An associate degree in accounting is a great way to enter the workforce quickly, and with less potential debt than a bachelor’s degree. An associate degree can help you get an entry-level position in a variety of fields. This guide will help you find the right accounting program for you.

An associate degree is a good choice for recent high school graduates or individuals who have been working for a while but want a new career path without the time investment of a more advanced degree. An associate degree is generally the minimum requirement to work as an accountant.

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Should I Get an Associate in Accounting?

An associate in accounting is a good choice for students looking for a career, but who do not want to commit to a four-year degree. An associate degree takes less time and money than a bachelor’s and can lead to an entry-level position and lucrative career path. This degree teaches the basics of accounting and builds on existing skills, especially in math. Students learn to manage money and expenses, accounting laws and regulations, fiscal ethics, and develop an understanding of the economy.

Earning an associate degree is a great choice for students who want to enter the workforce as quickly as possible. An online degree is a good option for working professionals who want to change careers or advance an existing career.

While this degree helps qualify graduates for jobs, it can help out in other ways, such as through
networking. Students can benefit from working with professors, and peers might be able to help with jobs opportunities you’d otherwise miss out on. Some programs offer internships, job placement, and other benefits to students. These benefits can be found in on-campus and online programs.

What Can I Do With an Associate in Accounting?

Accounting associate degrees can prepare you for a number of careers, many of them are entry-level positions which can lead to career advancement with work experience. The three career paths below offer an idea of the types of positions you can enter with this degree.

  1. Financial Clerk: These professionals carry out different tasks for their employers, including handling transactions, which is one of the main differences between financial clerks and other clerk roles. With available jobs in a wide range of industries, this career path is expected to see continued growth over the next decade.
    • Median Annual Salary: $38,680
    • Projected Growth Rate: 9%
  2. Payroll or Timekeeping Clerk: These professionals focus on payroll and keep track of employee hours to ensure that employees are paid correctly. They might be in charge of payroll entirely at a smaller business, or work as part of a larger team at a corporation or payroll management firm.
    • Median Annual Salary: $43,890
    • Projected Growth Rate: N/A

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

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How to Choose an Associate in Accounting Program

Choosing an accounting associate degree can be difficult. While personal preferences can be a deciding factor, there are some other aspects to keep in mind, such as program duration. A typical associate degree takes about two year, but there are ways to reduce this time. Consider if you want to live on campus or off campus. Finding a school near your home might be the best choice, and in most cases, staying in your state of residence will mean a more affordable tuition.

Cost is a deciding factor for many students, so look into funding options. Federal student loans and private scholarships can make a big difference. If you’re already working, raising a family, or have other obligations that take up a lot of time, you might consider an online program. These can be more flexible than on-campus programs. The school you attend might offer classes both on-campus and online, which can help students with professional or personal obligations. Consider the available classes and whether the program teaches aspects you find interesting.

Programmatic Accreditation for Associate in Accounting Programs

Accreditation is an important part of higher education that many students should consider. Accreditation, either by a national or regional board, means a school provides a quality education. You can generally find the school’s accreditations by searching the colleges website.

Some professional organizations, such as the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), accredit programs. Earning a associate in accounting from a program with accreditation can give graduates an edge in the job market. It’s worth considering such programs when deciding where to apply. This is not to say that other programs aren’t good, but accreditation looks better to employers.

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Associate in Accounting Program Admissions

Applying to an associate program is easy, since most programs are intended for first-time college students. As such there are fewer requirements. Learners should consider applying to several colleges at the same time to improve their chance of acceptance; three to five schools is a good amount.

If a school requires letters or essays for an application, make sure each piece is unique to the college. Applying to fewer schools can help make the application process more manageable. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to complete applications.

Admission Materials

  • Application: College applications collect basic contact information.
  • Transcripts: Transcripts must be sent from former schools you have attended. Schools usually charge a small fee.
  • Application Fee: This fee is used to make sure applicants are serious about attending the school. Associate degree application fees are generally small.

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Educational Paths for Online Accounting Associate Programs

Many students who finish an associate in accounting eventually pursue a bachelor’s degree. Some job positions require a bachelor’s degree, and many states require a bachelor’s level of education in order to qualify for the certified public accountant exam. A bachelor’s degree can make you more competitive on the job market and is required for an advanced degree.

  • Accounting: A bachelor’s in accounting will build upon an associate degree. It is likely you will have already taken some of the required courses.
  • Business Management: Students who want to work in leadership roles can benefit from a bachelor’s in business management. Business management builds upon knowledge of accounting and helps students develop new skills.
  • Economics: Knowledge of accounting can help inform students of the more practical side of an economics degree and develop valuable skills in the field.

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What Else Can I Expect From an Associate in Accounting Program?

While details vary from one program to the next, there are multiple factors to keep in mind while searching for a program. This section covers common courses, how long your program might take, and tuition cost.

Courses in an Associate in Accounting Program

Every associate in accounting degree covers similar concepts, though topics are often presented in different courses with varying titles. The list below is not exhaustive, but will give you an idea of the classes you’ll be expected to take throughout your program.

  • Principles of Accounting: Among the initial classes in the degree, this course introduces the basic concepts of accounting, allowing you to build on concepts over the course of your degree. You’ll discuss how accounting fits within the larger context of business and economics overall, and the kinds of tasks you’ll be expected to perform as an accountant.
  • Business Logic and Ethics: This course teaches the logic behind common business decisions and practices, as well as business ethics. Students discuss the importance of ethics, how ethics impact decisions, and how to maintain ethics in the workforce.
  • Payroll Accounting: In this course you’ll discuss the basics of payroll, including calculating, processing, and ensuring employees are paid correctly. You’ll learn how payroll expenses are reported for tax purposes, both for a business and employees.
  • Principles of Economics: This course discusses how different economies work together. Students study microeconomics and macroeconomics to see how businesses fit into local, state, federal, and even global economies.
  • Accounting Applications: Modern accounting uses software to help streamline the accounting process and allow accountants to check accuracy. In these courses, you will learn how to use the most popular programs and gain practical experience.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Associate in Accounting?

An associate degree in accounting typically requires 90 credits and about two years to complete. There are some factors that can affect this length, for instance, attending part time can lengthen program duration. Taking more than a full course load or summer courses can speed up the process, since the two-year timeline assumes that students take the summer off.

Online programs sometimes offer accelerated or intensive courses which allow students to do the same amount of work in less time. Some programs also allow students to count certain high school courses or work experience as college credit. These options are not as common for on-campus programs, though they do exist.

How Much Is an Associate in Accounting?

For the the 2015-2016 academic year, an associate degree costed about $21,000. Costs vary by school, depending on a number of factors. Living on campus tends to be more expensive, while taking online courses can save money. The largest factor is tuition, which can change yearly at many institutions. Tuition rates are set by each school. Fees, books, and other costs should also be factored into tuition.

Finding housing off-campus can make a significant difference in the overall cost of a degree. Completing your degree quickly will not necessarily reduce the cost of tuition, but it can mean spending less money on housing. Applying for financial aid options, such as federal student loans or private scholarships, can help the cost of your degree. Many schools offer financial aid packages, scholarships, and financial aid departments specifically to help students.

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Professional Organizations in Accounting

Joining one or more professional organizations can help your career, even before you finish your associate in accounting. These organizations can help you advance your career by providing educational resources, professional development, networking, job search assistance, and even financial aid during college. Many of these benefits can help you during school as well, by connecting you with established professionals who can provide guidance or mentorship.

  • American Association of Finance & Accounting: Founded in 1978, the AAFA represents headhunting firms that are always searching for new, talented accountants.
  • Beta Alpha Psi: This honor society benefits accounting students and those in related fields by providing networking opportunities, connections to outside partners, and even financial aid options to help students succeed.
  • Accounting & Financial Women’s Alliance: The AFWA has been supporting and promoting women in the financial sector since 1938 through knowledge sharing, networking, and professional development.

What Are the Best Associate in Accounting Programs?

The following associate degrees in accounting are among the nation’s top-rated accounting programs, measured against our proven methodology of stringent standards such as quality of curriculum, reputation, and graduation rates, among others. Here are the top campus associate in accounting programs for 2018.

RankLogoSchool NameTypeAccreditationDescriptionQuick Facts

Ilisagvik College

Public NCCU
Narl Facility
Barrow, AK
(907) 852-3333

Ilisagvik is a two-year community college serving coastal northern Alaska, an area populated largely by members of the Inupiat tribe. All program curricula is built on a foundation of Inupiat cultural values, espousing respect for nature and each other. Ilisagvik’s associate of applied science in business degree program offers distance learners and traditional students a pathway to an accounting degree. Students in this program are introduced to fundamental accounting principles, financial reporting, industry-specific technology, and business ethics. Graduates are prepared for entry-level positions in business or transfer to a four-year university.

Distance learning at Ilisagvik is managed with the MyCampus learning management system. Whether a class is taught synchronously or asynchronously depends on instructor preference; classes that require synchronized attendance are delivered through Elluminate. Some online courses require on-campus attendance. Tutoring is available on-campus and through chat, email, or phone.


Mitchell Technical Institute

1800 E. Spruce Street
Mitchell, SD
(605) 995-3025

Mitchell Tech is a regional community college serving rural South Dakota. This accredited two-year institution offers 30 career-readiness programs online, on-campus, or hybrid. The school’s annual enrollment of fewer than 1,500 students allows the school to maintain a student-to-faculty ratio of 13:1. Students interested in accounting can earn an AAS in accounting. Students must earn at least 67 credits to complete the program. Courses include principles of accounting, introduction to business, business math, and cost accounting. Graduates of this program have fundamental knowledge in accounting principles, intermediate accounting skills, and business acumen. They’ll also learn leadership, problem solving, marketing, and advertising skills. This program is available on campus, or hybrid. Mitchell tech does not charge additional tuition for out-of-state residents. Graduates of the program have a 96% job placement rate and are prepared for position as billing clerks, office managers, and bookkeepers.


Central Piedmont Community College

Public SACS/CC
1201 Elizabeth Avenue
Charlotte, NC
(704) 330-2722

Central Piedmont offers educational options across six campuses in Charlotte, North Carolina. Its Central campus offers an accounting associate degree program. A diploma option is also available. The associate of applied science in accounting takes about two-years to complete and is designed to prepare its graduates for transfer into a four-year university. The program’s 67-credit hour curriculum delivers a foundation in liberal arts, supplemented by an introduction to business and accounting fundamentals. Introductory accounting courses lean towards corporate skill sets such as business taxation and cost accounting.

Central Piedmont offers online and evening course options, but the accounting degree has on-campus requirements. Distance learning at CPCC is conducted through Moodle or Blackboard, and study is usually asynchronous. CPCC’s program provides CPA exam eligibility for students who already hold a bachelor’s in accounting to fulfill the 30-hour exam education requirement in North Carolina.


Southwest Wisconsin Technical College

1800 Bronson Blvd
Fennimore, WI
(608) 822-3262

Southwest Tech, based in rural Fennimore, Wisconsin, has a history of providing career training and education to residents. Its extensive list of certificate and associate degree programs includes an associate of applied sciences in accounting, offered in traditional on-campus classes or online. This accredited two-year program is designed to prepare graduates for immediate employment in junior positions in accounting and business. Students in this accounting associate degree program explore current business technology, basic accounting skills, and accounting principle and theory. Courses include business law, accounting systems and procedure, and managerial accounting. Southwest Tech manages its courses with the Schoology learning management platform. Graduates are ready for careers in bookkeeping, cost accounting, tax accounting, and more. Southwest Tech has transfer agreements with 15 Wisconsin colleges, including Capella University, Franklin University, and five University of Wisconsin Institutions.


Eastern Idaho Technical College

Public NCCU
1600 S 25th E
Idaho Falls, ID

Eastern Idaho Tech educates students across nine counties in the Idaho Falls area. It’s a two-year institution focused on career readiness and technical training. It offers 45 programs, including the associate of applied science in accounting degree. This program is intended to prepare students for entry-level bookkeeping positions. Students will learn advanced computer skills and an accounting knowledge base. Students who successfully complete the program are proficient in accounting transactions such as payroll, financial statements, income taxes, and cost accounting. The degree can be completed in four-semesters. An applied accounting clerk intermediate technical certificate is available which can be completed in two-semesters. During the course of the program, students qualify for professional bookkeeping certification. EITC conducts its online courses through Blackboard; study is synchronous or asynchronous, depending on instructor preference. The school provides counseling, advising, and financial aid.


Northwest Iowa Community College

603 W Park St
Sheldon, IA
(712) 324-5061

Located southeast of Sioux Falls in rural Sheldon, Iowa, Northwest Iowa Community College is a two-year institution that offers career readiness training and associate degree programs to residents of the area. NICC’s Associate of Applied Science in Accounting program is intended for students who plan to work immediately upon graduation. This associate degree in accounting equips its graduates with the skills necessary to perform bookkeeping and general accounting, including courses in payroll accounting, cost accounting and advanced spreadsheets. Classes may be taken online, face-to-face, or in a hybrid mix of the two formats. Distance education at NICC is delivered via the eCollege learning management system, and learning is generally asynchronous. Online study follows a semester calendar and matches campus-based curricula. Distance learners are well-supported through NICC’s partnership with the Iowa Community College Online Consortium; student services include academic advising, job placement, tutoring services, a learning center and a digital library.


White Mountains Community College

2020 Riverside Road
Berlin, NH
(603) 752-1113

Located in Berlin, New Hampshire, White Mountains is a fully accredited, two-year institution focused on career training and readiness. WMCC offers 23, two-year degree programs, including a 69-credit associate degree in accounting. WMCC’s accounting program is geared towards students who seek immediate employment or who plan to transfer to a four-year university. Students learn accounting principles and theories, business management skills, and accounting technologies. While not required for admission, strong mathematics skills are considered useful in this program. This associate degree in accounting can be earned completely online. Courses include financial accounting, business logic and ethics, and technical writing. WMCC manages its distance education courses with the Blackboard learning management system, and all study is asynchronous. The degree can be earned in about four-semesters. Student support services include academic support, Blackboard’s SmartThinking tutoring service, a digital library, and technical assistance.


South Georgia Technical College

Public SACS/CC
900 South GA Tech Parkway
Americus, GA
(229) 931-2394

South Georgia Tech serves six counties in the southwest corner of the state. The school offers career training and certificate and associate degree programs in over 200 areas. South Georgia offers residential accommodations to its local students. The college’s associate of applied science in accounting degree can be earned online or on-campus. This program is designed for students to obtain entry-level business positions after graduation. This accounting associate degree allows some customization based on career interests. The program’s curriculum consists of a liberal arts core and an introduction to the fundamentals of accounting procedures. Remaining credits are picked from a list of electives that explore topics in the business world. An internship may be conducted for class credit, but is not required for the degree. SGTC delivers its distance education courses through Blackboard, and all study is asynchronous.


Vance-Granville Community College

Public SACS/CC
200 Community College Road
Henderson, NC
(252) 492-2061

Located between the Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, metro area and the Virginia state line, Vance-Granville delivers education to residents in four counties. This fully accredited community college emphasizes career readiness, offering certificate, diploma, and associate degree programs that are geared toward immediate employment. Students can earn the associate in applied science in accounting degree in traditional classes or in a hybrid format. This associate degree in accounting curriculum begins with a liberal arts foundation that is supplemented by skills training in accounting procedure. Courses explore business technology, payroll, income tax, cost accounting, and business finance; elective courses are chosen from business classes. VGCC’s online classes are delivered through the Moodle learning management platform, and learning is asynchronous. Its participation with the Southern Regional Education Board’s Electronic Campus provides extensive class selections and support services to distance learners.


Moraine Park Technical College

235 N National Avenue
Fond du Lac, WI
(920) 929-2483

Moraine Park Tech is a large community college based in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. With three campuses and two regional satellite locations, MPTC serves more than 15,000 students each year. The college’s associate of applied science in accounting degree program can be completed online, on-campus, or in a hybrid format. This two-year program prepares graduates for further study at four-year university or immediate employment in business. Core courses explore Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, corporate accounting, taxation, managerial accounting, and current accounting technology. Soft skills essential to business, such as communications and knowledge of ethics, are also emphasized. MPTC delivers its distance education courses through the Canvas educational management system, and learning is asynchronous. Online courses are delivered in blocks of four, six, eight, or 16 weeks. Distance learners at MPTC are not charged out-of-state tuition fees.