How to Earn an Associate’s Degree in Accounting Online – Forbes Advisor

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Earning an associate’s degree in accounting can be the first step toward a career in accounting, preparing you for entry-level positions in the field or pursuing more advanced studies.

From traditional in-person programs to online associate degrees in accounting, study models are available for all learners and learning styles. This article discusses key factors to consider before starting an associate degree in accounting, including potential career paths.

What Does a Degree in Accounting Involve?

An associate degree can equip you with foundational knowledge and career development skills that apply to many types of accounting jobs. Most accounting degree programs include both general education courses and major-specific courses. The study programs provide an overview of the fundamental financial, economic and business concepts you need to know to start your career or further your education.

Associate degrees typically involve around 60 credits, which take around two years to complete.

Associate Degree in Accounting Admission Requirements

Admission requirements for an associate degree in accounting vary by school and program. Typical requirements include the following:

  • At least 18 years old
  • A high school diploma or GED certificate

Some programs may set minimum GPA requirements or require applicants to submit standardized test scores. Some may also require students to take prerequisite courses such as high school algebra, precalculus, or calculus. Many programs allow students to complete these prerequisites while continuing their education.

Types of Accounting Associate Degrees

Each type of accounting associate degree offers a different focus and curriculum. Depending on your school and program, you can choose from the following degree types.

  • Associate of Arts (AA) in Accounting
  • Associate of Science (AS) in Accounting
  • Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Accounting

During an AA accounting degree program, students typically learn about business strategies, tax law, and business ethics. An AA is a liberal arts degree, so your general education courses may include English, history, and social studies.

AS degrees typically focus on business and technology. Topics typically include business strategies, financial planning, management techniques, business ethics, marketing, and payroll.

An AAS in accounting covers fundamental accounting principles, analytical and problem-solving skills, and topics such as math, tax and business law, business administration, and business communications.

In-Person vs. Hybrid vs. Online Accounting Associate Degree Programs

Before choosing an accounting degree program, be sure to determine the delivery format that best suits your circumstances and preferences. Prospective students can typically choose from in-person, online, and hybrid programs.

In-person programs typically take place at a set physical location and have set class times. Full-time students who prefer structured face-to-face lessons may prefer this option.

Online associate accounting degrees tend to offer more flexibility. Distance learning programs often attract students who work full time, have busy schedules, or are unable to travel to campus. Online programs can be tailored to your pace, but some schools use virtual classrooms with set meeting times to mirror the structure of in-person classes. Online programs are often cost-effective options because they eliminate travel costs.

The hybrid model combines in-person and online learning. This allows students to interact occasionally with their classmates and instructors while providing the opportunity for them to spend time at work or with family.

Courses in an associate degree program in accounting

Curricula, courses, and course titles for associate degrees in accounting vary by school and program. Below are some course titles and topics that are typically included in associate degree accounting programs.

Financial Accounting

In financial accounting courses, students learn to apply theoretical knowledge and concepts related to financial accounting. These may include evaluating financial performance, interpreting the financial structure, resolving management issues, and preparing and analyzing basic financial statements. Course topics typically include inventory, fixed assets, current and long-term liabilities, equity, and cash.

Fundamentals of corporate finance

Business fundamentals course overview of fundamental financial concepts and terms. Students learn to read financial statements and use accrual ratios and performance measures. Topics include financial leverage, capital structure, cost of capital, budgeting, and capital asset management. Other course topics may include funding sources, balance sheet analysis, cost sheets, stock market, technical indicators, and economics.

Management accounting

Management accounting courses provide an overview of organizational accounting budgeting, costing, contribution margin, cost and profit volume analysis, process costs, time value of money and cost drivers and allocation. Students acquire the basic knowledge and skills needed to plan and oversee business operations and apply accounting data.

Introduction to Marketing

Introductory Marketing courses explore fundamental marketing principles, concepts, and practices to equip students with a framework that informs their marketing strategies. Students learn marketing data, customer segmentation, consumer behavior, product development and positioning to maximize profits.

Careers with an Associate’s Degree in Accounting

An associate’s degree in accounting opens the door to a variety of accounting careers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that business and finance occupations, which include many accounting roles, are expected to grow 7% — slightly faster than average — from 2021 to 2031.

Below are some of the job titles you can pursue with an associate degree in accounting.

accounting assistant

Average annual salary: About $43,000
Job description: Accounting assistants perform a variety of clerical and administrative tasks that provide support to accounting departments. Their duties typically include preparing budgets and expense reports, preparing invoices for employers and clients, and recording financial transactions. Accounting assistants manage communication with customers and vendors, participate in audits, resolve discrepancies, verify facts, and perform other duties as needed.

Financial Planning Associate

Average annual salary: About $52,000
Job description: Financial Planning Associates provide technical support and customer service to financial planners, advisors and other partners in their organizations. They help clients prepare plans and determine their financial goals. Financial planning associates advise clients on areas such as cash flow, savings, investments and debt management. These professionals make recommendations to ensure their financial goals are met.

payroll specialist

Median annual salary: $47,610
Job description: Payroll specialists typically work in human resources departments of organizations. They are primarily responsible for processing payroll and managing budgets. These professionals compile payroll data, including bonuses, deductions and overtime. Payroll specialists create payroll reports for management, prepare and deliver payroll orders, and communicate any discrepancies in an employee’s pay.


Median annual salary: $45,560
Projected growth rate (2021-2031): -5%
Job description: Accountants create and maintain records of financial transactions – including expenses, purchases, sales revenue, invoices and payments – of businesses or organizations. These professionals record financial data and transactions in the proper day ledger, including general ledgers, vendor ledgers, and customer ledgers. These are used to create balance sheets and income statements.

Accounting Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to get an associate degree in accounting?

It usually takes two years to earn an associate’s degree in accounting. Some schools offer accelerated programs that allow learners to graduate in just one year.

Can you become an accountant without a degree?

In most cases, no. You cannot become a certified public accountant (CPA) without a degree. CPA requirements require applicants to have a bachelor’s degree.

Are accounting majors in demand?

Accounting is essential to the operations of any business, regardless of its industry. This results in a constant demand for professionals with accounting knowledge and skills. The BLS predicts that jobs for accountants and auditors will grow 6% from 2021 to 2031.

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