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Best PhD Program in Accounting for Guy's With Gray Hair

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Best PhD Program in Accounting for Guy's With Gray Hair [#permalink] New post 08 Oct 2010, 10:51
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Okay, this is the deal - I'm a CPA, CFF, CFE with 30+ years of public accounting experience. I have BBA and MS degrees in accounting and this semester I'm completing my MS in digital forensics. I also remember Eisenhower, Howdy Doody, and Steve Canyon on a small black and white TV. I will eschew retirement when that age reaches me, and I throw all of the AARP mail in the trash. In 1997, an accounting professor at Texas A&M told me I was too old to enter their PhD program and as a reaction I wrote a book that was a top pick by Publisher's Weekly in 2003. NO, is not in my vocabulary.

Well it is thirteen years later and I'm back. So here is my question - "are there any reputable, quality PhD programs in accounting that are looking for older candidates, with a lot more experience and a ton of seasoning?"

I'm really looking forward to answers on this one.
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Re: Best PhD Program in Accounting for Guy's With Gray Hair [#permalink] New post 09 Oct 2010, 13:08
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Moved to the PhD forum. You're likely to get more responses in here.
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Re: Best PhD Program in Accounting for Guy's With Gray Hair [#permalink] New post 09 Oct 2010, 20:37
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Interesting question! Why do you want a PhD? The experience, the credential, the research opportunities, to open doors into teaching, or some other reason? There are all sorts of statistics on how the industry is going to run out of accounting profs in the next ten years, so I think that if you focused on your desire to teach you may get further than if you apply from the perspective of 'sounds like fun'.

If you are currently working in public accounting there are a number of fellowships sponsored by the Big 4 and the AICPA every year. The universities might treat you differently if they know via your app that you're a finalist for one of those fellowships. You should check with your state chapter, and with all firms you have previously worked for about your eligibility for sponsorship.

To sort of address your question, my firm has sent PhD candidates (all with some professional experience and 30+, although probably a bit younger than you) to the following programs: Notre Dame, Kellogg, Darden, and McCombs.

Good luck to you!
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Re: Best PhD Program in Accounting for Guy's With Gray Hair [#permalink] New post 12 Oct 2010, 08:42
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Interesting observation - my 30+ years of experience includes over 400 audits in various industies, litigation support, expert testimony, forensic accounting, and in recent years digital forensics. Sorry if I bristle a little, but as an expert witness I take no prisoners with respect to my technical background and experience.

My way of "cracking the age barrier" is to find a university that will hire me as an accounting instructor, and then after I've proven myself allow me to enroll in their PhD program in accounting. Since I'm on the verge of completing degree number 3, while I'm working fulltime, I don't see why I can't do the same with a PhD. Yes, it sounds insane, but public accounting teaches discipline and focus, and If you have to work 70+ hours to get done what has to get done you do it. Part of the reason, in my opinion, that there is a shortage of accounting professors with PhD's is because colleges never caught up with the "rebound effect" from the institution of the 150 hour rule in the 90's. When it was passed in the 80's, in my opinion, it was a direct attempt to reduce the number of CPA's in public practice. Peer review/quality control was mandated in most states at the same time and consolidation in the public accounting industry has been increasing ever since. What hasn't decreased, however, is the number of students entering colleges to earn degrees in accounting.

I believe that I'm getting close to finding the right fit, but I believe that it wouldn't have happened if my wife and I hadn't gone back to school two years ago to earn master's degrees in digital forensics. We did it to enhance our fraud investigations, and found "real joy" in getting to know our much younger graduate students, and in-turn our professors. Blowing the "academic cobwebs" out was tough, but well worthwhile. My conclusion is that maybe some of the PhD programs in accounting need to stop looking at "candidate age and institutional investment" and consider real world dynamics - federal judges, politicians, business leaders, doctors, attorneys, and actors also still viable at 60+.
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Re: Best PhD Program in Accounting for Guy's With Gray Hair [#permalink] New post 23 Mar 2011, 10:15
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I'm in an accounting department at a U.S. university. You need to ask what you're intending to do with the remaining years of your career. Do you really want to start on the tenure track and go through the ritualized hazing (that I'm currently fighting through) at your age? Presumably you're financially secure, so why don't you apply for a job as a full time instructor in accounting and stay there? You could also get feet wet as an adjunct to see if you like it. Why on earth would you want to spend 4 - 6 yrs to get a PhD just so you can get on the tenure track for another 6 years and shoulder all those burdens at an age when most are enjoying life? Accounting profs make good money, currently starting at $130K+ ABD or newly-minted PhD, but non-tenure track instructors with your credentials can make high five figures without the hassles of publication or all those blamed meetings and service requirements. If you want to get in the classroom, there's the way to go. You may find you don't like it, sometimes practitioners make fabulous profs, other times they are unmitigated disasters. At your age, I wouldn't want to invest huge opportunity costs into a PhD program only to find out that teaching is not your forte.

If you just have to have a PhD, maybe you should work as an instructor or adjunct while simultaneously pursuing a dissertation-only PhD program such as they have in Europe, Australia or at the University of South Africa. Would take the same amount of time as a conventional PhD, would require that you know your research methodologies pretty well going in (or master them via independent study early on in the program) and have a clear research direction one of their profs wishes to mentor, and wouldn't quite have the prestige in the U.S. of a traditional doctorate, but it could be done while teaching and would enable you to wear the doctoral robe at commencement. In the desperate market for accounting profs, it might also enable you to shoulder your way onto the tenure track.
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Re: Best PhD Program in Accounting for Guy's With Gray Hair [#permalink] New post 12 Oct 2010, 05:37
Sailorette wrote:
To sort of address your question, my firm has sent PhD candidates (all with some professional experience and 30+, although probably a bit younger than you) to the following programs: Notre Dame, Kellogg, Darden, and McCombs.


I just want to point out that 30+ in the previous sentence doesn't mean 30+ years of experience. I think most schools wouldn't have a problem with extending an offer to a 35-year-old. (By the way, Virginia doesn't have a PhD in Accounting.)

To the OP -- I don't know of such a school. I have no hard stats or soft evidence but I'd be surprised if schools with a strong emphasis on research took a flyer on you, provided you're 55 or older. You'd be at least 60 when you graduate, so you wouldn't become a senior faculty member before you turn at least 66 (69-70 in some places). PhD programs are cost centers and the only benefit is the advertising they get from a well-known guy/gal publishing research with the "PhD xxxxxx" tag. I'm not saying you wouldn't be successful in that role, just saying that from the school's standpoint you're a much bigger question mark than a 25-year-old with an MA Economics.
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Re: Best PhD Program in Accounting for Guy's With Gray Hair [#permalink] New post 15 Oct 2010, 12:48
sma69 wrote:
My way of "cracking the age barrier" is to find a university that will hire me as an accounting instructor, and then after I've proven myself allow me to enroll in their PhD program in accounting. Since I'm on the verge of completing degree number 3, while I'm working fulltime, I don't see why I can't do the same with a PhD. Yes, it sounds insane, but public accounting teaches discipline and focus, and If you have to work 70+ hours to get done what has to get done you do it. Part of the reason, in my opinion, that there is a shortage of accounting professors with PhD's is because colleges never caught up with the "rebound effect" from the institution of the 150 hour rule in the 90's. When it was passed in the 80's, in my opinion, it was a direct attempt to reduce the number of CPA's in public practice. Peer review/quality control was mandated in most states at the same time and consolidation in the public accounting industry has been increasing ever since. What hasn't decreased, however, is the number of students entering colleges to earn degrees in accounting.


There is a shortage of accounting professors with PhDs throughout the Western World, not just in the US. The current economic model for b-school PhD programs in the US, Canada and Europe offers no incentive for schools to increase their student intake/output, because a PhD program needs more school resources (per student) than a BBA or MBA program, and the revenue schools get from PhD programs is often minimal or negative (waived tuition, stipends). As such everyone agrees there should be more PhDs but it's a classical externality problem -- everyone bears a small part of the collective cost of the shortage (top schools to a lesser extent perhaps), but if any given school chose to open a new spot in its PhD program, it would have to bear that cost alone while every school would get a (small) benefit.
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Re: Best PhD Program in Accounting for Guy's With Gray Hair [#permalink] New post 23 Oct 2010, 21:57
Your experience at Texas A&M may not be very different at other top research school. A typical school admits between 2 to 4 students every year. You are competing with 25 year olds who have similar or better ability and the prospect of having a long and productive research career. You will also face this exact situation on the job market.

I had a couple of colleagues in your position. One of them dropped out and the other completed the program and got a decent teaching position at the same school. I know of one who used to teach in the MBA program as an adjunct faculty before joining the Ph.D. program.
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Re: Best PhD Program in Accounting for Guy's With Gray Hair [#permalink] New post 03 Nov 2010, 13:21
I appreciate all of the good responses. Taking some of them seriously might put me in a "slash the wrists" position because 30+ years of experience in public accounting, in my opinion, is better than throwing a 25 year old grad student in front of a classroom of students to explain the application of "push-down accounting" or to explain the "in's and out's" of providing expert testimony on the basis of admitting digital forensics evidence in a criminal fraud trial.

Beyond the obvious of program cost it appears that some measure of "economic cost" should be who do you want to train the next generation of accountants? Since I live in the same city that spawned Enron, isn't there value in putting seasoned CPA's in the classroom to teach ethics rather than greed, and theoretical constructs that only see the light of day in academic journals? Enron was more than a failure of ethics, it was a bending of accounting and auditing standards to fit economic outcomes for a select few. My point is this - if you as consumers and I suppose as academics don't demand experience in the classroom teaching the next generation of CPA's why should you expect anything better than a more efficient generation of fraudsters with more tricks and greater skills?

The GMAT Club places great emphasis on GMAT scores and admission to top business schools, but when does the "chase for the score" turn into the "chase for earnings" at any cost? Just thinking out loud, but when do we throw the wrong people under the bus?
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Re: Best PhD Program in Accounting for Guy's With Gray Hair [#permalink] New post 11 Nov 2010, 11:45
Praetorian wrote:
The GMAT Club places great emphasis on GMAT scores and admission to top business schools, but when does the "chase for the score" turn into the "chase for earnings" at any cost? Just thinking out loud, but when do we throw the wrong people under the bus?


This is a slippery slope. A chase for the score is ethical, a chase for earnings at any cost is unethical.

sma69 wrote:
My point is this - if you as consumers and I suppose as academics don't demand experience in the classroom teaching the next generation of CPA's why should you expect anything better than a more efficient generation of fraudsters with more tricks and greater skills?


You're assuming that experience and ethics are correlated. I would argue Skilling and Lay had a wealth of experience.
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Re: Best PhD Program in Accounting for Guy's With Gray Hair [#permalink] New post 17 Jan 2011, 11:07
XOM2010 wrote:
Praetorian wrote:
The GMAT Club places great emphasis on GMAT scores and admission to top business schools, but when does the "chase for the score" turn into the "chase for earnings" at any cost? Just thinking out loud, but when do we throw the wrong people under the bus?


This is a slippery slope. A chase for the score is ethical, a chase for earnings at any cost is unethical.


Well, unless chasing the score leads to unethical behavior, as seen through all the GMAT cheating testing services and websites..

However, I think sma69 is missing the point, which cabro has communicated here several times. Like it or not, ultimately, business schools deeply discount your work experience. Work experience is not a bad thing, but it is not extremely helpful in gaining admissions. They are primarily interested in producing accounting researchers, not accounting teachers. The main things that they are looking for are GPA, GMAT score, letters of recommendation, interest in conducting research, and alignment of research interests with faculty (i.e. fit). If you are over 35+, you face an uphill battle due to the reasons that cabro mentioned. This does not mean it will be impossible, just very difficult, especially if you wish to get into the top programs. At 60 years old, I don't know if many, if any, top programs will accept you due to your potential productivity. Also, I don't think it has been mentioned but at 60 years old and with 30+ years of work experience, programs may consider that you might be too set in your ways (i.e. you will have a hard time coming up with creative, ground-breaking research that challenges the status quo).
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Re: Best PhD Program in Accounting for Guy's With Gray Hair [#permalink] New post 17 Jan 2011, 11:16
If you're getting into this because you want to teach and have no desire to fully retire, then perhaps you should consider becoming an adjunct professor? You're more than qualified to teach at the undergraduate level. You won't draw the same salary as a PhD, but you also won't have the research to deal with.
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Re: Best PhD Program in Accounting for Guy's With Gray Hair [#permalink] New post 17 Jan 2011, 12:08
There is not much I can say. Obviously I can't take 30 years off my age. So if the measure of my "value" as a doctoral student in any accounting program is the present value of my expected intellectual capital in the future there is nothing I can add to what has already been stated by contributors to this discussion.

I appreciate the advice.
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Re: Best PhD Program in Accounting for Guy's With Gray Hair [#permalink] New post 21 Mar 2013, 06:22
This person almost fits my profile except that I have several peer-referred papers to my credit, mostly in practitioner journals but one in a AAA and one in a finance academic journal.

I'm ex Andersen so hazing comes with the territory! Looking for these sorts of arrangements: "pursuing a dissertation-only PhD program such as they have in Europe, Australia or at the University of South Africa. " Any suggestions or what to google welcome. Thanks bizprof42 or anyone else who cares to respond (esp. those who have gone the European PhD route)!!
Re: Best PhD Program in Accounting for Guy's With Gray Hair   [#permalink] 21 Mar 2013, 06:22
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