Want a Career in Education? Here's What You Need to Know 

Career Development 

One of the most popular Young CPA Webcasts held recently was “Going Back to School Again?
Alternate Career Opportunities in Education for CPAs”
presented by Mark S. Beasley, CPA, PhD. Professor Beasley, the Deloitte Professor of Enterprise Risk Management, Professor of Accounting and ERM Initiative Director of North Carolina State’s Enterprise Risk Management Initiative, offered a well-rounded perspective on the type of degree, salary expectations, and additional information you need to know if you are going to pursue a career as an academic.

DBA Versus PhD
So you’re considering a career as an accounting educator – great, but there are several considerations you must think about before taking the plunge. Besides the obvious change from working in a company or organization, a doctorate degree is a must. The two most popular are the Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) and Doctor of Philosophy, or PhD.

First, a few facts. A doctorate is a research-oriented degree that focuses on developing advanced theoretical or practical research skills in a particular area. The PhD is the most common doctorate degree for those who wish to pursue academic careers, and often, students choose an area to specialize in, such as accounting. However, the degree is also used as a basis for advanced consulting, research, or business/public administration careers.

Conversely, the DBA provides business executives with competencies needed to pursue business/public administration careers that require more advanced research skills and qualifications. Some DBA programs may also be pathways into careers in academia. 

Professor Beasley says the primary difference between the PhD and the DBA is the specific program’s orientation and intended outcome.

“Often, the accounting PhD and the DBA are more similar than they are different,” he says. “In general, the focus of a PhD program is to develop new theory, compared to the DBA program, where we apply theoretical knowledge to advance business. Both PhD and DBA programs require original research culminating in the creation and defense of a thesis or dissertation. Among DBA programs, there is a range of emphases—with some more oriented toward the application of knowledge, while others concentrate on creating knowledge.”

If you are interested in pursuing either a PhD or a DBA you should:

  • Confirm the orientation of the program on a school-by-school basis; colleges may have different approaches to each degree.
  • Review the program’s structure, curriculum, and graduation requirements, as well as the career paths that the program’s alumni have pursued.
  • Explore the types of research published by a program's graduates and its faculty.

“Keep your end goals in mind when making your degree choice,” says Professor Beasley. “The career or job you want may prefer one over the other.”

How Much Can you Expect to Earn?
Although at times it seems as if there’s nothing more important than career satisfaction, most would agree that you can be happy with what you’re doing and earn a good living doing it! 

According to Professor Beasley, there are many factors that will affect the salary of an accounting professor. Common sense dictates that a professor with a PhD at a large research university will likely earn considerably more than an adjunct faculty member at a small community college. And, actually, Professor Beasley notes that some PhDs in Accounting can earn as much as $150,000 out of their doctoral program.

According to salary surveys, accounting professors are highly compensated. For example, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) conducts an annual faculty salary survey. Although salaries vary based on a number of factors, 2008-09 results (the latest year available) demonstrate that the average salary of a recently hired accounting professor was $127,400. The average assistant professor earned $113,800, the average associate professor earned $114,900, and the average full-time professor earned $137,800.

“Salaries for accounting professors are usually higher if the employing school has a greater research reputation,” says Professor Beasley. “Typical base salaries for accounting professors at a top 50 accounting research school start above $150,000 a year and may start as high as $175,000.”

In addition to the base salary, he says many schools offer summer research support, where a new professor at a research intensive university receives 2/9 of his or her salary as additional summer research support money. So, the combination of summer research support and base salary puts the total compensation arrangement above $200,000 a year for many of the new professors at these schools.

“Keep in mind that salary is just one part of the compensation; most schools offer excellent benefits including retirement plans, health insurance packages, and fringe benefits,” he says. “In addition, associate and full professors also can be given fellowships or chairs. These usually provide the professor with additional compensation and/or additional research funding. Fellowships or chairs are usually awarded based on merit, where merit is defined based on research productivity. The value of a fellowship or chair depends on the size of the donation that an individual or group gave to establish the fellowship/chair.”

Start With an Adjunct Faculty Member Position
If obtaining a DBA or PhD is too overwhelming, Professor Beasley suggests young CPAs consider adjunct faculty positions. Not only do many universities and community colleges need experienced professionals to serve on their faculty as adjuncts; stepping up as an adjunct may be a great way to get your feet wet and help you decide whether you do want to obtain a doctoral degree in order to become a full-time professor.

  • Start with local colleges to inquire about the need for adjuncts. Contact the college’s Human Resource Department or reach out to the academic Accounting Department directly; many adjunct roles are assigned on an academic year basis and may be renewed annually.

  • Another resource is the AACSB Bridge Program. Select applicants are invited to attend a week-long workshop designed to assist professionals with making the transition from professional practice to the classroom.  

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