Online Associate Degree in Accounting

An online associate degree in accounting is a convenient, inexpensive first step toward a lucrative career in a growing industry. An associate degree qualifies graduates for entry-level clerk positions that earn about $40,000 per year.

Students who go on to obtain certification as certified public accountants (CPAs) or certified financial analysts (CFA's) stand to make considerably higher salaries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), accountants made a median annual wage of $70,500 during 2018. BLS projects 6% job growth for accountants between 2018 and 2028.

By exposing students to a broad, interdisciplinary curriculum incorporating finance, business, economics, mathematics, law, accounting, and liberal arts courses, an associate in accounting prepares graduates for continued study or for a career. The page below explores common coursework, core skills, potential careers, and four-year degree paths open to graduates of the best online associate degree in accounting programs.

What Will You Learn in an Online Accounting Associate Degree Program?

Online accounting associate degree programs introduce students to various types of accounting and teach foundational financial skills and competencies. In addition to studying statistics and other mathematics topics, coursework examines economic, legal, and ethical principles related to accounting.

Students also develop skills in personal finance management and business financial records creation, organization, analysis, and reporting. Most online accounting associate degree programs include a capstone research project, which cultivates information literacy skills and allows students to implement what they have learned. Some sample accounting associate program courses and outcomes appear below.

Common Courses

Principles of Accounting

This course introduces accounting theory, analysis, and bookkeeping. Students learn practical fundamentals, including payroll accounting, invoicing, cash flow, and acquisitions. Coursework also covers compliance with the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) when reporting and assessing financial information and statements.

Principles of Finance

This course provides an overview of capital management through exploring concepts such as income, investment, cash flow, and asset structure. Students learn about business operations costs and acquire skills in financial analysis and risk assessment.

Business Law

This course familiarizes students with employment law, contract law, and other forms of law common to the business world. Business law courses typically utilize past and current case studies to help students understand concepts.

Auditing

This course trains students to perform financial statement checking, risk assessment, and audit reporting. Coursework covers how to make auditing decisions, detect fraud, and fix mistakes in Microsoft Excel. Enrollees also learn the value and purpose of auditing, as well as auditing professional standards and ethical codes.

Business Taxation

Business taxation courses familiarize students with federal tax law and policy pertinent to businesses and shareholders. Common topics covered include Internal Revenue Code Subchapter C, judicial opinions and treasury regulations related to business law, and laws regulating the formation and liquidation of corporations.


Core Skills

Most professionals who earn accounting degrees end up in detail-oriented careers working with financial records, statements, and reports. Consequently, associate-level accounting coursework includes mathematics and statistics fundamentals, as well as courses focused on specific tasks like auditing, tax preparation, and bookkeeping. Common skills and competencies developed by accounting associate programs include the following:

Financial Records Organization

Accounting professionals help clients organize financial records for strategic planning, budgeting, payroll, reporting, taxation, and auditing.

Financial Records Analysis

Although lower-tier clerk positions often entail repetitive, straightforward data entry tasks, many accounting-related roles also involve critical thinking and analysis of financial statements. This analysis often informs financial decisions made by management.

Financial Report Creation

Accounting professionals frequently report the results of their financial records organization and analysis. These reports may be delivered to management, consultants, boards, or the government.

Tax Preparation

Accounting professionals play a particularly valuable role during tax season (January-April), when they prepare state and federal tax forms in compliance with business tax laws.

Legal and Ethical Decision-Making

Often entrusted with ensuring legal compliance, accounting professionals need a solid grasp of relevant laws, ethics, and policies regarding corporate or organizational finances. Consequently, associate degree programs in this subject typically feature business law and taxation courses, which prepare aspiring accountants to perform these important duties.

CPA Examination Preparation

Most graduates of online accounting associate degree programs eventually take the qualifying examination for certified public accountants (CPAs). This credential enables accountants to legally file reports to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

 

What Can You Do With an Associate Degree in Accounting?

By exposing students to the interdisciplinary array of topics and skills described above, online associate in accounting programs prepare students for a variety of career options.

Some graduates begin working in entry-level, accounting-related positions, such as accounting clerk, auditing clerk, bookkeeper, or real estate appraiser. However, many graduates go on to obtain CPA certification and work as full accountants for private clients or large companies, which requires a bachelor's degree. Graduates seeking top positions such as budget or financial analysts, financial controllers, or managers will typically use their associate degrees as a foundation for pursuing a bachelor's degree.

Potential Careers and Salaries

Given the annual need for individuals, organizations, and businesses to prepare federal and state taxes, tax preparers can work in virtually every industry. Most organizations and companies have other, multiannual financial needs as well, such as strategic financial planning, budgeting, payroll, billing, account management, and reports to boards of directors. Accountants and related professionals play a crucial role in ensuring compliance with federal, state, and local laws and regulations.

Certified Public Accountant

CPAs work to bring clients' financial records into compliance with tax laws. CPAs work long hours, usually in offices, but sometimes independently.

Average Annual Salary: $51,940

Bookkeeper

Bookkeepers manage clients' general registers and other financial records. Using bookkeeping software and tools, these professionals ensure that all costs and income are recorded accurately. Bookkeepers create financial reports, balance sheets, manage accounts receivable and payable, and write profit and loss reports.

Average Annual Salary: $40,240

Real Estate Appraiser

Real estate appraisers inspect and then estimate the financial value of properties, usually in preparation for insuring, selling, marketing, or taxing the property.

Average Annual Salary: $54,940

Auditing Clerk

Auditing clerks review financial postings, reports, and statements to ensure correct coding and accuracy. These clerks correct minor errors and discuss any major disparities with management.

Average Annual Salary: $40,240

Accounting Clerk

Usually employed by large companies with complex finances, these professionals often occupy specialized roles in areas such as accounts receivable or accounts payable. These clerks code, enter, and monitor financial data, including billing vouchers, loans, and savings accounts.

Average Annual Salary: $40,240

What's Next After an Online Associate Degree in Accounting?

While many graduates of online associate degree programs in accounting begin working in the entry-level positions described above, others pursue a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related discipline, such as finance or business. A bachelor's degree in accounting typically meets educational requirements for CPA certification, and a bachelor's in finance or business can lead to prosperous careers in banking or business management.

Transferring to a Four-Year Degree Program

If you plan carefully, your associate degree in accounting can significantly reduce the time and money you spend on your bachelor's degree. Many of the general education and introductory accounting courses you take during your associate degree can count toward your bachelor's degree requirements, provided that you meet the required GPA and your schools have similar accreditation standards.

What Degrees Can You Pursue after Earning an Associate in Accounting?

Having studied accounting fundamentals, many online associate degree in accounting program graduates put their knowledge to use in pursuit of a more advanced accounting degree, such as a bachelor's in forensic accounting, banking, or business administration.

Banking Degrees and Careers

A bachelor's degree in finance or business qualifies graduates for banking positions working with investments, stock market analysis, mortgage loans, and other major financial topics.


Bachelor's in Business Administration

A degree in business administration can lead to a rewarding administrative career in industries like healthcare, manufacturing, or technology.


Bachelor's Degree in Forensic Accounting

This degree teaches the bookkeeping and financial investigation skills necessary for careers in professional fraud detection. Graduates often work for governments, banks, or insurance companies.