Doctorate in Business Degree Programs
As you move higher up the degree ladder, online programs become more scarce and online doctoral degrees in business are no exception. Online business doctorates can be found in concentrations such as business administration or focused specialties such as accounting and human resources management.
Approximately 13 percent of all graduate students are taking business programs entirely online, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education published for 2007-2008. Business programs are the most popular graduate concentration in entirely online formats, and the number is trending upward as more programs become available. A 2010 study by the MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching showed that academic performance and learning outcomes were improving over the years for online coursework. Although many degree-seeking candidates who have gotten this far in the educational system are motivated self-starters, you may be someone who thrives in a physical classroom environment, in which case a campus-based or hybrid program may be better suited for your academic success.
Because research is the central theme of doctoral programs, whether online or campus-based, core classes will usually include a research design course to help you with your dissertation. The length of time it takes to complete an online business doctorate program is largely contingent upon how quickly you can complete your dissertation, and the bulk of your credit load after core classes will be dissertation-related. Most people get their degree in two or three years, even while working full-time.
Why should you get a PhD in business?
BusinessWeek is reporting “a growing wave of professionals who are leaving the battered business world behind for a career in the hallowed halls of academia. Applications are up substantially this year at many top business PhD programs, with some business schools reporting jumps in applications as high as 40 percent.”
Why the sudden popularity of doctorate programs in business? A weak job market is only part of the drive. Increased competition is another more long-term factor. As more people pursue master’s degrees, it is harder and harder to stand out in a competitive market. Some of the highest paying jobs at the most competitive companies require candidates to have exceptional credentials. Making it to the top of the heap increasingly requires the most advanced degrees.
Traditionally, business PhD programs were designed to prepare students for academic careers. These degrees are highly specialized and focus on scholarly research in theory, application and results. Graduates pursued careers in academia as university professors or researchers, but rarely as theoreticians in government and business. The high cost in terms of tuition and time has limited the popularity of business PhD programs. In fact, recent years have seen a shortage of business faculty to teach undergraduate and master’s programs.
The current economy makes academic careers an attractive, seemingly secure alternative, so the faculty shortage may resolve itself. Yet the old narrow PhD academic career options no longer hold. Business leadership positions in Fortune 500 firms are often filled by business PhD holders.
What will you study in a business PhD program?
Your area of study as a business PhD candidate will be highly specialized, but your choices are nearly endless. Your focus will depend on the university you choose and the approval of the faculty. Common areas of specialization include:
- Corporate administration
- Decision theory and analysis
- Ethics and legal studies
- Information technology
- Organizational behavior
No matter what you choose as an area of specialty, original research is central to every program. Earning lower degrees is about learning what is known. In a PhD program, you are discovering the unknown. Expect to engage in modeling, econometrics, experiments and field studies to uncover and publish new insights.
A business PhD is not a “practical” degree. You aren’t necessarily going to get a better starting salary because of it. If you do not choose to go into academia, your career options are likely to be with think tanks, government organizations and international institutions. Still, if you are already on a career path and have a driving passion for a particular area, a PhD can help you stand out and rise faster. If you are shooting for the executive suite of a Fortune 500 company, a doctorate is just one more tool and one more credential that can help you get there.