Academic journal article Global Perspectives on Accounting Education

Undergraduate Preparation and Dissertation Methodologies of Accounting Phds over the Past 40 Years

Academic journal article Global Perspectives on Accounting Education

Undergraduate Preparation and Dissertation Methodologies of Accounting Phds over the Past 40 Years

Article excerpt


There is a shortage of accounting faculty and this shortage is predicted to worsen in the future. The number of new PhDs in accounting has declined from approximately 200 per year in the late 1980's and early 1990's to just over 100 per year in recent years. Currently, we expect approximately 400 to 500 new accounting faculty positions to open up annually over the next to five to ten years. We believe that there has been a narrowing of the number of PhD candidates coming from fields other than accounting and other business related fields. If this is true, we believe that the number of accounting PhDs could be increased and the shortage could be reduced by increasing the number of nonaccounting/nonbusiness bachelor degree holders in accounting PhD programs.

In this study, we examined patterns in the undergraduate majors of accounting doctorates over a forty-year time period to determine whether there was such a narrowing and how it related to the total number of accounting doctorates issued. We find that the percentage of non-accounting undergraduates was highest when the number of accounting PhDs granted annually was the highest. We also analyze the frequency of topics and research methods used in accounting dissertations to determine whether shifts in topics and research methods are related to changes in the total number of accounting doctorates. Results indicate that topics addressed and methodologies used in dissertations have become less diverse. Thus, we could perhaps increase the supply of accounting PhDs by expanding the applicant pool to include undergraduates with nonaccounting/business degrees.


The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) has documented an existing shortage of PhDs in business disciplines and projected that future shortages will continue (AACSB 2003). In its report, the AACSB notes that the shortage is particularly acute in accounting. Similarly, in a report commissioned by the American Accounting Association, Kachelmeier et al. (2005) provide the results of a triangulated study and reaffirm the AACSB's concerns related to accounting PhDs.1 Kachelmeier et al (2005) focused on current PhD students in their study. As the baby boom generation of accounting professors approaches retirement age, the shortfall is projected to become more critical and pronounced. Sharman (2007) stated, "-there are 50% fewer accounting PhD students in the United States today than there were just 10 years ago, and the number will likely be halved in another decade."2

While the profession of public accounting is facing increased demand for new staff professionals, in part due to Sarbanes Oxley, the number of people qualified to teach in accredited institutions and educate those new professionals is declining. In addition, business school deans face pressure for increased MBA rankings, which diverts resources from PhD programs. In fact, during periods of tight economic conditions, business school deans find it difficult to justify the high costs and low enrollments of PhD programs. The number of replacements for soon-to-be-retiring faculty in the form of newly graduated doctoral candidates will not suffice to maintain existing faculty numbers. Sharman (2007) views this as the "The Vicious Cycle."

During her term as President of the AAA, Judy Rayburn hypothesized that doctoral programs are drawing from a narrower group of undergraduates than they did formerly (Rayburn, 2006). The purpose of this paper is to empirically test Rayburn's hypothesis and to augment Kachelmeier et al. (2005) by studying the undergraduate preparation of accounting PhDs for major changes over a fortyyear time period.

Additionally, we examine trends over time in the research methodology used by accounting PhDs in their dissertations. We do so because as the supply of accounting doctorates comes from a narrower group, researchers argue that there has been a simultaneous narrowing scope of many of the top accounting journals. …

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