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Education

How Much Can I Make With An Associates Degree In Accounting

By David Krug 8 minute read

You know that getting a college education is essential if you want to land a well-paying job, but you may not want to devote four years or more of your life to completing a bachelor’s degree. You may come across accounting associate’s degree programs as you look into your options.

Accounting is a good field to begin your career in with an associate’s degree because it offers a decent salary and the potential for future advancement. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual wage for the most likely career with this education is slightly below that of all associate’s degree earners, but an accounting AA degree salary is comparable to the median wage for all occupations (BLS).

What You Should Know About Accounting Associate’s Degrees

Community or technical colleges typically offer associate’s degrees, which typically require 60 or so undergraduate credits to complete. Associate’s degrees in accounting are available in a variety of formats, including the following:

  • Accreditation: Associate of Arts (AA)
  • Associate’s degrees in science
  • These degrees are known as Associate of Applied Science degrees (AAS).

Most of the differences between an Associate of Arts and an Associate of Science degree are in the emphasis placed on liberal arts or science. It’s worth noting, however, that AA or AS degrees differ significantly from AAS degrees. Accreditation by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC) is an indicator of a college degree’s ability to be used in the workforce.

For those who plan to continue their accounting education beyond the associate’s degree level, an Associate of Arts or Associate of Science degree may be the best choice. The Associate of Applied Science degree, on the other hand, tends to focus on the practical and technical skills needed to succeed in the accounting field, rather than liberal arts and sciences courses that would help you progress toward a bachelor’s degree.

Although associate’s degrees are often referred to as “two-year degrees,” not all students are able to complete them in that amount of time. Due to transferring schools, changing majors, repeating courses in order to improve grades, or enrolling in a degree program that requires more than 60 credits, students should expect to spend more time in school. Regardless of whether they are part-time or full-time students, students who don’t take a full course load each semester face the same consequences.

A certificate in accounting from an undergraduate school is also an option to consider. In contrast to an associate’s degree, which requires two years of full-time study, an undergraduate certificate can be completed in as little as one year of full-time study.

Accounting Associate’s Degree Jobs

As a general rule, an associate’s degree in accounting isn’t going to land you a job as an accountant or auditor on its own. The majority of accounting associate’s degree programs are designed to help students land jobs as accounting assistants. Clerks, assistants, and specialized accounting support paraprofessionals may all be employed in these positions.

Accounting Clerks with an Associate’s Degree

A clerk is a person who works in an administrative capacity and performs a variety of administrative duties in the office. When it comes to seniority, clerks are generally considered to be lower-level employees, but their work is critical to the smooth running of a company’s daily operations.

A clerk’s job usually requires little in the way of education or work experience. Some post-secondary education is necessary to become a clerk, but a high school diploma is also acceptable, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

According to O*NET, more than 40 percent of bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks have a high school diploma as their highest level of education. Postsecondary certificates (reported by 21% of workers) and bachelor’s degrees (reported by 12% of workers) round out the next two most common educational levels for this profession.

Administrative duties of a clerk may be more general, but accounting duties of a clerk may be more specific. As a clerk with an associate’s degree in accounting, you could work in a variety of positions, including:

  • Accounting clerks, also known as bookkeepers, are responsible for maintaining a company’s general ledger, which records all of the company’s financial transactions as debits and credits. Compiling transaction data, preparing invoices, managing payroll, and even producing basic financial statements are all tasks that bookkeeping clerks may be tasked with.
  • Financial transaction data is entered into a computer system, interest is calculated, and loan payments and financial accounts are monitored, according to the BLS. Billing vouchers are also overseen by accounting clerks.
  • An auditing clerk’s job is to identify inconsistencies in the mathematical calculations and the coding of financial statements or reports, and either correct minor errors themselves or bring in auditors with the education and experience to examine statements more closely to address issues of fraud, embezzlement, or wasted resources.

Bookkeeping, accounting clerks, auditors and financial clerks can all benefit from an accounting degree. While an associate’s degree in accounting would be helpful in your work with a company’s financial data, you wouldn’t actually be working as an accountant in these roles. Instead, you’d be a clerical assistant, responsible for the day-to-day management of financial transactions and expenditures in the company.

Positions for Accounting Assistants

You may also be eligible for assistant positions in accounting if you have an associate’s degree in accounting. Accounting assistant is the most common, but there are also more specialized positions, such as payroll assistant, available.

When it comes to job duties, accounting assistants tend to be better-educated than accounting clerks. It is common for accounting assistants to have either an associate’s degree or technical degree, whereas clerks are not required to have a college education.

Accounting assistants have more responsibilities than clerks because they are expected to know more about accounting. Unlike accounting clerks, whose duties typically involve only the day-to-day administration of accounting, accounting assistants have a much broader range of duties that include everything from preparing financial statements to processing transactions to filing reports to aiding in audits.

Obtainable with an Associate’s Degree are Specialized Accounting Support Roles

Paraprofessionals who work in accounting but aren’t accountants are typically called “accounting support.” In order to reflect the narrow scope of the work involved in the most specialized positions, employers may choose to use the term “specialist” in the job title. Billing specialists, account resolution specialists, payment posting specialists, payroll specialists, accounts receivable recovery specialists, and just accounting specialists are a few examples of these jobs.

It’s possible to advance in the accounting support field without going back to school if you obtain a credential from either the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers (AIPB) or the National Association of Certified Public Bookkeepers (NACPB).

Roles of a Junior Accountant

Bookkeeping clerks and accounting assistants who excel at their jobs may find that other opportunities open up to them as they gain more experience and on-the-job training. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that some accounting clerks end up working as accountants.

Bookkeepers should be aware, however, that advancement is not always possible without returning to school. Most employers expect accountants, even junior ones, to have at least a bachelor’s degree, and those who do consider candidates without a degree usually don’t advance beyond junior accountant positions.

The responsibilities of junior accountants are no less important than those of senior accountants, but they may not be as challenging or as interesting to work on as those of a staff accountant or, later, a senior accountant.

How much money can I expect to make if I get an associate’s in accounting?

There are a number of factors that can influence an accountant associate degree salary. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks earned a median annual wage of $42,410 in 2020. It’s a little above the $41,950 median wage for all occupations, but it’s still a lot less than the median salary for accounting and auditing. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks earned an average hourly wage of $21.20 in 2020.

Salary.com reported a salary range of $41,800 to $52,100 for experienced accounting assistants in the United States in July 2021, with a median wage of $46,600.

Accounting AA degree salaries may be comparable to those for accounting clerks or accounting assistants, depending on the job duties, education required, and structure and hierarchy of the company. Accounting clerks and assistants typically earn between $30,000 and $40,000 a year, but the more specialized knowledge you need, the more money you’ll make.

With an associate’s degree, you can work your way up to a position as a junior accountant and earn more money. The Salary.com website estimates that the annual salary of an entry-level accountant in the United States in July 2021 will range from $51,233 to $61,963, with a mean wage of $56,273. However, if you only have an associate’s degree, you are likely to fall on the lower end of this pay scale. The 25th percentile of junior accountant salaries is $51,233, and the 10th percentile of junior accountant salaries is $46,644 or less. Even so, junior accountants tend to earn the most from their AAS in accounting degree.

You can earn a lot more money if you’re willing to continue your education beyond an associate’s degree. By the Association of International Certified Public Accountants in 2019, CPAs with less than one year of experience reported earning between $39,500 and $74,250 a year in the field of public accounting and $42,250 to $82,250 per year in the corporate accounting field.

A bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement for accountants who want to move up to management positions and make six-figure or near-six-figure salaries their standard.

You don’t have to start from scratch if you decide to return to school. Credits from your associate’s degree will transfer to your bachelor’s degree unless otherwise stated. Bachelors degree completion programs are available at some accounting schools.

Accounting Paraprofessionals Make the Most Money in These Industries.

To keep their financial records and reports organized, businesses of all sizes require a person to handle this daily function. A bookkeeper’s or accounting clerk’s salary depends heavily on the industry in which he or she works. Despite the wide range of earnings, the 2020 median salary for this profession was $42,410. Most bookkeepers and accounting clerks make less than $27,050 a year, while the top 10% earn more than $63,900 a year.

A median salary of $44,420 was recorded by bookkeepers and accounting clerks employed by professional, scientific, and technical services firms, according to the BLS. There are 13% of these workers employed in this industry, making it the top employer of bookkeepers and accounting clerks. A median yearly salary of $44,140 was earned by those working in the finance and insurance sector, which accounted for 6% of all occupations.

In 2020, retail trade and wholesale trade both employed 8% of all bookkeeping clerks, but wholesale trade bookkeepers earned significantly more than retail trade bookkeepers – $43,370 versus $37,230 per year. Healthcare and social assistance workers make an average of $41,100 per year in bookkeeping and accounting clerk positions.

Financial clerks’ earning potential is also influenced by where they work. Wages for bookkeeping and accounting clerks in the District of Columbia averaged $58,950, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Massachusetts, Connecticut, and California all have a $50,000 median salary for bookkeeping and accounting clerks.

David Krug

Author