The Accounting Doctorate Shortage: Opportunities for Practitioners

By Boyle, Douglas M.; Carpenter, Brian W. et al. | Strategic Finance, May 2013 | Go to article overview

The Accounting Doctorate Shortage: Opportunities for Practitioners


Boyle, Douglas M., Carpenter, Brian W., Hermanson, Dana R., Mensah, Michael O., Strategic Finance


Now more than ever, the accounting profession needs practitioners to get their backpacks and head from the boardroom to the classroom. The reason? The current U.S. shortage of accounting faculty with doctorates will soon reach critical levels, and while pay for newly hired accounting faculty has increased significantly, the shortage continues.

This combination of great need and increased compensation may have changed the landscape for practitioners contemplating a move into academia. The merits of such a transition seem obvious, extending well beyond the mere need to solve the current and growing shortage of accounting doctorates. If more practitioners pursued doctorates and transitioned to careers as accounting professors, students would reap the benefit of practical experience. It's a win-win. Practice would then benefit from an influx of new professionals whose educational experience included this exposure, so it makes sense for both academia and practice to encourage and support such transitions from practice to academia. Unfortunately, many hurdles exist.

To facilitate a transition in large enough numbers, there needs to be an increased and purposeful effort to identify and address the obstacles that currently impede such transitions. We'll delve into the various aspects of the challenge and summarize insights of individuals who have made the transition; present the dimensions of the shortage; examine key results of our IMA[R] (Institute of Management Accountants) Research Foundation-sponsored survey; and provide implications, suggestions, and resources that may prove useful to practitioners considering the transition to a full-time academic career.

Faculty Shortage and Impact on the Accounting Profession

The shortage of new accounting faculty has been the topic of much discussion and concern over the past decade within academia and practice, as well as among policymakers. In 2003, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) discussed this shortage in "Sustaining Scholarship in Business Schools," where it stated, "Unless decisive action is taken to reverse declines in business doctoral education, academic business schools, universities, and society will be faced with inevitable erosion in the quality of business education and research." At that time, the overall shortage of academically qualified (AQ, those with a doctorate) business faculty was estimated to be approximately 1,142 and projected to grow to 2,419 in 10 years. The key drivers of the shortage included increasing global demand for business education at both the MBA and undergraduate levels, schools' desire to satisfy accreditation standards of quality, and the then-current and anticipated rate of faculty retirements based on demographics.

In a later study, R. David Plumlee, Steven J. Kachelmeier, Silvia A. Madeo, Jamie H. Pratt, and George Krull ("Assessing the Shortage of Accounting Faculty," Issues in Accounting Education, May 2006) estimated that the overall supply of new accounting faculty across all specialties for 2005 to 2008 was only 49.9% of the number demanded. They go on to state that candidates were expected to supply only 27.1% of the tax faculty and 22.8% of the audit faculty demanded for the same time period.

This shortage also concerns policymakers and the accounting profession at a time when these groups desire to infuse more practical knowledge into the classroom. The U.S. Department of the Treasury's Advisory Committee on the Auditing Profession stated in its 2008 final report, "There are concerns about the adequate supply of accounting faculty and about the need to have faculty who can inject more practical experience into classroom learning." The report also said, "Encouraging practicing accountants to pursue careers as academically and professionally qualified faculty would bring practical business experience to classrooms so that students are better prepared to perform quality audits in the dynamic business environment. …

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