PhD in Accounting Degrees

School Level Program Admissions

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Pursuing accounting topics at the doctorate level prepares individuals for the most demanding positions in various sectors. This includes management and executives at a corporation or professors in academia. Dedicated research is needed in a specific area of business. Degree holders can showcase their knowledge and analytical skills for demanding job opportunities.

Doctorate of Philosophy programs generally offer a business or business administration discipline for base study. Students can choose from a number of specialization topics, such as accounting or finance. PhDs in accounting have a specific focus on statistical methods and business theory.

Prospective students should expect anywhere from 60 to 120 credit hours of study. This can equate to between four to seven years of committed study on a full-time basis. Holding a Master's degree may eliminate some course requirements. Many research and dissertation requirements must be completed on campus.

You may also consider the Doctor of Accounting, which is slightly different than the PhD.

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In order to pay for tuition, students may consider graduate apprenticeships during their study. This provides a stipend or tuition discount for completing university tasks and research needs outside of coursework. It eliminates the need to work on a part-time basis and fully committing to advanced accounting studies.

Are There Online PhD Programs in Accounting?

There are some options available for online study at the doctorate level. With improving online infrastructure and applications, it is becoming easier to develop and apply theory with student and faculty members. Unlike the medical or psychology field, there are not as many physical postgraduate requirements after completing the degree.

At this time, few programs offer a full online experience. Many institutions have limited capability and some courses may be distributed online. For the most part, students complete their studies on-campus and/or through residency requirements.

Why are there limitations at the doctorate level? The human interaction element is important when working with faculty members on research topics. Graduate assistantships are also not available unless the student is within the campus location.

Typical Online Requirements

Students must have modern computer hardware and high-speed internet access for an optimal experience. Learning management systems are what universities use to distribute this educational format. To use this, a Windows or Mac operating system is typically required.

The most common application needed is a compatible web browser. Examples include Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. Video conferencing software, such as Zoom or WebEx, are common tools needed to meet with students and faculty members.

More tools are being integrated into learning management systems for convenience. This means other applications can be used within the web browser without downloading and installing software. However, any software requirements should be checked at the program's webpage.

School Level Program Admissions

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Accreditation for PhD Programs

Regardless of format, it is important for students to look at accredited universities. Regional accreditation verifies that the institution offers robust student resources and experienced faculty members. Examples of these accreditors include the New England Commission of Higher Education and Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Specifically to business programs, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) is a long-established accreditor. Since 1916, the organization has given out hundreds of credentials in the United States and across the world. There is additional certification in accounting for over 185 institutions.

Universities must self-review and submit a request to receive business and/or administration accreditation. They must adhere to the criteria and receive further review from an AACSB committee. After a period of time, this accreditation must be renewed.

School Level Program Admissions

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Top Online Programs

Northcentral University

Advanced Accounting is a specialization available through the Doctor of Business Administration. Theory and research is explored in financial operations and forensic analysis. Students have the ability to complete this program completely online.

Goals for the program include developing and defending a thesis within advanced business topics. It is important to understand these concepts from a variety of different perspectives. They understand important business decisions and how they may impact the economy on a macro and micro scale.

When adding the specialization, 60 total credit hours are needed across 20 courses to get the doctorate degree. On average, this takes around 45 months to complete. With an individualized learning experience, students can start their program weekly on Mondays.

Course distribution offers freedom to complete coursework at any time of day. There are no lecture or group assignment requirements. The entire curriculum is geared for students to complete around their own schedule.

Creighton University

The Doctorate of Business Administration offers advanced accounting topics and dissertation research. Over half of the program can be completed online with on-campus residency requirements. Residencies can take place in the fall, spring, and summer terms with varying dates.

Coursework must be completed in statistics and quantitative reasoning. There is a statistical exam that takes place in June prior to the annual August start date. Incoming students scoring less than 80 percent must take a prep course prior to starting the main program.

Admission requirements include needing an MBA with five years of professional experience. An alternative to meet this need is to work over 10 years in a business setting. Official transcripts must be sent to verify these accomplishments.

Other admission needs include two letters of recommendation and professional resume. Two different essays should meet certain business topics and/or detail accomplishments. Already holding a CPA or related certification is recommended, or applicants can explain similar accomplishments.

Trevecca Nazarene University

The Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) offers accounting and finance topics. Direct specialization examples include enterprise management, higher education, and health care administration. All specializations and course content are offered in a 100 percent convenient online format.

Gaining the DBA is beneficial to individuals looking to improve their career pathway to executive positions. They gain advanced theory and methodology to excel at demanding tasks and decision making. This also proves important when teaching others advanced accounting topics as a professor in academia.

Students may complete either a doctoral project or dissertation. The project provides an in-depth solution to real-world issues in business and explains this method. A dissertation applies theory and recommendations to various topics within business and accounting.

Graduate degrees are required to enter the program with an MBA recommended. Prerequisites are needed without the MBA in topics such as economics, statistics, and marketing. Applicants not meeting admission requirements may substitute some criteria with professional experience.

Top Campus-Based Programs

University of Texas-Dallas

The Naveen Jindal School of Management has a Doctor of Philosophy in Management Science. The Accounting specialization offers research topics and dissertation blending psychology and statistics. Students have the capability to publish at least one research paper in an academic journal.

Both preliminary and qualifying exams take place in the first two years of study. The first exam focuses on managerial economics, statistics, and introductory seminars. Both of the required research papers go toward the qualifying exam.

During this time, students also complete core and secondary-level course topics. Examples include Advanced Statistics and Probability, Advanced Econometrics, and Stochastic Models in Operations Research. At least nine courses minimum are needed to satisfy curriculum requirements.

Over the last two years, students formulate and complete their dissertation research. Between 12 to 24 credit hours are possible for dissertation study and research for the curriculum. An oral defense is completed in front of a school committee.

University of Wisconsin-Madison

The School of Business offers a Doctor of Philosophy in Business across eight different specializations. Of those, there are options in Finance, Finance and Economics, and Accounting and Information Systems. Courses emphasize accounting research topics and adapting statistics to important organizational decision making.

All business education has been accredited by the AACSB. 51 total credits are needed to fulfill curriculum requirements. Throughout the program, students must maintain a 3.0 GPA and graduate all courses with a B grade or higher.

Students can only pursue the program on campus with availability during the day. There are no online courses or flexibility for evening and weekend learning. Those already holding a Master’s degree may be able to transfer some credit into the degree.

Incoming students should have academic preparation in mathematics and microeconomics. At least two semesters of calculus and a course in linear algebra is required from undergraduate studies. Along with an undergraduate degree, an overall 3.0 GPA or higher is needed in the admission process.

Georgia Tech University

The Scheller College of Business offers a Doctor of Philosophy directly in the accounting discipline. In-depth research topics include managerial accounting, auditing, and taxation. Entry into the program does not take place every academic year.

Students begin the program completing courses and two research papers in the first two years. Each topic must be approved, reviewed, and presented to faculty members. This leads to a comprehensive exam in the third year prior to the dissertation.

Admission requirements include an undergraduate degree, GRE or GMAT scores, and completing essay questions. Essays may include describing career goals or expanding on academic achievement. There are two levels in admission with review and acceptance by faculty and the admission committee.

Prospective students are accepted into the program in the fall semester exclusively. This requires on-campus education with no options for online or remote learning. College-level calculus and statistics courses are needed prior to taking the main program.

Top Courses for PhD in Accounting

Microeconomic Theory

Analysis in how business decisions can impact economy at the micro level. Students may look at examples and explore theory in various sectors of business and finance. This can determine how organizations and firms make financial decisions. Alternative macroeconomic theory courses are often available in the curriculum.

Innovations in Finance and Accounting

To develop the best theory and academic research, students must understand current topics impacting the field. Sample emphasis areas may include applications, information systems, and market valuation. Some courses may specialize in different segments of business.

Game Theory

Uses statistical analysis and logical methods to determine how businesses create financial planning for competition. May apply to pricing and marketing strategy for goods and services. Factors to consider include other related businesses in the field, location, and networking capability.


Common course in the PhD curriculum that develops statistical models and applies them to theory. This testing process determines hypothesis outcomes based on historical information and predictive patterns. Usually focuses on quantitative statistical methods.

Enterprise Leadership

Leadership courses improve skill sets in financial management and optimizing team performance within an organization. Expands upon communication with clients and other managers developed at the undergraduate and Master’s degree level. May look at different strategies that have been positive and negative in many sectors.

Machine Learning Methods

Newer avenues of analyzing accounting data provides courses in artificial intelligence and machine learning. The latter explores how businesses can implement this function to improve on goods and services by direct client interaction. Students may look at benefits and negatives to bringing this technique in along with latest innovations.

Research Papers

One or two research-based papers are often required within a PhD business curriculum. In many cases, these topics must not be related and approved by faculty prior to continuing their studies. Documents often need polishing with the expectation of being published in an academic journal.

Qualifying and Comprehensive Examination

One or two examination sessions are typical in the PhD program prior to dissertation or final project work. This may include reviewing all coursework taken in the first few years. In some cases, research papers may count toward one of these examination requirements.

Dissertation Research and Defense

Common requirement at the doctorate level is to propose and complete dissertation research. The proposal must be approved by faculty prior to being completed. All dissertation research is commonly presented in written and oral form. Oral dissertation is generally defended in front of business faculty members.

Doctoral Project

Some doctorate programs may offer a dissertation alternative with a different finalization approach. Students often submit a proposal and perform research in a similar fashion to a dissertation. They focus on how they can solve important business problems and what the result of their hypothesis is.

Typical Admission Requirements

Similar requirements for Master’s degrees in business and accounting go toward PhD programs. This includes having an undergraduate degree, high academic standing, and some professional experience. Individuals already holding a Master’s degree may be able to transfer in some credit hours to shorten their PhD studies.

Degrees should include a cumulative 3.0 GPA or higher. Specific GPA requirements depend on the university and many offer restricted admission for slightly lower scores. GMAT or GRE scores are also needed for a large number of PhD programs.

Disciplines may not have to be required in a business emphasis. However, many colleges will have prerequisites in mathematics and statistical methods. This is needed to complete advanced theory using statistical reasoning and data analysis.

Other popular admission requirements include professional resumes, personal essays, and letters of recommendation. Multiple letters of recommendation validate what the applicant has studied or accomplished within business. Essays can thoroughly detail career goals or expand on prior professional work.

In some cases, professional certification is needed for business-focused PhD program. They require proof of a Certified Public Accounting or Certified Financial Analyst credential. Completing a PhD program is not necessary to gain a number of these specialized services within business.

Career Goals and Job Titles for This Degree

Many accounting careers, including executive and senior positions, can be obtained without a doctorate degree. An alternative method is to replace graduate-level studies with multiple years of business experience. There are still many benefits to pursuing a PhD in business and/or accounting.

One specialty profession to consider is forensic accounting. Technical aspects of looking into fraudulent and criminal activity may be available as an elective. This is also available at the undergraduate level and Master’s degree.

Especially in the PhD curriculum, students review legal proceedings and evidence found in criminal cases. Common situations include company fraud, insolvency, or attacks on information systems. This is beneficial to professions influencing policy and regulations.

A job area that commonly sees a shortage of workers is business and/or accounting university professors. This position is ideal for established professionals that are looking to expand their experience to other students. They have an opportunity to explore a specific topic in accounting to improve by reviewing statistics and testing theory.

In addition to potential apprenticeship, the Accounting Doctoral Scholars Program can also offset cost. Their goal is to eliminate work shortage and provide business programs with top talent. Specific focus is available in financial or management accounting, and information systems.

What Can You Do With This Degree?

One of the most popular reasons to receive a PhD in accounting is to become a professor. This is generally a requirement at many institutions along with a number of years as an associate. Working with the university not only helps in offsetting tuition costs, but also networking and potential employment.

The PhD is also geared toward professionals interested in statistical reasoning in business. Students look into advanced research methods on a quantitative and qualitative level. This can help management and executives make improved business decisions in many different sectors.

Statistical studies expand into how businesses impact the economy and vice-versa. Numerous research papers can prepare individuals for further academic journal and report writing in the future. Students can apply theory into models and determine potential results.

It is possible to qualify for professional certification with a PhD degree. For example, an individual can complete the program years after completing a Bachelor’s degree and gaining professional experience. There are no accounting-based certifications that require the completion of a PhD.

How Much Can You Expect to Make With This Degree?

Due to the high demand of college-level professors in accounting, there are well-paying opportunities available. In general, business teachers receive an estimated $105,440 annually. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the top-paying profession is at the college level with a salary of $111,650 annually.

The highest employment of postsecondary teachers are in the most populous states, such as New York, Texas, and California. Within the top-half the country, states across the Northeast and Midwest have thousands of teachers represented. In similar fashion, these are states with the highest salary estimates.

Top two states for paying postsecondary teachers are Rhode Island and Maryland with an average salary above $130,000. California is the third-highest state nationally at $126,520. While direct comparison across the western portion of the country is lower, there are still well-paying options. Arizona, Oregon, and North Dakota still see average salaries at around $100,000 or higher statewide.

Graduates with a PhD degree generally have opportunities at higher-paying accounting positions. When looking at accounting and auditing jobs through the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, earners with a PhD will often be in the top 10 percent. They estimate salary at this level at around $124,450 annually.

Between the 2019-29 decade, professionals can see a four percent growth in accounting positions and financial specialists. It is important for accountants to be familiar with innovative technology taking over many industries. While basic duties may be replaced, there is still a need for data analysis and machine learning engineers.

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