Many accountants express a desire to teach in order to give back to the profession. It may come as a surprise to learn that qualified full-time accounting faculty are in high demand. The shortage was discussed in a report published a number of years ago by the Pathways Commission on Accounting Higher Education, a joint initiative by the American Institute of CPAs and the American Accounting Association. The commission was established to study the structure of accounting education and make recommendations to improve it. Among other things, the Pathways Commission called for the integration of more professionals into accounting education.

Given this shortage and the profession’s call for the integration of practitioners into the educational process, one might conclude that a professional inclined to transition from practice to academia could do so easily. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, because of some fundamental misunderstandings that often exist between these worlds. If they are addressed in the early stages of a job search, they can certainly be overcome.

First, it must be remembered that being an experienced professional isn’t the same as being qualified under academic accrediting standards. The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business is the leading accrediting body for business schools. Under its standards, schools can utilize a mix of various types of qualified faculty. Whether job candidates are considered qualified is determined, in large part, by two criteria: the highest academic degree they obtained and their scholarly activity in a particular field. To a lesser extent, professional experiences, licenses and designations are considered.

The AACSB specifies four faculty categories into which candidates fall: Scholarly Academic (SA), Practice Academic (PA), Scholarly Practitioner (SP), and Instructional Practitioner (IP). Most job postings for full-time accounting faculty want the candidate to be categorized as SA. They should hold a doctorate in accounting or a related field and have demonstrated scholarly output (such as scholarly books or articles in academic journals). These individuals are in short supply. Many positions are also open to PA faculty (practicing accountants who hold a doctoral degree but lack scholarship) as long as they are willing to engage in academic research. Accountants without a doctoral degree generally fall into one of two practitioner categories: SP covers accountants with a master’s degree and scholarly activity, while IP typically covers those with master’s degrees and significant work experience.

Although many schools prefer SA faculty, positions are available in the other three categories, particularly due to the current shortage. These jobs are often non-tenure track and carry titles like lecturer, clinical faculty or teaching faculty. They offer reduced pay as compared to tenure-track faculty, but also involve lower service and publication requirements. They may, however, require a small additional teaching load. Accountants without doctorate degrees may find more teaching opportunities at schools that aren’t accredited by the AASCB. Other accrediting bodies, such as the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs and the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education allow schools to employ a broader array of criteria to determine who has the academic qualification to teach.

In order to be successful in the search process, an applicant must be able to decipher what type of qualifications a university is seeking for a particular position and whether their background fits the position requirements.

Second, it must also be remembered that full-time faculty do more than teach. Many practitioners looking to make a career change into academia assume that teaching is the only responsibility they will have. The job requirements for full-time faculty are generally much more than simply preparing for and teaching classes. They are often asked to serve on committees for the university and business school, to advise students on career and academic matters, and to participate in professional societies. In some cases, they may be asked to publish in scholarly or practitioner journals and present at academic or professional conferences. These requirements stem from the standards of accrediting bodies to ensure that faculty members maintain their qualification, and from a university’s promotion requirements.

Often, faculty find these additional responsibilities to be an exciting part of a new career, particularly because they are given time to explore more deeply topics of professional interest to them and the opportunity to meet other academics with a passion for these areas of study. But for those interested in entering academia, it is imperative that they understand up front the demands that will be placed upon them beyond a teaching load and convey that they are able to meet these requirements during the application process. Universities will hire and promote those individuals who successfully perform these tasks and may ask the unsuccessful to leave. Before accepting a position, consideration must be given to the requirements in these areas and whether one is willing and able to undertake them.

If an accountant is inclined to join the ranks of academia, a position may be available for them. However, they must honestly access their qualifications and willingness to expand the nature of their work before beginning a job search. By doing so, they can seek the positions that fit their qualifications and expectations, and thereby increase their chance of success.

James B. Biagi

James B. Biagi

James B. Biagi, JD, CPA, is an associate teaching professor at the Stevens Institute of Technology.