Associate Degree in Accounting

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What Is an Associate Degree in Accounting?

Accounting deals with financial records and figures, helping organizations make efficient decisions based financial analysis. An accounting associate program often serves as the first step along this career path. A two-year associate degree in accounting builds foundational skills in math, business, and accounting principles, preparing you to enter the workforce or transfer into a bachelor's program.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that accountants earn an annual median salary of $71,550, and careers in the field are projected to grow at an average rate over the next decade. This page offers an overview of what to expect from an associate degree in accounting, including typical courses, admissions requirements, job opportunities, and salary potential. You'll also find information on the certified public accountant (CPA) exam as well as answers to frequently asked questions about the accounting field.

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Why Get an Associate Degree in Accounting?

An associate degree in accounting offers a broad overview of accounting principles and serves as the first step toward a career in the field. While some students enter the workforce directly after earning this degree, many pursue further education, with some of the most common pathways outlined in the next section.

Future Accounting Education

After completing an associate degree most students pursue a bachelor's in accounting, commonly accepted as the minimum education requirement for most careers in the field. A bachelor's builds on the knowledge gained in an associate program, offering a comprehensive overview of accounting principles and practices.

Many accounting professionals pursue the certified public accountant credential, a requirement for many forms of accounting professional practice. The CPA exam requires 150 college credits to take. As most bachelor's programs are completed within 120-128 credits, many students elect to obtain a master's in accounting degree. A master's degree is typically the highest level of education required for a career in accounting.

Some professionals interested in specialized accounting practice, research, or teaching at the college level may pursue a Ph.D. in accounting. More commonly, accountants obtain specialized accounting certifications that indicate specific knowledge in areas such as fraud examination or forensic accounting.

Associate in Accounting Careers

Along with further education opportunities, an associate in accounting prepares you for a variety of entry-level careers, such as bookkeeper, payroll clerk, and accounting assistant. Generally, any career path with prospects of advancement requires at least a bachelor's degree, but some entry-level positions offer respectable average salary levels. For example, the BLS reports that financial clerks earn an annual median salary of $40,050.

Below, you'll find info on some of the top careers for associate in accounting programs, along with average salary levels and projected job growth.

How to Get an Associate in Accounting

As with most associate programs, an associate in accounting typically only requires applicants to hold a high school diploma or GED. A program offered at a traditional four-year college may maintain general GPA requirements or other admissions prerequisites, while those offered at community colleges typically feature open enrollment. Regardless of school, all applicants may need to complete assessments of their math and writing skills before being allowed to enroll.

Given that they are responsible for closely analyzing and interpreting complex financial records, aspiring accountants need a strong eye for detail. Communication skills can also help accountants share their work with other departments in an organization. Students can build many of these skills by enrolling in an accounting certificate program, which may also help them complete their associate degree faster.

The Associate Degree Experience

Associate degree coursework covers foundational accounting topics, as well as introductions to business and economics. Math courses are part of the curriculum, along with general education that provides knowledge in a wide range of disciplines.

The requirements to earn an associate degree vary, but typically include 60-65 credits of coursework. Some programs offer internships and other for-credit opportunities to gain practical experience. Full-time students can expect to complete the associate degree in two years, and there are some programs that offer accelerated one-year degree plans.

Degree Options

Accounting students can often choose between several types of associate degrees. This list outlines the major differences among associate degrees.

Core Concepts

Students graduating with an associate degree in accounting are expected to know and understand these central concepts:

Coursework

Each associate student works with an academic advisor to develop a degree outline that includes a specific course sequence. This plan covers topic areas in three primary categories: general education, accounting, and economics.

Should I Get My Associate Degree Online?

The affordability and convenience of online education make it a popular choice for accounting students, particularly those who wish to pursue a degree while maintaining their current career. Online learning offers several distinct advantages, including the ability to complete courses at any time of day without visiting campus. Almost all accounting work can be performed on a computer, making the field ideal for online study.

Earning an associate in accounting online offers a number of advantages, but distance learning isn't for everyone. Online courses offer more flexibility, but also require more independence, and some students prefer the structure of weekly classroom courses. However, for students who are highly organized and capable of directing their own studies, online learning offers a much greater level of flexibility. For those who are unsure about online learning, many schools enable students to "test drive" courses before enrolling.

Accreditation

Accredited programs have been evaluated by external reviewers to ensure a basic level of academic quality. This process assesses a program according to specific standards that cover areas related to curriculum development, faculty qualifications, student support services, financial resources, academic services and resources, and student achievement. It's important to confirm that an accounting program is accredited for a number of reasons.

It is up to prospective students to confirm that the schools they are interested in attending have earned regional or national accreditation. Accounting programs should also be accredited by an agency that specializes in the field, such as one of the following:

Selecting the Best College for an Associate in Accounting

Several factors should be considered when selecting an associate in accounting program. Factors including cost, program format, location, school size, and professional preparation can all have an impact.

For many students, cost ranks among the top concerns when selecting a program. Typically, the most affordable route to an associate in accounting degree is to enroll at a community college. However, more expensive four-year public and private schools also offer associate degrees, which typically transition immediately into bachelor's programs. These schools may offer additional opportunities unavailable at community colleges, such as internships, networking events, and membership in student business organizations.

Along with networking and business opportunities, some schools offer increased professional preparation, with courses specifically designed to meet requirements for the CPA exam. If you're interested in becoming a CPA, research whether a school's accounting curriculum aligns with professional standards. Also be sure that a school holds regional accreditation from a reputable accreditation agency,

Regardless of your needs, plenty of schools offer strong associate in accounting programs. The two rankings below gather some of the top programs available both on campus and online. Best Associate in Accounting Programs Best Online Associate in Accounting Programs

Next Steps After Getting a Bachelor's Degree in Accounting

An associate in accounting degree is just the first step in your accounting career. Think about the following possibilities as you continue to develop your goals and choose a career path.

Frequently Asked Questions

Accounting Organizations

Accountants depend on professional organizations to network, share knowledge, and find job opportunities. The list below features some of the most popular accounting organizations.

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