The Official Pathways Commission

The Commission on Accounting Higher Education: Pathways to a Profession

This is a public Pathways  public


  • AAA HQ
    Rec #4: Technology Survey5
    discussion posted October 8, 2015 by AAA HQ, tagged survey in Recommendation #4: Our Curricula public
  • AAA HQ
    Rec #5: Accounting Pilot & Bridge Project in Collaboration...
    discussion posted October 8, 2015 by AAA HQ, tagged survey in Recommendation #5: Our Students public
  • AAA HQ
    Rec #5: AP Accounting - Survey of Academic Leaders
    discussion posted October 8, 2015 by AAA HQ, tagged survey in Recommendation #5: Our Students public
  • AAA HQ
    Rec #6: Accounting Programs Survey
    discussion posted October 8, 2015 by AAA HQ, tagged survey in Recommendation #6: Our Data public
  • AAA HQ
    Recent Progress: Compiled best practices from...
    discussion posted October 6, 2015 by AAA HQ in Recommendation #1: Our Profession public

    Recent Progress:

    • Compiled best practices from professionally oriented faculty surveys

    • Professionally Oriented Faculty Integration Principles

    • Journal of Accountancy taking the lead in publishing research summaries--more publications to follow

    • Faculty “Boot Camps” process developed and planned for three AAA sections

    • List of activities and opportunities provided to academics

    • Opportunities for externships/internships explored

      Next Steps:

  • James Serocki
    Tax Careers34
    discussion posted September 15, 2010 by James Serocki in Pathways Discussion Page public

    I would be interested in participating in a discussion in how best to provide business students (likely accounting majors) sufficient timely information to properly consider a tax career. It appears the recruiting process (e.g. for internships), primarily by CPA firms, comes early in a student's academic process usually junior status, often before any tax courses are taken. Therefore, most students being recruited, have only educational exposure to accounting through their course work and defer to a selection of assurance. As an academic (former practitioner) teaching taxation in a business school, my concern is that some changes need to be made in order to provide accounting majors a balanced exposure to all aspects of a career in accounting, including taxation.  This change process should be a collaborative effort by academia and potential employers (e.g. CPA firms, industry, government). 

    Recent Comments (3 of 35)

  • AAA HQ
    The ASK1
    discussion posted October 5, 2015 by AAA HQ, tagged discussion in Recommendation #1: Our Profession public

    Help us encourage widespread implementation of leading practices. The Pathways Commission is asking your department or institution to adopt the principles spelled out in this document (click more below) and to openly acknowledge your support in this journey to build a learned profession.

    Here's how you can begin the movement:

    Recent Comments (1 of 1)

  • AAA HQ
    The June 2014 issue of the Journal of Accountancy is...
    discussion posted October 5, 2015 by AAA HQ, tagged resource in Recommendation #1: Our Profession public

    This recently published article in the June 2014 Journal of Accountancy titled, Highlights of Ethics Research supports Pathways Commission’s efforts and Recommendation No. 1 goal to “build a learned profession for the future by purposeful integration of accounting research, education, and practice for students, accounting practioners, and educators". The dissemination of practice- related research to practitioners supports this recommendation. Please click here for the full text of the article.

  • AAA HQ
    Traditional Doctoral Programs Accomplishments: Over...
    discussion posted September 6, 2015 by AAA HQ, tagged discussion in Recommendation #2: Future Faculty public

    Traditional Doctoral Programs

    Over the past 12 months, the task force members committee as individuals interviewed faculty across a spectrum of traditional Ph.D. programs. Those interviewed were directly involved in their school’s Ph.D. programs—many as Ph.D. area coordinators. Department chairs were not interviewed as they had been extensively interviewed or surveyed about faculty shortages previously. Further, much has been written about the shortage of Ph.D.– qualified accounting faculty; thus, there is no additional information or discussion about this shortage other than to acknowledge its existence.

    The major constraint facing any recommendation to increase the size and number of Ph.D. programs, which, inturn, will address the shortage of Ph.D.–qualified faculty, is to recognize the objectives of business school deans and faculty. Business school ratings and, hence, evaluations of deans are driven by MBA rankings. Other than to the extent that quality Ph.D. programs attract research-oriented faculty who are excellent in the MBA classroom, the quality and size of Ph.D. programs does little to influence these rankings. Ph.D. programs often are viewed as cost centers and a drain on school budgets.

    Faculty working with Ph.D. students are most interested in placement of students at peer schools and less interested in working with a larger set of candidates that might be placed at “lower tier” schools because their reputations are connected to the placement and “success” of their students defined by popular scholarship and research rankings. This objective function leads to a focus in admissions decisions on highly quantitative (high GMAT quantitative scores), economics-based students. Many schools screen students with the GMAT and require applicants to achieve a minimum score to be included in the set of applications that receive a more thorough evaluation. Thus, just like deans, most Ph.D. faculty like a small Ph.D. program.

    The desire to place doctoral students at peer schools leads faculty and students to want strong vitae that include working papers and papers under review in addition to their thesis papers. This expectation leads most students to take five to six years to complete their programs. It would be difficult to shorten programs given the pressure to have strong and established research records prior to entering the faculty job market. Furthermore, a strong vita with advanced working papers or with “revise and resubmits” at major journals helps students in their quest to earn tenure. Additionally, moving the academic job market up to late fall and early January also has the effect of lengthening the time it takes to graduate as most students simply will not be ready to interview with strong vitae in the late fall to early January of their fourth year. Even though we advocate lifelong learning, with a large and growing academic literature, this raises a question: Is it still feasible for the majority of students to graduate in four years to meet a tenure clock that stops five years after placement?

    A key finding from the task force members is that faculty have a strong preference for placing their Ph.D. graduates at the best schools possible (“peer schools”), which likely means that the shortage of Ph.D. graduates will be felt hardest at non-Ph.D. degree–granting schools. Thus, although each program is acting in its own best interests, this leads to the systemic problem of a shortage of future faculty. To paraphrase Walt Kelly, we have met the enemy, and the enemy is us.

    One of the task force members believes the problem is not a shortage of Ph.D. graduates in total but a shortage in the audit, managerial, tax, and AIS areas. The Pathways Commission recommendations did not and our recommendations listed below do not specifically try to address the shortage in specific areas. For the reasons discussed above, many top-tier schools have little incentive to change the status quo of the types of graduates they produce. If the problem is really a shortage in specific subareas, then further work is needed to develop recommendations specific to those areas.

    Next Steps:
    As a result of the more in-depth focus on traditional doctoral programs noted above, the task force developed an expanded set of further recommendations for consideration. These additional recommendations form the basis for the next steps in implementation and will need to be prioritized and communicated going forward.


    • To encourage more qualified candidates to apply to Ph.D. programs, we need to do a better job of educating potential students about academic careers.
    • Faculty are strongly encouraged to include relevant research findings in each of their junior and senior accounting classes so that students are exposed to what academics do and how research contributes to the profession. Additionally, task force members recommend development of a list of academic review articles that would be appropriate to discuss in class when addressing key areas in the curriculum.
    • Schools with undergraduate honors programs should offer an accounting class focusing on academic research.
    • Many schools have master’s of accounting programs and, although it may be argued whether a master’s in accounting is the best preparation for a rigorous traditional Ph.D. program, the task force members recommend that academic accounting research be integrated into related accounting classes.

    The members also recommend the AAA develop a web page discussing academic careers and providing reference materials about programs. All AAA members should be made aware of this web resource, so they can refer interested potential Ph.D. applicants to the page. The web page would address questions such as what does a Ph.D. involve, how is a Ph.D. funded, what does an academic career involve, what does a newly minted assistant professor in accounting earn, etc. The website could contain short videos by leading faculty about their research and how they work with doctoral students preparing to become faculty. See the Accounting Doctoral Scholars website at; the BYU website at www., under “Preparing for a Ph.D.”; and an existing but well buried and somewhat out of date AAA website at

    • We should encourage business schools to reach out to master’s students in economics and statistics—not to increase the number of Ph.D. program slots but to enhance the accounting applicant pool with students better educated in economics and with better quantitative skills.
    • Schools without Ph.D. programs and with large master’s programs could emulate the very successful pre-Ph.D. program master’s at BYU. This program graduates approximately 10–20 students a year who go on to obtain Ph.D.s.
    • We should make a more concerted effort to attract candidates to the PhD Project and to “sell accounting” at the annual PhD Project Conference in Chicago (held in late fall each year), which also contributes to building greater diversity in the academy.
    • We should encourage schools within close geographical proximity to explore joint class offerings (as done at MIT and Harvard and at Duke and UNC) so as to reduce the per class student cost.
    • We should encourage schools to explore offering some classes via Skype or web conferencing so that geographically distant schools can participate. Alternatively, might schools offer short, intense classes on a fee-paying basis to help cover the costs of the faculty and for which students get credit at their home institution?
    • There are very few traditional Ph.D. programs offering the ability to do the Ph.D. part time for those who work or have family commitments. Is this feasible for some schools?
    • We should explore ways to shorten programs to four years. Many schools require extensive teaching assistant (TA) work as part of their funding for Ph.D.s. Although TA work is valuable, too much slows down students’ progress on their thesis and other working papers. This recommendation would require increased funding from deans or other sources.
    • We should get students involved in research earlier in Ph.D. programs. UNC and other schools have successfully instituted a SAS boot camp for students prior to formal classes or during the first or second quarter of the program. Students learning SAS and other research tools early in their program could then become productive members of a research team much earlier in their program, thus helping them get an early start on building their vita.
    • Most programs require two years of course work with a major field examination at the end of the second year. After passing the field exam, many students take 12–18 months to identify a thesis topic. Thus, many students take five or more years because they “lose” the third year. Faculty are encouraged to mentor and meet regularly with students in the first six months after their field exam to help students identify a thesis topic in a more timely manner. One way for students to identify a viable thesis topic is to meet regularly with a faculty member to discuss a two-page “What, Why, How” write-up of a potential research question without the necessity of a thorough literature review. Of course, if faculty members are already overextended because of shortages of tenure-track faculty at their school, these meetings increase demand on faculty time. At the same time, these kinds of meetings encourage students to think about research questions and faculty to provide quick feedback on viability and the faculty member’s interest in a particular research question.
  • AAA HQ
    Update after the 2013 Annual Meeting
    discussion posted October 12, 2015 by AAA HQ, tagged update in Pathways Discussion Page public

    We hope you enjoyed your time at the Annual Meeting! We felt the momentum and enthusiasm around Pathways was strong and we wanted to thank you for making this Project a huge success!

    For the first time, the Pathways Commission had a booth at the Exhibit Hall which displayed all of our newest reports. Along with providing members with our newly published materials, the booth facilitated invigorating discussions about Pathways projects and possible future directions in accounting higher education. The booth was instrumental in connecting members and Commissioners in a more collaborative way allowing for the exchange of new exciting ideas and insights to emerge. On Tuesday morning, Pete and Carolyn Wilson visited the booth and gave a special presentation to the lucky visitors who happened to be visiting the booth at that time. This was a very special surprise, one that we hope will be repeated at next year’s Annual Meeting!

    In addition to the booth, Pathways had four panel sessions that highlighted the work we have accomplished since last August.  While the first session provided an overview of the progress of all six recommendations, the remaining three sessions provided a more detailed examination of the Commissions work on curriculum, advance placement and integrating professionally oriented faculty more fully into the faculty. All four sessions were followed by great discussions, demonstrating the continued interest and engagement in the Pathways mission by members who are ready to implement these new ideas at their institution. Overall, we felt that Pathway’s presence and mission was positively received and we look forward to your comments and future participation!

    Go Pathways!