Many accounting professors relish the summer months, when they can take time off from teaching, conduct research, and start to regroup for the fall semester.
But others do additional work unrelated to their salaried academic posts—and make extra cash as well.
Tracie Miller-Nobles, CPA, associate professor at Austin Community College in Texas, teaches 10 1/2 months of the year but supplements her income by consulting, speaking, acquiring grants, and authoring textbooks for Pearson Education. “Generally faculty want to do things that ultimately benefit their students, but this is a nice way you can put aside some money to do things that you wouldn’t necessarily get to do,” she said.
The sky is the limit for faculty who want to augment their earnings. Like Miller-Nobles, they can consult with companies, offering expertise in areas such as managerial accounting or peer reviews. Some educators conduct corporate training sessions or are hired as expert witnesses for court cases. Faculty file taxes for personal clients. They speak at companies or conferences, teach a summer semester abroad or at their own schools, or teach at a different college or university as an adjunct.
Others, like Lynda Dennis, Ph.D., lecturer at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, write courses for the AICPA. “It’s a wonderful way to stay involved in the profession and take that back to the classroom,” she said. (Faculty can inquire about writing continuing professional education courses by emailing AICPA author relationship manager Cynthia Christian with their contact information and areas of expertise.)
Pay for outside gigs runs the gamut; educators can earn a few hundred dollars for some tasks to much larger sums for some writing, editing, teaching, and consulting jobs. And most contract work can be negotiated.
Here are some ways to earn extra money—and advice on how to get your foot in the door:
Consulting. Many accounting faculty use their expertise to advise companies on operations, while some use their financial accounting knowledge to “help with overall company strategy,” said Rob Dewey, vice president of product at Roger CPA Review, a San Francisco company that offers a CPA exam review course. “The opportunities for consulting are as multifaceted as the business world.”
Assess your areas of expertise and then contact companies or organizations who may benefit from your knowledge. Then, market yourself by attending conferences, association meetings, or other events.
Cathy Scott, Ph.D., a professor of accounting and department chair at Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas, has a financial management background in the automotive industry, and has used that knowledge to consult with the industry for years. She speaks at various symposiums and conferences annually. “As an accounting professor, if you work with someone in industry it keeps you connected to the real world, and you can bring that back into the classroom, too,” she said.
Writing and speaking engagements. To land a writing or speaking gig, “figure out your audience, and then find out who addresses that audience either through published materials or speaking engagements, and then approach the publisher or organization with a proposal,” Dewey said. Contact editors, who typically have processes in place to evaluate writers.
Roger CPA Review hires accounting faculty to draft content for its exam preparation course or to present materials for online audiences for its CPA review course. “We are looking for knowledgeable instructors who can explain difficult concepts clearly, engage students with their personality, and have an immediate impact on student success,” Dewey said.
Professors can gain exposure by contacting staff at state CPA societies and offering to speak on certain topics, Dennis said. Or they can attend focus group meetings at professional conferences, which publishers attend, said Scott, who has also co-authored a college accounting textbook with Cengage, an education and technology company. Such meetings can lead to writing stints.
Grants. Grants provide a way to garner extra funds for research or projects that fuel your passion. Most schools offer grants as do the AICPA Foundation, the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy, the Institute of Management Accountants, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland, and large firms such as KPMG.
Tips from faculty
Faculty who have taken on side gigs offer the following tips for getting started and staying balanced:
Don’t sell yourself short. Realize you have specialized knowledge. Accounting professors have a wealth of information and expertise that companies, CPA firms, nonprofit organizations, and other teaching institutions will pay to tap.
Prepare to do legwork. While your goal may be to get paid for outside jobs, plan to accept some unpaid gigs—such as speaking at events—to develop your brand and gain exposure. And spend plenty of time connecting with others.
Finding consulting work, speaking engagements, or other opportunities is “really all about networking,” and about being flexible in terms of locations and dates, Miller-Nobles said. She advised forming relationships with various institutions and building your brand as a subject matter expert. “Developing a niche teaching style or knowledge area will go a long way in creating opportunities” for extra work, she added.
Research your school’s policies. Most institutions approve outside work if it doesn’t clash with your teaching time, cause a conflict of interest, or compete directly with them. But do your homework and review your school’s and department’s policies before you assume new tasks.
Don’t take on too much. Your full-time teaching job should remain your primary focus, so don’t shirk that commitment for other intriguing side jobs, Scott said. It’s all too easy to get overextended. In addition, while it’s rewarding to earn extra money during the summer, it may interfere with other commitments, such as research or family. So determine if you truly need a “mental break” and time off before diving into another project, Miller-Nobles said.
Do something you enjoy. Whether it’s speaking, writing, traveling, or painting houses, make sure your extra summer work is enjoyable, not taxing. “Summer is a time to rejuvenate and regroup for your full-time job,” Scott said, “and you need to do something that you enjoy.”
Cheryl Meyer is a California-based freelance writer. To comment on this article, email lead editor Courtney Vien.