Whether you’re looking for a quick jump into a career, or something to get you into an internship while you finish your bachelor’s, an accounting associate's degree is the best place to start. You’ll learn all the basics, from daily journal entries and best practices to accounting ethics. These fast-track programs usually take 18 months to 2 years to complete, after which you can apply for a wide variety of entry-level positions in the field. While you won’t have access to the highest level of certifications or positions, this degree will give you a boost into the accounting career you’re looking for.
Business Degrees & Career Paths
- Less time in school — Typically, an associate degree in most disciplines will require that you spend between 18 and 24 months in school
- Fewer credit hours to complete — You’ll complete between 60 and 90 credit hours, depending on the community college or technical school you choose
- You’ll gain a sufficient amount of knowledge for a good accounting career — once you graduate, you’ll be ready to work in a business
- The position you’re interested in may not require a 4-year degree — Work your way up into a managerial position with experience once you’ve earned your degree
- You don’t have to wait for four years to begin working in your chosen career
You may be weighing your options about the degree level you’ll soon be choosing. Use the following pros and cons so you make the decision that’s best for you. Pros:
- Certain accountancy careers won’t allow an AAS to do the work — CPAs are required to hold, at minimum, a bachelor’s degree in accounting
- Having an AAS may make it hard for you to move into management — If you plan to work as a CFO, you’ll need a master’s degree or higher
- Having an AAS means you won’t be able to do some accounting applications — evaluating different issues in accounting requires a more in-depth education
- Your salary will be limited with an AAS — If you have a bachelor’s, master’s, or higher, then your annual median salary will be higher
- You may be chafing at your professional limitations — Holding a bachelor’s degree or higher may give you more options
- You may not be hired over other competitors — In most new fields, those who have more knowledge (e.g., higher education) may have the first opportunity to do the work
If you have career aspirations that reach beyond an associate degree, then you may not be able to satisfy them without earning a higher degree.
Certificate vs. Associates
An associate’s degree (Associate in Arts or Associate in Applied Science) gives you more material to learn so that you’ll be prepared to move into a four-year program, if you choose to do so. With this option, you’ll take general education courses, as well as your core courses for your accounting major.
You’ll also be ready to transition into a four-year program in business administration, economics, accounting, financial services, management, international business, or marketing.
Consider a certificate in accounting to be more of a workforce credential. In a certificate program, you’ll be learning new accounting and bookkeeping skills that mean you’ll be able to do the work once hired.
What Accounting Associate Degrees are Available?
When you enroll into an accounting program in a community college, you want to know what degrees you may earn. Some will be Associate’s degrees and others will be Certificates.
- Associate in Business - General Requirements:
This degree describes a business degree that satisfies general requirements. It is designed for students who want to transfer to a four-year university. If this is you, then majors in the four-year universities will work with your already completed courses.
- Associate in Applied Science (AAS), Accounting:
This degree is also available as an Accounting Paraprofessional Proficiency Certificate.
- Associate of Applied Arts & Sciences - Accounting:
This degree gives you professional skills that enable you to find employment in accounting. It also has a Certificate of Proficiency Accounting, which is a part of the AAAS degree.
- Associate in Applied Science (AAS), Accounting Paraprofessional:
You gain the bookkeeping and accounting skills needed to work as a clerk to manage financial records of your employer. You can also earn a Certificate of Completion in Accounting.
- Associate in Business, Bookkeeping Certificate and Associate in Technical Arts Degree, Accounting:
You learn about business administration, finance, accounting, management, and marketing. You can transfer to a four-year university with the Associate in Business.
You must be able to demonstrate a 2.5 GPA. If your GPA is lower, you should be able to prove the potential for academic success. You’ll also need to demonstrate an aptitude for academic success in an online learning platform and show the ability to contribute in a positive way to the college community.
You may be required to write a short essay, answering three to four essay questions. This is where you should make the effort to shine. You’ll send in your official high school transcripts or GED scores and, if you have a professional resume, submit this as well. Include current and past employment and work experience.
How Long Does It Take to Earn an Associate Degree in Accounting?
Enrolling into a community college or trade school to earn an associate degree in accounting won’t take very long. Because a good associate program in accountancy should provide you with a well-rounded education, you should expect to take several general education classes before you move into the specialized core accounting courses. You should gain a strong foundation and a wide knowledge base from your general education classes. You should also take accounting classes that will give you the skills you need to work in an accounting office. Your accounting major will cover four semesters or two academic years before you’re ready to graduate.
Potential Careers in Accounting with an Associates
Even with only a two-year accounting degree, you’re going to earn a good salary. Your knowledge and job role will be highly valued in any organization, so you will be well-compensated.
- Accounting Clerk:
Median salary is $38,000. You will work with all ledger accounts (accounts payable/receivable, cash, and others). You will maintain and make needed adjustments to records or logs and verify and reconcile bank statements or department records. You’ll balance entries and make corrections, sort documents, post debits and credits, then verify amounts and codes for accuracy.
Median salary is $41,000. You’ll work closely with a company, helping them to make the best economic decisions for their business. You should know QuickBooks or another computerized accounting program. You’ll also work with Microsoft Excel. You’ll help employees, making salary and benefit changes. You’ll be responsible for creating reports periodically.
- Office Manager:
Median salary is $47,000. You’re responsible for running an entire office. You’ll need to have excellent problem-solving and communication skills in order to coordinate projects, activities, and employees. You’re responsible for office and/or department operations; you’ll review budgets, maintain databases, and records.
- Auditing Clerk:
Median salary is $42,000. You’re responsible for ensuring that your employer’s financial matters are well-controlled. You’ll look over all transactions from the different departments and ensure that the financial reporting and other financial transactions have been done right. You’ll also carry out various accounting functions (counting, balancing revenues and expenses, and auditing of the different departments in the company).
Options to Advance
If you wish to advance in this career, you’ll need to return to school and earn your bachelor’s degree in accounting. After graduation, you’ll be able to work in private companies as a staff accountant. If you want to become a CPA, you will need a bachelor’s degree, at minimum. Look for a bachelor’s program with a CPA track.
Once you become a CPA, you’ll have more responsibilities, such as fiduciary responsibility; holding the legal power and duty to act on behalf of your clients. You’ll have the specialized knowledge to do a client’s taxes and, if necessary, represent them in front of the IRS if they are audited.
You can also choose to obtain higher accounting degrees; a master’s or even a doctorate in accounting. Graduating with your master’s degree in accounting allows you to specialize in financial accounting, taxation, or auditing. Earning your PhD in accounting allows you to ascend to senior or executive management positions.
Best Associate of Science in Accounting Programs
Northern Virginia Community College
Alexandria - Loudoun - Annandale - Manassas - Woodbridge - Reston, Virginia
Opened in 1964, Northern Virginia Community College has offered educational services to students. It is the second-largest community college in the United States, enrolling more than 75,000 students, as one of the most internationally diverse campuses. It employs 2,600 faculty and staff.
- Associate of Applied Science AAS in Accounting
Alpena Community College Associate Degrees
Alpena Community College was founded in 1952, offering its classes at Alpena High School as a part of the K-14 school district. Its first class consisted of 23 students who graduated in 1954. ACC’s campus was established in 1957 after philanthropist Jesse H. Besser donated 23 acres of land for the junior college campus.
- Associate in Applied Science (AAS) in Accounting
Washington State Community College Associate Degrees
WSCC has been educating college students for more than 45 years. It is committed to helping its community grow into the future, providing educational services, workforce training and development, community service, and cultural enrichment. WSCC focuses on offering smaller class sizes, encouraging each student to work hard and jump-start their own success.
- Associate of Applied Business (AAB) in Accounting
Delaware County Community College Associate Degrees
Delaware County Community College was founded in 1967, expanding to offer services to more than 28,000 students who live and work in Delaware and Chester Counties. The school has five major locations and offers 33 associate degrees, 33 certificate programs, and 17 transfer degree programs.
- Associate in Applied Science (AAS) in Accounting
- Accounting (Professional), Certificate
Oakland Community College Associate Degrees
Bloomfield Hills, MI
OCC offers the lowest tuition in the metro Detroit area, costing students less than 2 years at a state university. Students graduate with career fields they will be able to market and use to find gainful employment. Class sizes are kept to 25 students or less.
- Associate in Business Administration with Concentration in Accounting (ACC-ABA)
- General Accounting (ACC-GA-CT)
Traditional Schools Offering an AS in Accounting
Colorado Technical University Associate Degrees
Colorado Springs and Aurora (Denver area), Colorado
CTU is a technically-oriented community college, offering exposure to advanced technology to its students. It offers students the opportunity to study on-campus, online, or by using a hybrid option. CTU faculty mentors and guides students to grow to their fullest potential.
- Associate of Science (AS) in Accounting
Foothill College Associate Degrees
Los Altos, California
Foothill College was founded in January 1957, with its first classes opening in mid-September 1958. At Foothills’ founding, a goal of offering a high level of innovation and quality was established. Ever since then, students have benefited from the dedicated faculty and high quality of education being offered.
- Associate of Arts (AA) in Accounting
Atlanta Technical College Associates Degrees
Atlanta College has been at the leading edge of workforce development, which allows students to choose and pursue careers in several career fields and industries. After its founding in 1967, the college has maintained a commitment to transform communities and lives through its vibrant educational offerings.
- Associate of Applied Science in Accounting
Little Falls – Newark – Paramus – Woodbridge - Woodland Park (New Jersey) - Midtown Manhattan – NYC – Brooklyn - White Plains, NY
Berkley College strives to prepare its students for both personal and professional success. Offering career-focused certificate and degree programs, the school focuses on in-demand educational programs. Today, it hosts more than 7,000 students in its New Jersey and New York campuses, as well as online.
- Associate of Science, Business Administration-Accounting
Bay de Noc Community College Associates Degrees
Upper Peninsula Bay, Michigan
Bay College, as it is informally known, has established a strong reputation for superior teaching and abundant learning. Its 150-acre campus provides an education to more than 5,000 students, including bachelor’s degree and master’s degree students.
- Certificate in Accounting
- Associate in Applied Science in Accounting