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Best Online Doctorates in Accounting (PhD/DBA)

Reach the top of the accounting field by earning a DBA or PhD in accounting online. Find out more about what an online doctorate in accounting offers and explore today’s best programs.

Search hundreds of top schools for the doctorate YOU want.

Written By

Shannon Lee

Last updated

Jul 31, 2023

If you aspire to pursue a career in accounting, obtaining a bachelor’s degree along with relevant experience, or a master’s degree in accounting, can serve as a strong foundation. However, to attain your full potential in the accounting industry, a doctorate degree is highly recommended. This is true whether you intend to teach, conduct research, or become a top-tier practitioner such as a chief financial officer or financial analyst.

The two primary doctoral degrees in accounting to consider are the Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) and the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). As an increasing number of companies strive to tackle the most complex financial challenges, there is a considerable demand for the advanced level of training that comes with a doctoral degree. 

So which accounting doctoral degree is right for you, a DBA or a PhD? Will you be able to continue working while you’re in school? What are some of the best programs? How long will it take to finish? And how much will it all cost?

Our guide was created to answer questions such as these. We will provide an outline of the benefits of obtaining a DBA or PhD in accounting, highlight the top program options for the current year, and explain how pursuing an online doctorate in accounting can enable you to meet your personal and professional commitments while earning your degree.

Best Online Doctorates in Accounting: 2023 Spotlights

Several excellent online programs offer DBA and PhD in accounting, but some stand out in terms of learning convenience, student support services, academic quality, and affordability. You want to attend a school that provides the greatest return on your academic investment. We have identified two outstanding schools and provided a summary of what distinguishes them in these critical areas.

Liberty University Lynchburg, Virginia
Type: Private not-for-profit
Cost: $$

The online Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) in Accounting program from Liberty University is accredited by the ACBSP and prepares students to take their business career to the highest level. During the program, students learn about advanced tax and accounting principles and research methods. Classes students include Accounting Ethics, Tax Research and Jurisprudence, and Advanced Auditing. Because this is a DBA program, extra attention is placed on learning advanced skills to tackle real-world accounting issues as opposed to learning more about theoretical concepts. While the program is fully online, students will have ample opportunity to network with classmates and professors with the help of optional intensive courses. These are in-person courses that provide a face-to-face learning option for students who desire a more traditional learning environment.

Program Highlights:

DBA in Accounting

  • Credits: 60
  • Length: About 3 years
  • Cost: $595/credit (full-time) and $650/credit (part-time)
  • Mode: 100% online
  • Accreditation: ACBSP
Faculty Ratio
Marshall University Huntington, West Virginia
Type: Public
Cost: $$

Although Marshall University's doctoral business program results in a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) degree, the curriculum has been tailored to maximize research skills and knowledge. Students choose from three specializations, including Accountancy. The DBA program also enjoys the distinction of being accredited by the AACSB. Because most students are working business professionals, the curriculum is available online, in both synchronous and asynchronous formats. However, to foster networking and collaborative learning, students progress through the program as a cohort and all students will complete classes on a full-time schedule. There are also five required campus visits each academic year. All of these start on Friday and end on Saturday to make them easier to fit into busy schedules.

Program Highlights:

Doctor of Business Administration in Accountancy

  • Credits: 66
  • Length: About 3 years
  • Cost: $900/credit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: AACSB
Faculty Ratio

Highlighting Another Quality Online Accounting Doctorate

Northcentral University

Northcentral University’s PhD in business administration (PhD-BA) with a specialization in advanced accounting is perfect for anyone looking for the most convenient online PhD possible. Northcentral University brings flexible learning by offering several key features in its advanced accounting PhD-BA program. 

All required classes have weekly start dates, so you won’t have to wait until the next term to begin classes. You can complete your degree 100% online, without having to leave home. There are no group assignments or set lecture times; all classes are offered asynchronously to accommodate every student’s unique schedule. This convenient curriculum consists of 60 credits that most students can finish in about four years. All professors have doctorates in their respective fields and are available for one-on-one mentoring.

Benefits of Earning Your Doctorate in Accounting Online

Postsecondary education continues to shift online. Many schools offering a DBA or PhD in accounting degree make it possible to earn this degree partially or fully online, which has strong appeal for busy students. Here are two of the biggest benefits of online doctorate in accounting programs:

  1. Flexible learning. Completing a doctorate or PhD in accounting online provides flexibility that isn’t possible through a traditional, on-campus program. You can complete your coursework at your own pace, which makes it easier to go to school while working full-time. Online programs are able to offer specialization courses throughout the year instead of just during a single semester, so students can take the classes they need when they need them.
  2. Convenient courses. Many online doctorate or PhD in accounting programs use asynchronous classes so students can choose their own study schedule. This means students can watch a lecture or participate in a class discussion from anywhere and at any time instead of a time set by the professor or school.

Learning Formats for Online Accounting Doctorates

Online doctorate degrees in accounting are offered in two potential formats: 100% online programs, meaning all curriculum requirements can be completed virtually, and partially online programs, meaning some or most of the classwork can be completed online but there will be in-person learning requirements such as campus visits or residencies. While not an absolute, online doctorate in accounting programs are more likely to be fully online while online PhD in accounting programs are more likely to be partially online. Let’s look at each option. 

Fully online

Students complete all of the classwork and program requirements virtually, from any location with a broadband internet connection. These 100% online classes can be synchronous or asynchronous. Synchronous classes have set schedules for lectures and other classwork; students must be present in the virtual classroom at a predetermined time. Asynchronous classes don’t have set schedules, allowing students to complete assignments and listen to lectures at any time, as long as they meet certain deadlines.

Partially online

Partially online accounting doctorate programs can also take two potential forms. For some, the bulk of the program is on campus but some classes can be taken remotely. For others, most classes are online (either synchronously or asynchronously) but students must complete one or more on-campus residencies each term or academic year. In some doctorate in accounting online programs, campus visits may be necessary for comprehensive exams or specific milestones such as the dissertation defense.

PhD vs. DBA: Which Accounting Doctorate is Right for You?

An online PhD in accounting program and an online doctorate in accounting program have some similarities. Knowing which one is right for you depends on the type of job you want when you graduate. Here’s a quick summary of their differences to help you zero in on the right one for you.

Online DBA in AccountingOnline PhD in Accounting
PurposeGain practical knowledge to apply to the business arenaLearn advanced theory and research skills for future careers in research and/or academics
Student TypeMid or late careerEarly or mid career
Student GoalAdvanced practice or supervisory positionPostsecondary teaching or research position
FundingPrivate sector employer tuition benefit programs or academic scholarshipsAcademic scholarships, stipends, and/or assistantships
PrerequisitesMaster’s degreeBachelor’s degree
LengthAbout three yearsAbout four to six years
CapstoneDissertation or major projectDissertation

Timeline: Online Accounting Doctorates

Doctoral degrees are relatively flexible regarding the duration required to graduate, particularly when pursuing an online program. Online PhD in accounting programs typically take longer to complete than online doctorate in accounting programs, but other factors can also affect the time it takes to finish, such as whether you hold a master’s degree and if the program is cohort-based. Here’s a very rough timeline of what to expect. 

Years one and two

Both DBA and PhD students spend the bulk of their academic efforts taking classes on advanced accounting theory and research skills. If the program requires a written comprehensive final exam, it will usually come at the end of year one or two for DBA programs and the end of year two or three for PhD programs.

Year three

By now, doctoral students should have started their dissertation or major research project. In some doctorate in accounting online programs, this process may begin in year two and end in year three (the final year). The dissertation process begins with background research and the development of a proposal. Then the proposal gets approved and research is conducted, analyzed, presented, and defended. Many DBA students graduate after their third year. For most online PhD in accounting students, their third year consists of the development of a dissertation topic and getting their proposal approved.

Years four and five

This typically applies only to PhD students, who are continuing work on their dissertations. If a PhD program has an oral comprehensive examination, it will usually occur during year four. Full-time PhD students who are particularly motivated will finish and defend their dissertations during their fifth year (and sometimes even their fourth year). For these students, the final year of their doctoral training also includes job search activities.

Year five/six/seven

For part-time students or students who take extra time for their major research, these final few years will be spent completing their dissertation. They will also begin their job search.

Learning Outcomes of Accounting Doctorates

A doctoral degree may not be necessary for a typical staff accountant, but if you aspire to conduct advanced-level research that is deserving of publication and to utilize these research skills in real-world scenarios, pursuing an online doctorate or PhD in accounting is ideal. Here are a few specific learning outcomes to expect after you complete a doctorate in accounting online.

  1. Enhanced communication of original ideas. Much of the doctoral curriculum involves the development of new ideas and conducting advanced research. Students learn how to communicate this information through oral and written methods not just to their peers in the academic world, but also to fellow accounting practitioners in the business world.
  2. Application of research findings and methods to the business world. In addition to learning to design and conduct original research in the accounting field, doctoral students learn to apply what they learn from research to the real world. This requires an in-depth understanding of both research methods and challenges facing businesses and accounting firms. 
  3. Identification of business problems that can be addressed with research. Part of the challenge of carrying out useful research isn’t just designing an experiment or figuring out how to gather and analyze data. Much of the challenge involves taking a goal and breaking it down into discrete questions that can be addressed in an experimental and quantifiable manner.
  4. Professionalism and ethics. Doctorate in accounting online students receive training on how to present financial information in an ethical way. They also learn how to carry out useful and beneficial research with professionalism by taking into account legal, moral, and cultural values. 
  5. Introduction to new accounting and business theories. Many years may have passed since the doctoral student earned their initial degree in accounting. Since then, accounting methods and underlying theories and principles have changed. While many students will be exposed to these while working in the accounting field, some concepts may be still unfamiliar and students might benefit from instruction.

Accreditation for Online Accounting Doctorates

When determining which schools to apply to, it is critical to focus only on accredited online doctorate degrees in accounting. Accreditation is essential because it guarantees that the degree you obtain satisfies specific quality standards. Accreditation also simplifies the process of obtaining financial assistance.

There are two types of accreditation to look out for as you investigate doctorate in accounting online degrees. First, there’s institutional accreditation. This applies to the entire university and usually comes from a regional or national accrediting organization that’s recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and/or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Second, there’s programmatic accreditation, which applies to a specific program. In the case of online accounting doctorates, there are two main programmatic accrediting bodies: the ACBSP and the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. When deciding which online DBA or PhD accounting program to enroll in, find one that has both institutional and programmatic accreditation.

Applying to an Online PhD or DBA in Accounting Program

The admissions process for online accounting graduate programs can be highly competitive. Prospective applicants should anticipate submitting standard items, such as a completed application form, an application fee, official transcripts from colleges and universities attended, two or three letters of recommendation, and a personal statement. But given how competitive these programs are, many online doctorate in accounting programs also ask for other information such as the following:

  • Resume or curriculum vitae. Graduate accounting programs like to have students with real-world accounting or business experience. The student’s work history shows what types of experiences the applicant can share with their professors and classmates.
  • Standardized test scores. Sometimes applicants will need to submit GRE or GMAT test scores as a part of their application, with the more competitive programs setting a minimum recommended score for admission.
  • Evidence of the applicant’s achievements. Many admissions officers want to see evidence of an applicant’s aptitude, interest, and success in the accounting field, even if it’s academic. Applicants are encouraged to submit evidence of research accomplishments, professional awards, and certifications as a part of their online accounting doctoral program application.
  • A minimum GPA. Not meeting this usually means the applicant won’t get accepted into the program. Those who get accepted into popular PhD accounting programs usually have GPAs well above the minimum set by the admissions office.

Cost of Online Accounting Doctorates

Aside from tuition, there are additional expenses to factor in, such as fees, textbooks, and equipment. Fortunately, tuition for distance learning is lower than on-campus classes at certain institutions. Additionally, you will save money by not having to commute to campus multiple days per week. However, some online programs require several on-campus visits, so you must consider the travel costs for those trips.

Still, tuition is the biggest factor in determining the cost of your DBA or PhD in accounting online degree. Here is an idea of what you’ll pay:

SchoolCost per CreditTotal CreditsSubtotal
Capella University$96590$86,850
Wilmington University$67954$36,666
Liberty University$59560$35,700
Franklin University$74858$43,384

Many schools offset the higher costs of a doctoral degree by providing additional funding for their DBA and PhD students. In addition to scholarships, doctoral programs offer assistantships and fellowships. They’ll also offer grants and stipends to help students conduct research and pay for basic living expenses. 

So as important as knowing what the tuition is for a school of interest, don’t forget that what you actually pay will probably be less. To get an idea of how much less it might be, contact your school’s financial aid advisor to see what’s available. You can also review our scholarships and grants, as well as our financial aid guides for more information.

How Much You Could Earn with an Accounting PhD or DBA

The more advanced degree is, the more money you can usually expect to make. The PhD or DBA degrees are specialized degrees that students tend to pursue when they’re looking to change careers, so in some cases the degree doesn’t always result in higher pay if you don’t have commensurate experience. But generally speaking, earning a PhD or DBA in accounting results in a higher income.

For example, a professor teaching a business-related subject (like accounting) at a college or university earns an average of $109,500 per year. These professors typically have a PhD or DBA degree. If they only have a master’s, their teaching options will usually be limited to technical/trade schools or junior colleges where the average pay for teaching a business-related subject is $64,740 and $90,610 per year, respectively.

The pay difference between master’s and doctoral accounting degrees exists for practitioners, too. The average annual salary for an employee with a doctorate in accounting is $98,000, while the average annual salary for an employee with a master’s in accounting is $77,000.

Another way to compare these differences in pay is to look at the median and 90th percentile incomes. A business professor teaching accounting can expect a median income of $94,360, with those at the 90th percentile earning $198,240. In contrast, accountants and auditors (who only need a master’s or bachelor’s degree) have median and 90th percentile incomes of $77,250 and $128,970, respectively.