What is an Associate in Accounting Degree?

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Individuals interested in working with numbers and finances often choose to pursue an associate’s in accounting degree. This program can offer a fast track toward an accounting career. Although accountants typically need a bachelor’s degree, the associate degree provides students with helpful academic and technology courses that will help them begin an entry-level job in the accounting field. Below is more information about this degree.

What is an Associate’s in Accounting Degree?

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The associate’s in accounting degree is a two-year program that allows students to earn a degree in a shorter amount of time than the traditional bachelor’s degree program does. As a result, this type of program is one of the quickest paths toward a career in accounting. In addition, the associate’s in accounting degree program provides students with a solid understanding of career-based accounting skills. These skills include basic accounting, taxation, financial statement analysis, and cost accounting, to name just a few.

Another helpful feature of the associate’s in accounting degree program is that it is not just a group of accounting-related courses. Unlike in the past, when accountants used a pencil, paper, and a calculator, modern accountants and accounting firms are using more advanced and sophisticated accounting computer programs.

The associate’s in accounting degree program includes various accounting technology courses. Accountants use the latest software technology to input data and maintain accurate financial records every day. Computer systems and accounting software allow accountants to reduce the time it takes to prepare and present financial information.

This technology goes beyond using QuickBooks and Excel spreadsheets. Some associate degree accounting programs offer their students the chance to specialize in specific areas, such as accounting technology operations or accounting technology management. Areas of accounting technology that students should be familiar with include:

• Artificial intelligence
• Cloud computing and accounting
• Specialized accounting software integration
• Digital currency and blockchain
• Mobile device accounting

Courses in the Accounting Associate Degree Program

The two-year accounting associate degree program includes general education courses and major-related courses. The purpose of these courses is to give the student a diverse set of skills that will help them to be productive in the workplace regardless of their course of study. A student must take a certain number of general education courses, depending on the college or university they attend, to satisfy the general education requirements. The mandatory course topics and credit-hours will vary depending on the school. General education course topics include:

• Biological or physical science
• Mathematics, finance, and accounting
• Social sciences
• Arts and humanities
• Culture and society
• English and language development
• Foreign language

Many accounting programs also include an internship requirement during the final semester of the two-year program. An internship allows a student to have the opportunity to obtain hands-on training while working with a licensed accountant in an accounting firm, a government agency, or a business corporation. In addition, a student can connect what they learn in the classroom with real-life scenarios. Finally, an internship helps students figure out where they want to go with their career in accounting.

An accounting degree program includes many mathematics, finance, economics, and accounting courses. It also has classes that provide students with the basic knowledge they will need for a successful career in accounting. These courses help students understand the basic principles and theory of accounting, learn the technical aspects of accounting, and appreciate accounting rules and best practices. Below are some courses that can be found in a typical associates in accounting degree program:

1. Financial accounting – This course teaches accounting fundamentals, such as preparing balance sheets, cash flow statements, and income statements. Students also learn how to analyze these financial statements.

2. Cost accounting – Students in this course learn how to use management tools to help a business improve its profitability. These tools include capital budgeting, price setting, target costing, constraint analysis, and cost of quality analysis.

3. Managerial Accounting Statistics – This course teaches students to analyze financial data and communicate this information to business managers. Students will study cost-volume-profit analysis, marginal analysis, and other management-related concepts.

4. Taxation (individuals and business) – Students learn about the differences between individual and business taxes and tax preparation, as well as about finance, public policy, and revenue management.

5. Ethics – This course teaches students the fundamental principles of the accounting profession to help them maintain public trust and demonstrate fairness and honesty.

6. Auditing – This subject is typically a concentration within an associate degree in accounting. Students learn to gather, summarize, analyze, and interpret financial data to verify its accuracy and prevent fraud.

7. Economics – Economics is a separate degree program, but accounting students can still benefit from understanding the principles of economics. Students will study some principles of economics, such as taxation, price controls, monetary policies, interest rates, and inflation.

8. Accounting Software Applications – Accountants need more than a strong foundation in basic computer skills. They need to know how to use the latest accounting software. This course teaches students how to use QuickBooks, tax preparation software, payroll software, and other programs.

9. Payroll accounting – A background in this field is necessary for the successful operation of a business. Students in this course will learn about employee compensation, including gross wages, salaries, bonuses, and withholding state and federal taxes for government benefits.

10. Marketing – Many accountants are small business owners, so they need to understand how to market their services. A course in marketing will teach students about public relations, communications, advertising, and marketing strategies.

11. Mathematics for Business – Accounting students must be well versed in mathematics. Mathematics for business focuses on using math to run a business successfully. For example, students will learn business optimization concepts, business financing, and linear programming.

An associate’s in accounting degree program offers many courses in business, such as business law, business technology, and business communications.

Career Opportunities

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Earning an accounting associate degree may not be enough for the graduate to jump into a position as an accountant instantly. However, it does prepare candidates for many entry-level accounting jobs. Some career possibilities include the following:

1. Payroll clerk – The primary responsibility of a payroll clerk is payroll processing. They have a variety of job tasks. These tasks include organizing and entering employee payroll data, distributing paychecks, updating payroll records, maintaining the privacy of payroll records, and answering questions regarding employee paychecks. Payroll clerks also perform administrative office duties, such as answering phones and handling basic bookkeeping tasks. A person in this entry-level position often receives on-the-job training. According to the job website, the average salary for a payroll clerk is $17.45 an hour, or $40,905 a year.

2. Accounts receivable clerk – An accounts receivable clerk is responsible for collecting payments for a company from clients and customers. In addition, they keep track of expenses, make bank deposits, maintain accurate bookkeeping records, and create profit and loss statements for a company. An accounts receivable clerk also requests payments from clients and customers or arranges payment plans. Also, they update client accounts and contact information. According to, the average salary for this position is around $18.10 an hour, or $51,540 a year.

3. Accounting assistant – An excellent way for someone with an associate degree in accounting to get relevant work experience is as an accounting assistant. An accounting assistant performs basic bookkeeping and other accounting tasks. They also create and edit financial documents, track expenses, evaluate financial budgets, and reconcile bank records. An accounting assistant must demonstrate strong computer and math skills, have excellent written and verbal communication skills, and be able to work in a team environment. The average base pay for this entry-level position is about $17.57 an hour.

4. Auditing Clerk – Becoming an auditing clerk is another way to get relevant work experience as an accountant. The primary function of an auditing clerk is to produce financial records and verify the accuracy of these records. Typical duties include using bookkeeping software and databases, creating income statements and balance sheets, documenting financial activity, and receiving and recording all financial transactions. In addition, they use basic math throughout the day, and they must be comfortable using specialized accounting computer software. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, auditing clerks have an average annual salary of $42,410.

5. Billing Clerk – A person in this position is responsible for producing billing invoices for customers and clients. They also maintain and organize financial records. Plus, billing clerks work closely with the accounting or finance departments of a company to ensure that it receives payments and that it makes payments to its service vendors. Other duties include receiving and processing deposits, helping customers understand their bills, and following up on delinquent payments. A billing clerk must multitask, be good with a calculator, be highly organized in a fast-paced environment, and have good customer-service skills. According to, the average salary for a billing clerk is $15.91 an hour, or about $22,000 a year.

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6. Management Trainee – A management trainee receives experience working in various company departments. Entry-level management trainee accountants work closely with senior accountants and management in multiple departments, including billing, auditing, accounts receivable, and payroll. Management trainees get first-hand experience performing typical duties in these departments to gain a better understanding of their role in a company. While performing these duties, they learn leadership skills, work closely with supervisors, and gain experience running department operations. According to, the average annual salary for a management trainee is $45,861.

7. Bookkeeper – A person in this position is responsible for recording a company’s financial transactions and maintaining all financial records. They must check these records for accuracy and keep track of invoices and payments. A bookkeeper does not interpret financial data. Instead, they document financial transactions, enter data into bookkeeping software, organize bank statements, and highlight discrepancies in a company’s financial reports. A successful bookkeeper must have a good eye for details, meet deadlines, have excellent payroll data skills, and prioritize projects. According to, the average salary for a bookkeeper is $36,700 per year, or $17.65 an hour.

8. Accounting Technology Specialist – A person in this position works as a paraprofessional in an accounting firm or the accounting department of a company or government organization. Accounting technology specialists help prepare financial documents, use accounting software to record business transactions, and analyze financial information. A person in this role must have a basic understanding of accounting principles, which the associate’s in accounting degree provides. An accounting technology specialist has many of the same job duties as a bookkeeper, accounts receivable clerk, and payroll clerk. According to, a person in this position can make an average of around $21 an hour, or $43,804 a year.

9. Fiscal technician – The primary role of someone in this position is to ensure that there are no errors or inconsistencies in the financial records of a company. They perform basic accounting and financial record-keeping tasks, making this an excellent entry-level job for someone with an associate’s in accounting degree. Some of the duties of a fiscal technician include basic auditing, resolving accounting or financial discrepancies, and receiving and maintaining financial and statistical data files. A fiscal technician must have a basic knowledge of accounting software applications, have excellent communication skills, and be able to analyze and interpret financial information. According to, the average annual income of a fiscal technician is $38,351, or about $16.54 an hour.

10. Administrative Assistant – The role of an administrative assistant is to support management and help them stay organized. Administrative assistants do not have a direct role in performing accounting-related tasks. Still, they do work in accounting firms and accounting departments in government and in private companies. Their primary duties include answering phone calls, scheduling meetings, distributing mail, writing documents, and creating and maintaining a filing system. An administrative assistant must demonstrate excellent communication skills, organization abilities, and decision-making skills. According to, an administrative assistant can earn an average of $16.60 an hour, or $44,670 a year.

A graduate with an associate degree in accounting is not just limited to jobs in accounting firms. They may also find career opportunities in various other fields in the private and public sectors. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, accountants can expect a job growth rate of seven percent from 2020 to 2030. This job growth is close to the average for all jobs together. PayScale indicates that graduates of accounting associate degree programs earned median annual wages ranging from $36,000 to $61,000. The salaries vary by position, employer, and geographic location.

U.S. News & World Report ranks accounting as one of the best jobs for college graduates. Accounting is a field that offers so many opportunities in so many settings. Individuals interested in starting careers in the accounting field who do not wish to spend four years in college often find that an associate’s in accounting degree is the perfect solution.

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This concludes our article on what an accounting associate’s degree is.