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Thread: In my MAcc program now but thinking about PhD in Taxation down the road...

  1. #1
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    In my MAcc program now but thinking about PhD in Taxation down the road...

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    I'm enrolled at UNC-CH for my Masters in Accounting, concentrating in tax. I just started in May, but I'm already in love with the work I'm doing. I went to a small liberal arts school and got a degree in Sociology and took a year off before coming here. I sat in on Professor Maydew's Corporate taxation class after my interview in the Winter and knew this was the school for me. I've read some of Dr. Shackelford's material online and I'm really disappointed he's not teaching in the MAC program anymore (now dean of the online MBA program).

    I'm planning to go into Big 4 tax in a major market. I'm in the thick of recruiting right now, but currently the firms want to hire A LOT more students than have indicated interest in the city. I feel pretty confident about my chances and have made some good connections through recruiting so far. I'm hoping to get on with a group specializing in Financial Services in a major bank or a group that focuses almost entirely on Private Equity. I know a lot of people leave after two years, but I'm hoping to stay on until the fifth year or so. I think this work experience could be very important in helping make the case for my eventual PhD admission.

    I don't have very much quant background, just a stat for Econ class in undergrad and a calc-based microecon class here at UNC. I'm sure I'll be taking a lot more as the year goes on, but we won't dabble in calculus too often. I want to take some of those classes on the side after I'm in practice, but realize that may be difficult once I'm actually in public accounting.

    Can strong work experience counter a lacking traditional research background?

    And finally, I've always been aware of a stereotype of academic inbreeding in higher-level academia. Would having my MAC at UNC prevent me being strongly considered as a PhD student there? I LOVE this school and my professors have been absolutely amazing so far. I'm developing some good relationships with them. The Tax faculty seems to be well-regarded and I'm already a huge Tarheel fan... I love business, but ultimately want to contribute to the research community. Being in this program so far has already shown me how much people in practice value the research coming out of the school... The firms are very financially vested in our school.

    Any thoughts or ideas? I realize this is VERY early on, but I generally plan pretty far in advanced... Having an end goal keeps me very motivated!

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    Can strong work experience counter a lacking traditional research background?

    No. Those years will be largely wasted, and can even hurt you in the admissions process.

    And finally, I've always been aware of a stereotype of academic inbreeding in higher-level academia. Would having my MAC at UNC prevent me being strongly considered as a PhD student there?

    It will not. If you make an impression on professors it may very well improve your chances.

    I'm already a huge Tarheel fan...

    This is a really bad reason to go to UNC, although yes, it is quite a good school. UNC typically takes a large cohort of accounting PhD students, but your odds of getting admitted there are still very, very small. A higher percentage of applicants gets into Harvard Business than will get into most accounting PhD programs.

    I'm sure I'll be taking a lot more as the year goes on, but we won't dabble in calculus too often.

    You should really take calculus and linear algebra now. Take them as electives!

    I realize this is VERY early on, but I generally plan pretty far in advanced... Having an end goal keeps me very motivated!

    My advice to you is to see if you can get some RA work. Tell the professors you are interested in research and you want to help them with their's. Learn what it is you are getting into, because I don't think that knowledge is reflected in what you've written so far. If you want to do a PhD, those MAC classes don't mean much. You need economics (NOT business economics), statistics (NOT business statistics), and math (NOT math for business majors). It's not expected you will have all of these when you enter the program, but this is what Adcoms look for.

    If you are entering your last year in the program, you should be able to take the calculus sequence. Do so. Become an RA, compensated or un-compensated. Start planning how you can get the three best letters you can. After you graduate, get a job. Your hours will be restrictive, so you may not be able to take on additional coursework. If you can, take Linear Algebra. In either case, begin studying for the GMAT. Search my post history for GMAT specific advice.

    If you have calculus, research experience, strong letters, a good GMAT (90th percentile quant/90th percentile verbal is the unofficial cutoff for UNC, or so I was told) and good GPAs, you will be competitive for UNC and similar schools.

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    I am going to disagree a bit with amazingsteve on this one. In tax, work experience can definitely be very helpful (not as much for financial). I know tax phd candidates that have been denied due to lack of work experience (that said, many people can also get in without it, especially if you are a strong candidate).

    With Terry Shevlin leaving UW, UNC is now pretty much the clear #1 in tax for an accounting phd IMO. You definitely want to express your interest in research with the faculty. If you know Maydew then go talk to him, he is extremely well regarded in the field and will surely give you some great advice as to what UNC looks for in a candidate.

    I definitely agree with amazingsteve on the importance of more mathematical coursework, and (even more importantly) doing anything you can to be an RA for a professor at UNC. This will hlep you tremendously.

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    I also disagree with amazingsteve....work experience is useful for someone wanting to pursue a research and teaching career in taxation. In addition, there are several top notch tax schools that certainly prefer their PhD students to have work experience. If you look at the tax grads out of North Carolina, Washington, Arizona, etc... the vast majority of them have work experience. If you decide doing a PhD is really what you are set on, then 5 years work experience may be more than necessary. I would say two years of Big 4 work experience and your CPA is sufficient.

    I do agree with amazingsteve and quanttastic though in regard to getting math and RA experience under your belt now. If you can squeeze in a calc class and linear algebra into your schedule while you are in the masters program it would be very beneficial. In addition, talk with Ed Maydew or Doug Shackelford and let them know that you are interested in pursuing a PhD in accounting in the future. See if they can find someone for you to do some RA work for, even unpaid. Ed or Doug themselves may not need any more RA help, but they could potentially get you in contact with Scott Dyreng at Duke or Andrew Schmidt at North Carolina State, both of which are junior tax faculty. In addition, I would ask them if you can sit in on their accounting research workshops this year. This will give you exposure to research and let you meet other faculty from across the country. This is something I did when I was in a masters program and it was very beneficial.

    I do not think having a masters from UNC will hinder your chances at admission into their PhD program. However, admission into all accounting PhD programs is very competitive, and admission into programs of the quality of UNC is even more competitive. I can tell you that UNC in general has a strong reputation, I am currently starting my 4th year at a top tax PhD program and in my time here we have had three students with UNC affiliations.

    As far as schools to look at for tax, I would say that North Carolina, Arizona, and Texas would probably be the top programs now that Terry Shevlin left Washington for UC Irvine. Right behind those three I would put Texas A&M and Georgia. Then I would also strongly consider Michigan State, MIT, Arizona State, Iowa, Connecticut, Florida, and Oregon. Then of course there are a lot of other schools who have tax students such as Tennessee, Oklahoma State, Alabama, Kansas, Virginia Tech, etc....

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    1 out of 1 members found this post helpful. Good post? Yes | No
    Quote Originally Posted by quanttastic View Post
    I am going to disagree a bit with amazingsteve on this one. In tax, work experience can definitely be very helpful (not as much for financial). I know tax phd candidates that have been denied due to lack of work experience (that said, many people can also get in without it, especially if you are a strong candidate).
    I would defer to quanttastic on this, he will know much better than me. You can see common themes in the rest of each of our posts, in particular that you need to leverage your access to professors now, while you can.

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    Thank you all for the quick replies!

    I'm going to talk to the director of our program about taking Calc and some other quant classes in my spring semester. Our program is a full-time 12 month program and our curriculum is largely predetermined. I have 3 electives the whole year and am taking two of them this fall (advanced corporate finance and accounting for M&A). I know we're allowed to register for MBA classes, but not sure if we can get in undergrad classes.

    I took the GMAT to get into this program. I honestly didn't study very much for it (about 10 hours total) I got a 680, 44 verbal, 40 quant, and 6.0 writing. I know the quant needs to come up a lot, but I was mostly rusty from not taking many math classes in college. I killed the SAT and worked as an SAT tutor in my year off. I know how to prepare for standardized tests, just need to really dedicate a few weeks to studying the math problems. My old score will be at the verge of the 5 year window, but I'd be planning on taking it again anyway (Either for PhD or MBA).

    I'm meeting with a professor tomorrow to get some advice on RA opportunities. We are booked solid with on-campus recruiting and office visits through the fall semester, but our schedule is pretty open (as far as our time outside of classes) for the spring semester. That would be an opportune time to pursue an RA position. I have no problem working for free.

    Thanks for the advice. I really underestimated how difficult and different PhD admissions processes are. I'll continue to research through this forum and talking with my professors. I didn't realize how well-regarded they were and it seems like a really good opportunity while I'm here to build relationships and get exposed to some research.

  7. #7
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    Even if you cannot use math classes in your degree plan, still try and take them if you can. If you cannot register for the course at least see if you can audit it.

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