Best Online Associate in Accounting Programs
thebestschools.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.
Are you ready to discover your college program?
The accounting field offers a variety of lucrative career options to graduates of online accounting programs.
Students trained in advanced math, business, and economics qualify for their choice of professions, such as accounting and auditing, budget and financial analysis, and sales and commodities trading. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a promising outlook for accountants and auditors from 2016 to 2026, with an employment growth rate of 10% due to a complex tax system, expanding economy, and globalization.
Accountants and auditors earned a median annual wage of $70,500 as of May 2018, with professionals working in finance and insurance among the highest-paid in the field.
For students interested in pursuing entry-level jobs, earning an online associate degree in accounting can lead to junior positions in accounting and finance. With work experience, many who complete an associate degree in accounting online can advance to executive positions. Additionally, earning an accredited online accounting associate degree provides students with a path to a bachelor’s degree, which most jobs in the business and financial sector require.
Many online accounting graduates pursue certification to practice as certified public accountants (CPAs) or chartered financial analysts (CFAs). This enhances their job prospects in the industry.
The Best Online Accounting Programs
Online Accounting Programs Ranking Guidelines
We ranked these degree programs based on quality, curricula, school awards, rankings, and reputation.
Here at TheBestSchools.org, we take the trust and welfare of our readers very seriously. When making our school and program rankings, our top priority is ensuring that our readers get accurate, unbiased information that can help them make informed decisions about online education. That's why we've developed a rigorous ranking methodology that keeps the needs of our readers front and center.
Our proprietary, multi-criteria ranking algorithm analyzes key data indicators — as collected by the federal government — for each school or program. What data we use depends on the focus of each specific ranking, but in all cases, our ranking methodology is impartial: Schools cannot buy better rankings at TBS.
While specific criteria under consideration can vary by ranking, there are a few data points that we value most highly. They are affordability, academic quality, and online enrollment. Below, we break down our algorithm to help you understand what you're getting when you use one of our rankings.
The data used in TBS rankings comes primarily from the federal government, and much of it is provided by the schools themselves. We aggregate and analyze this data to build our rankings.
The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) is our primary source. Its data comes from annual surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Every college, university, or technical school with access to federal financial aid must participate in these surveys, which include questions about enrollment, graduation rates, finances, and faculty qualifications. This is publicly available data, which you can access yourself through the College Navigator.
Additionally, because we value a personal touch and the professional experience of our staff and Academic Advisory Board, we vet all results and adjust rankings as necessary based on our collected knowledge of schools and degree programs. Depending on the ranking, we may obtain additional input from AcademicInfluence.com, subject matter experts, prior TBS ranking lists, or other sources we deem relevant to a particular ranking.
Breakdown of Our Rankings Methodology
About Our Ranking Factors
Here at TBS, we value what you value: quality education, affordability, and the accessibility of online education. These factors guide all of our program rankings.
Each of these factors are further broken down into weighted subfactors. For example, retention rates are weighted more heavily than availability of program options because they are a better indicator of student success.
We chose the following factors for our rankings because of their influence on learning experiences and graduate outcomes. However, students should always balance our rankings against their personal priorities. For instance, a learner who needs a fully online program may prioritize online flexibility more than our rankings do. Our rankings are designed to help you make a decision — not to make a decision for you.
In all our school rankings and recommendations, we work for objectivity and balance. We carefully research and compile each ranking list, and as stated in our advertising disclosure, we do NOT permit financial incentives to influence rankings. Our articles never promote or disregard a school for financial gain.
If you have questions about our ranking methodology, please feel free to connect with our staff through contact page.
We thank you for your readership and trust.
Featured Online Accounting Programs
The Advantages of an Accounting Education
A bachelor’s degree is the most common entry-level requirement for accounting careers, but an associate degree holder may qualify for junior-level positions, such as a bookkeeper or accounting clerk. Some employers offer associate graduates the opportunity to gain on-the-job experience while obtaining their bachelor’s degrees. Most business and finance accounting jobs favor candidates with bachelor’s degrees, and many prefer those with industry certification, as well, which requires a bachelor’s degree.
Among the highest-paid occupations in accounting, financial analysts with bachelor’s degrees and CFA certification may earn a median wage of $85,660 a year. The median annual salary of accounting clerks, a position requiring a high school diploma or associate degree, is $40,240 — less than half what the average financial analyst makes.
Accounting Degree Career and Salary Information
Upon completing an online associate in accounting degree, you may decide to transfer into a related bachelor’s program. Doing so would likely increase your earning potential, as jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree often pay more. For example, the median annual wage for a bookkeeper stands at $41,846, while that for a senior accountant — a position requiring at least a bachelor’s degree — is $66,467.
The best online associate in accounting programs hold transfer agreements with major state universities, guaranteeing graduates admission into a bachelor’s program.
- Accountants and Auditors
- Accountants prepare financial records and taxes for clients, while auditors examine clients’ finances and taxes for consistency and compliance. Most accountants and auditors hold at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field, plus CPA certification. Some enter the field with just an associate degree to gain work experience before advancing their careers.
- Budget Analysts
- Budget analysts provide financial organization services to private and corporate clients by monitoring their spending habits and schedules. Most budget analysts hold at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field, though some employers accept extensive work experience in lieu of a degree.
- Financial Analysts
- Financial analysts guide clients toward sensible investment decisions, specializing in understanding the variable risks and results of stocks, bonds, and similar investments. Students who complete an associate degree in accounting can take the next step toward earning a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field. This occupation requires a bachelor’s degree
- Financial Managers
- Financial managers oversee all financial aspects of a business or organization. They strategize to help clients reach financial goals over the long term by managing investments, portfolios, and budgeting concerns. Most employers require at least a bachelor’s degree for this position.
- Securities, Commodities, and Financial Services Sales Agents
- These professionals act as brokers for buyers and sellers in financial markets by connecting investors and trading securities and commodities. Employers require a bachelor’s degree for entry-level positions, but aspiring securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents can gain a comprehensive introduction to the field through an associate accounting degree.
Choosing an Online Program
Many students feel anxious to start their careers, but they should take their time when choosing an online associate accounting degree. Prospective students can afford to be extremely selective, as an increasing number of universities offer accredited online accounting associate degrees to meet each learner’s individual needs. Many students face challenges in their research of potential schools and programs, considering factors such as cost, transfer policies, and residency requirements. The points below outline some of the primary benefits of online programs versus their on-campus counterparts.
- Program Cost
- Generally, schools charge less for in-state tuition than they do for out-of-state tuition. As online programs become more popular, many offer set tuition rates for distance learners, regardless of their state of residence. Additionally, many online programs offer accelerated program options, minimizing their per-credit tuition costs.
- Transfer Policies
- For potential transfer students, the best online schools for accounting associate degrees honor credit for previous experience and education. Many programs maintain transfer agreements with partnering schools, seamlessly applying high school/college credits toward an associate degree or bachelor’s bridge program. Transfer students should also factor in accreditation-based transfer policies, as many regionally accredited schools only accept credits from other institutions with regional accreditation.
- School Size and Type
- Students should consider each potential school’s size and type as part of the overall learning environment they envision for themselves during their college experience. For example, private schools tend to offer smaller class sizes and charge higher tuition rates than public universities. Students should consider the size and attributes of each school’s individual online associate accounting degree before choosing one.
- Program Length
- The length of an online associate degree in accounting varies by school. Many schools recommend a course sequence but let students choose whether to pursue their studies part-time or full-time. Especially common among online programs, others offer accelerated completion options, reducing the typical two-year program length.
- On-campus Requirements
- As a nonclinical field, most associate degrees in accounting online do not require intensive on-campus practicums, though some universities may include sporadic campus visits as part of their accounting curriculum. Students planning to complete their degrees fully online should consider whether a program mandates campus visits.
Accreditation for Online Accounting Degrees
Any school offering an online associate accounting degree should hold regional or national accreditation through the U.S. Department of Education (ED), a crucial distinction also upheld by the accounting industry and its employers. The law views either type of accreditation as legitimate, though most schools seek regional accreditation, which requires institutions to demonstrate commitment of the highest order to qualify.
Moreover, many regionally accredited colleges only recognize transfer credits from other schools with regional accreditation.
In addition to institutional accreditation, many schools receive program-specific accreditation for their accounting degrees. For the online accounting associate degree and other business-related programs, a college may maintain programmatic accreditation through the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs, or the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education.
Accreditation demonstrates a school’s commitment to maintaining the highest standards of excellence throughout its accounting programs.
A division of the federal government, the ED grants accreditation to qualifying higher education institutions in the U.S. as a measure of quality assurance, in tandem with the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), another accrediting oversight entity. The accreditation process ensures a school meets minimum standards for quality, efficiency, and effectiveness and upholds program expectations. Through multiple conglomerate agencies, only ED and CHEA can grant accreditation recognized by the federal government to deserving U.S. and international colleges and universities.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Degree in Accounting?
Many factors impact the completion time of an online associate degree in accounting. Traditionally, associate degrees take two years to complete, though many distance learning programs offer alternative options to help students earn their degree in less time, often anywhere between 12 and 22 months. Generally, a student enrolled full time can expect to complete the degree in less time than a part-time student, provided the school offers students a choice.
The best online schools for accounting associate degrees enable students to enroll in more than one course at a time if they so choose, allowing them to graduate more quickly and save on tuition costs. Likewise, students seeking part-time course loads to accommodate their work schedule or family obligations can complete coursework at their own pace.
A typical online associate accounting degree encompasses 120 credits, often combining a business foundation with fundamental accounting concepts. Many online associate degrees in accounting also recommend that students participate in an internship or field experience, though few curricula require this.
What Can I Do with an Accounting Degree?
Popular with our students.
Highly informative resources to keep your education journey on track.
Take the next step toward your future with online learning.
Discover schools with the programs and courses you’re interested in, and start learning today.