Those professionals who truly enjoy the accounting profession often wonder whether it's a good idea to get a Ph.D. in Accounting as a way to either further their career or take a slightly different track as they seek new opportunities. In many cases, a doctoral degree in the field is actually a very good way to improve job outlooks, increase new job opportunities, and take a slightly different view of this historically stable profession. There are some unique concerns that potential Ph.D. student will have to consider before they commit to such a program, but once addressed, these should yield a successful educational experience in a qualified accounting program.
A Master's Degree: Is it Necessary for Doctoral Level Work?
Many of today's most popular doctoral degrees do require students to have obtained their Master's degree before they can even consider applying to the program. This is not the case with many Ph.D. accounting programs. In fact, most programs will admit students who haven't pursued a Master's in Accountancy as long as they have significant professional experience in the industry. Many of these schools do require an applicant to pass the CPA exam in place of having competed their Master's degree in Accounting.
Though many of today's accounting programs at the doctoral level do not require past graduate-level work, students who haven't had certain courses in their past may have to complete remedial work prior to being moved into degree candidacy. Often, these remedial courses focus on advanced managerial accounting or tax accounting, and they typically take up to a full semester to complete prior to full admission and candidacy.
Concentrations are Available for Degree Specialization
Once an applicant has been accepted into Ph.D. program in accounting, they'll likely be encouraged to pick a concentration within the program so that they can specialize their learning and develop a narrow area of focus. This generally is encouraged, because students will be responsible for a doctoral dissertation, and the more specific information learned as part of a concentration will typically be instrumental in guiding students toward a research topic and a successful dissertation presentation.
Accounting programs don't all offer the same concentrations, so students may want to research which areas of specialty are offered by each university's degree. The most common areas of specialization include corporate or personal tax services, corporate accounting, financial advising, forensic accounting, and professional accounting ethics. Other, less common areas of specialty may be available on a per-school basis.
Related Resources: Becoming a CPA
A Ph.D. Does Require Successful Development and Presentation of a Dissertation
Those who wish to graduate with a doctoral degree in accounting should be aware that the degree requires the completion of a heavily researched dissertation predicated on a very specific thesis. Most universities require doctoral candidates to enroll in a dissertation development course during every semester of their program until they have successfully completed and presented their work to a faculty panel, according to the Journal of Accountancy. The panel holds sole control over whether a student will pass this presentation or whether they'll have to do more work on their dissertation, add new research, and attempt their presentation again.
With all of the program's requirements met, from potential remedial courses to specialization and dissertation work, candidates will be moved to graduation. With the school's backing, they will be able to get a Ph.D. in accounting and either advance their existing profession in the industry or seek out new opportunities like those offered to qualified professors at major universities.