The Accounting Ph.D. program prepares individuals for careers in research, teaching, and service at the university level. The program stresses high-quality research at the frontiers of knowledge. A majority of the student’s time in the program is dedicated to developing, refining, and applying their research skills. The defining achievement for each successful student is an original research dissertation on a topic of the student’s choosing. The faculty work closely with students in identifying, refining, and approving the dissertation topic. At the same time, the program has a proud tradition of producing high-quality teachers and promotes a strong emphasis on collegiality. Students work closely with faculty in an apprenticeship-type approach. 

The admission process is highly competitive. Ideal candidates possess a strong academic background including prior study of accounting at the undergraduate or graduate level. Standardized scores on the GMAT generally must show evidence of strong aptitude. GRE scores are also accepted.  Many of our strongest candidates have prior work experience in accounting or business-related careers. Top candidates are invited to campus for an interview to evaluate the individual’s fit with the program. Typically, two to four candidates are admitted per year out of 60-70 applications.

After admission, students are expected to have a close relationship with their faculty sponsor(s) through research and teaching assistantships, co-authored research, advising, and dissertation chairmanship.


Students entering the Ph.D. program are expected to have a well-rounded academic background. While creativity and a sharp analytical mind are key drivers of success, students must also have a strong mathematical background. We suggest the following courses be taken prior to entering the program. In some cases, these courses can be completed early in the program itself.

  1. Two semesters of undergraduate calculus
  2. An upper-division course in linear algebra
  3. An upper-division course in microeconomic theory, taught using a mathematical approach

Students are encouraged to have an accounting background. We typically look for students with an undergraduate or graduate degree in accounting or the equivalent. While many students have completed master’s degrees or an MBA program, it is not critical. In limited cases, a degree in the related fields of psychology, economics, or sociology coupled with demonstrated interest in accounting is sufficient. 

Accounting Major Requirements

The program generally requires four to five years in residence to complete. The first two years are dedicated largely to coursework. Qualifying exams are taken during the second summer, with successful completion leading to the dissertation phase. Financial support is provided during the program in the form of teaching and research assistantships, grants, and scholarships. Most students engage in research with faculty that in early years involves working as an assistant and in later years leads to joint authored work. Students also get ample opportunity to lead teaching efforts in the classroom.

Three seminars in accounting research (three credits each) are required.

  1. ACCT IS 971A Introduction to Accounting Research
  2. ACCT IS 971B Behavioral Accounting Research
  3. ACCT IS 971C Archival Accounting Research

Students in our program must develop a basic research background in both archival and behavioral empirical research. Most students ultimately specialize in the research area and methodology that best suits their skills and research interests. The program is one of the most balanced programs in the country in terms of support for different research methodologies and topics. The faculty is particularly strong in the fields of financial accounting, managerial accounting, and auditing. Both behavioral (including experimental economics) and archival methods are strongly supported.

Students are also required to develop specialization in a related field such as economics, psychology, or sociology. Core courses include either AG ECON 635 or ECON 711 (Microeconomic Theory) and one economics elective. The electives should be chosen from the following: ECON 461, 464, 467, 501, 521, 548, 712, 713, 741, 743, 761.

Finally, students must build a foundation in statistics that supports their research interests. Methodology courses in economics or agricultural economics such as AG ECON 636/637 or ECON 709/710 or a course in psychology such as PSCH 610/710 will generally provide a strong foundation. 

Supporting Courses

A minor emphasis is also completed during coursework, consisting of three to five courses in finance, psychology, economics, sociology, or other approved disciplines. The sequence of courses in the minor should provide the coherent program of study that prepares the student to complete the dissertation. The minor course sequence requires approval of the student’s faculty advisor and the Accounting and Information Systems Ph.D. director. Together with other coursework, the sequence must meet Graduate School requirements. A common approach is to develop a distributed minor drawing on key courses across related fields.

Independent Research

Students are required to present to the faculty an original research project often co-authored with a faculty member or with another student by the end of the student’s third year in the program. Independent of the presentation requirement, students must have completed a draft of their dissertation proposal prior to the preliminary oral examination typically late in their third year.