Doctoral Degrees in Accounting

For many accountants, a master's degree represents the end of their formal education. At that point, they may choose to pursue Certified Public Accountant standing, and are typically qualified to find employment in both the public and private sectors.

However, there is one educational step beyond a master's degree: the doctoral degree in accounting. In 2008, the American Institute of CPAs Foundation launched the Accounting Doctoral Scholars Program. It was founded in response to an anticipated shortage of faculty to teach the next generation of accounting professionals. According to the program, almost half of current faculty is nearing retirement age.

For students who have a love of accounting, that means an opportunity exists to further their education and work professionally now and fill openings for faculty members in the years to come.

Basics of doctoral degrees in accounting

Doctorate degrees in accounting typically fall into one of two tracks:

  • Empirical-archival. Focused on historical data and statistical trends for research and analysis
  • Behavioral.Concerned with the psychology behind economic trends and decisions

While some programs may contain both elements, most place an emphasis on one of the two tracks. Potential students should carefully explore the doctoral degree requirements and speak with staff and current students, if possible, to ensure the program fits their interests.

Curriculum for accounting doctorates

While each school structures its curriculum requirements differently, doctoral students should expect to complete two or three years of coursework followed by a dissertation. The dissertation process could last several years as well, depending on the school. Coursework may be customized based upon a student's interests, and those who don't already have a graduate degree in accounting may be required to take MBA level classes.

The following are examples of classes that may be offered by doctoral programs in accounting:

  • Advanced accounting theory
  • Advanced research in accounting
  • Introduction to econometrics
  • Social science research methods

Students may also be required to attend workshops and complete summer projects or papers in addition to their regular class work and dissertation.

Career outlook for doctorate holders

The shortage of accounting of accounting faculty has been well-documented by several organizations, including the American Accounting Association and the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). The 2012-2013 Salary Survey Reports from the AACSB included over 35,000 surveys of faculty members and over 6,400 administrators in 28 fields. Since 2011, salaries for accounting or taxation professors have increased by 5.2 percent, up to a mean wage of $142,500 in 2012.


AACSB. 2012-2013 Salary Survey Report, http://maaw.info/ArticleSummaries/ArtSumAACSB2013SalaryReports.htm

Accounting Doctoral Scholars, http://www.adsphd.org

Journal of Accountancy, UCATION Pursuing a Ph.D. in Accounting: Walking in With Your Eyes Open, http://www.journalofaccountancy.com/web/pursuingaphdinaccounting