Associate vs. Bachelor's Degrees in Accounting
While accounting associate and bachelor's degree programs include some of the same coursework, the latter program option takes twice as many credit hours to complete. However, students who earn bachelor's degrees are prepared for more lucrative employment opportunities. Additional differences between these programs are detailed below.
Associate Degree in Accounting
Earning an associate degree in accounting takes two years of full-time study, and students spend their time in courses covering management, organization, marketing, computer applications, writing, public speaking and science. The accounting portion of the program teaches students about financial accounting, managerial accounting and cost accounting. To work in the accounting field, students must know how to use various computer applications and software programs, including Microsoft Excel and QuickBooks.
After graduating with an associate degree in accounting, graduates can get jobs as public accounting assistants at corporations, nonprofits and government agencies. Graduates are also able to begin careers as bookkeepers.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerks earned a median salary of $36,430 in 2014. Employment opportunities in this field were expected to decrease 8% over the 2014-2024 decade.
Bachelor's Degree in Accounting
A bachelor's degree program in accounting includes at least 120 credits and takes students four years to complete. Students in this program take 60 credits or more of business and accounting-related coursework and 60 credits of general education classes and electives. Because Certified Public Accountant (CPA) licensure often requires 150 credits of completed coursework, some bachelor's programs include 30 or more additional credits. Core business and accounting courses address such topics as business law, financial accounting, managerial accounting, marketing, finance, management and fraud examination.
After earning a bachelor's degree in accounting, students can seek entry-level employment with accounting departments in corporations or government agencies. Opportunities are also available to become a CPA, Certified Management Accountant or Certified Internal Auditor. These three credentials require the successful completion of examinations after meeting eligibility requirements. For example, prospective CPAs must complete an additional 30 hours of coursework beyond a bachelor's degree program before sitting for the four-part Uniform CPA Examination.
The BLS reported that accountants and auditors could see an 11% employment increase between 2014 and 2024. In 2014, these professionals earned a median salary of $65,940.