Musings on Accounting Research by Steve

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After seven years it seems strange to be back at the CAAA Annual Conference. Readers of my former blog careditorsteve know the reason for my long absence.

The Craft of Accounting Research (CAAA) seems to be in good hands with the next generation, Hai Lu and Khim Kelly ( both former co-authors of mine).

The Canadian accounting profession is playing with things called enabling competencies (a.k.a. Soft skills, JADE, EQ)) but the most recent update of the competency map almost ignores the big data revolution and data analytics. Well I guess we can all be kind and understanding as the profession implodes due to lack of relevance. The minor changes to the key technical competencies last year to twerk towards some analytics knowledge and the focus on enabling competencies this year are most worrisome. Fiddle and Rome come to mind.

Nonetheless it was great to start to reconnect with a large cross-section of Canadian academia! But tomorrow the rubber meets the road and I will get my first read in a decade on the quality of research produced in Canada!

An intellectual snob ( or slob)?

One thing new attendees at academic conferences often get swayed by is the title of sessions or the titles of papers within sessions. One piece of advice I offer is rely n brand name for most of your choices.

Certainly, you will not be able to stop yourself from going to that sexy session that sounds right up your intellectual alley. But, do not choose all your sessions that way.

The simple rule, stick to brand name schools that the authors come from. If your choice of sessions features Northwest Dakota State versus Michigan State, Harvard, Queen’s or Toronto it is easy for me to choose what session I might get learn more about research in – no matter what type of research they are presenting.

And go to the research sessions as a young scholar. There will be plenty of time for panel discussions and education sessions later in your career. Indeed, the only panels I would ever go to was ones that focused on methods or theories. I would certainly skip the what’s hot in research sessions as by the time you graduate they will be quite old and cold.

Finally, avoid editors panels unless you are seeking entertainment value. Those folks can tell good stories but if you are in a d3cent PHD program with a responsible experienced supervisor you have better things to do with those 80 minutes of your life.

Free advice, and remember you get what you pay for!

Full disclosure – “average” programs need to tell it as it is

While the accounting PHD job market is still a robust one, getting a PHD from a name brand school is no longer the guaranteed top employment it used to be for the “average” program graduate. While it is doubtful that many accounting PHDs will be taxi drivers or waitstaff anytime soon, expectations must be more realistic.

Why? Supply and demand are close to equilibrium at the overall market level with oversupply in financial accounting and small shortages in audit, management accounting, tax and anything to do with data analytics!

Second, most demand these days is coming from baby boom retirements, not program growth! Indeed, we may well be looking at program shrinkage in the not too distant future. Yes there are schools and parts of the world where this is not true but my overall sense is we have passed peak accounting”. But like being on the other side of “peak oil” there are still lots of opportunities.

But be realistic. The days of $200k plus 2/9 in the USA with a three course one prep teaching load for the “average” PhD program grad likely fast coming to an end. (That does not mean that recruits at top schools will not start at 230k plus etc etc). However, more “average” PHDs will be starting with a 4 load after the first year, with shorter guaranteed summer support, more stringent evaluation for renewal of support, more focused and demanding standards at renewal, and less willingness to put up with prima Donna behaviour.

Students at less mature PhD programs have to realize that salaries well under 200k are the norm, 5 course teaching loads are more common (especially after three years), extensive service commitments are required and lots of flexibility in what you are willing to teach will be needed.

Is it still a great life? You bet!!! But it is not what we have thought for the 37 of the last 40 years as ” normal”.

And that’s how I see it!

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