CPA vs PhD

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    I know these are two very different things to compare, but from the standpoint of how much they sort of destroy your life during the process, can anyone give some insight? Thanks.

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    Would this be a PhD in accounting?

    The answer is kind of obvious, unless you're comparing something different like post-degree career, lifestyle, compensation, etc. A CPA can be completed within 3-6 months of finishing your degree requirements… a PhD is a 3-5 year process after undergrad/master's.


    PhD is a waste of money unless yorue gonna be a professor..which in turn still requires the CPA quit being a pansy trying to take the easy way out in staying in college forever.


    Interesting question,
    I have some perspective on this. I just finished the CPA exams in June. In addition, I have two brothers- an older brother who is a CPA, and a twin brother who is getting a PhD in Finance at a top 15 school currently. We went to undergrad at the same time and he started the PhD last fall while I completed my masters degree. Sure, the CPA exam is difficult, but honestly its not even close. My brother and I were both very academically talented and breezed through undergrad with very little worry or effort. I was able to do the same through my masters, and although I studied a fair bit for the CPA exam, I made it through pretty easy all things considered. My brother on the other hand, quickly realized the academic level of the PhD at a top school. I would say he averages 75-80 hours a week for most of the semester between homework, research, and other academic responsibilities- more in the last few weeks of the semester. in addition, its a 5 year time commitment from the time you start. Its a grueling 5 years of low paid work. The job prospects after you get done are awesome though. But honestly, I think its only worth it if you are truly interested in a research-intensive position. I would not recommend getting a PhD if you just want to go to a teaching school.


    I wouldn't say a PhD is a waste of money. Most, if not all, PhD programs have tuition waived and a stipend paid. It's not much pay while in school, but can be pretty lucrative outside of school.

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    CPA (TN)

    Yep @Jpj230, I agree with you. At his school like most others, there is no tuition and a living stipend. So the waste of money comment I will say is out of context and irrelevant. As for being the “easy way out” I will also choose to strongly disagree with you. There is nothing wrong with going academic just like there is nothing wrong with going professional. They are very different routes, but either can be a good fit if you know what you are getting into.


    PHD has to be more brutal, I finished the CPA and passed all on the first try with full-time job, wife and young children etc. I don't think I would make it through the first semester of a PHD program.




    To be eligible for the CPA you have to have around 150hrs of college for most states.

    To get into a legitimate Phd program you will have to have a GMAT of at least 700 with high quantitative scores. You'll also likely need a full year of calculus and some linear algebra. Honestly, a math or statistics background is far more beneficial than a business degree…even if your Phd would be in accounting.

    Only have a handful of schools even offer a true accounting Phd, and only an average of 2 students per year are admitted. The overall chances of being admitted to an accounting phd (assuming a high GMAT and relevant math background) are about 2-3%. That means you have a 97-98% chance of rejection. Most of the students are Asian with a much stronger math/stat background than that held by American students.

    The MINIMUM time investment for a legitimate Phd from an AACSB school is 4 years…more likely 5-6. But if you can get the degree, you will have a VERY nice life.

    Honestly, the CPA is a cakewalk compared to a REAL phd program in ANY business field.

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    So I have a CPA and I'm in my 2nd year at Ph.D. in Accounting Program.
    I agree and disagree with what has been said already.
    – Ph.D. programs do require some math but they care more about work experience in a research area. This is different than Econ and Finance. Most of the Asst Profs in my department are ex-big 4 managers and senior managers.
    – Yes, it is a lot of work. I may put in 60-70 hours a week but it's on my time. I don't consider reading an article at Starbucks on Wednesday as working. Also, I enjoy the flexibility as opposed to the rigidity of public accounting.
    – Cost/benefit for a Ph.D. is a big hurdle. You give up prime working years to go back to school. My program is on the high side of pay (40k take home) and is in a low-cost area.
    – Huge shortage in Accounting Professors has driven up the compensation. My school (in the ACC) pays 220k with an additional 2/9 guaranteed for three years. Didn't believe it till I looked up their pay (public schools have to disclose online).
    – Lastly, the game of higher education can be rough. Tenure, school placements, and unpredictability with budgets are significant hurdles.

    I determined the pay and lifestyle was worth it but you may not.

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