Students invariably ask, “Is a Ph.D. in business worth it?” The answer will depend both on the level of education required for the job in question and whether or not the student wants to devote the necessary time to earn the degree. For example, if a person were to want to teach business instead of be involved in a business in day-to-day life, particularly at a major university, then a Ph.D. is required. To hold top jobs in many of the largest companies, a Ph.D., while not specifically required, would be a mark very much in favor of any applicant for that job. Students concerned about their earning potential would have to balance the years spent in study and writing the dissertation against what they might have earned in the workforce. Assuming a student enters college at 18, that student would be 27 or 28 before earning a Ph.D. It is common, therefore, for people to strive for the Ph.D. later in life after gaining valuable real-world experience in the marketplace.
Business graduates, even without a Ph.D in business, have a world of choices when it comes to career tracks. This program of study is diverse enough that you can find a niche in almost any industry. Business majors who invest in a Master’s in Business Administration expand their choices even more, so earning an MBA is not an uncommon strategy. However, a doctorate in business is not nearly as popular for various reasons. Nonetheless, an advanced degree in business could have real value other than dressing up your resume.
Requirements for Earning a Ph.D. in Business
Prospective students would have to have a bachelor’s degree before earning a master’s degree. They will also have to have a master’s degree before striving for the doctorate. At each level, students will have to meet certain standards before progressing. Many of the best graduate schools require a 3.0 GPA or higher before allowing enrollment. Certainly, Ph.D. programs will have that as a minimum requirement. Obviously it behooves the students to earn as high a GPA as possible. They will also have to take either the Graduate Record Examinations or the Graduate Management Admissions Test to qualify for admission.
Depending on the track that the student wishes to take, the class foci could be educational, research-based, or practical. All tracks, however, will include classes of all categories. To earn a Ph.D. in business, students must complete a dissertation.
Types of Business-Focused Doctorate Degrees
A Ph.D. in business is a doctor of philosophy program that can lead to specializations in accountancy, economics, finance, entrepreneurship and other fields. It is typically a full-time program that requires candidates to demonstrate prior credentials in the field as senior executives. This program of study may also be referred to as a Ph.D. in Management. The coursework focuses on theoretical research related to business issues.
A Doctor of Business Administration is the highest degree you can attain for a business-focused career. The advanced coursework focuses on applied research in fields that are specifically relevant to business.
Students entering a doctoral program will already have proven themselves in their previous studies, so the challenges that await them will be familiar. Also, they will have gathered the necessary experience in the business world not only to be fully qualified for the future jobs to which they wish to apply but also to have it as a quality that admissions personnel would consider.
While the management doctorate involves theoretical research, the entrepreneurship doctorate would focus on applied techniques on how to grow a business. The accountancy doctorate would involve advanced mathematical concepts whereas the finance doctorate would contain the study of strategic planning, forecasting, and analytics.
A DBA or another Ph.D. typically takes four to six years to complete. Some Ph.D. programs require full-time commitment and residency requirements, which might make it difficult if you cannot take a sabbatical to complete the course work and dissertation. Stringent completion requirements may include passing a proficiency exam, an oral defense of a dissertation presented before a committee, and publication of research in peer-reviewed journals.
Unlike undergraduate or master’s programs, most of the best doctoral programs provide students with a stipend, research grants, and support during their studies. However, some programs charge, so it would be a good idea to find out about that from the university they plan to attend. That way, they can prepare for paying tuition if it is necessary to do so.
Candidates for a doctorate degree in a business-related field are usually planning for careers in the academe as professors or administrative leaders. With an advance degree in business, you are well-suited to work in social and economic research at universities, government institutions and private organizations such as think tanks or lobbyists.
You can choose to work in a salaried, full-time position. In the case of professorial jobs, you should seek tenure at colleges and universities. Some business Ph.D. graduates may choose to work as consultants working on a per-project basis while others may choose to work for themselves, which is the logical progression if you are specializing in entrepreneurship.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the outlook for many jobs requiring a Ph.D. in business is quite attractive. Financial managers, for example, show a possible growth over the next 10 years of 16%, which is four times the average growth for all jobs. Management analysts are almost as robust at 14%. Even top executive positions are growing at a rate higher than the average for all jobs.
The salaries of these jobs are also much higher than the average. The financial managers top the list with an average salary approaching $130,000 annually. Specialist loan officers have the lowest outlook for salary at about $64,000, but their growth rate is 8%, which is higher than the top executive positions. Those executive positions, however, have an average salary of more than $100,000.
When figuring out how much income they will forego by spending four or more years in doctoral classes and writing their dissertations, students should use their current income and not the job for which they will be getting the degree. Assuming that the student is making the median income in the U.S. which is roughly $36,000 annually, in four years, the person would make $144,000. Assuming the person in question is pursuing a degree in financial management, a single year’s salary is almost that much. Even with the relevant jobs with lower salaries, it is still a wise investment for the future to earn a Ph.D. in business.
Still, all of these career paths pale in comparison to the so-called “rock stars” of business academia, many of whom make high six figures. At the best business schools, full professors with tenure achieve life-changing salaries in addition to generous housing allowances, benefits packages, and royalties for research. Some even make millions. Granted, these are not median salaries, but even an assistant professor can make nearly $300,000 a year!
Weighing the Value of a Ph.D in Business
Without any doubt, a doctorate in business is a big investment in terms of financial, personal and professional opportunity costs. Expect courses to be intense and demanding as they are delivered by highly qualified faculty. You may have to weigh the opportunity costs of putting your career on hold to earn a business doctorate especially if you have to make a multi-year commitment.
If you are entering graduate school without corporate sponsorship, expect to shell out a significant amount for university fees including seminars, practicum and dissertation preparation expenses. Consider finding funds sources other than your own money before committing to a Ph.D. program. These sources can be your employer, professional organizations and other grant sources.
As can be seen, the value of a doctorate in business can be sensational. To be fair, however, most returns on the investment of a Ph.D. in business are fairly modest. The time is the biggest commitment. Most students find that having a family while studying for a Ph.D. will lengthen the process, particularly if there are strict residency requirements. In the 21st century, however, more and more schools than ever before are offering such programs online. This is especially true for “nontraditional students” who begin their studies later in life.
According to the New York Times, only about one in seven doctoral students is over 40. Still, that is more than there were 11 years ago. Women make up the bulk of people earning doctorates in business over 40 as there are 44 percent more of them earning Ph.D.s in business after 40. Many people have had rewarding careers already and are earning their doctorates either “just because” or because they put aside their real interests for the sake of “making a living.”
Some people are studying well into their 60s and 70s. One extreme example is Ingeborg Rapoport, who earned her Ph.D. at age 102. The older the students are, the more they have to weigh the value of the degree. Often, they earn the degree for its own sake and not because it will make them more money or more famous in their field than someone else.
At the other end of the spectrum are people earning their Ph.D.s before they join the workforce. Child geniuses often earn their degrees when their compatriots are in high school. Of course, the example of Karl Witte, who got his doctorate at 13 years of age, is as rare as getting it at 102. Still, if a student is gifted and dedicated enough, that person will be able to succeed at earning a Ph.D. in business no matter that person’s age.
The Teaching Requirement
Most people have heard of the “teaching assistant,” who is a graduate student studying under the full professor. This is a way that doctoral candidates can gain valuable experience in both teaching and research. Usually, students in doctoral programs will have to teach classes for one or two years as part of their education. Some candidates might even become assistant professors, especially if their end goal is to become full professors with tenure.
There are even a few ultra-dedicated students who not only earn their doctorates but also teach classes and run a business at the same time. These students are maximizing both their educational and earning potential, often vaulting to the top of their chosen field.
Is a Ph.D. in business worth it? As students can see from this article, the answer is, “It depends.” For the brightest students, it can mean the difference between being the leading expert in their chosen field or simply being “part of the pack.” For entrepreneurs, it can give someone legitimacy in the world of business and academia at the same time, which can open up even more career opportunities for that person.
The earning potential is great, and the job outlook for the next 10 years is sparkling. Students who earn their Ph.D.s in business will be difference makers as the 21st century progresses. Their dissertations will inspire the next crop of students, and so will their achievements in economics, high finance, and even the humble classroom. Students interested in pursuing their doctorates in business should contact their schools of choice to get more information.
Earning a Ph.D in business demonstrates your passion and commitment to the field. The doctorate initials attached to your name indicate your high-level expertise on business matters and especially in your field of specialization. As with any degree, what you get out of a doctorate depends on how you chart your career path. Doctorate degree holders from fields such as engineering, sciences and technology are finding relevance in the business world, so you should be on track to make a mark in your own field.
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