Critical Demand for Accounting PhD Students

Did you ever really thank any of your accounting instructors who watched you evolve from unpolished freshman to fully real world ready graduate, fat new hire offer in your hand and all? Did you thank them for giving you the foundation you needed to thrive in your chosen field? After all, YOU are the one who made the choice to endure countless hours of Statistics and Econ and Financial Reporting. THEY are the ones who filled you with most of what you needed to accomplish that goal.

Accounting professors are, by large, an under-appreciated bunch.

Sadly, as Baby Boomers reach retirement age and leave gaping holes in the educational system, an already historically understaffed profession is starting to see a need that has not been this pressing since the early 1990s. Projections point towards a very critical demand emerging in the next decade while the consensus among professors we spoke to was that the deficiency of qualified PhD accounting faculty is nothing new.

What difficulties stand in the way of filling this blatant vacancy?

– Qualified accounting students rarely consider teaching as a viable alternative to a lucrative firm offer. Who wants to give up a chubby bonus and the prestige that comes with landing a Big 4 offer that you can show off to your Facebook friends from college?

– Earning your CPA is difficult. So is earning a doctoral degree. Doing both requires an unique kind of dedication that too few possess.

– College was expensive. Earning a PhD is going to cost more and many considering academia see this cost as a huge obstacle to their goals.

– Entrance into doctorate programs requires not only dedication and financing but proof that the candidate can handle the rigors of such a program. This usually means a ‘qualified’ PhD candidate maintained a high GPA throughout school and secured impressive GMAT scores to boot.

The reality is that new faculty with an accounting doctorate aren’t exactly starving students; a recent survey of the AACSB shows that new doctorate nine-month salaries are around $118,500!

So how do you go from accounting student to accounting faculty?

It helps to have a hero. Of course, most professors (especially in the under-appreciated accounting department) aren’t exactly known for their jovial demeanor. But most people enjoy being asked about their lives, so run some questions by your favorite accounting instructor. Ask how they got into teaching, why they made the transition, what they enjoy/dislike about their jobs. Surely you’ll find some version of a mentor and may be shocked to discover it’s your stoic Cost Accounting teacher who you could have sworn had it out for you all this time.

Another big help, the collective venture of 70 accounting firms and several state CPA societies that attempts to fill this critical void. Pledging $15 million to the newly formed Accounting Doctoral Scholars program (overseen by the AICPA) and with the bigger firms levying their influence and reach to recruit employees who they plan to encourage to enter the program, the ADS seeks to assist qualified applicants (to the tune of $30,000 a year for up to 4 years, each) to pursue their degrees in education.

In the end, the decision to get into education is a personal one.

But the accounting departments of schools across the country are going to be starving for qualified instructors and the future CPAs of America and beyond who are now still in diapers are counting on the accounting professors of tomorrow who are still uncertified to step up.

Are you the one to answer that call?

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