Should I Earn a Ph.D. in Accounting or Stop at the Master’s Degree Level?

To begin a successful career in accounting, you will need a college education. Some students aren’t content to stop at the bachelor’s degree level or even the fifth year of study required to sit for the examination to become a Certified Public Accountant. These students often have ambitious goals, such as earning a promotion to a high-level management position. It’s common for them to wonder what the highest level of study in accounting is . Even for students who want to set their sights high, it might not be the best idea to pursue a doctoral degree in accounting simply because it is the highest level of study in the field. When deciding to pursue an advanced education, it’s important to consider one’s personal career goals and decide based on those objectives which academic path makes the most sense.

Doctoral Degrees in Accounting

The highest level of study in accounting is the Ph.D. This doctoral degree is not a practical choice for most accounting professionals because the curriculum is based heavily on research rather than application of accounting practices. However, if you are less interested in the practical aspects of financial reporting and more interested in the theories and higher-level mathematics of accounting, then a doctoral degree may be the right choice for you.

Holding a Ph.D. in accounting can also build a candidate’s qualifications to teach accounting at the college level. However, much of the material that accounting professors cover with students more closely resembles the basic theories and practical applications that candidates learned when they were students of bachelor’s and master’s degree programs than it does the complicated research and statistics common in doctoral studies of accounting. Due to a shortage of accounting professors, The CPA Journal reported, salary for full-time professors at prestigious colleges and universities has increased in recent years, making the job both more lucrative and more appealing.

Master’s Degrees in Accounting

A master’s degree in accounting is typically a better choice for students who want to work in the field of accounting in a traditional sense, handling financial statements and reports, managing payroll and bookkeeping or performing audits. For those whose ultimate goals include leadership positions or senior staff positions, a master’s degree and the right professional experience will set the stage for a thriving career and future promotions. Master’s degree curriculum usually delves deeper into fundamentals first covered in a bachelor’s degree program, like auditing practices, taxes and how they influence businesses and the information systems used in the field. Some master’s degree programs allow students to explore other focuses, like forensic accounting.

Both master’s and Ph.D. programs in accounting require hard work and a significant time investment, though the type of work students can expect to do will differ between the two programs. That’s why it is important that prospective students think carefully about their goals before they choose to pursue one of these advanced degrees over the other.

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