Bridge programs produce few candidates to meet critical shortage of Accounting PhD's

AASCB estimates that by 2012, because of retirements, changes in PhD enrollments, and increased demand, there will be a shortage of approximately 2,500 PhD's in accounting.

The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) has decided to endorse "Post-Doctoral Bridge to Business Programs." These programs are designed to encourage faculty from academic disciplines outside of business to move to faculty positions in accounting and finance, marketing, management, supply chain management, international business, and entrepreneurship, but it appears that the AACSB endorsement will not make a big dent in the number of PhDs needed to educate future accountants. AACSB's hire database lists 78 bridge program candidates who are interested in teaching accounting, according to Bob Jensen, professor of business administration at Trinity University in San Antonio.

The shortage is especially critical in the areas of audit and tax, but the bridge programs developed so far focus on financial accounting. A recent study sponsored by the American Accounting Association and the Accounting Programs Leadership Group estimated that for the period 2005 – 2006, financial accounting will have 79.1 percent of its demand for PhD's met. Tax and auditing had only eight students graduating from PhD programs, which was only 18.6 percent and 16.3 percent, respectively, of the expected demand for 2005–06.

Of the four AASCB-sponsored bridge programs developed at U.S. universities and listed in the AACSB's announcement - the University of Florida, the University of Toledo, Tulane University, and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University -- only the University of Florida and Tulane University offer programs in accounting. Virginia Polytechnic's finance bridge program's curriculum does not specifically refer to accounting.

The accounting courses in Tulane's bridge program are designed for PhD's with a high level of achievement in economics and/or mathematics. They include:

  • Research Methods in Accounting & Finance (36 hours, Spring)
    This course develops the applications of econometrics to financial model testing. The topics include tests of hypotheses within linear models and within systems of equations. Students will read current literature and work through empirical model formulations and the econometrics applications. The emphasis of the course is for testing the theoretical foundations of financial and accounting decision models and market efficiency.
  • Doctoral Seminar in Accounting Theory (36 hours, Spring)
    This course prepares faculty to conduct research in the field of accounting and finance. It is based upon the review of current literature in the field and the replication and critiques of the methodology of several key papers.

Sustained efforts will be needed to address the PhD shortage, said Shaun Budnik, president of the Deloitte Foundation, which recently announced a $1 million grant to American Accounting Association to fund approximately four years of Doctoral Consortia as well as the 2009 and 2010 Trueblood Seminars.

"It is widely recognized by members of the accounting profession that a shortage of qualified Ph.D. faculty will erode the quality of accounting education necessary to fill the pipeline with well-trained talent," Budnik said. "It could force universities to cap accounting enrollments and limit program offerings at the institutions creating the profession's future leaders. By funding key Ph.D. education initiatives, such as our Doctoral Fellowship and Doctoral Consortium programs, we are helping to alleviate some of the issues contributing to the increased scarcity of accounting faculty."

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