Home Business Accounting vs. Law: What’s the Difference?

Accounting vs. Law: What’s the Difference?


Accounting and the legislation are each professions that entice many faculty college students. Every discipline provides sturdy revenue potential, upward mobility, and a wide range of profession paths throughout the career.

Accountants and attorneys can discover positions within the public sector (a federal authorities company, state, or municipality) and the non-public sector (companies and nonprofits). Inside non-public apply, there are two fundamental kinds of employment environments: “exterior”—at a agency, composed of different accounting or authorized professionals, that companies a wide range of outdoors purchasers, and “inner”—at a specific firm or group. Accountants and attorneys can work independently as properly.

Whereas each kinds of professionals can take care of enterprise issues for corporations and people, they concentrate on various things: attorneys with factors of legislation and authorized procedures; accountants with numbers, tax laws and codes. Each fields require further, specialised examine past a basic faculty diploma, and the passing of an examination to obtain a state license to apply (not mandated for all accountants, although strongly beneficial).

An accounting profession usually has much less intensive academic necessities. Then again, the legislation tends to pay higher.

Key Takeaways

Table of Contents

  • Accounting and the legislation are each fields by which professionals can work both at a agency of fellow professionals, serving numerous purchasers, or “in-house” at a single firm or group.
  • Each professions require specialised examine and supply specialised levels, however a profession in accounting has fewer inflexible academic necessities than a profession in legislation.
  • Turning into a lawyer requires you to move a state-sanctioned bar examination, which provides you the license to apply legally.
  • Most, however not all, accounting jobs require you to be a licensed public accountant (CPA), earned by passing a state-sanctioned examination.
  • On common, attorneys make more cash than accountants, significantly proper out of college.


An accountant can work for corporations that do accounting and auditing work for numerous exterior purchasers; these are often called public accounting corporations (to not be confused with public service—that’s, authorities or civil service). Or they’ll work in-house, overseeing the books and monetary data as a part of the workers for a person public corporation or a smaller, private company. They’ll additionally put together tax returns for people and companies or work for the federal government.

Accountants have to be expert at working with figures. The profession is commonly stigmatized as being boring and is a haven for math wonks and quantity crunchers, however many accounting duties require sturdy folks abilities and diplomacy. Public accountants spend the vast majority of their workweeks at numerous third-party shopper places of work. These professionals have to be able to assimilating into various company cultures.

You will get an accounting job with a bachelor’s diploma and even much less, however the “Huge 4” accounting corporations (Deloitte, Ernst & Younger, KPMG, and PricewaterhouseCoopers) need one. As well as, they need both certified public accountants (CPAs) or candidates who’re eligible to sit down for the CPA exam.

The “Big Four” is the nickname used to refer collectively to the 4 largest accounting corporations within the U.S. Apart from auditing companies, the Huge 4 supply tax legislation, technique and administration consulting, valuation, market analysis, assurance, and authorized advisory companies.

Turning into a CPA

Many states or jurisdictions now require 150 semester hours of schooling to acquire the CPA license—even to sit down for the examination. Faculties and universities in these states/jurisdictions decide the curriculum for pre-licensure schooling of CPAs; it usually contains a good steadiness of accounting, enterprise, and basic schooling.

Many faculties and universities supply bachelor’s and grasp’s diploma packages in accounting. To acquire 150 semester hours of schooling, college students don’t essentially need to get a grasp’s diploma. They’ll meet the requirement on the undergraduate stage or get a bachelor’s diploma and take some programs on the graduate stage. Some faculties supply streamlined Grasp of Accountancy packages that help you bypass a bachelor’s diploma and obtain the required credit for CPA eligibility in a minimal of 4 years.


Regulation college graduates are flush with choices as properly. Many younger attorneys favor to enter a personal legislation agency, the place they’ll concentrate on fields akin to prison protection, labor legislation, and worldwide legislation. Others go the in-house route, serving as company counsel inside a specific firm—particularly in the event that they suppose that they wish to transition into enterprise administration. And a few work for the federal government or for nonprofit organizations.

Turning into a lawyer requires an everyday bachelor’s diploma, plus a bachelor of legislation diploma from a legislation college—seven years of full-time examine in all. To apply legislation legally, attorneys should additionally move the bar examination in the state the place they need to work, be it for a legislation agency or an organization. In distinction, the CPA designation isn’t required to work in accounting inside an organization, however it’s for a job at a public accounting agency.

Attorneys require a broad base of abilities that may rely on the specialty that they enter. Company legislation necessitates lengthy hours, demanding job duties, and a tireless work ethic. Trial attorneys have to be eloquent, persuasive, and in a position to suppose on their toes. You need to have a eager understanding of assorted cultures and converse a number of languages if you wish to apply worldwide legislation. Tax legislation and different specialised authorized fields might require further coaching past legislation college.

Key Variations

On common, attorneys make more cash than accountants proper out of college. As of 2021, the beginning vary for Huge 4 accounting associates was $45,000 to $68,000. In the meantime, the latest knowledge from the Nationwide Affiliation for Regulation Placement’s biennial Affiliate Wage Survey revealed that the median wage for a first-year legislation affiliate was $165,000 as of Jan. 1, 2021, up $10,000 (6.5%) from 2019.

Total, attorneys can count on to earn a median wage of about $126,930, in line with 2020 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) knowledge. Half earn greater than that, and half earn much less. Comparatively, accountants earn a median wage of simply $73,560. Many younger accountants and attorneys blaze their very own profession paths and, because of this, aren’t confined to the wage ranges of the large corporations.

Many accountants and attorneys who go into non-public apply battle till they construct a shopper base, however they are often incomes a six-figure wage throughout the first yr.

In line with the BLS, the variety of accounting and auditing jobs is predicted to develop 4% from 2019 to 2029—as quick as the common for all occupations. The anticipated job development charge for attorneys can be 4%.

The most important downside for the sphere of legislation is provide and demand. For many years, a legislation diploma was thought of a assured ticket to a high-paying profession. Consequently, legislation college enrollment soared, producing an enormous variety of legislation college graduates who, at instances, have struggled to seek out job placements. Additionally, the status of the legislation college that somebody attends can have an enormous affect on the roles and salaries that they’re provided.

Particular Concerns

Huge 4 accounting corporations and company legislation positions require lengthy workdays, few full weekends off, and even much less trip time. The work schedule can lighten as you achieve seniority, however the first few years may be troublesome. Consequently, the burnout charge is excessive for brand spanking new associates in each fields.

You’ll be able to have a profession in accounting or legislation with out it taking on your life, however these jobs pay nowhere close to the salaries you can make working for a Huge 4 accounting agency or a serious company legislation agency. Government jobs in these fields supply 40-hour workweeks and wonderful advantages however pay considerably decrease salaries—particularly on the extra senior positions.

For instance, the median federal authorities lawyer wage in 2020 was $152,220—over $10,000 lower than first-year associates at non-public corporations, and much lower than the seven figures that full companions usually make.

For accountants, the hole is rather less: The median wage for presidency service was $72,260. That’s not so unhealthy in comparison with entry-level jobs on the Huge 4, however far lower than the six figures that managers pull in and nowhere close to the $1 million-plus that companions command.



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