Accountants are responsible for analyzing and organizing financial records, and preparing tax returns and other financial documents. Some accountants oversee the finances of private companies, nonprofits or government agencies; others work with clients on an individual basis, especially during the January-April period known as 'tax season'. Regardless of their employer, all accountants who file reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) are required by law to become Certified Public Accountants, or CPAs; CPA licensure involves a comprehensive exam, as well as other state-specific requirements.
What are the best accounting programs of 2020? Here are our top 10:
|1||Southwest Wisconsin Technical College||Fennimore, WI|
|2||Northwest Iowa Community College||Sheldon, IA|
|3||Liberty University||Lynchburg, VA|
|4||Trinity Valley Community College||Athens, TX|
|5||Stanly Community College||Albemarle, NC|
|6||Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College||Shell Lake, WI|
|7||Keiser University||Fort Lauderdale, FL|
|8||Southern New Hampshire University||Manchester, NH|
|9||Copiah-Lincoln Community College||Wesson, MS|
|10||Northeast Community College||Norfolk, NE|
An associate degree in accounting will equip students to succeed in this field. Coursework will cover key foundational topics like mathematics and statistics, business law and ethics, information literacy and principles of management. Many associate degree programs also include courses that prepare students for their state-issued CPA exams and other postdegree requirements. Many of today's students are choosing to earn their associate degree in accounting online. Web-based students follow the same rigorous curriculum as their brick-and-mortar counterparts, leading to the same number of job opportunities after graduation. The asynchronous (or self-paced) schedule and study-from-home format are also ideal for students with part-time jobs, childcare duties and other responsibilities that could possibly interfere with campus-based learning.
Learn more about what you can do with an online associate in accounting and what kind of career opportunities you can look forward to with this comprehensive guide.
The Best Online Associate in Accounting Programs of 2020
Choosing a program is an incredibly personal decision, and only you can properly evaluate whether a target school's strengths match your educational needs. The following ranked list of schools should serve as a helpful starting point in your search for the best online associate in accounting programs in the United States. If you are considering an online associate in accounting, be sure to contact admissions specialists at different colleges and universities to learn more their about specific requirements and offerings.
Southwest Wisconsin Technical College
|Fennimore, WI||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 61%||
Southwest Tech offers an associate in accounting that provides individuals with foundational knowledge in accounting theory and prepares them to perform business accounting functions in entry-level positions. The program is available entirely online or on campus.
This accounting degree requires 66 credits and takes at least two years to complete. Core courses include advanced accounting spreadsheets, payroll applications, Quickbooks, economics, and managerial accounting.
Each applicant must hold a high school diploma (or the equivalent) and submit transcripts and ACT scores. The college maintains transfer agreements with several four-year universities and helps graduates transfer their associate-level credits into a bachelor's program. Southwest Tech is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Northwest Iowa Community College
|Sheldon, IA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 65%||
NCC offers an online associate of applied science in accounting that prepares students for entry-level accounting and finance-related positions. The college also provides a pre-professional accounting program for students who plan to continue their education and pursue a bachelor's degree.
This AAS features 63 credits, which enrollees can complete entirely online in four semesters. Core courses include financial analysis, cost accounting, business law, and payroll accounting. After completing their first two semesters, students qualify for a clerical accounting diploma.
Applicants must submit high school transcripts (or the equivalent) and ACT or ACCUPLACER test scores. Full-time students must enroll in the fall semester, but part-time students can begin the program during any semester. NCC is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
|Lynchburg, VA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 50%||
Liberty offers an online associate in accounting that students can transfer into the school's online bachelor of science in accounting program. Courses are delivered entirely online in accelerated, eight-week sessions. This degree prepares students to work in areas like corporate accounting, education, the nonprofit sector, and public accounting.
This accounting associate degree requires 60 credits and takes 1.5 years to complete. Core courses include financial accounting, managerial accounting, business law, and principles of marketing. The university offers a significant tuition discount to military students and veterans.
Each applicant must possess a high school diploma (or the equivalent) and a minimum 2.0 GPA. Liberty is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Trinity Valley Community College
|Athens, TX||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 76%||
TVCC offers two online associate degrees in accounting: an associate of liberal arts and an associate of applied science. Students who plan to seek bachelor's degrees can pursue the AA, while those who intend to enter the job market after graduation may be more interested in the AAS. Students who earn an AAS can also transfer into a bachelor of applied arts and sciences program at participating universities.
Both accounting associate degrees require 60 credits and take two years to complete. Accounting coursework in the AA program includes principles of financial accounting, principles of managerial accounting, and principles of microeconomics. Accounting coursework in the AAS program includes computerized accounting applications, payroll and business tax, and business law.
TVCC is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Stanly Community College
|Albemarle, NC||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 48%||
SCC provides four program options in accounting, including an associate of applied science in accounting, an accounting diploma, an accounting certificate, and an associate of arts business and accounting pathway. The AAS degree, accounting diploma, and accounting certificate are available online. The AA in business and accounting is only available on campus.
The AAS in accounting requires 67-68 credits, while the AA in business and accounting features 61 credits. Both programs take roughly two years to complete. The AAS is well suited for students seeking entry-level employment upon graduation, while the AA prepares learners to pursue bachelor's degrees at four-year institutions. Accounting coursework covers topics like federal income taxes, introduction to spreadsheets, and payroll accounting.
SCC is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College
|Shell Lake, WI||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 55%||
WITC offers an online associate degree in accounting that teaches students the knowledge and skills needed to prepare financial statements, cost studies, and tax reports for many different industries. Students looking to take part in blended learning experiences can enroll in some courses at WITC outreach centers.
This accounting degree requires 60 credits and takes two years to complete. Core accounting courses include income tax accounting, cost and managerial accounting, and budgeting and cost control. Students can also earn technical diplomas or pathway certificates for billing and posting clerks, accounting assistants, and tax preparer assistants on their way to earn their associate degree.
Admission requirements include completing an application form and meeting with an admissions counselor. WITC is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
|Fort Lauderdale, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 69%||
Keiser offers an associate of arts in accounting that prepares students for entry-level accounting positions, such as accounting assistants and bookkeepers. Learners can pursue the program at several Florida campuses — including Daytona Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Orlando, and Tampa — as well as online through the university's Fort Lauderdale online division.
This accounting degree requires 60 credits, which learners can complete in two years. Accounting major courses include accounting principles, accounting information for business decisions, business law, principles of taxation, and financial management. From 2016-2018, this accounting program had an average graduate placement rate of almost 90%.
Each applicant must hold a high school diploma or the equivalent. Keiser is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Southern New Hampshire University
|Manchester, NH||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 54%||
SNHU offers an online associate of science in accounting that prepares students for entry-level accounting positions or further study. The university also offers a bachelor's in accounting for those who wish to pursue higher degrees.
SNHU's associate-level accounting degree requires 60 credits, which enrollees can typically complete in two years. Core coursework includes financial accounting, federal taxation, business law, and business systems analysis and design. U.S. military service members qualify for a 30% tuition discount.
The university maintains transfer-friendly policies, allowing learners to bring up to 45 qualifying credits into an associate program. SNHU is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.
Copiah-Lincoln Community College
|Wesson, MS||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 45%||
Co-Lin offers an associate degree in business with a major in accounting that prepares students for entry-level accounting positions or a bachelor's degree at a four-year institution.
This business degree requires 63 credits and takes two years to complete. Major coursework includes principles of accounting, business statistics, principles of microeconomics, and legal environment of business. Participants can earn this associate degree online. Students who plan to seek a bachelor's after graduation should contact the admissions office of their target school to see which courses at Co-Lin are eligible for transfer.
Applicants must hold a high school diploma (or the equivalent) and submit ACT or ACCUPLACER test scores. Co-Lin is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Northeast Community College
|Norfolk, NE||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 48%||
Northeast offers four program options in accounting, including an associate of applied science, an associate of arts, a certificate, and a diploma.
Both the AAS and AA degree options require 60 credits, which learners can finish in two years. The AA degree allows students to smoothly transfer to four-year institutions, while the AAS degree is well suited for enrollees planning to enter the workforce immediately after graduation. Core courses include principles of accounting, spreadsheet accounting, payroll accounting, excel spreadsheet applications, business law, and intermediate accounting. The AAS option involves a cooperative internship where students gain practical job experience.
Each applicant must hold a high school diploma (or the equivalent) and submit transcripts and SAT or ACT scores. Northeast is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Choosing a Program
Will an Online Associate in Accounting Provide Me With the Skills I Need to Advance My Career?
Students who pursue an associate in accounting online will learn how to properly analyze, interpret and organize different types of financial statements and records. These programs will also discuss legal and ethical requirements for filing tax documents with the Internal Revenue Service. Many online associate accounting degree programs culminate in a capstone course, which allows students to create a comprehensive research project that demonstrates the knowledge and skills they have acquired.
Will an Online Associate in Accounting Program Work With My Schedule?
Associate in accounting online programs offer a flexible alternative to traditional college education. Students can download course lectures and readings, participate in virtual discussions with other students, submit written assignments, take exams and communicate with their professors at their convenience. Current educational technology also enables them to study away from their home computer using a laptop, tablet, smartphone and other portable devices with Wi-Fi capabilities.
What Jobs Can I Get With My Associate in Accounting?
A bachelor's degree is considered the minimum educational requirement for most entry-level accounting positions. However, candidates with an associate degree in accounting will often be selected for junior accountant positions; these roles often serve as stepping stones for more advanced job titles. Most states require students to complete at least 150 credit hours of college coursework before they will qualify for CPA licensure, but some will allow them to substitute professional experience for a college degree.
What Else Can I Expect from an Online Associate in Accounting Program?
|Timeline||18 months to 2 years|
|Program Costs||$6,000 to $20,000 in annual tuition|
|Popular Minors and Dual Areas of Study||General Business, Business Administration, Finance, Management, Human Resources, Economics, Statistics, Mathematics|
|Accreditation||There is no formally recognized accreditor for associate degree programs in this field. Please defer to an individual school's regional or national accreditation status.|
Employment Outlook for Associate in Accounting Graduates
Job Placement: Associate in Accounting
The accounting industry is quite large. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that more than 1.3 million accountants and auditors currently employed in the United States. The industry is also projected to increase by 11% between 2014 and 2024, resulting in the creation of more than 142,000 new jobs during that timeframe.
The unemployment rate for accountants is also relatively low — 3.2% nationwide, according to U.S. News & World Report. How does this stack up against the employment outlook for other business professionals? The table below compares the unemployment rates of nine common occupations in the corporate sector. Each entry in the table was included in the 'Best Business Jobs' ranking published by U.S. News in 2016.
|Occupation||Unemployment Rate (2016)|
|Market Research Analyst||2.4%|
|Business Operations Manager||3.7%|
|Operations Research Analyst||3.8%|
Source: U.S. News & World Report
As the table indicates, the unemployment rate for accounts is fairly middle-of-the-road compared to other related career paths. Comparatively, the national unemployment rate for all industries currently sits at 4.6%.
Earning a Living
As noted in the 2015-16 PayScale College Salary Report, the annual salary for an accountant with an associate degree will somewhat depend on his or her specific field of study. The table below looks at salary expectations for graduates with associate degrees in three accounting- related disciplines.
|Associate Degree Field of Study||Median Annual Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 Years)||Median Annual Salary for Mid-Career Employees (10+ Years)|
|Accounting and Finance||$34,000||$50,800|
|Accounting and Business||$33,600||$45,000|
As the table indicates, those with an associate in accounting and finance experience 49% salary growth after 10 years on the job; by comparison, graduates with an associate in accounting or accounting and business see their earnings increase by 33% to 35% over the same duration. Additionally, the salaries of accounting professionals will vary by the employee's specific job title. Projected salary growth rates for four common careers in accounting are featured in the table below.
|Occupation||Median Annual Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 Years)||Median Annual Salary for Mid-Career Employees (5-10 Years)||Median Annual Salary for Experienced Employees (10-20 Years)||Median Annual Salary for Late-Career Employees (20+ Years)|
|Certified Public Accountant (CPA)||$52,908||$64,716||$75,839||$83,810|
Of all four occupations listed on the table, CPAs reported the highest career salary growth: an increase of more than 58% between the entry-level and late-career stages. Accounting managers placed second with 17.8% salary growth after 20 years in the workforce.
Students who graduate with an associate in accounting will be qualified for dozens of entry- and mid-level positions, although individual eligibility will depend on additional factors like employer type and city/state of employment. The accounting and auditing profession, as well as three other common careers for accounting degree-holders, are outlined below.
Accountants and Auditors: Accountants monitor and evaluate financial records to ensure their client or organization is compliant with all applicable and current tax laws. Auditors are specialized accountants who look for discrepancies or errors in financial datasets. Accountants and auditors work long hours, especially during tax season; the BLS estimates that roughly 25% work more than 40 hours on a weekly basis.
Management Analysts: Management analysts help companies increase productivity and profits through efficient practices. Analysts will gather organizational data through research, staff interviews, surveys and other sources. They deliver their findings to top executives, who will then be able to begin the retooling process. Most management analysts have a background in financial accounting.
Appraisers and Assessors of Real Estate: Appraisers and assessors evaluate homes, offices and other properties to calculate the overall value. These determinations have a significant impact on the way properties are marketed, sold, taxed and insured. In most states, appraisers and assessors who handle federal transactions must become certified or licensed.
Budget Analysts: These analysts handle financial records for companies and organizations with relatively large budgets. After reviewing budget proposals, analysts will work with different departments to reach different financial goals. According to the BLS, more than 40% of currently employed budget analysts are employed for government agencies at the federal, state or local level.
|Occupation||Median Annual Salary||Projected Industry Growth (2014-24)|
|Accountants and Auditors||$67,190||11% (+142,000 jobs)|
|Management Analysts||$83,120||14% (+103,400 jobs)|
|Appraisers and Assessors of Real Estate||$51,860||8% (+6,800 jobs)|
|Budget Analysts||$71,590||3% (+1,500 jobs)|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Making professional connections and learning about different approaches to accounting is crucial to your success. Professional organizations offer a great entry point for students who want to learn more about their chosen career path. Below you'll find three of the country's most prominent organizations established for professional accountants. These organizations host networking events, provide online trainings, maintain active job boards, and offer other services for career-ready college graduates. Resources like these often prove invaluable as you complete your degree requirements and prepare to enter the job market.
- The American Accounting Association: Celebrating 100 years in 2016, the AAA is an international organization representing more than 7,000 members in dozens of countries. The association's website features a robust career center with a rotating pool of roughly 200 job openings from across the country, along with a peer-reviewed journal and links to professional development courses.
- National Society of Accountants: The NSA strives to provide advocacy, continuing education opportunities, and ethical oversight for professional accountants throughout the nation. Members receive access to a range of accounting- and tax-related resources, along with discounts on webinar courses, conference entry fees, and other services.
- American Institute of CPAs: Considered the world's largest professional organization for accounting professionals, the AICPA represents more than 400,000 members in 144 countries. The institute's website features study guides, practice exams, and other resources for bachelor's graduates who have yet to take their CPA exam, as well as a career center for certified job candidates.
Financing Your Online Associate in Accounting Program
Despite the relative affordability of online programs, most students still need financial assistance. Students should complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to learn more about loans, grants, and other opportunities offered through the U.S. government. Additionally, private grants and scholarships are widely available through nonprofit organizations, companies, and other sources. Check out our collection of resources below to learn more about financial aid options.
Approximately two-thirds of today's college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.
Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.
Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you'll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn't always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.
Online programs can provide an affordable and flexible option for women trying to balance the demands of work, family, and earning their degree. We've curated a list of valuable scholarships specifically for women.
Online college programs can be a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family's financial future. We've compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.
Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.