You Don’t Need a PhD to Teach
I started my journey thinking I would get my PhD and then start teaching. Although this is a great start to a career in academia, I learned that it is not a requirement. The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), the accreditation board for top-tier business schools, provides its schools with the minimum criteria for faculty qualifications. One type of qualified faculty member is an “instructional practitioner,” who in most cases has at least a master’s degree and extensive work experience relevant to the teaching area. Many CPAs can qualify as instructional practitioners due to CPA educational requirements; colleges and universities may, however, have different criteria beyond this minimum.
Based on AACSB guidance, the number of instructional practitioner positions is limited to ensure that a majority of faculty have a PhD or are actively involved in scholarly research. Instructional practitioners are typically not eligible for tenure and therefore paid less than tenure-track faculty. In all likelihood, practitioners who move into academia will be paid less than their current salaries.
Although this is not a requirement, I highly recommend that anyone interested in academia attend the AACSB Bridge Program. The program is a five-day training session geared at transitioning business professionals that meet the instructional practitioner criteria to the classroom setting. The program gave me the tools I needed to be successful and appropriately set my expectations for university life. My participation in the Bridge Program was a critical factor that helped me get my first teaching job as an assistant professor. For non-PhD faculty, skill, experience, and certifications play a critical role in landing a position.
Teaching Is Not a “Cushy” Job
I thought the majority of my job teaching would be in the classroom, but as I quickly learned, professors have a lot more responsibility. I typically teach four classes each semester, in addition to research and service responsibilities. Research requirements may involve publishing in professional or academic journals, while service describes the committee work performed on behalf of the college or university, such as serving on accreditation committees, advising committees, or academic planning committees. The department chair can provide examples of additional job responsibilities that may be required.
Determining work hours and class schedule is a different issue. The process will differ depending on the size of the department, but there will be an accounting chair or a coordinator responsible for scheduling classes. While individual preferences are taken into consideration, class assignments are often based on seniority. In addition, the shortage of accounting faculty may require instructional practitioners to teach additional classes. From my personal experience, chairs are reasonable about scheduling needs.
In addition to teaching, many universities require faculty to hold scheduled office hours. Some universities require 10 office hours a week, while others might not require any. Inquire about on-campus work requirements, and observe the habits of the newer faculty to get an idea of work expectations.
Although universities do not require faculty to teach during the summer unless it is specified in the contract, that does not mean summer is work-free. As noted above, an instructional practitioner’s course load may be heavier than other faculty members’, and more classes means more students and more grading. Although I am on campus for less than 40 hours a week during the semester, I spend a lot of time off-campus grading assignments and exams. Therefore, I have to use my downtime in the summer to conduct research and write. In addition, the summer is the best time to attend conferences, catch up on changes in the field, and develop lessons and materials for the fall semester.
Everything Takes Longer than Expected
Working in academia made me realize all of the things I took for granted in corporate America. Larger, prestigious universities may have more resources, but in general, resources are stretched due to declining funding. I did not realize that some basics I had in my corporate job would not be available to me in academia. For example, I previously received a new laptop every two years. When I started teaching, my work desktop was eight years old. When I would call the help desk for support, it was primarily supported by students, with only a few core IT employees to solve serious issues. If the university’s technology resources are lacking, it’s wise for instructional practitioners to invest their own resources, if possible.
Another thing that took longer than I anticipated was printing and grading exams. In public accounting, I learned that time is money and I needed to delegate all tasks that could be delegated. In academia, I had to roll up my sleeves and learn how to use a printer properly. Although printing 200 double-sided, eight-page stapled exams is not that difficult, it tends to be more challenging when the paper, staples, or toner run out. There were several occasions when I almost had to move back an exam due to printer issues.
When I first started, course preparation took a considerable amount of time. I had to understand the course objectives, create the syllabus, read the textbook, and develop homework assignments, quizzes, and tests. For my first class, I spent approximately 10 hours preparing for each chapter in the book. Luckily, as teachers gain experience, the preparation time decreases. Now, I typically change things that I do not like or things that I want to enhance. A seasoned professor also gave me some sound advice: Keep good records of preparation, exercises, and class activities.
For me, teaching accounting was always a part of my job. I loved the subject, and I loved helping others understand it. Making the transition to academia was scary, but now that I have a few years of experience under my belt, I have learned things that would help ease the process for other. By showing what I’ve learned, I hope to help other practitioners make a seamless transition from accounting practitioner to accounting professor.