The boom in the number and quality of online degree programs means you can further your education on your own time and learn at your own rate. If you like working with numbers, an associate’s degree in accounting offers you an initial career path in various fields or serves as the start for eventually obtaining a bachelor’s degree in accounting. In most cases, you should receive your online associate’s degree in accounting within two years. Extremely motivated students may receive this degree in approximately one year with accelerated coursework. If work and family commitments force you to take longer than two years to finish your online associate’s degree in accounting, that’s fine, too. That’s part of the flexibility offered by a quality online education.

What is an Associate’s Degree in Accounting?

An associate’s degree in accounting puts you on a fast track for starting a career relating to financial matters. It is the equivalent of the first two years required when pursuing a bachelor’s degree in accounting. When someone has an associate’s degree in accounting, they do not need professional certification to begin work in an entry level job.

What Prerequisites Are Required?

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If you have a high school diploma or GED, you can pursue an associate’s degree in accounting. A school may require that you take the SAT or ACT. The school may also require an assessment of your math or writing ability prior to commencing coursework. If you are concerned with your skills in these areas, take an online refresher course in the subject prior to completing your assessment. After taking the school’s assessment test, you may have to take some remedial classes before beginning coursework towards your degree.

Who Should Earn an Associate’s Degree in Accounting?

With an online associate’s degree in accounting, a person may find employment in various financial fields, and the possibility of upward mobility. It’s also a good way to find out if accounting is the right career path. Entry-level positions for those with an associate’s degree in accounting include:

  • Accounting assistant
  • Accounting clerk
  • Accounts payable clerk
  • Accounts receivable clerk
  • Accounting technician
  • Administrative assistant
  • Auditing clerk
  • Billing clerk
  • Bookkeeping
  • Fiscal technician
  • Management trainee
  • Payroll clerk
  • Tax preparer

No matter the organization, whether public, private or nonprofit, accounting services are always needed. One of the benefits of an accounting education is the availability of work in virtually any field. If you have a strong interest in a particular type of business, you may well find a job opening in that area. These are also the types of jobs offering mobility, as your skills are in demand in every part of the country. That’s an important consideration if think you may want to relocate after receiving your online degree.

Down the road, if an individual wants to pursue a career as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or auditor, they will already have some of the educational experience required. If you think you may want to pursue a bachelor’s degree in accounting in the future, look for an online degree program that aligns the associate degree course with a later bachelor of science in accounting degree program. That way, if you decide to earn a BS, your credits should transfer to the baccalaureate program. Keep in mind that if a bachelor’s degree is in your future plans, you must complete at least 150 semester hours at an accredited school, so take courses while pursuing your associate’s degree that count toward the requirement.

Career Outlook

Accounting is a growing field. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects 10 percent employment growth in the industry over the next decade. Overall, an individual with an associate’s degree can expect to earn nearly one-quarter more in take-home pay than someone with only a high school education. However, some accounting-related career fields will not grow as fast as others, primarily due to technology. Job prospects for bookkeepers and auditing clerks are expected to remain about the same as today for the next decade.

Salary Expectations

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Since someone with an associate’s degree in accounting may qualify for various position, the salary expectation depends on the actual job. For example, as of 2017, financial clerks earn a median pay of $38,680 per year, or $18.60 per hour, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On average, a person with the job title of bookkeeper, accounting clerk or auditing clerk earns $39,240 per year, or $18.87 hourly. Administrative assistants may expect to earn $37,870 per year or $18.21 per hour. While the job descriptions vary, the annual salaries for those with an associate’s degree in accounting are in the high $30 thousand range.

Course Curriculum

While courses for online associate’s degree accounting programs may vary somewhat by the school, you can expect to take the following classes or their equivalents when earning your associate’s degree:

  • Accounting I
  • Accounting II
  • Accounting III
  • Spreadsheet Applications
  • Introduction to Taxation
  • Business Law
  • Fundamentals of Management
  • Computerized Accounting

You are also required to take some general education courses in the sciences, economics, mathematics, language arts and the humanities to obtain an associate’s degree. Expect to take several technology-related classes, as this is a growing trend in accounting.

By the time you complete your coursework, you should have familiarity with essential accounting concepts, including:

  • Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) – practices and procedures used in the accounting profession
  • Cost accounting - analysis of costs so manager can make budgetary and other service or product decisions.
  • Data management
  • Federal income tax
  • Financial statements
  • Spreadsheet modeling and functionality

How to Choose an Associate’s in Accounting

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When looking for an online school for an associate’s degree in accounting, you must take your own needs into consideration. How are classes structured, and does that work for your schedule? Will you be able to complete the coursework in a specified time, or do you need a school that is more flexible in the time allotted to get your degree? If your employer is paying your tuition, what are their needs and expectations? Since you have so many choices when going the online route, make sure you find the right school for the education you’re seeking.

For most students, the cost of tuition is crucial. Tuition for online accounting courses varies by the institution, but many range between $200 and $300 per credit hour. You will find offerings for less or more than this range, but the least expensive degree is not necessarily “worth” it, nor does a pricier degree necessarily promise a better value. You must, however, choose an accredited school.

Accreditation

It’s important to choose an accredited online accounting school. Look for schools accredited by one of the nation’s six regional institutional accreditors or one of approximately 60 organizations recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation or the U.S. Department of Education. Depending on the physical location of the online school, these six regional institutional accreditors include the Higher Learning Commission, the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges Commission on Institutions of Higher Education, the Southern Association of Colleges Schools Commission on Colleges and the WASC Senior College and University Commission. Students cannot qualify for government loans or grants for schools lacking accreditation, but accreditation also means the institution meets the standards for providing a quality education. Employers will generally not pay for employee education at a non-accredited school, and other academic institutions will not accept transfer credits from schools lacking accreditation. In addition to general school accreditation, you should look for a school aligning with the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants’ educational standards.