Associate’s degree in accounting program information

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Discover the benefits of accounting careers

Strong mathematical skills, attention to detail, and an interest in how the financial world works. Do you find yourself in this description? If your answer is yes, then maybe you should consider a career in accounting.

The current economic situation, globalization, and a complex business environment are all factors that have led to an increase in demand for accounting professionals. Accounting is a good career according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which states that jobs for accountants and auditors have a projected 4% growth over the next decade.

A great start towards having a career in accounting is to earn a degree. And if, let’s say, the duration and cost of a Bachelor of Arts in Accounting are holding you back, it’s worth knowing that there are other options available. A great example is an Associate’s degree in Accounting. Earning it takes two years, and holding one increases your employment chances in the field of accounting.

Why earn an associate’s degree in accounting?

An associate’s degree (A.A.) can be your fast track to employment in the accounting field. It usually takes half the time to earn an associate’s compared to a bachelor’s in accounting, and the costs associated would also be substantially lower. Plus, holders of an associate’s degree have strong knowledge of accounting principles and can start their accountant career. With an associate’s degree you will qualify for entry-level roles, like bookkeepers or accounting clerks. Check out the best associate in accounting programs.

About the degree

Earning an associate’s degree can be a move in the right direction if you want to learn accounting principles, start your career in this field, and accumulate less debt than you would by pursuing a bachelor’s degree. Also, if you want to progress in your education, an associate’s degree can represent a step towards transferring to a B.A. in accounting program.

Duration of studies

On average, you can earn an associate’s degree in Accounting in two years (four semesters) or a total of 60 credit hours. Note that those numbers can vary depending on the institution you choose. It’s also worth knowing that most institutions offering four-year bachelor’s degree programs allow you to enroll using the number of credit hours earned in your associate’s degree.

Cost of tuition

The cost of an associate’s degree in accounting varies significantly depending on the type of institution and program you choose. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in the 2017-2018 academic year you could pay on average an annual tuition fee from $8,928 at a public community college up to $35,074 at private universities.

Types of associate’s degrees

Institutions offer different types of associate’s degree in accounting programs. Your option should be determined by what you want to focus on more in your studies and what career path you want.

Associate’s of Arts (A.A.)

Courses in this program will be centered on general studies, with a focus on social sciences and a wider choice of courses. You can use your credits to enroll in a bachelor’s program. As a specialist in this field, you put together and analyze a commercial entity’s balance sheets and financial statements.

Associate’s of Sciences (A.S.)

This type of program focuses more on mathematics and science studies. You can use your credits to enroll in a bachelor’s program.

Associate’s in Applied Sciences (A.A.S.)

In an A.A.S. program, you’ll only have courses on accounting topics, such as bookkeeping training or spreadsheet data processing. There are usually no general studies requirements in A.A.S. programs, and in most cases, you cannot transfer credits earned here towards a B.A. in accounting.

Entry requirements

Most institutions that offer associate’s degree programs typically require that you have a high school diploma and/or have passed a General Educational Development (GED) test with a minimum GPA score of 2.0. Some organizations may also ask you to prove your math knowledge and writing skills before courses start. Programs offered by a community college usually have no admission requirements.

Earn an associate’s degree online

If you are already working full time, attending daily classes on campus can be a challenge. Fortunately, many institutions offer online or hybrid associate degree programs. Hybrid courses include both face-to-face interaction and online classes.

Choosing to earn your accounting degree online is a good alternative if your schedule does not allow you to attend courses on campus regularly. You’ll work either on textbooks or using eBooks and receive academic support via email, phone, or web portals.

While duration, curriculum, or cost of online or hybrid associate programs do not differ significantly from conventional ones, it’s important to choose a program that is accredited at state or national level.


Courses in an associate’s degree program in accounting will focus on helping you learn the fundamentals in areas like financial analysis, record keeping, auditing and taxation practices, and business management skills. You’ll learn everything you would need to know to enter the accounting work field.

Even if course name, duration, and focus can vary from one school to another, most programs will provide essential knowledge on the following topics:

Introduction to accounting

You’ll learn the primary principles, practices, and procedures in the field of accounting.

Generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP)

You’ll gain a general understanding of standards, processes, and procedures widely used in the accounting profession.

Cost accounting

This course teaches you the fundamentals of cost accounting, focusing on how it influences financial planning and analysis.


You’ll learn the fundamental laws and best practices in economy and their effect on how commercial organizations work.


This course teaches payroll principles, such as reading and preparing financial statements or balance sheets.


You’ll learn about taxation principles and the impact of tax laws and regulations on how various organizations function.

Managerial accounting

This course teaches you methods of interpreting an organization’s financial performance.

Ethics in accounting

You’ll learn the principles and practices of ethical behavior in business environments.

Principles of financial accounting

This course offers you the main information needed on how to record, organize, and interpret various financial information.

Information software and technology

This course teaches you how to prevent and identify information security risks and use modern technology and software systems in accounting.

What you can do with an associate’s degree in accounting?

After you earn an associate’s degree, you can transfer your credit hours to a bachelor’s in accounting, which will increase your employment options. A bachelor’s degree will provide you with in-depth knowledge of accounting principles and practices, and let you dive deeper into the topics you studied in your associate’s program. In choosing between an associate’s and a bachelor’s program, compare curriculum, duration, cost, and the potential career options both study paths offer.

A great way to advance in your career is to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), which is the certification employers tend to request most often when they hire accountants. The CPA exam requires 150 credit hours to complete, 90 more than an associate’s degree, and around 30 more than most bachelor’s programs. That’s a reason why a high number of people choose to earn a Master’s in Accounting, which is widely considered to be the highest level of education in accounting.

Start your accounting career with an associate’s degree

An Associate’s may take half the number of credit hours to complete as a bachelor of Arts in Accounting does, but that makes it more affordable in terms of cost. Another benefit of choosing an Associate’s degree in accounting is that you can have quicker access to several employment opportunities, such as becoming a bookkeeper, an Account Payable Clerk, a Payroll Administrator, or an Accounting Assistant.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that in May 2019, on average, bookkeepers and auditing clerks earned $41,230 per year. Even if BLS projects a six percent decline in demand for such roles from 2019 to 2029, they continue to be essential in most commercial organizations.

Bookkeepers are in charge of the financial records of a business. They record financial transactions, prepare, and create financial statements or track accounts.

Accounts payable clerks perform entry-level accounting processes for commercial organizations, such as creating and keeping financial records and reports.

Payroll administrators usually work closely with finance and human resource departments. In this position, you perform employee-related activities, such as keeping administrative records, tracking hours, or distributing paychecks.

As an accounting assistant you work with accountants, perform general office tasks, and bookkeeping activities.

American Accounting Association (AAA)

The AAA gathers under one roof an extensive community of accountants from all walks of life, including the academic field.

National Society of Accountants (NSA)

NSA is a society with a core mission of helping tax and accounting professionals further their knowledge.

American Association of Finance and Accounting (AAFA)

The AAFA connects accounting organizations, firms, and professionals throughout the United States.

Association of Chartered Accountants in the United States (ACAUS)

If you are an Associate Chartered Accountant or a Chartered Professional Accountant in the United States, this is the organization representing interests of professionals like you.

National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA)

NASBA acts like a forum for the 55 State Boards of Accountancy in the US, which administer the Uniform CPA Examination. In partnership with AICPA, NASBA facilitates CPA examination for professionals oversees.

European Accounting Association (EAA) – Founded in 1978, EEA is an academic organization that supports Europe’s accounting community through research, education opportunities and knowledge sharing.

Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB)

FASB is an independent organization that sets the standards for public and private organizations following Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) in the field of financial accounting.