Experience, Not Just Education, Valuable for Professors

BY JUNE JAGER-NORMAN

I read your article “Closing the Gap in the Supply of Accounting Faculty” (March 09, page 36) with another grimace on my face, as I have each time the AICPA has addressed this issue in recent years.

 

The gap could be easily closed once the accreditation agencies come to the realization that professionally qualified individuals can do just as well in the classroom as doctorally degreed individuals. I understand that each of the authors is a Ph.D. or Ph.D. student, and thus sees only one solution to the problem—to get more students into Ph.D. programs. The accreditation agencies also have the same slant.

 

However, when everyone comes to the realization that a practitioner with a master’s degree and 10 or 20 years of experience and a love of teaching has his or her own special gifts to bring to the classroom, then perhaps the gap could be successfully bridged.

 

A Ph.D. in accounting is essentially a degree in statistics, allowing the graduate to research. But the students in the classroom are there, in my case, to learn tax, not statistics. I believe the undergraduate and graduate tax students have much to gain from the practitioner with 10 years of actual practical tax experience.

 

There are many, many practitioners who have a gift for teaching and who want to give back to the profession by motivating students in the classroom and guiding them to careers in tax and auditing. Many of these individuals have discovered this gift after 10 or 15 years, or even a career in accounting—when they are at a point in their life that moving their family across the country to a Ph.D. program for one-third the salary they are currently earning is just impractical, especially given the one or two more moves following the Ph.D. program. This may work for a 22-year-old, but not a 32- or 42-year-old.

 

These well-intentioned individuals have excellent practical experience to share in the classroom, yet, all across the country they are not permitted to teach full time in the state and larger institutions due to their lack of a Ph.D. The only places they can teach full time are the smaller private schools or two-year technical colleges, where they can earn a whopping $40,000 a year for an annual teaching load of nine classes. I believe this is to what you are referring where your article states:

 

“Although PQ [professionally qualified] faculty positions are not as numerous as AQ [academically qualified] faculty positions in the United States and do not offer the same compensation and benefits that AQ faculty receive as researchers, becoming a PQ faculty member may be an excellent way for an experienced accounting professional to move into a career in higher education.

 

“Do not offer the same compensation and benefits”—$40K vs. $135K—isn’t that a bit of an understatement?

 

Also, MBA schools across the country have developed weekend college and online MBAs. When will quality Ph.D. programs create nontraditional programs allowing experienced individuals to earn the Ph.D. degree without moving their family?

 

Once again, down the road, when actually facing no Ph.D.s to teach next semester’s classes, then and only then will the leaders of these institutions push the accrediting agencies to realize that professionally experienced individuals are well-qualified to teach the classes, and they can bring a career of experience to the classroom as well as employment connections, practical examples and enthusiasm for the profession. When everyone realizes this on a nationwide level at the state and larger schools, then your gap will be filled.

 

June Jager-Norman, CPA, MST

Sole practitioner and adjunct faculty member,

University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee

 

Author’s reply: Thanks for your comments to our article. You raise important and complex issues. I regret, however, that you felt our article was by Ph.D.s, for Ph.D.s. We wrote this article to inform practitioners that opportunities do exist for both academically and professionally qualified faculty—that’s why we submitted this article to the Journal of Accountancy, since the JofA is well-regarded by both the academic and professional accounting communities.

 

The AICPA, AAA, AACSB, other professional and academic organizations, and some colleges and universities are taking steps to address faculty shortages. We hope our article makes practitioners aware of these initiatives. The solution is not as simple as hiring all Ph.D.s, or hiring all non-Ph.D.s, but rather, finding the faculty complement that best matches a business school’s strategic mission and considers other important factors, such as accreditation and resource constraints.

 

Regarding your comment about differences in compensation levels between Ph.D.s and non-Ph.D.s, our intent is to point out that differences exist in compensation between Ph.D. and non-Ph.D. faculty. We did not want to mislead non-Ph.D. professionals interested in higher education careers into thinking that they would receive the same compensation and have the same responsibilities as Ph.D. faculty. Yes, some schools, generally the community colleges and small private schools, do pay in the $40,000 to $50,000 range to teach full course loads. At the same time, however, compensation for non-Ph.D. faculty varies considerably by school and geographic market.

 

A number of nationally ranked business schools in the Boston area hire permanent, full-time non-Ph.D. faculty. I have also seen a number of ads on HigherEdJobs.com and have read articles over the last several years about well-regarded colleges and universities across the country that recruited for full-time, permanent non-Ph.D. faculty. The AACSB Bridge Program, which receives some funding from the AICPA, also distributes resumes of Bridge Program “graduates” to AACS-Baccredited programs.

 

Graduates of the top Ph.D. programs, who tend to migrate to large state universities or private universities, often located in major metropolitan areas, do earn high salaries, often higher than the $135,000 existing benchmark. Top researchers will always be in demand in any discipline. Good accounting researchers use not only statistics, but also economics, psychology, accounting and many other subject areas to ask the relevant questions that help advance new knowledge of topics such as audit quality and the economic effects of companies’ accounting choices.

 

Training researchers requires significant faculty resources, which is one reason Ph.D. programs are small, even for fulltime programs, and is the main reason why many schools don’t offer online doctoral programs.

 

For professionals seeking a doctoral program with a greater practice orientation, there are also options for executive doctoral programs. Case Western Reserve University offers a well-established executive doctoral program. Kennesaw State University is now starting an executive DBA program that requires limited time on campus. Other universities are considering similar types of programs, which allow a candidate to earn a doctorate without the disruption of moving the family.

 

Michael F. Ruff, CPA

Norfolk, Mass.

 

SPONSORED REPORT

How to make the most of a negotiation

Negotiators are made, not born. In this sponsored report, we cover strategies and tactics to help you head into 2017 ready to take on business deals, salary discussions and more.

VIDEO

Will the Affordable Care Act be repealed?

The results of the 2016 presidential election are likely to have a big impact on federal tax policy in the coming years. Eddie Adkins, CPA, a partner in the Washington National Tax Office at Grant Thornton, discusses what parts of the ACA might survive the repeal of most of the law.

QUIZ

News quiz: Scam email plagues tax professionals—again

Even as the IRS reported on success in reducing tax return identity theft in the 2016 season, the Service also warned tax professionals about yet another email phishing scam. See how much you know about recent news with this short quiz.