15 Best Affordable Online Associate Degrees in Accounting 2021

A two-year associate degree is an attractive option for students looking to save time and money in pursuit of an entry-level accounting career. Many online associate degrees in accounting also qualify for transfer to bachelor's programs, offering value and flexibility.

Recommended Online Accounting Programs

Associate degrees in accounting offer career opportunities that regularly pay annual salaries between $40,000 and $50,000. Some of these options, according to data from PayScale and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), include financial clerk, accounting clerk, and payroll administrator.

The following guide answers some of the most common questions from prospective accounting students, covering issues like curriculum content, program cost, and job outlook. First, we invite readers to browse our detailed ranking of affordable online colleges for accounting.

2021's Top 10 Affordable Online Colleges for Accounting

Rank School Location
1 Copiah-Lincoln Community College Wesson, MS
2 Illinois Eastern Community Colleges, Olney Olney, IL
3 Georgia Northwestern Technical College Rome, GA
4 Eastern Gateway Community College Steubenville, OH
5 Albany Technical College Albany, GA
6 Southern Regional Technical College Thomasville, GA
7 Williston State College Williston, ND
8 Northeast Community College Norfolk, NE
9 Wiregrass Georgia Technical College Valdosta, GA
10 Bates Technical College Tacoma, WA
See Detailed Rankings

What Is Accounting?

Accounting involves recordkeeping and reporting of business and financial transactions. Today's accounting professionals use computers and specialized software to process information, but the field's origin dates back more than 7,000 years. Ancient Mesopotamian records show accounting concepts used to track the growth of crops and livestock herds.

The same techniques the Mesopotamians relied on to determine surpluses and shortages are still in use today. Businesses of all sizes use accounting concepts to track economic activities. Individuals also use accounting services to calculate taxes, plan for retirement, and create budgets.

Millions of Americans work in the accounting field. Top employers include accounting firms and financial services organizations, the finance industry, and the government. Entry-level accounting professionals, like bookkeepers and accounting clerks, also find work in retail establishments and healthcare facilities.

Accounting offers attractive benefits, like competitive pay, job security, and a variety of options for career growth, upward mobility, and specialization.

An associate degree in accounting creates limited employment options, but graduates can always pursue additional education and certification later on.

Accounting professionals must possess excellent computer skills, math skills, and attention to detail.

Why Get an Affordable Associate Accounting Degree?

An online associate degree in accounting can be well worth the investment, but prospective students should take time to evaluate whether a two-year degree best fits their current needs and goals.

An affordable associate in accounting degree often provides lower out-of-pocket costs, less debt, and a quicker return on investment than a bachelor's degree.

The short-term, low-cost nature of online accounting programs make them especially useful for working professionals looking to enhance their accounting skills for a current job or investigate new career options.

Online accounting programs also suit recent high school graduates who want an affordable college education. With an associate degree, graduates can pursue entry-level accounting jobs, garnering a median salary of $41,230 as of May 2019, according to the BLS.

Other major benefits of attending a two-year accounting school online include:

  • Fast Track to a Career: It takes just two years of full-time study to complete an associate in accounting. In half the time it takes to earn a bachelor's, you can start an entry-level accounting career as a bookkeeper, auditing clerk, or payroll administrator.
  • Diverse Education Options: Many associate degree-holders decide to continue their education after graduation. Your associate in accounting can easily transfer to an accounting bachelor's program or, with a few additional prerequisites, a related major like finance or business.
  • Flexibility: Affordable associate in accounting degrees often provide students the option to take classes in the evenings, weekends, or online. This makes the degree an excellent choice for working professionals looking to change careers.

Most Affordable Online Associate in Accounting Programs of 2021

This page ranks the top 15 affordable online accounting associate degrees for 2021. Read our methodology below to learn more about the criteria we use to guide our ranking.

Our Ranking Methodology

What the Best Cheap Online Accounting Programs Have in Common

The path to an online associate degree in accounting can vary among colleges, but many top schools share similar characteristics, including those listed below.

  • They are accredited. Accreditation ensures that a school meets the minimum quality standards for educational excellence as determined by the accrediting agency. For this reason, all schools on our top list are accredited. Students interested in earning an associate degree in accounting should look for the following accrediting bodies:

    • Southern Association of Colleges Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
    • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
    • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
    • Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP)

  • They offer academic excellence. Top accounting schools provide academic excellence in as many ways as possible, starting with their curriculum. Students interested in an accounting program should prioritize an organized, detailed curriculum that prepares enrollees for furthering their education and career. High retention rates and graduation rates, a low student-to-faculty ratio, and a broad selection of extracurriculars also signal an institution's efforts to ensure academic excellence.

  • They are reputable. Schools that are selective in their process for admitting students into their accounting degree programs tend to experience a boost in graduation rates. This selectivity helps institutions fill their accounting programs with students who are serious about pursuing their degree. This in turn benefits the school's reputation. To determine reputation, we consider the percentage of applicants admitted, how many accepted students enroll, and the program's return on investment data.

  • They are affordable. Pursuing an associate degree in accounting requires a financial investment, especially for students who wish to pursue a bachelor's degree or certification. Top online programs often charge lower rates or in-state rates for all distance learners. Enrollees may also choose to complete their degrees at an accelerated pace to reduce overall tuition costs.

Copiah-Lincoln Community College

Public community college in Wesson, MS, accredited by SACSCOC

Copiah-Lincoln Community College grew from an agricultural high school to a junior college in 1928. Co-Lin now includes three campuses in Mississippi's Copiah and Lincoln counties, enrolling more than 4,000 students annually.

Accounting Program

Co-Lin's Business Division accounting program lays the foundation for learners who are interested in eventually pursuing a four-year degree. The program's first-year curriculum offers general education with courses in English, science, and history, with additional coursework in business communications and computer applications.

During the second year, students develop a deeper understanding of accounting and its business applications. Courses like business statistics, microeconomics, macroeconomics, and legal environment of business prepare students for real-world accounting and business theory and principles. Enrollees may choose up to three electives throughout the program, including business ethics and international business.

Co-Lin's Affordability

Co-Lin encourages applicants to fill out the FAFSA to determine their financial aid eligibility. Prospective students have multiple financial aid opportunities available, including part-time work, scholarships, and grants. Full-time learners pay per-semester tuition rather than paying for each credit separately.

Program at a Glance

  • Tuition: $1,400/semester (in state); $1,000/semester (out of state)
  • Required Credits: 63 credits
  • Program Length: 2 years
  • Delivery Format: 100% online
  • Admissions
    • Process: Application, ACT scores or placement test, official transcripts
    • Standardized Tests: ACT, ACCUPLACER, or ACT Residual Test
    • Cost: No cost

Illinois Eastern Community Colleges, Olney

Public community college in Olney, IL, accredited by HLC

Originally established in 1963, Olney Central College is now part of Illinois Eastern Community Colleges. IECC primarily awards certificates and associate degrees while providing students with opportunities for active involvement in career-focused clubs and organizations.

Associate of Applied Science in Accounting

IECC's program covers accounting and business principles to prepare students for business careers. The program includes mathematics, statistics, English, and introductory business courses during the first two semesters. In the second half of the program, learners put their knowledge to practice in business applications with QuickBooks, tax accounting, business law, and human resource management.

Toward the end of the program, enrollees must take an accounting internship course. The internship provides realistic applications in which students can hone their skills and demonstrate their expertise. The two-credit course yields 30 weekly internship hours.

IECC's Affordability

IECC's tuition is among the lowest per year compared to other surrounding two- and four-year colleges in Illinois. Online out-of-state or out-of-district learners receive a significantly reduced per-credit tuition rate over on-campus learning.

Program at a Glance

  • Tuition: $100/credit (in district); $135/credit (out of district); $135/credit (out of state)
  • Required Credits: 63 credits
  • Program Length: 2 years
  • Delivery Format: 100% online
  • Admissions
    • Process: Application, standardized test scores, official transcripts
    • Cost: No cost

Georgia Northwestern Technical College

Public technical college in Rome, GA, accredited by SACSCOC

Georgia Northwestern Technical College began as two separate colleges, which merged in 2009. GNTC serves students in nine counties of northwestern Georgia with programs targeting local industry career preparation and training.

Accounting Associate of Applied Science

GNTC designed its accounting associate program to extend beyond preparing for an entry-level bookkeeping or accounting job. The curriculum encompasses study in several areas of accounting, including computerized, tax, financial, and payroll accounting. Upon completion, students should feel confident in putting their mix of skills to use in an accounting-related field of choice.

Learners access their courses for this online program through Blackboard, allowing interaction with instructors and other classmates. Available elective slots in the general education and occupational curriculum segments allow enrollees to take courses that fit their interests and career goals.

GNTC's Affordability

With its flat tuition cost for all students, GNTC makes it easy to plan the full cost of a program. Additionally, GNTC offers work-study opportunities, grants, loans, and other financial aid programs to eligible students.

Program at a Glance

  • Tuition: $100/credit
  • Required Credits: 64 credits
  • Delivery Format: 100% online or on campus
  • Admissions
    • Process: Application, high school or other official transcripts
    • Standardized Tests: ACCUPLACER or SAT, ACT, ASSET, or COMPASS
    • Cost: $25

Eastern Gateway Community College

Public community college in Steubenville, OH, accredited by HLC

The two campuses of Eastern Gateway Community College provide education to students in four Ohio counties with select programs offered online. EGCC's workforce development program assists students with their transition to high-demand careers.

Accounting Associate of Applied Business

The four-semester accounting associate program at EGCC provides students with a strong foundation of accounting principles and procedures. Core coursework and accounting classes include macroeconomics, spreadsheet concepts, English composition, and tax accounting. Students learn to file tax returns, create financial statements, and organize and maintain payroll records.

Graduates should expect to have the knowledge and skills necessary for a career in bookkeeping, accounting, or tax preparation. Graduates may also choose to further their education with a relevant bachelor's degree and pursue a certified public accountant (CPA) title.

EGCC's Affordability

In-district and Ohio residents enjoy an affordable tuition rate for degree completion at EGCC, with additional opportunities to lower costs through loans, grants, and employment programs. Included in tuition are digital resources and online libraries to help students research and study.

Program at a Glance

  • Tuition: $131/credit (in district); $137/credit (out of district); $245/credit (out of state)
  • Required Credits: 60 credits
  • Program Length: 2 years
  • Delivery Format: 100% online or on campus
  • Admissions
    • Process: Application, official transcripts, placement test
    • Standardized Tests: ACT, SAT, or ACCUPLACER
    • Cost: No cost

Albany Technical College

Public technical college in Albany, GA, accredited by SACSCOC

Initially a merge of two vocational schools, Albany Technical College targets professional workplace development for local industries through associate degree and diploma programs. Business, construction, healthcare, and manufacturing are a few of Albany Tech's educational offerings.

Accounting Associate Degree

Albany Tech's accounting associate degree is a two-year program with multiple accounting courses covering accounting procedures, computer skills, and business principles. Students complete a core curriculum consisting of math, science, English, and humanities in addition to occupational courses teaching on-the-job skills.

Enrollees may take all accounting associate degree courses online. The program allows for nine elective credits in courses like database application, employment law, and principles of marketing. To complete the 12-credit core curriculum requirement, students may also choose a humanities and science course with the assistance of an advisor.

Albany Tech's Affordability

Full-time students at Albany Tech pay a flat-rate tuition that caps at 15 credits per semester, even if the student takes more credits for that semester. Students may fill out the FAFSA after applying to determine their financial aid eligibility.

Program at a Glance

  • Tuition: $1,500/semester (in state); $3,000/semester (out of state)
  • Required Credits: 64 credits
  • Program Length: 2 years full time
  • Delivery Format: 100% online
  • Admissions
    • Process: Online account registration, application, valid identification, official transcripts, placement test scores
    • Standardized Tests: ACT, SAT, COMPASS, or ACCUPLACER
    • Cost: $25

Southern Regional Technical College

Public technical college in Thomasville, GA, accredited by SACSCOC

Southern Regional Technical College provides more than 155 educational programs to students ready to work toward their career. SRTC offers three student success centers across its campuses to ensure educational excellence.

Accounting Associate of Applied Science

An offering of SRTC's School of Business, the accounting degree is currently in candidacy for accreditation by the ACBSP. The associate program equips enrollees with skills and expertise necessary in modern accounting careers. The curriculum emphasizes accounting technology.

Coursework allows students to build technical skills in spreadsheet applications, computerized accounting, and computer literacy. The five-term program includes a core curriculum of 15 credits with an open spot for an elective course. Additionally, students have nine credits for an accounting elective and nine credits for other electives available to customize the program.

SRTC's Affordability

With a simple $100/credit tuition rate, students can easily determine the cost of SRTC's program. The school makes loans, grants, scholarships, and work-study programs available to learners to offset tuition costs.

Program at a Glance

  • Tuition: $100/credit (in state); $200/credit (out of state)
  • Required Credits: 67 credits
  • Program Length: 5 terms
  • Delivery Format: 100% online
  • Admissions
    • Process: Application, ACCUPLACER or standardized test scores, official transcripts
    • Standardized Tests: SAT, PSAT, ACT, GED, COMPASS, ASSET, or ACCUPLACER
    • Cost: $25

Williston State College

Public college in Williston, ND, accredited by HLC

A fitness facility, sports arena, science labs, and a 250,000 square foot recreation center make up the campus of Williston State College. WSC serves more than 1,000 Williston area students annually.

Accounting Associate in Applied Science

WSC's associate program accommodates students seeking an entry-level career in accounting. Foundational business, financial, and accounting skills also prepare enrollees for continued education, certification, or licensure in the field. Learners complete a core curriculum of courses in math or science, humanities or social science, communications, and wellness.

Accounting students at WSC learn accounting principles as they apply to business scenarios. The program includes courses in the legal environment of business, marketing, and management. An internship totaling 90 hours examines student knowledge of learned skills while offering hands-on accounting experience.

WSC's Affordability

WSC assesses the same tuition rate for residents and nonresidents. Students planning to enroll part time may be eligible for financial aid grants and other opportunities when they submit the FAFSA.

Program at a Glance

  • Tuition: $130/credit
  • Required Credits: 62 credits
  • Program Length: 2 years
  • Delivery Format: 100% online
  • Admissions
    • Process: Application, official transcripts, placement test scores
    • Standardized Tests: SAT, ACT, EdReady, or ACCUPLACER
    • Cost: No cost

Northeast Community College

Public community college in Norfolk, NE, accredited by HLC

A finalist for the Aspen Institute's 2021 ranking of top community colleges, Northeast Community College offers more than 130 programs. Northeast currently delivers 20 programs online for maximum flexibility.

Accounting Associate of Arts Degree

Students in Northeast's accounting associate program can complete the two-year curriculum entirely online. The program combines core credits with fundamental accounting courses to equip learners with a well-rounded education. Course design prepares students for a beginning accounting career or continued education in the field.

Northeast's online accounting program maintains set deadlines for coursework and tests. However, enrollees can create an adaptable schedule that works for them to meet due dates. Online learners receive support from instructors and an advisor who can answer questions about the program.

Northeast's Affordability

Northeast lists several grant and loan programs for students looking to offset tuition costs with financial aid. The school maintains a low tuition rate of $105/credit for Nebraska residents.

Program at a Glance

  • Tuition: $105/credit (in state); $147/credit (out of state)
  • Required Credits: 60 credits
  • Program Length: 2 years
  • Delivery Format: 100% online (asynchronous)
  • Admissions
    • Process: Application, official transcripts, test scores
    • Standardized Tests: SAT, ACT, ASSET, or COMPASS
    • Cost: No cost

Wiregrass Georgia Technical College

Public technical college in Valdosta, GA, accredited by SACSCOC

Wiregrass Georgia Technical College has served students in multiple Georgia counties since 1963. Wiregrass includes a two-year guarantee with its degree, certificate, and diploma programs. The guarantee allows student retraining as needed after graduation to hone employment-necessary skills.

Accounting Associate Degree

The accounting program from Wiregrass is delivered mostly online, with in-person requirements for a few assignments. Students begin with core English, science, math, and humanities courses. The program interweaves a combination of occupational accounting classes and electives throughout the 64-credit curriculum.

With courses like spreadsheet applications and computerized accounting, enrollees get hands-on experience with the technical side of accounting. The program also concentrates on financial accounting, individual tax accounting, payroll accounting, and document production. Upon graduation, students should feel ready to begin an entry-level career or pursue a higher degree.

Wiregrass' Affordability

Georgia residents enjoy an affordable $100/credit tuition. The cost caps at 15 credits per semester, allowing full-time students to take more than 15 credits at no additional cost. Wiregrass offers grant and scholarship programs to eligible students.

Program at a Glance

  • Tuition: $100/credit (in state); $200/credit (out of state)
  • Required Credits: 64 credits
  • Delivery Format: Hybrid
  • Admissions
    • Process: Application, residency verification, official transcripts, standardized test scores
    • Standardized Tests: ACCUPLACER, ACT, SAT, PSAT, ASSET, or COMPASS
    • Cost: $25

Bates Technical College

Public technical college in Tacoma, WA, accredited by NWCCU

Bates Technical College strives to prepare students for careers by equipping classrooms with real workplace equipment and atmospheres. Bates designs several of its programs to transfer to four-year institutions for continuing education and career development.

Associate of Applied Science in Accounting

Bates' two-year accounting associate program consists of four or five classes per quarter. Enrollees may spread their core curriculum classes throughout the program rather than cluster them in the first year. The distribution allows students to focus on general education and accounting training simultaneously.

Courses in QuickBooks, computer applications, payroll accounting, Excel for accounting, and federal income tax equip learners with occupational skills. Through video-guided online learning with quick feedback on lessons and assignments, students continuously improve their knowledge and skills.

Bates' Affordability

Bates provides students with multiple financial aid opportunities to lower their tuition costs, including grants, scholarships and worker retraining programs. New applicants may also contact their advisor about funding to cover class registration fees.

Program at a Glance

  • Tuition: $131/credit (in state); $310/credit (out of state)
  • Required Credits: 90 credits
  • Program Length: 2 years
  • Delivery Format: 100% online
  • Admissions
    • Process: Application, virtual information session, official transcripts, placement test scores
    • Standardized Tests: SAT, ACT, COMPASS, or ACCUPLACER
    • Cost: No cost

West Georgia Technical College

Public technical college in LaGrange, GA, accredited by SACSCOC and ACBSP

With programs including nursing, business, and professional services, West Georgia Technical College provides real-life career skills for future workers in leading industries. WGTC awards more than 2,600 certificates, diplomas, and associate degrees annually.

Accounting Associate of Applied Science Degree

The 67-credit accounting program at WGTC includes core classes in language arts, humanities, math, and science. Students must also choose six elective credits from any core subject area and 15 other elective credits.

Accounting courses in the degree program target key career-focused topics such as individual tax accounting, document production, computerized accounting, and financial accounting. Previous accounting experience, certification, or credits may transfer to this degree. Upon completion, graduates should feel ready to find employment in entry-level bookkeeping, tax preparation, or accounting clerk jobs.

WGTC's Affordability

WGTC students enjoy an affordable $100 per credit tuition rate whether learning on campus or online. WGTC also offers several financial aid opportunities, including federal and state grants, work-study programs, and WGTC Foundation scholarships.

Program at a Glance

  • Tuition: $100/credit (in state); $200/credit (out of state)
  • Required Credits: 67 credits
  • Program Length: 2 years
  • Delivery Format: 100% online
  • Admissions
    • Process: Application, official transcripts, placement test, lawful presence verification
    • Standardized Tests: ACCUPLACER, ACT, or SAT
    • Cost: $25

Hinds Community College

Public community college in Raymond, MS, accredited by SACSCOC

Hinds Community College initially educated high school students in agriculture. Since its start in 1917, Hinds has expanded to offer career and technical training programs and degrees to learners in targeted industries, including nursing, aviation, and business technology.

Accounting Technology Program

The accounting technology program from Hinds combines the technical aspects of accounting with general principles, theory, and applications in real careers. Students learn communication skills, business math and accounting, payroll accounting, and tax accounting methods. Enrollees may also round out their education with approved elective courses, including social media management and legal environment of business.

Near the end of the program, learners complete an assessment prep review course. The course reinforces learned skills and prepares students to sit for a skills assessment exam. The exam ensures that students have the necessary knowledge for successful completion of the program and entrance into an accounting career.

Hinds' Affordability

Hinds encourages students to fill out the FAFSA to determine financial aid eligibility. With work-study, loan, grant, and scholarship opportunities available through Hinds, many students can find ways to reduce education costs.

Program at a Glance

  • Tuition: $140/credit (in state); $265/credit (out of state)
  • Required Credits: 66 credits
  • Delivery Format: Online with some in-person requirements (asynchronous and synchronous)
  • Admissions
    • Process: Application, online registration, official transcripts, standardized test scores
    • Standardized Tests: ACT or ACCUPLACER
    • Cost: No cost

Orangeburg Calhoun Technical College

Public technical college in Orangeburg, SC, accredited by SACSCOC and ACBSP

Orangeburg Calhoun Technical College prides itself on small class sizes delivering personalized and complete instruction to learners. A flexible mix of programs and classes allows students to work at their own pace to pursue a certificate or degree.

Business Administration Accounting Associate Degree

OCtech enrollees may choose between an accounting or enterprise management specialization for the business administration degree. The accounting option features 69 semester credits spread over five terms. The courses combine foundational mathematics, English, and communications skills with targeted accounting courses designed to prepare learners for accounting careers.

In addition to establishing strong accounting skills, the program builds business and management skills. Students learn through courses in small business management, customer service techniques, and ethics. OCtech's partnerships with other area colleges and universities allow graduates of the accounting program to transfer credits toward a bachelor's degree.

OCtech's Affordability

In addition to loans, grants, and work-study opportunities, OCtech offers several scholarships. Candidates apply for annual scholarships by July of each year.

Program at a Glance

  • Tuition: $2,340/semester (in county); $2,832/semester (out of county); $3,720/semester (out of state)
  • Required Credits: 69 semester credits
  • Program Length: 2 years
  • Delivery Format: 100% online
  • Admissions
    • Process: Application, official transcripts, placement test scores
    • Standardized Tests: SAT, ACT, WorkKeys or ACCUPLACER
    • Cost: No cost

Nicolet Area Technical College

Public technical college in Rhinelander, WI, accredited by HLC

Located near Wisconsin's Lake Julia, Nicolet Area Technical College's district covers 4,000 square miles. About 1,800 students enroll in Nicolet's technical diplomas, certificates, associate degrees, and continuing education programs each year.

Accounting Associate of Applied Science

The 60-credit program emphasizes accounting and business skills. In addition to communication and mathematics, learners study payroll accounting, tax preparation, MS Word, QuickBooks, spreadsheet applications, and cost accounting.

The program also teaches basic business operations. Courses cover business planning, business law, and human relations. A one-credit course in professional career management prepares students for their future job search. The class covers topics like resume creation, using job search tools, and exuding professionalism.

Nicolet's Affordability

In-state and out-of-state students at Nicolet enjoy the same tuition rates. Eligible students may also earn three free credits by applying for the Three for Free program and maintaining a C average.

Program at a Glance

  • Tuition: $149/credit
  • Required Credits: 60 credits
  • Delivery Format: 100% online (asynchronous)
  • Admissions
    • Process: Application, official transcripts
    • Cost: No cost

Rio Salado College

Public college in Tempe, AZ, accredited by HLC

Rio Salado College is a fully online public community college. Although RSC is based in Arizona, it serves students across the United States with associate degree and certificate programs in popular majors including business and computer technology.

Associate Degree in Accounting

RSC's associate program equips enrollees with knowledge and skills they need for entry-level careers as credit clerks, claim clerks, bookkeepers, or accounting clerks. A full-time schedule of online courses gives students flexibility to work at their own pace through RSC's platform, RioLearn.

In addition to a core curriculum, RSC provides accounting students with a well-rounded education. The curriculum covers financial accounting, accounting systems, payroll accounting, and accounting tools. Students also learn about business operations and management with courses in business communication, business ethics, and managerial accounting.

RSC's Affordability

Tuition costs for in-state and out-of-state students at RSC are the same. RSC also caps tuition at 11 credits, so full-time students can benefit from a lower tuition rate for each 13 or 15-credit semester.

Program at a Glance

  • Tuition: $250/credit
  • Required Credits: 61 credits
  • Program Length: 2 years full time; 4 years part time
  • Delivery Format: 100% online (asynchronous)
  • Admissions
    • Process: Application, unofficial transcripts
    • Cost: No cost

Jobs for Associate in Accounting Graduates

A two-year accounting degree allows for a quick transition to entry-level opportunities in accounting firms and other businesses. With an associate in accounting, you can secure positions like bookkeeper, accounting clerk, and billing specialist.

Many professionals with an associate degree in accounting ultimately decide to transfer to a bachelor's program. Advanced education and CPA certification offer excellent opportunities for career and salary growth.

Explore four popular opportunities for associate degree-holders below.


Bookkeepers handle some or all of an organization's accounts, known as the general ledger. Common tasks include recording transactions, producing financial statements, and preparing bank deposits. Some bookkeepers also handle payroll, purchasing, and invoice preparation. Accounting firms, small- to medium-sized businesses, and government departments often hire bookkeepers.

  • Required Education: Associate degree preferred
  • Job Outlook (2019-29): -6%
  • Median Annual Salary: $41,230
Accounting/Auditing Clerk

Accounting and auditing clerks assist organizations by maintaining and ensuring the accuracy of financial records. Accounting clerks commonly post transactions, determine interest charges, and monitor accounts. Auditing clerks check figures and documents for accuracy. Other duties may include fixing minor errors and reporting larger discrepancies to senior staff.

  • Required Education: Associate degree preferred
  • Job Outlook (2019-29): -6%
  • Median Annual Salary: $41,230
Financial Clerk

Financial clerks complete a variety of administrative tasks, including keeping records, calculating charges, and carrying out financial transactions. These professionals work in specialization areas such as billing and posting, credit authorization, insurance claims, and payroll. Specific duties vary by workplace setting and job title.

  • Required Education: Associate degree commonly preferred
  • Job Outlook (2019-29): 0%
  • Median Annual Salary: $40,540
Payroll Administrator

Payroll administrators ensure an organization's employees receive accurate and timely compensation. Common duties include preparing and distributing paychecks, updating payroll procedures, filing voluntary deductions, and completing other accounting tasks as needed. Payroll administrators commonly work for small- to medium-sized businesses. This career requires strong accounting and computer skills.

  • Required Education: Associate degree
  • Average Annual Salary: $51,821

What To Expect From Associate in Accounting Programs

Completing an on-campus or online associate degree in accounting typically takes two years of full-time study. Many of the best online colleges for accounting offer part-time enrollment options, which often require an additional semester or year of attendance.

Exact credit requirements vary by the type of associate degree. Students who complete transferable associate degrees typically take 60 credits, while students who take nontransferable, career-focused degrees may take up to 68 credits. We cover these different degree types in greater detail in a later section.

An associate in accounting combines general education courses with courses focused on building foundational accounting knowledge and skills. Program goals include preparing students for entry-level careers and/or for transfer to a bachelor's completion program.

Admission requires a high school education and adequate GPA.

The Admissions Process

Associate degrees typically maintain less complex admission requirements than bachelor's programs. Applicants rarely need to provide letters of recommendation or personal essays, which makes the admissions process easier and quicker to complete.

You need a high school diploma or GED certificate to pursue an associate degree. Most accounting programs require a minimum 2.0 high school GPA. Depending on the school and program, applicants may need to show evidence of completion for certain mathematics courses.

Standardized testing requirements vary. Some schools accept ACT or SAT scores, while others require applicants to complete an ACCUPLACER exam. Be prepared to pay a $40-$50 application fee.

Degree and Concentration Options

Whether planning to pursue an on-campus or online associate degree in accounting, students should take care to select the degree that best fits their future goals. Below are the three most popular degree types.

Associate of Arts in Accounting

This transferable degree combines general education and core courses. Enrollees typically take more courses in the humanities, and may also need to complete a foreign language requirement.

Associate of Science in Accounting

Like the associate of arts, learners complete general education and core courses for this transferable degree. Degree-seekers typically take more courses in math and science.

Associate of Applied Science in Accounting

Unlike the AA and AS, an AAS degree does not offer transfer opportunities. Instead, this program offers a career-focused curriculum requiring limited general education and liberal arts courses.

Students interested in pursuing a bachelor's degree in the future should select either an AA or AS degree. Students who want the most comprehensive, job-focused two-year education in practical accounting should consider an AAS program.

Popular Accounting Courses

Depending on the degree type you select (AA, AS, or AAS), the curriculum may focus narrowly on accounting or explore a combination of accounting and general education subjects, including English, communication, and economics. Online accounting programs may or may not offer electives.

Regardless of which degree you pursue, you can expect to take most of the courses listed below. Review our sample course descriptions to learn more.

  • Financial Accounting

    A financial accounting course covers each step of the accounting cycle, from initial transaction to account closing. Learners are introduced to financial statement preparation, payroll tax principles, and special procedures. This course develops fundamental, practical skills in accordance with established industry rules and regulations.

  • Managerial Accounting

    This course explores the financial impacts of short- and long-term business decisions. Coursework covers ways to analyze and improve an organization's performance using accounting information. Learners develop vital skills for managers including evaluating capital budget investments, preparing master budgets, and evaluating long-term financing options.

  • QuickBooks

    This common associate degree course introduces computerized accounting system concepts and QuickBooks accounting software. Learners develop practical workplace skills by performing tasks relating to the general ledger, accounts payable/receivable, inventory, payroll, and financial statements. Assignments also require finding and correcting errors in QuickBooks.

  • Business Law

    To perform their jobs effectively, accounting professionals require a working knowledge of how American legal system applies to businesses. This course covers topics in business ethics, sales, product liability, and agency. Students learn to apply common law contract principles to everyday business transactions.

  • Taxation

    In this class, participants learn about current federal and state tax laws as they apply to individuals. Coursework develops practical skills in tax return preparation, researching technical topics, and using tax resource materials. Some programs require a second taxation course focused on corporations and businesses.

How Much Will an Associate in Accounting Cost?

Most online colleges for accounting charge tuition on a per-credit basis. According to U.S. News & World Report, the average cost per credit is around $100-$320. This means students typically pay anywhere from $6,000-$23,000 in total tuition for their associate in accounting. Exact cost varies by school type (public vs. private), and out-of-state students often pay more than state residents.

Though tuition makes up the bulk of a student's total bill, your budget should also take into consideration things like housing, transportation, fees, books, and supplies. Studying online might save you money by avoiding certain campus facility fees, commuting costs, and room and board.

You can take advantage of financial aid options to help lower your out-of-pocket expenses. Scholarships and grants are awarded based on merit and/or financial need and require no repayment. Loans require repayment after graduation.

Making Cheap Accounting Degrees Even Cheaper

Prospective students interested in an affordable associate in accounting degree often look for ways to cut costs. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to college savings, but readers can consider the options highlighted below.

Note that some savings strategies may require compromises and tradeoffs. Learners should determine their priorities to better evaluate cost-cutting methods.

Studying Online

In addition to flexible scheduling benefits, deciding to earn your associate degree in accounting online can save you a significant amount of money. Online students do not need to budget for on-campus room and board or commuting, and some schools waive campus facility fees for remote learners.

Affordable Housing

If you do want to live and learn on or near campus, consider lower-cost dorms, living with roommates, or choosing an apartment a bit farther from campus where housing costs might be lower. Saving money might be worth giving up some luxuries.

Reducing Textbook Costs

From one semester to the next, the cost of textbooks can increase. You cannot avoid these costs completely, but you can reduce expenses by renting your books, seeking out cheaper loose-leaf copies, or buying digital versions. Consider asking your instructors if you can use older editions, which may cost less.

Selecting School Type

Attending a public college often costs considerably less than attending a private institution. You might save hundreds or even thousands of dollars on tuition over the course of your degree. However, public institutions typically operate with higher student-to-faculty ratios, meaning you should expect less personalized attention from instructors.

Graduating Faster

Consider maxing out your course load each semester or choosing an accelerated program. Reducing the amount of time you spend enrolled helps cut costs. Keep in mind that taking additional credits requires more work. Take care not to overwhelm yourself.

Choosing the Right Affordable Accounting Program

Program cost tops the list of many prospective students' key priorities, but choosing the right associate in accounting requires consideration of multiple factors. Some of these, such as accreditation, matter even more than cost. As you look for the right school, try to remain open to reevaluating your primary criteria.

Though far from an exhaustive list, a few factors that can significantly impact your school and program selection include:

  • Accreditation: Attending an accredited school ensures the transferability and lasting value of your degree. Make sure your prospective college holds accreditation from an agency recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation and/or the U.S. Department of Education.
  • University Resources: Two-year colleges tend to offer less extensive support services than four-year universities, making it important to evaluate what a prospective school offers. Make sure you can access the resources you need to excel, such as online tutoring and career services.
  • Future Education Options: If you think you may want to pursue additional schooling beyond an associate in accounting, consider selecting a school that offers seamless transfer to its own bachelor's program or maintains transfer agreements with other colleges and universities.

Top Online Associate in Accounting Programs

Why You Should Attend Accounting School Online

In an effort to make higher education more accessible, many community colleges and technical schools now offer hybrid and online programs. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, distance learning is an increasingly popular option. In fall 2018, more than 30% of all undergraduates took at least one remote course.

Some major benefits of selecting an online associate degree in accounting include scheduling flexibility, reduced costs, and the ability to complete required coursework from any location.

Before you commit to an online program, however, consider the following questions:

  • Do you have reliable access to high-speed internet, devices, and software that meet your prospective school's technology requirements?

  • Are you comfortable communicating with classmates and instructors primarily through email, chat, and discussion forums, rather than face to face?

  • Can you successfully manage your time and handle the responsibilities of independent learning?

  • Does your home provide a quiet, distraction-free environment where you can study?

If approached the right way, online accounting programs can offer an ideal learning experience.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you get an associate in accounting online?
A growing number of technical schools and community colleges offer online options for students interested in pursuing an affordable associate in accounting degree. These programs provide the same rigorous training as their on-campus counterparts.
How much does an accounting degree cost?
The total cost of an associate in accounting varies by school, credit requirements, and whether you pay in- or out-of-state tuition rates. According to U.S. News & World Report, students can expect to pay $6,000-$23,000 in tuition.
What kind of jobs can you get with an associate degree in accounting?
After attending a two-year online accounting program, you can pursue a variety of entry-level career opportunities in the field. Popular options include bookkeeper, auditing or accounting clerk, payroll administrator, and financial clerk.
How much do accountants with associate degrees make?
According to the BLS, associate degree-holders working in the accounting field earn a median annual income of $41,230 as of May 2019. Exact salary expectations vary depending on your location, prospective employer, and career experience.

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