Affordable Online Bookkeeping Certificate Programs



Earning a bookkeeping certificate online is an affordable way for students to pursue entry-level jobs in accounting. Bookkeepers run the everyday financial duties for a business, including recording transactions, handling payroll, and creating invoices. Students with little or no experience in the field might earn a bookkeeping certificate to better market themselves to potential employers.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), bookkeepers earn a median annual salary of $41,230. According to survey data from PayScale, most bookkeepers also report high levels of job satisfaction.

This guide features a ranking of the best online bookkeeping certificate programs. The annually updated ranking highlights accredited, affordable programs ideal for students looking for the best bookkeeping training options.

Top 10 Cheap Bookkeeping Certificate Programs

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

Why Get a Bookkeeping Certificate Online?

Online bookkeeping certificate programs combine the flexibility of online learning with a fast track to earning job credentials by preparing students to sit for certification tests. Learners who already work in bookkeeping and have some experience in the field may not benefit as much from this certificate as those with no experience looking to break into the industry. However, these programs can serve as a first step toward eventually pursuing a degree in accounting.

In addition to teaching basic skills for maintaining a business's finances, many bookkeeping programs also train students to use common bookkeeping software like QuickBooks, Freshbooks, and Expensify.

  • Self-Paced Learning: Many online bookkeeping certificates allow students to complete coursework asynchronously. This means students can integrate their coursework into their current work obligations.
  • Resume Boost: Earning a certificate in bookkeeping and passing national certifying exams can provide a leg-up on the job market. This credential can demonstrate an applicant's skills and qualifications for a bookkeeping position.
  • Gain Experience: Bookkeeping certificate programs provide students with training experience with accounting software, which allows them to enter the job market knowledgeable and prepared.

Should You Get a Certificate or an Associate Degree?

In contrast with a two-year associate degree, certificate programs are usually completed in one year. Because certificates are shorter, they require less coursework and thus cost less to complete. Students seeking an affordable pathway to a higher credential, or more job opportunities, may find a certificate in bookkeeping the best option.

The table below explores some other key factors that differentiate certificate programs from associate degrees.

Comparing Certificate and Associate Programs
Bookkeeping Certificate Bookkeeping Associate Degree
Cost Typically lower due to lower credit hour requirements May cost more due to more required credits
Program Length One year or less/two semesters At least four semesters/around two years
Course Load Requires 3-12 courses Requires around 20 courses
Types of Classes Focused specifically on bookkeeping, no general education courses required Requires some general education courses in addition to bookkeeping courses
Admission Requirements Generally requires at least a high school diploma, sometimes with work experience Requires a high school diploma, generally with a 2.0 minimum GPA

The Most Affordable Online Bookkeeping Certificate Courses

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

What To Expect From a Bookkeeping Certificate

Online bookkeeping certificates are an affordable way to learn new skills without committing to a full degree program. The required courses in these programs focus specifically on bookkeeping and related skills and knowledge, with no general education requirements.

Bookkeeping certificates usually take two semesters to complete. A typical curriculum requires 15-30 credits (3-12 classes). Generally, students can transfer credits from accredited bookkeeping certificate programs toward associate or bachelor's programs in the future.

Earning a bookkeeping certificate online can allow students to complete coursework in accordance with their schedules.

Online options can also help learners save money by eliminating the costs of transportation, parking, or student housing.

Admissions Process

The application and admissions process for bookkeeping certificates varies by program. For instance, community colleges may require applicants to undergo the same admissions process as associate degree students. Programs administered by business organizations, on the other hand, may have different requirements.

Many programs require at least a high school diploma or GED, typically with a minimum 2.0 GPA. Some programs may require applicants to have prior bookkeeping experience. Schools may require standardized test scores, like the ACT or SAT.

Different Certificate Types

Prospective bookkeeping students can take advantage of a variety of program and certificate options. Some online programs offer flexibility and accessibility with asynchronous course delivery. Other programs offer in-person or hybrid options for students interested in classroom learning. Outside of typical academic settings, some organizations and companies offer their own bookkeeper certifications.

Students should also consider which kind of certificate they want. Some programs offer a broader overview of bookkeeping, while shorter programs can focus on one aspect of the career. For instance, students with some bookkeeping experience can pursue specialized training with a specific software, such as QuickBooks, rather than a full bookkeeping certificate.

Some of these more specific certificates require less time and fewer credits, and often cost a flat rate. For instance, the National Bookkeepers Association offers online training and certification options that students can complete in a few months. The type of certificate you pursue should align with your career goals and past work experience.

Popular Bookkeeping Courses

While specific courses vary by program, most bookkeeping certificates require similar fundamental classes. The courses below serve as some examples of typical classes offered in bookkeeping certificate programs.

  • Accounting Fundamentals

    This course covers the basics of accounting, emphasizing the skills used most often by bookkeepers. Students learn about balance sheets, cash flow, and debits and credits. The class explores the fundamentals of revenue and expenses, assets and liabilities, and income statements.

  • Introduction to Business

    This course explores the basics of business. This includes fundamentals in economics, tax and filing laws, and company marketing concepts.

  • Introduction to QuickBooks

    Introductory courses to QuickBooks cover the basics of using the software. As the primary program bookkeepers use to manage finances, this course provides the skills necessary to navigate the interface.

  • Financial Reports

    QuickBooks and other bookkeeping software produce financial reports necessary for tax and income reporting. This course highlights the importance of these reports and emphasizes how to read and interpret them. This class may also explore how to translate these reports into other formats, and how to use them to inform business decisions.


How Much Do Bookkeeping Certificates Cost?

The cost of a bookkeeping certificate varies based on several factors.

Public schools generally charge lower tuition rates than private institutions. In-state students typically pay lower rates than out-of-state learners. Online programs sometimes offer flat-rate options, or allow out-of-state students to pay in-state tuition.

But tuition is not the only expense: Online learning requires access to a laptop and a reliable internet connection, which most schools do not provide. Other costs like required textbooks and software licenses should also factor into a student's budget.

Earning a certificate prior to pursuing a degree can get students into the workforce and earning money faster. Credits earned in a certificate program can often then transfer towards an associate or bachelor's degree.

Students in bookkeeping certificate programs may take advantage of some financial aid options, including loans, scholarships, and grants.

Bookkeeping Jobs and Salaries

Learning the fundamentals of finance, business, software, and accounting make certified bookkeepers marketable for jobs in a number of industries. In addition to jobs available to certificate holders, further learning can provide more opportunities for careers with higher education requirements. Jobs in fields like accounting and auditing often require at least an associate or bachelor's degree, and earning a bookkeeping certificate can prepare students for these programs.

The jobs listed below serve as examples of some available careers to those with a bookkeeping certificate.

Bookkeeping Clerks

Bookkeepers use bookkeeping software to digitally manage the financial logs and ledgers for businesses and organizations. They find employment in many industries, sometimes working as freelance contractors or consultants to help multiple businesses with payroll and finance management.


  • Required Education: Certificate/some college
  • Job Outlook (2019-29): -6%
  • Median Annual Salary: $41,230
Secretaries and Administrative Assistants

Administrative assistants sometimes handle bookkeeping tasks, including managing ledgers and logs. They direct phone calls, set appointments, prepare invoices, and handle all incoming and outgoing mail. These assistants work in all kinds of fields and settings, including doctor's offices and legal offices.


  • Required Education: High school diploma
  • Job Outlook (2019-29): -9%
  • Median Annual Salary: $39,850
Bill and Account Collectors

Bill and account collectors get in contact with businesses and individuals with overdue bills. Generally, companies sell debts to companies that hire bill collectors, who are responsible for contacting the people whose debt they oversee. They may work for private debt collection agencies or within a larger corporation.


  • Required Education: High school diploma
  • Job Outlook (2019-29): -6%
  • Median Annual Salary: $37,000
Accountants and Auditors

With further education, certified bookkeepers can pursue careers in accounting. Accountants analyze and examine financial records to ensure individuals and businesses comply with financial laws and regulations. They assist in preparing and filing tax returns and ensure taxes are paid at the proper rates and times.


  • Required Education: Bachelor's degree
  • Job Outlook (2019-29): +4%
  • Median Annual Salary: $71,550

Selecting the Right Affordable Certificate Program

Choosing the right bookkeeping certificate online program should include careful consideration of a variety of factors. Some of these key factors to consider include:

Cost and Financial Aid

Consider the overall cost to complete the program versus available financial aid options. Some programs offer flat-rate tuition. Others have discounted rates for online learners, including in-state tuition rates for out-of-state students. Look into available financial aid, including loans, scholarships, and grants.

Transferability

Consider whether you want to build upon your certificate with an associate or bachelor's degree in the future. Look into whether credits earned in each bookkeeping certificate program can transfer toward this further education.

Program Length

Consider how long you want to spend earning your certificate. Many programs require around two semesters to complete, but others may offer accelerated or shortened timelines to get certified.

Available Certifications

Some certificate programs may offer additional certifications in specific software, like QuickBooks or Excel. Earning these additional certifications can bolster your resume and qualifications.

Admission Requirements

Some schools may require prior work experience for admission, while others may not hold any requirements beyond a high school diploma.

Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you get a bookkeeping certificate?
You can earn a bookkeeping certificate online through schools or business organizations. Many two-year colleges offer certificate options that students can complete in about a year.
What's the difference between a bookkeeping certificate and certification?
Bookkeeping certificates generally entail more coursework than a certification. Certificates may take more time because they cover a broader curriculum, whereas certifications are more focused and can often be completed in a matter of weeks or months.
How much does a bookkeeping program cost?
The cost of a bookkeeping certificate program varies. Factors like enrollment, the type of institution, credit hour requirements, and in-state status all influence the overall cost of a certificate program.
What can you do with a bookkeeping certificate?
The skills gained from a bookkeeping certificate program prepare learners for careers in business, finance, and accounting. This certification can also count towards a two- or four-year degree in accounting or business.
Is it worth becoming a certified bookkeeper?
Yes. Certification offers an advantage over other candidates on the job market by highlighting your skills and credentials. This certification also provides important skills in key software and management areas valuable in a variety of jobs.

Additional Reading