Best Online Associate Degree Programs in Accounting
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An associate in accounting is a two-year degree covering basic business and accounting principles. This entry-level credential qualifies graduates for employment in various clerical and administrative roles. The curriculum also prepares students for a bachelor’s degree in accounting.
Accounting associate graduates who enter the workforce directly can earn a comfortable wage in the business industry. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, financial clerks earned an annual median salary of $40,540 as of 2019. They find jobs in many industries, including banks, medical practices, and government agencies.
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In this guide, degree-seekers can read about associate program details, degree options, and accounting job prospects. Read on for our ranking of the best online associate in accounting online programs.
Accounting professionals record, organize, and report organizations’ financial transactions. Across industries, workers use foundational business knowledge to make financial decisions and manage cash flow. Different levels of education within the accounting field prepare workers for various professional roles.
Associate degrees in accounting offer graduates the fundamental knowledge to secure entry-level employment in the business industry or pursue further education. Earning this shorter degree can be the right choice for working professionals who want to build their resumes and compete in the job market without committing to the time or expense of a longer program.
Associate degrees in accounting offer graduates the fundamental knowledge to secure entry-level employment in the business industry or pursue further education.
Some of the other benefits of an accounting associate degree include:
While many clerical or administrative assistant roles require only a high school diploma, some employers prefer candidates with an associate degree in accounting because the degree demonstrates motivation and commitment to the industry.
With the competitive edge an associate in accounting online affords, graduates can land jobs and begin building a strong resume.
Associate in accounting programs teach students foundational principles of accounting that apply to the workforce and future educational opportunities.
Accounting Associate Versus Bachelor’s Degrees
Degree-seekers hoping to build careers in the business and financial industry can pursue several levels of accounting degrees. Some associate in accounting degrees prepare enrollees to enter the workforce immediately, while others support students who plan to enroll in a bachelor’s program.
A bachelor’s degree in accounting equips students to land jobs as accountants and financial advisors. However, graduates may still need additional coursework beyond the bachelor’s to take the certified public accountant (CPA) exam.
Both a bachelor’s and an associate offer professional pathways and opportunities to pursue further education, but their program requirements cater to different student needs.
Comparing Associate and Bachelor’s Degrees
Accounting Associate Degree
Accounting Bachelor’s Degree
Types of Classes
Foundational courses in accounting, including: Finance; Information technology; Business law
Advanced accounting theory and practice, including: Managerial accounting; Federal tax accounting; Auditing
Developing a basic knowledge of accounting practices for clerical and administrative duties
Preparing students for employment as accountants and other financial industry professionals
Students who plan to pursue further education in the business field and professionals who seek to enter the workforce after graduation
Prospective accountants and business professionals planning to enter the workforce upon graduation or pursue further education and sit the CPA exam
Northwest Iowa offers more than 750 courses and numerous programs for online students, including the associate of applied science degree in accounting. The degree can be earned completely online or in a hybrid format. The AAS in accounting is a two-year program with two semesters each year; it requires 63 credits to graduate. There is also a clerical accounting diploma option which requires two semesters of study. Students pursuing the online associate degree in accounting are prepared for entry-level jobs in bookkeeping and general accounting positions in banks and CPA firms. The program is divided between lectures and lab time. Most courses are not self-paced, so full-time students must begin classes in the fall; part-time students can begin anytime.
Based in Sheldon, Iowa, NCC is part of the Iowa Community College Online Consortium, which provides many online options. Some online classes are taught by instructors from other participating community colleges, but students will earn their credits through NCC.
The associate in applied science degree in accounting at Haywood is offered completely online. The school is located in Clyde, North Carolina. This 67 to 70-credit program teaches students accounting principles and theories and practice to prepare them for entry-level accounting positions in small businesses, manufacturing companies, hospitals, schools systems, banks, and government agencies. The course also covers business law, finance, management, economics, and ethics. The online accounting associate degree program takes five semesters to complete, including a summer semester. Online courses are presented through the Moodle learning platform. The school also offers a diploma and three certificates, each of which can be completed in two quarters or less.
Out-of-state students may enroll in the online program if they reside in one of the 16 states that make up the Southern Regional Education Board.
Moraine Technical caters to adult students. The associate of applied science degree in accounting program is one of seven, two-year online degree programs offered at the Fond du Lac, Wisconsin college. The school also offers technical diplomas, professional certificates, and apprenticeship programs, and most courses are available fully online. The 69-credit accounting program teaches students how to prepare financial statements and record business transactions. Students will study payroll, taxes, and auditing, including Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, accounting procedures, and software applications. Students pursuing the online associate degree in accounting are prepared for careers as accounting technicians, cost accountants, payroll accountants, or staff accountants. Learners use the web-based Canvas system for their online classes, but books are required for most. Many classes and assignments require Microsoft Word and other programs within the Microsoft suite. Computer software can be purchased at the Moraine Park Bookstore at a discount. Online students do not pay out-of-state fees. They may gain credit for prior work experience, military experience, training, or coursework.
The two-year associate of applied science degree in accounting is an entirely online degree that is also offered at the Ashland, New Richmond, Rice Lake, and Superior campuses of Wisconsin Indianhead. The school offers 57 programs leading to an associate degree or technical diploma. The online associate degree program in accounting will teach students how to assemble, analyze, interpret, and forecast financial information in a corporate, government, or nonprofit environment. Preparing financial statements, cost studies, and tax reports are also part of the curriculum. Accounting students should be comfortable using a 10-key calculator and working with numbers. Graduates can process financial transactions, analyze data to support decision-making, and perform organizational tax accounting preparation, reporting, and analysis. Graduates find entry-level work that may lead to mid-management roles as accountants, bookkeepers, and tax accountants; some graduates choose to continue their education at a four-year institution.
The school's Career Pathways program lets students advance their education with an accounting assistant specialty to expand their career options. Accounting assistants maintain accounting records, such as receivables, payables, purchasing, billing, inventory, and payroll.
Fox Valley is part of the Wisconsin Technical College System, a consortium of 16 college districts offering 400 programs of study. FVTC offers more than 200 associate degree, technical diploma, and certificate programs to 50,000 individuals annually, along with instruction for 15 apprenticeship trades. The associate of applied science curriculum teaches students how to handle business transactions for sales, expenses, payments, and inventories. It's offered online or on campus in Appleton. Graduates will know how to prepare financial reports and use computerized accounting software. Technical studies, which account for 45 of the 69 credits needed to graduate, include courses on financial fraud detection and business law. Writing, psychology, ethics, and economics courses make up 21 credits. An academic skills assessment is required for program admission.
FVTC's other main campus is in Oshkosh; there are four other regional centers. All FVTC courses may contain some online assignments. Hybrid programs offer another option. Classes held on campus are offered part-time, in the evenings, on weekends, and in accelerated formats.
LTC is part of the Technical College System of Georgia, which provides technical education programs for seven counties. Lanier offers an unusual guarantee to graduates: If an employer finds an LTC graduate to be deficient in a core competency, LTC will retrain that employee at no cost to the employee or employer. LTC partners with industry leaders to develop curriculum requirements. The Oakwood, Georgia, institution offers an associate of applied science degree in accounting online and at its Barrow, Forsyth, and Oakwood campuses. The program requires students to earn 64-credits. The degree can be earned in five semesters, and includes courses in personal finance and fraud investigation. Students enrolled in the online accounting associate degree program will practice tax preparation, payroll, corporate accounting, cost accounting, and computerized accounting. All graduates must complete a work ethic course. Students will use Blackboard to access courses, and they can access the Georgia Library Learning Online system, an electronic library that combines thousands of periodicals and research databases.
Hutchinson is a full service community college and vocational school that serves 5,000 students every semester. The school is located in Hutchinson, Kansas, and has two off-campus sites in McPherson and Newton. HCC has 250 online courses and 120 major programs, including fully accredited associate of arts/associate of science degrees and specialty certificates that are available entirely online.
The associate of arts in accounting program covers the first two years of a bachelor's degree in accounting across four semesters, enabling students to graduate with the required 64 credit hours. Courses include QuickBooks, public speaking, and calculus, among others. Classes for the online associate degree in accounting start monthly. Credentialed instructors help faculty members design their online courses. The Step Ahead program enables high school students to enroll in HCC classes while still in school. High school students who graduate and attend HCC full-time will be reimbursed for courses taken while they were in high school, provided they maintain a grade of C or higher. Tuition reimbursement is available for on or off-campus students, including students taking internet classes.
Northeast offers two-year program degrees, diplomas, and certificates at its main campus in Norfolk, Nebraska, and at satellite campuses in O'Neill, South Sioux City, and West Point.
The online associate of arts in accounting degree requires at least 60 credit hours and is designed for students planning to transfer to a four-year institution. The core courses, which total 27 credits, focus on business statistics and communications, spreadsheet applications, microeconomics, and business law. The remaining credits are earned through general education courses. Full-time students pursuing the online associate degree in accounting who take at least 15 credits each semester can complete the degree in two-years. Ninety-nine percent of NCC graduates continue their education or find a job. Of those who decide to work, 83% are employed in a position related to their program of study. Tuition is the same for online and residential students.
Coastal Pines offers 20 fully online programs, leading to an associate of applied science degree, diploma, or technical certificate. CPTC also offers traditional classes at its campus in Waycross, Georgia, and over 17 instructional sites. The online associate of applied science degree in accounting requires 64 credit hours. Occupational courses make up 49 credits and include courses in document production and individual tax accounting. Online students should commit at least 15 hours a week for each online course they take. The courses are not self-paced. Depending on the course, synchronous instruction may be required for group activities.
To encourage a strong work ethic, CPTC monitors attendance for all online courses, dropping those who don't participate in classes for seven consecutive days. Students must complete a proctored end-of-term exam. Online courses are priced the same as on-campus courses. Georgia residents over age 62 may attend CPTC credit courses without charge, space permitting.
Stanly, located in Albemarle, North Carolina, offers a variety of online degree programs, certificates, and diplomas. The online associate of applied science in accounting degree covers coursework in accounting principles, theories, and practice. Online students use the Moodle learning platform to study economics, finance, business law, and management. Representative courses include quantitative literacy, federal income taxes, and principles of marketing. The five-semester program can be completed in two years after students earn 65-credit hours. The program teaches students how to complete a financial statement and understand how to prepare managerial accounting reports. Graduates are ready for entry-level accounting positions, in accounting firms, small businesses, schools, hospitals, banks, and government agencies.
Online programs are available to residents of 35 states and the District of Columbia. High school juniors and seniors with a 3.0 or higher GPA can earn up to 30 hours of college transfer credits.
What To Expect From Associate in Accounting Programs
Associate accounting degrees come in several forms, so applicants should consider their future goals when choosing a program. Some programs like an associate of arts (AA) or associate of science (AS) in accounting provide building blocks for future education, while applied associate of science (AAS), applied associate of art (AAA), and applied associate of business (AAB) accounting degrees prepare graduates for entry-level careers.
Degree-seekers can generally expect an associate in accounting online to take about two years, but some schools offer accelerated programs that allow students to complete their studies in just one year. Most programs require about 60 credits, but many schools accept transfer credits, so students with previous coursework may be able to graduate more quickly.
Although some colleges offer open enrollment, most associate programs require applicants to hold a high school diploma or GED certificate. Programs offered through four-year universities may require a minimum GPA or entrance exam scores. Many schools require admitted students to take placement assessment tests like the ACCUPLACER.
Because much of the curriculum for associate in accounting online programs requires math and computer skills, some institutions may require applicants to have completed advanced math or computing courses.
Degree and Concentration Options
There is an array of accounting associate degree options, so prospective students should select programs based on their future career goals.
AA in Accounting
An associate of arts in accounting allows students to study general accounting principles while also pursuing liberal arts electives before entering a bachelor's program.
AS in Accounting
An associate of science in accounting degree provides introductory coursework in math and science that helps prepare accounting students to enter a bachelor's program.
AAS in Accounting
An associate of applied science degree teaches students about accounting with the aim of entry-level employment in the field upon graduation.
AAA in Accounting
An associate of applied arts in accounting degree provides degree-seekers with a career-focused survey of accounting principles. Graduates typically enter the workforce.
AAB in Accounting
An associate of applied business in accounting degree teaches students practical accounting skills so they can find employment after graduation.
Popular Accounting Courses
Since associate accounting degrees may differ in their goals, the classes they entail also vary. However, many programs offer similar foundational courses in business and accounting principles. Common associate in accounting online classes include:
Introductory finance courses teach principles of business finance. These classes often feature experiential learning opportunities that show students how to prepare financial statements. Accounting students also learn about the annual accounting cycle and develop skills in computing and analyzing financial accounting data.
Accounting professionals must rely on computing skills to manage and organize data. Core IT courses provide learners with a background in business systems and design, including creation of spreadsheets and practice with key analytical functions for accounting information.
This course teaches students about the U.S. legal system, business ethics, and legal strategies. In these classes, students analyze case studies to apply principles of business law and business ethics.
Since taxation comprises much of the accounting industry, prospective accounting professionals need to understand the fundamentals of U.S. law and tax code. In these courses, students study tax documents, examine tax law, and practice filing federal tax returns.
How Much Will an Associate in Accounting Cost?
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average cost of one year’s tuition and fees at a two-year school was $10,704 for the 2017-18 academic year. However, students studying an associate in accounting online may be able to avoid some of the fees associated with traditional, in-person schooling.
Budget-conscious students can save money by selecting an online school, which cuts down on relocation and transportation costs. Some online programs charge all students in-state tuition, regardless of state residency. Many schools also offer financing options, including scholarships, fellowships, grants, and loans.
Learners who plan to pursue a bachelor’s in accounting may want to complete their associate degree first, since that credential can allow them to obtain business industry positions while simultaneously completing their studies. Working at an industry job while studying online may be the most affordable option for many students and also provide better opportunities for future career advancement.
Jobs for Associate in Accounting Graduates
Many graduates who hold an associate in accounting can obtain clerical employment with a comfortable salary. Many of these employment opportunities involve record-keeping, organization, and communication. Applicants should expect to use computer software applications to perform industry-specific tasks for their employers.
Accounting professionals interested in increasing their job qualifications can also pursue accounting certifications. The jobs listed below require or prefer an associate degree in accounting, but further education and certification can give applicants a leg up on the competition.
Many organizations need financial clerks to perform administrative tasks like keeping records, helping customers, and completing monetary transactions.
Required Education: High school diploma required, associate degree preferred
Information clerks execute clerical duties, such as maintaining records, collecting data, and providing information to customers. Many industries like business, government agencies, hotels, and healthcare facilities employ information clerks.
Clerks in bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing roles rely on math and computer skills to maintain and organize financial records. Clerks need to develop mastery of the spreadsheet and bookkeeping software their employers use.
Required Education: High school diploma required, associate degree preferred
Secretaries and administrative assistants use computer software applications to complete clerical and administrative duties. Many administrative assistants work in schools, hospitals, government agencies, and legal offices.
Required Education: High school diploma required, associate degree preferred
School rankings provide information on the quality and affordability of various programs, but prospective students should consider additional factors in their school search:
Make sure each school has been regionally or nationally accredited. Accreditation ensures that an institution meets standards of academic excellence. Some schools may also hold programmatic accreditation through an agency like the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs, which ensures that a degree’s coursework prepares students for jobs in the field.
Cost and Financial Aid
Compare the tuition for each prospective school and investigate their financial aid options. Applicants with college credits from high school or a previous institution should investigate whether schools accept transfer credits as a way to lower their overall educational investment.
Many schools offer different tuition rates for in-state and out-of-state students, so degree-seekers may want to consider local schools.
While most associate in accounting programs average 60 credits, some programs require fewer credits or offer accelerated options to help students complete studies in a shorter amount of time.
Future Education Opportunities
Learners who plan to pursue further education after completing an associate degree may want to select a school that offers bachelor degree studies and/or a streamlined application process for associate degree graduates.
Why You Should Get Your Associate in Accounting Online
Working professionals who want to increase their earning potential often turn to online schooling. Virtual students can choose when and where they study, allowing them to maintain their work-life balance. Completing an associate in accounting online while simultaneously working allows motivated professionals to build their resumes even while furthering their education.
Online learning requires time management and self-sufficiency. Learners with strong planning and organizational skills often excel in online learning spaces, but those who struggle to motivate themselves may find online education burdensome.
Completing an associate in accounting online while simultaneously working allows motivated professionals to build their resumes even while furthering their education.
Students limited in their educational opportunities due to their location may enjoy the freedom of online learning. Since many associate in accounting online programs require no in-person courses, learners who live in remote areas can still pursue a degree without having to relocate.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is an associate in accounting worth it?
Yes. An associate degree in accounting can offer graduates the competitive edge to secure employment in the business industry or pursue further accounting education.
How many credit hours is an associate degree in accounting online?
An associate in accounting online generally requires 60 credits, but some programs offer accelerated options or accept transfer credits.
Which is better: an associate degree or certificate in accounting?
Certificates in accounting can offer specialized skills and knowledge, but many of those certifications depend on the fundamental knowledge taught in associate degree coursework, so learners usually benefit from earning an associate in accounting first.
What can you do with an associate degree in accounting?
Graduates who hold an associate in accounting work in various clerical and administrative roles or take their education to the next level with a bachelor’s degree.
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