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Thread: Recommended steps for future Accounting PhD application.

  1. #1
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    Recommended steps for future Accounting PhD application.

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    Hello everyone!

    I am currently in my last year of undergrad, and I am interested in getting my PhD in accounting. I am really unsure as to where I should start in this entire situation, and I was hoping I could gain a little clarity as to what I could focus on.

    Undergrad: 3.86 GPA in Accountancy and Finance. Graduated in 3 years from a top accounting school.

    Graduate: Will be completing my MAcc in the upcoming year.

    GMAT: Never taken an actual exam, I have scored in the 740-750 range on practice exams.

    Courses: Have completed a variety of courses related to accounting and finance. Macro, micro, and intermediate micro economics. A variety of statistics courses. Calc 1 and 2.

    Teaching experience: I am the head TA for a course related to business management, and teamwork. I am, also, planning on teaching accounting courses for duration of my MAcc.

    Research: I have little research experience, but I am looking at being a research assistant at my University in the upcoming semester.

    Work experience: I have held an internship in the past, and I will be interning at a big four accounting firm next Summer.

    Letters of rec: I have multiple people that I know would be willing to write a letter of rec for me. One of them has a strong background in research, and others are in accounting academia.

    Weaknesses: Most obviously my work and research experience. Letters of rec I think are also something I could improve on. Also, my math background is also very weak.

    Questions: Are there any courses that you think I should try taking over the next year?
    Should I apply to PhD programs in the upcoming Fall, or should I wait until I have more tangible work experience?
    What are my biggest weaknesses to an observer?

    I am a little lost in this entire process, and I really appreciate any and all feedback that you guys have for me.

    Thanks for taking the time to read my post.

  2. #2
    An Urch Guru Pundit Swami Sage
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    Re: Recommended steps for future Accounting PhD application.

    It looks like you are off to a good start. Are you doing your MAcc at the same school going from Spring 2021 - Fall 2021?

    I went straight through undergrad, to a MAcc and on to a PhD. I think it works well, but work experience can definitely be helpful. If you end up doing anything related to audit, work experience in audit is very nice. Same is true for tax. If you look at financial reporting / disclosure work, it isn't as necessary to work first. My thinking was that I knew I wanted to go into academia, so why delay. Most people will go for Big 4 work experience, but I have one friend that worked at a mid-size public accounting firm and was able to get broader experience in two years than he would have at one of the huge companies. That can actually be a good way to go too.

    Do well on the GMAT. I think there are still returns on getting a higher score all the way to the top, so study a bit and do well. If you are testing around 750, aim for that or a bit higher.

    Courses for the upcoming year: I think the most useful courses I took before the PhD program were the accounting PhD courses I took during my MAcc. It sounds like you are at a PhD granting school. See if you can take the PhD seminars as electives for credit during your MAcc (this is what I did) or sit in on them. Keep in mind that they are at least 3 times as much work as a normal master's level class. This is also a great way to get a good and meaningful letter of recommendation.

    Next you have methods courses that you can worry about. These are things that will prepare you for the economics and research-type thinking that you do in a PhD. Calc 3 is probably next on the list, along with linear algebra. Both constitute basic math classes that you need to do economics at a graduate level. Next, I would go for an econometrics course. This will be very helpful in understanding research papers and statistical inference. Probability and Statistics from the math department are useful to take. These take a calculus-based approach to statistics that you probably haven't seen. (I'm assuming your stats courses so far have been from the business school. These are quite watered down.) Beyond that, you could go for an advanced microeconomics class and an intermediate macro. There are more math and econ classes you could take, but I've already listed quite a bit and anything else would go beyond what I have personally taken.

    If you are at a research school, it is common to have outside speakers come in and present working papers. This is a great way to see what accounting research is and how other academics critique it. Obviously, flying people in is different right now, so this might be happening virtually. Check in on these and attend if you can.

    Research Experience: Work as an RA would be helpful. I think the PhD courses and the colloquium that I mentioned are actually the correct start on research experience. It is hard to get research experience without exposure to research. Getting an idea of the current research and being able to express what kind of research you want to do is a good start for admissions.

    Letters: Some of the things that I have mentioned will help with letters. Having been a good student, should get you decent letters as well. RA experience will also help. I would suggest getting a letter from the best known person that you can. It is tough to know who that is sometimes, but it is usually some sort of endowed chair professor at your school. If you want to message me and tell me the school, I can give you my opinion on who that might be. Of course, a letter with really good content is better than a boilerplate letter from someone good. All else equal, a bigger name is better.

    I think that is about it for now. I'm happy to answer more questions that you might have. Be sure to reach out to faculty at your school for advice too. They might be able to get more specific.

    Also: Check out this site if you haven't - Phdwiki

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    Re: Recommended steps for future Accounting PhD application.

    First off, I would like to thank you YaSvoboden. As I alleged in my first post, I do not have a great understanding of this entire process as of now, but I have seen your replies on countless other posts, and I really appreciate all the information you have been able to provide, and I am sure the other recipients of responses do as well.

    As far as my MAcc, it will be at the same school that I took my undergrad at.

    For my internship this Summer, it is actually related more to advisory than either tax and audit. This is another reason that I am struggling a little bit because I am not sure if this would be as valued by the PhD programs.

    When it comes to taking the GMAT, I definitely appreciate the insight, and will work hard to score well on that. One question that I have is, I was planning on studying for the CPA, and splitting my time between the two, do you think my time would be better allocated towards trying to score high on the GMAT, and taking the rigorous courses you eluded to above?

    I will definitely see if there is any chance that I can get in contact with my advisor about some PhD electives that would be available to me as an MAcc student.

    When it comes to other courses that I should try and take, I am currently in a position to take 23 credit hours in the upcoming semester, but 8 of them are related to my masters. The other 15 I need to take to graduate from undergrad. Luckily, I got the majority of my more difficult classes out of the way in the previous semester, so those hours will not be too difficult. Should I push back some of those classes until the Spring of 2022, and try and take 1 or 2 of the classes you had described above in the next semester? I had planned to take 8 hours in the Spring of 2022, so that I could focus as much of my time on the CPA as possible, but if you think this would be a better route, I will definitely give it a shot.

    I will definitely look into the presentation of working papers, and if attendance would be allowed.

    As far as letters go, I will definitely reach out with my University to see what your thoughts are.

    Thanks again

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    Re: Recommended steps for future Accounting PhD application.

    I never actually worked in advisory, but it seems like a more interesting option than the other two. For an internship, it doesn't matter much. I would do what you think is most interesting.

    Passing the CPA exam is a good thing and the CPA credential definitely has some value. Can you get credentialed without actually taking a couple of years to work? I seem to recall it is possible in some states, but I never ended up taking the exam. The way I view it, the CPA exam is a pass / fail. As long as you pass all of the sections, it doesn't matter much what you got, unless you get an Elijah Watts Sells award or something like that. The CPA exam takes a lot more time than the GMAT. I would take a decent GMAT course and not do more than that. I can't really say for the CPA exam, except, you should definitely aim to pass each section.

    23 credits is a lot, even if some are the easier intro courses. I would probably take Calc 3 and Linear Algebra and push a couple other classes back. If you decide that you want to go into a PhD as quickly as possible, it might be worth dropping out of your internship and taking some classes over the summer and trying to RA. I can't say that is definitely the best course though, so definitely ask other opinions before doing that.

    Hope that helps. Feel free to stay in touch.

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