General Office Accounting Degrees: Diploma, Associate & Online Study

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What will you learn in a general office accounting program? Read about program requirements, the pros and cons of a diploma and associate's degree and potential careers.
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Studying General Office Accounting: Degrees at a Glance

General office accounting professionals work in a range of business sectors and perform a number of financial roles. Specialists in the industry perform simple tasks, such as recording cash transactions, and complex financial responsibilities, including filing official reports with government agencies. The diploma in accounting will prepare you for entry-level positions in bookkeeping, financial records or auditing. The associate's degree takes your education further and can lead to a career as an accountant.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reveals that employees in several occupations in the industry can expect average job growth (11% - 16%) over the 2010-2020 decade. The BLS also reports that employers usually prefer a candidate with a bachelor's degree in a related field for accountant opportunities. Despite this, the appropriate career track, experience and an associate's degree can make accountant opportunities available.

Diploma Associate's
Who is this degree for? Individuals interested in entry-level financial positions in many organizations in public and private industry People who want to pursue specialized positions
Common Career Paths (with approximate median or mean annual salary) - Financial clerk ($34,000 median)*
- Bookkeeping, accounting or auditing clerk ($36,000)**
- Loan officer ($68,000)**
- Junior accountant (unavailable)
- Accountant or auditor ($70,000)**
Time to Completion 1-2 years full-time 2 years full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Roughly 42 credits in general education and accounting coursework
- Satisfactory COMPASS test scores
- Approximately 60 credits
- Internship
- Capstone project
Prerequisites High school diploma or equivalent High school diploma or equivalent
Online Availability Yes Yes

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2010 figures), **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Diploma in Accounting

The diploma in accounting provides a foundational knowledge of business procedures, accounting principles and technical concepts. You will learn the appropriate methods to apply accounting procedures through a combination of mathematics and accounting courses. Schools structure the accounting diploma for students who have little knowledge of business procedures and some programs provide electives and general education courses.

Pros and Cons


  • Several industry occupations only require a high school diploma
  • Gaining a diploma may increase your marketability
  • Offers a basic foundation and may transfer to associate's degree programs


  • The diploma does not prepare graduates for advanced positions
  • You will be competing with graduates with an associate's degree
  • You may not have access to financial aid due to program length

Common Courses and Requirements

The diploma program requires up to roughly 40 credits in financial, business and general education courses. You will take classes that provide training in professionalism, business ethics and communications. You may also learn the manual application of accounting techniques in addition to new technologies used in the field. Following are some common courses:

  • Professional development
  • Financial accounting I and II
  • Spreadsheet programs
  • Accounting for payroll
  • Business math
  • Personal finance
  • Tax accounting

Online Course Info

The online accounting diploma is available as a complete online education experience. You may need to complete an online orientation course, which introduces the online learning experience. In addition, some programs require students to purchase common software programs to perform computerized accounting tasks. Online programs offer courses similar to campus-based curricula and are designed for working professionals or those seeking advancement in their careers.

Stand Out with This Credential

Experience and knowledge of accounting procedures are essential to obtaining gainful employment. Certification programs are available for several occupations in the industry and validate your skills and knowledge. For example, the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers confers the Certified Bookkeeper credential. Loan officers usually seek their certification through the American Bankers Association of the Mortgage Bankers Association. In addition, working with your school to identify field experiences or internships will help you gain the experience employers value.

Associate's in Accounting

The associate's degree in accounting offers a well-rounded education that builds upon concepts and skills taught in the diploma program. While the associate's degree may not qualify you for some opportunities, the program will transfer to a bachelor's degree program.

Pros and Cons


  • Program offers a well-rounded education and advanced courses in accounting
  • Salaries for some positions (e.g., loan officers earned $68,000) are competitive*
  • Average job growth is expected for a number of occupations in the industry


  • You will compete against job candidates who hold a bachelor's degree
  • Advancing to an accountant position may prove difficult
  • Additional training for certification will extend your education beyond 2 years

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Courses and Requirements

The associate's degree offers courses similar to the diploma program, but you will gain a deeper understanding of accounting principles through advanced topics or laboratory courses. Schools usually design a structured program that builds on the previous semester's courses. Some programs offer accounting clerk and accounting assistant certificates as you advance through the program. You will take classes in composition, computerized applications, economic principles, business mathematics and keyboarding. In addition, you may participate in a simulated work environment to produce accounting documentation.

Online Course Info

Many colleges and universities offer an online experience in accounting. Schools usually structure programs to be taken completely online or hybrid courses to meet the needs of a variety of students. You can expect to learn how technology plays a role in accounting and how to use industry-standard processes and procedures. Schools typically offer a general education and core classes comparable to those offered at campus-based programs.

Stand Out with This Degree

In addition to seeking certification, ensuring you attain a high level of proficiency in technology can improve your marketability. Financial clerks, accountants and bookkeepers each use complex software to analyze and interpret financial statements and other documents. You can supplement your education with courses in common software programs. You may also consider obtaining vendor-specific certification, such as Microsoft Office Specialist, to validate your skills for employers. Choosing a program that offers certificates as you advance through the degree will also give you an edge when you graduate.

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