Is it too late at 37 to go for an Accounting degree with goal of getting CFA?

I was sure this type of concern might be common and thought I might find some relatable posts but either due to bad searches or what, but didn’t find any good information so ended up creating this thread.

I entered college back in 1994 and it was a total disaster from an academic standpoint. Long story short, after 5 years of being lost, I was dismissed from my school without being anywhere close to getting a degree. Serendipitously around that time, the startup I was interning for offered me a fulltime position. I started working as a web developer and was able to make a nice living for myself without a degree. I still do the same line of work and after a recent pay cut, make about 90K/yr.

From my personal experience and my colleagues, I feel the life span of a web developer is relatively short lived. So here I am at 37 years old, married and with a 6 months old baby, and I feel like my career train is nearing the final stop. So I am faced with the option of trying to stay relevant with the never ending new technologies and try to look more appealing than recent college grads or transitioning into a different career.

After weighing my options, I am leaning a bit towards a new career, and pursing an Accounting degree was top on the list. Not only because it opens things up to so many different career options, I am also looking for a career that has longevity, where experience and age doesn’t negatively impact employment chances. Plus I always liked finance and don’t mind the proverbial number crunching. If I do go down this path, then I intend to get the CFA charter. Main reason being that it would cost a whole lot more for graduate school compared to the fees to take the CFA exams.

Needless to say I am a totally different person from my first stint at college and am laser focused. Regardless of my drive, I am 37 and will be almost 20 years older than the typical 1st year college student. Do you think it makes sense for me to pursue this option? What other career moves could I be looking at?

Thank you!

If you plan to end with the CFA, then going for an accounting degree is a waste of time. You should be looking at a finance degree. Accounting is for people who want to become CPA’s and/or CMA’s.

If you do want to get into the accounting profession, then the CFA may interest you after a long period of work experience but not the end-game. You’re looking at 150 credits of undergrad and then the exams and starting at the bottom with on-the-job experience.

In all honesty, you’ll be done your degree at 41? 42? You think you’ve got the drive and ability to compete with 22 year olds? If you do, then go for it, but reflecting on my own situation, there is no way today I’d make the same sacrifices I was willing to 10 years ago.

I never knew you had to be young to work in web development

how you gonna get a decent accounting role with no experience kid at 41 years old? I dont see these audit firms hiring you despite how desperate they are for warm bodies.

^ I know a guy that was 34 with an MPA that got plenty of offers

Don’t underestimate the desperation. My former employer hired one of the guys I went to school with who managed to fail out of his masters program, get his previous offer revoked, then had to go back and redo a semester. Still got an offer from my former firm. They were so busy and needed people that the hiring bar got REALLY low for a couple years.

Yah, software engineering train will stop at about 45-50, but if you are doing something right, you are not writing code but managing for the past 10-15 years. Even if you have 3-4 people reporting to you 80% of the time you won’t be coding. Also, if you would have decide to stick to one company, once you learn architecture, it is extremely unlikely it will change in next 10 years, if it is a big established company. Companies like to get ROI out of their IT investments, and won’t reinvent the wheel ever couple of years. For instance mainframes are still around and well, even thought they became obsolete about 20-30 years ago.

You are currently earning 90k a year. That is a good living. For example i know accounts that have their CPA and earn 60k a year. If you get bachelor of science in computer science (accelerated program, 2 years) you will be 100% better off than getting CPA and then CFA, purely from statistical prespective (Your mean salary will be much higher than CPA + CFA).

Again, it depends on the drive and if you have it, you can become PM by 50, but it is extremely unlikely. At this point you have to leverage your assets to get a better return of your career.

hi geo,

yes it certainly will be tough competing with younger folks if i do go through with this. if you dont mind me asking, what were some of the sacrifices that you went through that you would not want to go through now? Assuming you graduated college in your early 20s, im guessing you are in your early to mid 30s? How has getting CFA changed things for you and do you feel it is worth it? Any things you would change if you had a 2nd go at it?


Thank you all for the great insight and feedback! I expect challenges in any career change but the overall census here seems to be that accounting or even finance would be like rowing after a ship that left port.

I totally agree with comp_sci_kid that management is the next logical step for a programmer/engineer but even those positions dont offer the longevity I feel comfortable with. There are many careers out there that one can make a nice living but if that career has a short shelf life, then you have to make enough to compensate for that career ending early or transition into something else that you can do till you feel you are ready to retire. And mangement positions in my field doesn’t pay enough to be able to retire at 50.

I thought getting an accountant degree and pursuing a career in finance as an analyst or PM would be a good option. I considered the accounting background as a safety net that I can fall back on and do public accounting till a ripe old age if the finance option didn’t pan out. But from what I am reading here, seems that boat has sailed.

So maybe leveraging my previous experiences in programming and combining my interest in finance, anyone has any thoughts on becoming a quant? I know there are heavy educational requirements for this as well but does this allows for a more level playing field for late bloomers?

Again, I appreciate all your comments!

The sacrifices are long hours, stress and not spending enough time on myself and family. I have a real hacksaw background so I had to fight for every inch of ground with more “qualified” people. At first that was 60-70 hours a week. Now I work 40-50 with generous vacation and I would never go back, I’m too old for that shit. Also remember that the guy hiring you is going to likely be 30ish if you’re entry level. You’ll be considerably older than your boss, which may make him reluctant to hire you. It’s preceieved to be easier to teach and manage a younger employee, more easy to mould into what you want in an employee. I’d probably hire someone with your story, but I’d probably be the exception to that rule. If I had a second go at it, I would have been an engineer or a tradesman to be honest. Finance is a way overrated field for employment, and I say that even though I love finance. Finance is a better past-time than a job, IMO.

If you want a safe career, then accounting is still an option. Two things in life that are guaranteed: death and taxes. You’ll be able to find employment as a tax accountant. I can’t vouch for big accounting firms, but I’d bet that small and mid-size firms wouldn’t really care about your age. There’s always a market for help during tax season. Get your start there. Even corporate accountants get hired that started later in life. Just saying that the CFA is an afterthought in this scenario.

I agree with comp_sci_kid, I think you would be better off completing an accelerated bachelor’s in computer science and then completing an MBA rather than go the CPA + CFA route. In order to complete CPA, you are looking at taking a pay cut (beginning accountants are making 40-60k a year tops). You will also need 4 years of relevant work experience for the CFA designation. Build upon your IT experience, complete the bachelor’s and MBA program part-time, and then transition. It’ll take less time and will allow you more flexibility. Finance is cut-throat and requires quite a bit of sacrifice in order to be successful.

Or become an actuary.

I wouldn’t do it. You are looking to maxamizing your earning longevity.

The graveyard for computer science professionals is in IT, where you can work a 9-5 job making over 100k/yr with relatively good job stability at slow moving companies.

With your experience, I would finish up a part time BS in IT and various cisco certificates. There is still time to reinvent your self in your late 30s/early 40s in IT, esp with all that exp you have.

Afterwards, you should look into a exec MBA to branch out. But with you work exp, and how hot tech is right now, i wouldnt start over.

I wouldn’t. Accounting pays like crap and tech is hot so you should further your skills in IT. If I can go back, I probably would’ve stayed in tech instead of being drawn by the allure of finance.

Get your BA then MBA and segue into management within your field.

I’d stay in tech. There are a lot of quant-type jobs that aren’t Wall Street. For example, vendors for financial companies like banks often need people with an understanding of finance and computers to help design the products. But I have no idea if their pay is a bump compared to 90 or not as I’ve never looked into these positions before.

I had an accounting professor who didn’t do accounting until 30s and he turned out great and made a multiple of 90,000 – so it is possible. But outside of being a professor and then consulting on the side, I don’t see the allure. Like others said, I’d expect you’d start off in accounting at 60 and work up from there.

Unless you stay a full time accountant, there’s no guarantee of employment in finance either. The turnovers are higher than normal and if people are reluctant to take on a 30 year old, think about a 40 year old’s chances.

I think you and your family are better served transitioning into another tech role. Taking time to finish your degree and transitioning into finance/accounting will take away prime earning years, not to mention end with an uncertain payout. Not even sure if top MBA programs would take someone so old to be quite honest. Sit tight and use what you know to move into something higher paying, don’t try to learn a completely new game at that point.

No, it’s never too late…follow your dreams.