Postgraduate queries

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The Independent Online

I'm halfway through a modern languages degree, but have started to regret my subject choice, and want to find a pathway into a maths-related job after I graduate (I got A* at maths A Level). What postgraduate routes could I pursue into accounting?

Two quick observations first. You're right to stick with your current degree, as languages will always be an asset. And second, the lack of a numbers-based degree will be no obstacle at all as you try to become an accountant.

As for your postgraduate options, although you certainly haven't said goodbye to exams your route into accountancy will not start with a Masters degree. First you'll need to find an accountancy firm who will take you on as a trainee, and through its links to the ACCA, the global professional body for accountants, put you through the courses that lead to the exams and professional qualifications that are essential if you want to practise as a chartered accountant.

Your numeracy skills will clearly help, but so will your ability with words, as making and presenting arguments based on figures is an important part of life as a practising accountant. Further down the line, if you want to specialise in a niche of the accountancy field, you can find postgraduate courses in areas such as international accounting.

What is an MRes?

An MRes is a relatively new beast in the postgraduate jungle, and has gained prominence as the number and variety of taught Masters has grown. An MRes is a Masters degree gained largely by research and not teaching, and offers a far better preparation for students who definitely want to go on to do a PhD. You can do an MRes in various subjects, but a key part of every course will be some generic guidance and practice in research methods that could later be applied to any area of academic inquiry.

I have been in the physical education, sport and fitness industry for over 25 years, with a first degree in PE and a Masters in sport psychology. Now I'm approaching 50, is it too late to change career and study law?

Although I always say it's never too late to change course in life, I wouldn't want you to head towards a law qualification without your eyes wide open. It will take time; it will cost money; and it's so competitive that there's no guarantee of success.

If you're still game, you'll first need to bring yourself to the equivalent level of knowledge as a law graduate, by acquiring a Graduate Diploma in Law (also known as a CPE). This can be done full-time for a year, or part-time over two years.

The next stage is the Legal Practice Course, which usually takes a year full-time, although the College of Law now runs an accelerated seven-month course starting in July. Then, you'll have to find a firm of solicitors who'll take you on a training contract and give you the practical experience across several areas of legal practice that you'll need to become a qualified solicitor. Getting such a contract is not easy and will eat up another two years of your life.

So, to sum up, while your maturity and experience of life will undoubtedly be viewed as an asset by many academics and employers in the legal world, you should be prepared for a real challenge to achieve your goal at your age.

Send your queries to Steve McCormack at