You know that earning a college degree is an important step to getting a good job with a livable salary, but you might not be eager to spend four years – or more – in earning a bachelor’s degree. Starting off your career with an associate’s degree in the field of accounting can offer you job prospects with a decent, though not lucrative, wage and the potential for future advancement opportunities.
Jobs With an Associate’s Degree in Accounting
On its own, an associate’s degree in accounting is not likely to land you a job as an accountant or auditor. Accounting associate’s degrees are more commonly designed as career-focused programs that prepare students for accounting paraprofessional jobs. Earning your two-year degree in accounting is a good step toward a career as a bookkeeper, accounting clerk, auditing clerk, financial clerk or payroll clerk. While you would work with a company’s financial data and generate financial statements, your role would be an office and administrative support worker who handles the day-to-day tasks of keeping track of financial transactions and expenditures.
Bookkeeping and accounting clerks earn a median wage of $39,240 per year, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported. That salary is slightly above the $37,690 median wage for all occupations, but still $69,350 less than the median salary accountants and auditors earn.
One way to boost your accounting support career without going back to school is by attaining the Certified Bookkeeper (CB) certification from the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers or the Certified Public Bookkeeper (CPB) credential from the National Association of Certified Public Bookkeepers.
Best-Paying Industries for Accounting Paraprofessionals
Companies and organizations of all kinds need someone to handle the daily financial recording and reporting tasks. Bookkeepers and accounting clerks find work in all kinds of industries, and the industry in which you work can have a big impact on your wages. After all, though the median wage for this occupation is $39,240, the salary range is broad. The lowest paid bookkeepers and accounting clerks make less than $24,600 per year, while those with the best salaries earn annual wages above $60,670.
Bookkeepers and accounting clerks who work for the professional, scientific and technical services industry have the highest median wage, $41,260, the BLS reported. That industry is also the top employer of bookkeepers and accounting clerks, with 12 percent of these workers employed within this industry. The industries of finance and insurance, wholesale trade and healthcare and social assistance each account for seven percent of bookkeeping clerks and have similar median wages of $40,910, $39,870 and $38,430, respectively. Though one in 10 bookkeepers works in retail trade, these employees see the lowest wages, with a median salary of just $34,580.
The median hourly wage for bookkeepers and accounting clerks in all industries is $18.87, according to the BLS.
Junior Accountant Roles
If you excel at your work as a bookkeeping or accounting clerk, you might find that other opportunities become available to you after you have gained a great deal of work experience and plenty of on-the-job training. Some accounting clerks ultimately do find employment as accountants, the BLS reported. However, current and prospective bookkeepers should know that moving up isn’t always possible without going back to school. Most employers expect accountants – even junior ones – to have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, and among those who do consider candidates without a degree, opportunities usually don’t advance beyond junior accountant roles.
Generally, accountants at the junior level earn $54,750 to $70,500 at a small public accounting firm or $66,750 to $87,000 at a large firm, according to the Association of International Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). If your career moves instead lead you to a corporate accountant role, you could make $48,000 to $61,750 working for a small firm or $56,250 to $73,250 at a large firm. The lucrative six-figure and near-six-figure salaries are reserved for accountants who move into senior-level and management roles, but for that, you will need a bachelor’s degree at minimum.
If you decide to go back to school, you don’t have to start over. The credits and classes you took for your associate’s degree should still count toward your bachelor’s degree. Some accounting schools offer bachelor’s degree completion programs for students like you.