Mythbusters - Career Edition

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It's time to separate career fact from fiction.

By Chris Kyle

When planning your career, it's important to know what's fact and what's fiction.

Welcome to Yahoo! Education's Mythbusters - The Career Edition - in which we tackle the truths (and untruths) associated with certain careers.

[Find a degree program that works for your life now]

Do you know what's true…and what's just plain false?

  • Do police officers really love donuts?
  • Are all accountants boring?
  • Are most nurses female?

Find out which career myths are based in fact now…

TRUE OR FALSE: All accountants are boring.

FALSE. "We hear it all the time," laughs Sharon Cook, a St. Louis-based accountant with 33 years in the profession.

Cook, vice president of the National Society of Accountants (NSA), has plenty of funny stories to tell about NSA conventions. There's one with a ventriloquist and another involving a tricycle race.

"People think we're boring because they only see us in a business setting," Cook says. "They don't know what we're like when we leave the office."

[Find Accounting schools and degree programs]

Average Salary:
Accountants: $59,430*

Education Options:
Bachelor's Degree in Accounting
Bachelor's Degree in Finance

TRUE OR FALSE: Police officers love donuts.

FALSE. This cliché began when policemen working the graveyard shift would visit bakeries for coffee and donuts since they were often the only neighborhood shops open late at night.

"Donut shops have been replaced by Starbucks or 24-hour fast food restaurants," Officer Mike McCoy wrote in a blog on the Houston Police Department's web site. "However, I still think the whole cops and donuts myth will continue to live forever."

In fact, most departments have fitness requirements for incoming candidates that would seem to discourage making glazed twists a regular part of your diet. For example, on its web site, the Minneapolis Police Department has standards for bench pressing, push-ups, vertical jump, sit-ups, and a 1.5 mile run.

Sounds like most officers would be more likely to grab an energy bar than a donut.

Average Salary:
Police officers: $51,410*

Education Options:
Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice
Bachelor's Degree in Police & Law Enforcement
Bachelor's Degree in Homeland Security

[Find the right Criminal Justice program for you]

TRUE OR FALSE: You need a law degree to work in the courtroom.

FALSE. Paralegals often work elbow to elbow with lawyers in the courtroom during trials. But you don't need a three-year law degree to get into this field. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the most common path to a paralegal profession is an associate's degree in paralegal studies. Another popular option is a certificate in paralegal studies, particularly for those who already have a degree. [Find Paralegal schools near you]

The bottom line is that you don't need a bachelor's degree or any graduate work to qualify. In fact, some paralegals begin as legal secretaries and move up to paralegal by learning on the job.

Average Salary:
Paralegals: $46,120*

Education Options:
Associate's Degree in Paralegal Studies
Paralegal Certificate

[Search for Paralegal certificate and degree programs]

TRUE OR FALSE: Computer experts are geeks.

FALSE. The term "geek" used to describe a freakish carnival worker, but today we take it to mean someone who perhaps spends a little too much time writing computer code or building databases.

But the old stereotype of the geek with thick glasses (thanks Bill Gates) is out the window.

According to Network World, many techies spend their down time in action-oriented pursuits such as mountain climbing, skydiving, firefighting, and - especially - motorcycles. Tech pros like the troubleshooting and gear-oriented aspects of these activities.

It's a far cry from fixing your glasses with tape.

Average Salary:
Computer support specialists: $43,450*

Education Options:
Technology Support Certificate
Bachelor's Degree in IT & Information Systems
Programming & Software

[Get your nerd on with an IT program]

TRUE OR FALSE: Most nurses are female.

TRUE. Yes…This one is still true. More than 93 percent of registered nurses (RNs) in 2008 were female, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

One of the upsides to this is that management and higher-level nursing positions also have an overabundance of women - one of the few fields in which this is true.

Interestingly, male nurses gravitate to certain positions in the RN field. For example, HHS found that more than 41 percent of all nurse anesthetists in 2008 were men.

[Find Nursing schools near you]

Average Salary:
Registered nurses: $62,450*

Education Options:
Associate's Degree in Nursing
Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing

TRUE OR FALSE: Private school teachers make more money than public school teachers.

FALSE. According to a 2007 report from the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, public school teachers are paid 61 percent more per hour than private school teachers, on average nationwide.

Higher earning potential = myth busted.

Average Salaries:
Public school teachers: $49,630*
Private school teachers: $39,690*

Education Options:
K-12 Education Degree
Master's Degree in Curriculum & Leadership
Teaching Certificate

[Find Education programs now]

TRUE OR FALSE: Fashion designers are snobs.

FALSE. The bottom line is that it's ridiculous to think that today's fashion designers are all snobs. In fact, one of the hottest trends in fashion right now is workwear - good old-fashioned clothes that celebrate the durable threads worn by workers.

Take another example: Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS shoes, donates a new pair of shoes to a child for every pair his company sells. Nothing snobby about that.

Average Salary:
Fashion designers: $61,160*

Education Options:
Associate's Degree in Fashion Design
Bachelor's Degree in Fashion Marketing
Bachelor's Degree in Fashion Merchandising

[Search for Fashion and Design schools now]

*Unless otherwise noted, all salary data comes from the U.S. Department of Labor, using May 2008 median salaries, except teaching salaries, which come from a 2009 study by the Center for Education Reform.

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