PhD in Accounting

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Who Gets One & What to Expect

Individuals who are interested in becoming accounting professors, academics, or leaders in the accounting field should consider earning a doctoral degree. While a master’s degree can lead to high-paying jobs, a Ph.D. qualifies professionals for nearly any accounting position.

According to a study by the American Accounting Association, the rate of retirement for accountants in academia is larger than the number of qualified replacements, which indicates plenty of job opportunities for doctorate-holders. Earning a Ph.D. in accounting requires a significant time investment, but doctoral students gain a deep understanding of accounting and theories.

Reasons to Pursue an Online Ph.D. in Accounting

Students who pursue a Ph.D. in accounting online often complete the degree more quickly than on-campus students. Online learning provides the flexibility working professionals need to balance academics with their current career. Additionally, an online education often costs less than an on-campus program. Below are some common reasons learners choose to pursue a Ph.D. in accounting online.

  • IconAdvance Your CareerA Ph.D. in accounting is the highest level of education available in the field. With enough experience, professionals with a doctoral degree can qualify for nearly any accounting career.
  • IconPersonal InterestAfter earning a bachelor’s in accounting, many students want to deepen their understanding of accounting. Ph.D. programs cover advanced theories and include research opportunities.
  • IconBecome a LeaderAccountants with a doctorate are more likely to publish their work, which can lead to speaking roles and research opportunities. Earning a Ph.D. can help individuals become leaders in the field.
  • IconFind a New PositionProfessionals who intend to leave their current accounting role to pursue a career in academia typically need a doctorate. Many higher education institutions require accounting professors to hold a Ph.D. in the field.
  • IconHigher Lifetime EarningsProfessionals with higher levels of education typically earn higher salaries. Earning a Ph.D. in accounting online can lead to higher lifetime earnings, making a doctorate a sound investment.

What Can I Do With an Online Doctorate in Accounting?

Graduates of accounting Ph.D. programs often pursue roles in academia and research. Specific positions available to professionals with a Ph.D. in accounting vary widely. Additionally, job titles and related responsibilities vary by employer. Although no degree guarantees a specific position or salary, a Ph.D. in accounting often leads to high-paying roles in management, education, and leadership.

Common Career Paths and Salaries

Doctorate-holders can pursue a variety of career paths. Graduates of Ph.D. programs can qualify for nearly any position in the accounting field. The table below includes common career paths for professionals with a Ph.D. in accounting, including average annual salaries.


  • Accounting Professor

    Accounting professors teach field-related courses at colleges and universities. Most institutions require accounting professors to hold a Ph.D. in the field.

    Average Annual Salary: $77,419


  • Accounting Consultant

    Accounting consultants may work for agencies and companies. They can also start their own companies to provide accounting services and advice. Consultants need a bachelor’s degree, but a doctorate can lead to higher earning potential.

    Average Annual Salary: $67,469


  • Chief Financial Officer

    These executives oversee all the finances of a business or organization. Chief financial officers need at least a master’s degree, along with several years of accounting, management, and leadership experience.

    Average Annual Salary: $131,644


  • Accounting Manager

    These managers oversee systems for the collection, analysis, and reporting of financial information. Accounting managers often have at least a master’s degree in accounting.

    Average Annual Salary: $70,163


  • Director of Accounting and Financial Reporting

    Directors of accounting and financial reporting oversee a team of accounting and finance professionals. While this position often requires only a bachelor’s degree, candidates with additional education and leadership experience are more competitive for director roles.

    Average Annual Salary: $118,740


Source: Payscale

Accounting Ph.D. Program Requirements and Outcomes

Each school sets unique admission requirements for Ph.D. program applicants. However, all Ph.D. programs require applicants to hold at least a bachelor’s degree, often in a field related to accounting. Some schools also require a relevant master’s degree. Applicants must commonly submit GMAT or GRE scores and have a background in accounting, finance, or mathematics.

Most P.h.D programs require about 60 credits, which students typically complete in 3-5 years. Completion time depends on whether the learner studies full time or part time. Earning a Ph.D. in accounting online can reduce completion time, since distance education often reduces obstacles such as a long commute. Some doctoral programs require in-person practice, typically in the form of residencies. Ph.D. students also complete a dissertation or research project.

Common Courses

Each Ph.D. in accounting program follows a unique curriculum. However, many doctoral programs in the field include some common courses. Learners explore advanced accounting theories and gain research skills. Since many graduates become professors, Ph.D. students need to master basic accounting concepts.

RESEARCH METHODS AND STATISTICS

Learners in this course examine methods for conducting research and learn how to make claims based on the information they gather. Some programs include multiple courses in this area.

MICROECONOMICS

In this class, students explore economics at the household and small business level. Coursework emphasizes microeconomic theory, the behavior of households and firms under a monopoly, and production analysis.

STRUCTURAL EQUATION MODELING

Students learn about various methods and techniques for structural equation modeling. This class typically emphasizes practical applications and tools. This course prepares students for management positions.

ECONOMETRICS

Econometrics blends economics and statistics. Learners in this course explore concepts such as linear regression, least-squares, and testing hypotheses based on statistical information.

SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY

This course explores how people act in various environments and how individuals perceive themselves in social settings. Accounting graduates can use this information to improve workplace communication.

Other Requirements

In addition to coursework, Ph.D. students complete projects. Learners pursuing online programs should consider their ability to complete in-person components, such as residencies. Project and experiential requirements vary by program, but most doctoral programs in accounting include some or all of the following elements.


  • Residency

    Some Ph.D. programs require learners to study on campus for part or all of the degree. Each program sets unique residency requirements, but many include seminars and in-person meetings with faculty members. Residencies are typically the only part of online Ph.D. programs that require in-person attendance.


  • Comprehensive Exam

    Ph.D. students must typically pass a comprehensive exam the summer before presenting their dissertation. Comprehensive exams are generally pass or fail, and they often cover basic accounting topics and material from doctoral coursework.


  • Dissertation

    Because doctoral programs emphasize research, all Ph.D. in accounting programs require a dissertation, which takes multiple years to complete. Students begin work on their dissertation within their first year of doctoral studies. A graduate’s completed dissertation can contribute to their professional resume.


Skills and Competencies

To succeed in accounting positions that require a doctoral degree, professionals need certain skills and competencies. Candidates acquire many of these skills during their doctoral program, while they gain others from professional experience.

Analytics

Accountants need analytical skills to derive information from statistics. Accounting professionals with a Ph.D. may provide analytical services to clients.

Mathematics

Accountants in any role need a strong grasp of mathematics, including fundamentals and advanced topics. Doctorate-holders in any accounting role complete tasks that require at least basic mathematical skills.

Statistics

Statistics combines mathematical knowledge and analytical skills. Beyond simply collecting information, accountants often need to glean information from data.

Communication

Advanced accounting professionals, especially those in academia, need strong communication skills. High-level accountants often need to communicate accounting-related information to individuals who are not versed in the field.

Leadership

Professionals with a Ph.D. in accounting often pursue leadership roles. These professionals must exhibit strong leadership skills, often gained through both doctoral coursework and professional experience.

Organization

Accountants manage vast amounts of information, so they must be organized. Accountants typically develop organizational skills through years of practice, including time invested in a Ph.D. program.

Accounting Professional Organizations

Many professional organizations offer resources for prospective learners, students, and graduates of Ph.D. in accounting programs. These associations often help accounting students and professionals find jobs, network with colleagues, and obtain certifications.

Professional organizations are groups dedicated to a specific field, such as accounting or business. Some groups charge a membership fee, while others only require fees to access resources such as exam materials and conferences. Members of professional organizations can take full advantage or their membership by volunteering, communicating with other members, and joining a committee.

American Accounting Association

Ideal for aspiring accounting professors, the AAA is the largest organization for accountants in academia. The association provides resources including a career center, outreach, and professional certifications.


American Institute of CPAs

The AICPA represents certified professional accountants across the country. The AICPA offers various certifications and continuing education opportunities, including the CPA credential. The AICPA maintains a job board for current CPAs.


International Federation of Accountants

This organization is ideal for accountants who are interested in pursuing a career abroad. IFAC represents nearly three million accountants worldwide. Members receive access to the organization’s vast membership network and can search for careers in various countries.


Institute of Management Accountants

IMA delivers advocacy and networking, along with the certified management accountant credential. The organization provides various publications with information about accounting and business leaders, and members receive discounts on items accountants commonly use.


National Society of Accountants

NSA primarily serves accountants who have their own established practice. However, any accounting professional or student can take advantage of NSA’s publications, educational programs, and scholarships.

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