Accounting is a career path with rapid job growth, excellent stability even during economic downturns and significant earning potential. Even for junior accountant and paraprofessional accounting clerk roles, you typically need some college education. Fortunately, for students who are eager to get out into, or back into, the accounting workforce, there are plenty of accelerated options at various levels of study that allow you to earn an accounting degree quickly.
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Accelerated Associate’s Degrees in Accounting
An associate’s degree is already the quickest college degree you can earn. Generally, associate’s degrees require 60 semester hours of study, or about two years of full-time coursework. Though an associate’s degree program can be just your first step on the route to earning your bachelor’s degree, these programs can also prepare students for paraprofessional accounting roles, like bookkeeper or accounting clerk. As a result, they tend to be career-focused programs that primarily train students in the accounting practices and techniques used for day-to-day financial account management and the creation of basic financial reports.
Because the courses taken in an associate’s degree program in accounting are integral to success in a bookkeeping or accounting clerk occupation, you naturally can’t just forgo these classes, and you still need the required credits to get your degree. However, if you’re willing to dedicate the time and hard work to do so, you can shorten the time it takes to graduate. One way to get your degree faster is by choosing a program that offers an accelerated schedule or taking additional courses per term, allowing you to complete more classes in a year. That’s how American National University, for example, allows students to finish their associate’s degrees in as little as 15 months. Students who have experience working in bookkeeping already could also choose a competency-based program that allows you to test out of classes if you are already familiar with the subject matter. For example, students enrolled in the Fast Track program at Colorado Technical University can test out of up to 12 courses, earning as many as 50.5 credits toward their associate’s degrees.
Associate’s degree programs in accounting typically include coursework in subjects such as financial accounting, cost accounting, intermediate accounting and core business topics.
Fastest Bachelor’s Degrees in Accounting
If you want to work as a full-fledged accountant, and perhaps attain your Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license, then you need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. Using similar strategies as students pursuing an associate’s degree, it is possible to shave a year or more off of the time it takes to earn this traditionally four-year degree.
The competency-based Bachelor of Science in Accounting degree at Colorado Technical University offered on campus and online allows students to take Fast Track exams to test out of up to 16 classes, or 67 credits. Southern New Hampshire University includes accounting as one of its innovative Degree in Three programs, in which the internships, case studies and other learning experiences outside the classroom that make up one-quarter of the undergraduate curriculum are included in three busy years of accelerated study. The University of New Haven also offers its own Fast Track option for students with 12 college credits to transfer from Advanced Placement or community college courses, though the program requires intense course loads each semester. Students at ECPI University can complete their bachelor’s in accounting degree in just 2 and a half years, taking two accelerated per five-week term 10 times per year.
Students who already have an associate’s degree in accounting can attain their bachelor’s degree faster by looking for degree completion programs that include generous transfer credit policies.
Accelerated Master’s in Accounting Degrees
Due to the requirement in most states of the U.S. that CPA candidates have a minimum of 150 semester hours of study, today’s accounting students are spending more time in school. Many accelerated master’s degree programs in accounting are five-year programs that award both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from the same school, according to the BLS. This option allows students who know early on that they want to go to graduate school or become a CPA to save time and prepare for their professional examinations.
Enrolling in one of these accelerated master’s in accounting programs can also help you develop a more specialized knowledge base or skillset that can help you move into a niche role in the field of accounting. For example, Webster University offers a combined Bachelor of Science in Accounting and Master of Science in Finance program as well as a Bachelor of Science in Accounting and Master of Science in Forensic Accounting program.
Attaining a master’s degree in accounting can help you move into management and senior-level roles, and the advanced degree carries a wage premium, according to the BLS.