Working students, first-generation students, and other nontraditional students looking for an associate’s in accounting have to take cost into account. The best way for a student to find the cheapest associate’s in accounting is to attend a community college, either in-person or online, and take advantage of the lower cost of tuition. Community colleges offer low-cost associate’s degrees in accounting that do an excellent job of preparing students for entry-level roles in accounting.
Asking the question of “is an associate’s degree in accounting worth it?” is reasonable, especially in light of the fact that the degree leads primarily into entry-level positions. The answer is, yes. An associate’s degree in accounting is worth it, and taking a transfer degree program enables you to get even more value out of the degree later on. Accounting is a field that has multiple areas of focus, and earning additional education enables a student to enter into one of those areas of focus.
Methodology: Ranking the Most Affordable Associate’s in Accounting
To rank Great Business Schools’ most affordable accounting associate’s degree programs, GBS editors focus exclusively on accredited, trustworthy schools. Programs are presented in order by tuition rate, using current IPEDS data.
1. Oakland Community College
Oakland Community College offers an ABA in Accounting program that provides entry-level accounting skills that align with the types of skills employers are looking for. A student who earns their degree can find employment as bookkeepers, accounting clerks, junior accounting positions, billing clerk and more. The program also has the option for a student to earn an associate in business administration degree. Students have the option to return to school at a later date and build upon their ABA in Accounting to earn their bachelor of accountancy, MBAs, CPAs and CMAs.
Oakland Community College (OCC) is one of the largest public community colleges in the state of Michigan. It features five campuses and has the third largest undergraduate classes each academic year. The school offers 57 associate degrees and 41 certificate programs.
Highlight The Oakland Community College Culinary Arts program features faculty and students who have gone on to win culinary awards at the state, national and international levels.
Degree ABA in Accounting
2. College of the Sequoias
The AS in Accounting program at College of the Sequoias is designed to prepare students to fill entry-level accounting roles. The program teaches students how to comprehend computerized accounting systems, how to prepare and analyze financial statements, read financial transactions, and prepare tax returns for individuals residing in the state of California. Students learn how to prepare, create, record, read and understand financial records, statements and transactions on behalf of an employer. The degree is not designed to transfer, but the courses in the curriculum may be transferable and apply to other transfer degrees.
College of the Sequoias (COS) is a public community college and is part of the California public college system. The college has a main campus in Visalia, CA, but has two full-service campuses in Hanford and Tulare. All campuses offer a full range of educational opportunities, but each has a flagship program. Many notable people attended COS before going into careers such as sports, politics and entertainment.
Highlight The Visalia campus is home to Nursing and Allied Health, Hanford has the Public Safety Academy, and the Tulare campus is home to the Agriculture program.
Degree AS in Accounting
3. Atlanta Technical College
The Accounting Associate Degree at Atlanta Technical College helps students develop the requisite knowledge and skills to find and retain employment as accountants. Students learn how to perform accounting tasks on software that’s commonly used by a majority of businesses, learn the generally accepted accounting principles, and possess the skills to prepare a variety of documents and statements that are required for accounting purposes. Some of the classes offered include financial accounting, computer literacy, spreadsheet applications, computerized accounting, managerial accounting, and more.
Atlanta Technical College (Atlanta Tech or ATC) is a public technical college and is part of the Technical College System of Georgia. The school serves students from Fulton and Clayton counties. It offers associate degrees, diplomas and technical certificates in educational programs that include Business, Healthcare, Cybersecurity & Computer Information Systems, Media & Entertainment, Public Service Technologies, Industrial Technology, Public Safety, Arts & Sciences and Transportation and Logistics.
Highlight The school focuses on providing education to those who are in need of an education to help them stay competitive in the workforce.
Degree Associate’s in Accounting
4. Delta College
The Associate’s in Accounting program at Delta College prepares students to work at the level of accounting assistant or entry-level positions in leadership and/or management. Credits earned in the program will transfer to most 4-year universities, enabling students to continue their education and increase their earnings potential. Students learn how to process numerical data for the purpose of keeping and maintaining sound financial records, have the requisite math skills to perform routine calculations related to accounting, and obtaining primary data that’s needed for the ongoing maintenance of accounting books. Successful graduates can find work in roles such as financial statement preparation, bookkeeping, budgeting, financial accounting, and more.
Delta College is a public community college located near Bay City, Michigan. The college is nationally recognized as one of the leading community colleges in America due to its efforts to improve educational access and student success. It’s a charter member of the League for Innovation in the Community College.
Highlight Delta College offers classes in-person, online and blended and offers classes during the day, evening and weekend to accommodate as many students as possible.
Degree Associate’s in Accounting
5. Cincinnati State
Cincinnati State offers an Associate’s in Accounting degree program that helps students learn how to understand accounting skills and the basics of business fundamentals. The program also features a cooperative learning program that includes part-time employment in the accounting field while attending classes. Students who complete the degree program are capable of analyzing financial data, assisting in management decisions for financial matters that affect an organization, collect information needed for the preparation of financial statements, perform manual and computerized record keeping, and prepare income tax returns for individuals, corporations and partnerships. The degree is transferrable to a four-year university for students who wish to pursue further education.
Cincinnati State, or Cincinnati State Technical and Community College (CSTCC) is a public community and technical college. The school also features a space-grant affiliation. Over 75 associate degree programs and majors are offered along with more than 40 certificate programs. Its main campus is located in Cincinnati.
Highlight Cincinnati State has three satellite campuses in the area along with a school-owned airport that offers classes in aviation maintenance technologies.
Degree Associate’s in Accounting
6. Skyline College
The AS in Accounting degree program at Skyline College helps students prepare for different employment offerings in the accounting field. Students learn skills and knowledge that’s required of an entry-level accountant and in related field. Many students who participate in the program find part-time work after completing their first semester and maintain employment while attending classes to earn their AAS. Graduates will have learned how to apply critical thinking and analytical skills to accounting processes, understand the basics of business law, how to use business information systems, communicate effectively, and have learned basic business concepts and how they apply to a business.
Skyline College is a public community college and is known as a comprehensive community college. It’s part of the San Mateo Community College District, offers over 100 associate’s and certificate programs, and has an average student population of 17,000 each academic year.
Highlight Skyline College has key transfer agreements with multiple public and private colleges and has 18 Associate Degrees for Transfer (AA-T or AS-T) so students have an opportunity to earn a bachelors degree at a later date.
Degree AS in Accounting
7. Mt San Antonio College
Mt. San Antonio College offers an AS in Accounting program that’s intended to act as a foundational degree for students who want to start a career as an accountant, then pursue different educational opportunities. Students who earn their degree are qualified to work in roles such as asset management, accounts receivable or payable, financial analysis, payroll, general accounting and more. Some of the classes offered include QuickBooks for accounting, principles of business, Excel for accounting, and principles of accounting – financial and managerial. The degree can also improve career opportunities for students with accounting-related certificates.
Mt. San Antonio College (Mt. SAC) is a public community college and is part of the state of California’s public university system. The school primarily serves students who live in the eastern side of Los Angeles County, but accepts students from outside the district and international students. It offers over 260 associate’s degree and certificate programs, career education, adult education and vocational programs.
Highlight The school enrolls around 30,000 students each academic year and offers education in divisions that include the Arts, Businesses, Natural Sciences, Technology & Health, Humanities & Social Sciences and Kinesiology & Athletics.
Degree AS in Accounting
8. Dallas College
The AAS in Accounting program at Dallas College teaches students the generally accepted accounting principles to prepare them for employment at the entry level. Students who successfully complete the program can use their education and experience to return to school for a bachelors in accounting and other degree opportunities related to the field. Students who complete Semester I can apply for and obtain the Accounting Clerk Certificate, then apply for their Accounting Assistant Certificate after completing Semester II. Completion of all four semesters enables a student to earn their Associate of Applied Science Degree in Accounting.
Dallas College is a large community college that’s defined by the Texas Legislature to serve all students of Dallas County and the territory of the Carollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District. The community college system features seven campuses that are located throughout Dallas County and operates several satellite campuses that offer educational opportunities based on the needs of the local communities. It features an open-door admissions policy in order to serve students who might not otherwise have an opportunity to attain higher education.
Highlight An average of 86,000 students attend the college each academic year.
Degree AAS in Accounting
9. Savannah Technical College
The AS in Accounting program at Savannah Technical College prepares students to work as accounting paraprofessionals that can handle maintaining the books for businesses, subsidiary record accounting, partnerships and corporations, payroll accounting, income tax preparation and many other roles that require account training. Some of the classes include document production, individual tax accounting, spreadsheet applications, intro to government/nonprofit accounting and more. Students have to complete a capstone review in accounting principles in order to earn their degree as the program itself draws from different curriculums
Savannah Technical College (Savannah Tech) is a public community college and is part of the public community college system of Georgia. It’s located in Svannah Georgia and has satellite campuses to serve students in the surrounding communities. Students can earn certificates, diplomas and associate’s degrees in these areas of study.
Highlight The school offers five academic divisions that include Health Sciences, Business and Technology, Industrial Technology, Aviation Technology, and Public Services.
Degree AS in Accounting
10. Cypress College
Cypress College offers an AS in Accounting that ranks among the most affordable accounting associate’s anywhere in America. The program prepares students with all of the fundamentals of bookkeeping and accounting. Students are also prepared to transfer into a bachelor’s program at one of the many UC and CSU campuses through Cypress’ articulation agreements.
Cypress College is part of California’s massive community college system. As a public, open-admissions institution, Cypress provides students from all backgrounds the opportunity to pursue their career goals. That includes a wide variety of online and hybrid programs as well.
Highlight Cypress College is just a few miles from Disney theme parks and Knott’s Berry Farm.
Degree AAS in Accounting
How Do I Save Money on an Accounting Associate’s Degree?
Along with seeking out low-cost public colleges and community colleges, students can further save on the cost of their degree by enrolling in an accelerated accounting degree program and graduate in less time than students engaging in a 2-year accounting associate’s degree program. An accelerated accounting degree program has fewer semesters which directly translates into lower tuition costs for the student. Starting work sooner also has the added benefit of being able to earn and pay down school debt earlier in life.
Another option to save money on an accounting associate’s degree is to find a program that is 100% online. Not only is an online program flexible and easy to attend, it saves a student money in the form of transportation costs and time. As an accountant, a student quickly learns the value of their time. Eliminating the commute to the college for classes is an effective way to save money on the degree. There is also value in having the option to sit for classes at times that are convenient for the student. Students who work while going to school are always short on time. Being able to take classes at unusual hours makes it easier for the student to work, have downtime and keep up with studies without the need to spend more money.
Is an Associate’s Degree in Accounting Worth It?
The educational pathway for accounting starts with a bookkeeping certificate, then leads to the associate’s degree in accounting. From there, a student can earn their bachelors in accounting or opt to take the additional classes to sit for the Certified Public Accountant exam. A student with a bachelors or CPA may decide they want to work in a specific area of accounting and earn their masters degree in accounting in taxation or another area of accounting. Finally, students who want to teach in academia or work at high levels in areas such as financial management or policymaking can go on to earn their Ph. D in accounting.
Why get an associate’s degree in accounting if the intent is to go onto earn a bachelor’s in accounting? The answer is more complex than it would seem. Many people don’t know what they want to do with their career and prefer to try out a field before deciding if it’s for them or not. Some people want to become an accountant or CPA, but can’t or don’t want to take on a lot of student loan debt early on in their life. Then there are bookkeepers who have their certificates or work experience and want to improve their earnings potential. Everyone has different educational aspirations and goals. Earning an associate’s degree in accounting helps them find their way towards the kind of career satisfaction they seek as well as helps them keep an eye on their budget.
How Much Can I Make with an Associate’s in Accounting?
The average associate’s in accounting salary for an Accountant I level job is around $53,000 a year. This shows that earning an associate’s degree in accounting is well worth pursuing as the average associate’s degree in accounting salary is well-compensated. The average associate’s in accounting salary also demonstrates the fact that the field of accounting is a well-paid field overall, and returning to school to earn advanced degrees help a student earn more money over their lifetime. Another factor in the average associate’s degree in accounting salary is the fact that the role is entry-level. As the graduate gains experience in their position as a junior accountant, they will find more positions eventually open up to them along with better pay.
Geographical location will always play a role in the average salary for someone with an associate’s in accounting, even with the move to work from home due to the coronavirus. Employers compensate employees partly based on the average cost of living for a given area. Someone who lives and works in an area of lower population density is more likely to earn at the lower end of the salary range while someone who lives in a more urbanized environment will earn a higher salary. The shift to work from home may also affect salaries in the form of employees chosing to live in a lower cost of living area while working for an organization that’s situated in a higher cost of living area.