For motivated individuals with a high degree of intellectual curiosity, an academic career in accounting can be very challenging and rewarding. Accounting research examines how accounting information, broadly defined, is produced, reported and used. Accounting research is interdisciplinary in nature drawing on a variety of fields such as economics, finance, and psychology.
The School's PhD program in accounting enrolled its first students in 1988. This program is the largest in Canada and has earned the respect of accounting professionals and academics everywhere. As shown in our alumni page, our graduates hold academic positions at universities in Canada and abroad, and have published in well-known accounting journals such as Journal of Accounting Research, Accounting Review, Journal of Accounting and Economics, Contemporary Accounting Research, Auditing: A Journal of Practice and Theory, Accounting, Organizations and Society, and Journal of the American Taxation Association.
Despite adverse publicity about a tight academic job market, that is certainly not true of accounting. Graduates can expect several job offers. Twenty-three of our twenty-four graduates sought and obtained tenure-track university positions immediately on leaving Waterloo, and many of these have now been tenured and promoted to associate or full professor. Current starting salaries in Canada exceed $100,000.
Fees and Funding
Tuition for all students other than those on student visas is approximately $6,500 annually, and financial support is available. The School of Accounting and Finance normally provides funding of $25,500 per year for four years. Funding is contingent upon working as a research assistant or a teaching assistant for up to 10 hours per week, during each of the four years. Additional scholarships are provided to international students, who are charged higher tuition fees.
A research assistantship provides the student with a valuable apprenticeship for carrying out his or her own research. The School works hard to ensure that students are matched with appropriate faculty members so that the research assistantship is productive for both parties.
Professional associations of CAs, CMAs and CGAs also often provide support of $10,000-$15,000 per year for students with those designations. Scholarships from the federal and provincial governments can be as much as $35,000 per year. Many of our students have received this assistance. Funding obtained from these and other outside sources usually does not reduce funding received from the School.
Applications and Admissions
Start early in thinking about our PhD program. The government sources of scholarships have application deadlines in October or November for admission for the following September. First-year courses in calculus and linear algebra for science or math students provide useful background for the program. In addition, the PhD program requires a GMAT score, and sometimes there are delays of more than a month before it can be written.
Students may be admitted to the PhD program with either a Master's degree or an Honours Bachelor's degree. Admission is not confined to those with a background in accounting, commerce or business administration. We encourage applications from those whose backgrounds include economics, mathematics, statistics or the behavioural sciences.
Approximately 3 or 4 students start the program each year. The program requires full-time study. It lasts approximately four to five years, with the first two years being devoted to course work while the last two years are spent in writing a thesis.
The comprehensive exams mark the end of course work and the beginning of the thesis. When a thesis topic has been chosen, a thesis proposal is presented to faculty. When the thesis is finished, the student has a thesis defence before the thesis committee. More details of the program requirements are provided in the web page on program structure.
Doctoral studies in accounting combine a substantive knowledge of an area of accounting (auditing and assurance, financial accounting, management accounting, and taxation) with in-depth knowledge of a base discipline and associated research methods. The University of Waterloo’s School of Accounting and Finance can provide doctoral training in research that is based on economic theory, empirical economics, behavioural science, and other methodologies. In North America, most researchers who publish in academic accounting journals have a base discipline in empirical economics (60%), behavioural science (20%), or economic theory (15%), with the remainder in sociology and other related fields.
Students' research interests and past education vary significantly. Thus, each Waterloo accounting PhD student’s program of course work is customized and differs significantly across students, particularly after the first term. Many of the accounting courses will be similar, however, as each student takes all 4 of the core PhD seminar courses, which will cover all of the different methodologies and their applications in the areas of auditing and assurance, financial accounting, management accounting, and taxation. A virtue of Waterloo’s program is that we have the depth of faculty talent to offer PhD courses in each of these areas.
For more information, please see our admissions and financial assistance web pages, and do not hesitate to contact me for further information. In addition, you may enjoy reading graduate Shane Dikolli's lively and personal account of what to expect in entering our PhD program. Recent articles on Canadian academic accounting careers, and the shortage of business school faculty are also worth reading.
Theresa Libby, Director, PhD Program
519-888-4567, ext. 31088