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.

Is It Possible To Get Multiple PhDs?

When I was younger, I sometimes thought whether you can you get multiple PhDs. For example, can a rocket scientist have a PhD in Chemistry and Math. Now, after being a Professor for a while, I do know it is possible. Absolutely, people get multiple PhDs. Having multiple PhDs is uncommon, but people do to get multiple doctorates. I have run across people who have done it on occasion. Please watch this video if you want to see me in person talk about people getting multiple PhDs. I provide a lot more background and personal notes than in this blog post.

Why Do People Get Multiple PhDs?

Generally, there are three reasons for the multiple PhDs:
  1. People get a second or a third PhD (a third is extremely uncommon) if they are  upgrading their research skill-set. Sometimes people upgrade with an additional PhD within their previous area of research. The PhD they have is from another geographic location that is unrecognized in another geographic location. For example, this generally happens when someone immigrates to another country, and for some reason, the PhD is just not recognized in the new country.
    1. Upgrading a research skill-set is also common if someone is interested in a particular topic and they want to dig deeper into that topic. For example, let’s say that you are studying human behavior, but you realize that you need to understand set theory to better explain the human behavior in a more elegant fashion. Getting another PhD might be an excellent way to expedite your development of a research program in that area that combines set theory and human behavior.
  2. People get an PhD if they are transferring to a new area of research. When they transfer to a new area of research, they need to get extra skills in the new area. For example, say a person has a PhD in the Humanities, but they slowly realized that their research interests lie Mathematics. They will pursue the Mathematics PhD to get a better understanding of Mathematics, and so they can read and publish within Mathematics journals. In Business Administration, Law, Medicine, and another other professional program, many people transfer to these new areas from other tangential areas. For example, engineers or scientists sometimes move into business, and become Business School professors by getting a PhD in Business Administration or a similar degree (i.e., a PhD in Industrial Organization in Economics).

Why Don’t More People Get Multiple PhDs?

Brutal honesty? Getting a PhD is generally a tough process. Sure, I have heard some people say that they had a lot of fun during a PhD, but I am going to call them out on that. If the PhD was easy, then more people would want to do one over again a second and third time. It is just extremely uncommon for find people with multiple PhDs because there are significant costs (both in time and finances) associated with pursuing the degree. The closest thing where people may repeat a PhD, and it is somewhat common, is a Post-Doctorate. A post-doctorate is a paid (or non-paid) position where you extend your research program. You might work on additional papers, or continue to make your current research better. Basically, you are just extending the time you have before you get a tenure-track university position.

Does The First PhD Improve Your Chances Of Getting Into The Second PhD Program?

Personally, I think that getting into the second PhD program is a matter of framing your first PhD.  People read a lot into what you did or did not say. Anything that is unusual gets more scrutiny than the usual. If you frame the first PhD as a loss, or as a complete waste of time, then I really don’t think you will have good chances of getting into the second PhD program. People are going to believe that you will be not satisfied with the second PhD either. You would be surprised, but some people (not many) do just collect degrees for the sake of collecting degrees. This happens a bit more with Masters degrees, though. If you frame the first PhD as a matter of discovery, and that you found your passion in the topics covered in the 2nd PhD, you will have a considerable easier time convincing people about why you are going for another. Really, this is what your 2nd PhD should be in the first place. It should be about discovery and your passion for the new research area, and the 2nd PhD just accelerates this discovery process. If you are interested in doing a PhD in Business, you have to read the following resources that I created for you.
  1. This blog post is an in-depth look into doing the GRE or the GMAT, and which one you should choose to do.
  2. This blog post is about tips for writing your statement of purpose. I really do think these tips work, and they are not what you see elsewhere.
  3. This blog post is about the advantages and disadvantages of getting a PhD (in Business, of course). You should read this post if you are on the fence about doing a PhD and need additional information.

Do You Need The Multiple Doctorate Degrees?

Before you pursue another doctorate, you should really think about whether you need the other doctorate. Some people just start doing research in the new area, and slowly gravitate to that new area. You would be surprised how much you can learn on your own. Melissa Schilling, for example, has done research in both the study of strategy and Alzheimer’s. You might save yourself a lot of hassle, just by picking up some journal articles and learning about the new area.

Are Multiple PhDs Recommended?

Doing multiple PhDs is really just a personal choice. You already know that the first PhD was rather challenging, so doing a second one might go quicker given that you have this information. Most often, I believe that people that stay within similar domains appear to do their 2nd PhD quicker than those that go to another domain. Of course, this is just a qualitative gut-feeling, but I suspect this is true. Eggers and Song’s paper shows that this may be the case for entrepreneurs, so I suspect it is also true for 2nd time around PhD students. However, in the end, all of these really just depends on your abilities to get the second PhD done. What predicts PhD success? I really, really think it has little to do with intelligence, privilege, or natural endowments.  Rather, it is all about your passion to get it done, and your passion to do work. If you love work, than the 2nd PhD makes sense. Some people just have grit to do the PhD, and those that want to do a doctorate for a 2nd time are just curious, and they see the value in education.

An Aside About the R3ciprocity.com Project.

Before I go, I wanted to let you know that this is part of my r3ciprocity.com project. There were so many people that helped me out to get my PhD, and to allow me to become a professor, I wanted to create something that I could pay the favor forward. I am building a sharing economy proofreading website so you can get feedback on your work (it’s a work in progress, so please be OK with errors in this blog post. 🙂 ). I have also created a pretty extensive catalog of questions and stories on YouTube. You ought to check it out, so you can find out more about me as a person.

A Couple Of Bonus Videos.

I wanted to leave you with a few more videos that I think are worth watching. One is about whether doing a PhD is worth your time. I personally think it is, but I truly have to wrestle with this question. It was not clear to me, but I was in the ‘trenches’ and did not see the immediate value of my PhD. Now, a few years later, I really see the value in getting a PhD. However, the reason why is not what most people think. Personally, I think it is the knowledge you gain, and the opportunities you see when you have a PhD that is truly something you cannot get without it. My last video is about whether getting multiple Master’s Degrees is better than getting a PhD. It turns out that this is a rather common question because many scientists and engineers will get a Master’s Degree in their field and then decide to get either a PhD or an MBA. I kinda did both – I did my PhD in Business Administration. A PhD is a research degree, but I am able to combine my love for research and business. Anyway, you should watch this video if you want to learn about getting a PhD, or getting multiple Masters. I also have a blog post that goes much more into detail about multiple Master’s, and I think will be quite helpful for you.

GMAT VS GRE For PhD Or MBA: Which Is Easier?

The GMAT and the GRE are the most common standardized tests used to assess how you are going to perform in an MBA or a PhD in Business Program. The GMAT is specific to Business School Applications and the GRE is more generic, but it is used in most graduate programs. You are likely wondering what test you should take for your MBA or PhD in a Business School. What test is going to net you the best return for your effort? If you are have already have a few business courses, you understand the value of acting strategically and prioritizing your resources. So, what standardized graduate test is easier? Here is the answer: It does not matter. If you are thinking about what graduate test is easier, you are thinking about the problem completely wrong. You are thinking about only one side of the equation – your skills and capabilities to take the test. This is only the supply-side of the entrance to the Business School equation. How do I know this? I am a Professor of Innovation, Strategy, and Entrepreneurship, and know the market for PhDs in Business (and as well, the market for MBAs) pretty well. You should be thinking about the standardized tests within a marketplace of other candidates for Business School education. This means that there are both the supply-side and the demand-side of the equation. In other words, it is not only how well you perform on the GMAT and GRE, but also how well others in your cohort of applicants perform. For example, let’s say you get a 600 on the GMAT. This is an OK score, but in most situations, this score would not be high enough for a PhD in Business. However, if for some reason, the average score of all other applicants in the same year that you are applying is 550, you appear to outperform other applicants. In that rare situation, you might get into a PhD program.

Is The GMAT And GRE Different?

The questions on the GMAT and GRE may be different, and some years one may be more difficult than the other. Every so often, the tests change, and one may be qualitatively different than the other. I have heard that the GMAT Math section is more difficult than the GRE Math section. However, these differences, and the changes over time does not matter if you take a market perspective. First of all, admissions offices normalize each test. What does this normalization between the GMAT and the GRE mean? If one test is easier, the graduate admissions office simply makes an adjustment to account for the ease of test over the other. Indeed, some universities and colleges even do this normalization with high school grades – they normalize the grades based on the high school one attends. How does this normalization between the GMAT and GRE occur? Many programs and business schools will compare how students with a specific GMAT / GRE scores compared to how their students perform in the graduate program in the following year. If they do well at the GRE, and perform poorly in their program, they will adjust the weightings on the GRE downward. If the Business School students do well on the GMAT, and perform poorly in their program, they will adjust the weightings on the GMAT downward. The explicit technique to do this calculation is rather easy – you just have to perform an ordinary least squares regression on student grades. But, you do not even need to be explicit and detailed on adjusting for differences in GMAT and GRE scores. People are smart. They will adjust based on how they perceive the students are performing. If there is a marked difference between the two scores, the admissions teams will simply just up the cut-off for the least rigorous test. Second, how well you perform on the GMAT or GRE score really just depends on how well other people in your cohort perform. You simply just have to have a test score that higher than other people in your cohort. Of course, this cohort varies dramatically depending on the program you are applying to, and the year in which you are applying to the program. In some years, Business School programs have many great candidates, and there is an embarrassment of riches, and in other years, not so much. When the applicant pool is much larger than the number of PhD positions, then the GMAT score that is required for a PhD increases in that given year increases. In other years, when the applicant pool is smaller, the GMAT score required for a PhD may decrease. It just really depends on what is happening in the marketplace.

Do You Have To Perform On The GMAT Or GRE?

I am not saying that you can slack on your GMAT or your GRE. It is important to just to do well on either test, rather than worrying about gaming the system. Both the GRE and the GMAT are suitable, however you have to check with the program where you are applying too. But, if you are thinking of doing a MBA or a PhD in a Business School, I would just make your life easier, and just focus on acing one of the scores, and then move on with your life. You should spend more time thinking about how you can study for either one of the tests. You can watch the video below for additional details about the GMAT and the GRE for doing a PhD. I believe the video will be very helpful for you, and you will also get to see me in action. 🙂

Should You Study The GMAT Rather Than The GRE?

The basic reason why Universities use these tests is because they are trying to have a standardize quality metric across many schools around the world. Because the test scores are probably the only metric that is standardized for potential candidates around the world, they can use the test scores to better find people that are outstanding and dedicated to doing a PhD. Standardized metrics, like the GMAT and the GRE, makes easy to compare applicants based on this one score. Of course, there are benefits for Business Schools, because it is easier to identify outstanding candidates from remote places. However, it also presents a challenge because many Business Schools know that people try to game these metrics, and because it creates competition based on GMAT / GRE scores. Nonetheless, if you are applying for any graduate program in a Business School, I would study the GMAT. However, if you are thinking about doing graduate work in other fields like Economics or Sociology, then it makes more sense to study the GRE. Why? I think it simplifies your life to focus on only one thing. If you do not have a good sense of what you want to do as a research career, I would not apply to any program just yet. You should wait and really think about what you want to study, and then work backwards to get you there.

What If You Did Not Meet The GRE Or GMAT Cut-off For A PhD Program?

Let’s say you stank up the GMAT Test. Like, really stank it up. What should you do? First of all, I would retake the test until you get a good score. I would also take any and all test prep courses you can find. Yes, these test prep courses cost money, but it they can help you increase your GMAT or GRE score, they are well worth it. Indeed, I studied straight from the books when I took my GMAT Test, and it was the one main thing that I regret with my PhD application. This YouTube video on the GMAT Cut-Off provides additional details about what you should do with low GMAT or GRE scores. At the end of the day, the key thing is for you show that you are outstanding in many other areas related to research. The GMAT or GRE score doesn’t necessarily matter if this is your core objective. The GMAT / GRE is a right of passage. It is also a matter of pride to get a high GMAT score, but what PhD programs are really looking for is whether you can do research. A high GMAT / GRE score also matters in terms of external validation for a particular Business School. Professors impute that you will do well as a researcher based on your standardized test scores, and every professor knows that this is an extremely rough imputation. How can you demonstrate that are amazing at doing research? I would actually do research – create some new research tool, are passionate about doing research, or have publications in other areas. It is not uncommon to find lawyers, engineers, or scientists with publications in their fields apply to PhD programs. While these publications do not count towards tenure (generally), they do show that you are going to take the PhD program much more seriously then just being able to score well on your GMAT. If you know of people that can vouch for your research ability, than this matters a lot more than a single score. If you get a letter of recommendation from a Noble Laureate, people are going to look at your application, even if your test scores are low. You can get to know the people that you are likely to work with. This post details information in how to have meetings with potential PhD supervisors. You should also work on your statement of purpose. You really ought to read this detailed post on writing a statement of purpose. I have a lot of detailed information on how to do well at your statement of purpose that actually do matter for your application. I also have another post on tips that you should consider for applying for a PhD, and these tips are things that took me 15 years to figure out.

Summary

Most people try to game standardized tests, and spend far too much time thinking about what standardized test is easier to take. My point is that it does not matter whether the GMAT or GRE is easier, you will likely perform as well as you should, once you normalize the test scores and account for the marketplace of other candidates. In the end, what matters is that you show that you are willing and able to do research. The GRE and the GMAT are just used to impute your capabilities, and there are many other ways to impute research capabilities. For example, you can actually try to do research. Yes, you might not know what doing research is at the moment, but you can start by reading academic articles in your area of interest and reading this ultimate guide on writing research papers that I created. This is part of my r3ciprocity.com project, where I wanted to help out others excel in grad school. I created a sharing economy proofreading platform so you can get feedback on your writing, and I have a bunch of YouTube videos that detail what it is like being a PhD or becoming a professor (just search for r3ciprocity on YouTube).

Tips To Write A PhD Statement Of Purpose That Actually Work

Tips To Write A PhD Statement Of Purpose That Actually Work

Advice on how to write a statement of purpose for a PhD program is rather bountiful. There are many things to think about when you write a PhD statement of purpose, and you will find many good resources on the internet to craft a basic statement of purpose. However, sometimes I feel as if most of the people who have written these resources have not had to struggle with writing their statement of purpose. Personally, I really struggled at writing my statement of purpose. I am certainly not very bright, and I am not a good writer. However, I was able to able to write a statement of purpose that resonates with what I am about, and was able to get into graduate school at a pretty good university. Looking back at my statement of purpose when I applied and got into my doctoral program, I am not proud of it. While it was good enough, I I think it could have been much better. What I failed to do is think about how the statement of purpose signaled about who I was and what I was about. But, coming to this realization was a journey. Before you go further you probably are wondering about me. I am David Maslach, an Assistant Professor in Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and Strategy, and I was able to get my PhD a few years ago. I did not come from an academic family and grew up in a small Northern Ontario (Canada) town, and had to learn all about this kind of stuff through vicarious learning. I also learnt a lot through making many mistakes myself. This is part of my r3ciprocity.com project, where I am giving back to help other people that are interested in graduate school and research. I created a sharing economy proofreading platform (which I think is way cool but the community of users is far to small at this moment), so that you can get feedback on your writing, and creating a rather large library of YouTube videos. I hope with this resource, I will be able to speed up this journey for yourself. Here are some tips that you can do use to improve your chances with your statement of purpose to get into graduate school. Here is a summary of what you need in a Statement Of Purpose in case you don’t have time:
  1. Communicate that your read the potential graduate advisor’s research.
  2. Focus on ways that you can make faculty more productive.
  3. Focus on or build relationships.
Before you get too far into the doctorate journey, you should really watch a bunch of my YouTube videos (just Google r3ciprocity) and read these resources on either the pros and cons of an executive doctorate or the advantages / disadvantages of a PhD. I also wrote a great resource on the tips for applying for PhD programs. If you want to get a more in-depth take on how to write a Statement Of Purpose, I would highly recommend that you watch this YouTube video which goes into way more detail and tips.

Communicate That You Actually Read Your Potential Advisor’s Research.

When you craft your statement of purpose, I would be well aware of the research that is going on at the place you are applying to. You do not have to read all of the faculty’s research, but you should read some of their research. Perhaps, you just read their last few articles to see what they are about. You also don’t have to read everyone’s articles, just the researchers that seem to appeal to you. In the statement of purpose, you should cite or discuss these researcher articles. What is it that you found interesting with these research articles? Why does that research resonate with you. An astute doctoral student might even point out how they can build on these papers. Read some of the limitations in the research article, and see if you could design a potential study to alleviate this limitation that might extend their work. Why do you want to focus on the research of others in your statement of purpose? Three reasons:
  1. This is how science is done. Almost all science is telling a story about what others have done before you.
  2. You will quickly find out if their research is interesting, and if you like what they are doing.
  3. Talking about others is far more endearing than talking about yourself. Flattery does work.

Focus On The Skills and Capabilities That You Possess That Can Help Improve Their Research Productivity.

Your goal is to position yourself as an asset for the faculty members, and as someone that can work independently on their own. I would first focus on your skills and capabilities that you possess that will help improve the faculty’s research productivity. For example, if you are good at databases, then point out how you can assemble databases for them. If you are good at writing (i.e., an English major), that show how you excel at writing and crafting research literature reviews. You should take an inventory of your skills and craft them on the Statement of Purpose to show how you can help the researcher you are interested in working with as a potential PhD student. Another key thing that you need to highlight is that you will be able to work independently on your own in the future. Do you have original ideas? Are your original ideas sound science? If you can show that you will be the next research superstar, and that you have some moxy to do this, then you will appear attractive to the potential grad program. Research moxy is hard to describe, but you will know when someone has it, or can write about what they are capable of doing. If you need help with how to think about science, you should watch the following video: One more point – you should put emphasis on the things that you have done, and on the things you want to do. Anybody that relies on behavioral research is going to emphasize what you have been proven to do in the past. However, a statement of purpose really needs to communicate that you have an underlying mission, vision, and values.

Point Out Any Existing Relationships That You Have.

Applying to PhD positions, like jobs, is very relational. Everything during the PhD process is all about the relationships that you have formed or the ones you will form in the future. What do I mean by relational? Science is about the people you know, and the people that know you. Why is science so relational? People are just uncertain of others that they do not know, so they tend to prefer the ones they have an existing relationship with. They also like to work with people that they had positive experiences with in the past. How do you emphasize relationships on your Statement Of Purpose? On your Statement of Purpose, point out the people that you know at that institution. You need to point out these relationships within the first 3 lines on your Statement of Purpose. Why the first 3 lines? People that are looking at your Statement Of Purpose are resource-constrained, and will only pay a few minutes to each application. What if you do not have relationships with anyone at the school? If you do not have direct relationships at the school, then specify indirect relationships. Write that Professor So-And-So told you to apply to that institution (it should be true, but people will fact check this statement). Try to ask Professor So-And-So if they know anyone at your dream university, and if they do, simply ask if you can use their name on your Statement. What If you do not have any indirect relationships? This is where you have to do a Judo Chop. You need to establish an ongoing relationship with somebody at the university you want to attend. What?! Yes, you do. Virtually every person that I know who got into a top research university had some internal relationships with people at that university. And, the people that did not have a relationship had to be absolutely exceptional compared to those that had an established relationship, and surely that is not most of us. How do you do this Judo Chop? You have to work on these relationships for a year or two (If you are serious about the career, you should not be concerned with this length of time. I wrote a blog post detailing why and how long it takes to get a PhD, and it will surprise you). One way is to do another Undergrad or Masters at that PhD. This means that it will be easier for you to get into a PhD at the university where you did your Undergrad or Masters programs. But, this is not my favorite approach because it is costly. There are two sneaky ways that people end up doing their PhD at a stellar school.
  1. Get an administration or lab job at the university you are looking to attend. Many people who end up getting their PhD at prestigious universities actually worked at those universities in some minor role beforehand. It will also be much easier if you worked at the university in an administrative role prior to becoming a PhD student. Generally, it is far easier to also land an administrative role at those universities than a research-track roll. You can work in admissions, for the universities’ boosters, or become an administrative assistant just to get your foot in the door. You simply need to just be around the university, and then you will see opportunities open up when they become available.
  2. Try to find ways to freelance for the potential researcher in minor roles. I would love it if some potential PhD candidate offered to build a personal website for me for free. Or, maybe you offer to write blog posts for them about their research papers (a la Harvard Business Review style). Focus on activities that make others look better or make their life easier. Focus on being as helpful as you possibly can and try to remove your ego from the equation. Things like this are relatively minor, but they go along way to establish a relationship with a potential PhD supervisor, or an ally in the application process. Now, it does not guarantee that you will get admitted to a graduate program, but you can eventually use it as a possible connection that you have on your Statement of Purpose. Moreover, it also gives you information about what this person is like on a daily basis. What a better way to see if you want to work with someone than to work with someone on a low-stakes job.

Conclusion

Many people write Statement Of Purposes that rarely communicate much to anyone that is reading it. You need to show that you really care about your PhD, and you care about the people that you will work with during your PhD. This means that you actually have to read their work, or at least some of their work. You have to demonstrate that you have skills and capabilities to make the faculty look good. Your end goal is to make others look better, or to improve their performance as a researcher. Finally, you need to build relationships with people. Its tough, and takes a lot of work, but these relationships, and communicating these relationships on your Statement matter a lot.

Pro-Tip On Research Statements.

I wanted to give you one last pro-tip on your Statement Of Purpose. Don’t be afraid to be sincere. You can point out some of your weaknesses, and how you might actually either improve these weaknesses. Nobody is perfect, and being an academic is all about identifying your shortcomings and working on these shortcomings. For example, if you do not know about regression, will point that out, but then talk about what courses or actions you would take to get good at this technique. The goal is to show that you are both real, and that you know what it takes to improve your current skills that you possess.

Why You Should (NOT) Get A Doctorate (PhD / DBA) In Business Administration

Why You Should (NOT) Get A Doctorate (PhD / DBA) In Business Administration

I was recently thinking about the advice that you get on PhD forums and university websites, and much of this advice is about why you SHOULD get a doctorate (i.e. PhD, DBA, etc). The problem with this perspective is that does not help you determine if doing a doctorate is right for you. I kind of think like an economist, and I always think that there are costs and benefits to every decision. Not every option is good for everyone, especially when thinking about pursuing a doctorate. There are a lot of costs that are associated with terminal degrees because they do take a long time, cost a fair bit of resources, and often have uncertain outcomes. Many people who start a PhD, do not complete it for many reasons that these websites about doing a PhD fail to mention. So, a couple of caveats about the ideas in this post:
  1. I want to work with the assumption that you do not need to get a doctorate to get many of the outcomes you want, but you want to think about whether getting a doctorate is for you. For example, if you want to become a management consultant, I would highly recommend that you just get an MBA. Or, if you want to teach in the business school, you often just need an MBA, and then you can teach as an Adjunct Professor.
  2. This is going to be rather focused on getting a doctorate in a Business School, like a PhD in Business Administration or a Doctorate of Business Administration. Why? This is what I know as I am an Assistant Professor of Innovation, Strategy, and Entrepreneurship.
  3. This is my own personal experience, and does not represent either my own institution’s position or other’s views. I am going to share my own experience to help others that were in a similar position as me. There were very few people in my family that went to university for a long time, nevertheless going into academia. I think I was the only one for a while, and I don’t know of any of my relatives that are university professors. Now, this is changing with a new generation. If you were like me, I really did not know many people who I can get honest advice from. I am sure that I am not the only one that is in that position.
  4. This is part of my r3ciprocity.com project. I built a sharing economy proofreading software, in which people can help others or you can help on your written work. The goal of the project is to motivate people to help others, and as well to scratch my own itch. There was not really anything on the internet that was like this system, and I often need feedback on my own written work, so I thought I could be the one to build the proofreading software. Crazy idea, I know. After I built the software, I realized that I needed to market it some how. My wife and I were bootstrapping the software out of our own personal funds, so I did not have a lot of extra money to do a marketing campaign. So, I thought the best way to market this platform was to give even more with YouTube videos about PhD life, and this blog. Was this a stupid idea? Probably. Being immensely open about my thoughts and who I am has given me some personal grief, but, I also think that if I just help one person make a better decision, I will be happy.
At this point, I truly do not know if this project will ever work, but I have faith in the kindness of people. I can’t do this alone. I believe that most people are good, and that there are enough good people in this world, they will see value in this project. (As of lately, some people have been very helpful and many people have been indifferent to the project).

What Are The Most Obvious Reasons To Get A Doctorate (PhD / DBA)?

There are many obvious reasons to get a doctorate, particularly in business administration.
  1. You do get a mild increase in social status. Being a ‘Doctor’ has a cool ring to it. Admittedly, when I was 23, my PhD attraction was largely due to this social status. Maybe I was vain, or maybe it was something else. I just wish we could prescribe meds sometimes. The only thing I can prescribe is a bad joke. 😉
  2. A PhD salary is generally ‘pretty’ good. What pretty good means depends on the beholder. Most PhDs have a decent salary, although this widely varies between disciplines and sub-fields / concentrations. I have heard of some disciplines that make $30 k per year, and others that make well over six figures. If you do a PhD in Business, a rough estimate for most countries is somewhere around $80-120 k per year, but this varies depending on many factors, like country, your academic rank (ie. Assistant, Associate, Full Professor) or institution. Some PhD disciplines (finance) might make quite a bit more. The wages of a PhD really just depends.
    1. One thing I wanted to point out that is really strange with salaries. You only get paid for 9 months of the year. The other 3 months are the summer months, and most schools will not pay your salary during that time. However, many PhDs get grants for the summer months.
    2. Also, many PhDs in Business experience a thing called salary inversion. This is where the people you teach (MBAs) make more money than you do. Its an odd thing that happens.
  3. You get to do work that you love, or at least tolerate. 🙂 I mean you can pick the skills and subset of skills that you want to specialize in. You can be the world’s expert at X. Seriously. It really is not all that difficult to be an expert at something if you pick a small of niche.
  4. Most people around you are very smart, and you can have sharp conversations. Don’t underestimate this aspect of a PhD. Talking to smart people can be quite a joy!
You can watch my YouTube video about PhD in Business salaries: Again, please do not take any of this as complaints. I truly love my job, and I love the students and people that I interact with on a daily basis. There are a lot of benefits to getting a PhD. You can go to this page on the advantages of doing a PhD in Business, or watch the following video that I made about the benefits of getting a PhD in Business: Of course, there are many other factors to get a PhD, and you can go to a university website about that. It is a great career, but like everything you do, it is challenging. I want to be as honest as possible, as this is a large career choice for you, and you will never get a second chance at making this choice. I would rather that you have an honest thoughtful discussion with your family about whether to do a PhD in Business. You and your family should be well aware before you jump into this career. I think I would be not fair to not have the information to make a educated choice on something in which you will spend decades doing, so…

What Are The Reasons Not To Get A Doctorate?

1. The Returns On Your PhD Education Are Far Too Long In The Future.

I remember doing my own net present value calculation on my salaries and wages as a business school professor, compared to what my salary and wages would have been as ‘just’ an engineer with a masters degree. My break-even point was when I was around 55. After that point, it made financial sense to get a PhD. Even if my estimates are wildly off, a good estimate is that you will need at least a decade to recoup the cost of pursuing a doctorate. (Again, I feel absolutely privileged to get paid anything to do what I do at the place where I am). However, this does not account for many other factors that affect risk. If you drop out of the PhD program, die early, or have anything negative happen to you where you have to trade-off your career against life (ie. you have a sick child, you get divorced, etc.), the returns of getting a PhD are quite a bit worse.  For example, it is actually somewhat common for people to leave of PhD programs before they complete the program. Now, there are many reasons why people leave, but the returns are quite low for a doctorate if you never complete the degree. Again, I am not saying that you cannot be successful after you pursue a PhD, or not that there are many tacit or implicit rewards to having a PhD that cannot be financially measured. However, the financial odds are stacked against you, and you have to weigh the financial cost of getting a PhD versus its benefit. You should have a plan ‘b’ in the back of your mind, just in case the PhD does not work out for you. Yes, I am well aware that people might have say that if you have a plan ‘b’ that you are not taking the career seriously. Personally, I think it is quite the opposite. You should always compare against a counterfactual (or best alternative), and at any moment that you believe the counterfactual is much better, you should consider your options. This keeps you grounded, and helps you make an informed choice about ‘why’ you are doing what you are doing. For example, I am well aware that I can maybe make more outside of academia (as most professors can), but I truly believe that the professors do is so important that I am willing to happily do what I do.

2. You Have To “Work” Long Hours If You Get A PhD.

I really love those movies that show graduate students goofing off in some lab some where (ie. Big Hero 6). I think to myself – what planet are the writers on? Most people that are doing a PhD do not feel like they have time to do many activities beyond a few hobbies. For me, I spend most of my time with my family and kids (standard Dad stuff like going to swim practice, baseball, getting groceries, COSTCO Run!, walking the dog, etc.). Actually, it is funny because my most rewarding time is not reading or partying, but rather cleaning our house. My wife and I used to fight over who got to clean when our kids were small. 🙂 Other than that, most of my time is spent writing and analyzing data. Although, I am not sure if I would call this ‘work.’ Writing is hard for me, yes, but much of this part is quite enjoyable. The only time it is a pain is you are stuck on making your writing clear. For me, I spend a great deal of time thinking and fretting over a few words in my papers. But, just because writing is painful and I am unhappy in the ‘act’ of writing does not mean it is worth it. If I did everything that was fun and made me happy all the time, there is no way I would ever run, workout, eat healthy food, or devote anytime to selfless acts like care for my kids. Even opening the door for a strange is rather pointless if you take the view that you should do what makes you happy – it takes work to open that door and makes you tired at the end of the day. Doing what is fun and makes you happy is a poor way to understand work, or life in general. I personally get joy from doing hard and difficult things that cause me great frustration at the moment. What matters is whether you would do that work again if given a chance. And, personally, when it comes to research, I would. Just imagine that you will spend most of your time sitting (or like me, standing) at your desk writing. And, my point is that you should not consider a PhD as a way to actually slack off for the rest of your life. This myth of PhD life is far from the truth. A PhD is very difficult, and often very competitive. Just imagine that you have the brightest minds in the world all competing for the same space in academia. Of course, it is going to be challenging.

3. A PhD Will Likely Lead You To Cry Or Get Very Angry At Somebody Or Something Multiple Times.

One of the things that I have learned is that learning is very difficult to do. Inevitably, it is very frustrating, and the response that most people have when they learn is to get emotional. The emotional response is either positive or negative, but mostly for me, because of the cognition resources it takes to write, I experience negative emotions (anxiety, anger, etc) regularly. These negative emotions are part and parcel of doing research for me. It might not be for everyone. Because there is a lot of uncertainty and ambiguity in a PhD in Business Administration, you also rarely have a clear answer of how long things will take, or how difficult it will be. Research is highly uncertain – papers are done when they are done. (Watch my video on uncertainty during a PhD). Again, this will lead you to be emotional, and take out your fears on others. (I sincerely apologize to all those that I did.) Just expect that you will have many bad days and the occasional great day during your PhD. These experiences continue to persist for me, but you kind of get used to the emotional responses over time, and I have learnt to separate these emotions from the actual PhD work. I am pretty sure that I am not out of the ordinary. You just have to come to expect these emotional responses in academia.

4. You Will Spend Large Amounts Of Your Time Alone During Your PhD in Business Administration

My wife works in a medical practice (to protect her privacy, I won’t say where). In this practice, I am amazed by the hustle and bustle of the place. There is constant motion, and people are constantly talking and joking. Its loud. Its silly but professional. It is a fun practice, but I don’t think this is extraordinary for many workplaces. Contrast this experience with doing a PhD. Much of the time you spend alone with your thoughts. Yes, you do come out and say ‘hi’ to a colleague or a student in the halls, but 80-90% of your time is thinking about an idea. This is quite nice if you are an introvert, but I personally never gave this aspect of the job as much thought as I should have. I always liked thinking about ideas, but the solo nature of doing a PhD can lead to strange things. For example, it is not uncommon to experience various mental health problems during a PhD (See my video on my own experiences during my PhD), or develop chronic back pain from being hunched over all day (This happened to me and virtually every PhD student that I came across). I would imagine many of us experienced these issues. (I have switched to a standing desk, which has helped a lot on both aspects – in terms of my mental well-being and back issues). Just be sure that you are aware of that much of the career is a solo endeavor. You do collab and work with colleagues, but this type of work tends to be working together at a distance or intermittent. I have heard of some people who work together on papers in the same room (Tversky and Kahneman), but this is uncommon for many people.

5. While You Might Feel Successful In Your Current Job, Be Prepared To Feel Humbled During Your PhD

When you start your PhD, you have to start at the bottom rung of the career ladder. There is actually a pretty formal career progression in academia (PhD student, PhD candidate, Post-Doc, Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, Full Professor). When you start your PhD, you start at the very bottom, and you work your way up the ladder. This means that if you were a lawyer or a successful business-person before your PhD, nobody is going to care that much. You will have to build your academic career, and nobody will know who you are for a long time. Ultimately, this is what people are screening you for when you apply for a PhD program (If interested in programs, see my post about getting into a PhD program in strategy and innovation). Yes, acceptance rates for PhDs in Business are generally quite low (around 1-10% of applicants get into most programs). However, the admissions office and Professors are not making the acceptance rates low on purpose. They are screening to make sure that you will survive and do well in the program. Again, many people that start a PhD will find other things to do and quit the program. Most people in a PhD program are already some the brightest people you will meet, and it is more about figuring out if you are going to enjoy the program. My point is that you will have to get used to being humble and building your research career over decades (I have a post about starting your career in your 30s and why it takes a long time to build your research program). People are not going to care about who you are until you are quite senior in your career. However, many of us get a lot of joy out of the meritocracy of the academic life. It is one of the only careers that I know of where the more you put in, the more you get out.

6. Doing a PhD / Doctorate In Business Administration Effects Your Family-Life Choices.

You really need to have a serious discussion with your significant others before you start your doctorate in business. When I started my PhD degree in General Management (Ivey Business School), I don’t think neither my wife or I had any real idea of what was going to happen. Luckily, we got through the program (with a few scrapes and bruises), and I consider my outcome rather successful (we live in a beautiful town and I have amazing colleagues). However, you really need to sit down and have ‘dream meetings’ (Dave Ramsey – the personal finance guru talks about these meetings), and regularly discuss ‘why’ you are doing your doctorate. Not every one of these meetings are going to go well, if you are like me, but you need to constantly be communicating and be open with your partner. By the way, don’t expect your significant other to understand or be terribly interested in your research. What is more important is that the both of you are on the same boat with why you are taking years to get a job. You also have to be clear that the job prospects are quite uncertain from the get-go. Its highly likely that you will get a good job with a PhD, but you do not know or where that will occur. You also need to have some deep discussions about having children and elderly parents around during your doctorate. I would not change my life for a second (I have two wonderful kids), but you have to prioritize and work around your dependent’s schedule. Just be prepared that this decision seems easy and attractive, but it will be more difficult than you expect because you will feel like you want to prioritize study and research over everything else. I have an addictive personality, and I can feel addicted to research quite quickly.

Should You Get A Doctorate / PhD In Business?

Ultimately, the decision is quite personal, and you have to weigh the factors against doing a doctorate versus the factors for doing a doctorate. The question of whether you should pursue a PhD in any field depends a lot on what are you interested in, and why are you interested in that topic. There is no real reason to do a PhD if you not curious about the world. You have to want to study the thing in such a passionate way that you will do everything it takes to complete the PhD and succeed in the career. So, think to yourself, what topic did you find the most interesting to study when you did your undergraduate degree or MBA? Can you see yourself studying this topic for years? Picking this topic will also help you leverage your current competencies and knowledge. Based on this post, you might think that I have quite negative about the degree. This is not true – I love the fact that I did a PhD, and I truly did learn a lot about myself that I would not trade for anything. However, I want to be real and open as I possibly can. This is a big decision for you, and you need to have full information. Obtaining a terminal degree is not for everyone, so please take your decision seriously.

Are You Still Interested In Doing a PhD In Business?

If you are still interested in doing a PhD in Business, I would recommend you watch a few of the videos that I created about the basics of getting into programs around the world. You might also want to read my post about becoming a business school professor. This is all of the advice I wish I had when I applied and started my PhD way back in 2005. You are going to need to understand about the graduate school interview. I still remember mine – I am surprised that they accepted me into the program. I learnt a lot more since those days, and I hope this video will help you: You might also want to watch my video about picking the concentration for your PhD. Believe it or not, the concentration of your PhD does matter a lot for your desire and career prospects. You have to think about what PhD concentration works for you: Lastly, you might want to watch this video about what makes a great PhD student. I hope this helps: In sum, I hope you choose wisely with your career, or doing a doctorate in business. Make sure that you talk to people, and discuss with your family about this big decision. If you are not serious about the career, and I persuaded you look at other options, that is awesome. If, however, you are still in love with the idea of getting a doctorate in business, I wish you all of the best. I know that you will prosper in this career. I hope you liked this post. 🙂 I tried to be pretty thorough. Obviously, I am sure I missed many things about doing a PhD in Business, and if you want to learn more, please check out my r3ciprocity YouTube channel. I have a lot of helpful videos for graduate students.

Tips For Applying To PhD Programs (In Business Administration)

This post provides tips for applying to PhD programs, particularly in any of the disciplines in Business Administration (i.e. Strategy, Finance, Marketing, etc.). Applying to PhD Programs is always a stressful affair. I remember when I applied to mine, nearly 15 years ago. It took several months of preparation, from writing the GMAT (I did my PhD in Business Administration), to crafting the statement of purpose, to actually sending in the material. All I can say is, boy, did I get a lot of things wrong. Obviously, some things worked out for me, but looking back, I feel that I was pretty lost with the process. Why do you want to get a PhD? The biggest reason is that it allows you to get into research careers, like becoming a research associate, or becoming a professor (Read more about my ideas about how to become a business professor or advantages and disadvantages of getting your PhD in Business). Before I go further, I should share with you about why I am doing this r3ciprocity.com project. The main reason is that I like to solve problems, but more specifically, I wanted to create a system that I can have a real world impact. I thought wouldn’t it be cool to solve a problem that I experience every day, but making this solution scaleable to a larger audience. Anyway, I created a sharing economy proofreading software that is based on reciprocity. After I created the software, I realized that I did not have an audience (a sort of chicken and egg problem – you need software to get an audience, but you need an audience to make the software work). Anyway, I choose to help PhD students and other academics, particularly those in the social sciences, because they could really use such a software. (I can’t be the only one that is terrible at writing.) I also thought that it would be cool that when this made money to give back with scholarships for grad students (Yes, it’s a pipe-dream, but a kid’s gotta dream, right). You can watch the following video of me talking about some of these tips for applying to PhD programs.

Tips For Applying To PhD Programs (in Business Administration)

Remember that this video does not just apply for those interested in Business Administration, but because it based on my own experiences, it is most relevant for Business PhDs, especially PhD programs in strategic management. (Want to learn more about how long it takes to get a PhD or a DBA? Check out my blog post). When you write a PhD application, you should think about the following:

1. PhDs Like To Talk About Their Love of Research.

Generally, most potential PhD supervisors and PhD acceptance committees do not career too much about what your industry accomplishments, unless it relates to research. Many (not all) academics find industry experiences rather tedious. They are more interested in ‘the idea.’ If you can share a curious finding that you observed during your time in industry, academics are going to be interested in that finding. For example, you observed that venture capitalists ‘herd’ in their investment decisions (see Isin Guler’s work) However, if you tell academics that you were so-and-so of so-and-so company, many academics will disregard this experience. Thus, if I were you, I would discuss and talk about your love of ideas and curious findings. There is nothing so exciting as a deep discussion about some strange thing in the world. You can, however, talk about some weird fact about yourself. For example, if you were an Olympian or wrestled bears, it sometimes helps your application. Why? Academics are humans, and we use heuristics to remember people. It is easier to remember the ‘space-girl’ or ‘bear-guy,’ than it is to remember Joe or Jane Maffraw.

2. Read At Least A Few Of The Faculty’s Papers.

Potential supervisors do not expect you to read everything that they have ever written, but you likely should read 1-2 of their articles before you talk to them. Do not be afraid that we are going to quiz you on all of the details of the article. Heck, I can’t even remember what I wrote yesterday, … seriously. But, you should have a general sense about the article to carry on a light conversation, like “that was a great article about the lightning industry you did. It was very insightful” or, “how did you think of the idea for your paper on the start-up businesses in the Canadian Rockies.” You are really just looking for a way to carry on the conversation with your own future research.

3. Demonstrate Your Ability To Do Research.

You should come up with some proof of your ability to do research. This is extremely important if you want to do research for the rest of your life. You have to some one or two analytical articles that you wrote during your undergrad or grad school. (This post helps with crafting a research paper for a PhD). The best possible thing is a paper that you wrote that is very ‘academicy.’ You should have a theoretical overview, hypotheses (if required), data collection, and some analysis of this data. It is also a good idea to show how talented you are with you analysis or crafting of an idea. If you can program, I would write a short piece of code for the school of choice. If you can analyze data, I would ask to analyze some data for a professor. Pretty much every business professor has some data that they need to get cleaned – this would be a good chore for you to do. Cleaning data is an important part of research that very few people like to do. You can impress a potential advisor by doing this work for them. For the first several years of your PhD program, you will likely do a lot of reading and ‘work.’ You could summarize a set of articles for a professor for a literature review. In general, there are many ways to demonstrate your ability to do research, but what you should focus on is trying to be of service to potential supervisors.

4. Work On Your GMAT / GRE Scores.

Ok, so many people will tell you that the GMAT / GRE scores do not matter for research. This is true – it is likely not a strong predictor of research abilities. Why is that? There are so many other things that go into doing research over the long run. For example, you need to be able to do something over the course of 5-10 years, so many times basic life things will get in the way of your research success. You know – those simple things, like divorce, marriage, babies, deaths, depression, big moves, and all that easy stuff. However, GMAT / GRE scores are generally used as a way to screen out potential applicants. Why? Its standardized across countries and regions. It also might be a mild predictor of either ‘grit’ or IQ (I think standardized tests confounds the two). It might also be a strong predictor of privilege as only those with sufficient resources will take courses or spend enough time to study on the test to do well. Even if it is arbitrary, these standardized scores are just an easy way to screen out candidates, right or wrong. You should invest some time, effort, and resources to do well on the GMAT / GRE. I have learnt that it will pay off considerable returns if you do well over the long-run.  You have to think about it as the returns you will get over the course of 30-40 years. Even if you make an extra $1000 / year because of a slightly higher GMAT score (ie. because you get into a better university for a PhD), investing the small amount in studying for the GMAT / GRE will be well worth it.

5. Look For PhD Programs Outside Of Your Field.

I would highly recommend that you search broadly when you look for a PhD program. We often get fixated on a specific program or field of study, but you should be aware that people get PhDs in many areas and study very similar things. You can also get considerably different returns by simply changing the course of study. For example, in my field, there are people that study geography and geographic methods (to look at things like firm or venture capital location), yet, they do not have a PhD in geography. If you want to investigate PhD programs, there are many institutions and programs around the world that do the same thing as a PhD in your area, but are called something different. For example, some engineering programs have a good management department (UCL, Waterloo, Stanford, UC Barbara, etc) in which you could get a PhD. The ‘feel’ of the department will be quite a bit different than a business school, but you can study and move around to business schools. The key thing is that you are doing good research, and that you find great mentors that will help you do good research.

6. Go To An Academic Conference To See What ‘Academia’ Is All About.

I think it is odd with many professions, including academics, that we train people to do something, but then we never really show them what it is like until they are in the profession. For example, many programs will teach people about a particular subject, but then when people actually ‘do’ that subject they either do not know ‘how’ to do that subject, or they discover that they dislike that subject. For this reason, I very much like apprentice-type programs or coop programs (my undergrad university ‘U. Waterloo’ has a great program). One way that you can observe what academia is like for little commitment is to attend several academic conferences. If you are thinking of a PhD in Strategic Management or Innovation, you should consider attending either the Strategic Management Society conference (more specialized and better food, but more expensive), the Academy of Management conference (giant and diverse, but reasonably priced and you can find free food), or the Informs conferences (very ‘academicy,’ but somewhat removed from strategy and leans toward social science). (Learn about how to get a PhD in Strategy). At these conference, you will learn about what academic presentations are, what it takes to write a paper, and the questions people ask in academia. You will be surprised how much you learn by watching people at these conferences. Academics, like any other career, has a lot of ceremony and protocol. You might meet a few people there that might be of interest, but do not expect too much as a junior potential PhD student. If you are outgoing, you are going to of course meet more people. When you attend your first conference, make sure you dress ‘business causal’ and just be a fly on the wall. Try not to make a scene, as this could potentially harm you in the future.

Want to learn more about academic conferences, watch this video:

7. Build Relationships With Faculty Members.

Last, I think an important thing that you might want to consider is to build strong relationships with faculty members. If you are currently an MBA or undergraduate business major, get to know your faculty. This is one of the advantages of starting your journey to a PhD at a younger again (Read my post about doing your PhD in your 30s). Ask them to do simple tasks for them. For example, when I was in undergrad (Chemical Engineering), I did several years of an undergraduate research assistantship. While I probably did not create much in terms of usable research and I might have slowed down my Professor, he was nice enough to work with me and I truly learnt a lot from the experience. From that I will always be grateful. What I did was build a small piece of simulation software, but there are many things that you could do, like do some data cleaning, collect some information, or interview different people. You want to reach out to faculty on a regular basis. Try to find time to stop by their office and ask them if they need a hand with something. I am sure there is something that they would be willing to let you do. Why do you want to work with faculty? You will greatly improve your chances of getting into a PhD program. Not only because you might get a letter of reference, but this demonstrates that you are interested in doing research long before you actually start your PhD.

Building A Research Story For A PhD

If you have not figured it out yet, getting into a PhD program in Business Administration (or any other program) is a lot about crafting a long-running story in what and who you are about. It is not just about getting the PhD (See my post about the difference between a PhD and a DBA), and that is the end of your story. No PhD program wants to bring you on board to realize that you do not like doing research. Doing research means that you like reading, writing, and arithmetic; and you are going to do this for a long-time. You have to demonstrate and provide a story that this is what you want to do. Doing a PhD, and then the subsequent career as a Professor or Research Associate after that is challenging. Going forward, try to build your program around this story and your desire to do research.

How Many Years Is A Doctorate Degree (PhD / DBA) In Business Administration?

How Many Years Is A Doctorate Degree In Business Administration (PhD / DBA)?

When I tell people that I am a Business Professor, they often wonder how long it actually takes to get a doctorate in business administration at a major research university? Most people got this fairly wrong (this was me when I started as well), and most of the web sites on the inter-webs are somewhat misleading in how long it actually takes. Generally, the belief is that a doctorate degree in Business Administration takes 3-4 years, which is on the short side. But, really, how many years is a doctoral degree in Business? A Doctorate Degree in Business Administration takes anywhere from 3 to 7 years to complete. A PhD in Business Administration tends to be a bit longer than a Doctorate of Business Administration degree. If you want to know some more differences between a PhD and a DBA, I have a post of these similarities and differences. But, the norm is usually around 4-5.5 years. Of those that finish their PhD, here are my estimates from my experience (and what do I know anyway 🙂 ):
  1. <5% complete a doctorate in business within 2 years.
  2. 5-20% complete a doctorate within 2-4 years.
  3. 20-80% complete a doctorate within 4-5 years.
  4. 80-90% complete a doctorate within 5-6 years.
  5. 90-100% complete a doctorate within 6-8 years.
As you can see, it is highly unusual to take 3-4 years to get a doctoral degree in business, and the norm is closer to 4-5.5 years. Some people may take 6 to 7 years. Keep in mind this is all of the people that actually complete a doctorate degree in Business Administration. At most programs (and this is my experience again – no hard evidence), the attrition rate before completion is anywhere from 10-30% of those who start their doctorate program never complete it. Where do these people go? Most people don’t ‘fail out’ of their doctorate degree, but find that research in business does not match with their personality and choose to do other things. They simply just learn that doing a PhD in business is not that fun for them. This is good, but it is a fairly tough career, and the quicker you know that it is not for you, the better off you will be. Also, if you think you are going to be in it for the long term, you should plan that the doctoral degree will take longer than you think. You should plan to hunker down with major life investments. You can see my post on buying a home in grad school.

Why Does It Take 4-5.5 Years To Get A Doctoral Degree In Business?

The length of time that it takes to complete a doctoral degree is usually related to the rigor of your program of study. More rigorous programs usually take longer than less rigorous programs, but of course, this is a general rule, and their are always exception to the rule. Some forms of research generally take longer than others. For example, if you expect to do ethnographies (going into the workplace for several months as a fly on the wall), you will likely take a bit longer than other people.  Yes, these small choices about research matters, and most people underestimate how long things will take. By the way, there is actually a psychological bias that we all have called the planning fallacy. Anyway, if you are interested in more ideas about choosing methods in your PhD in Business Administration, I have a video on research methods:

What is the Normal Process of A PhD In Business Administration.

While a PhD program may vary across different schools and the programs within each school, a doctorate degree in business administration usually involves several broad stages of the PhD: 1st Year: In the first year of a PhD in Business, students will do you a broad overview of business and statistics courses. You will also do coursework on research methods and the philosophy of science. These are really fun topics if you like this kind of thing. By the way, if you are interested in picking courses for a doctorate in business or other business grad school programs, check out the video below. It provides a fairly good analyses of how to choose your graduate school courses. Of course, this is your career, so you choose whatever you want to choose.  By the way, this would be a good time to decide if the PhD in Business Administration is right for you. You can also choose what you are interested in. It is very common for people to switch around and try different things at the end of the 1st year of the program. If you are interested in learning more about switching to different specializations in the PhD, you might want to watch video about what kind of PhD will make you most competitive in the job market: 2nd Year: In the second year of any PhD program in business, you will generally have to do area specific courses (for me – strategy and innovation) and finish the comprehensive exams. Comprehensive exams are tough, but if you are interested in the PhD in Business Administration, you will have to take the comps. Sorry, folks. 🙁 Here is a video about comprehensive videos in a PhD of Business Administration program might be like for you. To be honest, I actually did enjoy mine after I got through all of the work aspect of the comprehensive exams: 3rd Year: In the third year, candidates for a PhD in Business (ie. Management, Finance, etc) will work on a paper and their dissertation proposal. This is the year that can add a lot of value to you. If you work wisely, you can be very productive in this year. You can write a paper or two during this time. (Check out this guide post to writing research papers, which is a work in progress). However, don’t work on anything in this year, this could really hold you back as a scholar. 4th and 5th Year: In the final years of a Doctorate in Business, students will go in the job market and complete their thesis in their chosen field in a doctorate in business program. What is the job market? That is where you actually get a job as an assistant professor, or take a job as a post-doc. By the way, post-docs are becoming increasingly more common. As you can see when you ask how many years for PhD, it makes sense that it will take at least 4-5 years to complete. If you are lucky, you can finish the PhD in 4, but more than likely, you will take 4.5-5. It is not unusual to see a doctoral degree taking longer than 5 years, particularly if the student flounders for year or encounters obstacles in the PhD. By the way, the biggest thing that I always say that harms students from doing good research is life. Darn life – it always gets in the way. 🙂 That is the complete answer to how long it actually does take to get a PhD in Business Administration. Note that this is just my ramblings, and everyone’s experiences are difference and unique. That is the one thing about a PhD, it is a very personal journey that only you can choose. By the way, this is all part of my r3ciprocity project, in which I am trying to give back as much as I can as ways to thank all of the people that have helped me become a professor. I created a sharing economy proofreading software, and continue to put out videos to help others advance their careers as well. The goal with r3ciprocity is to solve problems that are relevant to behavioral and organizational sciences, and to eventually generate enough profits that I can create scholarships for graduate students and help others. Yes, its a pipe-dream, but dreams do come true. 🙂

DBA Vs. PhD: Differences Between A DBA And PhD In Business Administration?

What Are The Differences Between A DBA and PhD in Business Administration?

Oh, there is so much for you to know. 🙂 At first glance, it might seem that there are very little difference between a Doctor in Business Administration (depending on the business school, this is also called an executive DBA) and a PhD in Business Administration. They are both doctorates, right? This is true, but the differences have a lot of contrast, especially once you start breaking it down. Before I go any further, I thought I would summarize the differences between a DBA and a PhD in Business Administration For You. There are differences in:
  1. Outcomes (The DBA is for practicing managers).
  2. Process (The DBA is shorter and less uncertain).
  3. Moving (You are more likely to move with a PhD).
  4. Duration (A PhD will likely take longer).
  5. Competition (The PhD is likely more competitive).
If you want a more in-depth understanding of the differences between a PhD and a DBA, you should also watch this video: Full disclosure – I am currently an Assistant Professor in Strategy, where I study innovation and entrepreneurship. This is part of my r3ciprocity proofreading software project. The goal with the software is to create as good in the world as possible by paying my gratitude to others forward. I had a lot of people help me over the years, from my advisors, other academics in the field, and of course, my immediate family (I have a wonderful wife and two kiddos). I also wanted to have a software platform that solved a problem that I had – finding people that are willing to give me honest peer feedback on my writing. So, I thought I would create a system that helped others. (I have another goal to help organizational science, but you can read about this goal to help science here.) One way that I can help people is to provide as much helpful information about doing a PhD in Business Administration so others can read and have full disclosure to make their own choices going forward. By the way, all of this stuff is just personal observations from twenty years of higher education (whew. Its been that long?!)

More Than Differences In Business Doctorate Names

From what I can tell, there are three kinds of doctorates in business.
  1. Honorary Doctorate. This is reserved for people that have done extraordinary things in society. Maybe they created an important business, a not for profit, or made an important scientific discovery. This is generally ‘gifted’ to people, rather than earned through the traditional university system. In other words, for most people, you don’t have to worry about it.
  2. Doctorate in Business Administration (DBA) and Executive Doctorate in Business. This are similar, although, the executive doctorate might be targeting more senior people in their career. The DBA is generally for those that are interested in learning about what researchers do in academic research, but do not want to actually do research. There goal is to go back into industry or teach other executives or MBAs.
  3. PhD in Business Administration. A PhD in Business Administration is a research degree. Think of a PhD in Business Administration as being akin to a PhD in rocket science (really!?), a PhD in theoretical physics, or a PhD in Economics. While the type, topic, and scope of research can vary a lot between researchers, the main goal of the PhD in Business Administration is to generate new ideas and test existing ideas.

Similarities Between The DBA And PhD In Business Administration.

Now, that I got the generic definition of these kinds of degrees down, let’s get down to the brass-tax of both programs. What are the similarities between a DBA and a PhD in Business? There are many.

Doctorate Admissions.

1. GMAT Or GRE.

Both will require a GMAT or GRE scores. Each program varies in what scores they are looking for, but generally, higher scores are better than lower scores. Most admissions offices will also have some cut-off at which they look at applicants. However, because this is a very specialized degree, there might often room to make accommodations if you look outstanding in other ways. This varies between schools, so you will just have to check. This is up to you.

2. Appropriate Prerequisite Education.

You will have to have the appropriate prereqs for your chosen subdomain. Most often, people will require an MBA in an appropriate subdomain, like an MBA in finance, MBA with an accounting focus, or MBA in strategy. From my own experience, you will really need to get a strong understanding in mathematics to do a PhD in the harder fields (ie. Finance or Accounting). There is a small group of people that do behavioral experiments in these fields, however, you will need to know mathematics to be able to read their journals. If you plan to go that route, just be aware that the doctorate in these fields is much more difficult than the MBA or undergrad degree. Indeed, it is common to see people from mathematics and engineering go into these fields.

Doctorate Of Business Process And Outcomes.

1. Length Of Program.

The length both the program will be quite similar. Roughly, you could theoretically complete both programs within 3 to 4 years of dedicated schooling. The DBA and the executive DBA will probably err on the 3-4 year side, but the PhD will probably be more like 4-7 years depending on what you are doing. There are a few people that do the PhD in 3-4 years (5%), but the majority will take 4-5 years, and the remainder (10%) will take 5-7 years. Why is there this difference in the length of the program? The key issue with a PhD in Business Administration is that it is a research degree and you will need to have some papers that are well developed before you can get an academic job. Most people can easily complete the requirements with 4 years, but many people will work on papers to improve their chances on the job market before they look for an academic job. Years ago, I heard that it was the norm to get out in 4 years with a PhD in Business Administration, but this is getting longer as the competition in the academic job market has intensified in the past 25 years. A significant portion (including myself) are turning to post-doctorate education after their PhDs before they get a business professor job.

2. Cost of PhD in Business Administration Versus Doctor of Business Administration Program.

You might think that the cost of the program for a MBA or a DBA is significantly more than a PhD in Business Administration. If you look at the fees, there are often substantial differences. Some MBA and DBA programs look like they are 2-3 times the cost of the PhD in Business Administration. Further, many PhD in Business Administration programs will pay you through PhD stipends. PhD stipends are generally just the right amount of money that allow PhD students to survive and thrive during the PhD. It is not a lot ($10-30 K at most places), but you should be able to eat and have housing. However, factoring in the opportunity cost of forgoing wages for a few more years during the PhD, the costs are likely very similar to a DBA or MBA. This might differ per person and school, but you should really take this into consideration.

3. Knowledge And Understanding Of Business.

In both the Doctor of Business Administration and the PhD in Business Administration, you will get an amazing understanding of the latest research on business. You will well trained to understand the world of business. You will also know many of the major theories of management theory, depending on your specialization. This is one of the many advantages of doing a PhD in Business Administration. It is truly a joy to know all of these theories.

4. Salaries Of People With A DBA Or A PhD In Business.

Salaries between a DBA and a PhD can vary widely, and largely depends on your career outcomes after both degrees. However, a good general rule is your salary will be rough equal to $10 k per year in higher education. Some PhDs and DBA’s make much less than this, and some make much more than that. It really depends on what you do with both of these degrees. However, if you want some hard data on PhD salaries, you can watch the following video and check out this link at the AASCB survey on Business School Professor salaries. Information on DBA salaries is much harder to obtain as this will be private, however, you should be able to ask admissions officers for this information. From what I understand (and its not much), you should probably expect DBA salaries to be comparable to graduates of Executive MBA programs.

Differences Between A DBA And PhD In Business Administration.

Differences In Outcomes.

There are important and significant differences in outcomes between the DBA and the PhD in Business Administration. The basic understanding is the PhD is a research degree. It is more similar to getting a PhD in Chemistry, Theoretical Physics, or Economics, than getting a DBA. These degrees train you to develop ideas and share these ideas with other academics. A DBA is much more of a like getting an MBA, a law degree, a nursing degree, or a MD degree. These degrees train you to apply ideas that you learn. The DBA is similar as you are getting an advanced degree in the application of ideas. In contrast, a PhD will teach you to do research. A PhD in Business, Innovation, Accounting, Operations, or whatever is primarily a research degree. Generally, the outcome you get with this degree is for you to spend 1/3 to all of your time doing research, 1/3 teaching, and 1/3 providing service to the academic community. The service component can be broken up in to being an editor at a major journal, doing service for the college or university in which you teach, doing service for the academic community as a whole (i.e. organizing conferences, etc). Your job is to become a professor in most top business schools. There are a few exceptions to this rule. A Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) can allow you to teach in a research school, however you are unlikely to be tenure-tracked. You can teach undergraduates, MBAs, and maybe executives. The odd person that gets a DBA might do the occasional research project, but this normally occurs by teaming up with tenure-track faculty members. Harvard’s DBA is also the exception. Harvard’s DBA is generally thought of as a research degree, so you will get academic training if you go that route. You will also be expected to do research if you get a DBA from Harvard.

Process Differences Between A DBA And PhD In Business Administration.

A key thing to remember is that doing research of any sort is very messy and uncertain. There are never any right answers, just more plausible answers. There is also no one way to come up with the answer. You can look at the same situation from many directions, get different answers, and still be right. See the famous article by Allison. That is OK, but it has implications for what happens during the PhD. A PhD is likely to take longer and be more uncertain than a DBA because it is focused on research. A DBA is primarily coursework-based and the project is significantly less ‘theory’ focused. During the PhD, you are suppose to contribute to theory. Although, ones contribution varies drastically. My point is that a PhD in Business Administration is likely to take longer than a DBA. I cannot over stress these differences between a DBA and PhD in Business Administration. It is also likely to feel a lot more strenuous on you and your family. At least, this was my experience post comprehensive exams (‘comps’). However, I have pretty much seen everyone that has ever done a PhD struggle after ‘comps.’  I guarantee you will cry, feel frustrated, and demoralized throughout the process. Just know that this is normal – you are figuring out a tough problem in which there is no answer. A DBA can have a few of these frustrations, but it is likely less so (again Harvard’s DBA is an exception). What is the normal course-work pattern with a PhD in Business Administration? You will spend the first 2 years doing courses, and the following 2-4.5 years doing research. This research will either be on academic papers or your own thesis. The typical DBA will do the 2 years of course-work just like the PhD, which is far more theoretical and academic than an MBA, and then 1 year doing a more applied research project. The reason why it is shorter is just because it is far easy to create a self-contained project that is applied and not theoretical.

A PhD in Business Administration Will Require You To Move.

This is the unfortunate thing, or the fortunate thing if you are looking for an adventure. You will be required to move in virtually all PhD in Business Administration programs. Why? You gain a lot of returns by colocating with other PhD students and with other researchers. There is actually a technical term that we use to describe this – agglomeration economies. This basically means the increased returns you get from clustering with like-minded people. Where do these returns come from? The benefit of colocating with other researchers (particularly near your faculty supervisors) is that you can learn much more quickly in how to do the craft. You are also more likely to compete with other PhD students to get your work done. Don’t underestimate this competitive element – it is quite motivating, or for some, less motivating. 🙁 You also will learn many of the subtle norms, which I try to talk about in my Youtube videos on doing a PhD in Business Administration. Because the research component is smaller or more ‘applied’ in an executive Doctor in Business Administration program, many places will offer it online. This can make sense if you don’t want to do research in the long-term. Many people don’t want to do research, and that is ok. The advantage of the online versus is that you can work from home as an executive, but expect this working from home to be quite difficult. You might have and advantage because you could use your workplace as a case in your projects. It will be much more overwhelming than doing an MBA as there is a lot of research material to cover. It will also be over the course of 3-4 years (or more if you take breaks), so you will have to be motivated over a long period of time. Most people don’t do well with this – me included. However, if you think it makes sense for you, feel free to try an executive DBA programs.

When Is A Doctor Of Business Administration Online Program Right For You?

The Outcomes Of A PhD In Business Administration Take Longer To Achieve.

Everything in a PhD in Business Administration is miserably slow. You will work very hard every day for months, but feel like you accomplish only a very little. This feeling in research is completely normal, and it takes a long time to get used to it. You will actually be doing a lot of work, but the tasks just take a long time to accomplish. If you are a patient person, than research works well with you. If you are impatient, it is going to drive you crazy. For example, you will first take 1-2 years to complete a paper, and then when you submit the paper to a journal, the journal will take 4 months to get back to you. Then, the paper will be rejected, and you have to start the process all over again. Expect this cycle to occur many times over before you get tenure. Want to know more about what is expected from research papers in academia? You can check out the following video on the most important paper attributes for academic research: A DBA is much quicker and is usually preferable for those that are interested in going into consulting or advancing their executive career. If you want to go into business after, I would not recommend a PhD in Business. Again, you will have much more guaranteed returns if you go the DBA route.

A PhD in Business Administration Is More Competitive.

Most people that are outside of the academia environment are very surprised by how competitive the academic research environment is. I once saw a corporate lawyer, turned business professor, said the number of hours he spends at work and doing work is exactly the same and perhaps even more in the academic environment. Why is that? People doing research in a Business School are very competitive. They usually are quite skilled–engineers, lawyers, etc.–become business school professors. Plus, you generally have all of the brightest students from undergrad going to grad school. Finally, everybody knows how everyone else performs – our track record is explicit and open to the entire world. We are measured in terms of publications – both the quantity and quality of publications. Don’t be surprised with the competitive feel as soon as you enter the PhD program. This feeling in research will never go away. I will be adding more to this post on the similarities and differences between a DBA And PhD in Business Administration, so stay tuned. In the meantime, you can check out the following videos.

What Is The Difference Between A PhD In Business Administration And An MBA Or An Undergraduate Business Program?

Ok, so there are some differences between a DBA and a PhD in Business Administration, but how different is it from an MBA, Masters, or Undergrad Program? If you have never been in a PhD program, how do you do know what to expect? To a large extent, undergrad and grad school are very similar in that graduate school is simply just an extension of undergraduate education. An PhD is an extension of a MBA or Masters.  A MBA / Masters program is primarily focused on coursework and a PhD program is primarily focused on research. A Masters program is somewhere in between and an undergrad and PhD program if it is focused on research. Most MBAs are focused more on professional education, but some do have a component of research. This might be a 4-6 month project, or you might do some research project for one of your professors. What are some key differences with graduate school from an undergraduate or professional-style MBA or executive MBA? Intellectually, there might be similarities, but there are many key differences.
  1. You will feel a lot more uncertain and challenged. You will never know if your answers are correct or if you are going in right direction. You will have to get used to this feeling of being uncertain during the research game as graduate school is primarily self-directed. It is up to you to choose your academic career. Also, grad school is a lot more frustrating than undergraduate school. You will not know what to do, and there will be many things along the way will ruin results. You should expect this frustration, and part of the fun is for you is to figure out why this is occurring.
  2. Each course is substantially more difficult than an undergraduate course. Expect courses in a PhD in Business Administration to be equivalent to 2 to 3 undergraduate courses. This level of rigor is quite normal in must PhD or DBA programs.
  3. You will be working in an apprentice-type relationship with a professor. You will grow a strong working relationship or friendship with your academic supervisor. You should be meeting at least every other week with a professor to discuss your research. Also, know that there will be less of a status divide between you and the professor. It is common to call your supervisor by their first name, rather than Professor so and so.
  4. Graduate school is not a time for partying or an extension of the undergrad lifestyle. Most professors will want you to eventually start acting like a professor, although of course, we do have fun. However, the imagine that PhD students are slackers or just party all the time is rather off. There is a considerable amount of work to do to just get by in the PhD program.
  5. Graduate school is a lot more collaborative than undergraduate programs, but it is also very isolating. You will have to collaborate with Professors and other students in the PhD program. This is completely normal. However, know that you will still be doing much of this work on your own, and you will meet up with your collaborators every couple of days or weeks. You have to feel comfortable working on your own during a PhD of Business Administration.
  6. During a PhD program, everybody is extremely smart. They are typically the top 5% of graduates from MBA programs across the world. However, people will predict like they know what they are doing, but very few people know what they are doing. Everybody in a PhD in Business Administration or DBA is just ‘bumbling along’ just like you.
  7. Getting good grades does not matter in graduate school. A lot of people get this wrong when they first enter the PhD program. It is important to get good grades, but what is really important is whether you are doing research and you are being productive with your research. If you could produce one more paper at the consequence of getting B+ rather than an A, you should choose to write that paper. Notice that this is quite different than an undergraduate program in which the best outcome is to get the highest grade.
  8. There will be a stronger focus on theory in a graduate program than in an undergraduate program. I know that you probably don’t really get what I am talking about with ‘theory,’ but generally you are expected to think very broadly and think about problems in a very general terms, compared to an undergrad or MBA program. In an MBA program, it is common to think about how the material you are learning about is practical.
If you are interested in learning more about a DBA or a PhD in Business Administration, you can watch these videos: How To Get Into The Best Business Schools In The US – Thesis Help How To Write An Email To A Professor For Graduate School Admission? – Thesis Help Why Did You Decide To Get A PhD Degree In Business Strategy? – Thesis Help What Is A Normal Day Of A PhD Student Or A Research Professor? – Thesis Help PhD Supply And Demand – What Is The Supply And Demand Of A Graduate Degree – Thesis Help What Are The Pros And Cons Of Going To Grad School? Thesis Help

Advantages And Disadvantages Of A PhD Or DBA In Business Administration Degree – Thesis Help

What are the advantages and disadvantages of a doctorate of business administration (a PhD in Business Administration or Doctorate in Business Administration (DBA))? I discuss some of the advantages and disadvantages of a PhD in Business Administration in this post. I will also discuss a bit about executive doctoral programs in business that are quite similar. What I will try to do is be as helpful as I possibly can, such that you can be well informed about your decision in doing a doctorate. After all, that is the genesis behind the whole r3ciprocity project. There is so much to consider when you are thinking of a doctorate, no matter if it is strategy, finance, accounting, social sciences, or in the natural sciences. This decision to do a PhD is probably one of the most important decisions of your life–it was for me–and yet there is so little available on the web, or at least information that is accessible to a newbie audience. If you want, you can check out Google Scholar for academic articles on this topic. There are many, but most people are not aware of these articles as they are out of the general reading audience. By the way, this post was inspired based on my ‘thesis help’ series on YouTube where I am trying to provide helpful advice for anybody that is thinking of doing graduate school, particularly those interested in doing a masters or PhD in a business school. Here is a video about why you might want to get a DBA or a PhD degree in Business Administration: Just to give you some backdrop, I graduated with my PhD in General Management from the Ivey Business School in 2011, which seems like it was just yesterday. Before that, I received a Chemical Engineering degree and a Masters in Engineering in Management Science from the University of Waterloo. I worked a tiny little bit between these degrees, but for the most part, I went straight through to the PhD because it was something I wanted to do. My family was not all that ‘academic (i.e. I was the first to go to University),’ but that is something I very much appreciated growing up. I could not imagine being in an academic family–us academics are a strange bunch. 🙂 However, my parents were always hard working and curious. My grandpa was 93 years old when he was still working in his rather large garden. Why do I mention this? It is important to frame as I moved from one social group to another. Some of you are likely going to follow the same route, or have experienced that already. While this move is overall a positive thing, it does create other interesting feelings, such as social isolation, that others who are ‘carrying on’ the family legacy likely do not feel. But, who knows?

Advantages Of A PhD in Business Administration.

Back to the advantages and disadvantages of a doctorate of business administration. First of all, what are these advantages? There are likely many more than I list below, but this is a good start. Perhaps, this list will grow as I add more to this post over time. I will start with the most obvious.

1. PhD in Business Administration Salaries.

One would think that a PhD in Business Administration commands a good salary. The general rule for most higher education is that for additional year you stay in University, that it yields you an additional $10,000 per year in perpetuity. In general, this holds true when you do doctorate in business. Generally, most doctorate in business will earn you over $100,000 per year in the USA and Canada, and slightly less in European countries. However, there are many things that you should be aware of. First, the PhD, DBA, executive DBA, and MBA salaries are actually quite similar, and likely only vary minimally. Thus, if you are looking to do a PhD / DBA for the extra income, I would likely recommend against it, and suggest that you get an MBA and some relevant experience. The MBA route will yield quicker and much easier returns. Indeed, most people with an PhD or DBA already have an MBA. The salary that you will command in the market place will vary greatly on many factors. If you want the highest salaries, then choose finance and accounting. Indeed, PhDs in finance and accounting are consistently in high demand. The mid-range salaries for a PhD in Business Administration are in marketing, operations, and strategy. And, the lower range salaries are everything else. Even still, salaries in all of the fields are sufficiently high to be quite comfortable. They also vary based on the institution you graduate from. If you graduate from the elite business schools, the MBA salaries are quite good, and PhD salaries might even be lower than the MBAs. However, at a solid university (non-private), your salary will be sufficient to do well. But, here is the big caveat. This is brutal honesty. Completing a PhD in Business Administration is very hard. Getting an academic job as a Professor is even harder. Why? You are expected to do research at world-class levels. You will be expected to publish in top-tier journals that have acceptance rates of 5-10% in which your first submission to the journal will take 2-5 years. Of course, if you are extremely talented, you can probably have a workable paper within a year, but this is very unlikely for a novice PhD student. Consequentially, a large portion of people will either quit the PhD (anywhere from 10-50 % depending on the institution), a large portion will choose not to do research (about 10-50%), and large portion will choose to do research but be unable to get publications (it is really tough). So, when you see the high salaries of PhDs or Doctorates in Business Administration, it does not take into account this large selection effect. If you account for selection, the salaries are much lower. This is a risky career. So, why should you do a PhD in Business Administration? (It is more acceptable to choose a non-academic route with a DBA, and your salaries are likely going to be similar to those that get an executive MBA if you do this route as you will be working in industry in some function.)

2. A PhD in Business Administration Allows You To Explore, Nerd-Out, And Be A Social Scientist Of Organizations.

You can explore. You can totally geek out. You will know a lot. You all have a very deep and rich appreciation for organizations and firms and how they run. You’ll find that they are fascinatingly complex, and that we really do not know much about how organizations and markets work. While we have come a long way with understanding how organizations work, we can really explore a lot more. Moreover, the more that you explore, the more you will realize that we need to explore some many more things. There is a whole stream of research on this idea called “absorptive capacity.” If you are super interested in learning and advancing knowledge about organizations, innovation, entrepreneurship, markets, or anything related to how people organize, you will love this career. Many people would be willing to take a pay cut to explore. (This idea that scientists take a pay cut to do things that they love has been shown empirically – it sort of explains why Chemistry PhDs don’t always work at Monsanto where they can make a lot more).

3. Getting A PhD In Business Administration Will Get A Good Understanding Of How Science Works.

I actually think that most undergraduate programs do a poor job of explaining how science actually evolves over time. Much of the work done in an undergraduate program or an MBA is very deterministic and depicts the world as rather static. This static view is not at all what is like. Ideas in science are constantly being revised or disputed. It is not entirely uncommon for entire fields to pivot towards some interesting new insight or method. Science is not at all a static thing and is constantly changing every day as we discover new insights and uproot old ones. However, most PhD programs will train you on understanding how mathematics and science works, and you will very much appreciate the complexity of doing good science. Good science is much more difficult and ‘sensitive’ to alternative explanations than one would initially believe. Our job as social scientists is to help other extremely smart people see the world that you see, and this is much more difficult than you can imagine as these smart people are, well, “smart,” and can see the many flaws in your ideas.

4. PhDs Allow You Get More Job Options.

Ok. I am torn with this point. On one hand, PhD in Business Administration programs generally train researchers to go work in universities. Our main goal is to train you to become a good researcher at an elite university. There is good reason for this. Most of us PhDs are self-serving and we want to see our reputation grow. If you get trained ‘right’ and you become the next star in the field, it reflects very positively on all of the people that trained you. By association, our reputation grows. In this way, your job opportunities actually shrink because we want you to succeed in academia. Remember, DBA programs train you to work in industry, the odd person with a PhD in Business Administration goes into consulting, and a few are now going to companies that value PhDs, like Google People Analytics or Facebook. In Finance, some people will become quants on Wall Street. However, academia is a big business and there are many roles for good PhDs. On the research side, it is not uncommon for people to have cross appointments with NBER, the Brookings Institute, or some other government agency. On the administration side, PhDs in Business Administration can do a lot of really fun things like run an academic center, take an administration role, or become a Dean. Again, you are still going to have to publish at least a lot if you are going to go the administration route. Most administration routes begin once you become an Associate Professor (after you get tenure). In order to get tenure, you have to publish, publish, publish. 🙂 These are some possible routes that you can take that you could not do without a PhD in Business Administration. Remember, if you don’t like these options, you can always choose what you were doing previously.

5. PhDs In Business Administration Are Expected To Be Very Entrepreneurial.

This is the one thing that I did not expect, but became very clear to me over the last ten years. Doing a PhD in Business Administration means you are expected to become very entrepreneurial and innovative. You are expected to create your own research path, and choose what you are going to work on. No one is going to help you, and it is up to you to make your career with your PhD in Business Administration. Your goal is to create your career path. In some ways, doing a PhD in Business Administration is your ultimate way to do lifestyle design. You simply just have to craft your path – whether you want to become a researcher, an administration, an excellent lecturer, or a blend of all of these paths. You also get to choose to work on the projects you want to work on. Want to do work on organizational memory on Caribbean 5-star resorts? Go to it. Want to investigate risk-taking and learn to sky-dive. You are free to do so. Want to do research on French Chefs? Many have already done so.  Want to learn about Wall Street analysts? Have at it. Your not going to be the first. My point is – doing a PhD in Business Administration is pretty interesting because you simply just choose research that is of interest to you. And, you should because papers take a long-time. There is no point on working on a project for 10 years and realize that you don’t find it interesting.

Disadvantages Of A PhD In Business Administration.

Doing a PhD in Business Administration is not all roses, Skittles, and unicorns. It really is not. There are many disadvantages that you should be aware of when you think about doing a PhD in Business, or any PhD at all.

Research Decisions Are Highly Uncertain.

Doing research is likely to take longer and be more uncertain than you thought it was going to be. Me – I thought I was going to take 4 years to get my PhD. It took me 5, and I would consider myself a pretty good student. In research, you really have no idea how long things are going to take, and what the ‘right’ answer is. In fact, there is often not a ‘right’ answer, but just a more plausible or defensible answer. That means that you can take many paths in either crafting a paper or doing your PhD. I often find it rather funny how somebody trained in one method or theory is going to take data that I see in my perspective and completely see it in another way. And, we are both right.

A PhD In A Business Program Will Require You To Move.

There are online DBA programs that can allow you to work while pursuing this degree, but most major PhD research programs will require you to move. Why? You get benefits from co-locating. It is far easier to share ideas over a coffee than it is over Skype. Now, I am not suggesting that you can’t work remotely a lot of the time, but you will be required to move at least for the first few years. You will also be required to move a fair bit after the PhD. Most PhDs cannot get a job at the place that did their PhD (this is just an industry norm). Also, it will difficult to get tenure, so you might have to take 2-3 jobs before you do get tenure (You generally cannot stay at a university more than 5-8 years without tenure). Getting academic jobs is difficult, so it is very common to between move provinces/states, countries, and even continents. Many people that get their PhDs in the US are now in Europe and Asia. This is very common. You will find out that people move quite freely between institutions and countries. They often just move to the place that best suits their research interests.

The Outcomes Of A PhD Take A Long Time To Achieve.

A serious disadvantage of virtually everything with getting a PhD is that every takes a long time. Think you can read that book in a day? Good luck. Writing a paper and want it published in a top journal? Read this. Looking for a job once you are done a PhD. It’s going to take a while to search and find a suitable fitting job. Your career is going to take a lot longer to establish than you think. 🙂 You have to start thinking in terms of decades rather than days or months.

A PhD In Business Administration Is Competitive.

One serious lament of most PhDs is the extent of the competition. Researchers are some of the most competitive folks you will meet. (But, we don’t have the physique to show for it). You will have to get used to competing for resources in grad school, on the job market, and at your institution. Everything about the field is geared towards an ‘noisy’ meritocracy. The feedback is noisy, so the signals about merit are not always clear. In the long-run, the signals are clear, but that could be a very long-run. You just have to get used to competing for everything. Consequentially, you also have to get used to losing a lot. Most Full Professors would admit that they have to grow a thick-skin and get used to rejection. Rejection is the majority of the career.

Many Things About Research Are Mundane.

One of the disadvantages of a PhD of business administration is that a considerable proportion of the job is mundane. Things like data collection, fact checking, or making tables look nice are all part of the job. They are important, but mundane. Of course, there are other careers that have the same sort of work to do (i.e. engineers and accountants), but it is important to note. I am sure that there are many more things to consider about a PhD, but this is my two cents about the advantages and disadvantages of a doctorate of business administration. I don’t want to persuade you either way, but I think it is fairly important that you have full information about what to expect during a PhD if you are going to pursue that route. There are many good things to consider, and many bad things. Just like every other career. It is up to you to make the best of this information.

Is A PhD In Business Administration Worth It?

The question of whether a Doctorate in Business is really up to you to decide. It is very much a personal choice. However, I know that this is a bit of a lame thing to say. 😉 To help you with the decision about doing research and maybe the PhD route, I have many blog posts that I have written as part of the r3ciprocity.com project. You absolutely need to check them out as I think they offer many valuable tidbits that are not discussed elsewhere:
  1. How Long Is A PhD In Business Or A DBA? (This Answer Is Surprising).
  2. At What Age Is It OK To Do A PhD? (Short Answer: Any, But There Are Trade-offs Just Like In All Decisions In Life).
  3. Is It Possible To Get Multiple PhDs? (Short Answer: Yup).
  4. Should You Get Another Masters (i.e. MBA) or a PhD (Don’t be fooled – The Answer Requires Some Thought).
  5. These Tips For Writing Your PhD Statement Of Purpose Absolutely Work.
  6. Want To Increase Your Salary? Grow Your Business (My Blog Post Will Help).
Good luck with the decision-making. I will see you on the other side. If you want to help out, just leave a note somewhere on the web about how helpful this blog post was for you. Take care!