Academic journal article Journal of Accountancy

Teaching for the Love of It: The Joy of Being an Educator - Eight Career Changers Tell Their Stories

Academic journal article Journal of Accountancy

Teaching for the Love of It: The Joy of Being an Educator - Eight Career Changers Tell Their Stories

Article excerpt

Once they earn their college degrees and embark on careers, many CPAs are perfectly happy never to see the inside of a classroom again. But others can't wait to return. What happens when they follow their hearts and minds back to campus? To find out, we interviewed eight professionals--seven CPAs and one tax attorney--who gave up successful business careers in favor of academia. Some moved directly into the classroom and are now teaching as professionally qualified faculty (see "Emerging Opportunities for Professionally Qualified Faculty," page 34). Others are students again, pursuing PhDs in accounting with an eye toward becoming university professors. Still others have already earned their PhDs and are working as senior faculty at some of the country's leading business schools, where they divide their time between teaching and academic research. If you are considering a career in academia--or are simply curious about how the other half lives--this article is for you.

This article reveals what these eight professionals have come to learn, love and yes, question, about academia. It shows the road to the academic life has many forks, which can be pursued at almost any stage of a career in accounting. And it shows that even more than in the business world, CPAs in academia can tailor their careers to match their own interests and objectives.

A GAPING NEED

Opportunities abound for CPAs interested in pursuing a career in academia. As noted in "Accounting Faculty in Short Supply," page 32, universities expect to produce only about two-thirds of the new PhDs in accounting that business schools hope to hire over the 36 months that began with the 2005-2006 school year. And the shortage isn't limited to PhD holders for the tenure track at major research universities; community colleges and undergraduate programs also need teachers.

"If you're interested, you should try it," says Susan Crosson, professor of accounting and accounting coordinator at Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville, Fla. "Most community colleges got started about 30 years ago and many of their faculty members now are retiring. So we're always looking for adjunct faculty with a master's degree and 18 graduate hours in accounting."

Retiring faculty members are just one reason that colleges and universities need accounting teachers. During the 1980s and 1990s, Wall Street siphoned potential talent away from accounting programs. And it's also likely that some CPAs with the right skills and temperament for academic life simply didn't fully understand its mission, its culture or its opportunities.

SHATTERING MYTHS

Many stereotypes about life in academia--like the old saw that those who can't do, teach--are more (continued on page 32) myth than reality The CPAs-turned-academics interviewed for this article enjoyed tremendous success in the business world before opting into education, sometimes in careers that spanned decades.

"Academia is not a refuge for those who want to get out of corporate America," says CPA Kevin Jackson, assistant professor of accountancy at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and former manager with Ernst & Young. "It's more of a calling." Crosson, who likens teaching to missionary work, agrees. And CPA Harvey Zimmermann, an executive in residence at the University of North Texas in Denton, sees teaching as a way to give something back to the school that prepared him for a 30-year career in accounting that culminated in his being named partner-in-charge of KPMG's Dallas/Fort Worth energy practice.

Another old canard holds that academia doesn't pay well. While it's true that academics don't achieve the seven-figure incomes of CFOs, fleshly minted PhDs at top research universities can expect a starting salary of $150,000 or more. Tack on summer stipends and opportunities for consulting, chaired positions, textbook authoring, executive teaching and sitting on the boards of public companies, and ambitious academics can earn very respectable sums indeed. …

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