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The Ph.D. Program in Accounting is a five-year program for most students although some students successfully complete the program in four years. Below we outline the curriculum and program requirements as well as the financial support available to students throughout the five years.


The College of Business and the Department of Accounting and Information Systems have course and other requirements for the PhD degree that, in total, form a student’s program of study. These requirements are summarized below and provided in more detail in our handbook.

  1. Each student must know and be able to apply certain concepts, tools, and techniques of business practice. A student who enters the Accounting PhD program without having earned a business or management degree from an institution accredited by the Association for the Advancement of Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) must develop a broad understanding of the functional areas of business and management by completing coursework in each of these areas: Accounting, Finance, Management, Supply Chain Management, and Marketing. Students can petition the Doctoral Program Committee for exemption from this requirement based on coursework taken as part of a business or management degree that is not accredited by the AACSB (see Broad Graduate School of Management requirements).
  2. A student must have a minimum familiarity with certain concepts, tools, and techniques of accounting practice. The materials covered in accounting courses ACC 300 and 301 or 805 and 807, 321 or 821, 331 or 833, 341 or 841 or 843, and 411 are sufficient to satisfy the minimum familiarity requirement. However, the minimum familiarity requirement is automatically fulfilled by students who enter the doctoral program with a degree in accounting from an AACSB accredited accounting program. Alternatively, this requirement can be met by taking certain accounting courses at MSU or another institution with an accredited program. If a student has an accounting degree from an institution that is not accredited by AACSB, then he/she could petition the Doctoral Program Director to get a waiver for one or more of the required accounting courses by providing necessary supporting evidence.
  3. Each student must take a set of ph.d.-level micro-economic courses (EC811A, EC812A, and EC812B, or AFRE 801, 802 and 805) in their first semester.
  4. The major field of study is accounting. The major in accounting consists of:
    1. ACC 950: Doctoral Seminar in Accounting Research

      Research on auditing, financial and managerial accounting, and taxation using theoretical perspectives and research methods from the social sciences and business disciplines. A total of four different research seminars are taken in the first and second year of the program.

    2. MGT 906: Organizational Research Methods

      Methods for scientific research in the areas of organizational behavior, personnel, and organizational theory. Theory building, hypothesis formation and testing, reliability theory, construct validity, external validity, research design.

  • Each student has a minor field of study. The minor is a minimum of 9 hours of course work. The minor is intended to provide theoretical framework, perspective, and content as a basis to conduct research in accounting. Examples of minors are micro-economics, finance, organizational behavior, operations management, and psychology.
  • Competence in research-related areas is required. This requirement may be satisfied by completing a minimum of 12 credits in research-related courses with a four course minimum. Courses must be at the 400-level or above to assure graduate level competence in the areas studied. Research-related credits earned to meet the requirements of a degree other than the Doctor of Philosophy in Business Administration will not be accepted in fulfillment of this requirement. These courses typically are research-method and statistics courses offered in departments such as economics, marketing, supply chain, psychology, and statistics.
  • Each student must maintain an overall GPA of at least 3.25 by the end of the second semester of full-time enrollment and thereafter to remain in the program. A 2.0 grade is the minimum acceptable grade for a course in a student’s program of study or for graduation requirements.
  • Up to the time of dissertation proposal defense, each student must write two review reports per academic year in the style of referee reports (to be done under the advice of the Doctoral Program Director).
  • In addition to dissertation research, PhD students are required to complete two research projects as part of the program requirements. The first research project would entail a literature review and include a replication of selected segments from a paper in the area reviewed. Students are welcome to go beyond the minimum requirement for the first research project (e.g., a minor extension of the chosen paper). The second research project would be a completed working paper including testable hypotheses and results. This research paper could be an independent research paper or a paper co-authored with faculty members or other PhD students in the department. The ultimate objective is to create a paper with sufficient quality to allow it to be submitted to a refereed scholarly journal in accounting or related disciplines.
  • Prior to taking the PhD comprehensive exam, each student must have successfully completed the requirements for the first research project (including presenting in a departmental workshop) as well as completed four enrollments of the accounting PhD seminars (ACC 950) and MGT 906. Given a student can take more than four enrollments of ACC 950, each student must obtain the prior approval of the Doctoral Program Director for the four specific enrollments that would satisfy the prerequisites for the comprehensive exam. This examination is usually given in early summer and has three parts:
    1. Parts 1 and 2: These two parts will cover the different subfields of accounting that were included in the accounting research seminars.
    2. Part 3: Critique of a working paper in the student’s area of research interest.

The purpose of this examination is to test a student’s knowledge of the scholarly accounting literature, with emphasis on historical and contemporary issues, theories, and research methods. In addition to assessing a student’s knowledge, the examination tests a student’s ability to design, evaluate, and communicate scholarly research.

  • Each student must complete a doctoral dissertation judged to be a significant contribution to knowledge by a faculty committee consisting of not less than four members, one designated as chairperson who is an accounting faculty member from the MSU’s Accounting and Information Systems Department. The doctoral dissertation proposal must be presented at the department research workshop series, with all the members of the student’s dissertation committee in attendance. The dissertation proposal must be approved by three-fourths of the student’s dissertation committee including approval from the chair. A successful oral defense of the completed doctoral dissertation is required in an open meeting, with all the members of the student’s dissertation committee in attendance. See the Graduate School website for important dissertation requirements.


Financial Aid and Cost

At the present time, all doctoral students in accounting receive financial support from the Department, the College, the University and/or various external organizations. Our goal is to provide every student admitted to the program with a graduate assistantship and/or a fellowship. The assistantship is usually at a half-time level. A half-time appointment requires that the student be a teaching assistant and/or a research assistant for 20 hours a week. Renewal of financial assistance is contingent on the student making satisfactory progress in the program. Assistantships include a nine-credit hour tuition waiver (i.e. tuition is covered for up to 9 credit hours per semester) for each of the fall and spring semesters, a waiver for the out-of-state portion of tuition for non-Michigan residents, and health insurance. The waiver does not include registration fees or other fees.

For more information about funding sources, visit the MSU Graduate School.

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