The Best Online Doctorate in Accounting Programs

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Earning a Ph.D. in accounting online prepares graduates for jobs in business, finance, and academia. Many Ph.D. candidates in accounting eventually pursue executive-level positions in finance management or business administration, while others become college professors or research analysts specializing in accounting strategies. An online Ph.D. in accounting emphasizes not only advanced accounting skills but also strong communication, analytical thinking, and critical decision-making abilities.

Graduates of a doctorate in accounting online program may have already earned Certified Public Accountant (CPA) licensure -- the most common credential among experienced accounting and auditing professionals -- qualifying them to perform critical tax preparation services and lawfully file reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Students with an online Ph.D. in accounting may also pursue teaching jobs at the college level, or advanced research or managerial positions within an organization like the IRS, for example. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that job opportunities for accountants and auditors will grow by 10% through 2026, as an increasingly complex tax structure drives the demand for qualified professionals in this field.

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The Best Online Doctorate in Accounting Programs

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What Else can I Expect from an Online Doctorate in Accounting Program?

Online accounting doctoral programs differ in terms of curricula and structure. Students aspiring to advance their career in academia or research may be best suited to a philosophically oriented Ph.D. in accounting online, while others may choose a doctor of business administration accounting degree (DBA), which generally takes a more applied, practical approach to the subject. Below are some of the more common courses included in both types of degrees.

Curriculum for an Online Doctorate in Accounting

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Doctorate in Accounting?

Many online accounting doctoral programs offer classes in an accelerated format, allowing students to graduate in 2-3 years. There are many additional factors, however, that can affect completion times, including whether a student attends full-time or part-time, individual program structure, and how often classes are available each semester.

A school can also choose to offer its Ph.D. in accounting online in an individual learning or cohort style. While the former offers a self-paced format for students seeking maximum flexibility, the latter groups students together through a cohort arrangement, best suited to students who prefer a collaborative learning environment.

Online accounting doctoral programs typically require a minimum of 16 graduate level courses, including a graduate thesis or dissertation. However, as is often the case for Ph.D. candidates, students may have the opportunity to tailor their program to include independent study or extended research options.

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Accreditation for Online Accounting Doctorate Degrees

In researching schools for your Ph.D. in accounting online, the first consideration should always be accreditation. Any school on your short list should hold institutional accreditation from a governing agency, such as the Higher Learning Commission, Middle States Commission on Higher Education, or the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. Both regional and national agencies award institutional accreditation, though regional accreditation is both more common and more prestigious, as the process is more rigorous and thorough.

It's important for transfer students to examine a school's transfer policy in the context of its accreditation status. While most nationally accredited institutions accept credit from regionally or nationally accredited institutions, the majority of regionally accredited schools will only accept credits from other regionally accredited institutions.

Whether national or regional, a school's accreditation should be awarded by an agency recognized by either the Department of Education (ED) or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), as these are the country's foremost authorities overseeing postsecondary accreditation. Additionally, some schools offer their online Ph.D. in accounting programs as a part of a business program and thus receive programmatic accreditation through the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.

Prospective accounting doctoral students can check their school's accreditation status on the ED or CHEA websites.

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Employment Outlook for Doctorate in Accounting Graduates

Doctorate in Accounting Careers

Job-seekers who have earned a doctorate in accounting online can pursue careers in the highest levels of business and finance management, research, and academia. While entry-level accounting jobs do not require a terminal degree, graduates of a doctorate in accounting online program may qualify for positions in business that require extensive education and experience, such as financial manager and CFO. Others may pursue careers in academia, either as college level accounting professors or as researchers. Below are just a few of the most common accounting careers:

  1. Accountant: Accountants examine and prepare financial records, helping clients maintain financial records and ensure taxes are calculated accurately and submitted on time. Though entry-level jobs only require a bachelor's degree, students who have completed a Ph.D. in accounting may be eligible for senior positions, such as controller, VP of finance, or CFO.
    • Median Annual Salary: $68,150
    • Projected Growth Rate: 10%
  2. Auditors: Responsible for many of the same job duties as an accountant, an auditor also focuses on streamlining the financial operations of an organization and increasing efficiency through the auditing process. Like accountants, auditors with a terminal degree and advanced experience qualify for executive-level positions in finance and tax management, including but not limited to positions within the IRS.
    • Median Annual Salary: $68,150
    • Projected Growth Rate: 10%
  3. Top Executive: Top executives with an advanced degree and experience in accounting may be eligible for careers as chief financial officers and senior operations managers within a public, private, or government organization. While some top executive positions, including chief financial officers, may require only a master's degree for entry-level employment, many college presidents and school superintendents need a Ph.D. to enter the field.
    • Median Annual Salary: $103,950
    • Projected Growth Rate: 8%
  4. Economist: Economists analyze data, research trends, and evaluate economic issues to better understand the production and distribution of common goods and services. As jobs in economics typically require advanced skills in math, critical-thinking, and strategic analysis, most employers prefer candidates with a master's or doctorate in accounting.
    • Median Annual Salary: $101,050
    • Projected Growth Rate: 6%
  5. Financial Manager: Financial managers maintain the overall financial fitness of a corporation, organization, or individual client's portfolio. They may consult clients on their investments and help them work toward long-term goals through strategic planning and financial reporting services. Many financial managers start out as accountants with a minimum five years of experience in the field, though candidates with a Ph.D. may qualify for CFO positions.
    • Median Annual Salary: $121,750
    • Projected Growth Rate: 19%

Doctorate in Accounting Salary

Accounting salaries vary, depending on your chosen practice specialty, location, and level of experience. Regardless of which type of doctorate in accounting program you choose, once you graduate, you'll be uniquely qualified to provide accounting, auditing, and financial management services for the upper echelon of the corporate world, as well as teach accounting at the college or university level. As in many fields, careers that require a graduate or terminal degree, including CFOs and economists, command incomes that are commensurate to a highly advanced skill set and extensive experience, as illustrated in the table below.

Median Annual Salaries
Job Title Overall Median Salary Entry-Level Employees Mid-Career Employees Late-Career Employees
Accountant $49,957 $46,000 $51,000 $54,000
Auditor $54,669 $51,000 $59,000 $63,000
Chief Financial Officer (CFO) $127,784 $94,000 $112,000 $155,000
Economist $74,221 $63,000 $89,000 $119,000
Financial Manager $70,238 $56,000 $68,000 $72,000

Accounting Professional Organizations

Among the most enduring career specialties in business administration and management, accounting offers a variety of benefits to members of professional organizations. The American Accounting Association (AAA) favors unique networking and professional learning services for accounting teachers and researchers, while the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (AICPA) and National Society of Accountants (NSA) administer the field's qualifying CPA exam and fund several student scholarships in accounting, respectively. Students who join an accounting professional organization may receive subscriptions to exclusive industry publications; entry to conventions, workshops, and seminars; and access to career services. Below are some of the field's most prominent organizations:

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Paying for Your Online Doctorate in Accounting

For most college students, the process of applying for financial aid begins with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. While most schools consider the FAFSA the primary assessment tool for determining federal aid eligibility, many private lenders also use the FAFSA to determine eligibility for additional scholarships, grants, and loans. It is not uncommon for schools to offer only limited financial aid for doctoral programs, though the FAFSA is still required by most schools to explore all funding options, based on income, ethnicity, geographical location, and other factors.

The BLS projects that accountants, auditors, and financial managers will continue to enjoy an increase in employment opportunities over the next decade, as they provide services with staying power for all sectors of the American economy. As a result, the field offers a variety of financial aid and awards to students pursuing a terminal degree in accounting, especially those with specialized experience, such as tax accountants and budget analysts.

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