Most professionals in the accounting and finance fields work as internal employees for businesses and organizations. These professionals are key contributors to organizational development, responsible fiscal planning, and the achievement of business goals. Many educational institutions offer accounting certificate programs that focus on training in basic business practices in addition to specific accounting topics to ensure ample professional development opportunities within a participant's existing organization. While certificate program curricula vary, there are three primary paths a participant can take.
Professional development courses provide the participant with relevant material that can be immediately applicable to his or her current role. Professional development programs address changes in technologies or trends related to the business and accounting professionals. Similarly, these programs often teach topics that enhance the practices, techniques, and skills, of the professional. Programs of this nature also serve as a great opportunity for professionals to network and share their experiences.
Graduate School Preparation
Another path is intended for participants considering graduate school. Many accounting certificate programs have a rigorous curriculum that includes graduate-level coursework in accounting and business practices. Depending on the graduate institution, courses taken as part of this certificate program may qualify for credit into a graduate degree program. The programs have a greater emphasis on general business topics than those intended specifically for the accounting profession.
CPA Exam Preparation
Professionals interested in becoming a certified public accountant, or CPA, should consider a certificate program that meets the educational requirements of state licensure. While every prospective CPA must take the Uniform CPA Exam, each state sets the educational requirements that determine an individual's eligibility. It is important to search accounting certificate programs that meet the state education requirements. Ideally, they also should qualify for CPA continuing education units, or CEUs, to maintain the CPA credential.
When selecting a program, conduct research to ensure that the certificate satisfies individual preferences and requirements. Consider factors such as cost, time commitment, location, and student policies when making a decision. Set a path early on and search for educational providers that are members of reputable professional associations in the fields of accounting and finance. Lastly, determine if the certificate program can be covered under a tuition reimbursement program offered by an employer.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, due to stricter laws and regulations in response to financial crises, employment in the accounting field is expected to increase 16 percent by 2020. CPAs will have the best job prospects and will set themselves up for promotion to executive-level positions.
2016 Salary Information for Accountants and Auditors
Accountants and auditors earned a median annual salary of $68,150 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, accountants and auditors earned a 25th percentile salary of $53,240, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $90,670, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 1,397,700 people were employed in the U.S. as accountants and auditors.
Amber Laxton has been working in higher education since 2003. Her work focuses on continuing and professional education and workforce development. She works with various professional associations in fields including human resources, project management, operations management, financial planning and marketing. She has a Master of Science in public service management from DePaul University.