Affordable Online Bookkeeping Certificate Programs

Compiled and Written By Staff

Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing professionals record financial information. They update financial statements and ensure accuracy, often using computer software to track expenses, credits, and transactions.

As the accounting profession becomes increasingly automated and technology-based, bookkeeping certificates give students access to changes and innovations in the field. Current bookkeepers can use certificates to advance their knowledge and skills, while individuals entering the field gain valuable finance, business, and accounting competencies.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects slower job growth for bookkeepers than for other financial positions, like accountants and auditors. Learners earning online bookkeeping certificates can enhance their employment prospects in a competitive market, as this designation demonstrates efficiency and proficiency to employers in the field.

What Are the Most Affordable Bookkeeping Certificate Programs of 2020? Here Are Our Top 10:

Rank School Location
1 Olney Central College Olney, IL
2 Central Wyoming College Riverton, WY
3 Central Georgia Technical College Warner Robins, GA
4 Bucks County Community College Newtown, PA
5 Cuyahoga Community College Cleveland, OH
6 Nicolet Area Technical College Rhinelander, WI
7 Ivy Tech Community College Indianapolis, IN
8 MiraCosta College Oceanside, CA
9 Columbus State Community College Columbus, OH
10 College of Southern Maryland La Plata, MD

What Is a Bookkeeping Certificate?

Earning a bookkeeping certificate online gives students a professional boost, preparing them to pursue a variety of entry-level careers or continue their education with associate or bachelor's degrees. Programs can vary in length and format, but most require less than one year to complete. Many certificate programs feature fully online formats, enabling students to complete their certificates with no campus requirements.

In general, bookkeeping certificates hone specialized skills in accounting and financial analysis. These programs introduce the major principles of accounting, including double-entry bookkeeping and budgeting, along with key business software like QuickBooks. Students gain the skills to competently maintain and analyze financial records for a variety of organizations.

Certificates prepare students for entry-level careers in the field, such as financial clerk and account collector. More advanced careers, such as accountant, require further education, but a certificate serves as a practical first step for those looking to enter these positions.

Affordable Online Bookkeeping Certificate Programs for 2020

This ranking highlights some of the top online bookkeeping certificate programs. The schools on this list combine affordability, flexibility, and strong professional preparation, building the skills necessary for entry-level accounting and bookkeeping jobs.

Learners should consider many factors before choosing a school. For many students, affordability ranks as a top concern, but learners should also consider factors such as accreditation status, admission requirements, and potential transfer pathways into associate and bachelor's degree programs.

Olney Central College — Olney, IL

Online Certificate in Bookkeeping

One of the four schools in Illinois' Eastern Community College System, Olney offers a bookkeeping certificate that readies students for entry-level accounting jobs. The program covers QuickBooks, financial accounting, business computer systems, tax preparation, professional bookkeeping, and managerial accounting.

Olney's 21-credit curriculum prepares learners for jobs as bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks. As part of the bookkeeper professional prep course, students take three certification exams. Learners who pass can obtain the certified bookkeeper credential.

Olney belongs to the Illinois Articulation Initiative, which simplifies the credit transfer process for students who choose to pursue further education.

All learners pay low tuition rates, making this one of the most affordable bookkeeping certificates available. Olney uses an open-admission policy. The college recommends contacting an advisor before enrolling. Olney is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Average Net Price of Program: $2,522
Program Website

Central Wyoming College — Riverton, WY

Online Certificate in Accounting-Bookkeeping

A two-year college in Riverton, CWC hosts a bookkeeping certificate as part of its broader associate degree in accounting. CWC offers the certificate through the Wyoming Works economic development program.

CWC's curriculum consists of 18 credits in required courses, nine in business and computer science electives, and four in general education. Coursework explores the fundamentals of bookkeeping and accounting, including journals, ledgers, spreadsheets, payroll, payments, and financial reports. The college recommends that students allocate 3-12 hours per week, per class.

CWC holds an articulation agreement with Regis University, making transferring credits easier. CWC maintains an open-enrollment admission policy and participates in the Western Undergraduate Exchange. This reciprocity agreement keeps tuition low for residents of participating states. CWC is accredited by the HLC.

Average Net Price of Program: $4,797
Program Website

Central Georgia Technical College — Warner Robins, GA

Online Professional Bookkeeping Certification

CGTC provides a pathway to becoming a bookkeeper with its online professional QuickBooks certification. Located in Warner Robins, the two-year college offers career training through virtual education. This program familiarizes students with the most popular accounting software. Students learn the principles of basic accounting, double-entry bookkeeping, accounts payable and receivable, and inventory maintenance.

Learners who enroll in CGTC's program can access the necessary coursework for up to six months. They work at their own pace, completing modules asynchronously. Most finish in far less time than the allotted six months. Those who do not may need to pay an extension fee.

CGTC uses an open admissions policy, and distance learners can begin any time. The college charges a single, flat-rate tuition. CGTC considers the program non-credit and issues a certificate of completion. CGTC is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Average Net Price of Program: $2,325
Program Website

Bucks County Community College — Newtown, PA

Online Certificate in Accounting & Taxation

Part of Pennsylvania's two-year college system, Bucks offers an affordable online bookkeeping certificate that emphasizes basic accounting and the use of computers in financial reporting. The Newtown institution's program qualifies graduates for full-charge bookkeeping positions in small businesses.

Bucks' curriculum consists of 33 total credits from 11 classes. The program gives students a comprehensive education in accounting principles; information systems; and executive skills such as professional business communication, business mathematics, and professional development. Most classes follow an asynchronous online format, but some require face-to-face interaction.

Bucks offers tiered pricing based upon location. County residents pay the least while out-of-state students pay the most. Credits typically transfer at a 100% equivalent rate, allowing distance learners to continue on to an associate degree if they choose. Bucks is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). The Department of Business and Innovation is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP).

Average Net Price of Program: $6,908
Program Website

Cuyahoga Community College — Cleveland, OH

Online Certificate in Bookkeeping

Ohio's oldest and largest community college, Tri-C hosts one of the nation's most affordable bookkeeping certificates. The Cleveland school designed its course of study to accommodate the schedules of working adults and part-time students. The 31-credit program provides an entry-level education in bookkeeping and basic accounting, ideal for those interested in taking bookkeeping jobs at small to midsize companies.

The curriculum features many of the same classes first-year students take in accounting programs, including college composition, financial accounting, business communications, and payroll. Students can apply all credits to an associate in accounting.

Tri-C offers an open enrollment policy. The college recommends but does not require a high school diploma or GED to apply for the program. Tri-C holds an array of articulation agreements with four-year universities, making transfer into a bachelor's program straightforward. The school boasts Ohio's lowest tuition.

Average Net Price of Program: $4,354
Program Website

Nicolet Area Technical College — Rhinelander, WI

Online Technical Diploma in Bookkeeping

Set in the northern Wisconsin community of Rhinelander, Nicolet hosts a brief online bookkeeping certificate program that requires just seven credits. The career-oriented institution created its technical bookkeeping diploma for employers looking to improve their financial record-keeping and individuals who want to add basic accounting skills to their resume. Students learn how to process payroll and perform routine accounting functions. The program runs entirely online.

The curriculum consists of four classes, including payroll accounting, accounting principles, QuickBooks basics, and QuickBooks applications. Participants move through coursework at their own pace, working asynchronously. They can access lab support if they need extra help. Students can check with an advisor to see if they already meet some credit requirements through prior learning.

Nicolet provides nine start dates annually and uses open admissions. The school also offers an accounting assistant technical diploma and an associate in accounting. Nicolet is accredited by the HLC.

Average Net Price of Program: $7,672
Program Website

Ivy Tech Community College — Indianapolis, IN

Online Certificate in Bookkeeping

The country's largest singly accredited statewide community college system, ITCC boasts campuses across Indiana and online. The Indianapolis-based school provides students with several pathways to becoming a bookkeeper, including bookkeeping certificates and accounting degrees.

The school's basic bookkeeping certificate involves 18 credits across two semesters. Coursework covers income tax preparation; accounting systems; and financial, managerial, and payroll accounting. Classes ready graduates for the bookkeeper requirements of the American Institute of Professional Bookkeeping Certified Bookkeeper Exam. ITCC offers each course as part of its accounting associate program. Certified CPAs with more than 30 years of experience lead ITCC's accounting classes.

Some Indianans can enroll for free through the state's Next Level Jobs program. ITCC is accredited by the HLC. The accounting program is accredited by the ACBSP.

Average Net Price of Program: $5,425
Program Website

MiraCosta College — Oceanside, CA

Online Certificate of Achievement in Bookkeeping

A two-year institution in Greater San Diego, MiraCosta offers more than 600 online classes. These include an online bookkeeping certificate of achievement that involves 26 credits of coursework. The course of study prepares students for entry-level work in financial reporting and further education in an associate program. Graduates leave ready to complete double-entry accounting and construct and interpret financial records, typically under supervision.

Students can complete the curriculum in any sequence, taking required classes as they become available. Courses include payroll, income-tax preparation, computer accounting, business mathematics, and financial accounting.

MiraCosta welcomes applications from anyone over age 15. The college offers a full slate of accounting certificate and degree programs. Californians pay dramatically reduced tuition. MiraCosta is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

Average Net Price of Program: $5,524
Program Website

Columbus State Community College — Columbus, OH

Online Certificate in Bookkeeping

Located in downtown Columbus, Ohio, CSCC offers an online bookkeeping certificate that prepares students for their first steps into professional financial reporting. The program consists of five courses and typically takes two semesters to complete. Courses cover bookkeeping fundamentals, spreadsheets, and common accounting software. Learners can earn all necessary credits online.

CSCC's 10-credit curriculum includes a class in bookkeeping, one in payroll, two in Excel, and one in QuickBooks. Graduates not only earn an overall bookkeeping credential, but they also leave with certification in the two most popular accounting software systems. Most classes run asynchronously.

The college uses open admissions with three start dates annually. CSCC employs placement exams to test students' competencies. The school holds many articulation agreements with institutions across Ohio, allowing for seamless transfer into four-year accounting programs. More than 75% of the school's students take on no debt. CSCC is accredited by the HLC.

Average Net Price of Program: $5,532
Program Website

College of Southern Maryland — La Plata, MD

Online Certificate in Bookkeeping and Financial Management

A two-year, career-oriented institution, CSM serves students in Charles, St. Mary's, and Calvert counties and beyond from its campus in LaPlata, Maryland. CSM offers a bookkeeping certificate that requires completion of just three classes. CSM created the program for professionals who want to switch careers or add accounting skills to their resume.

CSM considers this course of study a non-credit, continuing-education class, so students should not expect to earn credits toward any other degree. The three required courses include introduction to bookkeeping, introduction to payroll administration, and QuickBooks for bookkeepers. The program emphasizes mathematical concepts in business and payroll law, as well as real-world application of skills. Students also develop their planning skills, organization, and attention to detail.

CSM accepts applications from students over age 16. Certification requires attendance in at least 80% of classes and completion of all course objectives and requirements. CSM is accredited by MSCHE.

Average Net Price of Program: $7,376
Program Website

Why Get a Bookkeeping Certificate?

With knowledge and skills applicable to businesses of all sizes, bookkeepers can pursue careers across industrial sectors. These professionals work in areas like accounting, tax preparation, and payroll. Many bookkeepers also work in local government and real estate. The highest-paid bookkeepers in the U.S. work for the federal government, in the extraction industry, and in financial services.

Quantitative skills and knowledge of record-keeping practices allow bookkeepers to work for a variety of clients. These professionals may provide their services remotely, and they might take on additional hours during tax season, at the end of a fiscal year, or during an accounting audit.

Bookkeepers need attention to detail and organizational skills, which certificates in bookkeeping can help them hone. Certificates train learners in business fundamentals, interpersonal communication, and financial principles. Courses also cover bookkeeping software; payroll record practices; and ledgers, worksheets, and journals.

Many individuals enter the bookkeeping profession without formal training, but certificates provide candidates with a competitive edge in the job market. Bookkeeping certificates also set the foundation for learners to pursue undergraduate degrees in accounting, finance, or related disciplines.

Future Accounting Education

Many certificate programs prepare students to obtain credentials through the National Association of Certified Public Bookkeepers (NACPB), which demonstrates professional credibility, along with bookkeeping knowledge and skills.

Bookkeeping certificates can also lead to further education, such as associate, bachelor's, or master's degrees in accounting. These programs build advanced skills to help students pursue top careers in accounting.

The certified public accountant (CPA) designation represents the most common credential for bookkeeping professionals, and many top accounting positions require it. The CPA credential requires 150 postsecondary credits, which many professionals obtain through a bachelor's and master's degree.

What Can You Do With a Bookkeeping Certificate?

A bookkeeping certificate covers mathematics, accounts and entry systems, and financial documentation. Learners study business principles and practices, organizational structure, and interpersonal communication. Technical skills remain at the core of the bookkeeping profession. Bookkeepers must understand various types of accounting software, such as Microsoft Excel, QuickBooks, and Sage.

Bookkeepers conduct reconciliations, payroll processing, and accounting audits, all of which require acute attention to detail. Bookkeepers must possess strong verbal and written communication skills, analytical abilities, and high levels of organization.

With the knowledge and skills acquired in bookkeeping certificate programs, individuals can pursue careers as financial clerks, accounting assistants, and account collectors. The BLS projects a 5% growth rate for financial clerks from 2018-2028. In 2018, financial clerks earned an annual median wage approaching $40,000. Accounting clerks and assistants earned $40,240, while account collectors took home $36,020 annually.

Certificates in bookkeeping build credibility for bookkeepers and set a foundation for continued study. With more education and experience, bookkeepers can enhance their employment opportunities and earning potential. Accountants and auditors, who must hold bachelor's degrees, earned an annual median wage exceeding $70,000 in 2018.

How Much Do Bookkeeping Certificate Holders Make?

This table highlights five common career paths for bookkeepers, demonstrating the value of education with respect to career growth and earning potential.

Certificate in Bookkeeping Careers: Median Salaries by Experience
Career Annual Median Salary Projected Growth Rate Education Required
Financial Clerks $40,540 5% High school diploma or equivalent
Accounting Clerk $37,000 -8% High school diploma or equivalent
Account Collector $37,300 -8% High school diploma or equivalent
Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerk $41,230 -4% Some college, no degree
Accountant and Auditor $71,550 6% Bachelor's degree
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Typical Bookkeeping Certificate Coursework

Bookkeeping certificates build broad business knowledge and specialized skills in financial recordkeeping. Most programs introduce accounting fundamentals, business principles, and major software programs for bookkeepers, such as Excel and QuickBooks. Students also build skills in business communication, research, and financial analysis.

The list below highlights five common bookkeeping courses. Every certificate program may not offer all of the courses listed below, but this list represents a sample of typical coursework for the credential. Specific course titles may vary, but general content remains similar.

  • Introduction to Accounting

    This course introduces the basic principles of accounting, providing a foundation for further study. Typical course topics include double-entry bookkeeping and financial statement analysis.

  • QuickBooks

    As the standard software for accounting and bookkeeping, QuickBooks plays a major role in the field. Nearly all programs include courses that introduce this ledger software and its major functions.

  • Excel for Accountants

    Another key piece of software, Excel is a spreadsheet program that allows bookkeepers to catalog and analyze financial data. This course introduces the software and its key features.

  • Managerial Accounting

    This course explores the role of accounting in business planning and decision-making. Common course topics include budgeting, cost systems, activity-based accounting, job-costing systems, and breakeven analysis.

  • Business Computer Systems

    This course offers an overview of information technology for business, including file organization, computer operating systems, data communications, and major software applications.

What to Look for in an Online Bookkeeping Certificate Program

When choosing an online bookkeeping certificate, learners should find the program that best meets their personal and professional goals. Certificates typically comprise 18-45 credit hours and often require internships, which give learners valuable hands-on experience. Students can often earn a certificate in 3-4 months. Bookkeeping programs may correspond to national certification exams, like those offered by the National Bookkeepers Association and the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers.

Online bookkeeping certificates give students the flexibility to balance their studies with personal and professional obligations, particularly those that offer part-time study options. Students should also look for programs offered by accredited schools. Accreditation indicates that a school meets high standards with respect to faculty qualifications, academic rigor, and student learning outcomes.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you get a bookkeeping certificate?
Many students earn bookkeeping certificates at community colleges, with many programs available entirely online. Four-year colleges may also offer bookkeeping certificates.
What's the difference between a bookkeeping certificate and certification?
These two terms are often used interchangeably, though they differ in some ways. Certifications, such as the NACPB's bookkeeper certification, typically indicate specific competencies, while certificates build more general knowledge.
What can you do with a bookkeeping certificate?
Bookkeeping certificates prepare learners for entry-level careers in the field, along with further study through associate, bachelor's, or master's degrees.
How much does a bookkeeping program cost?
Tuition can vary widely between schools and certificate programs. However, certificates typically cost less than full degrees.
Is it worth becoming a certified bookkeeper?
Bookkeeping certificates can expand employment opportunities and salary potential, making them a worthwhile investment for many students.
Can a bookkeeper become an accountant?
Bookkeeping certificates do not meet the requirements to become an accountant, but students can often transfer their certificate credits toward bachelor's degrees in accounting.