What classes should I take?

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What is most important for a Ph.D. student to know before entering a Ph.D. program depends to a degree on the type of research that the student wants to conduct. The three "tracts" of research can be separated based on whether the student is interested in conducting analytical, archival, or experimental research.


Analytical Skill Sets

Students that are successfull in analytical fields often have engineering, math, or physics undergraduate degrees. If one is to master analytical accounting research, advanced mathematical skills are necessary. Good classes to take would be Econ 382 (Price Theory) and Econ 478 (Game Theory). Any of the 500 level Econ classes would also help. A potential analyst should consider pursing either a minor or spending some extra time to get a double major in economics.

Archival Skill Sets

Future archival researchers should consider taking Econ 588 rather than Stat 512. Additionally, it would be beneficial to take Stat 441 and 442, which are similar to 588 but are more in depth. The prerequisite for Stat 441 is Math 214 (Multivariable Calculus), so you will need to plan ahead if you need to take more math to get prepared. More math is also preferred. Linear Algebra is probably more important than Multivariable Calculus if one has to choose.

There are two linear algebra courses offered at BYU: Math 343 and Math 302 (which spends only half of the semester on linear algebra). Math 343 is a more theoretical course and as such is a rigorous course in mathematics. Students are expected not only to master computations, but also to demonstrate their understanding of linear algebra by creating abstract proofs. Developing proficiency in critical thinking and logical inference is a major goal of Math 343. Math 302 is Mathematics for Engineering I and covers multivariable calculus, linear algebra, and numerical methods. It is also known as applied linear algebra. The prerequisite for Math 343 is Math 112 or 119 and it is a 3 credit class. The prerequisite for Math 302 is Math 113 and it is a 4 credit class.

I took Math 343 after I had taken Econ 378, 388, and 588 (the statistical economics courses) and found that the first third of the class was somewhat of a review. Taking Math 343 before those courses could be an advantage. In either case, I still think it is beneficial to take a rigorous math course that requires doing a lot of proofs. The last part of the course gets into some of the foundations for OLS regression.

If you are worried about your math skills as you prepare to take the pre-Ph.D. classes, the engineering school offers a math refresher course, Eng T 295R. It is designed for engineering majors who took calculus before their missions and need to get back up to speed after having been away from school for a while. It is a review of basic techniques of algebra, trigonometry, differential calculus, integral calculus, and series and sequences. Calculus becomes important in the economics courses required for the prep track.

Experimental Skill Sets

One of the most important skills to develop as an experimentalist is research design. The strength of experimental methodology is internal validity. Experimentalists should rarely, if ever, sacrifice internal validity to achieve other types of validity; thus, being able to design high quality experiments is very important. To develop this skill, a Ph.D. prep student would benefit from a detailed study of Cook and Campbell, an experimental design class (Stat 431), and attempting to design an experiment and then seeking feedback from an experimentalist.

Experimental research is not as popular in accounting as archival research. An experimentalist may wish to take Stat 512 instead of Econ 588. Stat 512 goes over topics that are more relevant to experiments, such as experimental design and MANOVA whereas Econ 588 is more aimed at archival research methods. Since experiments are not the dominant paradigm in accounting research, experimentalists should be conversant in archival research methodologies. Because of this, an experimentalist may wish to take Econ 588 to develop these skills and to make life easier in your Ph.D. program (when you are likely to take similar classes).

The readings seminar provides a great opportunity to discuss the design and experiment in experimental papers. Especially when the author leads to the class discussion, take the opportunity to discuss the instrument they used and ask questions about their design choices. Even looking at the instrument from someone’s experiment provides a lot of insight as to what goes into a good design.

Since there are not lot of classes related to experimental research at BYU, take the time to read some books. As mentioned earlier, Shadish, Cook and Campbell is a book you should take very seriously when you take it with Doug. Read it again towards the end of the program as well because you will appreciate it even more after taking the other classes.

Sarah Bonner has a book, “Judgment and Decision Making in Accounting” that provides a good framework for the literature. Use the first couple chapters to get an understating of the framework and then the latter chapters provide a good review of the literature if you have an area of interest and want to know what papers to read.

An overall heads up for all of the methodologies, the Econ Probability and Stats course at BYU is a good fundamental class. Many of the things you learn in that course, especially the math, will be considered review material and surpassed quickly in a PhD Probability and Stats course. Also, the Wackerly book used for that class, Mathematical Statistics, is probably worth keeping as a resource.

Short Description of Classes

Required Courses

The following are courses required for the Ph.D. Prep Track:

PhD Prep Specific

  • Acc 516 This class goes over the basics of the theory of science and research methodology. The class will also offer an introduction to accounting literature. The class requires a lot of reading.
  • Acc 517 This class teaches the basics of SAS, a statistical software package commonly used in accounting research. While the class is only one credit, be prepared to dedicate a large block of time to it each week.
  • Acc 591R This is a readings class. The curriculum varies each semester so students are required to take it every semester that they are not enrolled in Acc 516 or Acc 517. Generally the class requires students to read, discuss, and present on accounting literature.


  • Stat 511 This class is a refresher course on basic statistics, most of which was learned in Stat 221. However, there are a few topics that will be relatively new.
  • Stat 512 This class continues where 511 left off. It goes into more detail with different types of tests and corrections. Topics include MANOVA, experimental design, logit regressions, and autocorrelation corrections. It is recommended that one take this class for preparation in performing experimental research.


  • Econ 378 This course goes into the basic mathematics behind the statistics learned in Stat 221. The course does require calculus, but don't worry too much if you are rusty. The first day of class usually includes a review of Calculus that can bring a student up to speed.
  • Econ 380 This is a microeconomics course. Essentially you take the concepts learned about in Econ 110 and learn the math behind it. Similar to Econ 378, this class requires Calculus and it also generally has a Calculus refresher the first day of class.
  • Econ 381 This class goes over Macroeconomics. This class focuses on models that explain the economy and some basics of economic governance. While the class claims to require Calculus, generally very little (in some cases none) is required.
  • Econ 388 Econometrics is a difficult class for most students. The class covers the linear algebra behind regression analysis. While you are not required to take linear algebra before taking this class, it will give you a competitive advantage.
  • Econ 588 This class picks up from where Econ 388 left off, covering more advanced econometric topics. Again, this is a challenging class for most students. It is recommended that you take this class if you plan on doing archival research.

Recommended Courses

The following are courses recommended for those considering research in a certain methodology:

Archival Research

  • Stat 124 SAS Certification 1. If you want to beef up your SAS skills before entering a PhD program, consider getting SAS certified. Stat 124 and Stat 324 are a block classes on SAS that will prepare you to become SAS certified.
  • Stat 212 Statistical Computing 1.
  • Stat 324 Advanced SAS Programming Certification. See Stat 124 description.
  • Stat 412 Statistical Computing 2.
  • Math 214 Calculus of Several Variables. This class covers topics such as partial differentiation, the Jacobian Matrix, and integral theorems of vector calculus.
  • Math 343 Elementary Linear Algebra. This class covers basic matrix algebra. Topics include linear systems, vectors and vector spaces, linear transformations, determinants, inner product spaces, eigenvalues, and eigenvectors.
  • Econ 382 Intermediate Price Theory 2. This class follows up on what was learned in Econ 380. Topics covered include Welfare Theory, imperfect information, imperfect competition (in more depth), uncertainty, externalities, and public goods.

Experimental Research

  • Stat 321 Elements of Mathematical Statistics. This class looks at probability, random variables, frequency distributions, estimation and tests of hypotheses from a theoretical stand point.
  • Stat 435 Nonparametric Statistical Models. This class goes over permutation tests, rank-based models, analysis of contingency tables, bootstrap methods, and curve fitting.
  • Econ 382 Intermediate Price Theory 2. See description above.
  • Econ 478 Game Theory and Economics. This class applies game theory to the study of interactions between people and organizations. It looks at topics such as imperfect competition, insurance markets and bargaining. Strong math skills are recommended.

Other Course Suggestions

Here are some other tips on course requirements for the Ph.D. Prep Track. Also, here are several suggestions from past students on classes at BYU.

Here are several minor options for Prep Track Students:

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