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, most graduates of our programs can expect to find an job in academe. Over 94% of our graduates sought and obtained tenure-track university positions immediately on leaving Waterloo. Many are now tenured and have been promoted to associate or full professor. Current starting salaries in Canada exceed $100,000.
Fees and funding
Tuition and associated fees for all students, other than those on student visas, is approximately $8240 annually. The School of Accounting and Finance normally provides domestic students with 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. Last year students in our program received appoximately $7,000 above our minimum funding package.
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.
Students are encouraged to apply for funding from outside sources. The Chartered Professional Accountants association also often provides support of $10,000-$15,000 per year for students with that designation. Scholarships from the federal and provincial governments can be as much as $35,000 per year.
Applications and admissions
Start early in thinking about our PhD program. University 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 or GRE score. These tests are offered several times per year, and require advance registration.
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 5 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.
Brad Pomeroy, Acting Director, PhD Program
519-888-4567, ext. 38849