Online Accounting Associate Degree Programs

The Most Affordable Paths & Career Potential in Accounting

Earning an accounting associate degree online allows graduates to explore many career and educational opportunities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), accounting professionals in entry-level roles can expect to bring in annual salaries of around $40,000.

Associate programs can prepare students for entry-level positions in the field, providing them with a solid knowledge base and the skill set needed to work toward bachelor's degree opportunities and beyond.

Quiz: Is An Online Accounting Associate Program Right for Me?

For those students trying to decide between an online associate degree in accounting or another related field, this quiz can help you understand the various details that set an accounting program apart. Find out if whether this degree program matches your college and career goals.

Q: Do you enjoy preparing financial records and statements, tax returns, audits, and statistics, over strategizing the ways financial information might affect the overall business direction?

A: If so, an online associate degree in accounting can help in every industry. Accounting positions are critical, as they enable companies to monitor and manage their expenses. You need an eye for detail and accuracy to prepare solid financial records, business accounts, and tax filings. Studying business administration might suit you if you enjoy analyzing business data and trends.

Q: Does a two-year degree program feel like the right study timeline?

A: With full-time study, most accredited online associate degree programs in accounting require two years or 60 credits worth of work. Online programs can save you valuable time, however, thanks to a more flexible learning environment. If you're on the fast track, explore colleges that offer accelerated accounting programs.

Part-time students can enjoy working at their own pace. While it may extend the timeframe, studying on nights and weekends might help enrollees to balance work and family commitments.

Q: Do you have prior credits to transfer?

A: Even if you haven't taken any college courses, you might want to check with an admissions advisor about transfer and experience credits. Obvious transfer credit opportunities are AP high school courses or college courses taken previously, but work and life experience credits may also apply. If you've served in the military or have other experience in the accounting field, you may be able to use that training for credit.

Q: Are you interested in eventually earning a bachelor's degree?

A: If not, you may wish to start your career with an associate degree in accounting to determine which educational and job opportunities fit best with your long-term goals.

If you're considering a role as a CPA or financial analyst, an online bachelor's degree may be a minimum requirement and provide the skills needed to explore career growth opportunities. An online bachelor's degree program in accounting enables a student to prepare and examine financial statements, ensuring that records are accurate and that taxes are paid correctly and on time.

What Will You Learn in an Online Associate Accounting Program?

During an online associate degree in accounting, each learner can develop a basic set of skills and knowledge needed to thrive in entry-level accounting positions. Along with career preparation, associate-level accounting programs can prepare students to pursue bachelor's degree opportunities after graduation and develop a more specialized set of skills in the field.

Specific coursework involved in associate programs varies by college or university, but students can expect to focus on similar concepts across programs. Common course topics include finance, managerial accounting, microeconomics, marketing, and federal taxes.

Common Classes and Coursework

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    Managerial Accounting: During the managerial accounting course, students can explore the ways they can use accounting information to help manage, plan, and control business activities. They review budgeting, cost-volume-profit analysis, performance evaluation using standard cost, product pricing, financial statement analysis, and differential analysis, focusing on all aspects of managerial accounting for organizations.
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    Finance: In the finance course, students can learn about the foundational aspects of corporate finance, including planning decisions, principles, financial concepts, and techniques. During their courses, enrollees can develop the tools they need to conduct financial planning and analysis, considering the time value of money, long-term financing, the capital budget process, and international capital markets.
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    Marketing: In marketing courses, degree-seekers can work to better understand commerce and its effects on society. The course reviews the role and nature of marketing through a global environment, touching on topics like buyer behavior, target marketing, and marketing concepts. Learners can focus on four main areas, including products and services, pricing, distribution, and promotion.
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    Microeconomics: Students in the microeconomics course can explore economic principles that affect the decisions of business managers and individual consumers. Learners can examine how cost structures for a company can affect its purchasing decisions.
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    Federal Tax: The federal tax course allows degree-seekers to examine the procedures used to interpret tax information on an individual federal tax basis. During the course, students can explore basic concepts of federal income taxation, including exclusions, gross income, deductions, exemptions, and credits.

Skills You Will Gain

During an associate of accounting program, students can develop the foundational skills and knowledge base needed to pursue entry-level positions in the accounting industry. Specific skills include financial record keeping, bookkeeping, payroll accounting, and preparing tax and financial statements. Most associate-level accounting programs combine business and accounting courses to expose students to all of the core concepts they need to thrive in the professional field. Accounting degree-seekers can explore concepts of managerial oversight and data processing.

In addition to building knowledge of core concepts in the accounting field, the associate degree program explores commonly used tools and software for the profession, including Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Excel; tax preparation software; and QuickBooks. Associate accounting programs focus on accounting practices, principles, and theories, along with management, ethics, economics, finance, and business law.

Associate-level accounting students can also focus on building their critical-thinking, communication, deductive-reasoning, computing, and mathematical skills. Accounting professionals at all levels should communicate effectively and function as a beneficial part of a team. They must also be able to identify problems and derive effective, useful solutions.

Average Degree Length

Associate degrees typically take students around two years to complete, depending on what type of enrollment they pursue. Part-time students take longer to earn a degree than those who choose full-time enrollment. Part-time students usually end up taking about three years to earn an associate degree, while full-time degree-seekers are closer to the two-year timeframe.

Some colleges and universities offer accelerated program formats, allowing learners to take more credits each semester to graduate sooner. Accelerated programs vary, but they can often allow students the chance to earn their degree in as little as one year. Students who work full-time jobs or have families might not be able to enroll in as many credits as those who do not have work or personal commitments.

Career Opportunities with an Associate Degree in Accounting

In the section below, students can review some of the most important factors to consider when deciding on an online associate in accounting program. First, they can review what career opportunities are available once they earn an associate degree, along with the salaries associated with those careers. Aspiring accounting professionals can also explore scholarship opportunities in this section.

Potential Careers and Salaries

Earning an accounting associate degree online allows professionals to consider a variety of career opportunities after graduation. Those interested in clerical duties can consider the bookkeeper role, in which they record and receive funds, along with maintaining spreadsheets and databases.

Graduates can also explore the payroll clerk role if they want to focus on wages, deductions, and overtime. An individual desiring a career focused on the tax industry can consider a role as a tax preparer or, if they want to work closely with accountants, work as an accounting assistant or an audit clerk.

Bookkeeper

In charge of receiving and recording vouchers, cash, and checks, bookkeepers create reports, including balance sheets and income statements. Bookkeepers use relevant industry software, along with databases and spreadsheets, to conduct their daily work activities.

Median Annual Salary: $40,240

Payroll Clerk

Payroll clerks compile and record employee payroll and time data to compute and post employees' wages and deductions. They focus on commission, time worked, and production.

Median Annual Salary: $45,050

Audit Clerk

Audit clerks manage their company's finances, including reviewing transactions across departments to ensure accuracy.

Median Annual Salary: $38,340

Accounting Assistant

Accounting assistants ensure that all relevant client information remains up-to-date. They perform billing-related duties, collect reports for insurance billings, and review outstanding claims.

Median Annual Salary: $40,045

Tax Preparer

Responsible for preparing tax returns for small businesses and individuals, tax preparers review all aspects of their clients' finances and apply any eligible deductions.

Median Annual Salary: $39,390

Five Accounting Scholarships to Apply For

Earning an accounting associate degree online can be expensive, depending on the tuition rates and structures of the college or university. Students can explore financial aid opportunities, including scholarships specific to the accounting field. Scholarships are awarded on merit-based or needs-based criteria, and students should review the requirements before applying.

National Society of Accountants Scholarship

Who Can Apply: One of the best scholarship opportunities for accounting students, the NSA provides funding to learners who maintain minimum 3.0 GPAs and demonstrate extensive work experience and community involvement.

Amount: $500-$2,200.

Apply for Scholarship

United Negro College Fund Undergraduate Scholarship Program

Who Can Apply: This program provides tuition assistance to members, along with networking and mentoring opportunities. Each applicant must hold a 2.7 minimum GPA and attend an accredited accounting program.

Amount: $5,000

Apply for Scholarship

ACFE Ritchie-Jennings Memorial Scholarship Program

Who Can Apply: An undergraduate student enrolled in at least nine credits each semester at an accredited accounting school can submit three letters of recommendation to apply for this scholarship.

Amount: $1,000-$10,000

Apply for Scholarship

AICPA/Accountemps Student Scholarship

Who Can Apply: This scholarship is awarded to graduate and undergraduate students pursuing a degree in accounting at accredited institutions. Each applicant must plan to pursue their CPA license and maintain a 2.0 GPA.

Amount: $10,000

Apply for Scholarship

Teachers of Accounting at Two-Year Colleges Scholarships

Who Can Apply: The TATYC scholarship awards funding to students planning to pursue a bachelor's degree in accounting. Each eligible applicant must be graduating from a two-year college.

Amount: $1,000

Apply for Scholarship

Educational Advancement in Accounting

In the section below, degree-seekers can explore everything they need to know about educational advancement opportunities in the accounting field. They can read about the option to transfer into a bachelor's program to understand the application requirements. Additionally, students can review what other advanced degree opportunities are available in the accounting field.

Should You Transfer to a Four-Year Degree Program?

Earning an associate degree in accounting exposes degree-seekers to the basic set of skills and knowledge they need to begin their accounting careers. In addition to entering the accounting profession, graduates who hold an associate degree can advance into four-year bachelor's degree programs. Some colleges and universities offer transfer programs that allow learners to transfer their associate credits into bachelor's degree options. Students can review transfer requirements with their advisors before considering their four-year programs.

What Degree Paths Should You Consider?

Accounting students can pursue several degree opportunities in the field. Beyond an associate program that provides students with the foundational skills they need to begin their careers, students can also consider bachelor's, master's, and doctoral programs to enhance their knowledge and skills, along with expanding their career opportunities.

Bachelor's Degree in Accounting Once they earn their associate degree, students can enroll in bachelor's programs to experience a more in-depth level of exposure to the accounting field. The bachelor's program introduces more advanced concepts and theories of accounting.
Master's Degree in Accounting Earning a bachelor's degree in accounting can provide a student with the skills and knowledge they need to pursue advanced studies in a master's program. A master's degree exposes degree-seekers to specialized concepts in the accounting field and prepare them to pursue certification opportunities after graduation.
Doctoral Degree in Accounting The accounting doctoral program focuses on a research-based curriculum, allowing students to pursue the most advanced, specialized opportunities the field has to offer. Each doctoral student can also complete a dissertation, conducting research on advanced accounting concepts.

Professional Organizations and Resources

Individuals who earn their accounting associate degree online can benefit from joining a professional organization. Most of these professional groups highlight events and seminars, allowing members to network and seek professional development opportunities.

  • American Accounting Association: Dedicated to promoting education and research in the practice of accounting, the American Accounting Association was founded in 1916 as a voluntary group of individuals interested in accounting research and education.
  • American Association of Finance and Accounting: Functioning as an alliance of executive search firms focused on staffing and recruiting accounting and finance professionals, the AAFA focuses on building strong interpersonal relationships in the industry.
  • Accounting and Financial Women's Alliance: The Accounting and Financial Women's Alliance allows women in all financial careers to reach their professional goals and make the most of their career opportunities.
  • American Institute of CPAs: Boasting nearly 420,000 members, AICPA functions as the national professional organization for the field, focusing on ethical and auditing standards for CPAs.
  • American Payroll Association: A professional association dedicated to the professionals working in processing company payrolls, this association hosts payroll seminars and training courses for members each year.
  • Association of Accountants and Financial Professionals in Business: This association serves management accountant and financial professionals in the business field. The organization aims to increase member skills, allowing them to advance their careers.
  • National Association of Certified Public Bookkeepers: Focused on providing quality bookkeeping services to the public, the NACPB provides the best bookkeeping license available in the United States.
  • National Society of Accountants: The National Society of Accountants functions as a professional association for tax and accounting professionals, representing over 30,000 independent practitioners who provide financial, auditing, tax, and accounting services.
  • U.S. News & World Report's Money Website: The U.S. News & World Report's Money website allows accounting and finance professionals to review different aspects of the industry, including banking, loans, credit cards, and personal finance.