The cost of a college degree climbs steadily without sign of relief, and many students who want to go into accounting are looking at an Associate’s Degree in Accounting. After all, the two-year degrees cost less and can often be earned in part-time formats while students keep their jobs. The degrees are still a major investment of both time and money. So, if you are considering earning an associate accounting degree, is it worth the money and the effort?
The Absolute Positives
You can earn an associate degree at any age. People who are late into their first careers who are interested in accounting can quickly begin a new chapter in their lives. While the two-year degrees may not get you a job that pays a six-figure income, it significantly increases your salary over that of a non-degreed employee. One source quoted a beginning salary of $50,000 for an employee with an associate accounting degree. That is $11,000 higher than the starting salary for someone without a degree. Associate degrees are often earned in community colleges, which are less expensive than four-year schools. If you decide to get a bachelor’s degree, your courses will probably transfer, especially if the college has an affiliation with a university. That means you will save in tuition over taking all four years in a university. In addition, accounting is a field that continues to be in demand.
The Possible Downside
Employers may still have a negative perspective of the associate degree versus the bachelor’s degree. The truth is, however, that some technical accounting associate degrees may enable you to earn more than the median salary for the average baccalaureate degree. There is high demand for students in applied science professions who have in-depth knowledge and skills in certain accounting areas. Your associate degree may not give you an opportunity to advance in your job. You should consider what the “gold standard” is for entry-level positions in the business where you intend to work. If it is a baccalaureate degree, you may not be able to compete.
What Accounting Jobs Are Available with an Associate Degree?
You can work in bookkeeping, payroll and accounts receivable and payable. In addition, having an associate degree in accounting can enable you to perform bookkeeping tasks in your own business instead of hiring someone to do that task. A recent listing on the Indeed site for an accounts payable coordinator required an associate degree and three years of experience but starting salary was $19 an hour. One source indicates that an associate degree coupled with experience on the job puts you ahead of job applicants with a bachelor’s degree and no experience. With your accounting associate degree you can work in a hospital billing office, in a large accounting firm as an assistant, or even as an independent bookkeeper with a home office.
What Else to Consider
You should think about your goals. Do you want to advance to a management position or do you just want a higher-paying accounting position? If advancement potential is important to you, an associate degree in accounting might not be enough. Are you able to take time off to pursue your degree? Most degree programs are available online in part-time formats today. If you intend to go to school full-time, however, the two-year associate degree may be easier to manage than a four-year degree. In addition, if you do decide to get the more advanced degree, you can save money earning an associate degree at a community college first. Is the area of accounting that interests you accessible for people with associate degrees? Forensic accounting, for instance, usually requires a more advanced degree.
If they help you reach your goals, associate degrees are worth your time and effort in earning them. The key is determining what you want to accomplish with the degree program. An associate’s degree in accounting can help you get a higher-paid accounting position, or even put you on a path to a more advanced degree.