As if the tax and accounting business itself wasn’t busy enough, demand is also up for teachers of college-level accounting courses.

Practitioners who’ve gone to the head of the classroom report that the rewards and pay are good, but that the work comes with drawbacks for those wishing to keep tax practices going, too.

“There is definitely a shortage of qualified accounting teachers,” said Kristin Roberts, an EA with The Roberts Tax Group, Torrington, Conn., who teaches taxation and accounting at Post University in Waterbury, Conn.

“We’re always looking for qualified people to teach,” Roberts said. “Part of the reason is that the income is very low compared to what an accountant can charge for their accounting or tax services. You need to want to teach. You can't be in it for the money. And in this tough economy, that's a hard pill to swallow.”

Jeffrey Schneider, an EA in Royal Palm Beach, Fla., has been an adjunct professor of taxation at Palm Beach State College in Lake Worth College for the seven years. “I teach Tax I, entirely individual taxes. For two semesters, I also taught Tax II, which was business returns. I added payroll, estate/gift taxes and Florida taxes to the curriculum, but I don’t teach it any longer and I haven’t since 2008, as the class is only offered in the winter semester and I cannot afford the time during tax season.”

Schneider, who also teaches for the Florida Society of Enrolled Agents and at local chapter meetings of the FSEA, said that time is the major drawback to teaching. “I spend three-plus hours teaching once a week for 13 weeks, plus an hour going over the material before the class and then another hour to 90 minutes grading homework,” he said “A test adds another hour to my work week. As I teach on Monday nights, I spend the time on the weekend.” 

On the plus side, said Schneider, “I thoroughly enjoy teaching -- and it’s certainly not for the money. I also try to gauge the interest of who wants to continue in taxes. I then talk about being an Enrolled Agent and the benefits [of] being an EA.”

 

Skills and credentials

A recent survey by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business reported that full accounting professors at U.S. colleges earned an average of over $140,000 per year, more than all other business specialties besides finance and marketing. Associate professors of accounting averaged approximately $120,000 per year, assistant professors around $130,000. Those listed as accounting instructors averaged approximately $70,000 per year.

A doctorate degree is a must for full-time accounting professors, according to the American Institute of CPAs, the two most popular being the Doctor of Business Administration, or DBA, and the PhD.

Michele Knight, a CPA at Knight Accounting and Technology, Keystone, Colo., teaches accounting at Colorado Mountain College in the non-degree, continuing education classes, she said, adding that instructors at the college level must have a Master’s.

“As a CPA,” she said, “a Master’s wasn’t required when I went through my schooling, and instead you were required to work at a public accounting firm to gain experience. I argue that 10 years’ practice would be more beneficial than spending a year in a Master’s program, but the colleges cannot keep their accreditation if they don’t require their instructors to have advanced degrees.”

Many venues of education need teachers. EA Cynthia Jeanguenat of Horizons Unlimited Tax & Business Services in Virginia Beach, Va., teaches two classes for the community education arm of the Adult Learning Center for the Virginia Beach school system and developed the classes for the ALC “based on my experiences with taxpayers in trouble with the IRS or one of their state taxing authorities,” she said.

“By offering the courses before people start a business, I hope to keep them from making the mistakes others have made. As an EA for more than 16 years, I have plenty of real-life examples I can use and that is one of the frequent comments I get on evaluations: I gave them actual real-life examples,” Jeanguenat said, adding that she finds teaching “extremely rewarding and [I] often receive calls from students with questions once they actually begin their business. I tell them that I don't charge for phone calls and would rather they call with their question before they get in trouble.”

John Walker, an EA in Concord, N.H., has taught several courses on foreclosures, bankruptcy, divorce, cancelled debt and ethics, among other topics, the courses being for other tax professionals earning CPE credit. “These are not taught in an academic setting,” he pointed out. “The pluses are great: You get to explore interesting tax topics in depth, improving your own knowledge and skills. It’s rewarding because you usually have an interested and receptive audience.”

On the other hand: “It takes a great deal of time and work to prepare each course,” Walker said, “taking time away from billable work.”

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