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A PhD in accounting moves beyond number crunching to academia and industry research and trend setting.

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Who Gets a PhD in Accountancy Anyway?

If you enjoy accounting, love research and think you would be a good teacher chances are you’re the type who would pursue a PhD in accounting, right?

Some people decide to pursue a PhD in their chosen field in order to enter academia at the college level. It’s imperative that if you decide to pursue your PhD in accounting that you aren’t planning on necessarily just being a teacher. If you want to be a teacher you should consider adjunct positions at a community college or university after you earn your PhD in education or another area.

Most PhD holders become researchers of some sort, depending upon what industry or subjects that they find interesting. This can help a great deal when you are spending countless hours behind your computer or analyzing data. If you love accounting and enjoy the reviewing of financial statements, investigative auditing or tax law, then a PhD in accountancy isn’t necessarily the best option for you as it doesn’t have much to do with the profession other than contributing to the shaping of the industry.

This is not to say that a background in accounting and the fundamental understanding of accounting procedures is not an essential component of an efficient accounting professor or economist. It’s just that these skills are much less the focus. You will spend a lot more time researching than you will teaching and will need a competent background in microeconomics theory, econometrics and mathematics.

Most programs will require positivist or scientific research. This type of research relies explicitly on scientific evidence. Researchers obtain quantitative data and analyze statistics to determine scientific results. This research demands the ability to deductive reason and to stay completely objective.

What should I expect to see in My PhD Accountancy Curriculum?

The first thing you should consider when choosing your program is that most employers are going to prefer candidates with a PhD from an AACSB accredited school. Secondly, your courses on your PhD program will look nothing like your undergraduate or master’s accounting courses.

Most PhD programs will take four to seven years to complete depending upon the program you chose. You can expect to complete two to three years of course work and a dissertation that usually takes another two to three years.

Some of the PhD in accounting classes you can expect to take will include these topics:

  • Microeconomics theory: You will address the preliminaries of modern economics and study the behavior of individuals and firms in making decisions regarding the allocation of limited resources. You can expect to see classes like theories of production and personal choice, markets and competition and tools of comparative statics and their application to price theory. You’ll examine the basic models economists use to study the choices made by people in their roles as consumers, employees, investors, business owners and managers, and government officials, and how these individual choices affect markets.
  • Econometrics: This is the branch of economics concerned with the use of mathematical methods, such as statistics, in describing economic systems. You can expect to see classes like Single Equation Models, Dynamic Equation Models, Instrumental Variable Estimation and Multiple Equation Models. These courses will focus heavily on applying econometric methods in real-world situations while developing a comprehensive understanding of econometric theory.
  • Pure Mathematics: You’ll use mathematical methods to solve problems, finds facts and answers questions that don’t depend on the world around us but on the rules of mathematics itself. A strong undergraduate preparation in Algebra, calculus and statistics is recommended if you choose to go this route.

So Why Get a PhD in Accounting?

You love research: Many people who decide to pursue a PhD in any subject are already intrigued by industry research. They often have subscriptions to publications and journals that keep them informed on current statistics and research developed by peer groups. If you enjoyed autonomy while working on projects and researching during your bachelor’s or master’s degree programs, chances are that you will enjoy the opportunity to investigate and analyze trends and outcomes in the accounting world.

You will be known as an industry expert: You will spend an innumerable amount of time completing a 200 page (or more) dissertation on a particular topic in the accounting field. In essence, you will become an expert in your chosen area. It is vital to your well-being and the lives of those close to you that you chose a topic that you are passionate about researching as you will work for a couple of years on your dissertation, and it will require countless hours of research and analysis.

Specialized career opportunities: Not all PhDs are in the post-secondary system. Though you have added Doctor to your title, you may instead choose to pursue a career in areas such as forensic accounting or tackle supervisor positions with the IRS or the FBI where you’ll lead a team to prevent and investigate global business fraud.

Think carefully about your career goals if you’re considering a PhD. If you want to practice accountancy, chances are this degree program will lead you in a different direction. If you’re compelled by research and high-level industry trends analysis and forecasting, a PhD program may suit you to a tee.