Accounting Certificate verses Accounting Certification

DiplomaSeveral Universities have begun offering accounting certifications recently.  I thought it would be interesting to compare several points between certificates and certifications.  Clearly the certifications are more sought after but are certificates really that bad?

I was speaking with a college the other day and we got on the subject of receiving emails from our universities.  I probably get two or three emails per month for various things such as alumni club organizations, parties, football tickets, or asking for money.  My friend said the same thing but also he recently got an interesting email from his former guidance counselor.  Apparently at his university they are beginning a graduate certificate in accounting.  They said the requirements would just be a bachelor’s degree.  You could get the certificate in one year and receive benefits such as qualifications for the CPA exam, the ability to teach at the university level, and having an edge over other candidates.  He said to me “Wow, they [the school] must be desperate for money, who would ever take that certificate over a master’s degree?”

I thought about this for a while and my friend might be right.  The school may really be looking to capitalize on the growing bachelor’s degree graduates with no jobs and no desire to get a Master’s degree, but there also may be value in it for the student.  I can see several benefits.  One situation would be if a student finished their degree but didn’t want to get a CPA Certification.  This is common because of the difficulty with passing the test.  These students would be looking to quickly graduate and get a job. They might work for a couple of years then realize that the CPA certification is a required for them to progress.  At this point they may not have the time or money to go back and get a full Master’s in Accounting or MBA.  This certificate would be perfect for them.  Also, in terms of respect, if they achieve their CPA certification then no one would care what kind of education they got in order to get there.

This is not really my first recommendation.  I would recommend that everyone stay in school and either go ahead and get the 150 hours or do the master’s degree.  That way you won’t even have to go back to school at all in order to qualify for the CPA.  But I do realize that things change and life happens so this certificate is a good option.

The other benefit I see is the teaching opportunity.  If you are like me and have an occasional itch to teach then you have probably looked in to this.  So what options do you have?  Well if you are very persistent you can go for the PhD and put in the full four to five years of study.  But if you just want to teach part time or teach community college then a simple master’s degree will do.  But the certificate brings in a whole new level.  Just one year of study and you can teach at the university level.  This is amazing.  I would probably sign up today if I didn’t already have a Master’s Degree just for this opportunity.  It is true that with no post-secondary degree you can teach in some places, but for the most part you will need at least a certificate after bachelors.

So to review and conclude check out this table comparison:

Option Benefit
CPA Certification
  1. Opportunity to make the big bucks
  2. High honor and loads of opportunity
  3. Fluid jobs across several fields
Graduate Certificate in Accounting
  1. Can sit for the CPA exam without a Master’s
  2. Can teach at the University level
Option Sacrifice
CPA Certification
  1. 4 or 5 years of school
  2. Study for 700 hours and take four long tests
Graduate Certificate in Accounting
  1. Go back to school for one year