Some positions within the accounting industry require that you go to college for at least four years and earn a bachelor’s degree before you can even begin. Such is the case for accountants and auditors according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
So, what do you do if you have a desire to work in this field, yet you only want to get your 2-year degree instead?
This is the situation that some people face, for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it is a lack of finances that makes obtaining a 4-year degree not a viable option. Other times, the decision to do two years of school versus four is dictated by current life situations that simply don’t allow for the additional time. Then there are the people who just don’t want to spend the next four years in school. They want to go to work and start earning a check as soon as they possibly can.
Regardless of your reason, here are a few career options that only require a 2-year accounting degree—which is typically referred to as an associate-level degree—versus a four.
Career Builder indicates that accounting assistants are generally found in both large companies and private accounting firms and are typically tasked with completing basic accounting duties such as:
- Reconciling company bank statements
- Monitoring the company’s budget
- Processing wages and expense claims for employees
- Processing receipts, invoices, and customer and supplier payments
- Monitoring outstanding balances, following up for collections when needed
- Preparing financial documents (balance sheets, profit and loss statements, etc.)
- Handling insurance claims
If you work in a private accounting firm, it also isn’t uncommon for accounting assistants to be assigned basic administrative duties such as greeting clients, filing, and photocopying.
To work as an accounting assistant, you technically only need a high school diploma. However, Career Builder stresses that many accounting firms and large businesses prefer that their accounting assistants have a college certificate as these level classes teach candidates how to “process financial information according to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).”
If you’re unfamiliar with GAAP, this refers to the principles and procedures companies must follow when compiling all of their financial data and statements.
Earn your 2-year associate degree in accounting and you also have the education necessary to apply for work as an administrative assistant.
One of the factors that can make this option so appealing is that it enables you to work in a variety of fields. According to the BLS, administrative assistants can be found within “almost every sector of the economy, including schools, government, and private corporations.” But what does an administrative assistant do?
From an accounting standpoint, administrative assistants assist companies with the preparation of invoices, maintenance of financial records, and compilation of necessary reports for tax, audit, and other business purposes.
Other job responsibilities of an administrative assistant also often include answering phones, handling incoming mail and faxes, scheduling appointments, and preparing office memos.
A bookkeeper—also sometimes referred to as a bookkeeping clerk—is responsible for recording and reconciling all of a company’s financial transactions. This involves keeping track of all monies going in and out so the business knows where it stands at all times. This requires a high focus on accuracy, or double checking each number to make sure it is correct.
Another duty commonly assigned to bookkeepers is the preparation of financial documents. These documents may be used for tax and auditing purposes, but they may also be used within the company itself to keep managers and supervisors apprised of the business’s financial situation and budget.
Admittedly, a number of the 2-year accounting degree careers require some level of bookkeeping duties. That said, you can also choose to work strictly in this role, acting as the company’s bookkeeper and nothing more.
Otherwise, in some companies, bookkeepers are also used to take care of payroll, complete purchases, invoice clients, and monitor overdue account receivables.
Some companies hire individuals with 2-year accounting degrees solely to handle their payroll. This makes working as a payroll clerk an additional option to consider.
Though the role’s title makes it sound like the only thing a payroll clerk does is issue employees their paychecks, as Indeed’s Career Guide points out, they actually do a lot more.
If you take a position as a payroll clerk, you are also responsible for verifying employees’ timecards, making any requested or necessary changes to their tax withholding statuses, and processing direct deposits. Payroll clerks may also communicate any employee concerns or complaints about payroll to managing staff.
Again, technically this position only requires a high school diploma or GED (General Education Development certificate). However, as Indeed indicates, it’s not uncommon for employers to want that their payroll clerks to have “some level of post-secondary education and may prefer candidates who have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in accounting or another related field.”
Accounts Receivable Clerk
Companies would find it extremely difficult to survive if they had no revenue coming in. That makes the position of accounts receivable clerk an important one because this financial professional is tasked with recording, verifying, and posting payments received on all invoices due.
Accounts receivable clerks also keep track of all unpaid invoices, verify account discrepancies, and monitor open accounts to ensure that any deductions made are authorized (resolving those that are not). If further collection efforts become necessary, accounts receivable clerks take an active role in this process as well.
Clerks working in accounts receivable roles may also be asked to prepare reports detailing monies paid and monies outstanding for a given timeframe, further verifying that the information provided in these reports is correct before disseminating it to executive staff or governmental agencies.
Speaking of verifying information, businesses rely on their financial numbers to make important decisions. For instance, the profit and loss statement provides valuable insight into whether the company is profitable, as well as how much it spends in operating costs and other expenses. This tells its leaders how much money they have to work with, both now and in the future. It also sheds light on areas that are too costly, thus may need to be leaned down.
Imagine making a decision based on the numbers provided on this statement only to learn that they were wrong. This could be devastating. But it also is less likely to happen when an auditing clerk is on the job.
Auditing clerks work in both small and large businesses, collaborating with the accounting and bookkeeping staff to ensure that the financial records are both complete and correct. This involves looking over the numbers provided and making sure they all add up because, ultimately, they are the ones responsible for making sure all of the data provided is accurate.
It’s similar to how the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) audits individuals, going through their tax returns line by line to make sure everything is right. Except, as an auditing clerk, you’re doing this for a business to make sure there are no discrepancies before a problem arises.
Healthcare Accounting Clerk
You can also take your 2-year accounting degree and use it to work as a healthcare accounting clerk. In this role, you would be responsible for accounting-related tasks such as:
- Collecting patient payments
- Monitoring patient accounts
- Reviewing bills for accuracy
- Reviewing claims for accuracy
- Recording payroll and maintaining payroll records
- Preparing financial reports for tax and auditing purposes
Healthcare accounting clerks can work in a variety of healthcare settings. This may include hospitals, doctor’s offices, and health insurance companies, among a few others.
Salary Potential with a 2-Year Accounting Degree
How much can you earn with a 2-year degree in accounting? The answer to this question depends largely on which role you decide to pursue.
For example, bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks earn a median annual salary of $40,240 per year according to the BLS, which breaks down to approximately $19.35 per hour.
Administrative assistants, on the other hand, earn an average of $38,880 per year says the BLS.
It is important to understand that these numbers are only averages as there are many factors that must be considered when it comes to true income potential. Your level of education and experience, whether you hold any relevant certifications, your geographic location, and the company you decide to work for all contribute to the level of income you can actually make.
Case in point: the BLS states that the median weekly earnings of someone who completed high school but didn’t go to college is $712. Yet, if you earn your associate degree—which is exactly what we’ve been talking about here—that amount jumps up to $836 per week.
This might not seem like much but if you work 50 weeks a year for 20 years. This equates to $124,000 more income over your lifetime. Make your career last 30 years and you’re looking at $186,000 extra. This really adds up over time and, if you invest it and make a decent return, it could mean even bigger numbers by the time you’re ready to hang up your work shoes and finally enjoy retirement.
How to Decide Whether a 2-Year Accounting Degree is Right for You
If you’re unsure whether earning your 2-year (associate’s) degree is the right decision for you or if you should pursue a 4-year (bachelor’s) degree instead, there are a few things you can look at to make it easier to decide.
Obviously, one of the biggest differences between a two and 4-year degree is time. With this in mind, how much time do you have available to not only earn your degree, but also to delay earning the pay that comes along with it? Alternatively, how much time do you want to spend learning the things you need to know to work in the accounting field?
Another consideration is program cost. The average cost per year for an associate degree ranges between $3,939 and $8,235, whereas a bachelor’s can be anywhere from $20,770 to $46,950 (or more). Are you comfortable spending the amount needed to get the degree you want? Additionally, if you don’t have that type of cash on hand, do you have access to it?
Two-year programs also tend to be more specialized in that they don’t usually require that you complete all of the general education programs that often come with getting a bachelor’s. This enables you to dive into the areas that interest you most right from the start, which some associate degree students have found that they prefer.
Ready to Earn Your 2-Year Accounting Degree?
If you’ve decided that a 2-year degree in the accounting field is the best degree for you, Ultimate Medical Academy (UMA) offers a Healthcare Accounting Associate Degree program. This program is designed for students interested in working within the accounting field and, more specifically, in entry-level positions like accounting assistant, accounting clerk, or bookkeeper.
To learn more about UMA’s Healthcare Accounting Associate Degree (or to enroll), contact UMA today. In just two years, you could be working in a field you love.
Disclaimer: While UMA's Healthcare Accounting program does not prepare students to become certified public accountants or to take the Certified Public Accountant exam, but to work in the field as a healthcare accounting clerk or bookkeeper, we are committed to providing our readers all of the information necessary to make an informed decision regarding their future in healthcare accounting. To learn more about how we can help you or the programs we have to offer, contact us today!