Business Accounting Degrees: Associate, Bachelor's & Online Class Info

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What will you learn in a business accounting degree program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of an associate's and a bachelor's degree and potential careers.
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Studying Business Accounting: Degrees at a Glance

If you like crunching numbers, recording transactions and producing financial reports, you may want to consider pursuing a degree in business accounting. In the associate's degree program, you'll study accounting concepts such as spreadsheets, statistics, small business and corporate income tax regulations and business ethics.

While an associate's degree might prepare you for accounting and bookkeeping clerk positions, it will probably not allow you to pursue licensing as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). For that, you'll need at least a bachelor's degree. In most states, you'll need to be licensed as a CPA if you want to file corporate financial reports. A small number of states allow work experience in lieu of a bachelor's or master's degree.

Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Individuals interested in becoming bookkeepers or accounting clerks Those interested in becoming business accountants
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) Accounting and bookkeeping clerk ($36,000)* Certified Public Accountant ($63,000)*
Time to Completion 2 years full time 4 - 5 years full time
Common Graduation Requirements Some programs require an internship An internship is often required
Prerequisites High school diploma or GED High school diploma or GED
Online Availability Yes Yes

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Associate's Degree in Business Accounting

These programs are designed to teach you the financial fundamentals you'll need to organize and maintain the accounting and financial records of small and large organizations. You'll learn how to create and manage budgets and how to review financial records analytically. You'll also learn how to get the most out of the various accounting software programs you'll encounter in the workplace.

Because the traditional academic pathway to becoming a professional accountant is a 4-year degree, many of these programs are designed so that you can transfer your credits upon graduating. You'll want to research your desired school with care, making sure that the program you choose offers courses that are transferable.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • You'll be finished with your schooling in two years
  • Many programs feature internship opportunities, providing you with valuable work experience
  • Upon graduating, you'll be poised to continue your education in pursuit of a 4-year degree

Cons

  • In most states, this degree does not prepare you to become a CPA
  • Accounting clerks may face overtime in the form of evening and weekend hours at certain times of the year, such as tax season or during a corporate audit
  • May not be adequate training for other business careers

Courses and Requirements

In addition to your core accounting courses, you'll also enroll in a small number of electives, such as public speaking or business English. Most programs also feature an internship as a graduation requirement. Below are listed some sample course topics.

  • Corporate tax structures
  • Business statistics
  • Financial computer software
  • Keyboarding
  • Corporate finance fundamentals

Online Degree Options

Online associate's degree programs in business accounting exist in a variety of formats. There are programs that are offered purely online as well as hybrid programs, featuring a blend of distance learning and traditional classroom instruction. Both types of program are relatively prevalent. Completing either type of program should afford you the same academic experience and vocational options as the traditional campus-based program.

Stand Out with This Degree

If you want to stand out with your business accounting degree, you may want to consider pursuing one of the voluntary industry certification programs offered. The American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers offers a Certified Bookkeeper designation that will allow potential employers to see you have the skills necessary to get the job done. Additional certification is offered by the National Bookkeepers Association.

Bachelor's Degree in Business Accounting

In a bachelor's degree program in business accounting, you'll study the federal tax code as it pertains to small and large businesses. You'll study business law, finance and information systems. You'll also take math courses, such as statistics, algebra and calculus.

Many accountants pursue the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) designation. In most states this requires more semester hours than afforded by a four-year program. Many degree programs are offered in a five-year package, preparing degree candidates for the state administered CPA exam.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment opportunities for accountants are expected to increase at a faster-than-average rate over the coming decade
  • Your program will likely feature an internship, providing you with valuable work experience for college credit
  • Because accountants are needed in nearly all types of business you'll be able to pursue work nationally

Cons

  • If you want to be a CPA , you'll be in school for up to five years
  • CPA's can face erratic hours when it comes to tax season
  • For some entry-level positions, you'll compete with associate's degree holders

Courses and Requirements

Along with your core business accounting courses, you'll enroll in general education courses, such as English, history and sociology. Most programs will require you to complete an accounting internship as a degree requirement. Listed below are sample course titles you are likely to encounter.

  • Business algebra
  • Organization theory
  • Marketing
  • Macroeconomics
  • Auditing

Online Degree Options

Online bachelor's degree programs in business accounting are available in a variety of formats. Programs that are completely online are widely available as are hybrid programs, consisting of both distance learning and traditional classroom instruction. There should be no discernible difference in educational outcomes or vocational opportunities between online and campus-based programs.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

As a business accountant, you can pursue certifications that will signal your competency in a number of ways. There are several professional and trade organizations such as the Institute of Management Accountants and the Institute of Internal Auditors that offer certification in specific business accounting matters. These certifications can show that you have the knowledge and skills necessary for performing the accounting functions necessary for all types of businesses.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor: Accounting
      • Bachelor: Managerial Accountancy
      • Bachelor: Tax Accountancy
      • Bachelor: Auditing-Forensic Accountancy
      • BSBA - Investment
      • Bachelor: Public-General Accountancy
  • Campus and Online Programs
    2. South College

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Business Administration with a Concentration in Accounting
      • Bachelor of Business Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Post University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.S. in Business Administration / Accounting
      • B.S. in Accounting
      • B.S. in Finance
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Saint Leo University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BA: Accounting
      • BA: Business Administration - Management
      • BA: Business Administration - Logistics
      • BA: Business Administration - Marketing
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Regent University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Accounting
      • Bachelor of Science in Business - Accounting
      • Bachelor of Science in Business
      • Bachelor of Science in Professional Studies - Business
      • Bachelor of Arts in English - Government
      • Bachelor of Arts in Government
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Argosy University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor - Business Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Colorado Christian University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Accounting, B.S.
      • Business Administration, B.S.
      • Business Administration, B.S. - Emphasis in International Business
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Trident University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Business Administration (BSBA)
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Utica College

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Fraud and Financial Crime Investigation
      • BS in Fraud and Financial Crime Investigation - Financial Investigation
      • BS in Fraud and Financial Crime Investigation - Fraud Prevention and Detection
  • Philadelphia, PA

    University of Pennsylvania

Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • Bachelor: Accounting
  • Bachelor: Managerial Accountancy
  • Bachelor: Tax Accountancy

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South College

  • Bachelor of Business Administration with a Concentration in Accounting
  • Bachelor of Business Administration

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Post University

  • B.S. in Business Administration / Accounting
  • B.S. in Accounting
  • B.S. in Finance

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Saint Leo University

  • BA: Accounting
  • BA: Business Administration - Management
  • BA: Business Administration - Logistics

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Regent University

  • Bachelor of Science in Accounting
  • Bachelor of Science in Business - Accounting
  • Bachelor of Science in Business

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Argosy University

  • Bachelor - Business Administration

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Colorado Christian University

  • Accounting, B.S.
  • Business Administration, B.S.
  • Business Administration, B.S. - Emphasis in International Business

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Trident University

  • Business Administration (BSBA)

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