I am new to this forum and need/want advice. I am 46 years old, hold a CPA license and have a Macc from an AACSB accredited university.

My goal is to obtain a doctoral degree and research/teach at a university...not necessarily a top university, but not a small, liberal arts college either.

It appears that I have almost certainly missed the traditional PhD boat due to my advanced age (though I will still apply to several schools). While no program head would admit it, my understanding is that BUSINESS Phds in the U.S. really don't accept students much older than 30.

I've also researched DBAs/Executive Phds too. And while I don't hate the idea of these, the price tags are usually somewhere around $120,000 before travel expenses (these are hybrid programs).

Further, I have ZERO desire to obtain a Phd from a school like Walden, Capella, Northcentral, etc.

So my question is this: what do you think (you obviously can't know) my prospects would be with an out-of-field Phd? There are a few Phd degrees in the U.S. in fields like Human Resources, etc. that are somewhat related...but are not true business degrees. In other words, they would not be AACSB accredited because that is only available for business schools. There are a handful of these programs throughout the U.S. at reputable schools that are both hybrid and affordable.

I would have a Masters in accountancy, a CPA license, and of course the somewhat out-of-field doctorate.

Any advice is appreciated. Just remember...I am 46...not 22 with tons of options.

Thank you

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    Dear Jeff, welcome to our community. I am afraid that your question is too personalised to fit in the scope of Academia.SE. The idea is to ask questions that could apply to others in the future. However, I am sure that there are other questions you could ask that would help you and others in the same situation. I would like to invite you to perform a little search here in some of the questions related to age and academia, it may be useful for you: academia.stackexchange.com/search?q=Age+phd
    – The Doctor
    Jun 7, 2018 at 19:35
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    What do you mean by out-of-field doctorate? You don't know what you want to get your PhD in or you just don't want to include it in your question? Jun 8, 2018 at 2:27
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    @DeanMacGregor In that case, it is a duplicate: academia.stackexchange.com/questions/24577/…
    – The Doctor
    Jun 8, 2018 at 2:43
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    If you want a PhD, but you're not too fussed what subject it is in, this begs the question "Why do you want the PhD?".
    – Flyto
    Jun 8, 2018 at 11:34
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    @JeffFisher You should edit your question to clarify your goal. At the moment, it says that your goal is to teach and says nothing about research, whereas your comment says your goal is research and teaching is something you'd put up with to get that. Jun 8, 2018 at 17:30

4 Answers 4


Age >40 not a problem

I am a faculty member at a top-50 business school. We would definitely consider candidates who are your age. In fact, your age is something of an advantage in that you would certainly have substantial real-world experience.

... but we train researchers

Your stated primary goal of teaching would definitely be a strike against you. Top PhD programs are primarily in the business of training people who have research as a primary goal. The training we offer is primarily how to create new knowledge, as well as socialization into the institutions of academic research.

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    Thank you! I'll make sure to forsake the term "teaching" and instead use the term "research". The fact that you mentioned it indicates how important the distinction is between the two terms. It's also nice to know that there is actually a chance.
    – Woblee
    Jun 7, 2018 at 20:44
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    I am not certain that your second paragraph is really true. At least around here, it is bored into the minds of every PhD student that there are not enough research jobs for everyone.
    – user9646
    Jun 8, 2018 at 0:22
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    @NajibIdrissi Yes but the same applies to teaching jobs. I think the point is that if your goal is to be in academia then it is desirable for you to be a good researcher. The answer to someone who can't find a job in academia would be the private sector not some placement where only teaching is desired. Jun 8, 2018 at 2:26
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    @NajibIdrissi to clarify, I only meant that at my school (and I believe at top-tier programs in general), we do not accept people who are seeking teaching-only careers. It's true that there aren't research jobs for everyone, but our niche in academia is training people who will get those research jobs. Teaching faculty are hugely important -- and these are great careers that probably have the greatest impact on student experience -- but we just don't train them.
    – sessej
    Jun 8, 2018 at 14:32

I can identify since I went for a "PhD-and-academic-career" after 25 years of a professional career in the private sector (Finance & Administration Director kind of stuff). Although countries are rather different (mine is Greece), we are both in the "western civilization" chunk of humanity so maybe some similarities apply.

What the persons interviewing me for the PhD wanted really to be convinced about, was that I was really serious about pursuing an academic career. In other words "I am doing the PhD for the love of science" (translation in the ears of third parties: I am bored with my life / I have a mid-life crisis /I failed in my current profession etc), wouldn't have cut it. "I want to change course because I very much like scientific research, and I like teaching too), and generally I like engaging in new things" was the correct approach.

And then, even though I had completed a full-time 2-year Master of Science when young, they had me doing it all over again, in order to qualify for the PhD.

I am not sure though about not exploiting your past education and professional experience.

From my economist's point of view (I am a certified accountant also), there is abundant space for important research in linking/bringing together the Accounting and Economics points-of-view on researching the workings of the private sector in the economy.

Or, embarking on a research project combining Management Science and Accounting with a quantitative approach, appears also to be an open field.

  • I like your ideas regarding research. My research ideas center around connections between accounting and human resources. Of course, most of my thoughts eventually find their way into economics. Thank you for your encouraging comments.
    – Woblee
    Jun 8, 2018 at 13:32

It is pretty difficult to provide a specific advice because you probably have pretty tight constraints in terms of time, family, location, etc. My advice would be to spend a lot of time exploring opportunities and weighing different options. PhD at 46 is definitely a good idea if you like teaching. It takes only 3-5 years to get it and it will make you employable long past the retirement age.

My personal opinion is that you should give a lot of weight to a location of the university so you don't have to spend too much time/money traveling as your opportunity costs must be pretty high now.

Also you should analyze the skills that you have and see what kind of research you can apply it to. Being an experienced accountant, you probably have quite a few valuable skills that you can apply to many fields. Going out of field is quite alright as long as you are interested in it and apply the skills you are strong at. For example, my masters was in finance and I ended up doing PhD studying risks in agricultural business. Worked out just fine and of course I went into another field after I got the PhD, applying my new set of skills. Come to think about it, progress is pretty fast so I'll probably end up working on a field that doesn't yet exist later in my career.

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    Arthur, It seems like you know me pretty well! Your advice is solid and mirrors exactly what I've been doing. I've decided to cast a large net in search of a program. Of course, geography is a concern, but obtaining a PhD and moving into research is my last great quest. The opportunity cost will be high...very high! But I've grown weary of looking up the answers. It's time to create the answers.
    – Woblee
    Jun 8, 2018 at 13:37

want to earn reputable doctorate - need advice

Your desire is misplaced. That is, an academic degree is not a goal in itself, it is a recognition of work done. A university "awarding" the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, or Master of Arts, or whatever, means that its academic bodies recognize your academic work - studies and/or research as the case may be - at the institution makes you worthy of that recognition.

So don't think about what degree you want to achieve, think about what kind of research you're interested in doing. If there isn't a specific question you want to study in depth, then you should not enter a doctoral problem. Or at least - if there isn't a narrow field which you want get into in great depths, don't enter such a program.

I realize that I'm saying "If you're not a researcher then you don't get to teach" - and that's partially the point in much of the academic system: That Humboldtian principle, the marriage of the expansion of knowledge by research and the dissemination of knowledge by teaching. There are colleges, and peripheral domains within universities, when non-researchers teach. Sometimes this creeps into the core programs too. In those cases, a wealth of practical experience can work in your favor looking for a teaching position. I would consider that non-research-based route as well.

  • Thank you. My desire, however, is not misplaced. I have very specific research ideas, and they are the reason for earning the degree. I've just not shared them on the forum. Look, the fact is that without the degree, it does not matter what one's research acumen may be. Ironically, my question has been understood by everyone I've talked with outside of academia, but there seems to be a disconnect to some extent with those already in the field. I suspect that's due to rigid language...semantics that actually matter, but that I don't understand.
    – Woblee
    Jun 9, 2018 at 2:00
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    @JeffFisher: It's not about the language, it's about how you approach things. If you try to "get a doctorate", you're much more likely to get stuck, have trouble focusing, be stressed out or become depressed, etc. You'll find many questions about this experience on this site. I'm not saying it's impossible - some/many people eek out doctorates through mental fortitude, or because the academic standards in many institutions and departments are rather low IMHO. But I would advise against it.
    – einpoklum
    Jun 9, 2018 at 8:13
  • And yet you don't know what my approach is exactly. Surely you would agree that the only way to do formal, university research is to be either the holder of a doctoral degree or a student in such a program. Please don't confuse the very limited post I made as the entirety of my approach/desire/thought process, etc. Doing so only proves that the language/semantics that I referenced earlier is IN FACT a major contributor to the misunderstanding of said approach/desire...., etc. Thank you for your input and for the extra motivation. I hope that was your intent.
    – Woblee
    Jun 9, 2018 at 20:10

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