Departments | Accounting

Accounting Doctoral Program Overview

The doctoral program in accounting at The University of Texas at Austin involves a full-time integrated program of coursework and research. Accounting Ph.D. students generally also secure at least one term of teaching experience. Because of course sequencing, students begin the program during the fall semester. Prior to registration, the Graduate Advisor will meet with incoming students to determine customized course plans for the first year, including the option of early registration in the summer to secure any necessary math background.

Coursework Phase

Coursework during the first year of the program focuses on establishing a student's basic research capabilities and providing foundational tools that the student will apply later in the program. These courses include requirements in economics, mathematics, and statistics, as well as an integrated introduction to research in accounting. The first year of the program culminates in the writing of a first-year research paper, which is typically a replication of prior research that the student finds to be of interest. The first-year paper provides an early opportunity to obtain hands-on experience in conducting and communicating academic research.

The remainder of the coursework phase of the Ph.D. program includes required core seminars in empirical-archival, analytical, and behavioral-experimental research in accounting, as well as supporting-field courses that enhance the student's specialized interests.

The second year of the program culminates in a second-year paper, which is a more ambitious exercise than the first-year paper summarized above. Students are encouraged to pursue publication of research projects initiated as a second-year paper, often in collaboration with members of the faculty. In addition to introducing the student to the creative research in accounting, second-year papers can provide another project besides the dissertation that enhances the student's marketability upon graduation.

For a more detailed description of specific courses and supporting fields, please see Courses and Seminars.

Courses and Seminars

Accounting Background

The UT Austin doctoral program assumes that new doctoral students have a background equivalent to an undergraduate or master's degree in accounting. This background does not necessarily require a formal accounting degree, so long as the student has taken enough accounting courses to establish a reasonable accounting background (such as an MBA graduate who has taken several accounting courses in the MBA program). Successful applicants who do not have a sufficient accounting background can have the opportunity to take any needed accounting courses in the coursework phase of the Ph.D. program by selecting among the University's master's-level offerings in accounting. However, it is in the applicant's best interest to secure a reasonable accounting background before applying to the Ph.D. program.

Mathematical Background

The program assumes two semesters of calculus and one semester of linear algebra as mathematical background. Entering accounting Ph.D. students who do not have this background can take any necessary courses among the following University of Texas at Austin course offerings. A common strategy is to take any needed course(s) such as linear algebra in the summer before beginning the program, although it is also fine to take any needed mathematical background course(s) after arriving in the fall.

  • M 408C, Differential and Integral Calculus (Calculus I)
  • M 408D, Sequences, Series, and Multivariate Calculus (Calculus II)
  • M 341, Linear Algebra and Matrix Theory

Note: The above courses are required only for students who have not taken similar courses elsewhere.

Non-Accounting Core Requirements

The following courses establish the economic and statistical foundations of accounting research, and are required of all accounting Ph.D. students:

  • ECO 387L.1 Microeconomics I (graduate level)
  • M 362K or ECO 492L, Probability
  • M 378K or ECO 492L, Mathematical statistics
  • ECO 392M.2, Econometrics I

Accounting Seminars

The program offers five doctoral seminars in accounting, all of which are required. The sequence as a whole gives doctoral students an informed user's appreciation of all major areas of accounting scholarship, as well as the opportunity to specialize in a particular area of interest:

  • ACC 386K.2, Research Methods in Accounting
    First-year Ph.D. students learn how to identify important and testable accounting research questions in this seminar, and also explore issues relating to research validity, design, keys to evaluating research, and research ethics.
  • ACC 386K.3, Empirical Research in Accounting
    This seminar explores accounting research using empirical-archival methods, primarily with respect to the role of financial accounting in capital markets.
  • ACC 386K.4, Analytic Research in Accounting
    Students learn how to use and build theoretical models of how accounting impacts strategic relationships.
  • ACC 386K.5, Behavioral Research in Accounting
    This seminar explores how researchers use experimentation to investigate the ways in which accounting impacts judgments and decisions.
  • ACC 386K.7, Foundations of Financial Accounting Research
    Provides an introduction to market-based accounting research, the motivation behind empirical hypotheses, and evaluates empirical methods employed to test those hypotheses.

Supporting Fields

As an applied discipline, accounting draws on theories and tools developed in many other disciplines. Accordingly, accounting Ph.D. students develop two supporting fields of elective non-accounting courses during the coursework phase of the program. The first supporting field is generally topical in nature, such as financial economics, psychology, or behavioral economics, and usually consists of four or more graduate-level courses beyond the core requirements. The second supporting field generally develops specialized analysis skills, such as econometrics or experimental design, and usually consists of two or more graduate-level courses beyond the core requirements.

Teaching Seminar

Ph.D. students with no prior teaching experience are required to teach an introductory level accounting course one time during the program, in conjunction with taking a credit / no-credit teaching seminar to develop the student's teaching skills. If the student's teaching performance is up to his/her potential, this is the only teaching requirement in the program. The program can also offer a second teaching experience to students who would benefit from this opportunity. The goal is to ensure that all accounting Ph.D. graduates of the University of Texas at Austin are proven teachers.
Ph.D. students with prior university teaching experience can waive the program's teaching requirement. Specifics are considered on a case-by-case basis in consultation with the Graduate Advisor.


Dissertation Phase

As the coursework phase draws to a close, a Ph.D. student directs attention to developing a doctoral dissertation. The student evidences readiness for the dissertation phase of the program by passing a comprehensive examination that is administered by the faculty. The student is admitted to candidacy upon successful completion of this examination and formulation of a Supervisory Committee of faculty members who agree to oversee the proposed dissertation plan. A final oral defense of the written dissertation is the final milestone that completes the requirements for the Ph.D. degree. Students typically take four or five years to complete the entire program, depending on the student's efficiency in the coursework and dissertation phases.

Since the program's inception in 1934, the University of Texas at Austin has awarded more than 325 doctoral degrees with a concentration in accounting. Recent graduates have accepted accounting faculty positions at universities including Dartmouth, Duke, Emory, Illinois, Iowa, Harvard, Georgia, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Cornell, Wisconsin and Stanford.


The faculty of the Department of Accounting  have academic qualifications of the highest caliber, and maintain close links with the accounting profession. All tenure-track accounting faculty are Ph.D's, and many are Certified Public Accountants. Members of the faculty have served in positions of leadership in the American Accounting Association (AAA), and have served as editor or on the editorial boards of the leading academic journals in accounting. Faculty members have also held offices and served on important committees of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), the Texas Society of Certified Public Accountants (TSCPA), the Financial Accounting Foundation (which selects members of, funds, and oversees the Financial Accounting Standards Board), the Texas State Board of Public Accountancy, the American Taxation Association, and other national, state, and local professional organizations.

In addition to a tradition of teaching excellence, UT Austin accounting faculty are highly successful researchers, across a variety of interests in accounting scholarship. The diversity of research interests and expertise of the UT Austin accounting faculty can easily be seen when reviewing a list of their publications in academic and professional accounting journals. This list also evidences the faculty's interest in conducting joint research with both current Ph.D. students and graduates of the program.

McCombs faculty publications 

Nature of the Program FAQs

  • How long does it take to complete the program?
    There is no set length to the Ph.D. program, because students vary in the time necessary to complete the coursework and dissertation phases of the program. The total program length is typically four or five years.
  • Do I have to live in Austin while I am in the Ph.D. program?
    In general, yes. The Program is based on intensive learning at the University of Texas at Austin, and does not offer any "distance-learning," commuting, or Internet-based options. The Program also discourages students from leaving Austin before the dissertation defense, as the most efficient and effective approach to a Ph.D. is to earn it in residence.
  • What sort of courses are required?
    Please see the separate summary of the coursework phase of the Ph.D. program in accounting.
  • What about research?
    Research is a "hands-on" activity that one can learn more effectively by doing than by observing. Therefore, accounting Ph.D. students at the University of Texas at Austin complete three major research projects during the course of the program, as follows:

    *First-year paper, which replicates prior research and gives the new Ph.D. student an introductory exposure to conducting accounting research.

    *Second-year paper, which pursues original scholarship and can lead to publication, often in collaboration with a faculty member.

    *Dissertation, in which the student evidences his/her individual ability to initiate, conduct, analyze, and communicate original research in accounting.

  • What sort of specializations can one pursue?
    An advantage of a relatively large research-active accounting faculty is that the University of Texas at Austin can offer its Ph.D. students a wide variety of potential specializations, guided by faculty experts across a wide variety of areas. These areas include all of the traditional topical subsets of accounting (i.e., financial accounting, managerial accounting, auditing / assurance, and taxation) as well as all of the traditional research methods applied in accounting (i.e., analysis of empirical-archival data, analysis of company-specific data, experimental / behavioral methods, and analytic modeling).
  • Are Ph.D. students required to teach?
    The Department of Accounting at the University of Texas at Austin recognizes that excellence in teaching is an integral part of an academic career in accounting. Accordingly, unless waived due to previous teaching experience, the Program requires Ph.D. students to teach an introductory course in accounting during one term. Prior to teaching, Ph.D. students take a guided seminar on supervised teaching. If this experience evidences the student's teaching ability, there are no further teaching requirements in the Program. Otherwise, the Program can offer the student a second teaching experience along with consultation to address any areas needing improvement. The goal of this one-term teaching requirement is to ensure that all graduates with a University of Texas at Austin Ph.D. in accounting are proven teachers, while at the same time providing Ph.D. students with enough time and resources to build the research skills that are necessary to success in an academic career.
  • What is the program's placement success?
    Consistent with the Program's top ranking in the 2010 Public Accounting Report survey of faculty members' evaluations of doctoral programs in accounting, the program has enjoyed considerable placement success in recent years. Our outstanding doctoral graduate placement includes Dartmouth, Duke, Georgia, Emory, Illinois, Iowa, Harvard, TCU, Stanford, and Wisconsin. See a list of our doctoral placements.

Page last updated: 5/16/2017