MBA Vs. PhD in Accounting

Mar 28, 2019

Students comparing an MBA to a PhD in Accounting should consider factors like program format, program length, and desire to conduct research while making their decision. Compare and contrast the two programs and learn how to apply to them.

Some of the biggest differences between a Master of Business Administration (MBA) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) program in accounting are program length, format, coursework, and student career goals. Here we discuss these differences and other details for each degree program to help students determine which program may be the best fit.

MBA vs. PhD in Accounting

Master of Business Administration in Accounting

Many Master of Business Administration programs offer accounting as one of their many concentrations and are designed to prepare students for leadership positions and/or to take their Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam. Many of these degree programs are available in an on-campus or online format and can usually be completed in as little as one to two years. These programs are usually around 36 credits and include general business management coursework, such as ethics, business strategy, and organizational theory, as well as courses specific to accounting, like financial reporting and auditing. Some programs may also offer an optional internship experience for hands-on learning and training. Graduates of these degree programs are prepared for leadership and management positions in fields including budget analysis, banking, financial management, tax planning, and financial reporting.

Doctor of Philosophy in Accounting

Doctor of Philosophy programs usually offer accounting as a field of study or concentration for business or business management degree programs. These programs may take four to five years to complete and are usually on-campus programs. Students in these programs usually take courses that are more focused on accounting-related topics, such as accounting, finance, economics, analysis, and research. Most of these programs require students to complete comprehensive exams and a dissertation and may require students to complete a teaching practicum experience, teach various undergraduate courses throughout the program, and/or serve as a research assistant. PhD in Accounting programs are typically designed to prepare graduates for advanced careers as accounting researchers and educators.

Common Entrance Requirements

The admissions process for MBA and PhD programs in accounting are fairly similar, except that some MBA programs may offer rolling admissions and/or may not require the GMAT or GRE. However, the majority of graduate programs in accounting do require the GMAT or GRE and may use these test scores in place of other criteria where applicants fall short, such as a lower GPA. Some of these programs may require prerequisite coursework in accounting, statistics, algebra or calculus and/or a minimum GPA. Applicants to these programs generally need to include their transcripts, letters of recommendation, resume, and personal statement and/or essay responses that typically describe their personal career goals and research interests. Doctoral programs usually try to determine which faculty members potential students may match up with, based on research interests.

MBA in Accounting programs are available in flexible formats, can be completed in one to two years, and usually include more general business courses in addition to accounting courses. On the other hand, a PhD in Accounting generally takes four to five years to complete, requires a dissertation, and places a focus on accounting research and education.

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