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Accounting PhD Specialization

General Information

Accounting is an interdisciplinary area, combining study of financial information with areas such as economics, finance, decision theory, and cognitive psychology.

The Ph.D. curriculum in accounting encompasses two major streams of research. The first stream examines the role of accounting information in contracting and capital markets. This first stream is economics-and-finance based and relies heavily on empirical research methods using archival data. The second stream is judgment and decision making in accounting (also known as behavioral decision theory research). This second stream is primarily psychology-based and relies heavily on controlled experiments with human subjects. The accounting Ph.D. program is designed to prepare students to publish research in top-tier accounting journals including The Accounting Review, Journal of Accounting and Economics, and Journal of Accounting Research and to take positions at leading research-based universities.

The Department of Accounting offers both major and minor areas in accounting. The remainder of this document first describes the policies for a major in accounting. This is followed by a description of the policies for a minor in accounting.

Department web site
Accounting Faculty

Admission Requirements

Applicants must have completed an undergraduate degree at an accredited university and should have reasonable training in mathematics and economics. An admission committee of faculty members reviews all completed applications. While the committee considers all relevant factors in its recommendations, important factors include past academic performance, GMAT scores, personal statements, and letters of recommendation. The GRE exam can be substituted for the GMAT but the GMAT is strongly preferred.

Recommended Preparation Prior to Entry

In the summer preceding arrival at UW, new doctoral students are strongly encouraged to review important concepts in basic tool areas (e.g., economics, statistics, calculus, and linear algebra). Knowledge of financial and managerial accounting is required.

Accounting Area Faculty Coordinator

Prof. Sarah McVay, Accounting Area Faculty Coordinator, would be glad to answer your questions. You can contact her by phone (206-616-2196) or by email ([email protected]).

The Accounting Area Faculty Coordinator advises new students until they establish a supervisory committee by the end of the Spring quarter of their first year. The supervisory committee assists the student in choosing appropriate courses, approves the course of studies, and monitors the student’s progress.

All accounting majors must complete the following requirements. The number of credits for each course is indicated in parentheses after the course number.

Course Number Catalog Title Current Course Content
ACCTG 582 (4) PhD Research Seminar Introduces faculty’s areas of research
ACCTG 580 (4) Introduction to Accounting Research Includes positive accounting theory
ACCTG 579 (4) Special Topics in Accounting **Experimental seminar
**Analytical seminar
*Python coding
*Innovations in econometric methods
ACCTG 596 (4) Seminar in Financial Accounting Capital markets
ACCTG 599 (1) Accounting Research Workshop Weekly accounting workshop series


* Offered periodically.

**Offered every second year.

Accounting majors are expected to register for ACCTG 599 each year in which they are enrolled in coursework (minimum two years). All Accounting majors are expected to attend ACCTG 599 each year they are in residence.

Occasionally, optional special topics classes will be offered reflecting instructor and student interest (for example, empirical research in taxation).

Research Methods Minor Area Requirements

In addition to the major area, students are required to choose three additional areas as minors. Doctoral students in accounting must select Research Methods as one minor area. Coursework in Research Methods should include Statistics 481 (or equivalent courses in probability and/or statistical inference), ECON 581, and ECON 582. ECON 581 and 582 are the econometrics series the UW Department of Economics offers. These requirements are viewed as minimal background for conducting doctoral level research.

Students should also include at least 3 units (e.g., one course) of additional coursework in Research Methods tailored to their specific interests and selected in consultation with the area advisor. The UW Business School also offers behavioral research method courses BARM 590 and 591. Additional econometric and behavioral research method courses are available in the economics and psychology departments, respectively.

Other Minor Area Requirements

Although Economics is highly recommended as a second minor area, students may petition to substitute another minor area in special circumstances. The courses to be included in the Economics minor should include the three-course sequence ECON 500, 501, 508 and at least 3 additional units (e.g., one course) of coursework selected in consultation with the Economics area advisor. The three-course sequence is the microeconomics series economics doctoral students are expected to complete in the economics department.

The third minor area will depend on the student’s interest. For example, students might choose one of the following minor areas: Finance, Information Systems, International Business, Operations Management, Psychology, and Quantitative Methods. It is also possible to design a special minor area, which more directly addresses a student’s interests. Since many students choose Finance as the third minor area, it is also briefly discussed below.

The Finance minor area is recommended for students interested in financial accounting research. Students can either complete the 4 course doctoral seminar sequence FIN 580, 590, 591, 592 or they can take three courses from this sequence and at least 3 additional units (e.g., one course) of coursework selected in consultation with the Finance area advisor. The four-course sequence includes coursework in financial economics, capital market theory, corporate finance, and advanced finance research.

Accounting Doctoral Student Planned Courses (as of September 2019)
The summer before you begin, you will be expected to do online math-camp homework. You will then arrive to campus in early September to begin on-campus math camp and programming camp. We will have a “welcome” barbeque sometime in September, hosted by the second-year doctoral students. This is a way to get to know everyone, and families/significant others are welcome.

Classes typically begin the last week of September and in the first year all students will have the same course schedule:

First Year

Fall Winter Spring Summer
Courses: Courses: Courses: Courses:
ECON 500 Microeconomics I ECON 501 Microeconomics II ECON 508 Microeconomics III BA 580 (Ed Rice) Business Econ
ECON 580
Econometrics I
ECON 581
Econometrics II
ECON 582
Econometrics III
ACCTG 582 Intro to Acctg Research ACCTG 580 Positive Acctg Theory Alternating Accounting Phd Seminar (Analytical or Experimental)
Financial Statement Analysis (MBA Class, case-by-case exemptions)
Other: Other: Other: Other:
Workshop series Workshop series Workshop series 1st Year Summer Paper and Presentation

Second Year

Fall Winter Spring Summer
Courses: Courses: Courses: Courses:
Classes outside of business school in your core area (e.g., PPM 512, PSYCH 466, PSYCH 510, PSYCH 555, EDPSY 593, EDPSY 594, PSYCH 600)

Finance Doctoral Seminars (FIN 580, FIN 591, FIN 592 (optional))
Behavioral Research Seminars (BARM 590, BARM 591)

ACCTG 582 (2nd time) Intro to Acctg Research ACCTG 580 (2nd time) Positive Acctg Theory Alternating Accounting Phd Seminar (Analytical or Experimental)
ACCTG 596 Capital Markets Seminar
ACCTG 579 (every other year) Empirical Research Designs and Methods
Other: Other: Other: Other:
Workshop series Workshop series Workshop series Comprehensive Exam
2nd year Summer Paper

Third Year

Fall Winter Spring Summer
Courses: Courses: Courses: Courses:
ACCTG 579 if applicable
ACCTG 596 (2nd time) Capital Mkts Acctg Seminar
Take any left-over finance or behavioral doctoral seminars (FIN 580, FIN 591, FIN592, BARM 590, BARM 591, etc.)

Register for BA 800 when you have passed your area exam and have satisfied all of your course requirements.

Other: Other: Other: Other:
Workshop series
2nd year Summer Paper Presentation
Workshop series
Spring Workshop Presentation (ideally your dissertation proposal)

Fourth Year

Fall Winter Spring Summer
Other: Other: Other: Other:
Workshop series
Workshop series
Spring Workshop Presentation

Fifth Year

Fall Winter Spring Summer
Other: Other: Other: Other:
Miami Conference
(Nov deadline)

Doctoral students minoring in accounting must meet the following requirements:

ACCTG 510 and ACCTG 511 or equivalents
ACCTG 580, Introduction to Accounting Research

In addition, students minoring in accounting are required to successfully complete one of the following:

Course Number Catalog Title Current Course Content
ACCTG 579 (4) Special Topics in Accounting Analytical accounting research
ACCTG 579 (4) Special Topics in Accounting Behavioral accounting research
ACCTG 596 (4) Seminar in Financial Accounting Capital markets


*Offered every second year.

Written Area Examination
After completing all coursework required for a major area in accounting, the student takes a written area examination offered each year during late July or early August. The accounting area examination tests students on coursework as well as on topics of current research. The exam consists of a closed book eight-hour exam.

General Examination
It is expected that students will complete all coursework and area exam and begin working on a dissertation proposal by the end of their second year. However, students are encouraged during their third and fourth years to attend the accounting doctoral research seminar in their area of interest (ACCTG 596 for financial accounting empiricists, ACCTG 597 for behavioral or experimental researchers). When the supervisory committee believes that the dissertation proposal is well defined, a general exam is scheduled. During the general exam, the student presents the dissertation proposal and answers questions related to the proposal and/or to courses taken. Members of the supervisory committee, a representative of the Graduate School, and any other interested faculty and students, attend the general exam. The chair of the supervisory committee determines the precise format of the general exam.

Students who have passed their area examination but not their general exam are required to present an Accounting Research Workshop on their research in progress each Spring quarter until they have passed their general exam (and thus have an approved thesis topic). Students are required to present their research paper in the research workshop before sending it out to schools to interview. This presentation should be in early October to allow time for revision before sending the paper out in early November.

After passing the general exam, students complete the proposed research and write the dissertation guided by a reading committee. The reading committee may consist entirely of members of the supervisory committee or may include one or more members not previously on the supervisory committee. When formation of the reading committee introduces new members, a new chair of the reading committee would ordinarily become chair of the supervisory committee and new members of the reading committee would ordinarily be placed on the supervisory committee.

Final Examination
The supervisory committee administers the final defense of the dissertation.