In Search of the Northwestern University Accounting Program

The Northwestern University Accounting Program is hidden inside the management focus of the university’s Kellogg School of Management.  While Kellogg is ranked #4 on U.S. News and World Reports list of top MBA programs for 2012, the school does not appear in the top tier of rankings based on accountancy alone.

In fact, less than 1% of Kellogg graduates in between 2007 – 2011 were employed in accounting after graduation.

Undergraduate Accounting at Northwestern 

If you are interested in studying accounting as an undergraduate, Northwestern University has little to offer you.  The Kellogg School of Management is a graduate level school only.  Undergraduates interested in business studies are directed to a liberal arts degree from the university’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.  

As a part of your liberal arts degree you can take business courses and receive either a Financial Economics Certificate or a Managerial Analytics Certificate.  The traditional accounting courses you’d expect to find are divided between these two certificate paths, so even if you wanted to get a strong undergraduate accounting foundation you would find it challenging.

Kellogg School of Management

The Northwestern University Accounting Program is entirely housed within the Kellogg School of Management as a core concentration of the traditional MBA program and as the Accounting and Information Management Doctoral Program.

The MBA program is management focused but students are encouraged to strongly consider an accounting core major.  Since very few Kellogg graduates end up employed in accounting, this seems counter intuitive.  

However, the faculty of Kellogg believes that a good manager has a strong accounting foundation.

The accounting courses at Kellogg are challenging and focus on managerial accounting topics primarily in order to round out the quality management education offered.

If you want to enter accounting as a sole profession, either on a public accounting (CPA) or managerial (CMA) path you may find the courses offered at Kellogg are not comprehensive enough to give you an advantage.

Accounting with a Research Focus 

Northwestern University was founded as a research institution and remains one today.  It’s logical, then, that the accounting doctoral program is focused on research.  Much like other doctoral programs, Kellogg’s doctoral program stresses research from both an analytical and an empirical perspective.

No accounting background is required to enter the program; however you should at least have a demonstrated interest in accounting prior to admission.  

The push to generate published research is strong.

Northwestern is among the most productive research institutions in America.   Graduates are not only expected to publish, they are expected to use that published research as leverage to gain academic positions at other universities.

Northwestern University 

Founded in 1851 and located on the shores of Lake Michigan north of Chicago, Northwestern supports nearly 1,500 research laboratories in the medical and biological sciences.  Always a private institution, Northwestern raised funds for the construction of the campus by selling “perpetual scholarships” for $100 in 1853.

These scholarships entitled the purchaser and his heirs to free tuition, so check your family tree.  Perhaps you can attend Northwestern for free.

Surprisingly, given the strong commitment to scientific research, the five most commonly awarded undergraduate degrees awarded at Northwestern are in economics, journalism, communication studies, psychology, and political science.  

Northwestern alumni Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, Nobel Prize winning novelist Saul Bellow, and US Senator and presidential candidate George McGovern show the strength and success of Northwestern grads.  

The strength of these programs among others gives Northwestern University the 11th place ranking on Forbes list of Best Universities in the United States for 2011.

Purple Power

Before 1924, Northwestern sports teams were known as “The Purple.”  Now called the Wildcats, the purple theme continues as a part of campus life.  After every winning football game, the clock tower on campus glows purple and remains purple until a loss or the end of the season.  

Each Halloween, students host “The Purple Pumpkin” – a party for local children including games, candy, and fun.  More than 800 children attend each year, and it’s a great way for you to get involved.

Purple Power shows itself in other unique campus traditions at Northwestern:

  • Painting the Rock – Students advertise campus events, Greek life, and student organizations by painting a fountain originally donated by the Class of 1902.
  • The Purple Crayon Players – A student theater company that gives free performances for local school children.
  • Primal Scream – At 9 pm the Sunday before finals week every quarter, students lean out the windows or gather in the courtyard and scream for all they are worth. 
  • Dance Marathon – This 30 hour dance marathon raises several hundred dollars for charity each winter.  Students volunteer to be dancers or support staff and unite to raise money and stay on their feet.

Northwestern Life

There’s a lot to do at Northwestern, both on and off of campus.  You won’t lack for entertainment.  There are nine student theater companies and they produce more than sixty independent productions each year.  Northwestern also has a number of improvisation comedy groups.  

In fact, comedians like Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Seth Meyers are alumni of these groups.  You’ll laugh for sure.

If you love outdoor activities, Lake Michigan is right there for you to enjoy.  One of the Great Lakes, Lake Michigan offers swimming, fishing, and boating all summer long.  Not into that kind of activity?  You can always just lie in the sun on the beach and relax.

If you are interested in nightlife, Northwestern is connected to Chicago by public transit.  It’s a short train ride to the shopping, bars, and restaurants in downtown Chicago’s Miracle Mile.  The Shedd Aquarium and Museum of Natural History are downtown too, and can provide an intellectual reason to head into town for a beer.  In any case, with its location in the Chicago suburbs, Northwestern is close to all the action.

Summary – The Northwestern University Accounting Program

The accounting courses at Northwestern University are as academically challenging as you would expect them to be given Kellogg School of Management’s ranking as a top business school.  The problem is that there aren’t enough of them to support a career in accounting.

Unless you are interested in management or academia, Northwestern is not the school for you.