Ph.D. in Business

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phd in business

Now that you likely have a bachelor’s degree in business and have some work experience under your belt, it’s time to think about taking your education to the next level. For many, that means obtaining a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) degree. Others take it a step further by pursuing a Ph.D. in Business degree.

A Ph.D. in Business will not only equip you with the ability to conduct quality business research in a specialized area, but it will also prepare you for a career as a professor at a college or university.

An MBA vs. a Ph.D. in Business

Once you’ve made the decision to continue your education in business, the choice between obtaining an MBA and a Ph.D. depends on which direction you want to take your career.

Here are a few things to consider when making your choice:

  • Your career plans: An MBA is a great option if you’re looking to advance your career in your current field or with your current employer. If you’d like to become a professor or work in a business research capacity, a Ph.D. is key to helping you transition your career to academics.
  • Time: An MBA takes about two to three years to complete, while a Ph.D. can take upwards of three to six years, depending on your field.
  • Specialization: If you want your career to focus on a particular concentration, there are many specialties to choose from.
  • Doing vs. developing: If you’re anxious to jump into the corporate world to apply the fundamentals you learned during college, an MBA is an excellent choice. Since a Ph.D requires conducting extensive research, this path allows you to spend more time exploring different aspects of the business world. Researchers in any field look closer and work to develop better ways of doing business.

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Learning Goals for the Ph.D. in Business Degree

No matter what post-graduate degree program you decide to pursue, it is a challenging process that requires dedication and commitment. Like an undergraduate degree, most programs have a basic set of required core classes every Ph.D. student will take. These can include:

You’ll also be required to complete a dissertation on a specific area of knowledge. The dissertation is generally done during your third year in the program and is presented to a committee.

The last year is spent doing substantial research on your dissertation. To finish up the Ph.D., you will then submit the completed dissertation and research backing up your proposal to a supervisory committee and an examination committee for approval.

What You Can Specialize In

A Ph.D. in Business offers many different types of concentrations you can choose from if you want your career to focus on a particular area. Some specializations include:

  • Management
  • International Business
  • Human Resources Management
  • Criminal Justice
  • Applied Computer Science
  • Marketing
  • Organizational Leadership
  • Project Management
  • Advanced Accounting
  • Financial Management
  • Homeland Security

Career Options for a Ph.D. in Business

Both a master’s and Ph.D. degree will prepare you to advance your career, but for those who want to dive deeper into upper management positions or pursue a career at a university, a Ph.D. is an outstanding choice. Some careers many Ph.D. graduates obtain include:

  • Chief Executive Officer (CEO)
  • Chief Financial Officer (CFO)
  • Operation Manager
  • Executive Director
  • Human Resources Director
  • University Dean of Business
  • College Professor
  • College or University President or Vice President
  • Management Consultant

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, average starting salaries for college professors with a Ph.D. degree is $80,000 or more per year, while upper management positions in the private sector start at $150,000 and go up from there.

How to Apply

Common Ph.D. admission requirements include:

  • Resume or Curriculum Vitae
  • Official Graduate Record Exam (GRE)
  • Letters of Recommendation
  • Statement of Purpose Essay

GRE Tips:

  • For your GMAT, aim for at least a 600 (or the GRE equivalent), although if you’re looking at some of the top-level grad schools, you should try for at least a 700.
  • Many GRE practice tests, such as by Kaplan or the Princeton Review are available online to help you prepare.
  • If you don’t get the GRE core you hoped for, you can retake it. Many Ph.D. programs want to see your top score, not necessarily how many times you took the test to get to that score.

Every industry is looking to gain or maintain the competitive edge, and hiring well-qualified, highly educated employees is one way to do that. Often in higher-level careers, a Ph.D. can give you the advantage over other candidates. Since this is a research-based degree, it will allow you to become an expert in your field.

If academia is your eventual goal, a Ph.D. is an absolute necessity to accomplish that goal. Graduate school is challenging, there is no doubt. It requires a huge commitment. But, all those hours spent doing research can pay off with impressive salaries, tenured-teaching positions at a university, and the respect of your peers.


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