From practice to the classroom

By the Ph.D. route or professionally qualified, CPAs have much to offer.

At some point in their careers, many CPA practitioners have said, “I wonder what it would be like to teach.” The traditional path to a teaching or research appointment as a tenure-track faculty member (academically qualified, or AQ, faculty) usually involves obtaining a Ph.D. Another path, professionally qualified, or PQ, faculty, however, is more direct, allowing entry into the academy with much less risk and academic preparation.

The opportunity for accounting professionals to serve as educators is a key item of consideration by the Pathways Commission (The Commission on Accounting Higher Education: Pathways to a Profession), which recently issued its final report (see related article, “Commission issues seven recommendations for bolstering the future of accounting education,” and the full report, which is available at This article contains information about why the current environment in higher education provides enhanced teaching opportunities for PQ accounting instructors, general information about AQ and PQ faculty, and results of a survey of PQ faculty. 


Educators recognize that CPAs with relevant professional experience offer much value to the classroom. Whether higher education rewards professional experience properly is a controversial issue that has been examined by the Pathways Commission, which made a number of recommendations. For example, see the first objective of its first recommendation: “Integrate professionally oriented [the term the commission uses for professionally qualified] faculty more fully into significant aspects of accounting education, programs, and research.”

As two related “action items,” the commission proposes that the profession “identify, attract, and develop practitioners to become professionally oriented faculty” and that colleges and universities include them as “full and valued members of the accounting faculty.” A professional who combines experience with a desire and aptitude for teaching embodies a great opportunity for successful learning outcomes.

Another factor is a well-publicized looming shortage of new AQ accounting faculty (see related article, "The Accounting Doctoral Scholars Program: A status report"). The most-often cited reasons for the shortage are increasing enrollments in undergraduate accounting programs, the wave of anticipated retirements of accounting faculty, economic costs to obtain a Ph.D., and fewer available slots for accounting doctoral education.

The most recent report on trends in supply and demand for accounting graduates published by the AICPA indicates that 60% of program leaders think that enrollment in their Ph.D. programs will be lower two years from now. Only 17% forecast higher enrollments in Ph.D. programs. (The report is available at The same report identifies increasing concern over capacity constraints in accounting programs, with more qualified applicants being turned away. This shortage means that there should be more opportunities for practitioners to fill the need that cannot be met with Ph.D.s. The Pathways report supports what it says has been a trend toward greater use of PQ faculty by integrating them into full-time positions with broad academic responsibilities (Action Item 1.1.1.), including helping to develop and modify accounting curricula (Chapter 5, “Impediments and Potential Solutions” under “Faculty”).

A third factor is the recent decline in financial support for higher education in many states. Accounting programs can manage the cost cuts by hiring accounting instructors at lower salaries than those paid to Ph.D.s. For example, in the 2011–12 U.S. Salary Survey Report of the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), the average nine-month salary for a new accounting Ph.D. was $135,500, compared with $71,200 for an instructor. (The salary survey’s executive summary is available at Furthermore, instructors without Ph.D.s and research requirements typically teach more sections of classes, sometimes doubling the number of students for half the cost. As long as it does not jeopardize their accreditation, many schools may take this avenue when they replace faculty.

AACSB standards allow up to 50% of faculty resources to be PQ (the percentage varies by level of program) rather than AQ. AACSB member institutions in the 2011–12 salary survey indicated that, on average, about 19% of accounting faculty in accredited accounting programs are PQ. This suggests that there is plenty of room under the standards for additional PQ hiring.

The other major business program accrediting body, the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP), allows up to 60% of undergraduate credit hours in business to be taught by PQ faculty. ACBSP accreditation standards for associate’s degree programs recognize instructors with master’s degrees as qualified to teach all classes. PQ faculty with bachelor’s degrees can teach up to 50% of undergraduate credit hours in business in these two-year college programs.

Add to these factors a push toward greater inclusion of professionals in academics implicated by the Pathways Commission’s recommendations, and it appears that there may be more opportunities ahead for PQ faculty.


Academic qualification requires both original preparation as evidenced by a terminal degree and subsequent activities that indicate continued preparation for teaching and research responsibilities. This means that, to be considered AQ, a faculty member must hold a doctorate and be an active scholar, a condition most often evidenced in publication and presentation of research.

Professional qualification is recognized as an important component in ensuring that students are exposed to current business practices. Similar to AQ standards, PQ standards require original preparation and subsequent activities that indicate continued currency in the field. Unlike those standards, however, the original preparation for PQ can be in the form of a master’s degree and a certain level of professional experience. The professional experience must be relevant, significant, and current at the time of hiring. Subsequent activities required to maintain PQ status can include research, continued professional experience, consulting, and other professional activities. Each school establishes a PQ policy that defines the specific qualifications required at hiring and the performance expectations required to maintain PQ status. The criteria vary by each school depending on its mission, but there is generally less variation among schools with regard to PQ expectations than there is with regard to AQ expectations. An example of a typical PQ policy appears in the sidebar “PQ Faculty Example Policy.”

PQ Faculty Example Policy

A professionally qualified person must hold a master’s degree from an AACSB-accredited school (J.D. from an ABA-accredited law school) and have significant professional work experience in the discipline at the time of hire. The professional experience must be significant in duration (at least five full years), significant in responsibility, and current at the hiring date (not more than two years prior to date of hire). To sustain PQ status, the person’s portfolio of development activities should be appropriate to maintain his or her individual intellectual capital. Specifically, PQ status is maintained during a five-year period by:

Obtaining sufficient hours for continued licensure with the appropriate licensing board, OR if not licensed or license does not exist in discipline, obtaining 30 hours per year of continuing education in an area related to the teaching discipline; AND EITHER

(1) Conducting an active and ongoing consulting practice, or accounting practice, or law practice through which the person engages in significant professional activities, OR

(2) Creating and delivering professional education program(s) (minimum of eight hours), OR

(3) Publishing one paper in an academic or professional journal (must be lead author), or publishing two academic proceedings (one must be as lead author).

The above are minimum requirements. The burden of adequate evidence of qualifying and maintaining PQ status is the responsibility of the person. The classification status is to be made by the department head and approved by the dean. The classification status is not subject to appeal by the person. After the hire, an annual PQ Faculty Report is to be completed by the person and approved by the department head and dean. The PQ Faculty Report will ensure that the person is maintaining PQ status.

Note: This is the PQ policy of an AACSB-accredited business school with separate accounting accreditation at a master’s degree-granting university.

For someone who is wondering what it would be like to teach and is interested in doing so at an accredited business school, the next move is to decide to dive headfirst into a Ph.D. program to become academically qualified or to test the waters with a PQ appointment. Exhibit 1 compares the differences between the two types of positions. The responsibilities of AQ faculty vary considerably between different types of programs. For example, an AQ faculty member at a Ph.D.-granting institution would face considerably tougher publication requirements to earn tenure than an AQ faculty member at a school that does not have a Ph.D. program, even if both are accredited.


To determine how accounting instructors view various aspects of their jobs, the authors emailed a link to an online survey to 301 PQ faculty randomly selected from the 638 PQ faculty listed at the time in the Hasselback Directory of Accounting Faculty (which is intended to be a comprehensive nationwide directory supported by the American Accounting Association and available at Sixty-eight surveys were completed, resulting in a 23% response rate. The results of the survey are reported online at Major findings included:

  • Women outnumbered men nearly 2 to 1.
  • Most respondents were between 40 and 60 years old.
  • Most were at least 20-year veterans of the accounting profession.
  • Most taught between 10 and 12 credit hours per semester.
  • The average nine-month salary among respondents who gave their salary information was $57,674.
  • Respondents generally did not earn a substantial amount of income outside teaching, with the PQ faculty member contributing about half of the total household income.
  • They took pride in their contributions and felt appreciated by students, but many felt unappreciated by AQ faculty.
  • Many thought that their greater workload and lesser compensation than those of AQ faculty were not justified.
  • Most reported a stronger sense of fulfillment and other intangible rewards in teaching than in practice; however, many reported diminished job security, career prospects, and compensation.

Instructors also were allowed to comment on their roles as educators at the conclusion of the survey. Several comments referred to the motivation to teach and the intrinsic rewards associated with teaching, such as the following:

  • “I feel teaching is a calling. If you don’t have it, there is no reason to go that direction.”
  • “You have to enjoy teaching. Teaching is not for everyone. But if you enjoy teaching, it is one of the most rewarding things you can do with your time.”

While such feelings by themselves may not provide enough justification for a career change to academics, it is clear that the decision does not fit neatly into an analysis of tangible costs and benefits. Others wrote that they also found the campus workplace attractive in other ways, such as having summers off.
Not all of the comments were positive. Several respondents said they felt like “second-class citizens,” earning far less than AQ faculty and being subject to the uncertainty of annual contract renewal.

More comments from the survey may be read at

Such comments and data reveal that many PQ faculty are not satisfied with their treatment by universities. Accounting program leaders and AQ faculty should take note and work to ameliorate these concerns if they are to create optimal learning and working environments. To help overcome the “cultural barriers” to greater integration of PQ faculty, the Pathways Commission recommends involving them more in developing curricula, serving on teaching-related committees, and similar functions. It recommends establishing a working group to describe best practices and, to survey current practices, produced a sample questionnaire for program leaders about the role of full-time, non-tenure-track faculty in their institutions (Appendix B of the report).

As part of the survey, comments were also solicited from accounting program leaders regarding PQ faculty contributions and issues. One comment suggested that PQ faculty “must be a better teacher than tenure-track faculty because it is the primary” responsibility of the position. Others focused more on what the university can do to encourage PQ faculty: “[Departments that create a] friendly atmosphere and treat PQ faculty respectfully and as full members of the faculty will be most successful.”

For more of their comments, see

The next time you say, “I wonder what it would be like to teach,” perhaps you can draw from the information presented here to inform your next move. You can consider your qualifications. Do you want to pursue the Ph.D. and a tenure-track appointment? Or do you want to go directly into a teaching position with your current professional qualifications? Given the implementation goals of the Pathways Commission, this latter option may become more viable than it has been previously. With the prevailing economic conditions, the school in which you are interested could have needs that a well-qualified CPA could meet.


Becoming a tenure-track, or academically qualified (AQ) faculty member of a college or university usually involves obtaining an advanced terminal degree, such as a Ph.D. The route for professionally qualified (PQ) faculty is more direct, with less academic preparation but usually with a wealth of professional experience to draw upon.

That experience is one factor in growing attention to the role of PQ faculty. The Pathways Commission, which is now implementing recommendations of its final report, has called for greater appreciation of PQ faculty and their integration into significant functions of accounting education programs. The commission also calls upon the accounting profession to develop practitioners to become PQ faculty.

Findings of the authors’ survey of PQ faculty include that women outnumbered men and that most were between 40 and 60 years old. Their average salary was slightly more than half the figure for AQ faculty reported by an accrediting agency for business schools.

However, many PQ faculty reported strong job satisfaction and in survey comments spoke of the intangible rewards of teaching and working in an academic setting.

Robert L. Braun ( ) is a professor of accounting at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, La., and Shawn Mauldin ( ) is dean of the College of Business Administration and professor of accounting at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, La.

To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Paul Bonner, senior editor, at or 919-402-4434.


JofA articles


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2011 Trends in the Supply of Accounting Graduates and the Demand for Public Accounting Recruits

Pathways Commission report, Charting a National Strategy for the Next Generation of Accountants



AACSB 2011–12 U.S. Salary Survey Report (executive summary)

Where to find March’s flipbook issue

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