Accounting Career and Degree Guide
Associate's Degrees in Accounting
Accounting is a fast-growing and valuable career field across the United States. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statics (BLS), growth of up to 10% is expected in all accounting fields by the year 2026. If you have strong organizational skills and are interested in math, economics, and finances, a career in accounting might be a great fit.
One of the quickest ways to begin this career is to earn an associate's degree in accounting. With this degree, you'll gain the knowledge and skills you need to work as an entry-level professional, and also gain credits you can transfer to a bachelor's degree later on.
What Is an Associate's Degree in Accounting?
An associate's degree in accounting can open the door to many entry-level roles in the accounting field. You can find associate's programs at community colleges, technical schools, and universities around the nation, which can prepare you to work in an accounting role in as little as 2 years.
AA in accounting
An Associate of Arts (AA) degree in accounting can be earned at many schools. You'll study business strategies, tax laws, financial planning, and ethical issues that impact finance and banking. Since this is a liberal arts degree, your general education courses will cover subjects such as:
- Social sciences
AS in accounting
An Associate of Science (AS) degree in accounting will give you
AAS in accounting
An Associate in Applied Science (AAS) will prepare you for roles in business and tax accounting. You might study bookkeeping and data management, and you'll learn how to use computer programs related to accounting on a professional level. Your degree will also have a focus on the problem-solving and analytical skills you'll need in your career.
Why Earn an Associate's Degree?
Earning an associate's degree can be a great stepping stone for many students. An associate's degree might be right for you if:
- You want to learn the skills you need to enter the workforce quickly
- You want to earn credits you can later transfer to a bachelor's degree
- You want to save money and acquire less debt
- You want to take practical courses that you can apply to your everyday work
- You want to learn about the latest and most advanced accounting technology
While an associate's degree is a great option for many students, keep in mind that your earning potential at the entry level might be less than your potential with a bachelor's degree. However, many students find that earning an associate's degree is still the right financial choice because they can gain employment more quickly and the degree costs much less.
What Jobs Can You Get with an Associate's Degree?
An associate's degree in accounting will allow you to begin working in many entry-level accounting positions. You might find roles in large corporations, banks, small business, government agencies, or private offices. Many jobs have a lot of growth potential and you might earn more responsibilities, a new title, and a higher salary after a few years in these roles. Common job titles are discussed in further detail below.
Accounting assistants work under the direction of certified public accountants (CPAs). In this role, you'll do administrative office work, talk to customers, and handle tasks such as bookkeeping and payroll. The BLS doesn't track salary data for accounting assistants specifically, however administrative assistants of all kinds earn an average annual wage of $36,920.
Tax preparers work with individuals or businesses to prepare income and other tax returns. They might work for large tax preparation firms or private offices. As a tax preparer, you'll help people sort through their finances, comply with tax laws, and find any possible deductions or credits. Tax preparers earn an average annual salary of $47,090, according to the BLS.
As a bookkeeping clerk, you'll be responsible for managing financial records within an organization. Your workday might include entering all the financial transactions processed by your company, checking them for accuracy, and maintaining any financial records or databases. According to BLS data, bookkeeping clerks earn an average annual wage of $ 41,110.
Payroll clerks handle important tasks such as overseeing the distribution of paychecks to employees. You'll also be responsible for keeping track of employee attendance, calculating wages, and keeping employee records. The BLS reports that payroll clerks across the country earn an average annual salary of $44,950.
Typical Degree Path in Accounting
Some people who graduate from associate's degree programs choose to enter the workforce right away. For other students, earning an associate's in accounting is a stepping stone to a bachelor's degree. Many schools design their associate's degree programs in a way that makes it easy to transfer credits and earn a 4-year bachelor's degree at a reduced cost.With an associate's degree, you might even be able to find a part-time accounting job that allows you to earn income at the same time as your work toward your bachelor's. With this path, you'll gain experience before you graduate, which could open up more opportunities in the future.
So, I can apply associate's degree credits to a bachelor's?
Yes, in most cases. The community college or technical school where you earn your associate's might even have relationships with local 4-year universities. Using these relationships, you'll be able to apply the maximum number of credits toward your bachelor's.
An important note is that your associate's degree must be from an accredited institution. If your school isn't accredited, most colleges and universities won't accept previous credits.
Academic Requirements for an Associate's in Accounting Degree
You'll need a high school diploma or GED to enter an associate's program. You might also need to take assessments of your math and writing skills. Depending on the results of your exams, your school could ask you to take some prerequisite courses before beginning your program.
Are there GPA requirements?
Generally, there aren't GPA requirements for associate's degrees. However, some schools might require that students with low GPAs, or low grades in certain subjects, take prerequisites before beginning their degrees.
Additionally, you might need to maintain a certain GPA to stay in your program or to keep any financial aid you've qualified for. At most schools, this will be a GPA of at least a 2.5. It's important to check the requirements of your program to make sure you stay on track.
Do you need to take the SAT?
No. You won't need to take the SAT for admission into an associate's degree program.However, you'll likely need to take the SAT or ACT if you're planning to pursue your bachelor's.
How Long Does It Take to Get an Accounting Degree?
In most cases, you'll be able to complete your associate's degree in 2 years if you're attending school full-time. Keep in mind that your degree might take longer if you're a part-time student or if you need to take any prerequisites.
Some schools also offer fast-track options that can allow you to earn your degree in as little as 1 year.
Associate's in Accounting Curriculum
In your associate's program, you'll learn about the basics of accounting, financial planning, taxation, and business management. You'll also study accounting tools and software and learn how to use them on the job. Some programs might offer internship or field placement opportunities. A field placement can allow you to gain valuable professional experience while you finish your studies.
Your core classes might vary depending on your school but, despite their differences, all accounting associate's degrees will provide with you with the basic knowledge you need to enter the field. Some core classes you can expect to take will cover topics such as:
- Cost accounting
- Financial accounting
- Business communication
- Accounting technology
Your degree will likely also require you to earn general education credits in subjects such as English and history. You might also study specialized accounting skills, depending on your program and concentration.
Associate's degree credits
An associate's degree in accounting will consist of between 60 and 65 semester credits, or 90 quarter credits.
Online Associate's Degree in Accounting
There are many schools that offer online associate's degrees in accounting. An online program might allow you to earn your degree on your own schedule and might better fit your busy lifestyle. Any online program that's accredited should provide you with the same career preparation as a traditional program.
How to Pick an Associate's Degree Program
Picking the right associate's degree program can ensure a strong start to your career. When you're exploring these options for your education, some important questions to ask are:
- Is this program accredited?
- Does this program have relationships with local colleges and universities?
- Will my credits from this program transfer to a bachelor's?
- What kinds of jobs do graduates of this program find?
- Are career placement services available?
- What are the qualifications of the faculty members?
- Are online classes available?
- Can I attend this program part-time?
- Is there financial aid available for this program?
Financial Aid for Accounting Students
Students pursuing an associate's degree in accounting have several financial aid options to consider. The first step toward receiving assistance is filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA determines the amount of federal loan or grant money you qualify for. The information from the FAFSA will then be sent to your school's financial aid office, where they'll use it to determine your eligibility for other scholarships, grants, or work-study programs.
Other sources of financial aid for accounting students might include:
- Merit-based scholarships
- Private foundation scholarships and grants
- Bank loans
- Employer reimbursement
Private financial aid may be granted to any student, but it's important to note that to qualify for any federal financial aid, your school must be accredited.
Student loan forgiveness
You might qualify for forgiveness on your federal student loans through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. This requires that you've made 120 qualifying monthly payments and that you've found full-time work at a nonprofit or government employer. You might also be able to apply for student loan deferment if you enter a bachelor's program after earning your associate's.
Professional Accounting Associations
Most accounting associations limit membership to CPAs who hold at least their bachelor's degree, but that doesn't mean there aren't organizations you can join with an associate's. The American Finance Association (AFA), for instance, is dedicated to financial and economic education and publishes an industry journal, offers networking opportunities, and provides access to job listings and recruiters.