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If you love crunching numbers and managing payroll, accounting might just be the career for you. You don’t need to get a college degree – or any other type of degree, for that matter – to become an accountant. Therefore, you may be wondering, “is an accounting certification worth it?”
The answer depends on where you are in your career, as well as a few other factors. If you’re just starting out as an accountant, getting certified can help set you apart from the competition. Keep reading to find out what else an accounting certification can offer.
What is an accounting certification?
An accounting certification is an official demonstration of a person’s accounting skills. It’s a way to show off your skills to potential employers and other members of your professional network. You can get certified in accounting through an accredited college, university, or professional program.
Outside of universities, certifications are available from the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers (AIPB) and the National Association of Certified Public Bookkeepers (NACPB).
You can also complete additional certifications to demonstrate your mastery of advanced accounting-related subtopics.
Not all certification programs are for beginners. The AIPB and NACPB both require prior accounting experience to qualify for their courses.
Accounting vs Accounting
If you’re looking for accounting certifications online, you’ve probably come across information about accounting programs. Although there are similarities between accounting and accounting, these two fields are not the same.
What is Accounting? Accountants deal with an organization’s granular financial data. The accountant job description involves maintaining the general ledger and accounts, recording transactions, recording debits and credits, managing payroll, and creating invoices.
Accountants, on the other hand, take the data generated by accountants and turn it into actionable insights. Accountants analyze financial trends and provide businesses with a strategy to maintain their financial health.
Education and Cost of Bookkeeping Certification
The cost of obtaining an accounting certification depends on the type of certification and the organization administering it.
A general accounting certification can cost you up to $3,000. For example, a certification from California State University, Fullerton costs $2,195. For AIPB certification, members pay $479 and non-members pay $574. The price for this certification includes the cost of registration, workbooks, and the four-part national certification exam. After passing the AIPB certification exam, you will be recognized as a certified accountant.
If you get NACPB certified, you’ll pay a little less – $369 for NACPB members or $449 for non-members.
Whatever accounting certification you are pursuing, we recommend that you take a preparatory course. This course should teach you the basics of accounting, as well as how to adjust journal entries, correct accounting errors, master payroll and inventory, understand depreciation, set internal controls, and prevent fraud.
You may also consider obtaining additional certifications to hone your skills in a specific area. For example, getting certified in QuickBooks, a popular accounting software, can help boost your credibility and competitiveness in the field. A QuickBooks certification costs $679.95.
What is the time commitment for a bookkeeping certification?
A typical accounting certification course takes several weeks. For example, the NACPB certification course takes 13 weeks and the AIPB certification course usually takes six months.
If you choose to pursue certification through a college or university, check with the admissions office of your chosen school to verify the length of the program. Some programs are asynchronous, meaning you’ll pace yourself throughout the course and won’t have to log in at some point.
The AIPB Certified Accountant exam consists of four parts. You will have two hours each to complete parts one and two. The last two parts of the exam have no time limit.
Bookkeeping salary and job growth potential
Accountants earn a median annual salary of $45,560, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, an accountant’s salary varies depending on their education, location, and level of experience.
The BLS predicts that employment of accounting, bookkeeping, and auditing clerks will decline 3% by 2030. Even so, the BLS predicts an average of 170,200 openings per year for accounting clerks , accounting and auditing. The demand for new bookkeepers stems from a need to replace those retiring and workers transferring to other industries.
Is Accounting Certification Worth It?
Obtaining an accounting certification involves weeks of study, hours of test preparation, and a significant financial investment. Additionally, maintaining an accounting certification from the NACPB or AIPB requires ongoing professional development.
An accounting certification can generate a high return on investment, depending on a few factors. Here are some things to consider before getting an accounting certification.
Assess where you are in your career
If you’re just starting your accounting career, a professional certification can set you apart from the competition. This degree can boost your credibility in the eyes of potential employers, especially if you have just entered the job market.
Additionally, an accounting certification will help hone your skills and provide more in-depth professional training. It also provides a competitive edge for accountants just starting out in their careers.
If you’re a seasoned accountant, however, an accounting certification may not be worth it. With years of experience under your belt, chances are you already have the skills and credibility to do your job well. Employers are less likely to ask for certified proof of your skills if you’ve worked as an accountant for years.
Look at the earning potential
As an accountant, your income level can vary depending on your location, experience, and employer. Obtaining a certification can increase your earning potential. If you work in a competitive job market, certification can give you a head start when discussing salary potential with potential employers.
Additionally, your employer might be inclined to promote and offer higher salaries to certified accountants. Demonstrating a high level of skill can reassure employers that you are equipped to take on greater responsibilities, greatly increasing your earning potential.
Expand your job opportunities
Accounting certification can broaden your career horizons. Your credentials show potential employers that you are a qualified accountant and are willing and able to grow professionally. As a result, certification can lead to opportunities for advancement in other areas of accounting, as well as finance and management positions.
The certification maintenance process can also help you keep your skills current over time. To renew your certification, you must take continuing education, complete professional development programs, and attend training workshops. Although these requirements may seem tedious, they could benefit your career in the long run.
Courses and other continuing education programs support skills development and encourage professional networking, which can also expand your job opportunities.
You might also consider completing a graduate degree to bolster your career development. An associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree in a financial field like accounting can boost your competitiveness and open doors to higher-paying jobs.
Ultimately, your circumstances determine whether an accounting certification is worth it for you. Entry-level accountants looking to establish themselves in the field are arguably more likely to benefit from certification. Experienced accountants, on the other hand, may not see a significant return on investment.