Management And Accounting Web

Grasso, L. 2008. The accounting Ph.D. shortage: Crisis or opportunity? Cost Management (March/April): 15-25.

Summary by James R. Martin, Ph.D., CMA
Professor Emeritus, University of South Florida

Advice for Ph.D. Students and New Faculty | Educations Issues Main Page

Grasso argues that defining the problem as a Ph.D. shortage is too narrow. The problem should be reframed as how to provide the best possible education for future accounting professionals and managers and also advance research in accounting. Concentrating only on efforts to produce more Ph.D.s is to treat a symptom rather than addressing the root cause of the problem. The paper includes a discussion of the reasons for the surge in demand for accounting education, and several questions such as why does the surge in demand have to be filled with academically qualified faculty?

There are five reasons for the surge in the demand for accounting education. These include:

1. Demographics - more college age students are in the pipeline.

2. The college degree imperative - a degree is needed to compete in the job market.

3. The market effect - a degree in finance looked better for a while, but the market crash took the shine off careers in finance.

4. Financial fraud and failed audits - The Sarbanes-Oxley Act created the need for more extensive audits and internal controls.

5. The 150-hour requirement - originally intended to develop student functional, personal, and broader business skills, resulted in students taking more technical accounting courses instead.

Grasso addresses several questions:

1. Why does the surge in the demand for accounting education have to be filled with academically qualified (AQ = Doctorate) faculty, rather than professionally qualified (PQ = typically Master's + CPA) faculty? Although more schools are seeking AACSB accreditation, the AACSB minimum for AQ faculty is only 50 percent. However, most schools have a policy of replacing older PQ faculty with AQ faculty.

2. Is the policy of hiring as many AQ faculty as possible motivated by a desire to enhance accounting education, or mainly to increase the reputation of the schools? Is it motivated by a necessary requirement to further accounting education and research, or an arbitrary escalation in required academic qualifications.

3. Is accounting an academic discipline, i.e., a science, or a practice? Demski, Fellingham, and Hopwood commented on that issue at the 2006 AAA annual meeting. If accounting is considered a practice or profession rather than a science, then producing more Ph.D.s might not be the answer. Efforts to produce more AQ faculty might only produce more insular research, and faculty members who see teaching as an obstacle to research. If accounting is a practice, as opposed to a science, as Hopwood and others contend, then we might learn from the law school model or other professional models such as engineering.

Grasso makes the following recommendations:

1. Reframe the problem as how to provide the best possible education for future accounting professionals and managers and advance research in accounting.

2. Train Ph.D.s from other disciplines to teach accounting.

3. Remove arbitrary AQ-PQ standards.

4. Treat PQ faculty as collaborators in both research and teaching rather than as second-class citizens.

5. Look at other professional schools such as law and engineering for ways to transform accounting education and research to link with practice.

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