What Can I Do with an Associate’s Degree in Accounting?

As you begin your undergraduate accounting studies, you face an immediate choice. Should you earn an associate’s degree in accounting, or a bachelor’s degree? It’s virtually impossible to make the right decision without understanding what careers an associate’s degree in accounting can prepare you for and, of course, considering your personal career goals. While an associate’s degree is not enough to prepare you for more qualified roles like that of a certified public accountant (CPA) or an accounting position in a competitive firm, it can quickly qualify you to begin working in entry-level jobs in the accounting field.

Entry-Level Accounting Jobs for Associate’s Degree Holders

There are several career paths open to accountants who earn only an associate’s degree in the field, according to the Houston Chronicle. An associate’s degree is often sufficient preparation for entry-level positions such as accounts payable clerk, accounts receivable clerk, full charge bookkeeper and payroll clerk.

Accounts payable and accounts receivable clerks handle a business or organization’s financial accounts. Accounts payable clerks process outgoing payments to vendors and suppliers, while accounts receivable clerks oversee invoices to customers or clients and transactions that involve incoming payments. Both types of clerks handle other tasks related to the relevant financial accounts. Accounts payable clerks maintain ledgers. Accounts receivable clerks process customer credit checks and handle refunds and credits.

Full charge bookkeeper is the entry-level job closest to that of a more qualified accountant. These professionals prepare financial statements, maintain accounting records and journal entries and reconcile accounts and bank statements. They can also earn salaries that are closer to that of full-fledged accountants than the rest of the entry-level accounting jobs.

As the job title implies, payroll clerks handle employee payroll. Every business, large or small, has to process employee payments. Payroll clerks are the professionals who calculate salary and deductions to create the business’s tax reports.

Limitations of an Associate’s Degree in Accounting

For accounting professionals whose highest level of education is an associate’s degree, career advancement can be difficult. Entry-level jobs like accounts payable and accounts receivable clerk may not pay high wages. Without the right education, accounting professionals can’t attain the professional certifications, like the CPA license, that could increase their opportunities and earning potential. Accounting professionals who don’t have a bachelor’s degree or higher may find it difficult to move into a staff accountant position at an accounting firm or to establish and attract clients to their own firm.

An associate’s degree alone can prepare you for a career in a position like bookkeeper or payroll, accounts payable or accounts receivable clerk. It can also be a stepping stone that allows you to begin gaining real-world experience in the field of accounting, perhaps while you earn a higher level degree online. Whether or not an associate’s degree should be a part of your educational path – or the entirety of your educational path – depends on what you ultimately want to do with your professional life.