phd in accounting in usa

Last Updated on August 12, 2023 by Oluwajuwon Alvina

Hosting the largest population in the United States, California also employs the most accountants in the nation. The 148,500 accountants working in the state earn some of the top salaries in the country, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), making the state an excellent choice for those aspiring to join the field.

With a wide suite of household-name companies making their home in California, accountants can find ample opportunities in major corporations, accounting firms, and entertainment giants. Graduates with an accounting degree can pursue careers as certified public accountants (CPAs), personal financial advisors, and consultants. Additionally, the state’s strong business sector creates high demand for financial managers and other executives, who often have a background in accounting.

Top California Schools for Accounting

  • Claremont McKenna College
  • University of Southern California
  • Santa Clara University
  • Loyola Marymount University
  • Pepperdine University
  • Azusa Pacific University
  • Saint Mary’s College of California
  • University of Redlands
  • University of San Diego
  • Biola University


According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), 3,727,266 students enroll in postsecondary programs annually in California. Hosting excellent institutions that offer in-person, online, and hybrid programs, the state boasts many opportunities for prospective students.

While California’s cost of living remains high, the state provides abundant financial support to students and institutions. Additionally, some online programs allow students living out of state to pay in-state or otherwise reduced tuition rates.

To defray costs for out-of-state students, California participates in a regional program that allows students from participating states to pay reduced tuition at some institutions. The region includes neighboring states, such as Oregon and Utah, and extends as far east as the Dakotas.

Education Statistics for California

The table below illustrates education statistics for California compared to the country as a whole. The information includes numbers of two- and four-year colleges, distance learning statistics, and state-allocated funding for postsecondary education. Readers can also find data on the percentage of the population that completes education at the associate, bachelor’s, and graduate levels.

Number of Four-Year Colleges2643,004
Number of Two-Year Colleges1841,579
Percentage of Students Enrolled in Distance Education29.1%34.7%
Postsecondary Education Appropriations per Full-Time Student$9,078$8,196
Percent of Tax Revenue Allocated to Higher Education6.8%5.8%
Percentage of Adults Over 25 With an Associate Degree7.8%8.4%
Percentage of Adults Over 25 With a Bachelor’s Degree20.8%19.4%
Percentage of Adults Over 25 With a Graduate Degree or Higher12.5%12.1%

Accreditation for California Schools

Prospective accounting students should ensure the program they choose holds accreditation, preferably from a regional accrediting body. While national accreditation approves certain types of schools, such as for-profit and religious institutions, regional accreditation generally represents the most rigorous standards in higher education, ensuring a quality accounting program.

Many schools only accept degrees and transfer credits from regionally accredited institutions. Additionally, many professional licenses and certifications require an accredited degree. The WASC Senior College and University Commission regionally accredits California schools.


When researching accounting degrees in California, prospective students should compare their individual career goals with a program’s offerings. Concentrations, distance learning options, and cost can also play important roles in the decision-making process. The sections below offer detailed information on accounting degrees and careers in California to help students select the right accounting program.

Accounting Concentration Options

High concentrations of California accountants are employed in metropolitan areas like San Francisco and Los Angeles, giving them access to opportunities across many large corporations. Aspiring accountants with an interest in technology might find an accounting information systems concentration helpful in landing jobs with companies like Apple, Facebook, HP, and Oracle. Those hoping to spring from accounting into executive management benefit from a management accounting concentration.

  • MANAGEMENT ACCOUNTING: With a concentration in managerial accounting, graduates can seek jobs in consulting firms or individual organizations. The concentration prepares students to work with organizational budgets and assess financial data through courses in strategy, leadership, and business management.
  • ACCOUNTING INFORMATION SYSTEMS: Accounting information systems students gain skills in accounting systems and cybersecurity in addition to accounting. The concentration can lead to CPA licensure and includes courses in accounting tools and techniques, risk assessment, and cyber accounting.

On-Campus Versus Online Program Options

Some students thrive in on-campus programs, while others benefit more from online programs. The following sections outline the differences between on-campus, online, and hybrid programs to help prospective students determine the right format for their needs.


In a traditional on-campus program, students physically commute to take class. This option suits students who prefer to engage in face-to-face conversations with professors and colleagues. On-campus programs offer the advantage of direct access to extracurricular activities and networking events. Students requiring more hands-on guidance may elect to take classes on campus.

Online Programs

Many students gravitate toward online programs because of the flexibility they offer. Online programs may run asynchronously, allowing students to access course materials at their convenience and participate in discussions through online forums. Other programs require real-time meetings via webcam. Self-directed participants with a strong ability to schedule their own work tend to excel in online programs.

Hybrid Programs

In a hybrid program, students balance on-campus courses with online learning. Rather than accessing all materials online, program participants attend some sessions on campus. On-campus requirements might take the form of weekly in-person courses or immersion events that take place over the course of several days.

California Students11.6%17.5%70.9%
United States Students16.3%18.4%65.3%

Paying for Your Accounting Degree

Students can finance their California accounting degrees through many potential sources, such as loans, scholarships, grants, and work-study programs.

Often offered by professional associations and local organizations, scholarships can greatly reduce the financial burden of pursuing a degree. Students should search for scholarships based on their area of study, and consider whether they might qualify for awards based on their particular demographic.

Students must submit the FAFSA to determine their eligibility for federal financial aid. In California, the FAFSA also qualifies students for financial assistance through the California Student Aid Commission.

Average In-State Tuition and Fees (Public Four-Year)$8,020$9,037
Average Out-of-State Tuition and Fees (Public Four-Year)$29,173$25,657
Average Tuition and Fees (Private Four-Year)$33,483$30,731
Average In-State Tuition and Fees (Public Two-Year)$1,268$3,243
Average Out-of-State Tuition and Fees (Public Two-Year)$7,504$7,971

Source: NCES

In-State Versus Out-of-State Tuition

Many public institutions vary tuition rates depending on the student’s state of residence. California’s public institutions offer lower in-state tuition rates than the national average.

Students living outside of California may pay higher tuition fees than those living within the state. Using averages from the NCES, the table above illustrates the major difference in cost between in-state and out-of-state tuition. However, some programs allow all online students to pay in-state tuition rates regardless of residency.

California collaborates with neighboring states through the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education. With programs for both undergraduate and graduate students, the agreement allows students living in the region to attend California institutions at reduced rates.

California’s Cost of Living

Students should remember to factor a state’s cost of living into their budget plan when researching locations for school. Housing, groceries, utilities, and transportation all make up important lines in any student’s budget.

World Population Review serves as an excellent resource for finding this information. The site reports California’s cost of living at 151.7, among the highest in the country.


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