Study Cost Accounting: Associate, Bachelor's & Online Class Info

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What kind of job can you get with an associate or bachelor's degree in cost accounting? Find out degree program requirements, online options and info on courses and cost accounting training programs.
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Cost Accounting Associate and Bachelor's Degrees at a Glance

The accounting industry covers a wide range of occupations at varying career levels. Accounting specialists work in clerical, management and officer roles. Managerial accountants generally carry out the tasks associated with cost accounting, an accounting subfield. Cost accountants seek to discover, analyze and report on the costs associated with running a business. Specialists use computerized techniques to uncover labor, materials or overhead costs and report their findings to managers and executives.

The associate degree in accounting delivers a broad education in the accounting discipline. The bachelor's degree program offers an equally broad education combined with the foundation required to pursue higher-level positions and advance through the field with the appropriate experience. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted a faster-than-average growth outlook for finance and accounting careers. Billing, cost and rate clerks would see an increase of 20%-28% and cost estimators 29% from 2010-2020, the BLS projected (www.bls.gov).

Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? People seeking entry-level positions in financial support across multiple industries Individuals seeking a career as an accountant
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary) - Billing, cost and rate clerk ($33,000)*
- Bookkeeping, accounting or auditing clerk ($35,000)*
- Cost estimator ($59,000)*
- Accountant ($63,000)*
Time to Completion Two years full-time Four years full-time
Common Graduation Requirements Approximately 60 credits Roughly 120 credits
Prerequisites High school diploma or equivalent High school diploma or equivalent
Online Availability Yes Yes

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

Associate in Accounting

The associate degree program delivers the foundation required to pursue entry-level positions in a range of settings. Students learn the principles of accounting, ethical considerations in the industry and the common technologies used to manage financial information. While accounting represents the overall field and course of study, many colleges offer cost accounting coursework. Your program might also deliver internship opportunities; taking advantage of hands-on experiences in an accounting department can provide exposure to the cost accounting process.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerks could expect a 10%-19% increase in employment over the 2010-2020 decade*
  • The breadth of knowledge offered by the program might be appealing to employers outside the accounting industry
  • Many programs provide the foundation required to transfer credits to a bachelor's degree program

Cons

  • Median annual salaries in the industry for associate degree holders were relatively low; billing, cost and rate clerks earned $33,000**
  • Advancing to higher-level positions requires substantial experience with an associate degree in comparison to a bachelor's degree
  • Pursuing and maintaining industry-standard certification requires additional time and financial commitment

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2010-2020 job growth projections), **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Courses and Requirements

The associate degree program offers a range of coursework in general education, business and accounting topics. You learn the fundamentals of cost accounting, finance and taxation as they affect businesses and individuals. Programs offer the following common courses:

  • Internal auditing
  • Intermediate accounting
  • Data processing
  • Taxation
  • Financial management
  • Business law
  • Accounting I and II

Online Degree Options

The online version of the associate degree program delivers coursework similar to campus-based options. Schools design programs to provide training in the analysis and interpretation of financial documents and a strong understanding of the accounting cycle. Many programs meet the needs of working professionals; schools offer their programs in an accelerated format.

Stand Out with This Degree

Demonstrating your knowledge and experience might improve your job prospects. Certification offers a way for professionals to prove their understanding of accounting concepts. The Certified Bookkeeper credential, conferred by the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers, validates the skills of those who practice bookkeeping and other clerical accounting tasks. In addition to pursuing certification, consider participating in multiple internships during your studies to gain experience. Learning about how different industries apply cost accounting might give you a competitive edge.

Bachelor's in Accounting

The bachelor's in accounting prepares students for a range of professional occupations in finance. Programs offer a broad education through coursework in financial accounting, managerial accounting and specialized financial topics. Programs usually emphasize the development of professional ethics in the field and prepare students to analyze common business transactions. In addition, many schools design their programs to provide the training required to pursue industry-standard certifications. You can expect to round out your education with an internship in a relevant position.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Accountants earned a relatively competitive median annual salary of $63,000*
  • The BLS projects 10%-19% job growth for accountants over the 2010-2020 decade**
  • Employers prefer higher education for accounting positions

Cons

  • Master's degrees are not uncommon for some accounting positions
  • Careers at prestigious accounting firms will present a challenge
  • Pursuing and maintaining your CPA credential requires time and financial commitment

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures), **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2010-2020 job growth projections).

Courses and Requirements

The bachelor's degree program explores accountancy through courses in a range of special topics, current issues and traditional procedures. You learn the technologies used in the field through coursework in information systems and applications. Programs provide in-depth training in finance through courses in financial management, financial accounting, auditing, managerial finance, business law and spreadsheet design. You also take general studies courses in business leadership, statistics, economics and mathematics. The overall academic performance of each student might determine access to an internship.

Online Degree Options

The online bachelor's degree program offers coursework similar to traditional options. Distance-education programs develop financial skills through coursework in financial reporting, accounting information systems and individual taxation, to name a few. Some schools coordinate internships from afar, but keep in mind that some don't have the resources to monitor professional internships. Similar to every college research project, checking an online program's accreditation can uncover important information.

Stand Out with This Degree

Advancing through the accounting field relies significantly on achieving a minimal level of experience and licensing; many accountants pursue the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) credential, offered by the American Institute of CPAs. The CPA license permits accountants involved in corporate accounting to submit reports to the Securities and Exchange Commission, a common practice regulated by the federal government. In addition to pursuing licensing, gaining experience through internships coordinated by your school might boost your marketability. While cost accounting is an accounting sub-field, it requires skill in the analysis and projection of business expenses based on historical records. Taking internships in cost accounting roles can help you develop your understanding of the business life cycle.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Purdue University Global

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor: Accounting
      • Bachelor: Managerial Accountancy
      • Bachelor: Tax Accountancy
      • Bachelor: Auditing-Forensic Accountancy
      • BSBA - Investment
      • Bachelor: Public-General Accountancy
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor: Accounting
      • B.S. - Business Management With No Concentration
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BS - Accounting
      • BS - Business Management
  • Online Programs Available
    4. 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
    5. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Business for Secondary Education
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Saint Leo University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BA: Accounting
      • BA: Business Administration - Management
      • BA: Business Administration - Logistics
      • BA: Business Administration - Marketing
  • 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. Brenau University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor in Business Adminstration - Accounting
      • Bachelor in Business Adminstration - Financial Economics
      • Bachelor in Business Adminstration
  • Campus and Online Programs
    9. Full Sail University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.S. - Music Business
  • Online Programs Available
    10. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Business Admin - Accounting
      • Bachelor of Accounting
      • Bachelor of Business Administration - Finance
      • Bachelor of Business Administration - Generalist

Featured Schools

Purdue University Global

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

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Herzing University

  • Bachelor: Accounting
  • B.S. - Business Management With No Concentration

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Colorado State University Global

  • BS - Accounting
  • BS - Business Management

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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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Grand Canyon University

  • Bachelor of Science in Business for Secondary Education

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Saint Leo University

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

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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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Brenau University

  • Bachelor in Business Adminstration - Accounting
  • Bachelor in Business Adminstration - Financial Economics
  • Bachelor in Business Adminstration

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