will prepare you for entry-level accounting clerk positions. You will learn the fundamentals of accounting, including basic concepts like accounting practices and procedures, how to use, prepare and interpret financial statements and how to apply various types of accounting, like financial, cost and managerial. After completing a certificate program, you may be qualified for accounting clerk positions and for certain bookkeeping roles, particularly if you have prior work experience in a related field.

Accounting Certificates for Students with Bachelor’s Degrees

An accounting certificate can be particularly helpful if you have already earned your bachelor’s degree in a field other than accounting, such as finance or business, but have decided that you want to make a career change. If you’re looking for accounting knowledge or for a little boost to your résumé, a certificate program can provide you with the basic accounting information you need to know.

Depending on the circumstances, an accounting certificate program could even qualify you to become a certified public accountant. If you have already taken some courses in accounting or related subjects, an accounting certificate can help you meet the 150 semester hours of study (and 30 semester hours of accounting courses) required to take the CPA exam. Even for graduates of liberal arts programs who find work in fields related to accounting, like bookkeeping, the accounting certificate can be a stepping stone to better job opportunities. The accounting certificate path may be an option to consider if candidates want to advance their careers but might not want to commit to the years of study it could take to earn a master of business administration (MBA) or a masters in accounting degree.

The accounting certificate certainly has value, but how much value depends on the situation. Job search site Monster calls the accounting certificate a “good start,” particularly for working professionals who want to advance their careers. If you’re looking for a quick path into an entry-level accounting career, a certificate program can provide you with the fundamental knowledge you need to get started. However, be aware you will likely need a bachelor’s degree in accounting to attain a role in corporate or management accounting and a master’s degree to advance your career even further.