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An online accounting certificate can offer the preparation you’ll need to compete in today’s job market.

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What are Online Accounting Certificates?

An online (or traditional classroom) accounting certificate is a short school program designed to improve your understanding of accounting principles and practices. If a certificate in accounting is your first step on the road to a degree, or an effort to climb the ranks of the corporate ladder, an online accounting certificate can offer the preparation you’ll need to compete in today’s job market and provide flexibility while you learn.

For undergraduates, an online accounting certificate program introduces you to the principals of accounting. Certificates should not be confused with certification, which is a professional credential offered voluntarily to those who have already earned a certificate or degree, usually by passing an exam and completing a certain number of practice hours.

A certificate introduces the budgetary processes and acquaints you with a solid beginning into the world of fiscal management. You will learn the basic skills necessary to compile, analyze, and prepare critical financial information for a range of business initiatives. You will develop basic knowledge and understanding of accounting and its need in a vast scope of professions and industries. An online certificate in accounting can increase your ability for job advancements by being up-to-date with the most recent changes in accounting law and will have the most current insight into today’s ethical accounting standards.

What’s the Difference Between Online and Traditional Certificate Programs?

As far as curriculum and what you’ll learn, there is no difference between an online and traditional school certificate program. The difference will be in the delivery of the curriculum and how you study, as well as affordability and convenience.

Online programs are for those who need to work while they attend classes, or have family responsibilities. Online courses are great for single parents, military personnel, disabled people or those who live in remote areas and don’t have a physical campus nearby.

For those professionals earning a graduate certificate in accounting, you’ll have the flexibility to remain on the job while you do your certificate studies at night or on the weekends.

In an online certificate accounting program, you’ll most likely set your own study times, and your school will likely offer rolling start dates. You’ll still have access to instructors and other students taking your program so you can network and get assistance online.

Not only are certificate programs available for undergraduates, but there are also graduate certificates in accounting online that help those already working in accounting or related field a way to further your career, or apply your coursework to a master’s degree in accounting. This is another reason why attending an accredited online program is important: you want your credits to transfer.

Who is an Online Accounting Certificate for?

An online accounting certificate program is for people who are interested in gaining an understanding of current accounting principles and practices. Many who enroll in a certificate program may already have a degree in another major. Many people who are already in the accounting vocation will choose to complete a certificate program to meet continuing education requirements.

Entry level accounting positions such as bookkeeper and accounting assistant earn certificates primarily to promote to a mid- or-senior level accounting position, along with small business owners who wear many hats and need to understand accounting if they don’t or can’t hire an accountant. The certificate is great for anyone who desires a basic understanding of accounting best practices. It will only help you to improve your bottom-line, whether it be for your personal finance or if you are a CEO of a major company.

Certificate vs. Degree

There are so many degrees and certificates available it can be difficult to know what the right program to choose is. Many people decide to complete a certificate program to learn a career-specific skill. Many students will choose a certificate program because they wish to enter the vocation of their liking as soon as possible and often a certificate can help to meet hiring requirements for entry level positions. A student might choose to pursue a degree program for a more in-depth education with the opportunity to specialize in a field. Often a student who has graduated with a bachelor’s degree in a different field will go back to school and complete a certificate program to acquire the necessary knowledge to advance or make a career change.

Both certificate and degree programs are intended to educate you on a focused subject. The main differences between a certificate and a degree program are that a certificate tends to take less time to complete, cost significantly less and courses will only relate to subject matter.

Certificate vs. Degree Length

Most certificate programs take less time to complete than a degree program. The main reason for this is that you do not have general education requirements as you would with a degree program. Certificate programs are comprised of one particular subject area. The average length for a certificate is nine months to one year. The average associate’s degree is two years, and a bachelor’s degree is four years. What if you have completed a bachelor’s degree or already have your master’s degree? Good news. To enter into a graduate certificate program, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree, and you can pursue some graduate certificates to increase your marketability.

Certificate vs. Degree Cost

Most certificate programs consist of 30 credits in a subject area; associate’s programs are 60 credits, and a bachelor’s degree is 120. Usually, students will pay per credit hour, making certificate programs one of the most cost-effective educational paths. Depending on the school and program you might be able to transfer some of your certificate credits into a degree program. If you plan to continue with an associate’s or bachelor’s degree program check with the admissions office or registrar to see if your certificate credits are transferable.

Certificate vs. Degree Marketability

Many students who already possess a bachelor’s degree or are wanting to change careers will choose to pursue a certificate program. Certificate programs are designed to teach a subject knowledge and will focus on learning a particular skill. Some professions only require a certificate for employment. For example, many medical assistants, accounting clerks and paralegals have certificates in their chosen field.

Degree programs will provide a more diverse education; these will help to prepare you for numerous industries as opposed to one specific position. Often jobs will require continuing education credits. Many people in regulated fields like teachers, accountants and health care professionals will pursue a certificate program to maintain and meet licenses or certifications requirements.