The Accounting Ph.D. Program

A top-ranked program that prepares students for careers in academics through research and practice

Program Info

The Ph.D. Program in Accounting is a research-intensive four-year program that provides excellent preparation for a career in academics, with an emphasis on research, teaching, and service.

The Culverhouse School of Accountancy’s faculty supports students interested in archival/empirical and behavioral/experimental research in auditing, financial accounting, managerial accounting, accounting information systems, and tax.

Public Accounting Report has ranked our Ph.D. accountancy program #7 in the country.

The Ph.D. program in Accounting involves two years of rigorous coursework.  In addition to Accounting seminars, students take courses in Statistics and Economics.  Students will often take additional electives in the Psychology or Finance departments depending on their research focus.

The program has two significant research milestones that students must meet before progressing to the dissertation phase.  The first-year paper, typically a scholarly review of existing accounting literature, is completed by the student in their first year and presented in early summer.  The second-year paper is a complete, original, empirical study undertaken under the direction of the student’s faculty advisor. Students demonstrate the second-year paper the summer after their second year of coursework. Students must successfully present and defend their papers before progressing to the dissertation phase.

Writing a dissertation is the final test of research skill. It requires an understanding of relevant literature and methodology, and the ability to think independently. Ph.D. candidates must find an original topic, plan a test of hypotheses, and write and defend at a final oral examination a document acceptable to the dissertation committee and to the Graduate School.

Admission decisions are made by the Ph.D. program committee after considering applicant background, GMAT scores (660 minimum) or GRE scores (1200 minimum), grade point averages (GPAs), letters of reference, fulfillment of prerequisites and an on-campus interview. The GMAT is preferred, but students may choose to take either the GMAT or the GRE. GRE scores will be converted to the GMAT scale. All international students are required to submit a Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) score (100 minimum) and either an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) score (6.5 minimum) or a Pearson Test of English (PTE) score (minimum of 59).

Deadlines for application to Manderson may vary. Early application increases the probability of a fellowship or scholarship. The following provides an approximate timetable of Graduate School application dates:

Domestic students: The application must be filed on or before May 1 of the year of admission. The Ph.D. committee begins reviewing applications on the 1st of September the year prior to admission. The admissions process will be completed when the class is full.

International students living in the U.S.: The application must be completed at least 60 days before registration for the year of admission.

International students living outside the U.S.: The application must be completed at least 6 months to a year before registration for the year of admission.

Semester I

  • AC 610   Intro Accounting Res 1
  • EC 570   Mathematical Economics
  • EC 610   Seminar in Microeconomic Theory
  • ST 554   Math Statistics

Semester 2

  • AC 620   Accounting Research Seminar I

Semester 3

  • AC 640   Experimental Accounting Research

Semester 4

  • AC 630   Archival Accounting Research

Examples of other courses.

Courses should be approved by the student’s advisor.

  • BER 558 GR Intro To Psychometrics
  • EC 660 GR Game Theory
  • EC 670   Econometrics
  • EC 671 Econometrics
  • FI 514   Investments
  • ST 521 GR Statistical Data Management
  • ST 522 GR Adv Statistical Data Mgt
  • ST 531 GR Data Mining I
  • ST 532 GR Advanced Data Mining
  • ST 552 GR Applied Regression Analysis
  • ST 553   Applied Multivariate Analyses
  • ST 560 GR Statistical Methods
  • PY 603 GR Advanced Statistics II
  • PY 650 GR Cognition And Learning
  • PY 670 GR Perception And Action
  • PY 693 GR Sem: Struct. Equat. Modeling

Writing a dissertation is the final test of research skill. It requires an understanding of relevant literature and methodology, and the ability to think independently. Ph.D. candidates must find an original topic, plan a test of hypotheses, and write and defend at a final oral examination a document acceptable to the dissertation committee and to the Graduate School.

During the third year, students are expected to commence work on the dissertation. Students are transferred from the program committee to a dissertation committee and formally begin work on their thesis defense.

Three Paper Dissertation Guidelines

The following does not preclude a student from completing a traditional dissertation.

The following guidelines relate to the School of Accountancy requirements relating to a three-paper dissertation. The following requirement is per the University of Alabama Graduate School: Journal Format. A “journal-format” dissertation or thesis is acceptable. Such a dissertation or thesis simply follows the format of a particular journal in which the student and advisor want to publish the manuscript. To prepare a journal-format dissertation or thesis, the student uses the journal’s “information for authors” or similarly titled guidelines in conjunction with the Graduate School’s Student Guide to Preparing Electronic Theses and Dissertations. At this point, the accounting journals do not meet the minimum formatting requirements of the graduate school. Therefore, this format is not permissible at this point in time.

Article-style dissertations must be based on research completed while the student is enrolled at The University of Alabama. For each article used, the student must be the first author, or equivalent, as defined by the discipline. The dissertation must be the student’s original idea. It must be a unified work and include a sequence of articles of publishable quality around a theme, with a comprehensive review of the literature that demonstrates an in-depth understanding of the unifying framework.

There will be one introductory section to describe the studies, tell how they are related, and explain their significance. There will be connecting language to bridge each study to the next. There also will be a section that serves as a summary making clear the importance of the studies, integrating the major findings, and discussing the implications for the overall topic. These components do not have to be separate sections or chapters. They may be parts of the manuscripts or may be accomplished in an abstract.

See the UA Graduate School webpage for additional guidance.

Accountancy-specific Dissertation Guidelines

The following are additional guidelines per the School of Accountancy.

1) A student MAY elect to complete an article-style dissertation rather than the traditional dissertation. This decision should only be undertaken with the guidance of the student’s dissertation advisor. In order for a student to successfully complete this approach, the student will need to begin working towards a three-paper dissertation during the first year of the Ph.D. program. Note that it is the prerogative of the dissertation advisor as to whether or not the advisor will allow one of their students to complete an article style dissertation.

2) The first and second-year papers, as presented, are not eligible to be used in the dissertation.

3) One literature review (in the Journal of Accounting Literature format) can be used as one of the three essays. Therefore, an extension of a first year, or a second-year paper into a literature review (in the Journal of Accounting Literature format) will qualify as one of the three essays.

4) A material extension of the first and the second year paper will qualify as essays in a three-paper dissertation, subject to three requirements being met. First, the student’s advisor must approve the revision prior to beginning the extension. Second, the extension results in substantial and meaningful changes to the first or second-year paper. For example, an extension of a second-year paper where subjects are changed (such as from students to CPAs) or data sources are changed (such as from IBES to FirstCall) would not qualify as a substantial and meaningful change. Finally, if a first or second-year paper has been extended into a literature review, and is included in the three essays, it is not eligible to be included in the three essays in any other form.

5) A study may be co-authored with faculty. Refer to the UA guidelines above for additional guidance.

6) When several Ph.D. students are co-authors on a project that is to be used as part of a three-paper dissertation, the students should agree on which student was the lead or “first author”. In our field, “first author” means taking a significant role in hypothesis development, instrument design, data gathering and analysis, and writing.

7) The format of both the proposal and dissertation defense will be determined by the student’s advisor and Ph.D. Committee. The oral defense can range from an in-depth discussion of one paper to a presentation of all three papers.

8) A study may be used in only one dissertation.

9) We advise (STRONGLY recommend) students completing a three-paper dissertation to brown-bag all three papers separately in advance of the dissertation proposal.


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