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The Accounting Doctorate Shortage – Opportunities for Practitioners

By Douglas M. Boyle, CMA, CPA; Brian W. Carpenter; Dana R. Hermanson; and Michael O. Mensah

For professionals pursuing online master’s degree in accounting, new doors of opportunity are opening for accounting careers in teaching – especially for those who intend to continue their education to a doctorate level. Research completed by The University of Scranton Accounting faculty members Douglas M. Boyle, CMA, CPA, Brian W. Carpenter, Michael O. Mensah and academic peer Dana R. Hermanson (of Kennesaw State University), shares the significant challenges and opportunities for professionals pursuing a career in accounting academia.

Now more than ever, the accounting profession needs practitioners to get their backpacks and head from the boardroom to the classroom. The reason? The current U.S. shortage of accounting faculty with doctorates will soon reach critical levels, and while pay for newly hired accounting faculty has increased significantly, the shortage continues.

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Faculty Shortage and Impact on the Accounting Profession

The shortage of new accounting faculty has been the topic of much discussion and concern over the past decade within academia and practice, as well as among policymakers. In 2003, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) discussed this shortage in “Sustaining Scholarship in Business Schools,” where it stated, “Unless decisive action is taken to reverse declines in business doctoral education, academic business schools, universities, and society will be faced with inevitable erosion in the quality of business education and research.” At that time, the overall shortage of academically qualified (AQ, those with a doctorate) business faculty was estimated to be approximately 1,142 and projected to grow to 2,419 in 10 years. The key drivers of the shortage included increasing global demand for business education at both the MBA and undergraduate levels, schools’ desire to satisfy accreditation standards of quality, and the then-current and anticipated rate of faculty retirements based on demographics.

In a later study, R. David Plumlee, Steven J. Kachelmeier, Silvia A. Madeo, Jamie H. Pratt, and George Krull (“Assessing the Shortage of Accounting Faculty,” Issues in Accounting Education, May 2006) estimated that the overall supply of new accounting faculty across all specialties for 2005 to 2008 was only 49.9% of the number demanded. They go on to state that candidates were expected to supply only 27.1% of the tax faculty and 22.8% of the audit faculty demanded for the same time period.

This shortage also concerns policymakers and the accounting profession at a time when these groups desire to infuse more practical knowledge into the classroom. The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Advisory Committee on the Auditing Profession stated in its 2008 final report, “There are concerns about the adequate supply of accounting faculty and about the need to have faculty who can inject more practical experience into classroom learning.” The report also said, “Encouraging practicing accountants to pursue careers as academically and professionally qualified faculty would bring practical business experience to classrooms so that students are better prepared to perform quality audits in the dynamic business environment.”

Taking note of the shortage, more than 65 of the largest accounting firms and 48 state CPA societies joined with the AICPA Foundation to establish and fund the Accounting Doctoral Scholars (ADS) Program in 2008. To help practicing public accountants in audit or tax pursue a doctoral degree on a full-time basis, the ADS committed to providing more than $17 million in support through annual $30,000 stipends for up to four years. In return, accountants need to commit to pursuing permanent positions in academia (teaching and research) in the areas of audit or tax.

Interest in Teaching and Related Factors

Overall, the participants’ interest level for teaching on a part-time basis is moderate, with an average score of 53.6 on a 0 to 100 scale (0 = low interest, 50 = moderate interest, and 100 = high interest). While the average participant score may be interesting, the key statistic is the percentage of practitioners who express relatively high interest in such a pursuit. Forty-three percent of respondents give a score of 70 or more, indicating a relatively high level of interest in teaching on a part-time basis.

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Reprinted from Strategic Finance Magazine, May, 2014, copyright 2013, with permission from The Association of Accountants and Financial Professionals in Business.