How Long Does It Take to Get an Accounting Degree? [2021 Guide]

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How long does it take to get an accounting degree? Answering the question requires that you first settle on the kind of degree you hope to get.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Accounting Degree

Some future accountants go right to a Bachelor’s degree program while others start with an Associate’s degree.

Choosing between a bachelors in accounting vs. an associates in accounting depends on many factors. One factor being how much time getting each degree will take you.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Accounting Degree?

Accountant doing financial reports on tablet and calculator

It typically takes 4 years to earn a bachelor’s in accounting degree if you enroll in a traditional, campus-based degree program. You can finish your accounting degree in less time if you enroll in online, accelerated courses.

An Associate’s degree in accounting will take about 2 years to complete. At two semesters per year, that translates to a total of four semesters over two years of study. This assumes that you attend school on a full-time basis.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Accounting Degree?

It is possible to get an accounting degree online a bit more quickly by taking accelerated 8 week courses as opposed to the typical 16 weeks on a traditional campus.

If you are willing to put in continuous effort from start to finish, it is possible to earn an accounting degree in as little as 2 years. A more traditional program that keeps pace with on-campus studies takes an average of 3 years to 4 years to complete online.

How Long Does It Take to Become an Accountant?

How Long Does It Take to Become an Accountant

Earning an accounting degree doesn’t necessarily make you an accountant. If you start with an Associate’s degree rather than a Bachelor’s, graduation will only allow you to perform some basic accounting tasks without actually being recognized as an accountant.

These types of tasks include things like payroll processing and day-to-day bookkeeping. To be a recognized accountant, you have to earn a Bachelor’s degree. Even then, the types of jobs you could take would be limited until you earn your license as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA).

Unlicensed accountants with Bachelor’s degrees can perform the same basic accounting functions as those with Associate’s degrees. They can also take more advanced jobs that require full business accounting with all functions other than those regulated by federal law.

Jobs requiring licensure are those that relate to government filing, reporting, and financial advice. If you were to take a job that would have you acting as a tax advisor, you would need to be a licensed CPA.

Likewise for a job that would require you to file reports with the IRS or Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

These more advanced may indeed pay more. As such, it’s worth considering working toward a CPA license after earning a Bachelor’s degree. One way to go about it is to start working as an accountant after graduation while also taking additional classes toward your license.

Certification and Licensure Following an Accounting Degree

accountant working in her office

Becoming a Certified Public Accountant requires some additional education following graduation from a Bachelor’s degree program. Most CPAs study toward their licenses even while working as entry-level accountants. They become CPAs by eventually taking and passing an exam.

Like nursing and practicing law, there is no federal exam for CPAs. Instead, exams are designed and administered at the state level. This indicates that licensing requirements differ from state to state.

Using Florida as an example, becoming a CPA requires a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited school with 150 semester hours of education. Graduates of non-accredited schools must complete an additional 15 semester hours from an accredited school to sit for the exam.

Florida’s Uniform CPA exam is administered at a variety of sites around the state. Candidates must score a minimum of 75% on each section to pass.

Accreditation for an Accounting Degree

nice-looking university campus

You might choose to take your accounting degree online rather than visiting a college campus. If so, pay attention to regional accreditation. Regional accreditation is a system by which educational institutions are accredited by regionally recognized accrediting organizations.

Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) – is a professional organization and nonprofit association with the primary task of being a connection point between students, educational institutions, and businesses.

Accreditation Council for Business Schools & Programs (ACBSP) – offers accreditation for all levels of business education, from Associate to Doctoral degrees.

Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (IACBE) – is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) as an accrediting organization that demonstrates adherence to the highest standards.

Accreditation demonstrates that a school is offering quality educational opportunities based on recognized standards. Not only does accreditation help you when it comes time to get your license, but it also helps to ensure that you’re actually getting a quality education.

Financial Aid for an Accounting Degree Online

Financial Aid for an Accounting Degree Online

Rest assured that financial aid is available to students who seek to get their degrees online. Going to school online does not preclude one from receiving federal and state assistance alongside scholarships, grants, etc.

Federal financial aid is made available once you complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Students and their parents complete the FAFSA application and submit it. The Federal Student Aid office then analyzes the family’s financial position to determine how much federal aid is available.

A separate application might be necessary to receive state financial aid. Students and their parents can also look around for scholarships and grants. There are more of them out there than most college-bound students realize. Your high school guidance counselor can probably help you here.

A combination of scholarships and government aid could provide enough funding for you to attend school online. However, it may not. You still might have to contribute out-of-pocket funds to cover your costs.

How Many Years of College to Be an Accountant?

It takes approximately 2 years to earn an Associate’s degree in accounting. Though such a degree would not make you an accountant by trade, it would allow you to take an entry-level accounting job with limited duties. Is it worth getting an associate’s degree in accounting?


To become a recognized accountant, you would have to earn a Bachelor’s degree. A Bachelor’s degree typically takes four years to earn. This assumes you study as a full-time student and take the maximum allowable number of credit hours each semester.

How Long Does It Take to Finish CPA Licensing?

Though requirements vary by state, the general rule suggests that it takes about two years following completion of a Bachelor’s degree program to be ready to sit for the CPA exam. During this two-year period, the accountant is working full time and earning an additional 30 college credits.

Is It Hard to Become an Accountant

Please bear in mind that there may be different state requirements depending on the school you attend. Accreditation could determine how many credit hours you need following graduation. The best way to know for sure what is required is to contact the licensing board in your state.

Is It Hard to Become an Accountant?

Is accounting a hard major? Determining whether or not it is hard to become an accountant is a matter of personal opinion. Whether or not something is hard is relative to your abilities and willingness to work.

Becoming an accountant generally requires being comfortable with math and numbers. Anyone who struggles with high school math might find earning an accounting degree more challenging. It’s also helpful to be detail-oriented.

What Jobs Can You Get With an Accounting Degree?

An Associate’s degree can help you land entry-level accounting jobs involving payroll, bookkeeping, and clerking. A Bachelor’s degree opens the door to more advanced positions, including forensic accountant, financial analyst, and actuary.

Finally, a Bachelor’s degree with CPA licensing opens the door to jobs involving tax reporting, financial advice, and SEC reporting.

Getting Your Accounting Degree

accounting manager showing financial reports to his team

Did you find the information in this post helpful toward understanding what it takes to become an accountant? If so, now is the time to get working your career. Now is the time to start thinking about degrees and university programs.

The sooner you start applying, the sooner you’ll know whether or not you’ve been accepted to the universities of your choosing. Start the process now, and get a jump on your accounting career.

The right combination of education and experience could lead to a rewarding career you’ll be proud of.

James Chen
WRITTEN BY
James Chen