Should I Earn an Associate’s Degree in Accounting?

Associate's degreeNo matter how high of an accounting education you ultimately intend to pursue, every student begins with undergraduate work. If you’re weighing the pros and cons of earning a bachelor’s degree, you may wonder if a two-year associate’s degree might be a better place for you to start your accounting career preparation.

What to Expect from an Associate’s in Accounting Program

In an associate’s degree program, accounting students will study debits and credits, payroll taxes, account management and the recording and preparation of journal entries, tax reports and financial statements, the Houston Chronicle reported. While graduates of these programs may not be fully qualified to prepare tax reports and financial statements on their own, they have a solid understanding of accounting fundamentals and can act as assistants to accountants with more education and experience. With an associate’s degree in accounting, students can attain entry-level jobs like accounts payable clerk, accounts receivable clerk, full charge bookkeeper and payroll clerk. 

The Benefits of Earning a Degree Quicker

On one hand, earning an associate’s degree has some advantages over earning a bachelor’s degree. Because an associate’s degree requires fewer credits and fewer courses, students can complete it in just two years of full-time study – half the time it takes to earn a bachelor’s degree. This means they can begin working full-time in the professional world earlier, gaining experience.

Since community, county and junior colleges often cost less than four-year colleges and universities, students can also save money by enrolling in an associate’s degree program at one of these institutions instead of a bachelor’s degree program at a pricier school. Of course, since associate’s degree students are taking just half of the number of credits and classes that their peers in bachelor’s degree programs take, they save money that way, too. Surprisingly, some studies have shown that associate’s degree holders can actually earn more money than their peers who pursue four-year degrees, CNN reported.

Why an Associate’s Degree Isn’t Right for Everyone

While earning a degree faster and for less money may sound like an obvious choice, this path isn’t for everyone. It depends upon your ultimate career goals. For example, an associate’s degree doesn’t qualify candidates to become a certified public accountant, or CPA. Most states require CPA candidates to have a bachelor’s degree and at least 150 semester hours, or five years, of college-level study just to take the exam, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.

While an associate’s degree alone can qualify candidates for some entry-level positions, those positions often pay substantially less than accounting roles that require more education and experience. It can be difficult for accounting professionals who hold only an associate’s degree to advance in their careers without going back to school.

The choice between an associate’s and a bachelor’s degree is a personal decision. When considering your undergraduate accounting education, weigh the benefits and disadvantages of both degree paths to determine which makes more sense for you.