Explore UAB

Ethan smiling while working on laptop outdoors

An unexpected second career

UAB’s 100% online accounting degree opens new pathways

Ethan lived a lot of life by the time he reached his mid-20s. He attended high school online while he worked unimaginable hours — 60 per week, to be specific — in ballet school. He squeezed in his self-paced education and graduated from high school early. He finished ballet school and accepted his first professional job offer at age 17. He moved from his hometown of Boston to Oklahoma City for a one-year contract, then onto Birmingham to dance the remainder of his ballet career with the Alabama Ballet.

Ethan knew his short window as a professional dancer was coming to an end. He reasoned that a business management degree would be useful for running a dance studio. But his heart wasn’t in it, yet.

“I’m a Type A person and a major people-pleaser. At first, I went back to school just to make my mom happy.”

Destined for accounting

Ethan had already taken online classes before, but his choice to get his college degree online was not without reservation.

Contact Us to Learn More



“One of my biggest fears was that it would be a subpar education. And then as I got into the upper-level classes, I realized, ‘This is hard. Am I stupid to think that online school is hard?’ I came to realize more and more that online school and in-person school were exactly the same, and ‘online’ isn’t on the degree that you end up getting."

Ethan was still a business management major when he took a tax class and stumbled upon an unexpected passion. “It was with Professor of Accounting Marena Messina. She made me fall in love with the entirety of accounting, not just the math.

I didn’t know accounting was my future; but looking back on my childhood, it all made sense. My sister and I would make fake businesses, and I would always be organizing it. I wanted to be a lawyer, and now that I’m going into tax accounting, there’s a lot of overlap.”

He changed his major to accounting and never looked back. Even his dreams of running a dance studio began to fade as his new interest took hold. One day, Ethan reached out to Messina to ask her about jobs in accounting, “and thank God I did because this was on Wednesday, and she said, ‘You know that the Big Four deadlines are on Friday, right?’”

The “Big Four,” as they’re commonly called, are the largest accounting firms in the world. Hopeful students spend weeks — even months — preparing their applications for internships. Messina helped Ethan as he worked tirelessly to get his applications in within just a few days.

Ethan smiling outside

I came to realize that online school and in-person school were exactly the same.

“I didn’t know if they would care at all about ballet. Messina helped me phrase things to show how my experience was applicable to the business world.” It worked, because he not only got interviews, but Ethan received job offers from all of the Big Four.

“In a whirlwind of three and a half years, I went from begrudgingly going to school to now I’m six months away from working at Deloitte, a big accounting firm,” Ethan said, still surprised at his new reality.

Developing relationships

We asked Ethan what he thought it was that helped him secure all four job offers.

Ethan acknowledged that Messina’s help was crucial in his success. Real classes with real instructors with whom Ethan developed real relationships put him on the right path. How did he develop those relationships? He said that many of his professors would offer times throughout the week when students could join them in a Zoom room for help. “I would always try to show up to those, and then you get to know the professors better. It’s such an intimate environment compared to a large class. From there, if you need one-on-one help, it’s not intimidating to reach out to them at all.”

"As an online student, I was really self-conscious going in. I thought it would be this big thing where UAB would send in my transcript and it would have ‘online’ stamped on it. But, I was the one telling everyone I interviewed with, and I was able to show that it was a positive. I was able to say that I’m self-motivated, and I think a lot of what they’re looking for is someone who doesn’t need to be babysat."

Ethan will finish his Bachelor of Science degree in accounting in fall 2022 and move back to Boston, but this time as a Deloitte intern. Since he chose to do the fast-track master’s option, he’ll continue his online classes with UAB and complete his Master of Accounting degree in summer 2023.

In the ballet world, Ethan at age 26 is considered old, but he’s already had one full career. Today, he’s on the precipice of a second one, and has found a new professional passion, thanks to his UAB Online experience.

There’s no shame with changing careers at any point. The idea of staying with one company for life is an outdated one. So many of my classmates who were significantly older than me already had careers and just wanted to change.
If you want a change, go for it.

about you?

What if a second career and an unexpected passion is just a few online classes away? The legitimacy of an online degree means that you have the opportunity to pursue a new path with flexibility like never before. You can keep your current job while learning and growing into the new one. Share your contact info with us so today so we can reach out and help you determine if UAB online is the right fit for you.

Back to Top