In simplest terms a doctorate, or PhD, is a degree that requires candidates to complete coursework and produce original research. A doctorate in accounting is among the highest and most prestigious of educational degrees in the field and sets the students on a path of careers that require the highest expertise in the world of accounting. A doctorate degree not only includes complex and comprehensive knowledge based learning, but also allows candidates to push the boundaries of a subject beyond their current status through producing new and original research.
Pursuing a doctorate in accounting can be as daunting as it is exciting and it comes with as many prerequisites as rewards. Candidates may need to prove command on multiple focus areas in addition to accounting, such as microeconomics, advanced mathematics, statistics, research methods or other quantitative subjects.
Whichever specialized research area a candidate might opt for, the eventual goal of a PhD degree in accounting is to equip students with world-class training and expertise, which can be professionally utilized in a wide range of careers, from research and teaching to heading international accounting organizations or working for accounting departments of multinational companies or even governments.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates accounting jobs to increase nearly 16 percent in the coming decade, which will only add to the potential career and research prospects for those who hold a doctorate in accounting.
What Makes Pursuing a Doctorate in Accounting Worthy?
One of the most promising reasons for pursuing a doctorate degree is the fact that educational growth directly contributes to growth in professional opportunities. A doctorate in accounting not only paves the way for Bachelor’s and Master’s degree holders in accounting towards more research and teaching oriented jobs, but also allows them to accelerate their climb within their current professions. Along with the increase in career options, also comes the hike in salary potential.
Secondly, accounting is a competitive and dynamic field. The concepts and practices keep shifting as more technology is incorporated into everyday life and business careers, hence needs for accounting, keep mutating. This makes it necessary for accountants to complete continuing education credits to maintain certified public accountant (CPA) licensure, certified internal auditor (CIA), and/or certified management accountant (CMA). With a doctorate degree, accountants can maintain these crucial credentials and add to their educational attainment as well.
What are Different Career Options for a Doctorate in Accounting holder?
A Doctorate in Accounting opens doors to several lucrative and high paying jobs, most of which also come with a badge of repute and respect. A doctorate in accounting also allows more room for jobs like consultancy and research, thereby taking off the pressure of maintaining a 9 to 5 job routine for maintaining a successful career.
Here are only some of many such jobs:
- College professor – median annual salary $79,540 (according to BLS).
- Consultant – average annual salary $85,260.
- Financial managers – median annual salary $129,890.
- Chief executive officers – median annual wage of 184,460
- Other potential careers with similar paychecks include; Analysts, Advisors, and Public Policy Researchers etc.
How to Obtain a Doctorate in Accounting?
Getting admission in a doctorate in accounting program is not an easy feat, especially if the candidates choose a reputed and competitive institution. For starters, the admission requirements themselves are tough and may require proof of qualification in a wide range of subject matter along with great cognitive and research abilities.
Admissions in most doctorate degrees in accounting programs will be greatly benefitted with a master’s degree in accounting. As most Master’s programs themselves have requirements of accounting foundation – either through bachelor’s degree in accounting or an associate degree in accounting – so a master’s usually suffices in proving competence in accounting subjects.
However, candidates may also need to prove command over other related subjects like microeconomics, statistics, advanced mathematics, economics, and research methods etc. That said, these course requirements for admissions can be completed after getting ‘conditional admission’ in a program, so there is no need to start looking for degree or associate programs for those subjects before the candidates have decided on the PhD degree first.
Candidates may also be expected to clear the GMAT or the GRE. A doctorate degree is also heavily research oriented, so skills and qualifications around quantitative analysis will also likely be part of admission requirements.
Furthermore, since a doctorate degree takes a lot of time, effort and dedication, some institutions might also be keen to look into the personality profile and co-curricular backgrounds of doctorate degree aspirants as well.
Good writing skills as well as a good GPA are also helpful, as is relevant work experience, in getting admission in a doctorate in accounting program.
What to Expect Once The Doctorate in Accounting Program Begins?
Pursuing a doctorate is not the same as completing the coursework for a master’s degree or a bachelor’s degree. There is a lot of hands-on learning that makes part of a doctorate program along with strenuous research and book reading. Usually the coursework for a doctorate degree is a combination of classes and self-study, along with assignments and research projects.
A doctorate degree, depending on the degree plan designed by the candidate, can require completion of 70 to 120 credits. Some of these credits come from regular class work, while the remaining ones are to be completed through research, internships, teaching assistantships or other practical learning experiences.
After finishing the coursework, candidates will need to take one or multiple oral and written comprehensive examinations. The qualification of these exams makes a candidate eligible for moving into ‘candidacy for dissertation’. This is the stage where research becomes the primary focus – and a dissertation needs to be prepared. Some doctorate programs offer residency at this stage while some may allow for independent research.
The process of preparing dissertation includes collecting and analyzing data, and then writing a paper drawing conclusions from that data. Once the dissertation is complete, candidates have to defend it in front of a jury, or a faculty committee, for its originality, prudence, and usefulness and any other metrics as defined by the educational institution and the individual degree plans. Once the dissertation committee accepts and approves the research, then a doctorate degree is awarded to the candidate.
It can take several years for a candidate to complete a doctorate in accounting. It depends on the number of courses opted in each term plus the time spent in preparation of the dissertation. On average the total time for obtaining a PhD in Accounting can be anywhere from 4 to 7 years.
Concentrations for a Doctorate in Accounting
In simple terms, concentrations may be understood as ‘majors’ for a doctorate program. There are multiple options that candidates can choose from, depending on their individual interests and career goals. Some of the potential options are:
- Public Accounting:It focuses on tax materials for individuals, corporations, and non-profits; for careers in the public sector for local, state, and federal government.
- Audit Accounting:It focuses on in-depth evaluations of financial documents; for individuals, corporations or government agencies.
- Forensic Accounting:It focuses on forensic accounting, sifting through data to find evidence of financial fraud; with emphasis on law, methods, and computer skills.
- Managerial Accounting:It focuses on strategy, decision-making, and financial reporting; for leadership positions.
- Accounting Information Systems:It focuses on behind-the-scenes development, theories of accounting systems and in-depth study of accounting tools.
Can a Doctorate in Accounting be Obtained Online?
It may not be entirely impossible, but it is still difficult to complete a doctorate degree solely through online learning. A candidate may be able to complete the coursework through distance learning but internships and practical experience are necessary elements of a doctorate degree, as is original research. These are easier to attain through physical presence in the educational or professional environment.
Online education offers flexibility, cost effectiveness, and more independence in pursuing a degree but it also exerts immense pressure and responsibility on the candidates to maintain discipline in their study and work balance.
Furthermore, different educational institutions have different facilities, for instance those offering asynchronous courses will allow candidates to access course materials at any time, but for synchronous courses candidates will need to attend real-time meetings even if it is done through an online medium (through a webcam).
Distance learning may also deprive candidates from valuable input and assistance from peers and instructors. It is advisable that candidates ask their respective universities on details of PhD programs and take a trial run with online learning before choosing to opt for distance learning.