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Accounting vs. Law vs. Medicine

Calculator vs scale

If you’re thinking about graduate school, you’re probably imagining a great career doing interesting work with interesting people and making good money. But how long will it take you to get there? And where will you end up?

Time is money

If you choose law school, it will be three years before you start looking for a job — hoping you make enough money to repay those loans without having to live on ramen noodles.

Becoming a physician takes even longer. Four years of medical school, a year-long internship program and then several more years as a resident. Once you’re a resident physician, you start to make a little money — an average of about $55,000 per year. But you won’t get into six figures you’ve completed your residency — usually 8 or more years after starting medical school.

>> Download the Accounting Top 10 things you really need to know about the profession.

Dentistry usually requires two to four years of grad school, plus time as a resident. Veterinarians require four years of grad school, and many have specialized training beyond that.

Which brings us to accounting. If you want a faster return on your investment, maybe you should consider a master of accounting degree. Do you like solving problems and working in teams? Accounting might be right for you.

In just one or two years, you can be finished with school and starting a high-paying job.

I’m interested!

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No business background required

UNC Kenan-Flagler’s Master of Accounting (MAC) program is a one-year program designed for students with little or no business background. (Many other MAC programs take two years.)

And unlike medical school, you don’t have to master years of biology, chemistry and math prerequisites to get started in accounting.

MAC program students enter school with many backgrounds – everything from English lit majors to political science junkies. UNC offers a “boot camp” to get you up to speed fast on accounting basics.

Strong hiring demand

Accountants are in high demand. Every business, nonprofit organization and government agency needs accounting.

Accountants offer help with budgeting, financial analysis and every kind of business decision-making. They handle audits required for public companies, do taxes for businesses and individuals, and even investigate wrongdoing through forensic accounting.

Many accountants start out working for accounting or consulting firms but often end up in corporate jobs, working at nonprofits or even starting their own businesses.

According to the American Bar Association, only 57 percent of 2013 law school grads found full-time, long-term jobs as lawyers.

Students explain why the accounting profession was the perfect fit for their career goals.

Show me the money

Accountants make decent money right out of school — usually starting at more than $50,000. MAC degree holders and those with the Certified Public Accounting designation (which the MAC qualifies you for) make even more to start, and their salaries grow fast.

Within five to seven years of starting their careers, MAC degree holders are usually earning six-figure salaries.

So when your medical school friends are finally earning $40,000 to $50,000 as resident doctors after several years of school, you’ll be making more than twice as much.

Lifestyle bonuses

Some accountants get to travel — including overseas — as part of their work. They visit client company headquarters or key facilities. Some U.S. accountants even spend part of their careers in Europe or Asia, working with U.S. companies that have offices there or international companies with U.S. operations.

The Big 4 accounting firms, where many graduates go for their first job out of school, are increasingly emphasizing work-life balance. Telecommuting, flexible hours, more time for parental leave and other benefits are relatively common in accounting.

And finally, while accounting has lots of variety, chances are you will almost never have to pull on a latex glove or visit a jail as part of your job.

If you haven’t thought about a MAC degree, maybe it’s time to learn more.

Want to know more about accounting? Here are 10 things you probably didn’t know about the profession.