Best Online PhD Programs in Accounting
Learn about online accounting PhD and doctoral programs, including common coursework and program length. Then, get tips on how to choose a program that fits your situation and explore schools that offer accounting doctoral programs.
Schools with Online Accounting PhD Programs
Although online accounting doctoral programs are not prevalent, select schools have developed either fully online or hybrid programs that allow students to focus on accounting at the doctoral level. The schools below all offer accounting-centered doctoral degrees that are flexible, accommodating to professionals, and accredited.
George Fox University
George Fox University, located in Newberg, Oregon, is home to a hybrid 56-credit Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) degree program that offers a concentration in accounting. This is a 4-year, flexible program that allows students to complete their coursework online but also requires 2 on-campus residencies each year where students meet with their peers and their faculty. To further help students make personal and professional connections, this DBA program features a cohort model where students take classes and move through their doctoral studies with the same group of peers.
The price per semester hour for this DBA program is $954. George Fox University is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) and the DBA program has received accreditation from the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP).
Trident at American InterContinental University
Located in Chandler, Arizona, Trident at American InterContinental University, which is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), offers a PhD in Business Administration with a concentration in Accounting/Finance. Students take 10 total courses, with 2 of those courses being within the accounting concentration, and they also complete comprehensive exams and a dissertation.
This is a 100% online program with no residency requirements. At Trident at American InterContinental University, students pay $990 per credit with veterans and their family members paying $885 and current military members paying $800.
Indiana Wesleyan University
Indiana Wesleyan University, which is located in Marion, Indiana, has a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) degree program that allows students to choose a specialization in accounting. This DBA can be completed through online coursework in only 3 years and requires students to attend on-campus residencies at the beginning of each year. Students benefit from being paired with a mentor who guides them through the program. Indiana Wesleyan University students pay an affordable rate of $595 per credit for this 68-hour program.
Overview of Online Accounting PhD Programs
Online PhD in Accounting programs are somewhat rare and are more widely available as on-campus programs. However, students wishing to earn their doctoral degree online can choose a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) program or a PhD in Business Management or Administration program that offers a concentration in the field of accounting, which are more broadly available as online programs.
Doctoral-level accounting programs are intensive programs that require significant commitment. Students are usually able to complete coursework in an online format but most programs have some real-world requirements. For example, some programs require students to come to campus to participate in residencies, which could include orientations, classes, seminars, advising, or dissertation/capstone work. These residencies could take place once or twice each year during the program or could be required just twice during the entire course of the program. There are, however, a limited number of accounting-focused doctoral programs that have no in-person or residency requirements.
Along with coursework, students are usually also required to complete comprehensive or qualifying exams, which cover the important concepts, theories, and research in their specific area of study. Comprehensive exams may include a written part that requires students analyze and write about a research journal article or other work as well as an oral part where they defend the written part of their exam or explain their dissertation topic. Typically, these exams occur after students have completed coursework and before they start the dissertation process.
Most online doctoral programs in accounting require a final dissertation or doctoral project. This is a lengthy work of original research in a student's chosen area of study. The dissertation process can take 1 to 2 years or more and requires that students defend their work in front of their dissertation committee, which is made up of program faculty and a student's dissertation advisor.
How Long Does It Take to Earn a Doctorate in Accounting?
The length of online doctoral programs in accounting can vary based on how the program is designed, yet most programs can be completed in 3 to 4 years. However, some programs might allow students up to 8 years to complete their doctoral degrees. Typically, you spend your first years in your program completing coursework and exams and the latter years in the program completing research and your dissertation.
What Will I Learn in an Accounting Doctoral Program?
Your coursework in an online accounting PhD or doctoral program depends on the exact focus of your program. Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) and PhD in Business Management or Administration programs may require that you take business-centered courses along with your accounting concentration courses.
As accounting doctoral programs are research-driven, you usually take several courses that center on accounting research methods. These types of courses may cover different research methodologies that you will use later in your dissertation research. These classes, sometimes called seminars, also include the study of important empirical accounting literature and theories that center on such topics as financial reporting, cost accounting, and behavioral accounting.
You might take specific courses on managerial accounting, which is the study of how to make management-level decisions based on accounting information, or courses on auditing, which could cover internal and external auditing topics and literature. You could also study accounting ethics and theories as well as accounting decision making.
Last, you take dissertation writing and research courses, where you complete your own research into your chosen specialty and work on completing your dissertation.
How Do I Choose an Accounting Doctoral Program?
As online doctoral accounting programs require such a large commitment on your part, you want to make sure that you choose a program that works for you. That's why we suggest considering the below factors, such as program cost, in-person requirements, and admission requirements.
For many, the total cost of earning your degree is the most important factor to consider when choosing a program. Doctoral-level programs in accounting can range from $595 to $990 per credit. Most universities also charge additional fees, such as online course, technology, and library fees. Also, if it takes longer for you to complete your dissertation, you may have to take additional dissertation hours, which you will have to pay tuition for.
On top of those costs, you will also want to plan for textbooks and course materials. If your program has any residency requirements, then you also want to think about the cost of travel, lodgings, and food. You can ask your prospective programs for a breakdown of total costs in order to compare costs among programs.
As most accounting doctoral programs have some sort of on-campus residency requirement, you want to be certain that you can complete that part of the program and are able to travel to where your school is located. That might mean choosing a program closer to where you are located. However, if you cannot come to campus, then you want to choose a program that can be completed fully online.
Admission requirements can also help you decide which program to attend. Most programs require that you have already earned a master's degree; however, a limited number of programs accept candidates who only have a bachelor's degree as long as they meet other criteria, such as having a 3.6 GPA and submitting GRE/GMAT scores.
Most programs also require that you have at least 5 years of professional experience, but some may not have this requirement. Additionally, a limited number of programs require students to be a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or that you have completed accounting coursework. You will be able to narrow down your prospective programs based on your educational and professional background.
Accreditation Information for Accounting Doctoral Programs
Accreditation is a rigorous documentation process that demonstrates a school and/or program has met high, independent standards of quality. Generally, there are two types of accreditation that are important for doctoral accounting degrees: regional accreditation and program accreditation.
Regional accreditation is completed by different agencies that are approved by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). These agencies accredit colleges and universities (the entire school) within a specific geographic area. Examples of regional accreditors include the:
- WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
- New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
- Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
- Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
Regional accreditation is important -- not only will you be assured that your university has met high academic and resource standards but only students who attend accredited schools can access federal financial aid.
Program and School Accreditation
In addition to regional accreditation, you can also look for your doctoral accounting program to be accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP), which accredits business and accounting programs on all levels based on standards that include teaching excellence, student outcomes, and program improvement. Schools with business and accounting programs can also receive accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), which has accreditation standards based on student resources, faculty credentials, and professional engagement.
Scholarships & Financial Aid for Accounting Doctoral Programs
To help you afford your accounting doctorate degree, you can apply for federal financial aid and can also take advantage of scholarships awarded to accounting students. Additionally, you can work with your program or your school's financial aid department to find other sources of funding.
To discover the types and amount of federal aid you qualify for, you must fill out and submit the U.S. Department of Education's Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Typically, graduate students can access the following types of aid:
- Direct Unsubsidized Loans - For undergraduate, graduate, and professional students.
- Direct PLUS Loans - For parents of dependent undergraduate students, graduate, and professional students.
- Direct Consolidation Loans - A program that allows students to combine all new and previous loans into a single loan.
Along with federal aid, you can also help offset the cost of your accounting doctoral degree by applying for scholarships. Below are examples of scholarships that are offered exclusively to students pursuing a doctoral degree in accounting.
AICPA Fellowship for Minority Doctoral Students
This is a $12,000 award for a minority student of Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino, or Native American heritage who will be pursuing a doctoral degree and plans to become a CPA.
William (Bill) Ezzell Scholarship
This is a $10,000 award for a current CPA who is pursuing a PhD in Accounting. Candidates must have 3 years of professional experience in the accounting field.
Mary Feeney Bonowitz PhD Scholarship
This is a $1,000 award from the Accounting & Financial Women's Alliance (AFWA) for an AFWA member who is pursuing a PhD degree in accounting.
What Can I Do with an Accounting Doctoral Degree?
With a PhD or a doctoral degree in accounting, you can pursue a career as an accountant or an accounting professor.
Accountants are financial experts who work in a range of industries, such as in government, healthcare, or private business. With a PhD, you can either specialize in one subfield of accounting, such as forensic accounting or managerial accounting, or become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), among other options. Typically, accountants analyze financial statements, prepare tax returns, manage account books and accounting systems, and manage financial operations.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), accountants and auditors earned a median salary of $71,550 in 2019, and the number of jobs is expected to rise 6% from 2018-2028.
Accounting professors work in colleges or universities where they teach within their area of specialty. Professors must create curriculums, hold classes, work for their department, and conduct their own research.
As per the BLS's 2019 numbers, postsecondary teachers in the business field earned a median salary of $87,200, and this profession is expected to see a 15% increase from 2018-2028.
Professional Accounting Organizations
There are several professional accounting organizations that work to promote accounting standards and support those in the field. These organizations also offer membership opportunities that can help boost your career.
American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA)
With over 429,000 members, the AICPA is a leading organization in the field and advocates for the accounting profession, develops educational programs, and administers a number of professional certifications, including the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) credential. As a paid AICPA member, you can access professional development resources, discounts, and AICPA publications.
Accounting & Financial Women's Alliance (AFWA)
The AFWA is dedicated to helping women in the fields of accounting and finance advance their careers by holding an annual conference, offering educational resources, and hosting a job board. By joining the AFWA, you get access to AFWA publications, networking opportunities, scholarships, and various discounts.