One of the key things I wish I would have known is the demand for business school professors before I started on this journey. I had no idea where to even look up the demand or even to think about the demand for professors.
The demand for business school professors is “generally good.” However, demand is hard to quantify. I can tell you that the demand for business school professors is generally good, but this is just based on my experience as a strategy professor. It took me 12 years of higher education to get my job as a university professor, and it was not easy for me to get. I truly think this is rather normal for most people that try to become a professor in any field. I am David Maslach, and you can check out my bio here. Particularly, that being said, it is difficult to “quantify the demand” of any scientific field.
What are the indicators of being in demand for a professor?
You cannot tell if you are in demand based on your ‘education-level’ or the type of education. I was a chemical engineer that came from one of the best engineering schools, and had a PhD in strategy from one of the best engineering schools in Canada and I still found it difficult to find an academic job. I also knew of people from some of the business schools in the world (MIT, Stanford, etc.) who had the best supervisors that were having a tough time finding a job when I was on the job market (2011/2012). These people were not getting interviews, just like me.
You only know if you are in a hot research field if YOU are in demand at the moment. Research topics and fields are often very fleeting. Information systems, machine learning, and operations research struggled as a field for 20 years (from 1990s-2010s), until someone had the bright idea to rebrand many of the knowledge domains as ‘data science’ or ‘data analytics.’ Now, the field is red hot. You have to understand – these professors and researchers were doing the same thing that they were always doing. And, the demand for the field literately changed in 1 or 2 years because people all of a sudden realized that their research was important (duh?!).
You know you are in demand when multiple people actually ask you to join their university to become a tenure-track professor. This is is pretty true of any specialist careers like a professor in a business school. They ask you to join their faculty as either a tenured track assistant or associate professor.
Another indicator of being in demand is if many people from the news want to talk to you a lot. If for example, you study the Black Lives Matter movement, and people call you non-stop for months on end, you are likely in demand, and some business school would like to have an association with you.
The last indicator (but, it is really weak), is if you can teach courses that many people want to take but there are few people with those skills. The problem is that there are only a few courses that are like that, and they are generally filled by the best in the field. For example, say you taught about a specific research method or statistical tool (say, regression), and you were the only one that knew that tool and people wanted to use that tool. You are likely going to find a home a many business schools. Jeffrey Wooldridge, for example, would likely fit this niche, but he is also known for his research. While he is in a Department of Economics, most universities and schools would find what he has to say attractive.
Why is it difficult to quantify the demand for business school professors?
First of all, you have to think about what professors primarily do. We don’t primarily teach, what we do is primarily do research. The demand for our individual skills are based on what we research. If you research on capital markets, and the behavioral tendencies of wall street traders, you are likely in very good demand. But, first, you have to publish a few papers on that topic in very good journals (J. of Finance). The problem is that getting those publications is almost always difficult – many very smart people in the world are all trying to get that position as well. However, if you do research on the business strategies of “purple elephant traders from Nebraska”, the demand is rather low for your skills.
Second, there is really no good place to get demand statistics, that I know of. You can get some data from accreditation associations, like AACSB, yet this is not the only accreditation board. Particularly, there are many business schools that don’t use the AACSB accreditation, so this data may not be presented.
Third, demand data is likely going to be based on averages and aggregate statistics, and there is no real good “average” if you are the only person that is doing research on a specific topic. If you were the only person that was investigating the business of pandemics before the COVID crisis, you were likely not in much demand (this is closely related to my field of failure in organizations). However, being a professor of the business of pandemics during the COVID pandemic puts you into a really good position to be in hot demand when a pandemic is occurring. However, when there is not a pandemic, your demand is rather low.
If you want to think more about the supply and demand of business school professors you should watch this video:
I also have a nice video on whether there is a shortage of business school professors. I talk about some of these topics and why it is important to do research as a professor:
How do you know if your professor career will be in demand?
You don’t know. What I would rather suggest that you do is try to follow the ideas that you really ‘want’ to investigate. If research topic happens to be related to business, then it makes sense for you to study it in a Business School.
If you did not know this, most business school professors actually do not study ‘business’ in the sense that you are thinking about. Most business professors professors don’t study how to make money and get rich quick. We leave this up to the business gurus to take care of. Most of us study the social sciences (or sciences) and then it happens to be in the business context. For example, my research on innovation failure in organizations often uses industrial engineering (learning curves), psychology (decision-making), and sociology (collective action), and other related domains.
What I would have you think about are the research topics that you think are interesting, and then use a secondary screen to think about where you think the market would be for your research. You can easily ‘sell’ your research as being applicable to the business audience with some thought. Indeed, most of the top business school professors study some really abstract stuff, and yet they are good as ‘selling’ the idea to a business audience. Consider how you will frame what you want to study such that you are creating your own demand.
This is in a lot of ways generating demand for your research is a lot like entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs do not have a ‘market,’ they create a market where it did not exist before. You have to figure out your audience, and sell your research to your audience. Research by its nature is likely not going to be of interest to many people, but most professors spend a lot of time (probably most of our time) thinking about how we can sell our research to other people. Research papers are all about demonstrating why research is interesting and important to a larger audience.
The problem is that if you are anything like me, you likely struggle at figuring out the selling and framing part of doing your research. Actually, I think most people that do research for a living will tell you that selling your research is always very difficult. However, if you get selling your research and what it means to ‘craft a good research story’ than you can be very successful as a business professor. However, most of us don’t figure out how to craft the research story until we are 30-40 years into the career. I am 15 years into the career, and I am still trying to figure it out. 😉
In sum, there is fairly good demand for business professors, but figuring out the demand for the career is very difficult. Moreover, the demand for each business professor demands on what they are doing research on. Figuring out what to do research on, and selling that research to a large audience is the challenge.
If you want to think about becoming a professor in a business school, you should check out this post on how to become a business school professor:
You might also want to check out this quiz that I created by crowd-sourcing responses from the R3ciprocity community: