Accounting is essential to the functioning of the economy and, indeed, society in general. Accounting is the means by which we monitor our governments, our corporations, and our non-profit organizations. For business firms, accounting not only monitors the managers, but also informs the investors in these firms of the potential payoffs, the risk to those payoffs, and the consequent valuations. This “financial accounting,” determines the allocation of investment to its most efficient use in the economy and promotes well-functioning capital markets with transparent pricing. “Managerial accounting,” the accounting to managers rather than about managers, promotes decision making and efficiency within the firm. 

Faculty in the CBS Accounting Division are experts on both the design of financial analysis--how investors, analysts, managers and regulators should extract insights from accounting information--and prescriptions for better accounting that enhances such analysis. Doctoral candidates in accounting are expected to become familiar with theoretical structure, conceptual foundations, and research literature in financial accounting, managerial accounting, and auditing, becoming proficient practitioners of at least one research methodology in one of these subfields.

Coursework and Research

All students complete four doctoral seminars in accounting, two in each of their first two years in the program. A research paper, which is presented to the Accounting faculty, is required at the end of the first year.

Sample Accounting courses



Beginning in the first year of the program, each candidate has an opportunity to work closely with a member of the faculty on research projects. Students also participate in Columbia’s Burton Conference, in which distinguished accounting scholars from other institutions join Columbia faculty members in a series of informal workshop sessions to review and evaluate current research. 

Building on this foundation, doctoral candidates select a subfield as the focus of dissertation research — financial accounting, managerial accounting, or auditing. Financial accounting requires additional course work in financial market theory and econometrics; managerial accounting requires supplementary work in microeconomic analysis, management, management science, or information systems.