Can I Get a Ph.D in Accounting?

Ph.D in AccountingIf you’re interested in a career in accounting research, or in becoming a professor in accounting at the college level, a Ph.D. in accounting is the degree you should seek. In recent years, there have been a shortage of accounting professors with a Ph.D., which means that jobs in this field are readily available and pay more than professor jobs in other disciplines.


Many accounting Ph.D. programs are open to students who have a Bachelor’s degree, although a few programs require that applicants first complete a Master’s degree. Admission decisions vary by school but are typically made on the basis of college transcripts, GPA, interview, GMAT scores, and recommendations.

Academic Prerequisites

While majoring in accounting as an undergraduate is not necessarily required for admission into a Ph.D. program, you should make a point of excelling in the most advanced mathematics and statistics classes possible. Business, economics, and mathematics majors are typically good candidates for most accounting programs at the Ph.D. level.

Taking the GMAT

Your scores on the GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) are one of the most critical parts of your application. Talk with the admissions teams at schools you’re interested in to find out whether they have a minimum GMAT score for admission. Make sure to prepare for this test in advance by studying or taking prep courses as well as practice tests. Data suggests that students in most Ph.D. programs in accounting attained GMAT scores of between 685-730 out of 800.

Finding a School

Among the top-rated accounting schools ranked by U.S. News and World Report, several offer Ph.D. programs. The University of Texas at Austin has the top doctoral accounting program in the country, ranked by Public Accounting Report. Top programs also exist at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business , the College of Business at Illinois, and the University of Chicago Booth School of Business . Some schools have programs grounded in psychology, while others focus primarily on economics and finance.

Related Resource: Master’s in Accounting

What to Expect

Most Ph.D. programs in accounting take three to four years to complete. You’ll be required to take coursework in subjects such as economics, finance, accounting principles, research methods in social science, microeconomic theory, data mining, managerial principles, and auditing. However, much of your work will be researched based, including a dissertation on your research topic of interest, which typically takes two to three years to finish. Most schools structure the program with two years of coursework followed by two years of research. In addition to your dissertation, you may be required to pass a comprehensive exam before being awarded your Ph.D.

If you plan to earn a Ph.D. in accounting, the most important step to take early on in your education is to excel in as many mathematics and business courses as possible. Do plenty of research on programs so you can determine what school you’d like to attend and its admissions requirements. By planning diligently, you can certainly achieve the goal of a doctoral accounting degree.