October 24, 2020

PhDs

professor with bag

Desperate for More Accounting Professors, the AICPA Is Literally Paying People to Take the PhD Track

I dunno if you guys heard but the profession is getting old. Just in case all the liver-spotted Cryptkeepers haunting accounting firm halls didn’t give that fact away, we have almost daily reminders from the AICPA that CPA exam candidate numbers are down and future accounting grads are in need of new professors to take […]

Five Tips for First Year Accounting PhD Candidates

This is the latest post from Dr. Emelee, a former Big 4 employee who is in process of obtaining his PhD. Read the rest of his posts here.   The first year of a doctoral program is rough. Public accounting experience will make the transition easier in a lot of ways because ridiculous hours, lots of […]

Getting a PhD in Accounting Isn’t Really About Teaching

This is the second post from Dr. Emelee, a former Big 4 employee who is in process of obtaining his PhD. Read his first post here.
 
Now for the second statement, “The PhD is not really about teaching.”

What Will Get an East Asian Languages PhD a Job Faster, a JD or an MAcc?

From “sometimes” GC reader JB (ever get the feeling like you’re being used for your snark and career advice?):

I finished up a Ph.D. in East Asian Languages and Civ. from Harvard, speak and read Chinese proficiently (non-native), and I absolutely hate academia. I’m getting out, and that’s that. I know–why invest 10+years of your life in a field getting a Ph.D. if you hate it? Well, it’s too late to change that, and I finished because I wasn’t going to throw away a Ph.D. from Harvard.

My problem is that I need to do something practical in life and fast. I’m old–36–and I’ve been thinking about getting a JD or a Masters in Public Accounting. It seems like the job market is shot for attorneys for the fuabout accounting? Perhaps some of your readers are ex-accountants who moved to law and could shed some light on the current state of both fields? I was thinking about doing the 18 month Masters in Public Accounting at a place like McCombs. Would you and your readers have any thoughts about one’s employability after finishing that program in the current job market?

Okay, lots to digest here. We’ll tackle the accounting angle first:

MAcc Route
McCombs is a good choice but make sure you check out their pre-enrollment requirements. We’re guessing your East Asian Languages background doesn’t cover Macroecon, Microecon, Stats or Intro to Financial Accounting.

That being said, if you do choose the accounting route, some might say a Masters in Accounting is useless while others will say it was the best decision they made. The usefulness you get out of it depends on your intentions, which are wholly unclear. Do you actually want to be a CPA or do you just want a job? Going back to school will at least get you in front of the Big 4 recruiters but they’d much rather take a 20-something with bad social skills and a stellar GPA over a 36 year old with one PhD to his name who A) probably has already formulated his views on the world and is therefore not so easy to persuade any other way and B) could easily leave them the minute the job market picks up for something bigger and better. Your language skills are extremely attractive however, so if you were interested in working in Asia (granted, this is probably a number of years into your accounting career) that could play in your favor.

JD Route
Accounting programs are not pimped and packaged like law programs, so there are fewer grads looking for jobs but in the United States being able to sue someone is a far greater skill to have than being able to depreciate someone’s PP&E so there are more law positions to lose. Check out our recent post on CPAs thinking about law school and you’ll find most lawyers (the non-CPAs, mind you) that jumped in the discussion would have done things differently. Spend five minutes perusing Above the Law Editor Elie Mystal’s posts and you’ll change your mind pretty quickly about pursuing a law degree. Again, your language skills are a big plus, play that up.

The Answer(ish)
To answer your question directly, the MAcc route is your best bet. However, you’re swimming an uphill battle trying to elbow your way into public accounting. I used to scratch my head wondering why some truly intelligent, qualified individuals couldn’t seem to find a job then it dawned on me that the firms like someone blank and pliable, not a free-thinker with goals that aren’t easily molded to meet their careful definitions of “work-life” and “life in general”.

If you play the game and don’t try to appear too ambitious, you might have a shot in public. But you’re better off figuring out what you actually want to do with your life and not wasting another 10 years working up towards making that decision. Good luck.

Three Big Benefits to Getting Your PhD in Accounting

Not so long ago, we presented you with the interesting results of the Final Four if schools advanced based the number of accounting research papers produced. This may or may not have piqued your interest in the possibility of ditching the grind of 9 to whenever you get off for the friendly confines of a college campus.

For those of you that are interested, Professor David Wood of Brigham Young University passed along a link that compiles information for anyone giving serious thought to going back to school. We also got some of his thoughts about his own experience as a professor.


Other than everyone calling you “Doctor” there are three benefits that professors enjoy that is listed on BYU’s “So You Want to Get a PhD.?” page. Granted these don’t apply to just those in accounting but to anyone looking to dive into higher ed instruction:

Professors are constantly learning – “Professors spend the majority of their time teaching and researching. Both of these acts are rooted in learning and sharing your learning with others.” Learning? You mean people enjoy learning? Constantly? Yes, it’s true that some accountants are in it for intellectual stimulation as opposed to the glamor, riches, and title. Professor Wood wrote to us in an email, “Every day is filled with exciting new challenges—from thinking about how to improve business through my research to trying to better communicate and reach students.”

Professors want to make a difference in the world – “In the classroom, professors are role models to their students and teach students how to make the world a better place.” Yes there’s some mushy stuff but that’s good, right? Being able to guide future accountants by showing them different paths that careers can take, what opportunities exist now and what the future holds is a rewarding part of a professor’s job. Professors have the amazing opportunity to inspire young minds to want to make a difference in their chosen career. As Professor Wood told us, “College students are at an important cross road in their life and professors can help provide clarity and information for students to make well-informed, good decisions.”

Life as a professor is full of flexibility – “Not only do professors largely work when and where they want, but they also choose what they do.” This is the stuff that most can only dream of in most corporate/Big 4 world – work when you want, where you want, time for hobbies and other activities. Sure you had to work hard at researching and teaching the new wave of CPAs but there’s a lot freedom that comes with it. Again, Professor Wood, “I don’t know any other career that offers the flexibility of academics without bearing substantial financial risk.”

There you have it. Lots of learning, you get to inspire young minds and you basically can live the way you want. Of course it involves some work too but we’ll touch on that later. Meanwhile, you can ponder.

So you want to get a Ph.D.? [BYUaccounting.net]