If you’d like to quickly get started in the accounting career field, an associate’s degree is your best option. Already, these community college degree programs take just two years for a full-time student to complete. Compared to a traditional bachelor’s or graduate degree program, you can save years of your time, enter the workforce sooner, avoid the of extra years of tuition costs and begin brining in money while your peers at four-year schools are still studying. For ambitious students who really want to reduce the time it takes to earn an associate’s degree even more, there are ways to speed up your education and graduate even faster.
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Coursework in Associate’s Degree Programs in Accounting
As important as it may be to you to finish your education early, gaining the knowledge and skills you need to succeed in your future accounting or bookkeeping career is the top priority. Associate’s degrees in accounting often focus more on applying technical accounting knowledge to complete tasks such as daily financial recording and the generation of basic accounting reports. These programs often spend less time on the accounting theories, concepts and research coursework found in more advanced programs.
Your courses in an associate’s degree program will include a mix of core business studies and accounting major studies, as well as some general education requirements. Most students take accounting classes such as managerial accounting, income tax, accounting spreadsheets, accounting software applications, accounting information systems and internal controls, ethics in accounting and intermediate accounting. Your general business classes might include business finance, business law, microeconomics, macroeconomics, management and marketing.
If you’re interested in working as a bookkeeper or accounting clerk but not sure about committing to an associate’s degree program, you could look into a postsecondary certificate program, the BLS reported.
Accelerated Associate’s Degree Options
How do you learn all you need to know for an accounting paraprofessional career and complete your associate’s degree requirements in less than the standard two-year timeframe to graduation? There are several different ways you can earn your associate’s degree faster.
One way to finish your education earlier is to study year-round. Loading up on extra courses during a summer session can save you time. You could also choose a school that offers accelerated courses and more terms per year, allowing you to squeeze in more classes. If you’re attempting to take extra courses per term or per year, make sure that your school does not impose a maximum course limit or charge you extra fees for enrolling in those extra classes. This way of earning your degree faster is intense and often very difficult. It may not be an option for students who are already juggling a great deal of responsibilities in other areas of their lives, including full-time work or family obligations. However, if you have the time to commit to studying and the motivation to work very hard, the payoff of graduating early can be significant.
Another way to get your associate’s degree faster is to choose a competency-based program. These degree programs allow you to test out of classes or otherwise gain college credit for the skills and knowledge you already have. Competency-based associate’s degree in accounting programs work best for students who already have experience working in a role such as bookkeeper or accounting clerk but want to expand their education and enhance their job prospects. If you don’t yet have experience, a competency-based program might not save you any time. However, experienced bookkeeping and accounting clerks can test out of several classes that would only reiterate the information you already have from your on-the-job training.
Exactly how much time you can save depends on your school and degree program, how many credits you can gain through transfer credits or competency-based assessments and how much time and effort you are willing and able to devote to your education. An associate’s degree in accounting can be completed in as little as 18 months at Rasmussen College, while the more general associate’s in business management degree can be completed in 15 months at Fremont College. As competency-based programs go, Colorado Technical University allows students to test out of up to 12 classes and earn 50.5 college credits toward their degrees for the information they already know.
When you hear the term “one-year associate’s degree,” it may refer to one of these 15- to 18-month programs that take slightly more than one year but less than a traditional two-year, 24-month program.
Beyond the Associate’s Degree
An associate’s degree can help you quickly get started working full-time in an office and administrative support role such as bookkeeper or accounting clerk. However, if you decide later on in your career that you want to go from a paraprofessional to a professional, and possibly licensed, accountant, your associate’s degree may not be enough. It’s possible to move from bookkeeper or accounting clerk to a junior accountant position, but most accountant roles require at least a bachelor’s degree, according to the BLS.
By transferring the credits you earned for your associate’s degree to a competency-based bachelor’s degree program, you can speed up the time it takes to earn what is traditionally considered to be a four-year degree, as well.