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A career in accounting combines strong math, organizational, and analytical knowledge with excellent communication skills. An associate degree in accounting prepares students for entry-level positions like bookkeeping or accounting clerk and can be a crucial stepping stone towards more advanced accounting roles.

Although overall employment of bookkeepers and accounting clerks is expected to decline over the next decade, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there will still be roughly 183,900 new job openings annually through 2032. The median annual salary for these positions is $45,860. Meanwhile, the BLS predicts that the employment of accountants and auditors will increase by 4% through 2032. While a bachelor’s degree is the minimum education level required for these positions, earning an associate degree in accounting provides a solid foundation for further study.

Associate degrees typically require a minimum of 60 credits and take two years of full-time study. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports that average tuition for the 2021-22 academic year was $3,564 at public and $18,480 at private two-year institutions.

How to Choose an Online Associate in Accounting Program

Choose your area of study

Before launching your search for an online associate in accounting degree program, take some time to reflect on your interests, career goals, and personal needs. It will help you set parameters to narrow your search and find the right program.

Accounting focuses on recording, classifying, and summarizing financial transactions. Accountants typically work for businesses, analyzing and reporting financial information. Tax professionals, including Certified Public Accountants (CPA), help individuals and businesses prepare and submit tax information. Students interested in the financial aspects of business may also want to consider an associate degree in finance, which focuses on high-level money management and investment strategies.

Students interested in becoming CPAs should note that a bachelor’s degree is required to obtain licensure and consider whether they want to earn an associate degree first or proceed to a bachelor’s degree in accounting. Both educational paths are acceptable, and earning an associate degree will allow you to obtain entry-level accounting jobs and gain professional experience while pursuing your bachelor’s degree.

Think about your logistical needs as well. Do you want a synchronous program with regularly scheduled class meetings or an asynchronous program that allows you to complete coursework independently? Will you enroll part-time or full-time? Can you accommodate in-person requirements, such as an internship, or do you need a fully remote program?

Research schools and programs

Once you set some parameters, you can research associate in accounting degree programs.

Confirm that the schools you’re considering are accredited. In the U.S., schools can be regionally or nationally accredited, although regional accreditation is the more widely accepted type of accreditation due to its higher standards of quality. Students who intend to transfer between schools or pursue further study are best served by attending a regionally accredited institution to ensure other schools will accept their credits and degrees.

Here are some questions you can ask during the research process to help you determine if the school is a good fit:

  • What’s in the curriculum, and how does that align with your interests and goals?
  • Who are the faculty, and what are their areas of expertise?
  • What kind of in-person learning requirements does the program include, if any?
  • How do online students communicate with each other, faculty, and staff?
  • What resources are available for online students, including academic and tech support?
  • What’s the overall culture of the department and institution like?

To get answers to these questions, visit the school’s and program’s website or contact the admissions office. You can also follow schools, programs, and faculty on social media, attend virtual open houses, and request digital or print marketing materials.

Prepare for tests and applications

As you’re researching schools, gather information about application requirements and deadlines.  Many online programs offer several start terms each academic year, while others only accept new students once or twice yearly.

The specific materials you’ll need for your applications will vary between schools, but in general, applications consist of the following:

  • Application form
  • Official transcripts (high school transcripts for first-time freshmen, college transcripts for transfer and graduate students)
  • Letter(s) of recommendation
  • Personal statement
  • SAT or ACT scores

It’s worth noting that schools are increasingly moving toward test-optional or test-blind procedures for standardized tests. Before taking these exams, confirm whether they’re required by any of the schools to which you’re applying.

Select your program

Review your collected information, select the program or programs that best meet your needs, and submit your applications. There’s no “right” number of accounting programs to apply to. Some students focus on one or two schools, while others cast a wide net to improve their chances of admission.

If you’re accepted to multiple schools, compare all the schools again and include any new information you have, such as scholarship offers. Determine your priorities for post-secondary education, and choose the program that meets most of your needs.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

Throughout the research process, you should also gather information about how much programs cost and what financial aid resources are available. Speak to a financial aid counselor to get the most accurate information.

At this point, if you still need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you should do so. Schools use the FAFSA to determine eligibility for federal student loans and other types of aid. Completing the FAFSA will help students and families get clarity on how much financial assistance they can expect.

Students should also research ways to get discounted or subsidized tuition. For example, many schools offer discounts and GI Bill benefits to active-duty or veteran service members and their families. Individuals who plan to work while earning their degree can check if their company provides tuition assistance benefits.

Best 50 Accredited Online Associate in Accounting Programs

Best Associate in Accounting Programs Badge

Indiana Wesleyan University

Liberty University

Copiah-Lincoln Community College

Fox Valley Technical College

Southern New Hampshire University

Lenoir Community College

Northeast Community College

York County Community College

Northwood Technical College

Milwaukee Area Technical College

Surry Community College

Franklin University

Wayne Community College

Southwest Wisconsin Technical College

Northcentral Technical College

University of Alaska Fairbanks

Portland Community College

Barton County Community College

Macomb Community College

Olney Central College

Minnesota State Community and Technical College

Northwest Iowa Community College

Moraine Park Technical College

Champlain College

Hutchinson Community College

Chemeketa Community College

Foothill College

Keiser University

Herkimer County Community College

Ozarks Technical Community College

Shoreline Community College

Vance-Granville Community College

New England College

Tulsa Community College

Northampton Community College

Albany Technical College

Kennebec Valley Community College

Atlanta Technical College

Minnesota West Community and Technical College

Northern Virginia Community College

Southeast Technical Institute

Front Range Community College

Central Christian College of Kansas

North Arkansas College

Davenport University

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How We Rank Schools

This list features some of the best online associate in accounting degree programs at top colleges nationwide. Each school featured is a nonprofit, accredited institution — either public or private — with a high standard of academic quality for post-secondary institutions. Many of the programs on our list have been accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), which assesses the objectives, quality, and overall effectiveness of business-related programs.

We evaluated each school’s program on tuition costs, admission, retention and graduation rates, faculty, reputation, and the student resources provided for online students. Then, we calculated the Intelligent Score on a scale of 0 to 100. Read more about our ranking methodology.

Next, we compared this comprehensive list of online associate in accounting degree programs to a list of aggregated college rankings from reputable publications like the U.S. News & World Report, among others, to simplify a student’s college search. We pored through these rankings so students don’t have to.

What Can You Expect From an Online Associate in Accounting Program?

An online associate degree in accounting provides students with an introduction to foundational skills and concepts related to the field. Associate degree programs typically consist of 60 credits, split between core classes, electives, and general education requirements. Depending on the program, an in-person learning component, such as an internship, may also exist.

Students have some options in terms of what kind of associate degree they pursue, including an Associate of Science (AS), Associate of Business Administration (ABA), Associate of Applied Science (AAS), and Associate of Arts (AA). AS and ABA degrees are more technical, while AA degrees focus more on theoretical concepts.

Online programs are delivered either synchronously or asynchronously. In synchronous programs, students have regularly scheduled virtual classes, allowing them to interact with professors and classmates in real-time. Asynchronous programs have no scheduled class meetings; students can access and complete their lessons at any time, according to their own schedule. While asynchronous programs are more flexible, they require students to be more self-motivated and comfortable with independent learning.

Potential courses you’ll take in an online associate in accounting program

  • Accounting Principles: This course covers accounting basics, including generating financial statements and communicating financial information for internal and external audiences.
  • Payroll Accounting and Taxation: Students will learn the fundamentals of payroll accounting and taxation, including federal and state tax regulations, computing compensation and withholdings, and processing paychecks and deposits. It may also include an introduction to standard payroll software programs.
  • Business Law and Ethics: This course introduces students to legal terminology and concepts shared in accounting, including torts, contracts, and different types of business organizations. It will also examine ethical practices related to accounting and financial matters.
  • Business Applications and Software: In this course, students will learn the fundamentals of accounting using Excel spreadsheets and popular software like QuickBooks.

Online Associate in Accounting Degree Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to an online associate in accounting degree program?

Each associate in accounting degree program has its requirements and application procedures. Check the school’s website or speak to an admissions counselor to confirm what application materials are needed and their application deadlines.

Generally speaking, to apply for associate degree programs, students must submit a completed application and fee, official high school transcripts, letter(s) of recommendation, a personal statement, and standardized test scores. Some programs may have minimum GPA requirements.

How much does an online associate in accounting degree cost?

According to the NCES, the average tuition and fees at a public two-year institution was $3,564 in the 2021-22 academic year. At private, non-profit, two-year schools, average tuition and fees were $18,480.

Besides tuition and fees, students should also budget for expenses like books and technology, including computers, webcams, and microphones, and reliable internet service.

However, earning a degree online can save students money. They can live in an area with a lower cost of living than where the school is located, saving money on room and board, and they don’t have to pay transportation costs like gas, car maintenance, parking, or public transit fees to commute to campus.

How long does it take to earn an online associate in accounting degree?

Associate degrees typically require 60 credits, which equals two years of full-time study. Students who enroll part-time may take up to three years to finish their associate in accounting degree. Some schools may offer accelerated programs that allow students to complete their degree requirements in as little as 18 months.