PhD Candidate Shortage in Accounting

18 June 2007 at 9:24 pm 18 comments

| Peter Klein |

Gary Peters sent me some data about the excess demand for PhD Candidates in accounting at US business schools. A large cohort of senior faculty is due to retire soon and there are too few new PhDs to replace them. The shortage is particularly acute at Tier I universities and within sub-disciplines like tax and auditing. Fewer students appear to be enrolling in PhD programs in accounting and fewer PhD graduates are opting for academic careers (as opposed to careers in consulting).

I’m not aware of a similar deficit in economics (historically there has been a substantial excess supply of PhD candidates) though I haven’t seen any data recently. This paper in the current issue of the Academy of Management Learning and Education (via Brayden) describes a shortage of qualified faculty in other business disciplines.

Entry filed under: - Klein -, Institutions, Teaching.

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18 Comments Add your own

  • 1. anon  |  18 June 2007 at 9:59 pm

    can you please post the data?

  • 2. ZH  |  18 June 2007 at 10:57 pm

    Few people get Phd’s in accounting at all, let alone go into academia. I was talking to a number of friends who are currently accountants or masters in accounting students and they all pretty much told me the same thing. There is little if any marginal benfit in getting anything more than a masters. Same in most other business fields. It is not too hard for a good, smart accountant (the same type of people a PhD program would be looking for) with a masters and 5-10 years of experience to earn a similar salary as a typical accounting PhD would in academia. And while the academic can earn extra from consulting on the side, the extra years spent on getting a PhD and the research that a typical Tier I (or even Tier II) school requires of faculty make it not worth it. The same applies to most other business disciplines. I am not sure why economics is different, but economics (and finance) seem to attract more mathematically and scientifically oriented PhD students than the other business related fields. These people are likely to be more inclined toward a career involving a lot of research as opposed to the more business oriented people that the other fields attract, who would rather work in the business world.

  • 3. Peter Klein  |  19 June 2007 at 12:14 am

    Anon, I’m sorry, I don’t actually have the raw data, just some slides summarizing key findings. The slides were produced by Judy Rayburn (U. of Minnesota) and Fran Ayers (U. of Oklahoma); perhaps one of them would be willing to share the data.

    One factoid that jumped out at me: The median age for US accounting professors is about 54!

  • 4. Gary Peters  |  5 July 2007 at 11:04 am

    ZH hits it pretty much on the mark. What is striking about ZH’s comment “the research that a typical Tier I (or even Tier II) school requires of faculty make it (getting a PhD) not worth it”.. is that the starting salary for rookie acct PhDs at Tier 1, PhD granting institutions will probably average around the 145K mark this year. Accounting anyone?

    For more info about Acct and other Business PhD shortages see:

    For historical data on Econ PhDs see Survey of Earned Doctorates: Demographic Profile of Doctoral Recipients in Economics and Econometrics – Table A, “American Economic Association Universal Academic Questionnaire Summary Statistics” Charles E. Scott and John J. Siegfried, American Economic Review Papers and Proceedings, 92, May, 2002, 530

  • 5. Morton Slonim  |  15 August 2007 at 5:05 pm

    Accouting has an intellectually shabby reputation. It is wrongly seen as a sterile and mechanical activity making low demands on the IQ. This reputation is in some part deserved, if one looks only at past practice in academic accounting. But accounting is also an important part of many management and internal labor market issues. A host of rich questions in economics are ultimately grounded in difficulties in obtaining good quantitative answers to questions. Accountants collect and produce data, therefore they play a critical role in any eventual answers to such questions. Accounting practice plays a central role in the management of firms and government agencies.

    It is true that economic theory suggests that a lot of accounting numbers are useless or wrong-headed. But that is not a reason to dismiss accounting, but instead should ground a call for the reform of accounting practice.

    I invite all of you to peruse the journal “Accounting, Organizations, and Society.” By all means, discount the occasional articles written from a Marxist or “critical” perspective. The bottom line is that accounting is an empirical social science. When PhD programs in accountancy clearly takes this point on board, I predict that enrolments in such programs will rise.

  • 6. Erik Wetter  |  20 August 2007 at 2:54 am

    AACSB has some stats on (shortages in) new doctorate production across the management disciplines; take a look at

    Salary Survey (2005/6), split by discipline:

    and also the older (2002) but more in-depth report on future trends and shortages in faculty supply:

  • 7. brad smotherman  |  3 February 2008 at 10:11 am

    As a prospective PHD student, I would like to add to this conversation. Although the opportunity costs associated with obtaining a phd are extensive, the payoff is worth it. To make 150k starting out (which is projected) on a 9 month contract is a great opportunity. Not only can someone go into different business aspects (I personally want to develop residential real estate) but it offers for more down time or family time.

    Thats what is important to some of us.



  • 8. david  |  18 March 2008 at 10:10 am

    What are the chances of job in academia for some one with DBA (Doctor of Business Administration in Accounting)? I will be graduating from a regionally accredited university with DBA in Accounting in 2 ½ years. Should I prefer consulting or teaching? Any advice or comment!


  • 9. Vinicius  |  6 April 2008 at 4:25 pm

    Considering all the coments on this topic I offer a different perspective (and more critical) for the accounting profession issue from someone who lives in an emergent economy (Brazil). Generaly, in Brazil accounting is seem as an exact profession and plays its role primarily on calculating (and not using it for managment) firm periodic numbers. This scenario, viewing accounting as a mechanical job and not a science, creates a hard barrier on the development of the profession. It is essencially due to many social factors and the legal enviroment. There are just few educational institutions that are able to prepare students (and develop the interest on them) for a more extensive learning on accounting. Hopefully, on the past recent years there were some extraordinay academic people who have started a “revolution” on the accounting teaching, introducing even the positive accounting view.
    The accounting students even are not prepared for further courses or do not have the right incentives to continue on the academia (because the teacher salary is in general not worth it comparing to alternatives carrers)
    I would not like to extend writting on this because showing some empirican evidence would seem more appropriated, and for this my e-mail is: I would like to make an infinitesimal contribution for the academic research in accounting in Brazil and for this, I would like to ask for any advice on the requirement for a foreign student (ending college this year) to join on Phd program on the US?

  • 10. carlos9900  |  20 November 2008 at 8:16 am

    Probably these days, more graduate students will consider the option of staying at school. All is a cycle, right?

  • 11. Mohammad Jafaur Ahamed  |  7 January 2009 at 9:26 am

    I am man of Accounting and doing job as a lecturer in Bangladesh Open University. Now I am very much interested to get my PhD. I need suggestions in this regard.

  • 12. Dale Weckbacher  |  15 January 2009 at 6:16 pm

    I am 52 years old and have worked 30 years in the accounting field. I have a masters degree and would definitely be interested in persuing my PhD as a way of using the later years of my career to train the next generation of accountants. Please send me any material such as institutions where I can receive my PhD.

  • 13. Barbar  |  16 January 2009 at 11:33 am

    This link may be of assistance. You are welcome in advance.

  • 14. Salem Udoh  |  28 April 2009 at 3:02 pm

    I have over nineteen years of broad research,accounting and academic experience cutting across audit,insurance,capital market,NGO among others. I have ACA(ICAN),B.SC Accounting and M.Sc Accounting. I am interested in PHD in Accounting. I need guidance.

  • 15. David  |  4 May 2009 at 1:00 pm

    As this posting seems to be hanging around in the most-popular list, I figure this may be a useful place to post the following link from the Journal of Accountancy (March 2009).

    A Profession’s Response to a Looming Shortage: Closing the Gap in the Supply of Accounting Faculty

  • 16. Michael  |  24 November 2009 at 12:34 pm

    Anyone that needs guidance on attaining a PhD in Accounting can email me with questions. I am currently an accouting PhD student in my third year at the University of Missouri.

    -Michael Imhof

  • 17. Michael Imhof  |  15 July 2010 at 6:41 pm

    A lot of people have emailed me with questions since I put up that last post. I now have a list of answers to standard questions available. If you email me I can quickly forward you information. Stream lined and more efficient :).

  • 18. Banti Gupta  |  25 May 2011 at 5:50 am

    after completion of MBS in Nepal, I have target for PHD in Accounting in INDIA

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