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CPAs in Academia

Teaching for the Love of It

The joy of being an educator—eight career changers tell their stories.

By Randy Myers
June 2006

nce they earn their college degrees and embark on careers, many CPAs are perfectly happy never to see the inside of a classroom again. But others can’t wait to return. What happens when they follow their hearts and minds back to campus? To find out, we interviewed eight professionals—seven CPAs and one tax attorney—who gave up successful business careers in favor of academia. Some moved directly into the classroom and are now teaching as professionally qualified faculty (see “ Emerging Opportunities for Professionally Qualified Faculty ”). Others are students again, pursuing PhDs in accounting with an eye toward becoming university professors. Still others have already earned their PhDs and are working as senior faculty at some of the country’s leading business schools, where they divide their time between teaching and academic research. If you are considering a career in academia—or are simply curious about how the other half lives—this article is for you.

This article reveals what these eight professionals have come to learn, love and yes, question, about academia. It shows the road to the academic life has many forks, which can be pursued at almost any stage of a career in accounting. And it shows that even more than in the business world, CPAs in academia can tailor their careers to match their own interests and objectives.

Supply and Demand

Over the next three years, U.S. and Canadian universities will try to hire 942 new PhDs. Unfortunately, the number of graduates available to fill those slots is expected to total only 621.

Source: American Accounting Association.

A GAPING NEED
Opportunities abound for CPAs interested in pursuing a career in academia. As noted in “ Accounting Faculty in Short Supply, ” universities expect to produce only about two-thirds of the new PhDs in accounting that business schools hope to hire over the 36 months that began with the 2005–2006 school year. And the shortage isn’t limited to PhD holders for the tenure track at major research universities; community colleges and undergraduate programs also need teachers.

“If you’re interested, you should try it,” says Susan Crosson, professor of accounting and accounting coordinator at Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville, Fla. “Most community colleges got started about 30 years ago and many of their faculty members now are retiring. So we’re always looking for adjunct faculty with a master’s degree and 18 graduate hours in accounting.”

Retiring faculty members are just one reason that colleges and universities need accounting teachers. During the 1980s and 1990s, Wall Street siphoned potential talent away from accounting programs. And it’s also likely that some CPAs with the right skills and temperament for academic life simply didn’t fully understand its mission, its culture or its opportunities.

  Accounting Faculty in Short Supply

The time is right to make the leap to academia for demand for new accounting professors far exceeds the supply. The American Accounting Association found that over the next three years, U.S. and Canadian universities will try to hire 942 new PhDs—but will have only 621 graduates to fill those slots. Shortages will be particularly acute in the tax and auditing fields.

These projections are based on an April 2004 survey of more than 1,100 accounting program leaders in North America. For 2005–2006, the survey respondents indicated 58.8% of the accounting faculty they planned to hire would be required to hold a PhD degree and would be expected to teach and do research. The remainder would be responsible primarily for teaching, regardless of whether they held a PhD.

The committee also surveyed 83 North American universities that offer accounting doctoral programs. More than half said their 2005–06 PhD program applications were “about the same” as the previous two years. The majority expected to admit two students a year over the next three years, although the responses ranged from one to six students.

Projected Salaries
For new faculty hired directly out of doctoral programs, more than two-thirds of the PhD-granting schools expect to pay nine-month salaries greater than $120,000 for the 2005–2006 academic year. These research-oriented schools often provide additional summer support of about two ninths of the nine-month salary. The salary range for other schools and for faculty without PhDs varies significantly depending on a school’s mission, sources of financing and geographic location.

Current accounting PhD students cite personal growth and intellectual challenge as their primary reasons for pursuing a doctorate, and expect to complete the doctoral program in five years. Most had earned an accounting undergraduate degree and worked as an accountant for one to five years, most often in public accounting, before enrolling. Survey respondents received an average nine-month stipend of just over $16,000 during their PhD studies. They expect stipends for incoming PhD students will be higher.

A copy of the survey report can be accessed at http://aaahq.org/about/reports.htm .

—R. David Plumlee, CPA, PhD
Chair, University of Utah School of Accounting and Information System

SHATTERING MYTHS
Many stereotypes about life in academia—like the old saw that those who can’t do, teach—are more myth than reality. The CPAs-turned-academics interviewed for this article enjoyed tremendous success in the business world before opting into education, sometimes in careers that spanned decades.

“Academia is not a refuge for those who want to get out of corporate America,” says CPA Kevin Jackson, assistant professor of accountancy at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and former manager with Ernst & Young. “It’s more of a calling.” Crosson, who likens teaching to missionary work, agrees. And CPA Harvey Zimmermann, an executive in residence at the University of North Texas in Denton, sees teaching as a way to give something back to the school that prepared him for a 30-year career in accounting that culminated in his being named partner-in-charge of KPMG’s Dallas/Fort Worth energy practice.

 
AICPA FOUNDATION ADDRESSES SHORTAGE OF ACCOUNTING FACULTY

Over the years the AICPA Foundation, a 501(c)(3) entity, has undertaken a number of initiatives to “advance the science of accountancy and accounting education.” Recently, the foundation’s board adopted advancing financial education and research as a key objective. The board is focusing on three major initiatives: financial literacy, increasing the diversity of university and college graduates entering the accounting profession and, its newest initiative, addressing the growing shortage of accounting faculty in U.S. colleges and universities.

The foundation trustees say the shortage of accounting faculty threatens the future of the accounting profession. Without qualified faculty, colleges and universities will be forced to cap accounting enrollments, or worse, will be less inclined to offer accounting programs. Responding to this major concern, the trustees are establishing a program with dual objectives: increasing the supply of PhDs in accounting, and encouraging and equipping seasoned accounting professionals to transition from practice to the college classroom. The foundation is being guided by a faculty shortage advisory group led by William F. Ezzell, foundation president and partner in the Washington, D.C., office of Deloitte & Touche USA LLP.

The foundation has identified fellowships as an immediate funding need to encourage highly qualified candidates to pursue their doctorates in accounting. The foundation solicits the support of all professional accountants to help fund this program. To learn more about these and other foundation initiatives, please contact Marlene Gallagher at mgallagher@aicpa.org .

AICPA members are encouraged to make a contribution to the AICPA Foundation by checking the box provided in their annual membership dues statement. Members and nonmembers also may send their tax-deductible contributions directly to the AICPA Foundation, P.O. Box 2216, Jersey City, NJ 07303, earmarked for “faculty development.”

Another old canard holds that academia doesn’t pay well. While it’s true that academics don’t achieve the seven-figure incomes of CFOs, freshly minted PhDs at top research universities can expect a starting salary of $150,000 or more. Tack on summer stipends and opportunities for consulting, chaired positions, textbook authoring, executive teaching and sitting on the boards of public companies, and ambitious academics can earn very respectable sums indeed. For many, though, that’s not even the point. Stacy Mastrolia, a doctoral candidate at the University of Tennessee, prefers “the opportunity to go to a large four-year university that offers me the opportunity to both do research and teach and where I will be financially comfortable, intellectually stimulated and have an exciting and rewarding career.”

A third myth—and perhaps the most grating—is that academics don’t have to work very hard. Mary Barth, CPA, the Atholl McBean Professor of Accounting and Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, didn’t become an audit partner at Arthur Andersen & Co.—her prior job—by punching in from 9 to 5. On the other hand, her Andersen hours weren’t any tougher than the 60 to 80 she logs on a weekly basis now. “I don’t know anyone at a top university who is not working hard,” she says. “People think academics teach only a couple of days a week for a few hours each day, and how hard could that be? But if you are a good teacher, you spend an incredible number of hours preparing for those couple of hours in class.”

  Emerging Opportunities for Professionally Qualified Faculty

The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International) is the premier global accreditation organization for business and accounting programs. Since 1916, 515 business schools and 167 accounting programs have earned accreditation demonstrating their commitment to accountability, continuous improvement and quality. AACSB accreditation assures students, faculty, employers and other business schools that these programs

Manage resources consistent with a vibrant and relevant mission.
Advance business and accounting knowledge through faculty.
Provide high-caliber teaching of quality and current curricula.
Cultivate and support meaningful interactions between students and a highly qualified faculty.
Produce graduates who have achieved specific learning goals.

AACSB International accreditation standards focus on the central role played by faculty for the design, development and delivery of high-quality degree programs. The standards identify two types of faculty members: academically qualified (AQ) and professionally qualified (PQ). AQ faculty normally have a doctorate in the field of teaching; PQ faculty are expected to have a master’s degree. The standards require AQ faculty to constitute at least 50% of total faculty resources; this percentage increases as graduate programs are added. Nevertheless, there is an important role for PQ faculty, who bring significant professional experience to the classroom and can represent up to 50% of the total faculty resources.

It is likely that opportunities for PQ faculty from the accounting field will grow. The AACSB has documented the increasing shortage of doctorates in accounting against a backdrop of burgeoning enrollments and significant retirements over the next several years. The AACSB study says, “It is inevitable that many faculties—traditional research and others—will resolve their PhD shortages by recruiting more professionally qualified faculty….For schools that have a teaching and practice mission, it is legitimate to skew the faculty complement toward practice-oriented faculty, including those who do not have a doctoral degree, provided these faculty have expertise as teachers and as practicing professionals.”

The current and expected shortages in doctorates in accounting enhance opportunities for PQ faculty in either full- or part-time roles. Facing the potential shortages in new doctorates for AQ faculty positions, AACSB is taking seriously the recommendation that PQ faculty should have expertise as teachers as well as professional expertise. A faculty development bridge program is being created for those individuals who seek or currently hold professional or clinical faculty positions. The program will provide training in pedagogy and techniques and in business school and accounting program culture and issues. More details will emerge on this program later in 2006.

—Jerry E. Trapnell, CPA, PhD
Executive Vice-President and Chief Accreditation Officer
AACSB International

GETTING IN THE DOOR
There are many paths from the business world to academia. Often CPAs can move into teaching positions based on substantial professional experience and their certification as CPAs. Schools normally also require a master’s degree (See “ How to Get Started—The Road to a Teaching Position ”). CPAs typically teach accounting to undergraduates and compensation is limited. Adjunct faculty who are not full-time and typically do not have PhDs earn $3,000 to $5,000 per course. Full-time faculty members who do not have PhDs generally earn less than $60,000 per year for nine months of employment.

  How to Get Started—The Road to a Teaching Position

OPTION 1
To enter a PhD program:

Obtain a list of doctoral-granting institutions.

AACSB-accredited institutions with PhD programs: www.aacsb.edu/publications/dfc/phd-schools.asp .

AACSB Pocket Guide to Business Schools, www.aacsb.edu/publications/default.asp , provides information about management education in schools of business.

Hasselback—Accounting Faculty Directory, http://vig.prenhall.com/catalog/academic/ . Available free from Prentice Hall. Provides a list of PhD-granting institutions and the number of recent graduates.

All Business Schools Web site, www.allbusinessschools.com , provides information about business degrees and will provide a summary report on each school.

Take the GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test), www.gmac.com/gmac/thegmat . A review course might help you achieve a higher score and qualify for financial assistance. There are many commercial providers of GMAT review courses and many universities provide review courses.

Talk to the doctoral adviser or a graduate faculty member at a school near you—even if this is not the school you want to attend. Either will provide information about doctoral programs, expected completion time and financial support, for example. Faculty also can provide information about schools where you might be interested in teaching.

Determine what financial resources and assistance are available to you. Many universities provide doctoral fellowships, graduate assistantships, research assistantships, teaching assistantships and other forms of financial assistance. Financial support available to doctoral candidates varies significantly from school to school. Check the Web sites of doctoral granting institutions for the financial resources they have available (see the Hasselback—Accounting Faculty Directory above). Other organizations providing support for doctoral candidates include the following:

The AICPA provides support for 17–20 minority doctoral candidates annually through its Minority Fellowship Program. See the Accounting Education Center site at http://ceae.aicpa.org .

The PhD Project ( www.phdproject.org/phd3.html ) aims to increase the diversity of business school faculty by attracting African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans and Native Americans to business doctoral programs.

State CPA societies may provide financial assistance to doctoral candidates. (For example, see the California Society of CPAs’ doctoral scholarship program at www.calcpa.org/careers/scholarships.htm .)

OPTION 2
To start teaching as professionally qualified faculty:

Assess your educational background and professional experience.

Colleges and universities hiring professional qualified faculty usually expect a master’s degree, a professional certification such as a CPA or CMA and professional experience.

If you determine you need additional academic credentials, start taking courses immediately. Colleges and universities are often willing to hire adjunct faculty who are in the process of completing their academic credentials.

Determine where you would like to teach.

Look at the position announcements on the Web site of the American Accounting Association ( http://aaahq.org/placements/default.cfm ) and the Chronicle of Higher Education ( http://chronicle.com/jobs/100 ).

Get to know the accounting department chairperson and the faculty at the schools where you might be interested in teaching. Volunteer to make presentations to their accounting organizations (Beta Alpha Psi, student chapter of the IMA or student chapters of the National Association of Black Accountants, for example).

Lay the groundwork for your academic career by offering to teach a course in the evenings. Send resumes to schools where you want to teach, and if possible, contact the department chairperson to schedule a visit. Stay in touch with the department chair and faculty.

CPAs who want the full academic experience—tenure track, research and full professorship—must earn a doctorate in accounting. This carries some opportunity cost, although most research universities waive tuition and pay a stipend to students accepted into their PhD program. A master’s degree generally isn’t required to enter a doctoral program, but typically applicants must take either the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) or the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT.)

Once they are accepted onto the faculty of a research university, freshly minted PhDs usually divide their time between teaching and research. They write and publish research papers that will become the primary basis for determining whether they are granted tenure, meaning they hold their position on a permanent basis without being subject to periodic contract renewals.

There are no hard-and-fast rules for how much research a new faculty member must produce to earn tenure. “The schools want to see quantity but also quality,” says Michelle Hanlon, an assistant professor of accounting at the University of Michigan. “You certainly need multiple papers published in top-tier journals, but the decision also is based on other variables—what people in the market think of your work, the frequency with which your papers are cited by other researchers and the impact they have in the accounting literature or in practice.”

CPAs who’ve made the transition to academia staunchly defend the role research plays. “The accounting environment constantly changes and will be changed by the people who are sitting in classrooms today,” says Stacy Mastrolia, a PhD candidate at the University of Tennessee and former controller at AB Electrolux. “We’re creating future accountants, but we’re also creating future regulators and professors, senators and lobbyists who will create change. We have to teach them to question, evaluate and challenge.”

  Education Means More Than Teaching

P rofessors serve a university’s education mission in two significant ways: by teaching students the current body of knowledge, and beyond teaching, by advancing the current body of knowledge through original research. Accounting educators are no exception. Moreover, “accounting research,” a term typically used in the university, does not mean simply interpreting existing regulations or even proposing new ones. Rather, original research involves investigating the difference accounting makes in society, including security prices, users’ judgments and decisions within firms. To advance this kind of research, the successful new accounting professor must be well-versed not only in accounting, but also in the theoretical underpinnings of accounting from finance, economics and psychology. In addition, a successful professor must be comfortable with the statistical tools to apply those theories to accounting research questions.

The experienced accounting professional who is considering pursuing a doctorate for a career in higher education should be applauded and encouraged. In most PhD programs, some practical experience in accounting is looked upon favorably in the admissions process because experience helps a new scholar identify relevant issues in both teaching and research. However, professionals contemplating such a move should be aware of the intense research expectations of most doctoral programs. The first-year doctoral student is more likely to take courses in econometrics, microeconomics, research methods, linear algebra and calculus than in accounting. This statistical, theoretical and mathematical background provides the foundation for conducting and interpreting research in accounting later in the program and as a new professor. Teaching is also important, of course, but the typical doctoral program assumes that new scholars need more training in research than in teaching. For this reason, the PhD is primarily a research degree.

Why Research?
Some might question why doctoral programs and the tenure standards for new professors place so much emphasis on research. Shouldn’t quality teaching be all that matters? The best answer is that teaching ultimately would become stale unless the teacher was willing to challenge the status quo and investigate how accounting influences capital markets and society in general. Research confers those skills. Put differently, a good researcher can answer not only “how-to” questions, but also the important “who-cares” and “what-if” questions that good students will ask.

Learning More
The professional who would like to learn more should scan recent issues of top academic research journals such as The Accounting Review, the Journal of Accounting Research or the more practice-oriented Accounting Horizons. In addition, the following articles offer insights:

Bell, Timothy B., Thomas J. Frecka and Ira Solomon. “The Relation Between Research Productivity and Teaching Effectiveness: Empirical Evidence for Accounting Educators.” Accounting Horizons, December 1993, 33–49.

Demski, Joel S. and Jerold L. Zimmerman. “On ‘Research vs. Teaching’: A Long-Term Perspective.” Accounting Horizons, September 2000, 343-352.

Kachelmeier, Steven J. “In Defense of Accounting Education.” The CPA Journal, October 2002, 34-38.

—Steven J. Kachelmeier, CPA (inactive), PhD, is the Charles T. Zlatkovich Centennial Professor of Accounting at the University of Texas, Austin. His e-mail address is kach@mail.utexas.edu .

FINDING THE RIGHT FIT
CPAs embarking on a tenure-track career should talk to accounting professors to find out more about the work and the schools that interest them. “Every school is different and every program is different,” says Mastrolia. She recommends prospective students call the program director at each school and ask questions about anything that concerns them—the stipend available to PhD candidates, the teaching opportunities, the opportunity to work on research projects during the program, and if it is a concern, the relevant coursework in their programs. To find schools whose research interests are aligned with yours, scan accounting journals for articles on topics that interest you, and then look to see at which university the authors are working.

For still more insight into what academic life is like, read the accompanying profiles of Barth and others who’ve successfully made the transition. Then, if you’re still interested, start calling on some professors. You’ve got nothing to lose, and a whole new career, perhaps, to gain.

Randy Myers is a financial writer and contributing editor for CFO, Corporate Board Member and Plan Sponsor magazines. His work for the Journal of Accountancy has twice been honored by the International Federation of Accountants, which in 2004 chose his article “Ensuring Ethical Effectiveness” for the Articles of Merit Award given out by the organization’s Professional Accountants in Business Committee. Myers lives in Dover, Pa.; his e-mail address is randy@randymyers.com .

 
EIGHT WHO MADE THE SWITCH
 
Mary Barth, CPA

M any CPAs leave accounting for academia near the beginning of their careers, when they have little to lose, or near the end, when they’ve earned enough money to retire. Not Mary Barth. She was in the prime of her career in 1985 when she gave up her job as audit partner at Arthur Andersen to enroll in Stanford University’s PhD program. The move was partly the realization of a high school dream, but the real catalyst was a FASB research paper examining the impact of price changes on financial statements. Barth was struck by the authors’ conclusion that the results often weren’t terribly reliable. “Reading that paper made me think that maybe there could be a marriage between my two loves: math and accounting,” she says. “I saw there were people in academia trying to address questions that people at FASB and in practice were grappling with, and I thought I’d like to work at the intersection of those two worlds.”

After earning her doctorate in 1989, Barth spent six years teaching at Harvard Business School before returning to Stanford, where her research into topics such as fair value accounting and the harmonization of international accounting led to an appointment to the 14-member International Accounting Standards Board in 2001. She also now serves as the school’s senior associate dean for academic affairs overseeing faculty recruiting, retention and promotion, and curriculum, and continues to do research and supervise PhD students in the accounting program. “What I like best,” she says, “is that I get to choose my research topics and what goes into my classes based on what I’m excited about. That’s a luxury.”

 
Susan Crosson, CPA

S usan Crosson has never regretted switching from being an auditor and tax specialist to a teacher. “I was 30 years old and going to have a family, and that was the time to start,” she recalls. “I felt teaching would give me the flexibility to raise a family and still use my skills as a CPA.”

With work experience for Peat Marwick Mitchell & Co. plus a master’s degree in accounting, Crosson began as a community college instructor in Kansas. After several moves due to her husband’s career, she now is at Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville, Fla., where she holds the dual roles of accounting coordinator and professor of accounting. She works about 30 hours per week, half in the classroom and half in her office or with students online. She also writes textbooks and is active in professional organizations, including the AICPA.

Crosson misses neither the “publish or perish” pressures of research-oriented institutions nor the competitiveness of the corporate world. “You don’t teach at a community college for the money. You do it for the love of teaching and for the students, and because you can have a tax practice on the side, or are raising your children or you have an aged parent to take care of. Working here, you can juggle life a little.”

 
Michelle Hanlon, CPA

A ccountants who switch to academia have a fundamental decision to make: to teach exclusively or to combine teaching and research. If they want only to teach, they can move directly into the classroom at most schools; to secure a research post, they must earn a PhD at a research-oriented university.

Michelle Hanlon earned her PhD at the University of Washington in 2002 and now is pursuing a career in research at the University of Michigan. She urges anyone considering a PhD program to enroll at a research university. “You can always do the research PhD and go to a teaching school,” she says, “but you can’t skip learning how to do research and go to a research university.”

Though she had been out of school only a short while, when she entered Washington’s PhD program she found the difference between a doctoral program and undergraduate work striking. “The first few years are concentrated in economics, statistics and econometrics—the tools you use to do research,” she says. “And you’re in PhD-level economics classes with people who are getting PhDs in economics, so you’re not the smartest person in the class anymore.” Hanlon says she found the going smoother once the classroom work was finished and she was able to concentrate on writing her doctoral thesis.

Now Hanlon teaches MBA students seven weeks each year and devotes the rest of her time to research.

She can’t envision a better career. “I like the combination of research and teaching,” she says. “You get to deal with people but also with issues.” The freedom from time constraints is exhilarating, although she spends about 11 hours each day in the office. “I don’t have to charge my time or keep track of what I’m doing every 15 minutes,” she says. “I work a lot of hours, but they’re my hours, not client hours.”

 
Kevin Jackson, CPA

I n 1998 Kevin Jackson was doing well in his job as manager of assurance and advisory business services in the San Antonio, Texas, office of Ernst & Young—but practicing accounting didn’t give him a great deal of job satisfaction. Far more rewarding was the occasional work he did recruiting job candidates from colleges and training other staff members. So he left to pursue a PhD in accounting at the University of Texas, Austin.

The biggest adjustment to academic life, he says, was remembering how to become self-sufficient. “As a PhD student or even an assistant professor, you get very little supervision or guidance,” he says. “What structure we have, we impose on ourselves.”

Now an assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Jackson is delighted to have found work that makes him happy. “People should go into academia when they feel they have something to say and want to make a difference,” he says. “I think of this career as a journey in which we’re meant to be of service to others.”

 

Christian Mastilak, CPA

C asting about for a new direction, Christian Mastilak realized that the aspect of his work he enjoyed most was training colleagues, which he did with some regularity as the office’s de facto software expert. So in 2002 he entered Michigan State University’s PhD accounting program.

“When you go into the research world, people challenge you to make your thinking very clear,” he says. Mastilak was in for some surprises when he got back to the classroom. “It’s amazing how vague and fuzzy my thinking was before I came here. And being a PhD student is not like being an undergraduate. The class load is lighter, but you do a lot more independent work, a lot more thinking.”

Mastilak has enjoyed being surrounded by people who are, he admits, smarter than he is. “I like to have people push me,” he says. But, he’s been disappointed by the limited number of topics relating to managerial accounting that the academic community considers appropriate for research. Still, he says, “my worst day of doing this was better than my best day as a practicing CPA.”

 
Stacy Mastrolia, CPA

A s division controller for the multi-billion-dollar North American division of AB Electrolux, Stacy Mastrolia was a leader. So when she became a doctoral student at the University of Tennessee, the magnitude of the change surprised her. “Before I entered the PhD program, I knew what was expected of me in order to be successful,” she says. “Then all of a sudden I was ignorant. I had no idea of the structure of classes or the cadence of the day, much less the factors for success.”

Why chuck the corporate life? For Mastrolia it was largely that she wanted to explore the regulatory environment—corporate governance, the accounting scandals and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act—more completely. “What I was doing was so much smaller, so much more applications-based, than these huge changes sweeping through the profession,” she says. “I wanted to explore the whole length and breadth of corporate governance, how it works and what makes it break down, without being constrained by an individual corporation’s goals and objectives.”

Mastrolia is looking forward to earning her PhD and landing a faculty position that will give her much more control of her schedule and her work. “As a controller I’d have meetings scheduled from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and usually seem to be working on somebody else’s agenda,” she says. “Academia leaves you a lot of time to work on what interests you.”

One very appealing aspect about a career in academia, she says, is the variety of opportunities available to fit an individual’s personal and professional goals and objective. A PhD can choose primarily to teach, do research or a combination of the two. A faculty member can specialize in the specific area of accounting that interests him or her and choose among positions in a small private college, a large public university or something in between; one can choose a small-town lifestyle or a big-city lifestyle. There is something for everyone.

 
Bill Stanley, JD

Tax attorney Bill Stanley always hoped to retire at age 55 and become a teacher. But when Phillips Petroleum Co., where he was general tax counsel, merged with Conoco Inc. in 2002, 48-year-old Stanley took the opportunity to make the move sooner. “A lot of successful people are those who do something different in their lifetimes,” he says. Teaching may run in his blood too; his mother, now retired, was a teacher and one of his sisters is a teacher, as were most of the influential people in his life.

As an executive in residence at his undergraduate alma mater Oklahoma State University, he generally teaches two to three courses per semester, about 30 hours per week, including classroom, office and prep time. He earns far less than he did at Phillips—but he’s not doing it for the money.

One of the biggest challenges, he says, was learning to connect with students who weren’t enthusiastic. “Too many students at university just seem to be going through the motions,” he says. “My biggest adjustment has been learning how to devise lesson plans that engage all the students.”

 
Harvey Zimmermann, CPA

In 2002, after a 30-year career with KPMG that culminated in his becoming partner in charge of the Dallas/Fort Worth Energy Practice, Harvey Zimmermann found himself back on campus at the University of North Texas, where he had earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

An interest in academia had kept him in touch with many of the professors over the years. So he was quickly welcomed onto the faculty of the department of accounting. His classes can cover various subjects: auditing, advanced accounting, financial statement analysis or managerial accounting, and he oversees the department’s internship program. In addition, he assists the chair with fund-raising. Transitioning from the professional world to academia is not the cakewalk some on the outside imagine, he says.

“A lot of people who’ve had long careers in business assume they can just come in and teach,” he says. “But you have to do a lot of preparation and planning for everything from timing when you present certain parts of the course to selecting course materials, grading and interacting with the students. It’s enjoyable but it is time-consuming.”

He enjoys the classroom experience and the feeling of paying back the school. “I feel good that I’m able to give back some of what I was able to capitalize on in my career,” he says.

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