Programs in accounting or professional accounting are designed to be completed in approximately two years. Schools sometimes provide an option for students who have completed the program to transfer to a 4-year university to pursue a bachelor's degree. Schools often require applicants to have a high school diploma or its GED equivalent for admission.
Associate Degree in Accounting
Students in these programs should learn about financial and managerial accounting and business organization. Office skills, such as time management, effective communications, and critical-thinking skills, are also often taught. Students are generally introduced to computers and software applications related to accounting. They also fulfill general education requirements in math, English, and science. In total, they must complete 33-84 credit hours of coursework prior to graduation. Some topics may include:
- Accounting principles
- Cost accounting
- Business introduction
- Business law
- Business management
- Managerial and financial accounting
Popular Career Options
Graduates of an associate degree program in accounting should be prepared for entry-level positions as junior accountants in non-profit organizations, accounting firms, professional services, and government agencies. Job duties may include updating ledger accounts, maintaining accounts-payable files, entering invoices, and cross-checking invoices. Some job titles may be:
- Junior bookkeeper
- Client billing specialist
- Business office manager
- Business operations coordinator
- Accounts payable coordinator
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
These career options mainly fit into the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) occupational categories of billing and posting clerks and bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerks. In 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks earned a median annual salary of $37,250, and billing and posting clerks earned a median annual salary of $35,050. Demand for bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks, according to the BLS, is expected to decrease by 8% over the 2014-2024 decade, while demand for billing and posting clerks is projected to increase by 13% over the same period.
Individuals who have earned an associate degree in accounting may choose to enroll in a bachelor's degree program to advance and learn further skills. The BLS reports that most accountants and auditors need a bachelor's degree to practice. Bachelor's and master's degrees can often be earned online. Doctoral degrees are available for individuals interested in accounting research or who wish to teach at the college level. An accountant seeking career advancement may earn the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) certification.
Although there are few associate-level accounting programs that focus specifically on computer applications, there are several programs that provide both an overview of business and some computer-related training. Once students earn one of these degrees, they can continue their education with the aim of becoming accountants and CPAs, or they can get entry-level jobs in the accounting field.