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Teachers impart knowledge, give instruction, and guide by example. Teachers also develop the mental powers of their students. Good teachers, by sharing their knowledge and enthusiasm for a given subject, can profoundly influence the lives of their students. Teachers of accounting are found at three levels: high school, business and community college, and the university.

This chapter will discuss the accounting educator at these three levels and explore environments, qualifications, salaries, employment opportunities, and work satisfaction.


High school accounting teachers work with young people going through the transition from childhood to adulthood. They teach a subject in more depth than it is taught in elementary school. The high school student is undergoing physical and emotional changes and is beginning to consider his or her future employment or career. The high school teacher plays a direct role in this process.

A typical high school curriculum includes two full-year courses called Accounting I and II or Bookkeeping I and II, which are offered at the junior and senior levels. The teacher develops lesson plans; prepares, gives, and grades tests; arrange for classroom speakers; and organizes other activities. In some schools the teacher designs the classroom assignments to meet the individual needs and abilities of the students. The high school teacher may conduct as many as five separate accounting classes per day.

In addition to teaching assignments, high school teachers supervise study halls and homerooms, schedule meetings with parents and school counselors, and serve as faculty advisers for accounting clubs or Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA). Teachers are expected to attend workshops and college classes to remain current in their specialties and on trends in education.

In recent years, some schools have hired teacher aides to help with routine tasks and paper grading. This has been a help, but most teachers still work a minimum of 40 hours a week. Sometimes student teachers are available from nearby colleges. These student teachers provide assistance and, in return, receive guidance and classroom experience.


The educational requirement for teaching accounting at the high school level is a four-year bachelor's degree in business education. The business classes needed to obtain this degree vary from state to state. Most states require that the student take at least three accounting courses, in addition to courses in management, marketing, economics, mathematics, and data processing.

Approved colleges and universities in every state offer the courses and the student-teaching experience required by the state. Each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia require that public high school teachers be certified. (Many states also require certification of private and parochial high school teachers.) Information on educational requirements may be obtained from each state's department of education or the nearest accredited university or college that offers a program in business education.


Salaries of beginning high school teachers vary from state to state and also from school district to school district within a state. An average starting salary for an accounting teacher for a nine-month contract started around $17,500 in 1990. Large school systems can usually pay higher salaries than small school systems. School systems that have a high tax base because of the presence of industry or other factors often can offer higher salaries than school systems in entirely residential or agricultural settings. Salaries also tend to be higher in the northeastern and western parts of the United States.

According to the National Education Association (NEA), high school teachers averaged $26,080 per year in 1985-86 and averaged $30,300 a year in 1988-1989, rising to $36,900 by 1995. Higher salaries are based on education and length of service in the educational system. Factors that will increase a teacher's salary are additional certification, a master's degree, and length of service. For example, salaries for teachers with a master's degree and 14 years' experience may reach the mid $40,000s or higher.

In some school systems the accounting teacher has the opportunity to serve as school treasurer and can earn additional compensation from this source. The high school teacher sometimes teaches evening education courses in accounting when the school system offers those classes. This also provides supplemental income.

Employment Opportunities

Based on supply and demand, general shortages of high school teachers are not likely to develop through the year 2000. A less-than-average growth rate is expected to take place until the year 2000. Employment will then grow faster than the average through 2005 for teachers at elementary and high school levels.

Work Satisfaction

The individual who likes to work with young people can find high school teaching a very satisfying experience. Men and women who prefer to be employed during the hours their children are in school are likely to find teaching very rewarding. Teaching enables parents to be home with their families during the summer and during the spring and winter breaks. It also provides time for travel and other enriching activities.


Business and community college faculty teach more mature students than the high school teacher does. Most business and community colleges offer two-year programs and degrees. They provide their students with training for specific vocations.

The accounting program at these institutions does not provide a full range of accounting courses. Most programs offer courses in principles of accounting (the introductory course), financial accounting (reporting to outsiders: stockholders, bankers, creditors), cost accounting (managerial decision making), and accounting for individual income taxes. The student is prepared for a paraprofessional position in the accounting world.

A teacher at the business and community college primarily teaches, gives grades tests and counsels students. The business college teacher conducts several classes a day. The community college teacher may teach on a similar basis or may teach several classes that meet only two or three times per week. The difference arises when the community college is part of a university system. The business and community colleges have faculty that specialize in teaching certain courses. Faculty members can expect to work from 35 to 40 hours per week.

If the community college is part of a university system, the teaching situation and experience will more closely resemble teaching at a university. Many community college faculties engage in research and publish their findings in professional journals.


The minimum requirement to teach in a business and community college is a four-year degree with a major in accounting from an accredited university. A master's degree and CPA certification are recommended for promotion. The requirements for taking the CPA examination are discussed in Chapter 1. Many faculty teaching in university-related community colleges hold doctorates in their specialties.


The private business schools, like the high schools, do not assign faculty ranks. Salary increases are determined by education (master's degree or higher), CPA certification, and length of service.

A community college that is not part of a university system may or may not assign rank to its faculty. The ranks, in ascending order, are instructor, assistant professor, associate professor, and professor. These positions are discussed more fully in the university section of this chapter.

Salary and compensation for two-year colleges with ranks are given in Table 6.1. Again, salaries for the same rank will vary by institution, by state (because of differences in state funding), and by geographic region.

Employment Opportunities

In the late 1980s, business and community colleges reported average annual gains in enrollment of 5 percent. Because of a lack of employment and a tight job market, many students have returned to school to upgrade their job skills. Many students choose a business or community college because the program prepares them for specific jobs, because it is closer to their homes, or because the tuition is more reasonable.

Because of projected increasing enrollments, business and community colleges in many parts of the country are expanding their facilities and hiring additional teachers. An individual possessing the proper credentials may find employment here.


The main function of the accounting faculty member at an accredited four-year university is to present an in-depth study of the theory and practice of accounting. The faculty member may teach by lecture, discussion, and other means. Lectures may be held in large classrooms accommodating hundreds of students or in seminars containing only a few students. Teaching aids, such as computers, closed circuit television, and overhead projectors are frequently used. Faculty must publish their research in scholarly journals.

The accounting faculty member usually specializes in one area of accounting. The primary areas are financial, managerial, tax, auditing, and not-for-profit organizations.

Financial accounting is taught in the introductory accounting course (also known as beginning accounting or principles of accounting), intermediate, and advanced accounting. Financial accounting deals with accounting principles and the understanding of financial statements prepared for stockholders, bankers, creditors, and others outside the business entity.

Managerial accounting encompasses costs, budgeting, decision making, and reports and information generated for internal use by company management.

Tax accounting covers taxation for individuals, partnerships, corporations, estates, trusts, tax planning, and tax research.

Auditing includes accounting systems, electronic data processing, computers, and computer programming.

Not-for-profit accounting covers local, state, and federal governments; hospitals; universities; voluntary health and welfare organizations and many other nonprofit entities that use a specialized system known as fund accounting.

College faculty generally have fewer hours assigned to classroom teaching because of the emphasis on doing research and on publishing. Research is an important part of the work of the university faculty member. At universities offering doctorates, the faculties are heavily involved in research activities.

Service to the university and community carries lesser emphasis but is also highly regarded. University service includes committee assignments, curriculum studies, revisions and counseling students. The faculty member may represent the university in the community by serving on the boards of various organizations, such as United Appeal or Mobile Meals.


A master's in business administration (MBA) or masters in accounting (MA) degree combined with a CPA certificate or CMA (Certified Management Accounting) certificate is the minimum requirement for employment in a university offering a four-year program in accounting. A person with these qualifications is hired at the rank of lecturer or instructor, usually for a maximum of three or four years.

A person whose goal is to become a college professor should complete a Ph.D. program or a doctorate in business administration (DBA) in accounting. The doctorate requires a dissertation involving original research in an area of accounting specialization. Doctoral programs usually take four to seven years of full-time study beyond the bachelor's degree. The dissertation, done under the guidance of a faculty adviser, usually takes one or two years of full-time work.

A Ph.D. or DBA with no experience usually will be hired at the assistant professor level in either an undergraduate or graduate school. Graduate schools are those that offer masters or doctoral programs. They require their faculty to hold doctorates. Newly hired faculty serves a certain period, usually five to seven years, under temporary contracts. Then their record of teaching, research, and service is reviewed, and if the review is favorable, tenure is granted.

In addition to the educational requirements needed for a university teaching position, the following factors play an important role in the hiring process:

  • Impressions made during the personal interview
  • Recommendations
  • Graduate school record
  • Caliber of university attended
  • Quality of doctoral thesis
  • Publications
  • Ability to do research
  • Professional involvement
A combination of these factors will determine the employment level, undergraduate or graduate, and the starting rank. In ascending order, university positions are (1) instructor, (2) assistant professor, (3) associate professor, and (4) professor.


The American Association of University Professors annually makes a study of graduate school faculty salaries of 2,127 institutions. The results of the study, showing average salaries for all disciplines for 1996-97, are shown in Table 6.1. Average salaries are higher in some areas of the country. Average salaries for accounting faculty are higher than those reported in Table 6.1 for faculty in all disciplines. Table 6.2 shows salaries offered to new hires in accounting at universities and colleges in 1996- 97.

Attempts are made to adjust starting salaries each year for inflation. Unfortunately for the existing faculty, salary increases are not keeping pace with inflation. This can cause a situation in which an associate professor employed at $42,000 may be working with a newly hired assistant professor who started at a salary of $47,500. The American Accounting Association calls this situation salary compression.

In addition to salary, supplementary income for the university teacher is available from:
  • teaching summer school
  • teaching seminars and adult continuing education courses
  • textbook royalties
  • teaching CPA and CMA review courses
  • consulting for industry
  • research through grant monies
Evaluation, Tenure, and Promotion

A person teaching at the college level is typically evaluated at least once a year. This evaluation becomes the basis for the annual salary increase, for tenure, and for promotion to a higher rank. Tenure is that point at which a professor is granted job security. After tenure is granted, a faculty member cannot be removed without just cause. Different institutions grant tenure at different years of service for different ranks.

The basic criteria used in this evaluation process are (1) teaching, (2) publishing, (3) professional activities, and (4) service to the university and the community. Each area is weighted, with the highest percentages usually allocated to teaching and publishing-those criteria valued most highly. The weightings will vary at different institutions.

Evaluation in the area of teaching includes the ability to communicate knowledge to students, to stimulate their thinking, to motivate their performance, and to increase their desire to learn. These areas are difficult to evaluate in a concrete, quantitative manner. Other considerations in the evaluation are the level and number of courses taught, development of new courses, and innovative teaching methods.

Professors are expected to devote a certain amount of time to research and, as a result of their research, to publish articles and books in their related fields. Editorships and staff positions on professional journals are desirable.

Presenting papers, giving speeches, and attending seminars all contribute to a professor's professional activities. Valuable experience and contacts are gained by accepting an office or chairing a committee for a professional organization.

The American Association is an organization existing specifically for educators. The AAA encourages accounting research. It holds regional and national meetings each year. Other recognized professional organizations include:
  • The state societies for certified public accountants
  • The American Woman's Society of CPAs (AWSCPA)
  • The National Association of Accountants (NAA)
  • The American Society of Women Accountants (AS WA)
  • The Financial Executives Institute (FEI)
Most of these organizations have local chapters or groups that may be contacted by writing to their national headquarters as listed in Appendix A.

Examples of service to the university include chairing and serving on committees within the department, college, or university. Serving as an officer or faculty advisor to an organization such as Beta Alpha Psi, the accounting honorary, is desirable.

Faculties are encouraged to be active in the community. They speak before civic groups, belong to and participate in community organizations, and serve as directors on boards of community agencies.

All these criteria are considered in granting tenure, promotion, and merit salary increases. One additional factor may enter the promotion process. Some universities or colleges require a minimum time in a given rank before one can be promoted to a higher rank.

Employment Opportunities

University teaching positions in accounting are available, and qualified applicants are in demand nationwide. Issues in Accounting Education listed 75 positions open in its 1996 issue. The American Accounting Association reported 104 positions in 1996-1997; the specialties most in demand were financial accounting, management accounting, taxation, and auditing.

However, planned growth through 1998 will be slow. Only a 2.6 percent growth rate in faculty positions is expected in accounting, and similar rates apply to finance, marketing, and other business disciplines. Exceptions are international business, with a projected 6 percent increase, and management information systems, with a 3.5 percent increase expected, based on a survey of 386 AACSB member schools.

Work Satisfaction

The university professor enjoys a stimulating and challenging environment.

Most educators find that the environment encourages professional growth, and their satisfaction comes from independence, self-expression, service to others, and stability of employment, opportunity for advancement, good salaries, and availability of positions. Serving as a role model and providing career guidance to students are also sources of personal satisfaction.

Flexible time schedules enable faculty member to engage in a variety of activities. It provides time for research and consulting within the community. Relevant outside experience is considered valuable knowledge that enhances classroom teaching.

At many universities a faculty member has the option of teaching summer classes at additional compensation. Otherwise, the summer months are free for travel, for research and writing, or for additional study. A sabbatical may be requested to pursue a research project. This frees the faculty member from teaching duties, although at a reduced salary. Faculty members are entitled to regular sabbaticals. Most institutions require a minimum number of years of teaching before a faculty member can apply for a sabbatical.

Certain fringe benefits are unique. A faculty member can take additional undergraduate course work free of charge at most universities. Some institutions permit an educator's spouse and children to obtain a bachelor's degree tuition-free.

The usual benefits of medical and dental insurance, life insurance, and retirement plans are provided.


In this text, academic administrator refers to the chairperson of the accounting department at a community college or university, or the administrator of a business college.

The academic administrator has a difficult and complex task. The teaching functions may be reduced or eliminated to provide time for handling the many responsibilities that go with administering a department or college. These responsibilities include attending numerous meetings, staying abreast of curriculum changes, hiring new faculty, negotiating the budget, and handling public relations.

At some colleges and universities, the department chairperson holds a five-year position that is rotated among faculty members. Some faculties welcome the position as a change from grading papers and the routine of classroom preparation. However, scholarly pursuits are often relinquished during these periods. See Table 6.3 for the salary structure of accounting administrators.

The role of administrator requires management skills, which should be developed early. These skills include developing budgets, writing statements of objectives, learning methods of evaluation, and delegating tasks. An educator aspiring to the administrative ranks must demonstrate the skills required of a top executive.
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