An associate degree in accounting can prepare students for entry-level bookkeeping positions.
An associate degree in accounting can prepare students for entry-level bookkeeping positions.

Students interested in entry-level administrative positions have a number of options for degree programs. Two common choices are the associate degree in accounting and the bachelor's degree in business administration. Both degrees have their pros and cons, depending on each individual's career goals. The focus of each degree better prepares students for different jobs, which could also mean different earnings potential.

Training Differences

One of the biggest advantages of an associate degree in accounting over a bachelor's degree in business administration is the time it takes to complete the degree. An associate degree typically only takes two years to complete, while a bachelor's degree typically takes four years. Most community colleges and technical schools, which offer associate degrees, also offer more flexible scheduling options like night and weekend classes. Associate degree accounting programs typically include courses on business administration, such as management and leadership training, but the focus is on financial principles and tax law. Bachelor's degree programs in business administration may include course work in accounting, but the majority of classes are in management, negotiation, leadership, and other business principles. A bachelor's degree in business administration also includes more general education courses, such as English composition and social sciences, while an associate degree in accounting typically only requires students take a couple of these classes.

Career Options

Both an associate degree in accounting and a bachelor's degree in business administration can lead to similar job opportunities. However, an associate in accounting better prepares students for financial positions. Some possibilities include a career as an auditor, budget analyst, cost management accountant and accounting consultant. Ferris State University says its program prepares students for staff accounting positions and office accounting roles. A bachelor's degree in business administration leads to more career opportunities. The University of Maine at Augusta says its program prepares students for opportunities in the financial, public and business sector, including auto dealership sales manager, insurance agent, real estate broker, executive secretary, marketing research assistant and human resources manager.

Salary Differences

Salaries can vary widely according to the degree earned and the position for which graduates are hired. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that bookkeepers, accountants and auditing clerks -- all jobs obtained with just an associate degree -- made a median salary of $34,030 in 2010. Those who complete a bachelor's degree in business administration may have more earnings potential. U.S. News & World Report combined data from the BLS and reported that salaries for those with a bachelor's in business administration made anywhere from $43,000 per year for childcare center directors to $100,000 for human resource managers. Experience, job title, company and location can all influence salaries as well.

Other Considerations

Many positions in accounting and business require advanced degrees. For example, a certified public accountant must have a master's degree, and many business executives complete an MBA degree. Those who already have a bachelor's degree are able to transition directly into a master's program, while those with an associate degree will need to complete additional training before they can get this important degree.

2016 Salary Information for Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks

Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks earned a median annual salary of $38,390 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks earned a 25th percentile salary of $30,640, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $48,440, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 1,730,500 people were employed in the U.S. as bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks.