The boom in the number and quality of online accounting degree and other advanced programs means you can study on your own time and gain knowledge at your own rate, including professional skill development. If you like working with numbers or data, an associate’s degree in accounting offers you an initial career path in various fields or serves as the start for eventually obtaining a higher level academic degree in accounting. It will serve you better than on-the-job training, making you more likely to receive an offer for entry-level positions from companies, though it's not always a requirement. In most cases, you should receive your online associate accounting degree within two years. Extremely motivated students may receive this degree in approximately one year with an accelerated program. The convenience and speed of the degree are just some of the reaons students opt for an associate. If work and family commitments force you to take longer than two years to finish your online associate degree, that’s fine, too. That’s part of how gaining admissions to a quality online education will allow you to be flexible.


What is an Associate in Accounting?

A two year accounting degree 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, they do not need professional certification to send applications to companies and begin work in an entry-level position and it will support them if they want to gain a bachelor of science in the future. While the wage earned by those with a lower-level academic degree is not as high as the income for those with a bachelor or graduate degree, they will gain experience opportunities in an office and on-the-job training that are invaluable. It will also help you put off the expense of more advanced studies and get you into the workforce.

What Prerequisites Are Required?

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If you have a high school diploma or GED, you can pursue one of the different types of popular associate degrees in accounting. A college or university may require that you take the SAT or ACT. They may also require an assessment of your math or writing ability as a requirement prior to commencing coursework. If you are concerned with your skills in these areas, you can take an online refresher course in the subject prior to completing your assessment. After taking the assessment test, you may have to take some remedial classes before beginning courses towards your associate accounting degree. Depending on whether or not they have a resource available for prospective students, you may need to search out these courses on your own.

Typical Accounting Positions Held With an Associate Degree

After graduation from an online associate program in accounting in the United States, 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 and which area you might wish to focus in. You can gain entry to areas such as cost accounting, financial planning, data management, financial statements and documentation of customer debt or payments and transactions, pulling documents for an audit, budget planning, human resources and payroll, personal or individual finance, accounting technology systems, and you may perform research to support a projects needs for information or to make sure you stay within the laws of the country, among other things. Higher level positions include things like managerial accounting, CPA licensure, financial accounting or business finance, and dealing with clients. Entry-level accounting positions for those with an associate accounting program diploma 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 return preparer

No matter the organization, whether public, private, or non-profit, accounting services are always needed. One of the benefits of an accounting degree is the availability of work in virtually any industry because accounting functions are a requirement for everyone. If you have a strong interest in a particular type of business, market, or service, you may well find an 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. This is important information to consider if think you may want to relocate to a different part of the country or work on a variety of projects after receiving your academic degree online.

Down the road, if an individual wants to earn more money by pursuing a career as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or auditor, they will already have some of the educational experience to prepare them for the requirements. If you think you may want to go back to being a student and pursue a bachelor’s degree in accounting, you can look for an online degree program that aligns your associate with a bachelor of science in accounting. That way, if you decide to earn a BS Accounting degree, 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 make sure your associate courses count toward the requirement. And, if you've already started working for a company, they may provide some financial aid if you make a request and the degree can be applied to your core responsibilities. They may require that you stay in your current position for a number of full years after you complete your degree.

Career Outlook

Accounting is a growing field. A US Bureau of Labor Statistics report expects 10% employment growth in the industry over the next decade. Overall, an individual with an associate degree can expect to earn nearly one-quarter more in take-home pay than someone with only a diploma. However, some leading accounting-related career fields will not grow as fast as others, primarily due to technology and software. Job prospects for bookkeepers and auditing clerks are expected to remain about the same as today for the next decade throughout the country.

Salary Expectations

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Since someone with an associate degree in accounting may qualify for various positions, the salary expectation depends on the actual position. 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 degree in accounting are in the high $30 thousand range.

Course Curriculum

While courses for popular online accounting programs may vary somewhat by institution, you can stsill expect to take the following classes or their equivalents when earning your associate 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 courses in science, economics, mathematics, language arts, and the humanities to obtain an associate degree. Expect to take several technology or software classes, as dealing with software processes and using asset and trends data is a growing thing in accounting.

By the time you complete your classes, 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
  • Data modeling and functionality

How to Choose an Associate in Accounting

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When looking for an online accounting program for an associate 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 accounting coursework in a specified time, or do you need one that is more flexible in the time allotted to get your accounting 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 place for the program you’re seeking. You should also consider how easy communication will with faculty and the computer or websites you must use for your online education and if you will ever need to go to campus.

For most online students, the amount of money paid for tuition is crucial. Tuition rates 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.

Associate Programs Accreditation

It’s important to choose an accredited online accounting degree school. Search for information on 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 if they attend a school lacking accreditation and accreditation also means the institution meets the standards for providing quality courses. Employers will generally have a policy to not pay for employee education at a non-accredited school, and other academic institutions will not accept a transfer of hours from schools lacking accreditation. In addition to general school accreditation, you should look for a school degree aligning with the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants’ educational standards.


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