For those individuals who have found their passion in accounting, the doctoral degree (or Ph.D.) in accounting will provide additional training in theory, finance, and economics. Along with the required research in this program, students will take classes in accrual accounting, financial reporting, management control, and equity valuation. Doctoral-level courses are to provide the student with an understanding of how to measure a firm’s performance, project profitability, and control management. Ph.D. programs require a lot of reading and reviews of paradigms, which is meant to expose the student to methodological tools used in accounting.
The goal of the Ph.D. program is to engage the accounting major in quantitative research. This means that through analysis and empirical investigation, theories are drawn about why things happen in accounting. Several courses in quantitative research are required for the degree, as well as research seminars, additional classes in accounting, and courses in finance and information systems.
The average Ph.D. program takes about 4.8 years to complete, with the latter years focused on the dissertation. Most colleges require full-time residency, and students must teach or assist in research. Many people who pursue this degree have a long-term goal of teaching at the college level. The Ph.D. credential is one of the most highly respected designations a person can have. The completion rate is low for Ph.D. accounting students, with only a few schools offering the degree. This forces many interested students to move to another state to complete their degree.
Admission requirements, program cost, and years to completion vary by institution. Most schools require the student to complete a master’s program and have relevant recent work experience in public accounting before they can apply. Upon completing the degree, students are almost guaranteed jobs at leading colleges or universities and research institutes. Many Ph.D. candidates assume faculty positions at the school they attended.
The advantage to having a doctoral degree is the recognition one receives by completing the program. The person is now considered a “doctor,” receiving positive recognition by many. When the student publishes a dissertation, the student will have contributed information to the world in an area never explored. This in itself is a great contribution, as people will rely on this research to prove theories. Lastly, the program is challenging, with the opportunity to meet other people with like interests. There is currently a shortage of accounting Ph.D.s, as older professors have retired. Many Ph.D. programs are seeking new candidates, especially CPAs who have an interest in teaching and research. The average salary is $118,500 for a nine-month contract at an accredited college, not including other money that could be earned by teaching or grants.
On the downside, there is pressure to get your book or academic research published, which is typically a prerequisite to getting a job offer or tenure in an academic setting. Most schools do not allow students to take classes on a part-time basis, and there is the opportunity cost of lost wages during the time the student is pursuing the degree.