Accounting is an abstract subject dealing with numbers and calculations. Personal finance requires strong attention to detail — imagine the meticulousness necessary to achieve a PhD in accounting! Prepare for a few years of mathematical and statistical study, and toning your analytical skills. The program offers a bright future, opening vast career possibilities and excellent job prospects.
A booming field, accounting roles for financial managers are estimated to grow by 17% from 2020 to 2030, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This represents a much higher growth rate than the average for all professions.
Let’s explore the best accounting PhD programs so you can prepare for the next step in your finance career!
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Best PhD in Accounting Programs
The University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business
The University of Texas at Austin was ranked number one in the country for Accounting PhD programs by the US World & News Public Accounting Report. The University’s McCombs School offers one of the top accounting doctoral programs that welcomes students with diverse disciplines such as economics, mathematics, finance, and engineering.
Specializations: Financial accounting, managerial accounting, auditing, and taxation.
The University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign is renowned for its top-notch accounting faculty, boasting a high accounting PhD programs ranking by the BYU Accounting Faculty Research Rankings. Out of all the best PhD accounting programs, this one emphasizes productivity and results the most while valuing quality student placements to give you real-world work experience.
Courses: Mathematical statistics, probability theory, and constructs in accounting research.
Stanford is one of the most prestigious universities in the world, with 19 institutes encouraging interdisciplinary learning and a $1.69 billion sponsored research budget. It offers one of the country’s top accounting PhD programs, emphasizing both empirical and analytical research. Moreover, its balanced curriculum gives equal importance to coursework, research, and teaching.
The Stern School of Business of NYU offers one of the world’s most well-known accounting doctorate programs. The program allows students to study with other schools within the university along with Stern.
Courses: Empirical research in financial accounting, microeconomic theory, and regression & multivariate analysis.
Duration: 4 years
Financial aid: Fellowships and research/teaching assistantships
The University of Pennsylvania and Wharton School are world-renowned names in education. The school’s PhD in accounting program allows students to study with neighboring departments to gain exposure to other fields and innovative ideas from a wide range of disciplines.
Courses: Empirical design in accounting research and advanced statistical inference.
The University of Michigan is a prestigious higher learning institution and one of the best public schools in the country. Its PhD in accounting program encourages extensive collaboration between students and faculty in combined research opportunities.
Courses: Contemporary accounting issues, pre-candidacy dissertation, and candidacy dissertation.
Duration: 5 years
Financial aid: Full funding and graduate assistantships
Acceptance rate: 26%
Location: Ann Arbor, MI
Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management
Northwestern University’s Kellogg School is one of the oldest business schools in the world and has made major contributions to business, management, and marketing fields. It offers an information-focused accounting doctorate program with research scope for subjects like information intermediaries in capital markets, properties, and transformations in the information environment of companies.
Courses: Research in accounting theory, empirical research in accounting, and special topics in empirical accounting research.
The University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business is known for its eminent faculty delivering groundbreaking research in accounting. This PhD offers doctoral candidates the freedom to explore their own research interests. They also get the opportunity to perform collaborative scholarly work with faculty members.
Duration: 5 years
Tuition: $66,096 per three quarters ($32,400 for fifth year)
Financial aid: Grants, teaching/research assistantships, and fellowships
Acceptance rate: 7.3%
Location: Chicago, IL
University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Kenan Flagler Business School
UNC at Chapel Hill is the flagship university of the University of North Carolina system. It’s known as a Public Ivy school, offering a high-quality curriculum taught by renowned faculty. UNC’s Kenan Flagler Business School is world-famous, supporting research in international accounting, accounting information in capital markets, and accounting standard-setting.
Courses: Empirical accounting research, managerial accounting, and tax research.
The University of Mississippi’s Patterson School is entirely dedicated to accounting studies. Its PhD in accounting program aims to develop scholars with a strong foundation in the historical background of accounting and expert research skills.
Courses: Contemporary accounting theory, and financial accounting, auditing & accounting information systems research.
Always check specific program requirements for colleges you’re interested in, and contact academic advisors in advance to verify. The top accounting PhD programs can be pretty competitive, so it’s best to carve out ample time to prepare a solid application!
Preparing for an Accounting Doctorate Program
Besides accounting, your PhD program will cover in-depth study of other subjects like economics and statistics. Our advice? Do some background preparation on these subjects, either through self-study or a foundational course.
Additionally, you should prepare yourself for serious research. Unlike undergraduate research, which typically aims to summarize existing knowledge, the goal of a PhD is to make new discoveries. Finally, you should brush up on your teaching skills because your PhD will likely involve giving seminars or tutoring undergraduate students.
Things to Consider When Choosing an Accounting PhD Program
Choosing an accounting PhD program is an individual decision. The right choice depends on various factors that can differ widely depending on the person.
However, here are a few factors that are relevant to practically everyone:
Budget – What is the cost of tuition and other fees? What financial aid is available?
Specializations– What disciplines are offered under the program, and what are the faculty’s areas of expertise? How do these match your passions and career goals?
Program reputation – Is the school well-known? What accreditations does it have?
Delivery method – Is the program offered on-campus, online, or in a hybrid format?
Location – If you need to attend classes in person, even occasionally, how easy is it for you to get to campus?
Why Get a Doctorate in Accounting?
If you’re proficient with analytical and mathematical skills, a PhD in accounting can help you secure some of the highest-paying jobs in finance and economics. In these roles, you’ll apply the theoretical concepts you studied during your doctorate to solve real market problems, or transfer your knowledge to the next generation by teaching.
Jobs and Salaries for Doctors of Accounting
A doctorate in accounting can qualify you for a range of exciting and high-level roles in the finance sector.
Here are just some of the roles you’ll be eligible for once you’ve completed your PhD in Accounting, with the median annual salary for each:
What is the Average Cost of PhD Accounting Programs?
The cost of a PhD in accounting can vary greatly depending on the program and school. Remember, the total cost includes not only tuition, but also living expenses, fees and other study expenses.
Generally, prestigious private universities cost more, while public universities offer lower tuition and fees. Additionally, state residents pay less tuition and fees for state universities than non-resident students. Considering all these factors, the total cost for a doctorate in accounting could be anything from around $10,000 to $70,000 per year.
A PhD in accounting will qualify you for some of the best job opportunities in the business and commercial world today. Alternatively, after graduation you could pursue a career in higher education, either in research or as a professor. With experts predicting an increase in accounting job opportunities in the sector in the coming years, the future looks bright for graduates with a doctorate in accounting.
With a PhD in accounting, you can work as a professor, consultant, financial manager, analyst, researcher, or one of many high-level jobs in the accounting field.
Can You Get a Doctorate in Accounting?
Yes. Many universities offer doctorate in accounting programs. As long as you meet the eligibility criteria (usually an undergraduate degree in a related field) and present a strong application, you can start your doctorate in accounting.
How Hard is a PhD in Accounting?
Like with any PhD, you need to have a high level of dedication, self-discipline and the ability to conduct strong research to earn a doctorate in accounting. You will also need to demonstrate strong writing, analytical, and presentation skills.
Can an Accountant Have a PhD?
You don’t need a PhD to work as an accountant. Depending on the role, most accountants either have a bachelor’s or a master’s in accounting. However, an accountant who wants to further their career or research in academia may choose to get a PhD in the field.
Do You Need a PhD to Teach Accounting?
A PhD is not typically required to teach accounting in certain settings, such as a community college. However, if you have one, you’ll have a lot more teaching options, including more lucrative positions at universities.