Brain drain; Academia asks the profession: is there a doctor in the house?
Anecdotal and survey evidence offer some possible causes of this shortage and ways in which the accounting profession, state CPA societies, accounting professional organizations and universities can work together to remedy the problem.
THE CURRENT ACADEMIC JOB MARKET
According to the Report of the AAA/APLG Ad Hoc Committee to Assess the Supply and Demand for Accounting Ph.D.s released in December, only 56 percent of the 590 anticipated positions for new doctoral faculty will be filled for the 2006-08 academic years. Even more alarming is the finding that only 27 percent and 32 percent of the expected demand for audit and tax positions, respectively, will be met, making the shortage for these specialty areas of accounting particularly critical. The report is available at http://aaahq.org/temp/phd/index.cfm.
While the number of students earning bachelor's degrees in accounting is rising, fewer are getting doctorates. Only 96 accounting doctorates were awarded nationally in 2004, according to the Hasselback Accounting Faculty Directory, a steep decline from the 172 degrees awarded on average during the 1990s. Meanwhile, the number of accounting bachelor's and master's degrees awarded is climbing, from 44,695 in 2002 to 53,760 for 2004.
The AAA report, however, indicates that the number of new Ph.D. graduates is expected to reach 145 and 187 in 2007 and 2008, respectively. But this surge is overshadowed by the continually increasing demand for new faculty.
In July 2004, The Wall Street Journal noted, "while many academic fields are suffering from professor shortages, the issue is more acute in accounting because of the pull toward high-paying public accounting jobs" ("Accounting in college lures more students," July 29, 2004).
The lure of higher-paying jobs is one reason for the shortage of accountants entering doctoral programs. Other reasons include the three- to five-year commitment to earn a doctorate, the cost of attending a doctoral program, the salary and professional advancement opportunities available in other jobs, the professional opportunity cost of being in school and a general lack of knowledge about what academic accountants do and the support available to those interested in pursuing doctorates in accounting.
ACCOUNTANTS AS ACADEMICS
The goal of most accounting doctoral students is a career in academia, examining how accounting information is gathered, organized and used by individuals and markets. Academic accountants teach and conduct research across an array of specializations, from financial reporting and analysis to accounting information systems, auditing, management accounting and taxation.
Accounting research is done through various methods, and the choice usually depends on the focus of the research and personal preference. Some common research methods include:
* Empirical archival approaches: using historical data and statistical methods to test predictions about market-level behavior;
* Behavioral approaches: relying on psychological and organizational theories to derive testable predictions about individual and group behavior;
* Analytical methods: mathematically modeling one or more phenomena in a specific context;
* Experimental markets approaches: creating economic settings in carefully controlled lab market environments; and
* Field studies: examining one or more phenomena within its real-life context.
Regardless of the research methods, however, the relationship between accounting research and teaching remains the same: academic accountants teach students established accounting rules and practices to help them become good practitioners. The experiences of practitioners then often guide research because problems identified in practice motivate new research.
As researchers, academics try to understand what the real problem or phenomenon is, and then when, how and why it affects behavior. Based on this research, academics redistribute the cumulative knowledge about the causes and effects of these problems through teaching.
ENCOURAGEMENT FOR NEW PH.D.s
Given the significant demand for Ph.D.-qualified faculty, universities, CPA firms and professional organizations are taking steps to encourage more accountants to pursue their doctorate in accounting and a career in academia. These efforts primarily involve reducing the costs of doctoral programs and increasing the value of Ph.D.s.
Although doctoral students traditionally receive financial support to cover tuition and fees during the program, as well as stipends to help cover living expenses, they do incur standard costs of living that often exceed this financial support. According to AAA, the average nine-month stipend for doctoral students is $16,000, but can range from $8,000 to $25,000. To supplement this stipend, some schools offer scholarships and fellowships and others offer additional summer funding in return for teaching or research activities.
Other organizations with an interest in the academic accounting profession--such as large CPA firms, the AICPA, the Institute of Management Accountants and state CPA societies like CalCPA--also have scholarships programs for accounting doctoral students.
For instance, the Deloitte & Touche USA Doctoral Fellowship Program provides a number of $25,000 grants per year to accounting doctoral students; KPMG's Ph.D. Project provides scholarships for minority doctoral students; the AICPA offers a fellowship program for minority doctoral students; and the IMA Foundation for Applied Research provides financial support for doctoral students specializing in the management accounting area.
At the state level, CalCPA and the California State University offers accounting doctoral scholarship programs for students in return for their service at a California university.
The CalCPA Accounting Doctoral Scholarship Program is a combined effort of CalCPA's Accounting Education Committee and the California CPA Education Foundation. The scholarship provides up to $10,000 per year for up to three years during the doctoral program. Upon completion of the doctoral program, scholarship recipients must join the faculty at a four-year university in California for at least three years, otherwise the scholarship funds received convert to a loan for repayment.
The California State University, through its Chancellor's Doctoral Incentive/Forgivable Loan Program, provides up to $30,000 to doctoral students over three years and requires recipients to accept a faculty position at a CSU campus.
Individual universities are also trying to do their part by providing competitive salaries for doctoral instructors. Nine-month academic salaries vary greatly depending on the school, with the highest salaries being paid by schools with accounting doctoral programs.
According to the AAA, more than 40 percent of schools with doctoral programs expect to pay $135,000 or more for new assistant professors, whereas only 13 percent of schools with master's programs expect to pay $105,000 or more for the same position. Experienced faculty realize much higher paychecks as 31 percent of doctoral schools expect to pay more than $160,000 for associate professors and 54 percent of those schools expect to pay more than $175,000 for experienced full professors, while 17 percent of master's schools expect to pay more than $120,000 for associates and only 5 percent expect to pay more than $145,000 for full professors.
In addition to the base salaries, most doctoral and many master's schools offer new Ph.D.-qualified faculty a portion of their nine-month salary in summer support.
The value of completing a doctoral program is clear when you consider that approximately 80 percent of new instructors without Ph.D.s who teach accounting at the master's or undergraduate level earn less than $60,000 a year.
The demand for new doctoral accounting faculty far exceeds the anticipated supply of graduates coming out of accounting doctoral programs. This shortage appears to be particularly critical for audit and tax. Further, the status of doctoral programs and the projected increasing demand for new faculty suggests that this shortage is likely to persist for years to come.
But there is good news: This is a great time for accountants who may have considered a career in academics to give it some deliberate thought. Invest the time to learn more about doctoral programs, contact former professors to get their perspective on accounting academia or just jump in with both feet and don't look back because new doctoral faculty are needed at universities across the United States and throughout the world.
"CalCPA's doctoral scholarship serves a very critical function. The cost of living makes it more difficult for Californian schools to attract Ph.D. candidates," says Mark Dauberman, CPA, co-chair of CalCPA's Accounting Education Committee. "The profession can benefit from a dialogue between the professional and academic community, and these scholarships give us a potential 'inside track'."
I pursued a doctorate because it's the gateway to a wide variety of research and teaching opportunities. Academics are responsible for conducting and communicating research that contributes to accounting knowledge; has evidentiary value for policies and practices; and creates new sources of curriculum content and delivery. In addition to teaching technical accounting material, academics serve as agents that foster students' ability to think independently and critically, develop a strong sense of professional ethics, and instill an interest in life-long learning.
As a recipient of both the CalCPA and CSU scholarships, I know first-hand how beneficial the financial support of organizations like these is to the successful completion of a doctoral program.
Damon M. Fleming, Ph.D., CMA is an assistant professor in the School of Accountancy at San Diego State University. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
BY DAMON M. FLEMING, PH.D., CMA
RELATED ARTICLE: CalCPA's Doctoral Scholarship
The California Society of CPAs offers a Doctoral Scholarship Program for individuals pursuing a Ph.D. in accounting. The scholarship is being made available to help address the current and projected shortfall in Accounting Department faculty at California colleges and universities.
One requirement of the scholarship recipient is to join the faculty of a four-year college or university located in California for a period of at least three years.
To apply for this scholarship you must be:
* Willing to become a CalCPA member.
* A U.S. citizen or a permanent resident of the United States (possess a green card).
* Enrolled in a residential, full-time, AACSB-accredited United States doctoral program in Accounting by September 2007.
You must also sign an agreement that requires you to teach in a four-year university/college located in the state of California for a period of at least three years.
The scholarship will be awarded to one doctoral candidate per year to receive a maximum of up to $10,000 per year with a possible renewal of three years total.
If the requirement of teaching in a California school is not met, the amount of scholarship received will convert to a loan for repayment.
The deadline to apply is April 15, 2007. Download the application and program guidelines from www.calcpa.org/members/committees/accted.htm.