Accounting associate degree programs help prepare students to gather, record, analyze, and interpret complex financial information in various industries. An Associate of Arts (AA), Associate of Science (AS), or Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in accounting can generally be earned with two years of full-time coursework. Though the curriculum can vary by school, accounting programs typically include major-specific classes that are complemented by general education courses, aiming for a well-rounded, versatile education.
Online Associate Degree in Accounting: Coursework and Overview
Associate degree programs in accounting aim to provide skills that professionals use to produce and maintain various types of financial records in diverse organizational settings. Some accounting associate degree programs allow students to choose an area of concentration or select elective classes such as macroeconomics, managerial accounting, or fraud examination. Here are examples of possible courses:
Accounting Degree Courses
- Accounting theory and applications: Students gain exposure to standard practices, including the generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) developed by the Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board. The syllabus typically includes creating and monitoring financial records, as well as determining payroll.
- Financial accounting: Studies introduce students to the use of financial statements to track business operations. Courses look at how financial information is constructed for those outside a company, such as government entities and stockholders.
- Cost accounting: Students learn about setting the cost of products, and the elements of cost control and profitability. Cost accounting is often a component of the more comprehensive topic of managerial accounting, which reports financial information within an organization.
- Auditing: Classes evaluate the responsibilities of auditors and the examination of financial statements. Coursework may touch on ethics, the law, reporting, and official standards. Typically, students already have a foundation in accounting theory and practice.
- Tax accounting: Coursework reviews topics such as federal income tax filing requirements and income tax planning for businesses or other clients. Studies on individual income taxation could include investment and rental activities, business income or loss, and property transactions.
Courses Outside of Accounting
- Computer skills for business: Because many day-to-day bookkeeping tasks and accounting procedures rely on databases and spreadsheets, information technology is an integral part of these studies. An online program may even specialize in business accounting technology and targeted topics like data migration.
- Mathematics: Crunching numbers is essential for accountancy, and future accountants hone their arithmetic skills. Courses could include intermediate algebra, calculus, statistics, or finite mathematics. Many accounting associate degree programs require students to complete at least one mathematics class.
- Speech and interpersonal communication: These classes give future accountants an opportunity to enhance their listening and communications skills, which can enhance professional interactions. These skills can be useful when dealing with clients and other businesspeople, from clerks to CEOs.
Potential Career Opportunities for Graduates of Accounting Associate Degree Programs
Online associate degree programs in accounting help students prepare for a wide variety of financial activities. For example, bookkeeping clerks might begin by handling a specific task such as preparing invoices or bank deposits. With experience, bookkeepers may maintain all the books and financial records for an entire company. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov) notes postsecondary studies in accounting can be helpful for aspiring accounting, auditing and bookkeeping clerks. The following are some careers that individuals can pursue with an associate degree in accounting:
- Accounting clerks include specialists in accounts payable and accounts receivable. Clerks may verify purchases and confirm taxes, duties, and other considerations involved with the transfer of goods and services. Accounting coursework can teach students about topics related to this career, such as corporate balance sheets and cash flow reporting.
- Auditing clerks tackle detail-oriented tasks like confirming numbers and information in financial records, in order to make sure everything is accurate and correctly coded. Coursework in accounting and auditing can help prepare students to identify errors in financial reports.
- Bookkeeping clerks help businesses manage day-to-day financial transactions by processing and monitoring payments, expenditures and receipts. Along with a broad range of bookkeeping responsibilities, these employees may generate reports for management. Accounting and bookkeeping studies can expose students to the technological tools of the trade, as well as general bookkeeping concepts and processes.
- Payroll clerks help make sure a business pays its staff accurately and on time. They might organize time sheets, confirm tax withholding, or track vacation hours and sick time. Payroll accounting courses can show students how to calculate employee compensation and use specialized software programs for this purpose.
These careers are a sampling of options for those earning online associate degrees in accounting. Interested individuals may also choose to further their education by earning a bachelor's degree in accounting. Students should speak with an admissions counselor for information about the possibility of transferring credits. A bachelor's degree is generally required for accountants and auditors, and accountants may obtain licensure as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) by meeting state requirements, such as passing a national exam.
More details on accounting degree programs are available online in the Guide to College Majors in Accounting.
"Accountants and Auditors," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/accountants-and-auditors.htm
"Bill and Account Collectors, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/office-and-administrative-support/bill-and-account-collectors.htm
"Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/office-and-administrative-support/bookkeeping-accounting-and-auditing-clerks.htm#tab-1
"Financial Clerks," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/office-and-administrative-support/financial-clerks.htm
"Accounting Standards and Other Pronouncements," Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board, June 30, 2011, http://www.fasab.gov/accounting-standards/authoritative-source-of-gaap/