Students who want to prepare for an entry-level career in accounting, including as an accounting clerk, could enroll in an associate's degree program that explores the fundamentals of bookkeeping and auditing. Bachelor's programs teach advanced accounting practices and cost management theories, and they may include internships. Graduates of this program may qualify to sit for the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination. Both associate's and bachelor's programs will require a student to possess a high school diploma or equivalent and may require an admissions essay as well.
Associate's Degrees in Accounting
Programs may lead to Associate of Science, Associate of Art or Associate of Applied Science degrees. Regardless of the degree awarded, each program is designed to prepare individuals for entry-level accounting jobs, handling tasks ranging from bookkeeping to tax preparation. These programs are offered in both online and traditional classroom formats and can generally be completed in two years with full-time study.
In addition to the core accounting curriculum, degree candidates enroll in a number of liberal arts or humanities electives. Some sample core accounting course titles are included below:
- Spreadsheets and databases
- Business law
- Business math
- Federal tax codes
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Bachelor's Degrees in Accounting
This degree program typically leads to a Bachelor of Science in Accounting and provides comprehensive exposure to all elements of the accounting cycle including business law, advanced accounting practices and accounting information systems. Many of these programs are five years in length and are designed to prepare graduates for the Uniform Certified Public Accountant (CPA) Examination. Some programs offer internship opportunities through which the student gains valuable experience working under a licensed accountant.
The curriculum consists of both theoretical and practical instruction. Below are some sample core accounting course titles:
- Cost accounting
- Non-profit accounting
- Cost management
- Organizational behavior
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Graduates of associate's programs can find employment as bookkeepers or accounting clerks. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job opportunities for these positions were expected to decline by 8% during the time period from 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). In 2015, the BLS reported the annual median salary of bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerks to be $37,250.
The BLS predicted employment opportunities most robust for those individuals who hold CPA certification. The median annual salary for accountants and auditors was $67,190 in 2015, according to the BLS. During that time, the District of Columbia and Colorado offered the highest concentration of employment opportunities for accountants.
Continuing Educational Information
Most professional accounting positions require applicants to hold the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) designation. CPA licensure is administered by state boards of accountancy. This certification process varies between states but generally involves completing an accredited accounting program and passing a proficiency exam. The exam is the same for all states and is prepared by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). Continuing education credits are required to maintain CPA licensure.
For students interested in working as a bookkeeper or accounting clerk, achieving an associate's degree in accounting is a good place to start. Students who hope to become CPAs or auditors should pursue a bachelor's.