A profession's response to a looming shortage: closing the gap in the supply of accounting faculty.
* A looming shortage exists in the academic world of accounting as many accounting professors retire and new instructors are needed. The AICPA, along with other groups and professional services firms, offers assistance to accountants interested in future careers in academia.
* The Accounting Doctoral Scholars Program (ADS), administered by the AICPA Foundation, was recently established by 67 of the largest accounting firms, along with the support of state societies. Designed to encourage audit and tax professionals to pursue a career as a professor, the ADS Program intends to award 30 four-year scholarships during each of the next four years.
* Other financial assistance is available to Ph.D. students in accounting to supplement stipends provided by universities. While these stipends are low relative to accounting salaries, universities generally waive tuition for doctoral study, since most students serve as graduate assistants. Accounting faculty earn competitive salaries, providing a reasonable payback period of the investment for the CPA.
* More opportunities are also expected to open up for professionally qualified instructors. Professionally qualified instructors are not Ph.D.s but have extensive professional accounting experience. An AICPA/ American Accounting Association program offers assistance in making such a career change.
For some time, leaders of the accounting profession have been concerned about an impending shortage of accounting professors, particularly in the audit and tax specializations. A recent analysis co-sponsored by the AICPA and the American Accounting Association reveals that between 500 and 700 accounting faculty per year will retire over the next 10 years, while accounting Ph.D. programs are averaging 140 graduates per year. About 40% of those graduates, moreover, are foreign nationals who might not remain in the U.S. to teach.
Despite this trend, there is good news. First, the major demand for faculty is in audit and tax, which happen to be the leading areas of specialization for practicing CPAs. Second, the CPA profession, led by more than 66 of the largest CPA firms and joined by more than 36 state societies and the AICPA Foundation, has begun the Accounting Doctoral Scholars Program (ADS) to encourage practicing audit and tax professionals to consider a career as an accounting professor. Third, additional resources are available from the AICPA Foundation and the foundations of some professional services firms to help enable doctoral students to make an investment in becoming a faculty member. In this article, we outline the process of obtaining a Ph.D. in accounting, the rewards of the academic accounting profession and the resources available to help professionals achieve that goal.
DOCTORAL EDUCATION IN ACCOUNTING
The two basic types of accounting faculty, academically qualified (AQ) and professionally qualified (PQ), are derived from accreditation standards developed by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). Most full-time accounting faculty are AQ, which generally requires a Ph.D. in accounting, although some colleges and universities consider law degrees the terminal degree for some disciplines, such as taxation. Recognizing that the mission of universities is to both create and disseminate knowledge, universities and colleges require AQ faculty to produce research relevant to their discipline.
Ph.D. programs in accounting are designed to mentor students in how to be high-quality researchers. As a result, the programs are rigorous and usually take at least four years to complete. Usually, after two to three years of coursework, the student prepares a dissertation. During the doctoral program, students are typically funded with stipends by their universities and work as teaching and/or research assistants, for which their tuition is waived.
Approximately 100 colleges and universities supply the accounting Ph.D. graduates in the United States. Many of these programs are at major state universities or large private colleges. In admitting students, programs carefully consider factors such as grades, GMAT scores, and professional certifications and experience. Programs also consider intangibles such as intellectual curiosity, a love of learning, and perseverance and dedication in generating original research ideas.
Although earning a Ph.D. can be a long and difficult process, it brings rewards. A recent survey finds that more than two-thirds of doctoral-granting universities expected to pay at least $135,000 base salary for newly graduated assistant professors (see "Assessing the Shortage of Accounting Faculty," Issues in Accounting Education, May 06, page 113). Often, this base is supplemented with funding for summer research. It is important to point out that professors are expected to work hard and make major contributions in accounting research, teaching and service to their university, the overall academic community and the accounting profession. Nevertheless, despite demanding workloads, professors express a high level of satisfaction with their career choices (see "Teaching for the Love of It," JofA, June 06, page 30). Some of the intangible rewards include schedule flexibility, particularly during the summer months and the holiday season. In addition, faculty have the freedom to pursue research opportunities that are aligned with their interests.
On the other hand, teaching isn't for everyone. Prospective Ph.D. students should consider whether they would be comfortable speaking in front of a class and enjoy the challenge of presenting material in a way that engages students. They should also learn beforehand about the type of studies they will face, the arduousness of those studies and other often stressful factors during the four to five years it typically takes to obtain a Ph.D. Not the least of those factors for practicing CPAs is the need to give up most or all of a regular salary as they devote most of their time to studies for the next four to five years. As this article shows, however, fellowships and stipends are often available.
These and other considerations can be explored by speaking with faculty about Ph.D. coursework and other aspects of the programs as well as teaching as a career (see "Pursuing a Ph.D. in Accounting: Walking in With Your Eyes Open," a JofA Web-exclusive article, at www.journalofaccountancy. com; enter article code 20081184 in the search box).
SUPPORT FOR DOCTORAL EDUCATION
In the spring of 2008, the biggest accounting firms in the United States created the ADS Program. To date, more than 66 firms and more than 36 state CPA societies have committed more than $17 million to the program, which is administered by the AICPA Foundation. In each of the next four years, the program will provide financial support to up to 30 new doctoral students who are making the transition from practicing auditors and tax accountants to careers as AQ faculty members specializing in auditing or tax.
Other sources of funding for doctoral study in accounting include the AICPA's Fellowship for Minority Doctoral Students program, the Deloitte Foundation Ph.D. Fellowship grants, the KPMG Foundation Accounting Doctoral Scholarship Program, the PricewaterhouseCoopers INQuires grant program for research in auditing and tax and the PhD Project, which supports minority doctoral students and is funded by the KPMG Foundation and others.
IS THERE ANOTHER WAY?
To help fill an already existing shortage of faculty, many schools are hiring more PQ faculty members. They typically are CPAs with a master's degree and significant professional experience. In fact, many business schools are now establishing career tracks for qualified "professors of practice" with a CPA designation. These individuals contribute mainly to the university teaching and service missions and remain active in professional activities in addition to their university roles.
Although PQ faculty positions are not as numerous as AQ faculty positions in the United States and do not offer the same compensation and benefits that AQ faculty receive as researchers, becoming a PQ faculty member may be an excellent way for an experienced accounting professional to move into a career in higher education.
CAN I TRY IT OUT?
CPAs can be exposed to a career as an accounting professor without giving up their current day job or making a full-time commitment. Options include:
* Teaching an accounting course at a local college or university. Many colleges offer evening and weekend courses for working professionals and often need qualified part-time or adjunct instructors.
* Teaching a distance-education or online course. Online programs continue to grow in size and number, and many well-known accredited universities now offer them.
The ADS Program
* Have completed at least three years of recent, significant work in public accounting in auditing or tax;
* Provide a written statement of commitment to a career transition to teaching and research in audit or tax at an AACSB International Business Accredited university in the United States upon completion of a doctoral program with an emphasis in audit or tax;
* Qualify for admission to an ADS-participating university doctoral program;
* Be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident;
* If selected as an ADS Program scholar, commit to applying for admission to one or more doctoral programs in accounting at an ADS Program-participating university to pursue auditing or tax as a teaching and research focus.
Once they enroll in a doctoral program in accounting at a participating university, ADS scholars will receive a stipend of $30,000 per year for a maximum of four years.
For more information, see www.adsphd.org or write ADSprogram@ aicpa.org or Accounting Doctoral Scholars Program, AICPA Foundation, 220 Leigh Farm Road, Durham, NC 27707, or call 919-402-4524.
Becoming Professionally Qualified
The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business has recently established the Bridge Program for professionals interested in making a career change to PQ faculty. It consists of an intensive weeklong workshop. Qualifications include:
* A master's degree or appropriate professional certifications, such as the CPA designation;
* Active practice in professional or consulting assignments;
* A minimum of five to seven years of extensive professional or senior-level management experience;
* A minimum of seven to 10 years of in-depth industry experience with significant levels of responsibility and expertise;
* An active contribution to a field of expertise through written contribution, participation in professional development activities and experience.
The AICPA Foundation has recently established a scholarship program for accounting professionals who have been accepted into the Bridge Program. For more information, visit www.bridgeprogram.aacsb.edu or write AACSB International, 777 South Harbour Island Blvd., Suite 750, Tampa, FL 33602-5730.
Growing More (and Better) Accounting Ph.D.s: What Some Universities Are Doing
by Paul Bonner
Faculty in charge of accounting Ph.D. programs at American colleges and universities say they recognize that CPAs starting out on an academic career track encounter challenges that can best be met by creative approaches. Most often, these approaches emphasize a personal touch through mentoring and advising. Nearly always, these leaders are looking for new sources of stipends and other student financial support. But most of all, they say, this long-term issue requires steadfast vision and patience to let the best ideas sprout and yield a crop that might not be harvested on the same campus or even in the same decade.
Many say that enhancing the quality of future faculty members is equally or more important than filling the accounting faculty pipeline, and their measures arc designed to attract the best candidates, whom they, often find already on their campuses. Michigan State University has even given its in-house quest a name: the Promising Scholars Program.
"Each fall, our faculty identify approximately 20 to 30 M.S. and MBA students who have the characteristics that make for successful scholars--academic success, a strong work ethic and intellectual curiosity," says Marilyn Johnson, co-director of the accounting Ph.D. program at Michigan State University in East Lansing. "We invite these students to a half-day program that includes breakfast with several of our faculty, a presentation about academic careers and doctoral programs and a workshop by a distinguished accounting scholar."
Universities also market their programs and recruit candidates through such places as alumni publications and those of state CPA societies, as well as chapter meetings of Beta Alpha Psi, the national honorary organization for students and professionals in financial and business information.
But even getting the best candidates in the door won't be enough if the programs can't make the proposition financially attractive to candidates who might be postponing a paycheck for the four or five years most programs require. Donors to general business colleges often tend to favor undergraduate and master's programs with their dollars. Hence, campuses participating in the Accounting Doctoral Scholars Program (ADS) say its $30,000 annual stipend is their best tool to increase enrollment.
"We look for people who are already CPAs, so all of our students have already passed a major plateau in career development," says Dale Flesher, associate dean of the accounting school at the University of Mississippi. The problem, Flesher says, is that without ADS, "our doctoral compensation is minimal compared to what a student can earn in public accounting." Most universities try to sweeten the deal with other benefits, such as tuition waivers and health insurance coverage. At the University of Oklahoma, students get a spending allowance for research costs or traveling to conferences. And many programs are recognizing that the usual quid pro quo for such aid--teaching undergraduate courses--can also lead to early burnout if teaching while learning grows too onerous. Accordingly, they try to keep their doctoral graduate assistants from taking on too heavy a teaching load.
"Our administration has done a fantastic job of recognizing that Ph.D. students are students and not cheap labor," says Gary Taylor, who directs the University of Alabama's accounting Ph.D. program.
One of the more innovative measures has been to change the doctoral curriculum itself. Most notably, schools are trying to help their students make the transition to career by emphasizing the most salient research-related duty they will face as new faculty: getting their research into print. To that end, Alabama has replaced its comprehensive exam with a second-year paper, and in place of the traditional dissertation, it now encourages students to prepare three working papers for publication, Taylor says. At the intake end, universities recognize that students may need a little brushing up in some academic areas, especially if they've been out of school for a while. An informal program at Michigan State offers summer refresher courses in math and statistics, Johnson says.
Bentley University assigns a "primary supervisor" to accounting Ph.D. students during their application process who stays with them throughout their time at the Waltham, Mass., campus. "We feel very strongly that having a mentor from the start makes a considerable difference in a student's success," says Cynthia Clark Williams, assistant professor of management and associate director of doctoral programs.
"Over the years, I've found that personal contact works best," says Christine Botosan at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. More than 10 years after Botosan began speaking to an undergraduate student about an academic career, that student received her Ph.D. last year from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. That's not an unusual span, she added. "Often, it is a matter of planting the seed and being patient enough for the tree to grow and bear fruit."
* "Pursuing a Ph.D. in Accounting: Walking in With Your Eyes Open," a JofA Web-exclusive article, www.journalofaccountancy. com. Enter 20081184 in the search box.
* "Teaching for the Love of It," June 06, page 30
* "The Practitioner-Professor Link," June 05, page 77
Scholarships, Fellowships and Grants
* Accounting Doctoral Scholars Program, www.adsphd.org
* Fellowship for Minority Doctoral Students, http://tinyurl.com/ccvv7r
* Deloitte Foundation, including Doctoral Fellowship Program, http://tinyurl.com/dydh2a
* The KPMG Foundation Accounting Doctoral Scholarship Program, www.kpmgfoundation.org/foundinit.asp
* PricewaterhouseCoopers faculty initiatives, including PwC INQuires, http://tinyurl.com/c53wme
* The PhD Project, www.phdproject.org
Faculty Job Listings
* Chronicle Careers (The Chronicle of Higher Education), http://chronicle.com/jobs/
* HigherEdJobs.com, www.higheredjobs.com
Academic and Professional Accounting Associations
* The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, www.aacsb.edu, including the AACSB Bridge Program, www.bridgeprogram.aacsb.edu
* The Institute of Management Accountants, www.imanet.org
* The American Accounting Association, http://aaahq.org
Michael Ruff, CPA, is a doctoral student; Jay C. Thibodeau, CPA, Ph.D., is a professor of accountancy; and Jean C. Bedard, CPA, Ph.D., is Timothy B. Harbert Professor of Accountancy, all at Bentley University, Waltham, Mass. Their e-mail addresses, respectively, are firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.