Accounting Technology: Diploma, Associate & Online Degree Info

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What will you learn in an accounting technology program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of a diploma and associate degree and potential careers.
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Studying Accounting Technology: Programs at a Glance

Businesses, nonprofit organizations and government agencies rely on the analytical skills of accounting and finance experts. Accounting technology professionals support business goals by evaluating a company's efficiency, applying accounting principles and suggesting methods to control costs. People in the field understand modern computer applications used to support accounting tasks. Employers seek job candidates who pay close attention to detail, possess strong mathematics skills and operate ethically in a business environment.

The diploma program offers a basic education in important accounting concepts. The associate degree program delivers a well-rounded education supplemented by general education courses. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported average job growth for several careers in the field. For instance, loan officers and bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerks could expect 10% to 19% job growth over the 2010-2020 decade.

Diploma Associate
Who is this degree for? People seeking entry-level clerk positions in multiple industries Individuals seeking entry-level opportunities in accounting departments
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary) - Billing, cost and rate clerk ($33,000)*
- Bookkeeping, accounting or auditing clerk ($35,000)*
- Payroll clerk ($37,000)*
- Loan officer ($58,000)*
Time to Completion Up to 1 year full-time 2 years full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Roughly 28 credits - Roughly 60 credits
Prerequisites High school diploma or equivalent High school diploma or equivalent
Online Availability Yes Yes

Source: *O*Net OnLine (May 2011 figures).

Diploma in Accounting Technology

The diploma program delivers a tightly focused curriculum designed to provide a foundation in accounting principles. You will learn business, accounting and technology concepts and skills that provide the knowledge required for entry-level accounting positions. Schools design programs to deliver between 12 and 27 credits of coursework that will train you to prepare financial statements, budgets and reports. Some programs deliver the preparation required to take industry-standard certifications, such as the Certified Bookkeeper (CB) designation administered by the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • The BLS projected that billing, cost and rate clerks will experience a faster-than-average job growth of 20% to 28% over the 2010-2020 decade*
  • While many positions require a high school diploma, many employers prefer candidates with accounting coursework
  • Many schools design their diploma programs to transfer to an associate degree program

Cons

  • Competition against associate degree holders might present a challenge; 25% of bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerks had an associate (or higher) degree in 2009**
  • Economic growth and technology influence the availability of some jobs
  • Pursuing a career as an accountant will almost certainly require that you seek higher education

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2010-2020 job growth projections), **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2009 education findings).

Courses and Requirements

The diploma program delivers several accounting and technology courses. The program offers the foundation you will need to understand accounting principles. Schools omit general education courses for diploma programs. Keep in mind that accounting positions require strong mathematics skills. Following are a few common courses offered by the programs:

  • Principles of managerial accounting
  • Business communications
  • Principles of economics
  • Financial accounting
  • Accounting information systems
  • Tax accounting
  • Finance

Online Program Info

Several colleges offer online diploma programs. While the credential differs in name, many of the courses are similar to campus-based programs. For example, you might find a program that offers courses in income tax accounting, management accounting and accounting information systems. Schools generally design online diploma programs for working professionals; colleges might deliver coursework in an accelerated format.

Stand Out with This Credential

While credentialing for several positions is not required, many professionals pursue this route to improve their job prospects. In addition, employers prefer candidates who can demonstrate their understanding of accounting principles and ethics. The CB designation validates a candidate's knowledge and skill with payroll, internal controls, inventory and fraud prevention, to name a few. The National Bookkeepers Association confers the Uniform Bookkeeper Certification Examination.

Associate in Accounting Technology

The associate degree program delivers a broader education and provides a foundation in mathematics and business management. You will learn to effectively communicate financial data and develop a quantitative background. The associate degree might provide opportunities for more advanced occupations, including credit management, inventory control and general accounting positions. Mathematics placement testing might determine how long the program takes to complete, which is generally between 2 and 3 years.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Loan officers earned relatively competitive median annual salaries of about $58,000*
  • The combination of finance and technology might improve your marketability
  • Programs offer articulation agreements and might transfer to a bachelor's degree program

Cons

  • Competition against bachelor's degree holders might present a challenge for commercial loan officer opportunities
  • Economic recessions influence the availability of jobs in the mortgage and commercial loan industries
  • Depending on your state's requirements, you might not have access to the Certified Public Accountant licensing examination without a bachelor's degree

Source: *O*Net OnLine (May 2011 figures).

Courses and Requirements

The associate degree program delivers a well-rounded learning experience that emphasizes a range of business and accounting systems topics applicable in corporate and government settings. Programs teach students to process accounting transactions, prepare summary statements and execute common accounting functions. You will learn the ethical practices and principles of accounting through a wide range of accounting and economics coursework. You can expect to take classes in cost accounting, management, business finance, financial accounting, information systems, accounting procedures and business law.

Online Program Info

The online associate in accounting technology delivers the same coursework offered by the traditional program. Some schools offer a hybrid format that allows students to take courses on campus and online. You can expect to take classes in software applications, spreadsheets and computer information systems. Similar to the campus-based program, many online programs transfer to a bachelor's degree program.

Stand Out with This Credential

Getting ahead with the associate degree might require experience, licensing or certification. Employers generally seek loan officers who possess experience in customer service or lending institutions. The Institute of Certified Bankers (ICB) confers 12 certifications in retail bank management, mortgage and commercial lending and retirement services, to name a few. Keep in mind that the ICB certification programs may require graduation from an ICB-approved training program. In addition to certification, consider pursuing internships in the industry you plan to enter; individuals without a bachelor's degree might benefit more from previous work experience.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Purdue University Global

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Associate: Accounting
      • Associate: Business Admin.
      • Associate: Business Admin. - Office Mgmt
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Saint Leo University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • AA: Business Administration
  • Campus and Online Programs
    3. South College

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Associate of Science in Accounting
      • Associate of Science in Business Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Associate of Science - Accounting
      • Associate of Science - Business Studies
      • Associate of Science - Business Management
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Colorado Christian University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Business Administration, A.S.
  • Stanford, CA

    Stanford University

  • Cambridge, MA

    Harvard University

  • Sedalia, MO

    State Fair Community College

  • Philadelphia, PA

    University of Pennsylvania

Featured Schools

Purdue University Global

  • Associate: Accounting
  • Associate: Business Admin.
  • Associate: Business Admin. - Office Mgmt

Which subject are you interested in?

Saint Leo University

  • AA: Business Administration

What is your highest level of education completed?

South College

  • Associate of Science in Accounting
  • Associate of Science in Business Administration

What is your highest level of education completed?

Herzing University

  • Associate of Science - Accounting
  • Associate of Science - Business Studies
  • Associate of Science - Business Management

What is your highest level of education?

Colorado Christian University

  • Business Administration, A.S.

What is your highest level of education completed?

State Fair Community College