5 Best Online Associate Degree Programs in Accounting

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Updated September 27, 2022

An associate degree can be a stepping stone toward a bachelor's — or pave the way for administrative jobs right after you graduate. Review the top online schools to find your fit.

Are you ready to discover your college program?

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An associate in accounting is a two-year degree covering basic business and accounting principles. This entry-level credential qualifies graduates for employment in various clerical and administrative roles. The curriculum also prepares students for a bachelor's degree in accounting.

Accounting associate graduates who enter the workforce directly can earn a comfortable wage in the business industry. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, financial clerks earned an annual median salary of $41,520 as of 2020. They find jobs in many industries, including banks, medical practices, and government agencies.

In this guide, degree-seekers can read about associate program details, degree options, and accounting job prospects. Read on for our ranking of the best online associate in accounting online programs.

Why Get an Online Accounting Associate Degree?

Accounting professionals record, organize, and report organizations' financial transactions. Across industries, workers use foundational business knowledge to make financial decisions and manage cash flow. Different levels of education within the accounting field prepare workers for various professional roles.

Associate degrees in accounting offer graduates the fundamental knowledge to secure entry-level employment in the business industry or pursue further education. Earning this shorter degree can be the right choice for working professionals who want to build their resumes and compete in the job market without committing to the time or expense of a longer program.

Associate degrees in accounting offer graduates the fundamental knowledge to secure entry-level employment in the business industry or pursue further education.

Some of the other benefits of an accounting associate degree include:

  • Competitive Edge: While many clerical or administrative assistant roles require only a high school diploma, some employers prefer candidates with an associate degree in accounting because the degree demonstrates motivation and commitment to the industry.
  • Resume Building: With the competitive edge an associate in accounting online affords, graduates can land jobs and begin building a strong resume.
  • Foundational Learning: Associate in accounting programs teach students foundational principles of accounting that apply to the workforce and future educational opportunities.

Top Online Associate Programs

Explore programs of your interests with the high-quality standards and flexibility you need to take your career to the next level.

Accounting Associate Versus Bachelor's Degrees

Degree-seekers hoping to build careers in the business and financial industry can pursue several levels of accounting degrees. Some associate in accounting degrees prepare enrollees to enter the workforce immediately, while others support students who plan to enroll in a bachelor's program.

A bachelor's degree in accounting equips students to land jobs as accountants and financial advisors. However, graduates may still need additional coursework beyond the bachelor's to take the certified public accountant (CPA) exam.

Both a bachelor's and an associate offer professional pathways and opportunities to pursue further education, but their program requirements cater to different student needs.

Comparing Associate and Bachelor's Degrees
Accounting Associate Degree Accounting Bachelor's Degree
Length 2 years 4 years
Course Load 60 credits 120 credits
Types of Classes Foundational courses in accounting, including: Finance; Information technology; Business law Advanced accounting theory and practice, including: Managerial accounting; Federal tax accounting; Auditing
Focus Developing a basic knowledge of accounting practices for clerical and administrative duties Preparing students for employment as accountants and other financial industry professionals
Student Demographics Students who plan to pursue further education in the business field and professionals who seek to enter the workforce after graduation Prospective accountants and business professionals planning to enter the workforce upon graduation or pursue further education and sit the CPA exam

What To Expect From Associate in Accounting Programs

Associate accounting degrees come in several forms, so applicants should consider their future goals when choosing a program. Some programs like an associate of arts (AA) or associate of science (AS) in accounting provide building blocks for future education, while applied associate of science (AAS), applied associate of art (AAA), and applied associate of business (AAB) accounting degrees prepare graduates for entry-level careers.

Degree-seekers can generally expect an associate in accounting online to take about two years, but some schools offer accelerated programs that allow students to complete their studies in just one year. Most programs require about 60 credits, but many schools accept transfer credits, so students with previous coursework may be able to graduate more quickly.

The Admissions Process

Although some colleges offer open enrollment, most associate programs require applicants to hold a high school diploma or GED certificate. Programs offered through four-year universities may require a minimum GPA or entrance exam scores. Many schools require admitted students to take placement assessment tests like the ACCUPLACER.

Because much of the curriculum for associate in accounting online programs requires math and computer skills, some institutions may require applicants to have completed advanced math or computing courses.

Degree and Concentration Options

There is an array of accounting associate degree options, so prospective students should select programs based on their future career goals.

AA in Accounting

An associate of arts in accounting allows students to study general accounting principles while also pursuing liberal arts electives before entering a bachelor's program.

AS in Accounting

An associate of science in accounting degree provides introductory coursework in math and science that helps prepare accounting students to enter a bachelor's program.

AAS in Accounting

An associate of applied science degree teaches students about accounting with the aim of entry-level employment in the field upon graduation.

AAA in Accounting

An associate of applied arts in accounting degree provides degree-seekers with a career-focused survey of accounting principles. Graduates typically enter the workforce.

AAB in Accounting

An associate of applied business in accounting degree teaches students practical accounting skills so they can find employment after graduation.

Popular Accounting Courses

Since associate accounting degrees may differ in their goals, the classes they entail also vary. However, many programs offer similar foundational courses in business and accounting principles. Common associate in accounting online classes include:

Introductory finance courses teach principles of business finance. These classes often feature experiential learning opportunities that show students how to prepare financial statements. Accounting students also learn about the annual accounting cycle and develop skills in computing and analyzing financial accounting data.

Accounting professionals must rely on computing skills to manage and organize data. Core IT courses provide learners with a background in business systems and design, including creation of spreadsheets and practice with key analytical functions for accounting information.

This course teaches students about the U.S. legal system, business ethics, and legal strategies. In these classes, students analyze case studies to apply principles of business law and business ethics.

Since taxation comprises much of the accounting industry, prospective accounting professionals need to understand the fundamentals of U.S. law and tax code. In these courses, students study tax documents, examine tax law, and practice filing federal tax returns.

Top Online Associate Programs

Explore programs of your interests with the high-quality standards and flexibility you need to take your career to the next level.

How Much Will an Associate in Accounting Cost?

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average cost of one year's tuition and fees at a two-year school was $11,389 for the 2018-19 academic year. However, students studying an associate in accounting online may be able to avoid some of the fees associated with traditional, in-person schooling.

Budget-conscious students can save money by selecting an online school, which cuts down on relocation and transportation costs. Some online programs charge all students in-state tuition, regardless of state residency. Many schools also offer financing options, including scholarships, fellowships, grants, and loans.

Learners who plan to pursue a bachelor's in accounting may want to complete their associate degree first, since that credential can allow them to obtain business industry positions while simultaneously completing their studies. Working at an industry job while studying online may be the most affordable option for many students and also provide better opportunities for future career advancement.

Jobs for Associate in Accounting Graduates

Many graduates who hold an associate in accounting can obtain clerical employment with a comfortable salary. Many of these employment opportunities involve record-keeping, organization, and communication. Applicants should expect to use computer software applications to perform industry-specific tasks for their employers.

Accounting professionals interested in increasing their job qualifications can also pursue accounting certifications. The jobs listed below require or prefer an associate degree in accounting, but further education and certification can give applicants a leg up on the competition.

Financial Clerks

Many organizations need financial clerks to perform administrative tasks like keeping records, helping customers, and completing monetary transactions.

  • Required Education: High school diploma required, associate degree preferred
  • Job Outlook (2020-30): -2%
  • Median Annual Salary: $41,520

Information Clerks

Information clerks execute clerical duties, such as maintaining records, collecting data, and providing information to customers. Many industries like business, government agencies, hotels, and healthcare facilities employ information clerks.

  • Required Education: Associate degree
  • Job Outlook (2020-30): 2%
  • Median Annual Salary: $36,920

Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks

Clerks in bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing roles rely on math and computer skills to maintain and organize financial records. Clerks need to develop mastery of the spreadsheet and bookkeeping software their employers use.

  • Required Education: High school diploma required, associate degree preferred
  • Job Outlook (2020-30): -3%
  • Median Annual Salary: $42,410

Administrative Assistants

Secretaries and administrative assistants use computer software applications to complete clerical and administrative duties. Many administrative assistants work in schools, hospitals, government agencies, and legal offices.

  • Required Education: High school diploma required, associate degree preferred
  • Job Outlook (2020-30): -7%
  • Median Annual Salary: $40,990

Choosing the Right Accounting Program

School rankings provide information on the quality and affordability of various programs, but prospective students should consider additional factors in their school search:

  • Accreditation: Make sure each school has been regionally or nationally accredited. Accreditation ensures that an institution meets standards of academic excellence. Some schools may also hold programmatic accreditation through an agency like the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs, which ensures that a degree's coursework prepares students for jobs in the field.
  • Cost and Financial Aid: Compare the tuition for each prospective school and investigate their financial aid options. Applicants with college credits from high school or a previous institution should investigate whether schools accept transfer credits as a way to lower their overall educational investment.
  • Location: Many schools offer different tuition rates for in-state and out-of-state students, so degree-seekers may want to consider local schools.
  • Program Length: While most associate in accounting programs average 60 credits, some programs require fewer credits or offer accelerated options to help students complete studies in a shorter amount of time.
  • Future Education Opportunities: Learners who plan to pursue further education after completing an associate degree may want to select a school that offers bachelor degree studies and/or a streamlined application process for associate degree graduates.

Why You Should Get Your Associate in Accounting Online

Working professionals who want to increase their earning potential often turn to online schooling. Virtual students can choose when and where they study, allowing them to maintain their work-life balance. Completing an associate in accounting online while simultaneously working allows motivated professionals to build their resumes even while furthering their education.

Online learning requires time management and self-sufficiency. Learners with strong planning and organizational skills often excel in online learning spaces, but those who struggle to motivate themselves may find online education burdensome.

Completing an associate in accounting online while simultaneously working allows motivated professionals to build their resumes even while furthering their education.

Students limited in their educational opportunities due to their location may enjoy the freedom of online learning. Since many associate in accounting online programs require no in-person courses, learners who live in remote areas can still pursue a degree without having to relocate.

Top Online Associate Programs

Explore programs of your interests with the high-quality standards and flexibility you need to take your career to the next level.

The Top Online Associate in Accounting Schools

Our top five schools for online associate degrees in accounting in 2022 appear below. Our rankings methodology considers factors such as accreditation, tuition, and institutional performance measures. We update these rankings annually.

#1

Liberty University

School Information
Location Lynchburg, Virginia
Admission Rate 51%
Graduation Rate 47%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 92% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

A private, evangelical university in Lynchburg, Virginia, Liberty is one of the world's largest Christian universities. The school enrolls around 95,000 students annually. Most of the student body takes courses online.

Online Associate Degree in Accounting

Liberty's School of Business runs an online accounting program that prepares learners to work as accountants, auditors, or budget analysts. Students complete this accelerated program 100% online. By taking eight-week courses, enrollees can complete 60 credits in about 18 months. Applicants can transfer up to 75% of their credits from an accredited school.

Learners complete business courses such as business law and principles of marketing. Accounting classes cover both managerial and financial accounting. Graduates can use their associate degree as a foundation for Liberty's bachelor's degree in accounting.

Applying to Liberty

Applicants need a 2.0 minimum GPA for admission in good standing. Prospective students submit official transcripts, a high school self-certification, and proof of English language proficiency. 

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Private
  • Accreditation: Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Tuition: $390 per credit
  • Required Credits: 60
  • Program Length: 18 months
  • Delivery Format: 100% online, asynchronous 
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#2

Olney Central College

School Information
Location Olney, Illinois
Graduation Rate 64%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 34% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Part of a network of Illinois Eastern Community Colleges, OCC offers technical certificates and associate degrees. Some enrollees earn bachelor's degrees through OCC's affiliation with Franklin University.

Accounting Associate Degree

OCC's 63-credit accounting program includes classes such as business math, business law, and business finance. Enrollees also study economics and human resource management. Coursework covers QuickBooks and business computer systems. Learners complete 19 general education credits in areas such as public speaking, psychology, and composition. 

Students can complete this program over four 16-week semesters. Degree-seekers participate in an internship during their last semester. OCC offers eight-week courses during the summer. Online enrollees can access learning resources, student support services, and technical and administrative support.

Applying to OCC

OCC maintains an open admissions policy. Applicants must submit official transcripts and standardized test scores. OCC also requires a background check.

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Tuition: $100-$135 per credit, depending on location
  • Required Credits: 63
  • Program Length: Two years
  • Delivery Format: 100% online
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#3

Herkimer County Community College

School Information
Location Herkimer, New York
Graduation Rate 30%
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 36% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Founded in 1966 as part of the SUNY system, Herkimer serves around 2,400 undergraduates and maintains a physical campus in suburban New York. Herkimer provides several dozen associate degree and certificate programs. The school also partners with Cazenovia College to offer two bachelor's programs.

Online Accounting AS

Herkimer's business program offers an associate in accounting concentration. Learners explore the theories, practices, and technologies of basic accounting. Enrollees study accounting principles and take classes such as macroeconomics and cost accounting. Additional business-related subjects include corporate finance, marketing, and business law. 

The curriculum includes several general education courses that prepare students to transfer to a four-year school. Herkimer maintains transfer agreements with nine other institutions, including the SUNY schools. Online learners can access placement testing, academic advising, and tutoring.

Applying to Herkimer

Applicants need a high school or GED diploma. Prospective students must submit official transcripts. 

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • Tuition: $2,558 per semester for full-time students with New York residency
  • Required Credits: 64
  • Program Length: Two years
  • Delivery Format: Can be 100% online or hybrid
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#4

Northeast Community College

School Information
Location Norfolk, Nebraska
Graduation Rate 51%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 39% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

In 1973, Nebraska's state legislature established Northeast as a merger of Northeast Nebraska Technical College and Northeastern Nebraska College. Northeast offers 20 online programs and runs four physical campuses. 

Associate of Arts Degree in Accounting

Northeast's 60-credit accounting associate degree includes 27 core credits and 33 general education credits. This program offers more general education elective choices than some of its competitors. Students choose one of 14 English classes and one of six history classes.

Learners can transfer the degree to a bachelor's program. 

Core accounting-related coursework includes spreadsheet accounting, business communications, and fundamentals of information technology. Online learners can access support services, including academic support and IT help. Northeast offers some grants and scholarships. 

Applying to Northeast

Applicants submit official transcripts and standardized test scores. Those without test scores must take placement tests. Northeast does not charge an application fee. 

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Public 
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Tuition: $105 per credit for Nebraska residents
  • Required Credits: 60
  • Program Length: Two years
  • Delivery Format: 100% online, asynchronous
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#5

Finger Lakes Community College

School Information
Location Canandaigua, New York
Graduation Rate 33%
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 26% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

A SUNY affiliate, FLCC opened in 1967 and receives sponsorship from Ontario County. FLCC maintains physical campuses in New York and serves nearly 6,000 graduates across several counties.

Accounting Associate of Applied Science

FLCC's online accounting program trains learners for entry-level jobs or further study in business-related fields. Many graduates transfer to bachelor's programs at SUNY or other four-year schools. Enrollees build analysis and problem-solving skills. They learn principles and practices for financial, managerial, and cost accounting. 

Degree-seekers complete general education classes. They also take classes in business communications, business law, and marketing. An internship program runs 12-15 weeks during the spring or summer. FLCC offers various scholarships, including two accounting-specific awards. 

Applying to FLCC

First-year applicants need a high school or GED diploma. Transfer applicants with college degrees do not need to submit high school transcripts. 

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • Tuition: Full-time state residents pay $2,480 per semester
  • Required Credits: 63-64
  • Program Length: Four semesters
  • Delivery Format: 100% online asynchronous or hybrid
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Questions About Online Associate Degrees in Accounting

Is an associate in accounting worth it?

Yes. An associate degree in accounting can offer graduates the competitive edge to secure employment in the business industry or pursue further accounting education.

How many credit hours is an associate degree in accounting online?

An associate in accounting online generally requires 60 credits, but some programs offer accelerated options or accept transfer credits.

Which is better: an associate degree or certificate in accounting?

Certificates in accounting can offer specialized skills and knowledge, but many of those certifications depend on the fundamental knowledge taught in associate degree coursework, so learners usually benefit from earning an associate in accounting first.

What can you do with an associate degree in accounting?

Graduates who hold an associate in accounting work in various clerical and administrative roles or take their education to the next level with a bachelor's degree.

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