Post-Public Accounting Careers: How Retiring CPAs Can Become College Instructors

By Gabbin, Alexander L.; Browning, Espey T. | The CPA Journal, August 2016 | Go to article overview

Post-Public Accounting Careers: How Retiring CPAs Can Become College Instructors


Gabbin, Alexander L., Browning, Espey T., The CPA Journal


In Brief

The current shortage of accounting faculty at many colleges and universities has created an increasing number of opportunities for CPAs seeking to retire from professional practice and transition to academia. The authors provide insight into the process by sharing the story of a CPA who did just that, outlining his process and providing useful tips for CPAs starting their own journeys.

A new reality is emerging in the composition of accounting faculty. The marketplace is changing, and CPAs with stellar careers are now finding colleges more receptive to including practitioners within an accounting program's faculty. Life as a college instructor is not for every CPA, however. Among the challenges are the different emphases placed by the American Accounting Association (AAA) and the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) in promoting accounting practice and theory. Additionally, there are major differences between working in public accounting and joining a college faculty as a new instructor, including the possible need to obtain an advanced degree, generally lower salaries, fewer available support staff, and the academic requirement to publish.

Nevertheless, some CPAs consider teaching attractive after a long career in public accounting. Reasons may include l) a desire to give back, 2) a search for greater personal satisfaction, 3) a new challenge, and 4) supplemental income.

Professionally Qualified Faculty

The importance of including CPA practitioners in college classrooms-"professional qualified" faculty, as explained below-cannot be overstated. As members of the faculty, experienced CPAs add real world credibility and can become inspirational role models to bright students considering careers in accounting. In the current environment, this can be a win-win for both the CPA and the college: "Many studies document a severe shortage of accounting PhDs and this shortage is expected to grow... Data from studies conducted from 2003-2008 suggested that the supply of PhD students in auditing and tax would meet only 22.8% of the demand in auditing and 27.1% in tax. This shortage translates into plentiful job opportunities" (Jun Li, "Urgent Need for Accounting PhDs," Beta Alpha Psi Epsilon Alpha, Apr. 21, 2014,http://bit.ly/29J2nDP).

A few elite private business schools are immune to shortages of doctoral faculty because of their superior brand name and strong financial position. Most business schools, however, either cannot afford the starting salaries in the PhD marketplace or do not want to deal with the ripple effects they would have on the remainder of the faculty salary structure ( Scholarship in Business Schools, AACSB International, 2003, http://bit.ly/29XxoHs). For AACSB accreditation, programs must maintain a proper balance between doctoral qualified and nondoctoral faculty. The current realities encourage a more favorable consideration of "scholarly practitioners" and "instructional practitioners" ( Eligibility Procedures and Accreditation Standards for Business Accreditation, AACSB International, Jan. 31, 2016,http://bit.ly/ 2907!%).

A November 2006 AACSB white paper asserted that "PQ faculty members are important contributors to the mission of AACSB schools as part of the overall faculty complement along with appropriate AQ faculty... PQ faculty will continue to grow in importance as the supply of new doctoral graduates remains flat or declines" ("Deploying Professionally Qualified Faculty: An Interpretation of AACSB Standards," November 2006,http://bit.ly/29wUkaW). A 2012 study by Megan Martin of Virginia Tech found that nondoctoral (PQ) faculty grew by 7%, whereas doctoral qualified (AQ) faculty declined by 5% ("A Shortage in Business Doctoral Candidates in Academia: Contributing Factors, Impact on Academia and Remediation," 2015,http://bit.ly/29BSKmM).

The Pathways Commission on Accounting Higher Education was even more emphatic. Acknowledging that academia is not without fault in the lack of a consistent, mutually productive relationship between the practice community and academia, it recommended that "more institutions, possibly through new accreditation standards, engage more practitioners as executives in residence in the classroom. …

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