ABSTRACT: Recently, concerns have been raised regarding the shortage of Ph.D. students in accounting. In the immediate future, the number of retirements in accounting academia is likely to exceed the number of qualified replacements. Many speculate that accountants are deterred from pursuing a Ph.D. by the opportunity costs involved. This study places those concerns in a larger context by comparing those opportunity costs to the potential financial payoff to the degree recipient from a career in accounting academia. We conduct a simulation, exploring several hypothetical career paths. Results indicate that it is possible to earn a positive return on investment for a Ph.D. degree across a variety of assumptions. In the scenarios we examine, the return on investment is higher for those leaving public accounting sooner and for those spending less time in Ph.D. programs. This finding informs current efforts to promote academia as a viable career path in accounting, providing potential students with a financial justification to pursue a Ph.D.

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