Five Frustrating PhD Questions To (Never) Ask A PhD.

Five Frustrating PhD Questions To (Never) Ask A PhD.

Imagine the scene. You find out your friend/ relative/ the stranger you met three minutes ago is working on their PhD. And you gave up on academia after completing your hard-earned bachelor’s degree so the world of graduate school is still shrouded in mystery, and is still a pretty huge deal.

But you should wait before launching into your questions. Others have been here before you and they’ve made mistakes. For the sake of the real-life PhD in front of you read on and get a crash course in the five frustrating questions you really shouldn’t be asking pursuing their PhD as well as some good alternatives to keep the conversation flowing.

To summarize and make your life easier, here are the five questions:
  1. How much longer do you have to complete your PhD? 
  2. What are you doing with all your time off in the summer? 
  3. You are a teacher, right? 
  4. What exactly do you do all day? 
  5. How come you just can’t hand in that article you are working on?
By the way, if you want to watch the video on PhD questions that you should not ask, where I am a bit more candid, check it out:

1. So When Do You Get Your PhD After Your Name?

Also known as: When will you be done? How long will it take?

Those letters are called post-nominal letters and can be placed after an individual’s name to indicate that they hold a position, academic degree or honor. Choosing whether or not to include them on your future business cards is a big decision and most PhD students will happily talk post-nominal letters with anyone. The frustrating part of this question is the when.

Asking a PhD student in the deep, dark depths of research when they will be done is like asking an unemployed person when they’re going to get a job. They don’t know and it’s as simple as that. The PhD student is putting in the work to get through the many requirements of their program just like the unemployed person is updating their resume and sending in application after application.

But the harsh reality is that hard work in both scenarios doesn’t necessarily bring quick results. The real progress is often dependent on other people; the advisor who signs off on your great idea or the manager who invites you for interview. You can hustle for weeks on end and still come away from a meeting or interview with dashed hopes and a new awareness of how far you have to go before you reach your goal.

Will it happen next week? Next year? Before pigs fly? Keeping optimistic and celebrating the small successes can keep you going when you lose sight of the light at the end of the tunnel but it’s not easy. And having people in your life and at social gatherings focus on the end date just makes it worse. It will be done when it’s done and that’s the end of it.

Good alternatives: What are you working on right now? What is your next big milestone?

2. What Are You Doing With All Your Time Off In The Summer?

The summer vacation part of school where you skip out the doors sometime in June and don’t have to think about work until after Labor Day is a distant memory for those pursuing a PhD. The same for spring break and winter break. There just isn’t time, especially if you’re on the tenure track with a substantial amount of research. Your research has to be your priority.

Don’t think it’s work 24/7 – it’s not. Those undergrad “all-nighters” are a thing of the past. Neglecting to take care of yourself in order to spend more time working is the fastest route to burnout there is. And days where you forget all about the research are as vital to a PhD student’s self-care as eating and sleeping well. Take it from someone who knows. But no matter how well-balanced you manage to make your life there will never be enough of those days.

This is not a situation unique to PhD students. It is very rare to come across anyone who thinks they get enough time away from work to spend with their family, pursue personal goals or travel. And any graduate student will be quick to educate those who think going back to school is the best way to reclaim those four months off that we all took for granted as high school students.

Once you embark on a PhD it has a sneaky habit of stretching and expanding until it feels like this thing you are doing is your whole life. If you believe in the value of your research and find your specific topic engaging and empowering to study then that might not bother you. What certainly will bother you is when people assume that your academic pursuits mean you don’t have to work when the kids aren’t in school.

Good alternatives: What do you like to do when not working on your PhD? How do you relax and recharge when your work is stressful?

 

3. You’re A Teacher, Right?

Well sort of. Teaching in some way, shape or form at their university on courses related to their subject area is often part of the PhD student’s journey. Employment at the university  as a PhD student comes with fun benefits like stipends (money) and fee waivers (lowered course fees).

But taking this one aspect of a PhD’s work and labeling them “just a teacher” is about as dangerous as calling an actor who waits tables to pay the rent while he works for his big break “just a waiter.” It undermines and trivializes the true core of why they are doing what they are doing: their research.

Teaching is a noble profession. You don’t reach the PhD stage of your academic career without a lot of help and support from some superb teachers along the way and teaching as part of your own PhD program is a way to give back to the next generation.

Unfortunately that doesn’t change the fact that marking endless papers, or responding to an undergrad’s frantic emails about how her mark on the midterm will affect her GPA, takes time and energy. Valuable time and energy that you cannot spend on your own research. And having acquaintances marvel at how light your schedule is when you tell them you’re teaching three to four courses an entire year (a pretty full schedule for anyone) does not help.

Good alternatives: Do you teach at the university as part of your program? How do you balance your teaching responsibilities with your research?

 

4. What Exactly Do You Do All Day?

Hard work in many career paths produces easy to see, tangible results. Construction workers build houses, surgeons remove tumors and firefighters put out fires. The value of their work is universally understood and appreciated. But the work required for a PhD is not like this. It is the work of ideas, questions and words. The journey is complex and unpredictable, exploring wide but also continually refocusing and refining.

Progress like this is hard to see, even harder to measure and almost impossible to understand from an outsider’s perspective. Hours of explanation would not help someone with no interest in your research topic comprehend the magnitude of your middle-of-the-night lightbulb moment last Friday. Or why it is so important that you figure out how to get a copy of that obscure Australian journal published in 1994. Or why that minute variation in your lab results means doing hours and hours of what you’ve been doing already but with one key change.

The problem with this question of what exactly a PhD student does all day is that there’s often no way to answer it that will satisfy the asker. They could follow you around for three weeks and still be as clueless about what exactly you do because your schedule is not what you do. Your schedule is the means by which you work towards something that makes complete sense to you (and hopefully your advisor) but is as often as inaccessible to the general population as the meaning of hieroglyphics on the wall of an Egyptian tomb. So, how about try a different question.

Good alternatives: What is your favorite part of an average day? What are the advantages of doing your PhD compared to the usual 9-5 job?

 

5. Why Don’t You Just Hand In What You’re Working On?

When the going gets tough and things just aren’t falling into place you vent your frustrations to those outside the PhD bubble and this is the question you get. And there is logic to it. Because handing in what you have will get you the feedback you need to take the next step and make your work better, right? Not exactly.

Passing over your incomprehensible scrawl of notes and half-developed work to anyone in a supervisory capacity at the university is like displaying your bowl of mixed up egg, sugar and flour in a bakery window. Nobody wants to see that.

You know what they want to see? What they need to see? Evidence of your best work. They’re not looking for perfection – far from it. But they are assessing and evaluating and having something thought-out and put together, a cake rather than a bowl of ingredients, helps them support you in finding the best way forward.

The PhD process involves in-depth assessment every step of the way. Papers, questions and answers; a PhD is not for the faint of heart. And that is all before you defend your doctoral dissertation. Support and encouragement and other help may be much appreciated but “just hand in what you have” is not.

Good alternatives: Is there anything I can do to support you during this busy time? What are you currently working towards?

So there it is – five questions never to ask the PhD. All you have to do is steer clear of them the next time someone studying for a PhD crosses your path. The PhD will be pleasantly surprised at your skill in avoiding all their least favorite questions and everyone will go home happy.

If you are currently studying for your PhD or considering doctorate study then check out the other posts on this blog for lots of PhD information, insight and support. If you want to read a bit more about PhD life, you should check out the following articles:

  1. If you are thinking of a Professor, here are some comment ‘do professor’ questions in this post.
  2. Tips to write a statement of purpose that you will find extremely useful.
  3. Advantages and disadvantages of doing a Doctorate in Business.
  4. A guide to writing a research paper for your PhD (complete with step-by-step videos).

R3ciprocity.com is an online proofreading platform where you can get peer review support and suggestions for your own writing and help others by doing the same for them. Join the r3ciprocity project today and get started.

Pros and Cons Of Executive PhD In Business & Executive DBA Programs

The Pros and Cons Of Executive PhD In Business & Executive DBA Programs

Most people that get doctorates in business end up pursuing a PhD in Business Administration. However, executive doctoral programs make a tremendous amount of sense to me. Strictly from a consumer choice and industry dynamics perspective, having additional variance in organizational forms has its pluses. It creates but heterogeneity of options for potential doctoral students and also, allows different programs to compete and learn from each other. Besides, not everyone wants to pursue an academic route with their doctorate. Most do, but not everyone. And, having executive doctorates allow people to specialize in the things they want to do.   From my perspective, I am also a big advocate of bringing some of the ideas that we research and learn in academia to the ‘real’ world. From a knowledge and technology transfer perspective, I can’t imagine a better way to have a direct impact on the business world. I have heard from some of the best academics in our field discuss that their students often say their best courses are the most theoretical courses. I have even heard a few mention that entire organizations where set up around the ideas they learnt in these theoretical courses. Why, then, would we restrict these student experiences to just 1-2 year MBA courses? Why not exploit the in-depth and rich opportunity of an applied doctoral program where executives get an extended 2-4 year walk into the world of academic ideas? Because I know you are busy, some pros and cons of an Executive PhD program in Business are:
  1. A reduced emphasis on publishing compared to PhDs programs training you for tenure-track professor positions.
  2. They allow you to better understand organizations and markets.
  3. They help you better understand research.
  4. You can interact with your professors.
  5. You can leverage the knowledge in your organizations.
  6. They are expensive.
  7. They probably won’t help has much as a PhD to become a tenure-track business professor.
  8. Executive PhDs are a lot of work.

Executive Doctorate Business Programs

I am going to discuss the advantageous and disadvantages of Executive Doctorate of Business programs. I hope this will help provide an unbiased guide for you when you make your decision. My only goal with this post is that you are informed and you make a wiser choice if you are thinking of pursuing a more practical-oriented Doctorate Degree in Business. Who Am I? I am David Maslach, and I received my PhD in Business Administration from the Ivey Business School several years ago. I am now working as an Assistant Professor of Strategy, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship. Actually, I would consider myself a Professor of Strategy, but my research tends to cross a lot of boundaries, and I really don’t know how to frame my research in an easier manner. I am interested in how firms and their managers learn from failure. (You can learn how to get a PhD in Strategy and Innovation here.) Anyway, I began this platform as a way to give back to the people that have helped me get my doctorate and succeed in this career. I thought the best way to give back is to help others that are interested in this career, but are just a few years behind me and would like some advice about graduate education.

What Are Some Names Of Executive PhD In Business Programs?

I have seen Executive in Business programs called many things, and so you should look out for these types of doctorate programs.
  1. Executive PhD
  2. Executive PhD In Management or Executive PhD in Business
  3. Executive Doctorate
  4. Executive DBA or Executive Doctorate in Business Administration.
  5. PhD Executive Program
  6. Part-time DBA Program
  7. Some-times Schools of Education or Public Policy will have Executive Doctorate In Higher Education Programs.
  8. There may be more, but that’s all that I am aware of right now. 🙂
 

An Executive Doctorate In Business Is Not For Everyone

Obviously, I am overselling executive doctoral programs. We don’t have any at my institution, but there are many around the world that are pretty respectable (Here are some Executive DBA programs here and here (This is the AACSB list, however, I find the list not easily searchable). I also think that you should be very wise with your choice of institution – you can end up overpaying for degree that will not get you far if you are not careful. But, this problem happens in all academic degrees. There are good ones and bad ones, and it is up for you to choose. Doing an Executive Doctoral Program in Business is not for everyone, but I would say the same thing are higher education. Like higher education, many executive doctoral programs are generally quite expensive, and you should also pursue such a degree if you have the finances to do so. You should also know that if you want to become a traditional business school professor, you ought to think about a PhD in Business. It is just a more traditional route to become a tenure-track professor. Most of my business school professor friends and colleagues have PhDs or specifically Harvard’s DBA (Havard’s DBA is rather unique as it is more akin to a research degree than an Executive Doctorate). I also think the Executive Doctoral degree in Business is rather specialized. This specialization is a good thing if you already did an MBA or EMBA and looking to do a bit more. However, specialization does lock you out of other options. For example, if you wanted to switch careers and get a law degree, it would be rather challenging to pursue a doctorate and a law degree at the same time. Although, I am sure there are a few people that have done so. Want to learn some differences between DBA programs and PhD programs, you should really read this post as it details some of the fundamental and more subtle differences that few people tell you about. 

A Plus Of The Executive Doctorate Is A Reduced Emphasize On Publishing

One of the disadvantages of doing a PhD is that you are focused on doing research. Well, depending on who you are, it is can be quite exciting to do research. The disadvantage comes from having to publish in top tier journal outlets, and these just take a long time and a quite a bit of effort to get published in these outlets. The advantage of an Executive DBA-type degree is that you will be expected to do research, and understand research, but the requirement to get published in an ‘A’ journal will be reduced. Why is there less of an emphasis in publishing in top Business School journals? You will have a different career direction and a different outcome. Your executive doctoral degree will eventually lead you to become an executive leader in your organization, or to be an executive management consultant. Part of the reason why there is an emphasis to publish in top journals in PhD programs is because you are required to get a tenure-track professor job. Whereas, an MBA generally tends to be more practice orientated. A PhD in Business is very research-oriented. Executive PhD programs and Executive DBA programs fit in the middle – they are research-oriented but the focus is not publishing in the very best research journals. That is not to said that their are people that do really good research during their Executive DBA and people that focus on less research-oriented PhDs, but generally, these are the major differences between these two degrees. One key distinction that Executive Programs have that many Students in PhD Programs would beg to have are the real-world data and real-world cases. If you could partner up with people that are interested in publishing in top business journals (for instance, Administrative Science Quarterly), you might develop a winning team in which you have hard to find real-world data (and someone who knows how valuable good research is to their business) with someone that will carry the paper through the review process of one of these journals.

What Are Pros And Cons of Executive PhD and Doctorate In Business Administration Programs?

1. Executive PhD Programs Allow You To Get A New Understanding Of The World.

Hands down, having a new take on the world is the single greatest benefit of getting any doctorate. If you do not learn about new ideas and have many ‘mind-flips’ in which you completely view the world differently, you are in the wrong doctorate program. Not only should you learn about new theories that you never thought about, but you should have a much more rigorous perspective then you would get in a MBA program. In my view, these executive doctorate programs will add value to management of organizations, particularly, if you are interested in executive management positions.  This is especially true, given the general business environments focus on Business Analytics. Most of the ideas that you hear about in business analytics is just what you would learn in several research methods classes in a doctoral program. I wrote a really interesting post about whether you should get a PhD to become a business executive that you ought to read.

2. Executive DBA Programs Are Still Quite Research Intensive.

One of the coolest things with Executive DBA programs is that they focus on doing research. You’ll get a understanding of what it means to do research and why it is important for organizations. I am absolutely a big fan of the knowledge translation aspect of executive DBA programs. There is a grumble in many Business School Faculty discussions that they stuff we learn about in research is not the same stuff that we can teach about in the classroom. (Obviously, some MBA programs like U. of Chicago’s and Stanford’s GSB emphasize in-depth research, but this can vary from Professor-to-Professor). Yet, many many schools emphasize case-studies, which don’t get me wrong, are a very valuable way to teach about managing, but they may gloss over the science of management. However, with an Executive Doctorate, you will be learning the same theories and and research papers that we have to learn about as Business School Professors. And, we have learnt a lot about the science of management, organizations, and markets. We don’t know everything, but there is a tremendous amount of science that has been done over the past almost 100 years.

3. Executive PhD Programs Generally Have A Much Smaller Class Sizes.

Class sizes are generally much smaller in doctoral programs across the world. There are many reasons why class sizes in doctorate programs are small, but a positive aspect of these small class sizes is that it allows you to interact on a more 1-to-1 basis with your professors. Is that positive? I suppose it depends on who you ask. 🙂 However, I always found in my PhD program, that getting to know world-class faculty on a personal first-name basis, was a highlight. I still have quite fond memories of sitting around a conference table and discussing the weeks latest readings with very smart fellow PhD students and faculty. It really was a blessing to be able to do that. I spend a quite a bit of time explaining some important details and tips for meeting with your PhD supervisor in this post. I am sure you will benefit from reading the post. You should also read this explanation of PhD class sizes and what to expect with normal PhD classes, particularly in a Business School. I am sure it will help you think about what classes are like in graduate programs.

4. Executive Doctoral Programs Will Allow You To Apply Knowledge In Your Own Organization.

I am going to keep coming back to the idea that you can both learn new ideas and theories by reading the latest research articles, but also you can apply these ideas in your own organization. This is something that most PhDs that are going the tenure-track route cannot do. They simply will not have the access to a real organization that you will have as a manager. I am personally always been interested in the real-world knowledge that can be generated by applying theories to real contexts. This theoretical knowledge that can be applied is an advantage that neither MBAs or PhDs will possess.

The Cons of Executive Doctorate Programs.

Everything in life has pros and cons, and Executive Doctorate Programs have some downfalls. There are many things that I like about the concept of Executive Doctorate Programs, but I also tend to not like some aspects of them.

1. Executive PhD programs Tend To Be Expensive.

I truly see the value of the executive PhD, however, these programs tend to be very expensive. I am going to be upfront – Executive ‘anything’ (insert name here) Programs are going to be expensive. By the way, if you can find an inexpensive Business-class flight, please let me know. 🙂 Some of this expense is warranted as it makes sure that only people that are serious will attend the program. The expensiveness of the PhD program also makes sure that if you do attend one of these programs, that you will study and apply your knowledge. I also think the market for these higher-end degrees has opened up the possibility of degrees that don’t hold the same credibility in the marketplace as others. Don’t get me wrong, you get this variance in programs, program quality, and student quality in all types of degrees, from undergraduate to PhD degrees. It just means that you have be smart about your school choice. If I were you, I would pick institutions that have a good reputation, and that they have demonstrated return on investments. You should look at where the doctorate students came from, who they currently are, and where they were placed. If any of these gives you any doubt, you should likely find another program that will better fit your needs. One more note, if you are concerned about the expensive of the Executive Doctorate program, you might want to look at PhD programs. Most, if not all, reputable PhD programs provide stipends to do research at the institution. My own PhD degree was paid for (for 5 years) through grants and scholarships, however, don’t expect to get rich. You will have enough money of the PhD stipend to live the life of luxury, such as eating peanut butter sandwiches and spaghetti almost all the time. 🙂 (Just kidding, during grad school my wife and I had the occasional nice meal about once a month or so).

2. An Executive PhD Will Likely Not Help With Becoming a Tenure-Track Business School Professor.

If you are thinking of pursuing an Executive Doctorate program to become a tenure-track Business School Professor, I would advice you against this route. Virtually all of my friends and colleagues who are Business School Professors did not go this route, and I am unaware of anyone who received tenure with such a degree (excluding the folks at Harvard). Of course, I don’t know everyone, and this may vary a lot between schools and countries. Yet, most people who become Business School Professors received a PhD in Business Administration or a comparable degree (ie. PhD in Organizational Sociology, PhD in Financial Economics, etc.). I am not saying that it can’t be done, but it will be very difficult to get a tenure-track position in a university with such a PhD degree. You will have to be all the more promising in other areas. For example, if you were the former-CEO of a major corporation, I would imagine that many Business Schools would welcome you to teach, but again, it will likely not be a tenure-track position. If you want to become a Tenure-Track Business School Professor, I would highly recommend that you read this guide to become a Business School Professor. You can also read this post about how long a PhD will take so you can become a Business School Professor.

3. Executive DBA Programs Are A Lot Of Work.

If you think a doctorate program is about eating pizza, drinking beer, and having deep discussions, you are going to be quite mistaken. You should roughly expect to work the same amount that you would in an executive or professional career, like a member of a top management team, a management consultant, or a corporate lawyer. The hours they work are going to be very comparable to the hours you will have to put into a PhD program. The key advantage is you get to work whenever you want to work, just as long as you are putting in 50-80 hour weeks (it varies depending on the demands of the week). Any doctorate program will be a lot of work, and you have to weigh the sacrifice of getting that degree against your current life. You have to make sure that your partner or spouse is on board with this career. I have seen many personal relationships suffer when people make the investment in a doctorate program. Just make sure everyone is on board, and that you are all are aware of the sacrifice you are going to make. Whether this sacrifice is worth it is really up to you, and what you desire in life.

Additional Resources To Help You Think About Executives Doctorates In Business

You might want to watch these additional YouTube videos if you are thinking of doing Executive Doctorates In Business. The advice given in these videos are worth exactly what you paid for them, however, I do think they would resonate with many people that have had experience in the field. Here are some things you probably should know.

Should You Pursue A Weekend PhD in Business Program?

Most people would probably discourage you from thinking about a PhD program from a part-time basis. It is one of those things that you just have to jump into the program. However, I might would willing to say that the Executive Doctorate is the one exception for the right candidate. The problem is understanding if you are the right student that could handle doing a PhD part-time (most would probably not do well – I am not kidding). I would highly suggest that you think and have many discussions if this makes sense for you, and if you think you are the one exception.

Should You Become A Management Consultant By Obtaining An Executive DBA?

An executive DBA or executive PhD is aimed for people to go into industry, and possibly consult. The degree is set up for people to pursue to get a more in-depth understanding without having the requirement to go into academia. Thus, I would think that it would make sense for you to pursue an executive program to get into management consulting, or to accelerate your Management Consulting career. If you want to become a business professor, I would highly recommend that you do a PhD from a very good university, instead. A PhD is just more common. Feel free to watch the following video to find out more:

Do You Need Management Experience To Do An Executive PhD In Business Administration?

In the following video, I mention that you do not need a lot of management experience to pursue a PhD because it requires a different skill-set than an MBA. You can also find this excellent blog post about the requirement of management experience and doing a PhD in Business.  However, if you are thinking of pursuing an executive PhD, I would imagine that most programs will strongly emphasize your work and management experience. Why do programs emphasize management experience for an Executive PhD?  The big reason is that they are looking for excellent candidates to go and become the next industry superstar, which is not the same as becoming an academic superstar. They want their students to do well in industry, and thus management experience is a good predictor of how well they will do in the future once the degree is completed.

What Are Questions To Ask During Your Executive PhD In Business Interview?

The following video is focused on doing well in a PhD interview, but many of the same issues and comments will apply to the executive doctorate as well. The program is still going to be focused on research, so the people that will be evaluating you will still be keenly aware of your interest in doing research in the future. I would also think about possible ways to add how you can make your doctoral education applicable to your business organization, and to point out what data and resources you can bring to the Professors that are interviewing you. Professors are also excited about new data-sources. If you want more tips to get into doctorate programs in Business, you ought to read this great overview of tips to apply to Doctorate programs.

Should You Start A Doctorate / PhD In Business To Change Careers?

Should you think about doing an executive doctorate to change careers? I am going to reiterate what I say in this video, you should think about where you are going rather than what you are running from. If you are thinking of getting a Doctorate in Business as a 10 year plan to do something that you want to do, then yes, I would recommend doing the doctorate degree. However, if you are simply just tired of what you are currently doing right now, I would hope that you pass over this option because a PhD is far too difficult to take lightly. Anyway, hope you liked this post! I tried to make this post on executive doctorate programs as comprehensive as possible. And, as usual, this is part of my r3ciprocity project, which you can learn more about the software that I am trying to build to make the world better for graduate students. Take care!

Do You Need Management Experience For A PhD/Doctorate In Business Administration?

Do You Need Management Experience For A PhD/Doctorate In Business Administration?

Many people assume that business professors are good at ‘managing’ businesses and that you need extensive management experience to get a doctorate (i.e. PhD or DBA) in Business Administration. The answer to both of these assumptions is No, you do not need management experience to get into doctorate programs in Business Administration. You also do not need to be a ‘manager-type’ of person.

I have met many people with PhDs, including myself, where thank goodness they do not manage a multi-billion dollar company. My working memory is so poor and my management-skills are so bad that I probably would not even be able to manage a hot-dog stand. Many professors I know with PhDs are quite shy, and are not quick to make decisions.

In case you don’t know me, I am David Maslach – an Assistant Professor in Strategy who has a PhD in Business Administration. This is part of my r3ciprocity project – there where so many people that helped me get my doctorate, I wanted to pay the favor forward. I created this sharing economy proofreading software platform to help people get feedback on their writing. I have been working on this project for 3 years, have been documenting it on YouTube, and going in-depth about PhD life to help you as much as I can. You really should check it out by searching for r3ciprocity on YouTube – as of October 2018, the channel has over 500 subscribers.

By the way, if you are one of these r3ciprocity subscribers: “Thank you! I am so honored to help you. :-)”

This post is based on a YouTube video that I did, so you should definitely watch the video if you want greater depth and understanding on whether you need management experience to get a PhD in Business. 

Why Don’t You Need Management Experience To Get A Doctorate in Business Administration?

Being a manager of a company and getting a PhD are very different. You are being trained to do fundamentally different tasks. Many top managers are trained in the art and science of decision-making, communicating with people, and interacting within organizations. Doing a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) very much trains people on these skills, and then you might get additional executive training that is specific for your industry.

For many people with extensive management experience getting a PhD in Business will feel like you are regressing with your management skill-set. You will go back to being the ‘analyst’ in the organization, rather than the ‘manager’ leading people to do things. Getting and having a PhD is all about the analytical and writing skills. I think it feels like having a career that is somewhere in between a financial analyst where you are expected to make sense of data and a journalist where you are expected to continuously write on a daily basis. Even if you do qualitative research as a PhD student, you will be doing a large amount of data collection, analysis, and writing on your own.

I personally do believe that sometimes extensive management experience can actually be a negative for you if you pursue some form of a PhD in Business, like a PhD in Strategy or a PhD in Finance. Most of the time, PhD programs train you to do research, and you should think of yourself as a scientist and not a ‘manager.’ Thus, it could be on occasion that having too much management experience may create a ‘management rigidity’ where you refuse to do the work. Or, if you are used to performing managerial duties, such as doing extensive networking or rainmaking, you might not be able to spend a great deal of time dedicating your time to solitude and study.

The bottom-line is that Doctorate programs in Business Administration train you to become a researcher, or at least teach in a Business School. Thus, many of the top programs in the world prefer people with technical and more academically oriented degrees. They often prefer to recruit people with Masters degrees in Business, Economics, Engineering, Mathematics, English, etc., particularly if they have strong interest in doing research. They would also prefer that you are comfortable with doing long hours of research-oriented things, like performing literature reviews, developing theory, analyzing data, and designing your next study.

If you were like me and most people I know who started out in a PhD program, you did not know what a research article would look like. I created this helpful post that details some important steps to write a research paper for PhDs in Business, and you really ought to read it.

Some PhD Programs Do Value Management Experience.

Some programs do value good management experience, particularly, if it can be used to tell a good story about yourself. For example, if you management a Major League Baseball team, created a startup organization, or were able to negotiate an international merger and acquisition, then you should be about to weave these great stories about management into your application. The goal is to always try to aim for unique stories that distinguish you from other people in the applicant pool of PhDs.

What About Military Experience For A PhD in Business?

Each program and PhD admission committee is going to value military experience differently. However, what I can tell you is that, in my experience, having military experience is extremely helpful for your role as a Business School professor. I have met many people that served in various militaries around the world. I have met people that were in the army, navy, and air-force, and there is a general trend that they do well during their PhD applications, and do well in the profession. Some of the biggest stars in Business Schools served in the service in some form. Military experience definitely seems to help, but of course, it does vary a lot depending on who you are as a person.

What About Professional Sports Experience For A PhD in Business?

Having professional sports experience as a means to get your PhD in Business Administration is more rare, but there are many people that were either college, professional, or Olympic athletes as a Business School Professors. Several of my current colleagues either college or professional ball (American Football and Baseball), I did my PhD with an Olympic rower and a professional ball player, and know of semi-pro water-polo, or ultra-marathon runners. Ok, now, that makes me sound rather pathetic. I think I might be able to do well at professional couch-sleeping. 🙂

The point with professional sports experiences is that they are leveraged to tell a story about what you did. It is not only appealing on your PhD statement of purpose, but it can be helpful when you teach students. Students, just like other people, like to hear a story about your wins and losses. It is important to make yourself sound appealing and interesting. The professional sports experience may not translate very well to PhD experience, however, you will naturally sound more appealing if you can write about your exploits.

One other thing that many professional athletes have is grit. Grit is very important during your PhD, and after your PhD. There are many days that people want to give up with the career, and it is only those people that can persist will thrive as a PhD. This grit characteristic seems to correlate between the two domains.

Management Experience Is Generally Not Required But It Helps.

My general thought is that management experience, while not required to perform the task of PhD in Business, can be an asset if you possess the experience. Some people use it to tell their story about who they are in their PhD Statement Of Purpose or to motivate their students that they teach. Other people actually use these contexts to study for years to come. Some of these contexts are really quite interesting, and can very much detail many parallels to business management. You call also leverage some of the people skills that you learn to talk with your PhD advisors or other people during the PhD program. I wish I had these types of interpersonal skills when I started the PhD program. The people that excel with management experience during a PhD are just like everyone else. They are the ones that can buckle down and get work done, and listen to other people for suggestions and advise. Doing a PhD will be difficult. Yes, I would definitely use the management experience to tell your story, but no, I would not rely on the experience to sell your reputation. You have to build your creditably in academia over time and slowly by doing good research and trying hard to be the best you can be. In case you are thinking of doing a PhD in Business to change careers, you should really watch the following video. I detail some important things to think about if you are currently wondering about pursuing a second career as a Business Professor. I also have a really cool blog post that I put much time into about how to become a Business School Professor.