Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Life After Public Accounting: Those Who Can, Do; Those Who Can’t, Teach

All busy season long, we'll be discussing exit opportunities for those of you feeling like overworked Chinese slave labor counting down the days from your cubes. Remember, there is life after public accounting, even if it doesn't feel like it now. If you've made a break for it and are living the life of your dreams far, far away from the public accounting internment camp, check in with us so we can share your story as inspiration to hopeless grunts everywhere.

We've suggested some of you might be happier in academia before but it's appropriate to revisit now as many of you are just beginning to get the busy season tic, especially because whoever sent this in could not seem to find the previous coverage:

Hey GC,

Just wondering, but what is the route people take to becoming an accounting professor?  Do you need a masters or is having a CPA license enough?  What advice do you have if this is the route someone would like to take?

-Future Prof

First, you can teach without a PhD but you actually want to become a full-time accounting professor, your CPA license just won't cut it.

Brendan Schaaf explains:

There is an avenue for those that don't want to commit to the PhD or DBA route but still want to give back to the profession by becoming teachers on a part-time basis. As mentioned by Mclovin, more positions are becoming available for adjuncts and part-time instructors and some of this, I'm sure, is being driven by the lack of candidates at the doctoral level as well as for flexibility and budgetary reasons.

I was lucky enough to enter the teaching profession as part of the "Community Faculty" at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul/Minneapolis a few years ago where the model of instruction has always included a strong element of professionals serving as part-time instructors for a class or two each semester. I still do my "regular" job during the day and then 1-2 nights (depending on time of year) I teach Management Accounting to a very diverse group of students (diverse in terms of race but also age/experience/educations motivations). Students benefit because I'm doing the job on daily basis that I'm preparing them for and I benefit because I can use skills in my teaching role that I would never or rarely use in the corporate environment. Plus I get to learn from the students, which is something I treasure and that often goes unnoticed in this profession.

Failing that, you could always teach CPA review.

Trinity professor Bob Jensen has additional insight at Gaming for Tenure as an Accounting Professor, namely this:

PhD programs in accountancy typically take five or six years beyond a masters degree. Many other doctoral degrees can be earned in three to four years. Another way to game the system is to really plan ahead before entering a doctoral program. A CPA who knows and can teach accounting might earn a PhD in Education and eventually become tenured in the School of Education. That tenured professor can then enroll in the AACSB's "Bridge Program" that takes about one year part-time. Successful completion of the Bridge Program then allows this tenured professor to perhaps double or triple his/her salary as a newly-minted tenured accounting professor. Maintaining tenure is not assured if the newly-minted bridge professor changes universities, but a given university most likely allows this person to keep his/her tenure status within the university. And the university's School of Accounting is so desperate for bridged accountants that the bridged accounting professor will be welcomed with open arms and a high salary.

You can read more about the AACSB Bridge Program at

So sure, you can bail from public accounting and hit the professor track but you're better off figuring this out early on.

In the past, we've suggested the Accounting Doctoral Scholars program however that program was initially intended to have an 8 year lifespan; four years to select candidates and four years for their development as PhDs. The last class started in fall of 2012.

Demand is so high for accounting professors that even if ADS has wrapped for now, they may continue the program or another may pop up. The profession is still in desperate need of good talent on the teaching side and that isn't changing any time soon. Just make sure you're looking at it because you really want to teach, not because you really hate what you're doing right now. This isn't like picking up a hobby building birdhouses to keep sane, it's a huge commitment so be sure to decompress from busy season before you take any drastic measures.